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Faith community leaders give information on health care system

The Washington Association of Churches Faith Advocacy Network was among regional religious organizations that helped draw 140,000 people nationwide—surpassing a goal of 40,000—to a conference call with President Barack Obama and national religious leaders on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Organized nationally by Faithful and Sojourners, the call is part of the faith community’s 40 Days of Health Reform, an effort to debunk many of the myths that are being promoted to the public.

The WAC encourages participation in the town hall meetings, in visits to representative’s offices and calls to Senators.

Alice Woldt
Alice Woldt of Washington Association of Churches

There are ideas to help the faith community focus on the need for health care reform by organizing prayer vigils, signing petitions and watching for other activities to “create a health care system that is inclusive, accountable, accessible and affordable—one that holds the vision of health and well-being for all,” said Alice Woldt, transitional director of the WAC.

Nationally, Jim Wallis of Sojourners and other national faith leaders launched 40 Days of Reform for Health, calling faith communities to ask Congress to address inequities and disparities in the current system and to support legislation that creates an inclusive, accountable, accessible and affordable system.

Alice pointed out that “half truths and lies from internet websites are distributed widely by special interests who want to continue profiting from ill health have scared seniors and created a cynical public that is unsympathetic to the plight of others.”

She and other faith leaders assert that “this attitude is contrary to Gospel values and to the values of other faith traditions that believe we are all called to act for the common good—to act with compassion by sharing our abundant health resources with everyone.”

The Washington Association of Churches is on record supporting universal health care through a single-payer system. Alice said that “the next best option is a vigorous public plan that has the muscle to compete with private insurers to reduce health care costs and provide accessibility.”

The national campaign of faith leaders includes a national TV ad featuring evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant pastors expressing their concern.

The effort by Faithful America, People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), Sojourners, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and diverse faith groups says that it’s urgent for people of faith from across the political spectrum, committed to honest dialogue and quality health care for all Americans, to raise their moral witness for health care reform.

 “Industry interests and partisan fighting are once again threatening the current opportunity for a public dialogue about what is best for our health-care system,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners. “We need an honest and fair debate with good information, not sabotage of reform with half-truths and misinformation.”

The conviction that health care reform is a moral issue is rooted in Scripture, as well as personal experience.

Pastors and local churches have a key role to play in helping their members and communities to understand the issue of health care from a biblical perspective, and inviting thoughtful, reasoned discussion in how best to move forward in reforming health care,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the 13,000-member Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

 “That the existing tragic disparities in health care have been permitted to exist so long in the world’s wealthiest country means that the moral soul of our nation has been ill,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “The current health reform debate gives us a chance to heal our soul by arising to the call to ensure that each of God’s children has the opportunity for good health and good health care.”

The sponsors of the call included the Faithful Reform in Health Care Coalition and a number of coalition members: American Muslim Health Professionals, Disciples Center for Public Witness, Disciples Justice Action Network, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Faithful Reform in Health Care, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Islamic Society of North America, Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, Network, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), Washington Office, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.

Additional sponsors were the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good, Catholics United, Christian Community Development Association, Faithful America, Faith in Public Life, Gamaliel Foundation, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., National Council of Churches in Christ, PICO National Network, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sojourners, the Episcopal Church, the Latino Leadership Circle, the New Evangelicals, United Methodist Church and the Washington Office of Women’s Division, General Board of Global Ministries.

In June, more than 24,000 people signed a vision statement for health care reform.  The National Council of Churches president, general secretary and Health Task Force issued a pastoral letter on the urgent need for reform.

For information, call 206-625-9790. or visit