(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
A Mississippi pastor is going on a health crusade for his congregation, first banning fried chicken and sugary drinks from church functions and now trying the get the state's uninsured residents to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Dr. Michael Minor, pastor at Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Hernando, Mississippi, has said he has seen a great change in his congregants since he chose to ban fried chicken and sugary drinks from church events. In the church kitchen hangs a sign that reads "No Fry Zone," and the pastor has dedicated a good portion of his efforts to making his congregation healthier, including installing a walking track around the church's border.
"Fried chicken has mysterious powers," Minor told the local media outlet WMC-TV, adding that it's difficult for most people to eat just one piece of the fatty southern favorite. "People are healthier, more energy. Their weight is down and once you get the weight down, you want to keep it down," Minor added in reference to the change in his congregation after he banned fried chicken and soda.
Minor's efforts to combat obesity gained the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama, who in 2009 invited the pastor to help promote her "Let's Move" campaign that challenged climbing obesity rates in the U.S. The pastor also spoke at a panel event in March to address faith-based methods for fighting childhood obesity as a part of a national health summit sponsored by Partnership for a Healthier America.
Now, the pastor is focusing his efforts on getting the nearly 750,000 uninsured residents of his state signed up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, according to Reuters. Minor reportedly sends teams of congregation members to rural areas of the state to check on residents and make sure they are staying healthy.
Additionally, Minor's church is one of two organizations in the entire state that has received a federal "navigator" grant to help people sign up using the health insurance marketplace online. His church's Facebook page consists of links and tips for how to navigate the health care options provided through the Affordable Care Act on the internet.
In response to how a small church in Mississippi received a federal grant for the Affordable Care Act, Minor told Reuters, "I applied for it."
"I'm a firm believer that people are limited because someone tells them they are limited," Minor said. "I tell my members we can do whatever we want to do. Let's just go for it."
According to the Clarion Ledge, at an event earlier this year, Minor said he is hoping to be a conduit for people to connect and better their lives: "I'm just trying to be a conduit to bring people together," the pastor said. "The Lord blessed me to come out and do this and I just want to share it."
Obamacare has received its fair share of criticism since it launched its website last month. Among other concerns, some argue that an estimated more than two-thirds of Americans who have private health insurance coverage will not be able to keep their previous plan due to the Affordable Care Act.
"Most people are going to have some level of change in their policy," Edmund Haislmaier, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies, told The Christian Post in a previous interview. President Obama has received criticism because he previously promised repeatedly that under the new healthcare act, if an American liked their previous coverage, they could keep it, "Period."