WASHINGTON, D.C.-Every member of Congress received a letter last week from a prominent group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders asking representatives to protect the Food Stamp Program from funding cuts during the federal budget reconciliation process. This letter is the next step in the anti-hunger efforts of leaders who came together on June 6, 2005, for the first Interfaith Convocation on Hunger at the National Cathedral, representing more than 100 million people of faith, to call on Congress and the President to make a new national commitment to fight hunger. This diverse group of signers includes His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington D.C.; Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army, United States; Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Rt. Rev. Philip R. Cousin, Sr., Senior Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal
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The text of the letter follows:
Care for hungry people is a mandate for every major religious tradition. As leaders from many of these traditions, we appeal to you to protect the Food Stamp Program from cuts in the current budget process.
Food stamps are the frontline defense against hunger for many of the most vulnerable members of our society. More than 50 percent of food stamp beneficiaries are children. Virtually all of the rest are seniors, people with disabilities, or those making the transition from welfare to work. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the first actions authorities undertook was distribution of food stamps, tapping a program that has helped curb hunger for 40 years.
Although we understand the challenge you face in finding $3 billion in savings from the Agriculture Committee, budget constraints do not release us from our obligation to care for poor and vulnerable people. It would be a moral failure to take those cuts from the Food Stamp Program. The number of people experiencing hunger in the United States has been on the rise and our national nutrition programs are as important as they've ever been. The unprecedented destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina will force many more people to depend on the federal nutrition programs.
On June 6, 2005, many of us participated with a group of more than 40 religious leaders in the first Interfaith Convocation on Hunger at the Washington National Cathedral. This event was unique in U.S. religious history because of the diversity and level of responsibility of the religious leaders involved. All of us were able to come together to call for an end to hunger. This issue is one on which we all agree.
In a deeply religious country like the United States, it is no surprise that the majority of Americans also believe that fighting hunger is an issue of utmost importance. A recent poll conducted by Jim McLaughlin for the Alliance to End Hunger found that 75 percent of likely voters say that even in a tight budget year, the Food Stamp Program should be protected from cuts.
More than one in six children (13 million) in the United States live in households that struggle to put food on the table, giving us the highest rate of childhood hunger in the industrialized world. We implore you to reject a budget that would deprive more working families of food for their children. Any such reductions would break our national commitment to help hard-working people who struggle daily to feed their families and build better lives.
The budget must reflect the best of our nation's moral values: our resolve that poor and vulnerable people not go hungry.
Dr. Thomas E. Armiger, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army, United States
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director of Ministries, Christian Reformed Church
The Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, D.D., Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C
Rt. Rev. Philip R. Cousin, Sr., Senior Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary of Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Mr. Joseph Flannigan, National President, Society of St. Vincent De Paul
Mr. Bob Forney, President and CEO, America's Second Harvest: The Nation's Food Bank Network
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church of America
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church, USA
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Executive Director, Alliance of Baptists
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Dr. Jan Love, Deputy General Secretary, United Methodist Women's Division
Ms. Joanne Lyon, Executive Director, Baptist World Aid
His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington D.C.
Rev. Brian D. McLaren, Founding Pastor/Minister-at-large, Cedar Ridge Community Church
Ms. Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA
Mr. Paul Montacute, Director, Baptist World Aid
Dr. Glenn R. Palmberg, President, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, President, Rabbinical Assembly
Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick III, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Bishop Monroe Saunders, Jr., Presiding Bishop, United Church of Jesus Christ, Apostolic
H. Eric Schockman, PhD, President, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice-President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Dr. Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Dr. John Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Dr. Daniel Vestal, Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Sister Christine Vladimiroff, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Bishop George Walker, Senior Bishop, A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Jim Wallis, Convener, Call to Renewal and Editor, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Mr. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union of Reform Judaism