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UM Leaders Decry US Missile Defense Will Delay Cure for HIV/AIDS, Starve Children, Is Immoral

Religious groups urge cutback in missile defense spending

Aug. 6, 2001  News media contact: Tim Tanton·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn. 10-71B{340}

WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- Three Methodist groups are among 22 faith-based organizations urging members of Congress to reduce funding for a national missile defense system.

Money from President Bush's $8.3 billion request for missile defense should be redirected to social programs, representatives of the groups wrote in a July 23 letter. The letter was sent to members of the Senate and House armed services and appropriations committees. Howard Hallman, chairman of the Interfaith Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, distributed the letter.

The religious leaders invoked Bush's campaign theme, "Leave No Child Behind," and noted that billions have been spent on missile defense since 1983 "without technological success."   "Pouring more funds into this venture would, in effect, steal money from efforts to 'Leave No Child Behind,' to provide adequate health care for millions of Americans, to deal with the global HIV/AIDS crisis, and to meet other urgent social needs," the religious leaders wrote. "This is clearly wrong and immoral.

"It is doubly wrong because there is no credible threat to the American homeland from long-range missiles," they stated. North Korea is the only "rogue" state that has a long-range missile, but that threat is contained, they said.

Signers included Hallman, who is also chairman of Methodists United for Peace with Justice; Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; and James Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Other signers represented Jewish, Catholic, Episcopalian, American Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Church of the Brethren, Disciples and United Church of Christ groups.

"The beneficiaries of the national missile defense program are not the American people but rather large defense contractors," they wrote. They reminded the committee members of President Eisenhower's warning about the influence of the "military-industrial complex." "You on the Senate Armed Services Committee should be our guardians."

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