Circle of Protection

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. - John 3:16

Media Room

Circle of Protection leaders

For Immediate Release

November 22, 2017

What Christian Leaders are Saying About the Tax Bill

Christian leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity are concerned that the tax bill being considered in Congress will cause harm to people in poverty. Below are statements from leaders of the Circle of Protection. The statements follow a letter the Circle of Protection sent to members of Congress recently. It reads in part:

“We oppose cutting low-income programs to pay for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Tax reform must be undertaken in such a way as to strengthen and empower low and moderate-income families and small businesses.”

As Christian leaders, the concern is always about how legislation impacts the poor and most vulnerable. We will continue to pray, mobilize, and advocate on behalf of our neighbors in poverty.

Quotes from Circle of Protection leaders:

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Because tax policy is far-reaching, Congress must provide ample time for Americans to discuss the complexities of these reforms and fully understand their effects. The current timetable does not provide adequate time for that discussion. In many ways, this legislation is unacceptable in its present form and requires amendment. It must be changed for the sake of families—the bedrock of our country—and for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.”

National Council of Churches: “The tax bills currently before the US Congress are designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. These tax plans cannot be biblically defended. The National Council of Churches reminds us that our lawmakers have a responsibility to care for the entire citizenry, not just those with the means to influence tax policy.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals: “Doing taxes right is really good. Let’s encourage Congress to take the time to get tax reform right–helping the poor and reducing the debt are high biblical priorities. And, providing an above-the-line charitable deduction to all taxpayers will go a long way to keeping America charitable.”

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network: “The National African American Clergy Network is deeply concerned that historic Republican commitments to reducing deficits are being abandoned in adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt by taking life-sustaining programs from poor and working Americans. We suggest that Congress take the time to shape a bi-partisan tax reform measure that grows the economy by providing education and training for lower skilled and non-skilled workers, thus stabilizing families and communities economically.”

Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners: “The tax code is a moral document, a social contract on how we are going to do our part in sharing our resources with our communities, our neighbors, and those most in need. We are told by Jesus that we will be judged not by our profit margins, our corporate tax rates, or our repeal of healthcare, but how we treat the poor, the sick, and the most vulnerable in society. The tax bill currently under consideration in the Senate fails that moral test on all accounts.”

David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World: “The spirit of the season is sharing. But tax cuts for high-income people that are funded with deficit spending will almost certainly lead to deep cuts in Medicaid, SNAP, and other programs that help people living in poverty. The same budget resolution that permits $1.5 trillion in deficit spending for tax cuts outlines more than $2 trillion in cuts to low-income programs.”

John Ashmen, President, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions: “By and large, the 300 member organizations in the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions are pleased that the House’s tax reform bill and the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal provide financial relief for many working Americans and the incentive for new business opportunities. At the same time, we are concerned that outlined cuts to programs like Medicaid and SNAP would cause many of our most vulnerable citizens to join the hundreds of thousands already seeking life-sustaining services at faith-based ministries like rescue missions. Of equal concern is the likelihood that the proposed tax simplification plans—without something like a universal charitable contribution amendment in the final bill—will disincentive giving to nonprofits. The possibility of more people in need and fewer contributions to charities that are making a real difference could bring about a crisis for which the government is not prepared.”

Rev. Noel Castellanos, President, Christian Community Development Association: “Christian Community Development Association is an organization of over a thousand ministries across the nation focused on mobilizing residents in under-served neighborhoods to overcome poverty and to restore healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. We are concerned that the tax bill, currently being considered in the Senate, will devastate not only many individuals, but families, and entire communities.”

Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church: “The Episcopal Church supports efforts to reform our tax system and to ensure the ability of the government to pay its bills and deliver the programs and charitable services the people of this nation rely on. The current proposals, developed though partisan backroom negotiations, will result in reduced funding for critical public goods, increased deficits, and leave behind many of the most vulnerable Americans. We encourage Congress to develop bipartisan reforms that will ensure we can fully fund programs that provide for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, and needy as the Gospels command.”

