As the debate over President Obama's healthcare reforms rages across the US, a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders has launched a campaign backing him to the hilt.
This is perhaps the first organized salvo against the Republican tactics that seek to drown out town-hall meetings in protest.
AdvertisementThe coalition, organized by Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, PICO National Network, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the reforms a "fundamental religious issue," and sought to highlight how healthcare had become unaffordable to millions.
The members, including evangelical leaders with predominantly Republican congregations, say they see too many people in their pews struggling with being uninsured or underinsured because of job losses, pre-existing conditions and other factors beyond their control.
"We've come together across the spectrum, across party and political lines, to say that coverage with inclusive, acceptable, affordable health care for all of God's children is for us a moral imperative and a religious issue," the Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners president, said. "All of God's children need to be covered."
The "40 Days for Health Reform" effort includes a television commercial, an Aug. 19 conference call with President Barack Obama and a request that clergy preach on this topic during the last weekend of August.
The coalition also plans to hold dozens of prayer vigils, rallies and meetings with politicians through Sept. 18.
Wallis and other participants have further agreed not to allow heated differences over abortion to "sabotage" a reform bill, so long as the proposal prohibits public funding for the procedures and allows conscience protections for anti-abortion health care workers.
For participating clergy such as the Rev. John Hay, an Indianapolis pastor featured in the new commercial, the effort addresses the suffering parishioners they see each week who can't afford treatments until their ailments reach emergency-room levels.
Hay said, "This is as much a crisis of faith as it is a crisis of health care."