Faith-based coalition expresses 'deep Christian concern' about Dunleavy's budget

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A coalition of 21 Presbyterian churches in Alaska has issued a letter to Gov. Dunleavy expressing "deep Christian concern" over the governor's proposed budget and its potential impacts on Alaska's most vulnerable citizens.

In an interview on the Channel 2 Newshour Tuesday night, First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage Pastor Rev. Matthew Schultz said the letter was endorsed unanimously by the Presbytery of the Yukon, a coalition of 21 Presbyterian churches from around the state.

When asked if it's fair to label the governor's proposed budget as "un-Christian," Rev. Schultz didn't mince words.

"Any act that hopes to be considered 'Christian' must take care of those who are the most vulnerable, and if we look at this budget, what we see is a budget that targets and impacts the most vulnerable," Schultz said. "Those who are already hurting are going to be hurt even more. If you don't want the label of being 'un-Christian' you have to start those cuts at the top with the people who are wealthy and powerful and comfortable."

Watch the full interview above or here.

Rebecca Palsha: You've written to the governor about the statewide Presbytery's "deep Christian concern" about the governor's budget. What is the concern and why do you see it as a moral issue?

Rev. Matthew Schultz: Well, it's a well-known quote that a budget is a moral document, and it's also a statement of values, it's a statement of priorities, and as we heard in the previous story, this one creates chaos and it's been called irresponsible by financial experts, and when you're dealing irresponsibly with a budget that affects people's real, actual lives, well, that's an ethical issue as well.

Mike Ross: Reverend, the governor has said that his budget proposal reflects efforts to try to get the state to live within its means. Knowing that, and his position, is it really fair to call his actions 'un-Christian'?

MS: I think so, because any act that hopes to be considered Christian must take care of those who are the most vulnerable, and if we look at this budget, what we see is a budget that targets and impacts the most vulnerable. Those who are already hurting are going to be hurt even more. If you don't want the label of being 'un-Christian' you have to start those cuts at the top with the people who are wealthy and powerful and comfortable.

RP: Balancing a budget of course is very difficult to do — money for one program may mean less money for something else. In your letter, you implored the governor to find better solutions. Putting you on the spot here, what is that?

MS: That's a great question, and in fact, I wish it were the question being asked by the governor, saying, with a fine tooth comb, 'here's the issues that we need to address, and here are the parts of the budget we need to cut,' but that's not being done. This budget is being created with a machete. I would start by not doing so many rebates back to the oil companies, and not increasing the governor's personal budget, as has been done in this budget.

MR: Reverend, you've sent a letter to the governor. Have you heard back from him or the administration, and what are you hoping to accomplish by sending this message in writing?

MS: We have not heard anything back yet. This is being sent by the entire Presbytery of the Yukon, a statewide coalition of Presbyterian churches. It was passed unanimously by all of us. There's part of us that believes that perhaps this budget was never intended to pass, that it's a statement of values, and so we hope to reach out to the governor, and part of our role as a prophetic voice within the state to stand up for those who are disenfranchised and powerless and say 'if you're making a statement of values, if you're making a statement of priorities within the state, you've got it upside down. We should put our elders and our children first.

RP: Reverend Matthew Schultz, thank you so much for being here this evening.

MS: Thank you for having me.

Jill Burke contributed to this report.