People of faith from all over the country came to Capitol Hill to rally for affordable healthcare and lobby their Members of Congress yesterday, and as the video below shows, make a moral case for reform:
Yesterday’s rally and nearly 100 visits were part of the culmination of 40 Days for Health Reform, during which the faith community demonstrated widespread support for affordable quality health care for all — 300,000 people listened to the August 19th health care web-cast and call-in with faith leaders and President Obama, 20,000 called their representatives during a national-wide call-ind day, clergy in congregations across the country preached about health care reform and called for a civil and honest debate, and the faith community held large public events to build support for affordable health reform nationwide. In addition to the 40 Days campaign, numerous parallel allied efforts drove home the message that people of faith consider healthcare reform an urgent moral issue.
For months now, people of faith have been making a moral argument for healthcare reform in congregations across the country, on the airwaves in key states, on Capitol Hill and at public events nationwide, and 300,000 religious leaders and advocates tuned in or later streamed the call-in and audio webcast with local and religious leaders, President Obama, and Melody Barnes, Director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.
Drawing on her own background, our own Katie Paris makes the moral case for health care reform in Relevant Magazine today:
I have always been one of those people with good health insurance. So have my husband, my parents and my siblings. I understand from the president’s speech last night that health care reform is meant to lower costs in terms of out-of-pocket expenses for my family and me, as well as the long-term fiscal health of our country. I hope that’s true. But as a Christian, that shouldn’t be the only argument, or even the central one, as we think about health care reform. Addressing a problem of such gravity is not just a political challenge; it’s a moral one for those of us who claim our faith as our guide.
My 30th birthday came and went this summer without a single ache or pain, but this health care debate is beginning to make me feel old. I was 14 when President Bill Clinton joined a lineage of Democratic and Republican presidents, stretching from Roosevelt to Nixon, who tried and failed to fix our broken health care system. All the while, Christians across the country have sought to be part of the solution, continuing to minister to and care for the sick. But despite our best efforts in hospitals, clinics and congregations, and many piecemeal policy improvements by elected officials of good will, millions of children of God still fall through the cracks, and millions more stand at the precipice of losing their insurance, their homes and their savings if they come down with a serious illness.
Addressing a joint session of Congress last night, President Obama pressed forward with a speech Diana Butler Bass described as “a moral case based on compassion, care, and common humanity drawing from the general principles of ‘do unto others’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ He invited all of our religions, spiritualities, and ethical systems into the meaningful work of healing.” Following months of advocacy from religious groups, it was a noteworthy development.
Moral and religious arguments clearly drive home the point that our system is broken in a way that arguments about dollars and cents can’t. Look for more advocacy from this perspective next week, as people of faith from across the country call and visit their Members of Congress to make clear that quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans is a moral priority in the religious community.
In a rather surprising story, Religion News Service’s Kristen Day recently reported that
Conservative Christian groups on Wednesday (Aug. 26) ramped up opposition to health care reform, saying the current system “has problems” but “it is working.”
Such statements just don’t reflect the facts on the ground. It’s estimated that 137,000 people died between 2000 and 2006 because they were uninsured. Premiums have risen four times as fast as wages in recent years, leading to huge profits for insurers, strained family budgets, and people losing coverage. The Urban Institute projects that the number of uninsured Americans will reach 60,000,000 within ten years if reform is not passed. As things currently stand, 47,000,000 Americans lack health coverage, and insurance companies have the incentive and the ability to jack up premiums and co-pays at will, refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions, and deny needed treatment to seriously ill policyholders. For those that scripture commands people of faith to care for — the poor, the sick, the powerless — our healthcare system doesn’t just have problems, it is a problem.
It’s also strange to see this new line of attack from the religious right. They’ve been opposing health care on a number of dubious grounds for months – an “abortion mandate,” euthanasia, rationing, and so forth. Not only is this new attack on as factually shaky ground as their previous charges, but their argument inverts the priorities of the Gospel by defending a system that works for the rich at the continued expense of the poor and breezily flouts of the common good. There’s certainly room for reasonable disagreement among people of good will on various aspects of reform, but it’s hard to make an honest, moral case that the status quo just needs a couple of tweaks.
Before and after last week’s 40 Minutes for Health Reform webcast — which has now been streamed 300,000 times — numerous faith leaders appeared on cable news and radio talk shows to discuss the moral dimension of the health care reform debate and the faith community’s role in it. This week we’ll be posting many of these clips here. To kick off, here’s FPL’s Katie Paris (who emceed the call-in) recapping the event on MSNBC’s Morning Meeting:
Check back soon for more footage of faith leaders speaking up for reform. God’s Politics also has several clips of Jim Wallis discussing the faith community’s role in health care reform on MSNBC and FOX, among others.