Faith in Public Life’s blog is just one component of our communications and strategy work. Our work with partners on advocacy campaigns, grassroots mobilization and coalition building often earns coverage in news outlets across the country.
In what we hope will become a weekly feature, we’re introducing a “Media Hit of the Week” blog post to share our partners’ successes and highlight what we’ve been up to lately. You’ll also be able to find an archive of all these featured hits (along with many others) on the “FPL in the News” section of our website.
This week many in the faith community were focused on defending healthcare from repeal efforts. A Wednesday story in the Huffington Post picked up our report describing this activity:
The organization Faith in Public Life published a report on Tuesday, which summarized the efforts of people of faith to express their support for the health care law.
“Nearly 10,000 Americans of faith have signed petitions from PICO National Network and Faithful America to Members of Congress opposing repeal efforts and urging productive, bipartisan cooperation to make sure health reform legislation works for all American families.”
The report also outlined extensive efforts by clergy leaders across multiple denominations and in cities across the country to educate their congregants on the benefits of the new health care law.
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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops received considerable attention and criticism for their opposition to final passage of the Affordable Care Act last year. Given the stakes of the debate and flaws in the USCCB’s analysis of the bill’s restrictions on federal funding of abortion, some questioned the strength of the bishops conference’s stated commitment to universal health care. So it struck me as noteworthy that the bishops did not support House Republicans’ effort to repeal health care reform. RNS’s Daniel Burke filed a story on this today:
The U.S. Catholic bishops will not join efforts to repeal the new health care law, even though they staunchly opposed the bill last year after concluding it permits federally funded abortions.
Instead of pushing repeal, the bishops said Tuesday (Jan. 18) they will devote their energy “to correcting serious moral problems in the current law,” according to a letter sent to Capitol Hill from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Archbishop Jose Gomez, who all chair political committees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, echoed that message in a separate letter to all 535 members of Congress outlining the bishops’ top political priorities.
By not supporting House Republicans’ campaign to repeal the health care law, the bishops averted another clash with Catholic health care workers and nuns, who had bucked the hierarchy last year by publicly backing the bill.
I don’t want to read too much into this, but the bishops’ divergence from the GOP’s commitment to wholesale repeal of the Affordable Care Act signals a serious weakening of the bloc of religious groups that aligned against the legislation last year. Imagine for a moment that a major protestant denomination that supported health care reform last year turned around and backed repeal on the grounds that the Affordable Care Act did not provide truly universal coverage. That would send shockwaves among faith groups that worked hard to pass health care reform. I wonder what Christian leaders who opposed reform last year have to say about the USCCB’s new position. Given the contrast between the Catholic church’s longtime support for the principle of universal health care and the religious right’s rejection of this priority, this division was bound to come back to the surface sooner or later.
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In anticipation of the House’s vote to repeal health care reform today, a coalition of over 150 groups America held a rally and press conference announcing their opposition to Congressional Republican leaders’ efforts to repeal health care reform.
People of faith were well-represented in the coalition, with members of Catholics United, Faithful Reform in Health Care, PICO National Network, and FPL’s online community Faithful America joining.
The Catholic Health Association, whose tireless work for healthcare reform earned their president, Sr. Carol Keehan recognition as “Person of the Year” by National Catholic Reporter, was featured prominently. CHA Senior Vice President Mike Rogers spoke at the event and outlined the case against repeal.
Lamenting that “rather than working on implementing the valuable provisions of the law, we find ourselves defending it,” he went on to remind those in attendance of the moral imperative for keeping health care reform in place:
“For CHA and our over 2000 members, health care coverage for everyone, especially for the poor and the vulnerable in our society is a moral priority. It builds on the foundation of the common good. When individuals and families go without health care coverage it’s an affront to their human dignity.”
The message is clear: those who have worked hard for decades to ensure that all Americans have quality, affordable health care are not going to sit on the sidelines while opponents try to play political games with this issue and repeal the important benefits now being enjoyed by millions of Americans.
Today’s repeal vote in the House was largely symbolic, but the activism and commitment of the faith community was very real and will persist until the long-term effort to dismantle or de-fund reform is defeated.
Watch Mike Rogers’s full statement below:
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Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives will vote on the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” which would undo the Affordable Care Act, the historic health care reform legislation signed into law last March. The repeal legislation’s name is a misnomer though – the Associated Press and McClatchy News Service both ran important stories today demonstrating that the Affordable Care Act is not “job-killing.” From McClatchy’s analysis:
Saying that the law is a job killer doesn’t necessarily make it one, however, and independent experts say that such a conclusion is at least premature, if not unfounded.
House Republicans defend their job-killer claim in a 19-page Jan. 6 report, “ObamaCare: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law.” But some of its points are out of date or omit offsetting information that would weaken the argument.
And the AP’s report fleshes out the roots of the deceptive “job-killing” rhetoric:
It cites the 650,000 lost jobs as Exhibit A, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as the source of the original analysis behind that estimate. But the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced the number.
What follows is a story of how statistics get used and abused in Washington.
What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.
Fortunately it’s unlikely that the Democratic leadership in the Senate will take up health care repeal, and even if this legislation were to pass, President Obama has pledged to veto it. However, the House vote isn’t just political theater. It’s an early move in a long-term political strategy to defund and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and future flashpoints such as the federal budget are fast approaching. Many opponents of reform have resorted to dubious claims over the course of the long-running healthcare debate, from “death panels” to misleading abortion rhetoric to a “government takeover of healthcare” to misinformation about the deficit and now “job-killing health care.” Our country and our political process deserve better than this. We desperately need more civil debate, and we cannot have civility without honesty.
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As we pause to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of pushing our nation to live up to its highest ideals, it’s easy to sanitize his radical call for economic justice and ignore his prophetic words about war. We prefer King as a safe icon behind history’s glass case. When his words are quoted these days, we rarely hear the righteous anger of a preacher who denounced the Vietnam War and described America as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” We ignore his warnings about the arrogance of American foreign policy. We avoid an honest grappling with his stinging critique of capitalism as a system that permits “necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.”
At 35, King had already met with presidents, traveled the globe as a hero of nonviolent resistance and become the youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But in his final hours King traveled to Memphis for a sanitation workers strike, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with forgotten workers who struggled to earn a living picking up trash.
Our nation has made substantial progress since then, but the racism, poverty and militarism that King shined a moral spotlight on in his time persist. The gap between the rich and poor has reached Depression-era standards. African Americans earn less, die earlier and are far more likely to be imprisoned than whites. A memo from the Center for American Progress, The State of Minorities in the New Economy, shows that African Americans and Latinos are falling even further behind during the economic downturn. King recognized that the next frontier of the civil rights movement required addressing the scourge of poverty plaguing the richest nation in the world. His vision for a “Poor People’s Campaign” bringing together a multiracial coalition united in the belief that the moral measure of any society is found in how we treat the least among us was groundbreaking, but it fizzled after his assassination in 1968.
Religious leaders and faith communities have a particular responsibility to take up his call anew. One of King’s most important contributions was his sweeping vision of what it would take to build a just society. Racism, poverty, and militarism were not isolated social ills, he understood, but interrelated evils that required a deeper social transformation to overcome. King knew that building the beloved community required us to make connections and confront the American infatuation with individualism because our fates are tied together in a “single garment of destiny.”
King’s challenge is often hard to hear. But an honest reckoning with his words and actions can inspire us to build a new common-good movement for racial and economic justice today.
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