We have read about cuts to the State Library, cuts to the University system, cuts to the Departments of Commerce and Labor. But the brunt of the cuts affect human services — the poor, the disabled, people who depend on government assistance to live their lives. This de facto attack on the disadvantaged was not the intent of the Legislature when they approved the budget. Nobody wants people to suffer. The suffering is the result of the budget that was passed, and the state law that stipulates that if tax revenue is not sufficient, there will be cuts. And now the most vulnerable in our society are once again pawns in a political battle the have no part in.

Jesus stood with the poor and the disadvantaged, with the outcasts and the disabled. He healed the sick, he taught the crowds, and he admonished his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, care for the stranger.

Montana is a place of many faith traditions, all of which teach compassion and care for those who are in need. As a Christian faith leader I join my interfaith and ecumenical colleagues in urging the Legislature to find ways to care for the most vulnerable.

As a person of faith, and as a citizen I believe that we have a responsibility towards our neighbors. Our communities and houses of worship have food pantries and homeless shelters, and we work hard at finding ways to serve our neighbors in need. We pray for the poor. And we pray for those who govern. It is not an easy task, with increased demands and decreased revenue. We can also make our priorities known, and stand with the poor and the broken, as Jesus did.

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As citizens and people of faith, we have the right and the opportunity to make our priorities known to the legislators, to the Governor, to the people who are in a position to make decisions on where and how to balance the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society with the decisions of a Legislature determined to cut spending. We can do better. And we must do better. It is a moral imperative.

Jessica Crist is bishop of the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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