Samuel Rodriguez, Gabriel Salguero Among Christian Leaders Protesting Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget Plan

The administration of President Donald Trump has issued an “America First” blueprint for the federal budget, including increased spending for a border wall with Mexico and reductions in American overseas aid, leaving many Christian leaders in the country outraged and alarmed.

President Donald Trump released his “America First” budget blueprint Thursday, and many Christian leaders, including two who spoke at Trump’s inauguration – Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Evangelical minister Reverend Samuel Rodriguez – are not happy.

As it’s been presented, the 2018 budget would bolster military programs and begin building a wall on the southern border with Mexico while drastically cutting many federal agencies, including USAID, which administers civilian foreign aid.

On the day it was released, 106 Christian leaders signed a letter released by Catholic Relief Services, the international aid agency of the United States Catholic Bishops.

“It is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget,” the letter reads, adding: “We cannot turn our back on those in desperate need.”

The budget, they write, “brings hope to poor, hungry, vulnerable and displaced men, women and children around the world.”

The short letter turns on a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, which “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.”

Representing just one percent of the U.S. national budget, the leaders insist, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions, “drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. Additionally, it promotes freedom and human rights, protecting religious freedom for millions around the world.”

Addressing the House and Senate leadership, the Christian leaders say they’re grateful for America’s global development and diplomacy programs and urge them to be continued, because they’ve helped countries and communities build “peaceful, productive societies” that don’t turn to violence or terrorism.

According to the signatories, including several Catholic bishops, “at a time when we’re especially security conscious,” the budget is crucial to demonstrating American values to the world, “building friendships with other nations, and lowering security risks around the world.”

Also signing the letter are Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, former President of the U.S. bishops’ conference; Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services; Salvatore J. Cordileone Archbishop of San Francisco; Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; Leith Anderson, President National Association of Evangelicals and Reverend Gabriel Salguero, President National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

Not all of them are clergy: the list also includes singers Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and Matt Maher, and CEOs of various Christian charitable organizations.

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INÉS SAN MARTÍN

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