Religious reactions to health-care vote coming forth

Health care reform is on its way and religious voices are issuing praise and condemnation.

c_ml_photoAn email blast from Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives is barely satisfied with a “partial victory” — they preferred “medicare-for-all” or a single-payer government-run system.

“The greatest critique we have of how the Democrats achieved this victory was that they failed to articulate that principle of caring as the center of their legislative campaign, and hence failed to win over the majority to support the reform, a failure that may yet lead to significant losses at the polls in November,” Lerner writes.

Morna Murray, President of the liberal Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, says “There is nothing more fundamental to our core Catholic principles than caring for the sick and most vulnerable. These votes today reflect that principle in action.”

On the other side, groups that believe that the reform bill will lead to the public funding of abortions were predictably dismayed.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is already working on how to counter the legislation:


Yesterday I was privileged to deliver a homily at a prayer service held in the Capitol for members of Congress. I spoke about the fact that authority and power mean service, and that the people whom the legislators serve are not their people, but God’s people. We govern ourselves; our voices matter. Thank God that when legislators take public policy the wrong way, there are ways to remedy that. Let’s get started.


day-gardner-color-scan-4-07.thumbnailDay Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-Life Union, writes: “Polls have consistently shown that America does not want this Healthcare monster for many reasons, yet, it is being shoved down our throats anyway…It’s obvious that Democrats don’t care what MOST of America wants.”

And on and on we go.

And as the health care debate moves into its next phase, the coming immigration reform debate moves closer to center stage.

Tens of thousands marched in D.C. yesterday to call for immigration reform — including some sort of amnesty for immigrants already here illegally. Religious groups were among the key organizers.

The Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, probably spoke for many when he said: “As we gather on this beautiful and monumental expanse we are grateful that we reflect the very fabric of our nation. At this moment in history, as we look out upon our immigrant brothers and sisters, we are thankful that our nation’s call to be a beacon of hope comes with the continued call to justice and compassion.”

Those who are opposed to amnesty and in favor of tougher border security will soon have their say, you have to think.

ADD: The strongest language I’ve seen on the health care vote comes from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who calls this day “tragic.”

“This healthcare legislation will lead to the overwhelming majority of Americans living shorter lives, and experiencing more pain and suffering before they die,” Land writes.

Yowza. Shorter Lives for most. More pain. More suffering.

Land doesn’t stop there, comparing the effect of last night’s vote to that of…Pearl Harbor:


“Liberals across America are rejoicing today over their ‘historic’ victory. My message to them is, ‘Enjoy it while you can.’ This was a Pyrrhic victory of epic proportions. The Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor won a ‘historic’ victory as well. Their celebrations were cut short six months later when most of them were killed at the Battle of Midway. As Admiral Yamamoto said at the time ‘I am fearful . . . that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.’

Health-care bill will fund abortions (or it won’t)

Despite having read hundreds — thousands? — of articles about health-care reform, I still can’t say that I have a real handle on the bill that the House may soon vote on.

I understand pieces of it, but have more questions than answers. I’m sure a lot of folks are in the same boat.

When it comes to the white-hot question of whether the bill will enable the public funding of abortions, it comes down in large part to who you listen to.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, writes that the bishops — who strongly support health-care reform in general — cannot support the bill:


imagesWhat do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly.  The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.


Americans United for Life sent out a mass email today asking for donations and warning that:


We’re teetering on the precipice of the greatest tragedy since Roe v. Wade.

In the next few days, under the guise of “health care” reform, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid – with the help of Planned Parenthood – could pass the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade … and your tax dollars could be paying for it.

If they win, 2010 will be remembered as another 1973 – another milestone in their battle to promote abortion on every street corner in America.


But the AP is reporting today that leaders of religious orders who represent 59,000 Catholic nuns have come out in favor of the bill. Their letter includes this:


Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments … in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.



banner_profileThe AP also reports that Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, a Democrat who opposes abortion and supported tough restrictions in other health-care proposals, said he concluded that the Senate bill would bar federal funding for abortion.

“Voting for this bill in no way diminishes my pro-life voting record or undermines my beliefs,” he said. “I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress, both for the born and the unborn.”

It’s been widely reported that the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, is also in favor of the bill. The group’s president writes:


CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used.


So there you go.

UPDATE: The Bishops Conference has sent out this statement about supposed support for the bill from a group of nuns (as reported by the AP and repeated by everyone else):


Washington – A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.

Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.

The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.

There are 793 religious communities in the United States.

The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.

Should health care reform include prayer?

Many Christian Scientists think so.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Scientists are lobbying to include a provision in reform legislation that would ban discrimination against religious and spiritual health care.

They would also like private insurers to be encouraged to cover prayer as a treatment option.

The idea has some support in Washington, but many people who are not Christian Scientists will have to be encouraged to see prayer as health care.

I wrote about Christian Science is 2008 after a Christian Science practitioner pointed out to me that prayer was not being considered in the growing national debate over health care.

At the time, I chose to focus on how Christian Science families in the pediatrician-heavy Burbs raise their children without medicine.

