St. Paul, Minn (April 11, 2013)—Minnesota’s Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America bishops issued an open letter this week to members of the Minnesota House and Senate, and Gov. Dayton, urging them to ensure there is a “circle of protection” around programs serving the poor in State budget negotiations.
The letter expresses the bishops’ concerns about the problems of poverty and hunger in Minnesota, and requests that both parties work together toward a budget that alleviates poverty and that works to build a hopeful future for all Minnesotans. It was accompanied by a copy of the national “Circle of Protection” statement, a letter on faith and the federal budget that was signed by faith leaders from around the country and sent to federal lawmakers this past February.
“As leaders of the state’s two largest faith communities, comprising almost 2 million lay faithful, Catholic and ELCA Lutheran bishops have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the common good of all Minnesotans,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. “With this letter, they hope to remind legislators and the public that budget decisions are moral decisions. Ensuring the basic dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable Minnesotans should be the top priority when spending decisions are made.”
The letter was not meant to endorse any particular budget plan, but rather propose an ethical and moral framework based on shared values in the hope of moving the discussion in the right direction. The Minnesota bishops said the principles outlined in the national “Circle of Protection” letter are applicable to Minnesota, and emphasized four key points for the state’s lawmakers:
- We thank you for reducing the deficit while maintaining our government’s responsibility for programs that serve people who are experiencing poverty and are vulnerable.
- We understand Minnesota’s fiscal health requires further cost savings and additional revenue be raised fairly.
- It is time to frame the budget debate in terms of moral choices.
- We plead for respectful bi-partisan dialogue and thoughtful engagement concerning our significant, complex problems.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is particularly concerned that spending cuts in some areas of the budget will disproportionately affect children and families. “This statement is especially important at a time when legislative leaders are proposing cuts to the human services budget. To cut human services significantly while increasing funding in other areas is an unfortunate error of judgment,” said Adkins. “Our hope is that important anti-poverty programs remain fully funded, and that new, critical initiatives like the ‘No Wrong Door’ legislation, which provides a safety net for child sex trafficking victims, receive proper funding as well.”
“Providing the government with the fiscal resources it needs to perform its responsibilities is a matter of social justice,” said Adkins. “Program delivery reform, eliminating wasteful spending, and policies that increase revenue should all be on the table in budget discussions. Doing so will ensure that we are able build a ‘circle of protection’ around government programs that are vital to protecting the dignity of those in difficult circumstances.”
To view a copy of the open letter, follow the link: http://www.mncatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Luth-Cath-joint-letter-13-0408.pdf.
The federal “Circle of Protection” letter can be found here: http://www.circleofprotection.us/pdf/Circle-of-Protection-Signatories.pdf.
For more information about MCC’s budget-related advocacy, visit the “Correspondence & Testimony” page under “Legislation” at www.mncc.org. For inquiries regarding the ELCA Lutheran signatories contact Rev. Mark Peters at the Lutheran Coalition for Public Policy in Minnesota (651.224.5499).
MEDIA CONTACT: Jessica Zittlow (o) 651-256-7579 / (c) 651-368-1043 / jzittlow at mncc dot org