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"40 Days for Health Reform" Launched by Religious LeftWallis Aims to Counter “Mob Sessions”Jeff Walton August 10, 2009 Religious Left activist Jim Wallis is leading a new “40 Days for Health Reform” campaign for President Obama’s proposed government dominated overhaul of U.S. healthcare. Wallis unveiled the campaign during an August 10 media conference call, which also included United Methodist mega-church pastor Adam Hamilton of Kansas City. Next week, President Obama will join Wallis and others on another media call. Wallis also strongly denounced opponents of Obama’s plan, which creates a government insurance plan that critics warn could ultimately overwhelm private insurance. “This moral issue cannot be demagogued in the street,” Wallis said, warning against Obamacare opponents who he claimed “want to shut down democracy.” The Religious Left activist also insisted that the Obama plan would not underwrite abortion or euthanasia. “I see lies being told, I see fears being raised, and I see violence even being threatened at these mob sessions,” the Sojourners president said, alluding to congressional “town hall” meetings where lawmakers have met with a critical reception from some constituents concerned about potentially dramatic government led changes to the health care system. Wallis’s campaign is sponsored and organized by PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America of the National Council of Churches, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. The organizers portrayed their initiative as a “massive escalation” of their push for Congress to pass health insurance reform. “Every so often there is an issue so clear and compelling, or so alarming and disturbing that it galvanizes the faith community,” Wallis said, adding that this was one of those instances. “The faith community is going to stand in the way of those that want to stop conversation.” Wallis was joined in the live teleconference by several pastors, each of whom portrayed health care and insurance reform as a religious and moral issue that had reached crisis proportions. “This is as much a crisis of faith as it is a crisis of health care,” said the Rev. John Hay, Jr., an evangelical (Free Methodist) pastor from Indianapolis. Hay, whose church is two blocks from two different hospitals, shared the stories of inner city congregants who could not afford insurance coverage. Hay was echoed by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “The concept of universal, accessible healthcare resonates with our common values,” Saperstein said. “We have the most expensive system, the highest costs, and the one where the most people fall through the cracks. We can do better.” The Reform Rabbi said that “the bottom line goal” was universal, accessible healthcare for all. “We cannot sit idly by where we have a system that just doesn’t work for everyone,” Saperstein said. The Rev. Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor of the 13,000-member Church of the Resurrection (United Methodist) in Leawood, Kansas, said the campaign’s goal was to encourage pastors to help their congregations understand that the issue was a moral one. “Christians and Jews believe that healthcare is important to God,” Hamilton said, citing the Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan binding up the wounds of the stranger. “There are a variety of solutions out there,” the megachurch pastor said. “But we need to care about this issue.” The coalition announced several upcoming events, from the debut today of a national TV advertisement featuring pastors, to a “Nationwide Health Care Sermon Weekend” in late August. The events will include a call-in August 19th with religious faith community leaders that President Barack Obama will participate in. The campaign will conclude with meetings with members of Congress in key states during September. “Religious voters see healthcare as a moral issue,” said PICO leader Karen Timmons. Timmons said that the organizers would work to ensure any health care legislation would include affordability standards that “help control crushing costs.” According to Timmons, the five-figure ad buy is running on national cable as well as local Washington, D.C.-area news stations. Organizers hope to expand the television campaign during Congress’ August recess. Timmons said that key states, such as Colorado, would be targeted due to being represented by relatively new senators that had “expressed hesitations” about the proposals. The PICO leader said that the campaign would especially target parts of country “where religion is significant,” and where moderate congressman represent both liberals and conservatives, such as “Blue Dog” moderate Democrats and some Republicans. “It isn’t political in a partisan way,” Wallis insisted. “This is a moral issue.” Several journalists taking part in the teleconference raised questions about the potential of abortion and euthanasia being covered or even promoted by a new “government-option” health care plan. “A number of us are part of this because we care about the sacredness of human life,” Wallis responded. “A number of us care about abortion. I am disturbed how some, even on the religious right, are using abortion to oppose healthcare reform.” The Sojourners president said that he did not believe that any federal funding should be used to pay for abortion and wanted an “abortion-neutral bill.” “Abortions shouldn’t be paid for by public funds,” Wallis said. “They cannot be prohibited in private insurance coverage, either.” “There are a lot of lies about healthcare reform and euthanasia,” Wallis said, charging that it was “really irresponsible to promote those fears.” “A healthcare reform comprehensive plan will support the sacredness of human life, and there are those of us that will make sure that it does,” Wallis said. “The key thing is that we do not want abortion to enter this debate and sabotage healthcare reform,” he insisted. One reporter asked if, by making Obamacare a “moral” imperative, Wallis potentially was deriding Obamacare’s critics as “immoral.” “I don’t think there is a religious argument against reforming the healthcare system,” Wallis said. “I would say that any member of Congress, if you don’t like that proposal, what is your proposal? We will be pushing, pulling, sometimes holding their hands, make sure they [lawmakers] do not succumb to intimidation.” Rabbi Saperstein added that “good, moral people,” could disagree on things, but then quickly asserted that “it wasn’t the President that turned this into a partisan issue.” “Our role is to keep the moral perspective alive in the debate, without casting moral aspersions on those who come out with a different perspective,” Wallis said.
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