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Religious Leaders Speak Out For SCHIP

greenergrass.jpgIt’s crunch time on SCHIP. Christy and Jane have been laying out argument after argument in favor of SCHIP, urging us to get on the phones to our members of Congress — especially the Bush Dogs. One argument that hasn’t gotten much play is the one that may carry a lot of weight in certain red-leaning districts — the religious one.

Lutheran Bishop Mark S. Hanson wrote to the members of Congress on Monday:

I believe that there are economic and pragmatic reasons why this bill makes sense. By multiple measures, SCHIP has been a bipartisan success and a victory for our nation’s low income children. However, as a Christian church we offer not only fiscal arguments but, first and foremost, a moral voice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished, “the church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” . . .

I offer my deepest thanks and appreciation to those senators and representatives who have already voted to reauthorize SCHIP. I commend your principled and compassionate stand on behalf of low income children and urge you and your colleagues to again reaffirm this commitment by voting to override President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP compromise bill. If you have opposed this bill, I ask you to prayerfully reconsider in light of what we believe is our government’s moral obligation of “ensuring equitable access to health care for all.”

Hanson’s not alone in the religious community, though the media has barely noticed. Consider Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church:

We firmly believe that all children in the US deserve the opportunity for a healthy life and the people of The United Methodist Church strongly agree and have voiced their support for the SCHIP legislation. The substantial bipartisan support for SCHIP proves that this reauthorization is needed and worthy of your undivided support. The urgent need for this legislation can be seen in the fact that the number of uninsured children increased by one million in the past year. Children’s lives are at stake if this legislation does not get enacted. . .

United Methodists have long supported the value of public education for all children, wealthy and poor alike; we feel we have a moral obligation to work with our government representatives to insure health care for all children who need this invaluable service. In addition, with no national healthcare plan, many uninsured families in the United States are just one illness or one accident away from bankruptcy which affects the whole family.

Providing funding for SCHIP in the United States contributes to the mission of improving healthcare globally and sends a positive message to the world that we as a nation care for our children. It is a travesty that the US is one of the wealthiest nations on earth, and yet also one of the only industrialized nations that does not provide comprehensive healthcare to all its children.

How about Rabbi David Sapperstein:

We are deeply disappointment by President Bush’s decision to go against the will of the American people and the strong bipartisan support for the bill among members of Congress. His veto of the SCHIP reauthorization bill has put the future of health care coverage for 10 million children in jeopardy and calls into question his commitment to improving health care access for America’s lower income populations. . .

Since 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program has provided 6.6 million children across America with much-needed health care. With the expansion of this program in the proposed reauthorization bill, 4 million children, who would otherwise be uninsured, will gain coverage. Children who are covered by SCHIP will have opportunities to establish relationships with primary care physicians, access dental and mental health care, and obtain much-needed medical attention. Enacting this bill is a most effective way to improve the lives of America’s children.

The Jewish tradition teaches, “Do not neglect the children of the poor, for from them will go forth the Law” (Nedarim 81). In this spirit, we ask you to vote to override President Bush’s veto and make an investment in America’s future by ensuring that 10 million of America’s children receive the health care that they deserve.

Catholic Charities USA calls for overriding Bush’s veto and passing SCHIP, as does the Catholic Health Association. So does the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Islamic Society of North America. Indeed, 22 religious organizations banded together in this letter to support SCHIP:

Our many faith traditions teach us to care for those who are in need of healing, especially children and those in greatest need. The Christian scriptures portray Jesus as a healer who showed particular compassion for the needs of children. The Hebrew scriptures call us to ensure a balm of healing for the poor through the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (8:22) and the Qur’an says of the Lord’s ministry: When I am sick, then He restores me to health (26:80). We believe we must act in accord with callings of our faith by protecting children, which includes providing for their health and well-being. . . .

The bottom line is that this bill reauthorizes coverage for millions of poor children. SCHIP provides government financed care delivered through public and private services. Far from “government-run healthcare,” this SCHIP reauthorization bill is simply a straightforward and sensible way to cover millions more children who currently are uninsured. We ask you to vote yes for these kids.

If your representative is highly and publicly religious, you might want to mention the opinions of these religious leaders when you call their offices. If Catholics and Lutherans, Jews and Muslims can get behind SCHIP, surely it’s not too much to ask that Republicans join Democrats and do the same.

And if your looking for non-religious reasons to push for SCHIP, the Majority Whip’s office has a great page summarizing the bill.

To the phones, people.

(photo via Shavar)

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.