Report: 18 Percent of White Evangelicals Support Health Care Bills

Only 18 percent of white Protestant evangelicals support the current health care bills in Congress, a new report indicates.

The figure is sharply down from March when 48 percent of white evangelicals expressed support for the idea of extending health insurance to every citizen, reported The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

However in March, the debate on health care was far from the heated state it is in now. Also, many evangelicals, who are largely conservative, believe the current bills allow government-funded abortions.

A group called the Freedom Federation, made up mostly of Christian organizations, has been a vocal and active force against the health care bills. Members of the coalition have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a media ad campaign against the reform legislation. And one signer of the coalition's statement on health care was the main person to deliver more than a million signatures to Congress that oppose a "government takeover" of the U.S. health care system.

In contrast to the small number of evangelicals who support the health care bills, more than half of the religiously unaffiliated (54 percent) support the legislation, according to the report.

The largest faith coalition that supports the bills is the Faith for Health campaign. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations representing mainline, evangelical Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews.

Though some members also oppose the idea of using tax dollars to fund abortions, the groups are united by their general support of the government's effort to reform the health care system and provide coverage for more people.

Faith for Health organized a large-scale campaign called "40 Days for Health Reform," which ended last month, where people of faith across the country participated in prayer vigils, called members of Congress, and bought media ads, among other activities, to support a U.S. overhaul of the health care system.

A highlight of the campaign was an Aug. 19 conference call with grassroots supporters in which President Obama gave a short message.

Besides presenting some new statistics on the level of support for the health care bills, the report also examined the divisions in the Christian community on the bills. The report noted that Americans' view on health care reform is primarily shaped by their political ideology and partisanship, not by their religious affiliation.

However, religious organizations seem to be more active in the current debate than in 1993 when then-President Bill Clinton had attempted to overhaul health care, Pew Forum reported.