Healing the Sick

As one might expect, the schism among religious communities about which E.J. Dionne Jr. writes extends to the debate over health care. What role, if any, should the government play in ensuring that those without health insurance—currently about 46.6 million Americans—receive coverage? And that those with inadequate health coverage receive better access to care?

Some church bodies support a single-payer, government-sponsored health care plan—the United Methodists, for example. Principles adopted by their general board of church and society state, "We … recognize the role of governments in ensuring that each individual has access to those elements necessary to good health." Resolutions from the Episcopal, Presbyterian, American Baptist, and Evangelical Lutheran churches, as well as the National Council of Churches USA, among others, also call for a federally supported plan (although it's safe to say that not every churchgoer agrees with their denominations' positions).

Other faith communities push for free-market, individual health care plans, largely out of fear that government-imposed coverage would require individuals to support practices they find morally unacceptable. A plan that uses federal money to pay for abortions, contraceptives, or drugs such as RU-486, for example, or funding for stem cell research or prenatal genetic screening, would violate the religious beliefs of many—such as the 16 million members of the Southern Baptist Convention.

There are a range of views within these two positions, of course, and there are also many examples of successful partnerships between government and faith communities—not to mention private organizations—that address health care needs. Catholic Charities is one; this national organization receives funding from all levels of government, and also from individuals, organizations, and churches, which helps fund their enrollment programs for uninsured kids.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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