Episcopal Church officials are among the religious leaders joining Bread for the World and other organizations forming “The Circle of Protection,” a national nonpartisan movement committed to resisting cuts to the United States budget “that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people,” according to a July 20 press release from the organization.

On July 20, representatives of the newly formed “Circle of Protection” movement visited President Barack Obama to acquaint him with the organization’s concerns and ask for his support. Obama endorsed the group’s statement, which has been signed by leaders of many U.S.-based denominations and religious organizations, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church and Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development.

California religious leaders gathered on July 19 for a press conference during which they called on members of Congress to “form a circle of protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people in California, the rest of United States, and abroad” as contentious budget talks continue in the nation’s capitol.

Speakers, including the Rev. Carissa Baldwin of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, specifically asked for the attention of California Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), as well as House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), according to a release from Bread for the World.

“The proposed cuts will be harmful to many Californians,” said Holly Hight, Bread for the World’s California field organizer, at the press conference, held at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. “We urge our senators and representatives in both parties to protect programs for vulnerable people from being cut in the federal budget debates.”

Cuts in anti-poverty programs would have a significant impact on the low-income households, the religious leaders said. According to a Bread for the World press release, more than 3.2 million people in California received SNAP or CalFresh benefits—formerly food stamps—last year.

“The proposed cuts would limit food purchasing power for many families and force them into food insecurity,” said Matt Sharp, a senior advocate with California Food Policy Advocates. “Nutrition programs like WIC and CalFresh have too often been incorrectly characterized as government waste, but they’re actually investments in families that can least afford basic necessities.”

Other religious leaders participating in the press conference included Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar of the Roman Catholic Church, Rev. William Epps of Second Baptist Church, and the Rev. Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder of Immanuel Presbyterian, who served as moderator.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles also issued a statement of support. “As people of faith, we share a core commitment to feed the hungry and to provide for those who live daily with the challenges of economic disadvantage,” he wrote. “Our governments — local, regional, statewide and national — also have a moral obligation to protect basic services to those who need them most, especially in these financially difficult times.”