Decrying SNAP cuts as ‘morally wrong,’ faith leaders call on Poliquin to vote against farm bill

Decrying SNAP cuts as ‘morally wrong,’ faith leaders call on Poliquin to vote against farm bill

Lauren McCauley, Maine Beacon, May 9, 2017

Decrying Republican efforts to cut access to food stamps as “morally reprehensible,” dozens of faith leaders and other people of conscience gathered in Portland on Tuesday to urge Rep. Bruce Poliquin to “find his way back to compassion” and vote against the House Farm Bill.

The bill, which is expected to be voted on as early as next week, imposes additional work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Having food to eat is a human right,” Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, pastor of HopeGateWay United Methodist Church and co-founder of Moral Movement Maine, said at the Wayside Food Programs warehouse. “It’s the most basic of human needs and any proposal, any legislation that takes food away from people is morally wrong and dangerous.”

Watch the press conference below:

Many of the faith leaders who spoke lead churches and synagogues with programs that help support hungry families and they spoke to the harm that the cuts will bring to the one in seven Mainers currently dependent on SNAP for food assistance.

Emphasizing the children, veterans, and seniors in Maine who today “will eat a healthy dinner” but “who in the future will go hungry with the proposed cuts to SNAP,” Rev. Jodi Hayashida, pastor of First Universalist Church of Auburn, debunked what she described as the “lies” fed to voters “about the unworthiness” of people who collect food stamps.

“SNAP participants are our friends and neighbors,” Hayashida said. “We have been fed the lie that those who participate in SNAP are undeserving because it is the only way to justify the morally reprehensible fact that in the richest nation in the history of the world that there are people that are starving.”

“Instead of working to ensure those [people] are fed,” she said, “our government is considering taking the food out of the mouths of even more.”

The press conference coincided with a national day of action urging lawmakers to vote against the cuts, and many who spoke thanked Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who has spoken out strongly against the changes to SNAP, and urged Poliquin to do the same. However, Poliquin has consistently advocated for national work requirements and has held upMaine’s 2014 cuts as a model for the country.

“Let’s face it,” said Rev. Jane Field, executive director of Maine Council of Churches, which co-hosted the event with Moral Movement Maine. “If our legislators really wanted to help hungry neighbors put food on the table and find dignified work that could lift them and their families out of poverty for good, if they really meant what they say about promoting self sufficiency, they would do things like lifting the federal minimum wage to a living wage…they would do things like give all of us access to healthcare.”

Rev. Jim Gertmenian, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Cumberland, was among those who were arrested in Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office in December protesting the GOP tax bill. On Tuesday, he explained that “at that time, we predicted that if the tax bill was passed, corporate profits would rise but wages would not…That those whose tables are already obscenely laden would get more, and those whose tables were nearly bare would get less.”

“Today,” Gertmenian continued, “with the current farm bill being considered in Congress, those predictions are coming true.”

More than 400 people have already signed a postcard organized by Moral Movement Maine asking the state’s U.S. House delegation to vote against the cuts.

Photos: Tina Davidson