More than 100 Christian leaders, including 2017 inauguration speakers Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, are calling on Congress not to support cuts in President Trump's budget to America's foreign assistance programs that they argue make up less than 1 percent of the federal budget.
"It is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the international affairs budget," the faith leaders wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders. "… We cannot turn our backs on those in desperate need."
Trump's budget calls for cutting the budgets at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by 28 percent, down from 37 percent from a draft version of the budget the Trump administration released last month.
The budget proposal is only a blueprint with no enforcement mechanism. But it still amounts to a first shot in Trump's battle with Congress over spending priorities.
The Christian leaders signing the letter to House and Senate leaders represent the Catholic and evangelical communities, including priests, pastors, heads of faith organizations, recording artists and authors. Dolan, a Catholic cardinal and archbishop of New York, opened Trump's inauguration with a prayer. Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, read from the Sermon on the Mount at the inauguration.
With the budget process moving to Capitol Hill, the leaders stressed that the United States must remain that "shining city on a hill" that "brings hope to poor, hungry, [and] vulnerable."
"America is blessed with fertile land, abundant natural resources, a strong economy and faithful citizens who value religious freedom," they wrote. "But beyond our borders, many countries experience unparalleled suffering and loss of life due to extreme poverty, disease, natural disasters and conflict."
The leaders pointed to the 65 million people who have been displaced worldwide, the most since World War II, in addition to the 795 million people in poverty across the globe who "go to bed hungry every night."
The group sent the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Others who signed the letter include: Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Rich Stearns, president of World Vision USA; Bishop Gregory Mansour, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services; Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, a prominent Christian singer/songwriter team; Dr. George O. Wood, the general superintendent of Assemblies of God; Dr. Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity.