Faith leaders take to the airwaves to advocate healthcare reform

August 14, 2009, 3:15 pm | Posted by

40 Days for Health Reform is well under way, and as next Wednesday’s national call-in and audio webcast with religious leaders and President Obama approaches, faith leaders are making a moral case for health reform on cable news and radio. (You can take part Wednesday’s live discussion with the President — visit to rsvp.) These leaders — like millions of people across the country — are motivated by their faith to ensure Congress passes legislation that makes quality health care affordable for all American families.

Yesterday, Rev. Derrick Harkins appeared on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” opposite Bishop Harry Jackson to discuss the faith community’s work to enact healthcare reform and offer some theological grounding for the effort.

Moments later, Rev. Adam Hamilton went on Lou Dobbs (as did the seemingly ubiquitous Bishop Jackson) to talk about the same topic. Right off the bat, Lou misrepresented Rev. Hamilton’s position, but Adam successfully made the case for reform anyway.

Earlier in the afternoon, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good’s John Gehring took part in a similar discussion on “To The Point,” a widely syndicated radio news talk show based in Los Angeles. Audio is available here.

As the faith community’s effort to pass healthcare reform continues, look for more religious leaders making the case on tv and radio broadcasts. On Sunday morning, CNN’s Faces of Faith will feature Christian and Jewish leaders who are working to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible for all, and more such segments will surely follow!

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Join us, and President Obama, next week

August 13, 2009, 5:59 pm | Posted by

As Dan mentioned on Monday, we have some exciting news (and a major workload, which is why the blog has been quiet this week)! At 5 PM EST on Wednesday, August 19th, we’ll be on the phone with thousands of people of faith, local and national religious leaders, and… special guest President Obama!

So mark your calendars and get ready for an empowering and exciting call. Every single one of our voices is going to be critically important to the push to get health reform legislation passed and ensure that all American families have access to affordable, quality health care choices.

Find out more about the national call-in here–in – which is cosponsored by more than 25 faith groups — at And please do join us for this unprecedented event– Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern!

P.S. We’ve been getting lots of media coverage of our “40 Days for Health Reform” campaign. Check out some of my favorites so far: CNN, CBS, Indianapolis Star/Gannett News Service, Associated Baptist Press and Religion News Service.

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40 Days for Health Reform

August 10, 2009, 10:00 am | Posted by

Today faith leaders from across America kicked off “40 Days for Health Reform” – a massive effort to ensure that Congress passes reform legislation that extends quality, affordable health care to every American family. The campaign involves a variety of actions and a broad range of participants. President Obama has accepted the faith community’s invitation to participate in a nationwide call in and audio webcast on health care reform with faith leaders from across America on August 19. This is an especially energizing development for religious advocates who’ve been working hard for health care reform, and between now and then people of faith are mounting numerous efforts on the airwaves and across the country.

Starting today, a new national television ad featuring local evangelical, Catholic, and mainline pastors and people of faith — real folks testifying to the urgent need to repair our broken system — will begin airing on cable tv. View it here:

Starting tomorrow, in-district prayer rallies and events reaching 100 Members of Congress will take place across the nation. These events are a critical component of the faith-based health care reform movement. Members of Congress are under intense pressure from anti-reform special interests who are funding and organizing hostile mobs in an effort to bluff and intimidate them into opposing reform. Members need to know that their constituents consider quality, affordable health care for all a moral issue and an urgent political priority, and these events drive the point home. Complementing these efforts, there will be a nationwide Sermon Weekend later this month, in which clergy of diverse faiths will carry the faith-inspired message for healthcare reform to thousands of congregations.

Such an exciting day for people of faith who support reform! Plenty more to come.

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Pushing back on FRC’s push poll

August 6, 2009, 4:29 pm | Posted by

Have you ever been asked to answer a poll that didn’t seem very… objective? Sometimes polls seem oriented to push a certain viewpoint or agenda on the person being polled, rather than truly test public opinion. Our pollster friends call that a “push poll.”

The other day, we encountered a “push poll” of epic proportions, courtesy of Family Research Council.

The poll, masquerading as an innocuous “membership poll on health care” came in the August 4 action alert and included this seemingly tame headline: Tell Us Where You Stand on the Major Issues in Health Care. The poll starts off with this:

Throughout the recent Presidential election campaign, President Obama said: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” That campaign promise was clarified recently when President Obama said he supports a government “option” to keep the private insurers “honest.” One study by a leading health care actuary and benefit firm found that 119 million Americans could be moved by their employer to the government health care plan.

