06/07/2011 11:32 am ET Updated Aug 07, 2011

Confronting an Immoral Budget

Below are the remarks I gave at a press briefing on June 3 responding to the Faith and Freedom Coalition's conference in Washington, DC, at which conservative operatives worked not only to promote their usual social agenda, but also to portray their radical economic policies as moral.

Thanks everyone for coming today, I know you're all very busy.

We're here to make some very important points about what's happening in faith and politics at this crucial moment.

Religious right operatives are not speaking for the mainstream faith community as they try to mobilize Christians behind a radical economic agenda. Their agenda of punishing hard-hit families with drastic, irresponsible budget cuts while giving trillions in tax cuts to millionaires is immoral, and people recognize that.

Some conservative religious operatives like Ralph Reed have been hard at work portraying their extreme agenda as mainstream.

They embrace greed: They want trillions in tax cuts for millionaires and powerful corporations -- even though these policies exploded our debt, and the wealthiest one percent of Americans already control 40% of the wealth.

They reject compassion and fairness for families: They want to make drastic budget cuts that will cause concrete hardship for struggling families, seniors, and the most vulnerable -- even as people struggle to find work and poverty is at staggering levels.

This is an immoral agenda, and people of faith are rejecting it.

A recent poll by Public Religion Research Institute showed that large majorities of America's largest religious groups -- including Catholics and white evangelicals -- find the concentration of wealth to be a major problem.

The same poll found that large majorities of Catholics and protestants support the wealthiest Americans paying higher taxes, and white evangelicals are evenly split on this issue.

And numerous polls show Americans across the spectrum reject Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare, slash programs that protect families, and give millionaires tax cuts they don't need.
The radical economic agenda that religious right political operatives are pushing resembles the teachings of Ayn Rand more than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Politicians like Paul Ryan cite Rand as an inspiration, and religious right operatives are lining up to support Ryan's budget priorities.

Rand believed in selfishness and greed. Religious right operatives support giving trillions of dollars to the very richest Americans.

Rand held compassion and love for the weak in contempt. Religious right operatives seek to slash programs that protect the poor, struggling families, and the least among us.

On question after question, Ayn Rand and Christian moral principles are directly at odds. Yet religious right operatives are mobilizing en masse to support a budget that reflects Rand's teachings.

Prominent mainstream faith leaders across the country who are more interested in upholding the church's teachings about justice and the common good are standing together in overwhelming opposition to these extreme, immoral budget priorities.

Earlier this year, some in Congress advanced a budget that threatened to decimate programs that save thousands of lives every year and help vulnerable families put food on the table and get the healthcare they need.

Confronted with this injustice, a remarkably diverse group of nationally prominent clergy, from the head of the National Association of Evangelicals to African-American denominational leaders to leading Catholic bishops formed a "Circle of Protection" to stand up for these desperately necessary protections.

As Congress pushed through Congressman Ryan's budget, 30 Protestant bishops called the plan "morally indefensible," and 70 Catholic scholars issued a letter to John Boehner calling on him to turn away from his economic policies, which fly in the face of Catholic social teaching.

And Faithful America gathered thousands of petition signatures calling on Paul Ryan and John Boehner to support economic policies that protect the poor and honor their faith's teachings.

The message from the mainstream faith community is clear -- the economic agenda pushed by religious right political operatives is extreme, and it contradicts Christian moral values.