Washington, DC, Sept. 16, 2013
Christian Leaders Ask House to Say ‘No’ to $40 Billion in New SNAP Cuts
Christian leaders this week urged members of the House of Representatives to vote “No” on a proposed bill that will further cut SNAP (the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
The leaders are from the Circle of Protection, a coalition of more than 65 heads of denominations and religious agencies, plus more than 5,000 church pastors. They have been working for more than two years to resist federal budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, and Rev. Lisa R. Harris, national coordinator of the Justice for Children Initiative/Christian Center Relations, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, are among those quoted in the Circle of Protection release.
The proposed bill is expected to be brought to the full House for a vote this week. If passed, the bill would leave up to 4 million poor, childless adults hungry and 210,000 children without free school meals. These cuts would be on top of substantial across-the-board cuts coming on November 1 due to the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act.
In letters to their members of Congress, the Christian leaders expressed deep moral outrage over these proposed new cuts and their effects on the nation’s most vulnerable people. Copies of their letters are available online at www.circleofprotection.us.
Although SNAP benefits are modest, an average of less than $1.50 per person per meal, SNAP is the nation’s foremost tool against hunger and hardship, particularly during recessions and periods of high unemployment. Currently, 47 million Americans benefit from SNAP, but that number is expected to be greatly reduced once the economy recovers. SNAP is designed to expand in periods of great need and contract when the economy is better.
Many of the organizations that belong to the Circle of Protection have also mobilized their members to urge their representatives to vote “No” on this new bill. If the proposed bill passes, it will go to conference with the Senate version in an effort to compromise on a final farm bill.
Quotes from key Christian leaders appear below. The letters are available at www.circleofprotection.us.
Quotations from Christian Leaders:
Rev. Lisa R. Harris, Coordinator, American Baptist Home Mission Societies: “Far too many Americans rely on SNAP today, but high participation is not from a surge of laziness. Over 30 percent of SNAP households are working households. The real problem is the economy and the fact that too many jobs don’t pay enough for parents to be able to put food on the table and provide for their children. 11.5 million people remain unemployed, and 4.2 million people have been looking for work over 26 weeks.”
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA: “Cutting SNAP and taking away vital nutrition assistance from children, seniors, low-wage workers, and persons with disabilities will not address the larger economic trends or create more jobs with adequate wages. Instead, this type of bill will punish those struggling to get by.”
Rev. Brian Adams, Minister for Economic Justice, Disciples Center for Public Witness:
“I far too regularly have to turn away people in need of help. We can offer a few non-perishable goods, but far from enough to sustain the many people around us, and not the perishable goods they need to have a healthy diet. If we as a nation seek to be founded in our Judeo-Christian influences, we cannot be faithful in doing so without, though laws and government, caring for the poor in our land. When a country’s rules do not give the poor in their land what God intends, suffering is not far behind.”
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
“During the Great Recession, the number of Americans needing food aid has understandably increased. Millions of families survived very hard times thanks in part to this assistance. Children were protected from irreversible developmental damage. Hunger-related health care costs were averted. We support efforts to reduce our annual deficits and enact structural reforms to bring our revenues and expenses back into balance. But we believe this can be done without further burdening our most vulnerable citizens, and without cutting appropriations for vital food assistance programs.”
The Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Adequate and nutritious food is a fundamental human right and a basic need that is integral to protecting the life and dignity of the human person. How the House chooses to address our nation’s hunger and nutrition programs will have profound human and moral consequences. This is a crucial time for our nation to place a circle of protection around programs that build a more just framework and put poor and hungry people first.”
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World and laureate, World Food Prize:
“These proposed cuts are a clear indication that some in Congress underestimate the hunger that is present in millions of American homes. The amendment picks on the poorest people in the country. This is morally and economically unacceptable especially as some areas continue to experience high unemployment. Congress needs to focus on creating more jobs and not cut programs that stave off hunger for millions of people.”
Rev. Carlos Malave, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together in the USA:
“The Bible calls us to care for our neighbor and remember ‘the least of these.’ The cuts included in the bill violate this principle. SNAP is one of the country’s most important anti-hunger programs, and this bill could leave up to six million people without vital food assistance.”
Dr. Ann Scholz, Associate Director for Social Mission, LCWR:
“It is not just a bad idea, it is morally indefensible. Our faith calls us to respect the dignity of each and every person and to give particular care to those most in need. The proposed cuts to SNAP violate these principles. SNAP was the primary prevention against hunger for children and families during the recession. Such devastating cuts are simply inexcusable. We must make good on the promise that this country, if you are willing to work, you won’t have to see your children go to bed hungry.”
Peter Vander Meulen, Coordinator, Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice:
“We are called, as Christians, to protect the most vulnerable. It is with this commitment in mind that we urge you to protect millions who so desperately depend on SNAP. In the US, 11.5 million people remain unemployed, and many who are employed receive low paying wages not sufficient enough to feed their children.”
Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners:
“These immoral cuts are incongruent with the shared values of our nation. They demonstrate the triumph of political ideology and self-interest over sound public policy and concern for the general welfare. Actions like these foster cynicism and distrust of government in the everyday Americans who struggle to meet their families’ basic needs and create a better life for their children.”
The Circle of Protection is composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations. For more information, please visit www.circleofprotection.us.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.