Circle of Protection

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. - Matthew 25:40

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November 19, 2021 / Washington, D.C.

Religious Leaders Celebrate House Passage of Build Back Better

A number of the Christian leaders and organizations in the Circle of Protection today issued statements that celebrate House passage of the Build Back Better bill. The church bodies and national organizations that are part of the Circle of Protection do not all support every feature of the Build Back Better legislation, but they are working together for passage of the poverty-reducing provisions of this momentous bill.

“This legislation will now move to the Senate where Lutheran voices are needed as Senators continue to debate and negotiate priorities important to vulnerable communities and the common good. We urge the Senate to pass Build Back Better quickly.” Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, joined by 29 other bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

“This bill brings new hope, opportunities, and needed help to millions of Black children and families…We applaud President Biden’s leadership, the unrelenting effort by congressional leaders, and call on the U.S. Senate to pass this groundbreaking legislation” Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., and Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., Co-Conveners, National African American Clergy Network

Watch the videos Christian leaders talk with their people about the Family Support Budget Bill

“We have cause to start celebrating Thanksgiving a week early! Together with the other two big economic packages that have been enacted this year, the Build Back Better bill will make our nation more just, sustainable, and prosperous for years to come.” Rev. David Beckmann, Coordinator, Circle of Protection

“This transformative legislation will reduce child poverty, expand health care, make the tax system fairer, and invest vital funds in our effort to confront the climate crisis.” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, The Episcopal Church

“Latinos thank the House of Representatives for moving the bill forward and urge the U.S. Senate to pass the legislation without delay.” Rev. Carlos L Malavé, Latino Christian National Network

“The fact that the House was able to pass a bill right before Thanksgiving that will help millions of families put food on the table should not be lost. As we enter the Christmas season, we are reminded that God requires us to care for our neighbors and provide food for those who experience hunger. We urge senators to keep this in mind as they work to pass their own version of the bill.” Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO, Bread for the World

“We are so very close to securing permanent access to the Child Tax Credit for low-income families and struggling parents. We cannot miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift millions of our children out of poverty. Much work remains for climate, and immigration reform is still on the horizon, but now is the time to finally pass this bill.” Amelia Kegan, Domestic Policy Legislative Director, Friends Committee on National Legislation

“Congress has arrived at a kairos moment, when transformational change is within reach. These are measures that I have been fighting for for 50 years.” Rev. Jim Wallis, Founding Director, Center on Faith and Justice, Georgetown University

“Sojourners calls on the Senate to act in good conscience and vote in favor of this historic piece of anti-poverty, pro-family legislation. Now is the time to move this country toward being a more perfect union by making long overdue investments that will address problems that have plagued the United States for generations.” Adam Taylor, President, Sojourners

View the complete statements

Recent Letters and Statements

November 16, 2021 / Washington, D.C.

Anti-Poverty Provisions in the Momentous Bills Moving Through Congress

Leaders of church bodies and national organizations from all the main traditions of American Christianity today released another joint letter to the President and Congress, highlighting anti-poverty provisions in the newly signed Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the pending Build Back Better bill.

Church leaders have persistently and effectively worked to fend off cuts to safety-net programs through years of budget controversy and government shutdowns, and they are this year working to shape and support President Biden’s momentous economic legislation.

“We write to you as the Circle of Protection, a coalition of national church bodies and faith-based organizations representing the diversity of Christianity in this country. Our collective influence is far-reaching. A number of the leaders in the Circle oversee thousands of congregations, and the organizations in the Circle together have close to 100 million members. We all agree that our nation should be doing more to provide help and opportunity to people in poverty. This conviction is rooted—not in political ideology—but in religious faith.” Read the full letter

October 20, 2021 / Open letter to President Biden and members of Congress

Prioritize investments that provide help and opportunity to low-income people

We believe that God loves all people, with special concern for people who are poor and vulnerable. So as difficult choices are made about the budget bill, we urge Congress to give priority to investments that will provide help and opportunity to low-income people. Even a scaled-back family support budget bill, together with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, could dramatically reduce poverty and racial inequality in America.

Our nation has an unprecedented opportunity to reduce the poverty and racial inequality that have plagued us for too long. Failure to seize this opportunity would be a moral and spiritual failure. As Christians, we are keenly aware that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us that what we do for the “least of these” reveals how we treat Jesus himself.

Thanks partly to past legislation, hunger and poverty have declined this year. This crucial accomplishment must not be lost now but rather become the start of an ongoing improvement in our society. Read the full letter

September 22, 2021 / Open letter to President Biden and members of Congress

Good News for the Poor in Pending Legislation

Three big bills coming before the House and Senate have captured our attention—the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the family support budget bill, and voting rights legislation. If passed and signed into law they would strengthen the physical and social infrastructure of our society, cut family and child poverty more than any time in our lives, and ensure the precious right to vote for all people made in God’s image.

We want to offer specific suggestions for the family support budget bill as it is finalized. We fervently endorse the extension of recent improvements in the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Making the full value of the Child Tax Credit available to the poorest households has substantially reduced child poverty, and we are all of one mind that this provision should be made permanent. The improvements in the EITC are benefiting those low-income working adults who often see little or no other assistance. In view of America’s affordable housing crisis, we also support a generous expansion of housing vouchers, because a place to live for families draws us all together.

