Faith Leaders Divided over Government Shutdown


President Obama greets surprised tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on April 9, a day after he and congressional leaders agreed on a bill to keep the government open. (Photo: Pete Souza, White House)
Congressional leaders averted a shutdown of the federal government at almost midnight on April 8 after prolonged and contentious negotiations, agreeing to $37.8 billion in cuts from the current year's budget that runs through the end of September.

 

The House and Senate must concur with the agreement this week.

 

The Friday negotiated agreement was the seventh stop-gap budget during the current fiscal year.

 

Some faith leaders had weighed in on the budget crisis as Republican congressional leaders blamed Democrats and Democratic congressional leaders pointed fingers at Republicans.

 

The American people "are not concerned about a government shutdown. They are concerned about an economic meltdown if Congress doesn't act quickly to get the deficit and the debt under control," said Tony Perkins, president of the James Dobson-founded Family Research Council (FRC), when interviewed on Fox News' "Lou Dobbs Show" in late March.

 

In an FRC webcast April 5 intended to rally support for Republicans, Perkins said, "America is on a road to fiscal and moral bankruptcy."

 

FRC criticized the spending of taxpayer money on abortion, the new health care law and corporate bailouts, instead of practicing "responsible financial stewardship."

 

The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer called on Republicans to stop getting "played" by Democrats.

 

"It's time for the Speaker and the GOP to stop fearing the old media and start fearing the Tea Party, the folks who sent them there to get the job done and not fumble around while the country burns to the ground," wrote Fischer.

 

He said it was time for Republicans "to grow some hair, take a testosterone injection, stake out some turf and defend it."

 

Blogger Bob Cornwall, pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Troy, Mich., wrote that the budget battle was about political objectives.

 

"Don't be fooled. This 'budget battle' isn't about money. If it was about money we'd be long done with this tom-foolery. We're talking about a rather minuscule amount of money here. No, this is about ideology. It's about abortion (whether you're pro-choice or 'pro-life,' this debate doesn't belong in a budget process)," Cornwall blogged. "It's about environmental protections. And it's about Health Care. In other words, it's not about cutting the deficit, but about using the budget as a way of enacting political goals that are tangential to the budget."

 

Cornwall said, "It's time for everyone to grow up! So, agree on some numbers, cut the deal, and let's get on with it."

 

 
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USA Today reported that the agreed-upon budget cuts amounted to "roughly 1 percent" of the current fiscal year's budget.

 

Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, told EthicsDaily.com "there is a social Darwinist ideology at the base of the conservative budget stance that is inimical to the spirit and teachings of Jesus."

 

He said, "Jesus was never afraid to ask the rich to give from their abundance and he expected everyone to make sacrifices for the good of others."

 

In a video statement, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, warned against harming the poor and vulnerable.

 

"We are being told that we need to get our fiscal house in order as a nation, and I agree with that. But we are also being told that the reason the fiscal house is in disorder is because of programs that historically have provided the safety net for the people at the margins of our society," she said.

 

Campbell said "the reason we have a problem is that we manage to provide tax cuts to the wealthyto those who have given the highest campaign contributionsand we have put two wars on the credit card. Those two issues alone have driven our deficit up."

 

"I think it is time that we look at the real problem," said Campbell. "It is not programs for people who are working class who are struggling hard every day to make the ends meet. It's about campaign contributions for millionaires and billionaires that are the problem."

 

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a poll last week that showed that 51 percent of white evangelicals favored a shutdown and only 39 percent favored a compromise to avoid a shutdown.

 

While the majority of white evangelicals were unwilling to compromise, 70 percent of black Protestants, 63 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of mainline Protestants favored a compromise.

 

A Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans favored a compromise to avoid a government shutdown, compared to 33 percent who opposed compromising.

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Tags: Budget, EthicsDaily Staff, Federal Deficit, Government Shutdown


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