Rev. Carlos L. Malavé, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together: “The moral and ethical principles that have guided our country always impelled us to contribute and to sacrifice for the common good. A country where the vast majority claim to be Christian must heed the words of scripture: ‘There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.’ (Deut. 15:11) A tax reform that falls short of lifting up the poor in the land is an affront against our Creator. God has blessed our country with wealth beyond measure. We call on the U.S. Congress to enact a tax reform that prioritizes and lifts up the poor in our country.”

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA: “While we recognize the efforts to simplify the tax code and grow the economy, the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces or eliminates tax programs that are vital to low-income individuals and families and are critical to fostering family economic and opportunity. CCUSA urges Congress to take this opportunity to make meaningful investments so that families are supported, programs helping individuals who are poor or vulnerable are funded, and our nation’s faith-based and nonprofit organizations are assisted in their response to community needs.” (Letter to Congress, November 7, 2017)

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The massive tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations in the current tax reform bill before Congress would increase the deficit by a whopping $1.5 trillion. This giveaway will imperil the long-term fiscal health of our country and undermine future funding for critical programs. This tax reform proposal is being rushed through Congress without full scrutiny by congressional offices or the people of our country whose welfare is directly affected. The people of the United States— low and middle-income households—are looking for opportunity. Sadly, this bill will do more to hurt those families than to help them. When fully implemented, the Senate bill raises taxes on households making less than $75,000, increasing the tax burden for those with incomes between $20,000 and $30,000 by a staggering 25 percent. This bill does not serve those who government should help first. Making the rich get richer at the expense of families struggling just to get by weakens our society and harms people who want government to work for everyone.”

Featured Press Release

Christian Leaders Urge Congress to Protect Programs that Help People in Poverty

Washington, D.C., November 2, 2017 – A diverse group of national Christian leaders from across the theological and political spectrum today sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to maintain a “circle of protection” around programs of assistance for people in poverty.

The leaders are concerned, because this fall Congress will make decisions that have far reaching consequences for people living in poverty and working families struggling to make ends meet. Specifically, the Christian leaders are calling on Congress to 1) protect funding for anti-poverty programs in appropriations bills, and 2) protect and support low-income families in any tax legislation.

The Christian leaders belong to the Circle of Protection (CoP), a broad coalition of leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity. The CoP is working to ensure the vitality of church-sponsored programs serving people in or near poverty in the United States and around the world, while also supporting public sector efforts to alleviate poverty and increase opportunity for all of God’s children.

The letter reads in part, “These are biblical and gospel issues for us, not just political or partisan concerns. In Matthew 25 Jesus identified himself with those who are immigrants, poor, sick, homeless and imprisoned, and challenged his followers to welcome and care for them as we would care for Jesus himself. We continue to pray, mobilize, and advocate on behalf of our neighbors in poverty…”

“We are bold enough to imagine news stories about Members of Congress from both parties joining together to support the urgent needs of low-income Americans and life-saving assistance to hungry and poor people around the world—because of the religious faith of those political leaders,” the letter adds.

In the letter, the Christian leaders committed to praying for members of Congress as they develop legislation for the nation, especially as the legislation impacts America’s most vulnerable citizens and neighbors.

Read the full letter with the complete list of signatories.

Archived Press Release

Christian Leaders Speak Out on Cassidy-Graham Health Care Bill

Washington, D.C., June 5, 2017 – Christian leaders from across the theological and political spectrum today expressed deep concerns on the Cassidy-Graham health care bill. The legislation is scheduled to be considered in the United States Senate this week. The leaders belong to the Circle of Protection, a broad coalition of leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity who have come together around the biblical mandate to protect poor and vulnerable people.

In June, the Circle released a statement of principles that said, in part:

We favor sensible cost controls that do not deny needed care to low-income Americans. And we support measures that aim to reduce health care costs. However, these deep cuts in Medicaid would put at risk the well-being of millions of our fellow Americans — especially the weakest, the oldest, and children most at risk. We ask our leaders to consider options that do not ask our poorest neighbors to bear most of the weight of budget and health care cuts.