The Chronicle article notes:


(Christian Scientists) recognize they’re facing an uphill battle, with the debate centering on such hot-button issues as restrictions on abortion coverage and whether a final bill should include a public option or a Medicare buy-in. But Christian Scientists say they see the acknowledgment of spiritual healing in a health overhaul bill as important to their religion and to others who may turn to prayer or other nontraditional healing methods as an alternative to medical care. These could include followers of some American Indian religions or those who seek care at holistic healing centers.


A CS spokesman is quoted as saying: “It’s our intention that the health care bill recognizes the fact that medical care is not the only form of health care. We are advocates, not just for Christian Scientists, but for the public at large.”

UPDATE: The NYTimes also wrote about this issue.

And an interesting Christian Science blog notes how the issue has been covered in the media.

Obama in Cairo tops news list

What was the biggest religion story of 2009?

obama-speech-cp-w6814811According to the members of the Religion Newswriters Association, it was President Obama’s speech in Cairo about relations with the Muslim world.

Number two: The role of Catholic bishops and other faith groups in shaping the health-care reform debate.

Number three: Questions surrounding how Nidal Hasan’s Muslim faith affected the Fort Hood massacre.

My top choice came in 5th: The Proposition 8 gay-marriage vote in California and the debates over subsequent gay-marriage measures in other states. Seems to me that the ongoing, intensifying national debate over gay marriage is one of the most immediate and pressing issues in many religious communities.

I voted for another Obama speech — his super-controversial “abortion” speech at Notre Dame — for number 2. It actually came in 6th place in the voting.

My third choice was the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, which led to intense reflection over many aspects of the abortion question. This story came in 4th.

See the full top 10 HERE.

RW_Nov_2007_Web2The 2009 Religion Newsmaker of the Year? The voters chose Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor who gave the invocation on Inauguration Day, spoke out on Proposition 8 and continues to fight global poverty. He recently spoke out against a bill in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable with death or life in prison.

Warren was my second choice.

I voted for the many “faceless” people in religious communities whose lives have been affected by the recession.

(Obama photo by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

Also at the bishops conference…

As I mentioned in my Tastykakes post earlier today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore (where the Catholic Church got its start in the U.S.).

The agenda has to do with more than sweet cream (and whatever else Tastykakes are made of).

Cardinal George of Chicago (right), the president of the Bishops posse, opened the gathering yesterday by wondering what life would be like without ordained priests, according to Catholic News Service. He considered the possibility of more authority resting with professors, political leaders and therapists — and didn’t like the picture.

Catholic BishopsOf course, “the church would be deprived of the Eucharist, and her worship would be centered only on the praise and thanksgiving,” he lamented.

Today, the bishops celebrated their influence in keeping health-care reform legislation “abortion neutral.”

“It was a good example of how we as a conference can work together to have a positive influence on legislation,” said Bishop William F. Murphy (left) of Rockville Centre (Long Island) in a report to fellow bishops.

At Cardinal George’s request, the bishops applauded in unison to show their support for Murphy’s statement, according to CNS.

George said the conference would “remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation…We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation.”

Interestingly, the left-leaning/progressive National Catholic Reporter reported that George, in his opening address, talked about the need for Catholic colleges, publications and other organizations to more closely align themselves with the bishops’ leadership. He said that Catholic groups that do not do so are “sectarian, less than fully Catholic,” and talked about the bishops strengthening their relationship with Catholic universities and media.

NCR reports that George did not name specific Catholic media, colleges or  other organizations that he had in mind. But he said that “if any institution, including the media, calls itself Catholic,” it is the moral responsibility of a bishop to assure that it is Catholic.

There has been much talk in recent years, both from the Vatican and in the U.S., of Catholic colleges and universities strengthening their Catholic identities.

But how might the bishops reach out to independent Catholic media? NCR is probably itching to find out.

Also, the bishops affirmed today in a pastoral letter that  the church defines marriage as between one man and one woman — and that sex is meant for procreation.

(The bishop in the middle of the picture, by the way, is Archbishop George Niederauer, chair of the bishops’ communications committee.)

Photo: AP/Rob Carr

Obama meets with Jewish leaders, talks Mid East and health care

President Obama met yesterday with Jewish leaders at the White House.

According to the White House:


The President met with more than a dozen leaders from the Jewish community today for approximately 45 minutes. They had a substantive discussion, ranging from Middle East peace efforts and Iran, to reforming our health care system and policies to address global hunger. The President reiterated his unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and reiterated his commitment to working to achieve Middle East peace.


Participants at the meeting were:

Alan Solow, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Lee Rosenberg, President-elect, AIPAC

David Victor, President, AIPAC

Malcolm Honlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

Jason Isaacson, Director of Government and International Affairs, American Jewish Committee

Nancy Ratzan, President, National Council of Jewish Women

Kathy Manning, Chair, Executive Committee, United Jewish Communities

Andrea Weinstein, Chair, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Marla Gilson, Washington Director, Hadassah

Stephen Savitsky, President, Orthodox Union

Rabbi Steven Wernick, Executive Vice President and CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism

Ira Forman, Chief Executive Officer, National Jewish Democratic Council

Debra DeLee, President and CEO, Americans for Peace Now

Jeremy Ben Ami, Executive Director, J STREET