Health Care

Chicago is Ground Zero in U.S. Muslim Renaissance

RNS photo by Monique Parsons.
Rami Nashashibi founded IMAN in 1997. RNS photo by Monique Parsons.

CHICAGO — Religious affiliation may be on the wane in America, a recent Pew study asserts, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the storefront near the corner of West 63rd Street and South Fairfield Avenue.

Inside a former bank in a neighborhood afflicted with gang violence, failed businesses and empty lots, a team of volunteers drawn by their religious faith is working to make life better for Chicago’s poorest residents.

The free medical clinic has expanded its hours; 20-something college graduates are clamoring to get into its internship program; rap stars swing by its alcohol-free poetry slams; and the budget has increased tenfold in the past decade.

The storefront belongs to Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and it is part of a wave of new Muslim institutions emerging at an unprecedented pace. More than a quarter of the nation’s 2,106 mosques were founded in the last decade, according to a recent University of Kentucky study, and new social service organizations, many of them run by 20- and 30-something American-born Muslims, are thriving as never before.

The Seeds of Epiphany

In the dark days of Advent, we wonder when the birth pangs will end: Will light break into the darkest corners of our hearts, our families, our lives? Will God—can God—take the twisted sinew of our warped world and redeem it? Will we—can we—hold on through the night? Can we trust that light to come? These are the questions of Advent.

As we enter the season of Epiphany, new questions arise: Will we allow the light that has broken forth to illuminate the darkest corners of hearts, our families, and our lives? Can we—will we—follow Jesus as he untwists the mangled metal of our shattered souls ... and redeems it? Can we—will we—trust the light or will we hide from it? These are the questions of Epiphany.

The light of Epiphany illuminates in two directions: It flashes inward, revealing our twisted and fragmented souls, and it flashes outward, revealing the carnage and consequences of the lies our world has embraced and used to craft public policy, the lies we have believed and reinforced through our complicit acceptance, and the truth we must speak.

As we enter 2013, we look back and see that over the past four years much public good was done. Remember: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act made it easier for women to fight pay discrimination. Remember the drama when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court upheld it, creating a path for tens of millions of Americans to finally receive health care. Remember the image of the last troops leaving Iraq.

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Poll: Americans Split on Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

The Supreme Court's nearly split decision on the new health care law is mirrored by the American public, according to a new survey.

On Thursday the high court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act, a massive health care overhaul often considered President Obama's signal legislative achievement.

A poll taken days before the high court's ruling found that 43 percent of Americans said the court should not overturn the law, and 35 percent hoped it would.

Health Care and Judgment Day (Part 2)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to mandate that most American's purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. This power is maintained in Congress’s ability to levy taxes.

The justices also ruled that the federal government does hold the constitutional power to expand Medicaid, making more people eligible to receive the benefit, but, like the original Medicaid law of 1965, states can opt out of the expansion if they so choose.

What does this mean? And what does this mean for Jesus followers?

Religious Groups React to Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Religious groups and social conservatives are reacting to the Supreme's Court's historic ruling that largely upholds President Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act. 

Sr. Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):

"We are pleased that, based on an initial read of the ruling, the ACA has been found constitutional and will remain in effect. CHA has long supported health reform that expands access and coverage to everyone. We signed onto amicus briefs encouraging the Court to find in favor of the ACA’s individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. As the ruling is examined, Catholic-sponsored health care providers will continue to lead health care transformation — finding new and better ways to provide compassionate, high-quality care while strengthening the communities we serve."

The Catholic Bishops of the United States urged Congress and President Obama to repair, not replace, the health care law so that it covers immigrants, includes stronger conscience protections, and ensures that it will not fund abortions -- something the law specifically bars:

"Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today.The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above.We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws."

The Affordable Care Act: Without a Vision, the People Perish

Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.
Image by Konstantin Sutyagin / shutterstock.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. ~ Proverbs 29:18

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was remarkable in a number of ways. The vast majority of articles, blogs, and analyses focus on the political ramifications of the decision.

Is this a win for the Obama administration or fuel for the Romney campaign? Pundits have looked at nearly every political angle, from the upcoming presidential election to its effects on local politics.

While I appreciate the political analysis and the importance of political processes to the wellbeing of the United States, I believe that a majority of coverage has missed one of the most remarkable points of the ACA: It changes the vision of our national community.

One Deadly Infection, Two Healthy Babies, and Three Broken Legs (or, how Government Healthcare Totally Saved My Behind)

Illustration via memegenerator.net.
Illustration via memegenerator.net.

Brace yourselves. I’m about to step on a soapbox.*

Much as I’d like to go all armchair-Constitutional-scholar and argue that access to affordable health care SHOULD be in the same category as education, fire-fighting, and law enforcement, I’m not going to.

I’m just going to tell you what has happened in MY family.

February, 2005, California

Pregnant with first child. Am on crappy private insurance that costs like $500 a month in premiums but covers almost nothing. Calculate that cost of having child will be approximately half our yearly income.

Freak out.

What Chief Justice Roberts Did Not Say

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images.
SCOTUS Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images.

In 2009, during the debate over health care, I devoted a good deal of my time arguing in favor of President Obama’s efforts to provide some form of universal health care to the people of the United States. I argued that universal health care is a human right. I argued that providing a way for people to get medical care without the worry of going bankrupt or of having to be shackled to a job because they or someone in their family needs health care is a matter of establishing justice in our country. It is a matter of distributive justice.

In the Supreme Court decision upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA a.k.a. Obamacare) Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr., writing for the majority of the court, in effect said that the act is constitutional because Congress has the power of taxation. He quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Our Constitution is now established . . .but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Opponents of the ACA argued that the individual mandate that requires people to buy health insurance was unconstitutional. They argued that it was an overreach of governmental power to require someone to buy something. Supporters of the ACA argued that the individual mandate was constitutional under the powers granted to Congress under the commerce clause and because Congress has the power of taxation. The penalty imposed on people who do not buy health insurance will be collected by the IRS when a person files h/er income taxes. The penalty or tax only applies to people who can afford to buy health insurance but who choose to not buy it.

The chief justice’s opinion does not judge the morality of the law. Roberts does not speak of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the goals it sets for the entire human community, including universal health care. He does not speak of the concepts of liberty and justice for all, that the government has an obligation to its citizens to make health care something that is available to all.

The U.S. Supreme Court: Health Care, Immigration, Juvenile Justice and More

Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis

Today, in a long and complicated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. This is an important victory for millions of uninsured people in our country and ultimately a triumph of the common good. Children, young adults, and families will have access to basic health care, adding security and stability to their lives.

While I believe the decision is reason to celebrate, it doesn’t mean that this legislation is somehow the flawless will of God; it is an important step in expanding health care coverage and reducing long term costs, but it still is not perfect and more work is yet to be done.

Many Christian organizations and people of faith were involved in advocating for expanded insurance coverage, specifically for low-income and vulnerable people. And that’s what we can never forget: our involvement in the world of politics is always based in and motivated by the way that it affects the lives of real people, and especially poor people.

This last week, I’ve watched the endless political pre-coverage of the Supreme Court decision, and I was struck first by the poor quality of the questions being asked. Now that the decision has been made, the pontification is just as bad. We need to be focused on those who are left out and left behind, not who is up or down in politics and the polls.

Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

In a widely anticipated and extremely consequential decision, the Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that President Barack Obama’s chief domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional.

The main challenge to the law had focused on the “individual mandate,” which required people to purchase insurance or pay a fine. In its ruling, the Court upheld the mandate under the taxing power given to Congress in the Constitution.

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