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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

Selected Letters and Statements

May 24, 2021 / Open letter to President Biden 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

November 19, 2020 / Open letter to Congress

Priorities for FY2021 Appropriations Legislation and COVID Response Package

As the nation prepares for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the midst of a new surge in COVID-19, we pray that you will come to agreement on FY2021 appropriations legislation and a COVID response package that address the needs of vulnerable people.

The pandemic death toll continues to rise and hunger is at historically high levels, especially among children. People of color have been hit hardest. We are convinced that God loves all people and see the intertwined issues of poverty and racism as religious issues. We are grateful that leaders of both parties see the need for a COVID relief in the lame duck session. Delay would have severe humanitarian consequences.

We ask you to come together during the lame-duck session with legislation that responds to the urgent needs of this time. This would be a great blessing for many desperate families—and for our unsettled and divided nation. Read the full letter

October 19, 2020

The Urgency of Continued COVID-19 Relief

We call on the President and Congress to approve this month a COVID relief package that prioritizes those most in need at home and abroad.

We welcome the extension of the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT) in the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021. Since P-EBT went into effect this spring, it has lifted at least three million children out of hunger. But no comprehensive COVID legislation has been enacted for over six months, and we are facing a hunger crisis.

In our country, 1 in 3 families with children do not have enough food to eat, with nearly 40 percent of Black and Latino families with children struggling to put food on the table. Worldwide, an estimated 270 million people are on the brink of starvation. Read the full statement

July 20, 2020

COVID response bill needed to address swelling ranks of people in poverty

We write to you as the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of church leaders representing the diversity of U.S. Christianity – including Latino Churches, Historic Black Churches, Protestants and Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox, Pentecostals and Peace Churches. One thing on which we all agree is that our country’s policies should reflect Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 about how we should treat “the least of these.”

Thank you for the legislation you have passed in response to COVID-19 and the ensuing economic crisis. The death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise and millions of people remain out of work. We implore you to quickly pass another COVID response bill that addresses the swelling ranks of people in poverty, and we urge you to prioritize the following: Nutrition assistance, international assistance, elections, and racism.

The COVID-19 crisis makes us all more aware of the connections among all people, including people on the margins of our economy and society. People of color are being hit especially hard by the virus and economic downturn. Black and brown people with less access to safe and secure housing, steady incomes, and health care are more likely to be infected and die from this virus. Poverty and racism have created pre-existing conditions that also increase the chances of contracting and dying from this lethal disease.

Neglect of the people in greatest need will lead to an even more deeply divided nation and world. Our nation is faithful to God when we provide help to poor and vulnerable people; and our commitment to racial justice must become as systemic as racism is increasingly revealed to be. Read the full letter

April 15, 2020

Congress must quickly pass fourth COVID-19 response bill addressing the needs of struggling households

We write to you as the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of church leaders from the main families of U.S. Christianity – Catholic, evangelical Protestant, ecumenical Protestant, the Historic African American churches, and Latino churches. As Christians, we believe that God is especially concerned with the plight of people in poverty – and that a key moral measure of government policies is how they treat those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45).

And for us, poverty and racism are integrally connected, and must always be dealt with together–we are all equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and public policy must always reflect that. People say that the COVID-19 coronavirus does not discriminate. But in fact, black and brown people with less access to safe and secure housing, to steady incomes, and to medical care and healthy bodies are more likely to be infected and die from this virus. Poverty and racism have become pre-existing conditions that also increase the chances of contracting this lethal disease.

We also believe that special attention is required for many vulnerable groups, including incarcerated individuals, people in detention, Native Americans, and people experiencing homelessness– which is critical for an effective and compassionate response and must be reflected in all efforts to lessen the impact of the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for quickly passing the first three COVID-19 response bills. Your legislation will provide urgently needed support to struggling families and help stabilize the economies of the US and its territories. Further significant action is needed. We implore you to quickly pass a fourth COVID response bill that addresses the needs of our country’s struggling households. Assistance measures should last not just for the duration of the health crisis or other short-term period but should be extended to remain in place as long as the economic crisis continues, and we urge you to give priority to the swelling ranks of people in poverty. Read the full letter

March 24, 2020

Call for increased SNAP food assistance in the recovery program

In the name of God, we ask you to include an increase in SNAP food assistance in the recovery program the Senate is negotiating now. An expansion of SNAP would help the millions of households who are vulnerable to destitution and severe, prolonged hunger in this crisis. The great majority of these people are children, seniors, or disabled people.

We are particularly concerned for those who are going to be most impacted by the economic fallout from the spread of COVID-19—low income workers and families at economic risk. Millions will likely lose their jobs, be furloughed, or have massive cuts in their working hours which will impact their ability to meet basic needs for their families.

Please do everything you can to ensure we get this crucial provision in the final deal. Nothing will do more for Americans and the American economy in this moment than an increase in SNAP benefits. We will be watching this closely. Read the full letter

February 11, 2020

Church leaders speak out on administration actions that affect people in poverty

As leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity, representing church bodies and networks serving more than 100 million Americans, we are concerned about administration action to cut safety net programs that help low-income people. The gospel of God’s love for all people moves us to speak together on this issue.

We support the goal of helping Americans move from poverty to financial independence. But some of the administration’s policy changes and proposed cuts in funding for low-income programs are likely to add to the hunger, poverty, and economic insecurity which are already far too widespread in our country. Read the full letter

March 6, 2019

Letter to Congress on discretionary spending budget agreement

We believe budgets are moral documents; they reveal our values and show our priorities. Budgets show who and what we view as important.

Later this year, Congress and the President will need to come together to reach a new budget agreement on topline funding levels for discretionary programs. Without such a deal, discretionary funding levels will return to austere levels required by the 2011 Budget Control Act, putting non-defense discretionary programs at risk of deep cuts. Read the full letter

February 2018

Unity statement on racism

The integral relationship between poverty and racism unifies us against both. They are both issues to which the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks — which also calls us to love our neighbors, without exceptions.

Our unity on these issues is because they are theological issues for us, not merely political or partisan ones. These fundamentally biblical concerns challenge all of us and both of the major political parties. Read the full unity statement