Cassidy-Graham contains billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid. In addition, Christian leaders are concerned that the timing of the bill’s introduction and upcoming vote has not allowed the Congressional Budget Office to analyze its full impact – including the number of people who will lose coverage, the impact on health insurance premiums, and other vital information.

As Christian leaders in the Circle of Protection, our concern is always how legislation impacts the poor and most vulnerable, and many of our organizations have strongly encouraged our constituencies to contact their Senators on this bill on behalf of the people Christ has asked us to protect.

Quotes from Key Circle of Protection Leaders:

Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners: “Jesus tells us that how we treat the most vulnerable in society, including the poor and the sick, is how we treat him. How we treat Christ himself. There are different ways for a nation to organize and manage its health care system. But the moral test and the biblical test of any system is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable—how a health care system treats those who are sick or most vulnerable in their health. The Graham-Cassidy bill fails that moral test. By slashing funding for the Medicaid program and instituting a so-called “per capita cap” on Medicaid spending, this deeply flawed legislation would result in millions of poor people losing their health care. Children, the elderly, those with disabilities – all would be harmed. These cuts will kill. The Senate should reject Graham-Cassidy and work toward sensible, bipartisan solutions for our nation’s health care system. And people of faith should quickly contact their own senators and express their strong opposition to the bill.”

David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World: “Cassidy-Graham is just as bad as the other health care bills that have been rejected. It would end the Medicaid expansion and take health care coverage away from tens of millions of people. Of course, those Americans who have the greatest need for health care coverage – seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children – would be hit hardest by this legislation. People without health insurance must often choose between paying for medicine and the medical care they need, and putting food on the table. Senators should work together on a bipartisan bill that does not take away health insurance from tens of millions of the most vulnerable Americans.”

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals: “Despite its impressive achievements, our health care system often fails to deliver affordable, life-saving help to many of our citizens. Reforms are needed, but they should be carefully studied and not rushed through Congress without expert analysis and thorough debate on the inevitable trade-offs inherent in any reform. Above all, any policy and funding changes should be evaluated by how they treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Rev. Noel Castellanos, President, Christian Community Development Association: “As the President of CCDA, representing over 1,000 organizations in poor communities across the nation, I must denounce congress’ desperate attempt to repeal Obama Care for the sake of our neighbors. The Graham-Cassidy Plan is the ultimate example of putting political promises over peoples. It amounts to robbery from the most vulnerable in desperate need of health coverage. Kudos to Senator McCain for rejecting this cold-hearted direction and calling for bi-partisan improvement to our current system so that every American can have adequate health care.”

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Decisions about the health of our citizens—a concern fundamental to each of us—should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms. The far-reaching implications of Congress’ actions are too significant for that kind of governance. Instead, the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist. Your constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process, deserve no less.”

Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative: “It is dangerous, irresponsible and immoral for the Senate to take up another reiteration of a health care bill that will jeopardize the lives of millions of people. This latest version seems to go further down a destructive path by block granting the Affordable Care Act, leaving it more vulnerable to budget cuts, and putting a per capita cap on Medicaid, which would result in millions of the most vulnerable losing coverage. The insistence to do ‘any old thing’ to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a viable replacement borders on public service malpractice. As Christians, our faith calls us to care for and speak on behalf of the most vulnerable. The Graham-Cassidy bill hurts the elderly, the poor, children and the most vulnerable in our society. In fact, this bill makes all of us more vulnerable and we oppose it in the strongest terms. We encourage all people of faith and conscience to bombard the Senate with calls opposing this legislation and we urge Senators to recommit to a bipartisan solution to fix the Affordable Care Act for the sake of our nation and the most vulnerable among us.”

Commissioner David Hudson, National Commander, The Salvation Army: “As one of America’s largest service providing organizations, The Salvation Army supports initiatives to improve and streamline programs that help our most vulnerable individuals. We support efforts that help reduce government spending, that give states more flexibility, and that make federal funding for Medicaid more predictable. However, The Salvation Army is concerned that under the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform proposal, millions of struggling Americans would lose their Medicaid healthcare coverage. The Salvation Army is worried that the current proposal deeply cuts Medicaid funding without considering who would be impacted, eliminates or weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and increases out-of-pocket costs for individual market consumers. This would have a negative impact on the lives and health of the very people we serve. We believe that any efficiencies made to Medicaid should have a goal of providing the best care to the most vulnerable in our society, not reducing coverage.”

Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church: Making policy decisions on the basis of partisan politics as opposed to the common good of the people is immoral. Such as is happening with the Cassidy- Graham bill. This bill will result in reduction and loss of health care for
the vulnerable, elderly, children, disabled as well as newborns struggling for life of which is in direct opposition
for those of us who share the beliefs and practices of Pro-Life. It is imperative that there be much more thought and work on a bi-partisan approach that brings about the common good for all.

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA: “While the legislation makes efforts to better protect life and increase flexibility to states, a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful. The Medicaid program is a vital component of the social safety net, which provides access to health care at a lower cost than traditional insurance, funds nearly 50 percent of all births and provides access to life saving care for children, the elderly and the poor. True health care reform should improve the Medicaid program, not limit it. Pope Francis reminds us that “access to health care services cannot be a privilege.” CCUSA urges you to reject the Graham-Cassidy bill and craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respects human life and dignity.” From a public letter posted September 21, 2017.

Board of Trustees, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.: “With the current administration, it is clear that there is little regard for ‘the least of these.’ That lawmakers would put politics before people, while not surprising, is troubling, and points to their determination to take America ‘back’ to a place where compassion and human rights are reserved for only certain people. In the recent gathering of faith leaders in Geneva, Switzerland of the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD), our General Secretary, Dr. Iva Carruthers, noted, ‘We live in a society where there is a racialized hierarchy of human value, and African Americans, as well as Hispanics and other non-white people, are at the bottom.’ This bill is no less than a part of a troubling trend to create and enact policies which are going to hurt vast numbers of people, most of whom are black, brown, the very young, the elderly and the poor. Nothing in this bill reveals a love for Christ Jesus; nothing in this bill indicates that we have a federal government which holds precious the dictates of Christianity. What is being proposed is immoral and it is wrong. It is the hope and desire of the Board of Trustees of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) that this bill is defeated and that the work of shaping a health care law that will take care of all of God’s children will begin.”

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation: “The Cassidy-Graham health care proposal violates the very values that lie at the core of Quaker morals. This bill would threaten the health and dignity of millions of Americans, especially low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Cassidy-Graham includes extreme cuts to Medicaid, undermines critical protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, shifts billions of dollars onto states, and will cause tens of millions of Americans to lose health coverage. Moreover, advancing this legislation will destroy the productive and bipartisan work currently taking place. Rather than trying to force through yet another rushed, ultra-partisan, dysfunctional health care proposal that causes millions of Americans to lose health coverage, Congress should refocus back on the bipartisan negotiations so desperately needed to stabilize the insurance markets and lower health care costs.”

Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Director, Advocacy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: “God intends wholeness as a blessing for all people. Access to quality and affordable health care is not only a human right but an honoring of the dignity of each person made in the image of God. Cassidy-Graham will affect the health care of almost every American by restructuring and slashing Medicaid, allowing states to opt out of essential health benefits and waive coverage of pre-existing conditions. Instead of this bad bill, we call on our leaders to work together on a bi-partisan improvement of the ACA by expanding access to care, rather than dismantling it in a way that will deprive those most vulnerable, including the elderly, children and those who have a disability. No one should suffer from the lack of health care in a country that can so abundantly afford to ensure it for everyone in our communities.”

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, National African American Clergy Network: “The biblical call to care for the sick is crystal clear – and the Graham-Cassidy bill deeply violates it. Cutting billions of dollars from Medicaid is misguided and dangerous and would worsen the lives of millions of poor people across the country. These cuts would disproportionately affect minority populations. I urge the United States Senate to reject this bill and work in a bipartisan way to improve the health care system in the United States.”

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches: “There is not a single Member of Congress who does not understand that Graham-Cassidy will result in fewer people with health insurance and reduced spending on Medicaid. This bill will create unnecessary hardship for millions of our people. As Christian leaders, we cannot possibly support legislation that will hurt the last, the least, and the lost.”