We’ll need to start out with a fact-check, provided by Media Matters: that 119 million number comes from a misrepresentation of a study paid for by the insurance industry. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, by contrast, put the estimate at 10-11 million, which would inconveniently undermine FRC’s core argument that health care reform is a “government takeover.”

Now, onto the “poll…” Every single question in this poll has a clear, anti-reform slant, which syncs up with FRC (and other Religious Right group’s) desire to kill health reform.

Here’s a sampling:

Democrats twice voted as a bloc to allow care to be rationed. Republicans voted as a bloc twice to prohibit care from being rationed. Should the U.S. government ration health care?

Now, I’m not sure when Democrats voted as a bloc to ‘ration’ health care, but even more that that, I really don’t understand the connection between the first two sentences and the third. It seems like FRC is more intent on attacking Democratic Members of Congress than actually understanding their membership’s opinions on health care.

Or how about this one:

Should doctors and nurses and other health care providers be allowed to refuse to perform, participate in, refer for, or otherwise facilitate abortions?

It sure would be nice if they’d acknowledge that we have robust conscience protections in place so that health care providers are not forced to participate in abortion services, something we’ve blogged about quite a few times. And it’s a rather peculiar question, since healthcare reform would not repeal longstanding conscience protections.

In another question, FRC asks, “Should Congress expand the current $1.84 trillion annual deficit to provide every American with health care coverage?

Tellingly, the final question — “What is your number one concern about the major health care reform now under discussion?” – has the following answer options:

Denial of care/delay of treatment/rationing

Taxpayer-funded abortions

The cost

That your health care plan will be changed without your consent

That the government will be in charge of your health care

Nothing about the millions of uninsured families (something you’d think the “Family” Research Council would care about), nothing about insurance companies (whose unsavory, profit-driven practices often harm families), nothing about pre-existing conditions (or the fact that couples starting a family have a hard time finding an insurer when pregnancy is often considered a pre-exisiting condition) or rising premiums (which are sending thousands of American families into spiraling debt each day) . In addition to closing with a question appealing to fear, the only answers available happen to be the fears health care reform opponents are stoking the hardest.

The list goes on and on…

As Jim Wallis nicely pointed out today, truth-telling is a moral principle that many on the Religious Right are leaving by the wayside in the health-care debate. It’s doing a disservice to us all.

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Health Care Reform and End of Life Care

July 29, 2009, 9:45 am | Posted by

Health care reform is a serious issue and deserves a serious debate. It’s too bad that’s not the debate some are trying to promote.

First, we saw religious right leaders trying to kill reform with misinformation about abortion. Now, they’ve latched on to another controversial issue: euthanasia. And once again, they’re playing fast and loose with the facts.

To be clear: the health care reform bill does not promote euthanasia.

The provision reform opponents are focusing on is 1233 of the House health care bill. The section amends section 1861 of the Social Security Act so that doctors can now receive reimbursement from Medicare for discussing advanced care treatment plans (hospice, palliative care, do not resuscitate orders, etc.) with their patients, if they do so at the patient’s request.

Yet, this hasn’t stopped the critics from making outlandish accusations:

In short, is Euthanasia included in this National ‘Health Care’ Reform? The more I have looked at the proposals the more it seems not only possible, but probable.

–Deacon Keith Fournier, Catholic Online

Obama Promotes Euthenasia in Health Care Plan

–Jill Stanek

Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.

–Betsy McCaughey

Time, and time again, these accusations have been refuted.

Contrary to what the critics are saying, such counseling is NOT required and physicians will NOT be reimbursed for discussing unwanted or illegal treatments.

Perhaps most disturbing is that this fearmongering is taking place despite the nearly universal consensus among senior and patient advocacy groups that counseling options such as those included in the health care bill are a good thing because they encourage individuals and their families to think about their values and make decisions about end of life care before a crisis hits.

The AARP stated:

This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves, but also better ensure that their wishes are followed. To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion–especially for any family that has been forced to make the difficult decisions on care for loved ones approaching the end of their lives.

It’s a shame that those seeking to derail health care reform (as the Family Research Council has said it wants to) would turn healthy, constructive and completely optional conversations about end of life care into something to be feared. It will be an even greater shame if these distractions, lies and distortions derail the health care reform so many American families desperately need.

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