Forty-five Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders lent their names last month to the government’s war on poverty by announcing formation of an amorphous Inter-Religious Committee Against Poverty (IRCAP).

Many politicians think clergy support made the difference in putting across civil rights reforms and are anxious to rally religious backing for the poverty program. Vice-President Humphrey attended IRCAP’s birth and enthused, “The spiritual and material resources you can bring to this effort are crucial in … any ultimate victory.” Prompt praise also came from Vatican Radio.

Humphrey said IRCAP was “a manifestation of the most fundamental beliefs of our three faiths.” He quoted from Ezekiel and the Epistle of James and said “the preface of the Economic Opportunity Act was written many hundreds and thousands of years ago.”

The IRCAP opening statement said that “the persistence of involuntary poverty in a society possessing the resources and the technological capacity to eradicate it is both economically and politically indefensible and morally intolerable.…”

Churchmen and politicians of all varieties are against poverty, but there’s a lot of disagreement when it comes to specifics. The poverty war is still a hot partisan issue, with Republicans charging millions of dollars are wasted in bureaucracy and never reach the poor. Humphrey used the IRCAP platform to call that claim “hogwash.”

A key IRCAP spokesman was the Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, leader of the United Presbyterian Church and apparent front-runner to be new chief of the World Council of Churches (see page 54). Asked if IRCAP expects clergymen to back the poverty war from the pulpit, Blake replied: “I expect them to preach the faith they profess to hold. It includes ...

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