Faiths unite behind health care reform, even as details are vague

As Capitol Hill appears politically paralyzed over health care reform, the prescription from many faith leaders is firm: don’t abandon ship.

“The faith community has worked for decades for comprehensive health care reform and this last year … many of them have put aside other policy priorities to take this over the finish line,” said the Rev. Linda Walling, executive director of Faithful Reform in Health Care, an interfaith coalition of more than 70 groups.

“We would be very, very sad if we can’t finish it.”

So, her Cleveland-based organization has kept up its grass-roots advocacy in recent days, with members of the California Council of Churches preaching sermons, Quakers sending letters to newspaper editors and Reform Jewish teens lobbying on the Hill.

“Turning back now could mean justice delayed for another generation and an unprecedented opportunity lost,” reads a letter the coalition sent Jan. 25 to members of Congress.

President Obama heard from another group of religious leaders, including a third of his Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, on the day he delivered the State of the Union, during which he urged congressional Democrats to not “run for the hills.”

A letter organized by Faith in Public Life used similarly urgent language: “Letting this lifeline lapse for so many Americans now would be a failure of historic proportions,” wrote the signers, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Kristin Williams, spokeswoman for the Washington-based group, said the religious leaders were trying to curtail the despair that rose on Capitol Hill as Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in Congress with Republican Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts.

“There’s certainly been a lot of uncertainty on Capitol Hill this week and I think this letter was really intended to cut through the uncertainty and to make it clear that this isn’t about politics,” she said. “This is about real Americans.”

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