WASHINGTON, July 24, 1997 - Thirteen leaders of major religious organizations last week called on House and Senate budget conferees to provide health coverage for the nation's 10 million uninsured children and to provide Supplemental Security Income to legal immigrants who were residing in the country when the omnibus welfare law was enacted or who became disabled after entering the United States.
In a letter to senators and representatives dated July 16, they declared, "We urge you to reflect on the Book of Proverbs, where we are commanded to "Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy."
The letter, coordinated by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was signed by representatives of the following religious organizations: American Ethical Union, American Friends Service Committee, Church Women United, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, National Council of Jewish Women, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church.
The full text of the letter follows:
We realize that as the budget reconciliation process begins, you have many issues before you that you must consider and prioritize. As leaders of diverse religious organizations, we write to urge that you use the following standard in your budget deliberations: how do budget decisions affect the poor and the immigrant, the needy and the less fortunate? We ask that you not balance the budget on the backs of the poor, for doing so would violate a most fundamental tenet of our faiths.
We urge that you reflect on the Book of Proverbs, where we are commanded to "Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy." Do not allow the budget plan to fail the poor and the needy, nor to fulfill our moral obligation to share God's wealth with those of God's children who are less fortunate that we.
In that spirit, we want to share our perspective about two specific provisions of concern: legal immigrants and children's health care.
We are concerned that this budget plan would hurt legal immigrants and others struggling to make the transition from welfare to work, as well as those who are unable, for reasons beyond their control, to maintain full-time employment. Specifically, we condemn the choice of the House leadership to undermine the principles of the bipartisan budget agreement and fail to provide Supplemental Security Income to those legal immigrants who were residing in the country when the welfare law was enacted and who later became disabled. We urge strongly that the House defer to the Senate on this point, thereby ensuring just treatment to all who came legally to our shores to seek a better life for themselves and their children.
We also remain gravely concerned about the failure of the budget plan to guarantee health insurance coverage to our nation's 10 million uninsured children. We are pleased that the Senate bill goes further than the House bill in covering children from low-income families who do not currently have the medical care they need to grow, although we continue to oppose the provision of additional child health care funds to states through a block grant mechanism.
We strongly oppose the provisions of the House legislation which would provide enough resources to cover only half of our nation's uninsured children, while allowing states enormous flexibility to deny children basic preventive services or to shift children currently receiving Medicaid into the block grant structure in order to provide fewer benefits at a higher cost. Such provisions run counter to our fundamental belief in the God-given potential of each child and undermine our sacred responsibility to alleviate the suffering of every human being.
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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in 870 congregations throughout North America.