Over 100 Christian leaders signed a letter addressed to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., concerning the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s budget by 28 percent. The leaders urged House and Senate representatives to reject the proposal, stating we can’t “turn our back on those in desperate need.”
There are some influential leaders among the signees, including two clergy who participated in Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January—Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. Other big names include Michael W. Smith, Southern Baptist Convention leader Ronnie Floyd, World Relief President, Scott Arbeiter, president of InterVarsity, Tom Lin, Denver Seminary President, Mark Young, and the president of Compassion International, Jimmy Mellado.
The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; additionally, President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary of State Tillerson are cc’ed.
The following excerpt captures the essence of their argument that continuing to fund foreign assistance is really in the best interest of every American:
America is blessed with fertile land, abundant natural resources, a strong economy, and faithful citizens who value religious freedom. But beyond our borders, many countries experience unparalleled suffering and loss of life due to extreme poverty, disease, natural disasters, and conflict. Today, there are 65 million displaced people, the most since World War II, and 795 million people still go to bed hungry every night.
Matthew 25 tells us when we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord. As people of faith, we cannot turn our back on those in desperate need. We are grateful for America’s global development and diplomacy programs that have been instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have strong legacies of supporting humanitarian and development programs that enable countless people to pull themselves out of poverty and live life with dignity. It is through these diplomatic and development tools that we’ve seen countries and communities build peaceful, productive societies that do not turn to violence or terrorism.
At a time when we’re especially security conscious, the International Affairs Budget is crucial to demonstrating our values to the world, building friendships with other nations, and lowering security risks around the world.
The letter also appeals to a practical return on investment, stating that the Internal Affairs Budget only accounts for 1 percent of the national budget, yet has a “drastic” impact on the millions of people who benefit from it. The letter concludes with a reference to Puritan America ideals, stating the goal is to ensure “our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill’” we have worked toward.
This is not the first time evangelical leaders have tried to influence the Trump administration by voicing their concerns over its policies. Several leaders pushed back on Trump’s travel ban in February, and some even stood outside the National Prayer Breakfast to protest.