Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have issued a joint call for the government's household welfare benefit cap to exclude child benefit.
Many will also be joining the wider rebellion against the cap wholesale, and the major Free Churches (Methodists, United Reformed and Baptists) are among those who have focused on the cuts aimed at disabled and sick people in the coalition's Welfare Reform Bill (WRB), which concludes its Report Stage in the House of Lords this week.
In a joint letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, the religious leaders declare:
"As leaders of faith communities, we are often the first to see the impact of changes in Government policy as it impacts our congregations and the communities in which we work. We are deeply concerned about the planned introduction of a cap on benefits which will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday 23rd January.
"Although targeted at promoting fairness between working and non-working households, evidence from The Children’s Society shows that the cap will principally affect children much more than adults - only one in 560 adults is affected, compared to around one in 60 children. As many as 80,000 children could be made homeless as a result of the cap as it currently stands.
"We very much hope that the Government will accept the proposed amendment to reduce the disproportionate impact of the cap on children by removing child benefit from household income as measured against the cap.
"Child benefit is a non means tested benefit paid to both non-working and working families, to support the costs of raising their children. The amendment works to ensure that it is preserved for some of the poorest families in the country."
The letter has been signed by the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, Church of England; the Rev Peter Smith, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship; Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner, Movement for Reform Judaism; Dilwar Hussain, President, Islamic Society of Britain; the Rev Leo Osborn, President of the Methodist Conference; Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues; Maulana Shahid Raza, Secretary General, MINAB (Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board); the Rev Dr Pat Took, President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain; Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive Liberal Judaism; Fuad Nahdi, Senior Research Fellow, Muslim College, London; the Rev Dr Kirsty Thorpe, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, and Sayed Mohammed Al-Musawi, President of World Ahlul Bayt / Islamic League.
Senior Roman Catholic Archbishop Peter Smith has also come out in criticism of the government's welfare reform plans, saying that they endanger families, the poor and children across the land.