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On March 1-2, Society members Bruce Birch, Joel LeMon, and Kent Richards joined more than one hundred scholars from across the country in Washington D.C. for Humanities Advocacy Day 2006. The SBL representatives visited the offices of legislators from Georgia, Maryland, Colorado, and Arizona, urging them to support a proposed increase in federal funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in fiscal year 2007.

During their meetings with congressional staff, the SBL representatives highlighted NEH's long tradition of supporting biblical research. Since the passage of the National Foundation on Arts and the Humanities Act in 1965, scores of SBL members have directly benefited from NEH funding through the receipt of individual research grants. Institutional grants have also helped promote biblical scholarship. For example, NEH funds underwrote the first six volumes of the long-running SBL book series, Writings from the Ancient World. These books generated enough revenue to launch more than a dozen additional titles, and the success of this series recently spawned Writings from the Greco-Roman World, an SBL series with more than a dozen books published or in press.

Highlighting NEH support for biblical scholarship has never been more critical than in this lean budget year with lawmakers facing mounting deficits. The President has requested $141 million for NEH, roughly the amount which Congress appropriated for the agency last year. Given the President's pledge to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his term, this request shows a commitment to the humanities. Factoring in inflation however, a frozen NEH budget amounts to a damaging cut, limiting the ability of NEH to provide funding at the current modest levels. Furthermore, humanities advocates are concerned that Congress may slash the appropriation for NEH, since, over the last decade, legislators have established a pattern of funding NEH below the President's request (see accompanying table).

To counteract this threat to the humanities for fiscal year 2007, the National Humanities Alliance is asking Congress to increase the NEH apportionment by an additional fifteen million dollars over the president's request. This revised appropriation constitutes a conservative figure given the size of the overall federal budget and the value of humanities research for education and cultural life.

SBL support for NEH continues beyond these recent efforts on Capitol Hill. We urge all members to write or call their Senators and Representatives, especially now as Congress reviews the President's budget request. Ask your legislators to endorse an NEH appropriation of $156 million for fiscal year 2007 and to join the newly formed, bipartisan House Humanities Caucus or the Senate Cultural Caucus.

Humanities programs promote and sustain the vitality of our democracy. Please let your legislators know how much you value NEH funded projects. If you are interested in attending Humanities Advocacy Day in 2007 or visiting Capitol Hill during the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., please contact Joel LeMon at

Joel LeMon, Society of Biblical Literature and Emory University

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Citation: Joel LeMon, " 2006 Humanities Advocacy Day, March 1-2," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2006]. Online:


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