Going into the August Recess, Health Reform is an Act of Faith

By Gorman Gorman

Jul 28, 2009 5:26pm

ABC News' Elizabeth Gorman reports:

If President Obama needs a prayer to get his health reform passed by fall of this year, then he got one on the Hill today from 100 clergy from all over the U.S., who came to the Capitol to urge key congressmen to pass health care immediately — despite an August recess.

“We will have no recess for people who are struggling with the higher costs of health care,” said Paula Arceneaux of St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in New Orleans, La.

“There comes a time when delays become denied. For too long our families have had to deal with delays,” she said.

The liberal-leaning coalition, an alliance of 1,000 U.S. congregations, is organizing an aggressive, in-district lobbying effort called No Recess for Reform during the month of August, when Congress is in recess. The coalition said it will pay for advertisements on billboards, hold town hall meetings at offices of members of Congress, and distribute tens of thousands of health care reform guides that use the Bible to persuade parishioners “to engage in the health care debate in a constructive way, based on faith values.” Paid grassroots organizers will be put on the ground in states with key health care reform players such as members of the Senate Finance Committee, Blue Dog Democrats, and freshman Democrats, according to the group.

The group stresses universal coverage and the urgency of insuring individuals with preexisting conditions, but it has sidestepped the public option issue for now.  A spokesperson said that the coalition has not taken a formal position on whether to endorse a public plan. Instead, it has decided to focus on targeting specific members of Congress to get reform passed this year.

“We can be the body of God that heals this institution to respond to the needs of all people,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK.

“Faith and government in this situation go together,” she said.

But, unsurprisingly, conservative religious groups reject the idea that a government solution to health care reform is the best course for the country to take.

“As a general rule and a generic principle, the commands and scripture to care for the poor, to bind up the wounds of the broken, and to provide assistance to the needy, really are charges to the individual,” Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, told ABC News.

Reed pointed to the Catholic hospital system, and the network of faith- and community-based hospitals and shelters, some offering free health care and volunteer doctors.

“I think that’s a far more and efficient and effective way to meet the needs of the poor and not simply provide them with quality health care, which is important and which they desperately need, but even more importantly, provide them with a message of love, and hope, and mercy, and compassion. And ultimately that can’t be done by government,” he said. 

Reed launched a new web-based group last month with a petition against government-run health care.

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