Business groups and corporations are fighting hard against tax increases for corporations and high-income individuals, have spent nearly $1.5 billion on lobbying in the first half of this year, and are now intensifying their efforts. Yet we believe that our nation is called to reduce poverty, expand opportunity, and address racial disparities—and that everyone, especially wealthy individuals and corporations, should pay their fair share. The Bible is clear in its opposition to the concentration of wealth amid neglected human need. Those who have benefited the most should contribute to the common good of society and invest in the most vulnerable. WATCH: Christian leaders on budget bill’s impact

July 19, 2021 / Open letter to the president and members of Congress

We pray for action on three momentous legislative packages

We welcome a bipartisan infrastructure framework, especially investments that address economic and racial injustices—universal broadband, replacement of the lead pipes poisoning our children, and investment in the public transportation that is so important to working people.

We also repeat strong support for a bold recovery package that includes major investments in human infrastructure (including housing, education, nutrition, health care, family care, and international aid). This year’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit will substantially reduce poverty among U.S. children and must be extended. We also prayerfully support financing these investments with tax increases on high-income people and corporations. The Bible objects to extreme concentrations of wealth and urges nations to care for people in need.

We also feel compelled to speak up together for voting rights legislation. Making voting accessible to all eligible voters is far more than a political issue. The right to vote is a reflection of the Christian doctrine that every human being is created in the image of God.

We have an opportunity to recover from the pandemic in a way that addresses economic and racial injustices and also protects the environment. We consider this a call from God. Read the full letter

May 24, 2021 / Open letter to the president and members of Congress

Six essential areas of action in the Build Back Better Program

We are grateful for the substantial COVID relief legislation of 2020 and 2021. Despite some problems, this historic legislation has been critical for millions of people struggling with the pandemic and its economic fallout. But temporary relief is not enough. This is the moment to strengthen the foundations for human well-being and flourishing for the years ahead.

Nations sometimes need to make big changes so that all can thrive, and this is such a time. We do not all agree on everything in the Build Back Better program. Nor does this collective letter mention all the important initiatives it proposes. But we all agree that the following six areas of action are essential:

  • Provide robust assistance to low-income families.
  • Improve employment opportunities for low-income people.
  • Invest in the care economy.
  • Promote education and workforce training.
  • Help poor countries deal with COVID-19 and its consequences.
  • These needed investments for the common good should be financed by increasing taxes on corporations and high-income Americans.

In the Bible, plagues and other disasters are often taken as a wake-up call from God. The COVID-19 crisis has been revelatory. We are all more aware of the connections among all people, including people on the margins of our economy and those beyond our borders. With faith that God has high hopes for our nation and the world, we pray for you and your leadership. Read the full letter

April 23, 2021 / Open letter to President Biden

Why we support the American Jobs Plan

President Biden is making three major proposals to Congress in his first 100 days. The American Rescue Plan addresses immediate needs, especially among people and communities who have been hit hard by the pandemic. It is now being implemented. The recently announced American Jobs Plan is intended to foster sustained prosperity and, at the same time, address long-standing racial and economic injustices and also climate change. The American Families Plan, yet to be released, is reported to propose policies and systems to help the nation’s families flourish and for that we are grateful. In response, the Circle of Protection offers faith-based, poverty-focused reflections on each plan in turn, hoping to inform our church members, the public, and members of Congress as legislation on the Jobs and Families plans is considered.

This letter is about the American Jobs Plan. We are not experts on all of its many provisions, and we do not agree on every issue. However, we all agree on four principles, grounded in our common values and priorities rooted in our faith and scripture. Read the full letter

March 19, 2021 / Open letter to President Biden

‘We need to shift toward an economy that allows all people to thrive and protects the environment that sustains us’

The American Rescue Plan provides critical relief to millions of people struggling with the pandemic and its economic fallout, but that relief is not enough. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated already alarming levels of poverty, racial injustice, and inequality in our nation.

We need to shift toward an economy that allows all people to thrive and protects the environment that sustains us. This will require concrete steps to address the legacy of racial injustice in the U.S. and commitment to rectify the structural inequalities experienced by so many, especially communities of color. We believe that God has high hopes for our country and the world, and we pray for positive, visionary leadership from all of our elected leaders.

Child hunger in America and the wealth of the richest people have both increased at the same time. A series of violent weather events have made climate change harder to ignore. The events of January 6 have shaken us to be ever more vigilant in our defense of democracy for all of God’s children. The Hebrew prophets were clear that nations sometimes need to make big changes, and we think now is such a time. Read the full letter

January 28, 2021 / Open letter to Congress

‘December-passed COVID relief bill was necessary but is a short-term patch’

The concurrent crises of a global pandemic, economic recession, and ongoing systemic racism are ravaging the country. The December-passed COVID relief bill was necessary but is a short-term patch. We call on Congress to pass legislation that responds to these crises head-on with a plan that matches the magnitude and urgency of the challenge and addresses the injustices and inequities laid bare by COVID.

We welcome President Biden’s American Rescue Plan as the start of a crucial process with Congress. Many of the priorities in the plan align with the Circle of Protection’s statements and prayers over the past decade.

We urge Congress to act quickly before enhanced unemployment benefits expire in mid-March. We pray that legislators from both parties will work together and seek common ground. We ask you to act boldly to prevent Congress from having to revisit these same policies just weeks later. The experience of the Great Recession warns us against doing too little or letting up too soon. Read the full letter