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In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political—and moral.

As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms and to speak out for justice.

The following is a statement by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world. All people are invited to sign the statement and we'll send a copy to President Obama and your members of Congress. (Click here for the statement and list of originating signers.)

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Circle of Protection: A Statement on Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor

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As people of faith, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

1. The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.

2. Programs focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. They should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.

3. We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.

4. National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.

5. A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.

6. The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect "the least of these." "What would Jesus cut?" "How do we share sacrifice?"

7. As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.

8. God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus.

Affirmed and signed by,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]