Christian leaders meet with White House to advocate for social programs, voting rights
WASHINGTON (RNS) — Faith leaders representing a broad spectrum of Christian groups will meet with White House officials on Wednesday (Sept. 22) to advocate for voting rights and social programs they say protect the poor and vulnerable.
The group, which is organized by the advocacy organization Circle of Protection, includes influential Catholics, leaders of major Black church groups, prominent mainline Christian officials and the heads of evangelical Protestant organizations. The leaders also plan to release a letter signed by 20 religious officials addressed to President Joe Biden and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, urging them to finalize and pass a slate of bills working their way through Congress.
“Three big bills coming before the House and Senate have captured our attention — the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the family support budget bill, and voting rights legislation,” the letter reads. “If passed and signed into law they would strengthen the physical and social infrastructure of our society, cut family and child poverty more than any time in our lives, and ensure the precious right to vote for all people made in God’s image.”
The leaders expressed particular support for “recent improvements” to the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit and pushed for a “generous expansion of housing vouchers” to help curb ongoing housing issues for poor people.
“The Bible is clear in its opposition to the concentration of wealth amid neglected human need,” the letter reads. “Those who have benefited the most should contribute to the common good of society and invest in the most vulnerable.”
The authors expressed support for voting rights legislation as well, saying that “voting rights, democracy and the moral character of the nation are at stake.” They did not specify which voting rights bill they support, but may be referencing the Freedom to Vote Act, a bill recently introduced by Senate Democrats and widely seen as a compromise after the For the People Act — which also garnered enthusiastic endorsements from religious activists across the country — struggled to gain support from moderate Democratic senators and was blocked by Senate Republicans this summer.
Signers of the letter include Bishop Adam J. Richardson, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Jim Winkler, head of the National Council of Churches; the Most Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Jim Wallis, with the Center on Faith and Justice at Georgetown University; and the Rev. David Beckmann, coordinator with Circle of Protection.
Officials say 12 of the signers or representatives of their organizations will meet Wednesday with Melissa Rogers, Trey Baker and Josh Dickson, who run the recently reestablished White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.