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IL Faith Leaders Seek "Circle of Protection" for Poor

August 1, 2011

CHICAGO - They call it the "Circle of Protection." A group of leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic and other faith communities, who met with President Obama last week, say they are hopeful he will work to protect the poor during the years of budget cutting that have been tied in with a higher debt ceiling.

Many say that at some point revenue will need to be raised and the wealthy should not be spared.

Chicago Lutheran Bishop Wayne Miller says it's a matter of ethics.

"Privilege has to be married to responsibility. When privilege separates itself from responsibility, it's bad for everyone."

Miller says organizations such as Lutheran Social Services of Illinois have already made significant cutbacks during the state budget crisis and cutting too much at the federal level will only leave more people without the lifeline they need to pull themselves up out of poverty.

Miller is concerned about the Illinois residents who have already suffered so much in this recession.

"We're creating such a gap between haves and have-nots where, no matter how much skill you have, it's getting harder and harder to find that spot where you can participate in your own growth advancement."

The Bishop says he hears a lot about what has to be done to grow the economy, but not enough about how to protect the most vulnerable in the economy.

"Are we planning to just let them starve in the streets? Are we going to put them in a boat and sail it out into the Gulf of Mexico and sink it? I mean, what are we planning to do?""

Miller says early childhood programs and those that help people with mental illness are examples of good fiscal planning.

"We certainly have data that back up the fact that our programs move a significant number of people into a place of self-sufficiency."

Besides meeting with the President, Circle of Protection leaders have met with members of both parties in Congress and have requested meetings with Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

A "Circle of Protection" promise has been signed by more than 60 leaders from major religions as well as 45 agencies such as the Salvation Army.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL