The radio ads — targeting lawmakers in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Carolina — remind U.S. Senators in those states, whose support is considered crucial to the passage of federal health care legislation, that the current U.S. health care system is “not who we are as a nation” and that “America can do better.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly has repeatedly called for health care reform that provides greater access for all Americans.
“Jesus was clearly concerned about people’s health because he reached out to those who were ill and offered healing and hope. To follow Christ, it’s our responsibility to make sure that those in need are able to access good health care,” said Joe Harvard, pastor of First Church in Durham, N.C., and advisory board member for Duke University’s Translational Medicine Institute. Harvard recorded the ad running in North Carolina this week.
Pastors drew not only on their faith, but also on their firsthand experiences with people in their communities to articulate the need for reform.
“More and more, at our interfaith free health clinic, there is no difference in the people that are coming in to volunteer and the people coming in for care,” said Joyce Hardy, Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas and the voice of the ad running in Arkansas. “They are all working people with families to support — some just simply don’t have the benefit of health care coverage.”
“Many people in Nebraska are making difficult choices: medicine or electricity, a doctor’s appointment or rent,” said Mark Seem of Pella Lutheran Church in Omaha, Neb., and the voice of the ad running in Nebraska. “If that’s acceptable in the United States of America, then life and the pursuit of happiness have become the exclusive rights of some and the empty dreams of others.
“But I believe that ‘we the people’ includes all of us, and that our commitment to justice for all will lead us to pass reform that extends quality, affordable health care to all Americans.”
Added Cory Sparks, pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Lafayette, La.: “In my congregation we’ve had a woman who died too soon, another who barely survived, small business owners driven to bankruptcy by health care costs, and members scraping to get by month by month. Others in the congregation are worried they’ll be next. It’s a disgrace, and it’s morally unacceptable,”
“It is a sin that a nation as rich and great and compassionate as ours tolerates a health care system that leaves so many sick people without the care they need, and so many parents unable to raise healthy children,” said Bill Calhoun of Montview Church in Denver. who is the voice of the ad in Colorado. He is hosting a meeting this week with faith leaders and Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO).
“We are blessed with the ability and the resources to extend quality, affordable health care to every American, and we must put them to use,” Calhoun said. Our faith requires nothing less.”
More than six hundred clergy from 41 states and 39 denominations have committed to preach and engage their congregations on health care, and have signed PICO National Network’s national clergy letter to members of Congress. PICO is a national faith-based community organizing association that includes the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Other sponsors of the grass-roots effort are Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
In addition to the radio ads and community forums, the groups have distributed a pastor’s guide to the health care debate to 4,250 religious leaders, along with a shorter version for church members. People of faith will also make more than 10,000 phone calls to members of Congress before the August recess, urging reform.
Information for this story furnished by Kristin Williams, Faith in Public Life.