A coalition of American religious groups covering a wide political and theological spectrum has launched a campaign to put the issue of poverty on the national agenda.

Announcing a decade-long plan of action - which includes a possible ten-percent "poverty tithe" by churches - 50 leaders of churches and related agencies said it was not morally acceptable that poverty persisted in the US at a time of unparalleled economic prosperity and expansion.

"Just as some of our religious forebears decided to no longer accept slavery or [racial] segregation, we decided to no longer accept poverty," the signatories said in a Covenant to Overcome Poverty, made public on 16 February to coincide with the launch of the national anti-poverty campaign.

"In the strongest economy of the wealthiest nation in history, too many people are still being left out and left behind," the leaders said, pointing out that 20 percent of children in the US grew up in poverty. For non-white children, the statistics are even more alarming - a third of them grow up impoverished, according to the religious leaders. "The disproportionate impact of poverty on people of colour is a further indictment of our society," they said.

Those participating in the campaign include Robert Edgar, newly appointed general secretary of the National Council of Churches, the nation's most representative ecumenical agency, and Rich Cizik of the more conservative National Association of Evangelicals. Leaders of several Roman Catholic organisations - including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - have announced their support, as have leaders of World Vision, an Evangelical relief agency, and heads of several mainly black denominations. Also supporting the campaign are officials from ...

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