Obama to Join Faith 'Town Hall' Conversation on Health Care

WASHINGTON – President Obama will participate in a call-in with the faith community Wednesday evening to listen to religious leaders and to speak about health care reform.

Organizers say a high-level White House official will also be on hand to answer questions about the plan.

The teleconference, organized by Faith in Public Life, will include well-known Christian leaders, such as the Rev. Jim Wallis and Florida megachurch pastor Joel C. Hunter, as well as local clergies and people of faith who will share their experiences of living under the current broken system.

Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed near Orlando, and a member of the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will open the call with a welcome and introductory remarks.

"This isn't about backing any particular legislation, this is to identify people of faith to be advocates for reform and civil debate (Titus 3:1-2)," Hunter explained. "Moreover, people of faith have a moral responsibility to be a constructive part of making health care secure and affordable for all Americans."

At the end of the call-in, listeners will be invited to "take the pledge" to join a grassroots effort within the faith community to ensure Congress makes quality health care affordable and accessible for all Americans.

According to organizers, the "40 Minutes for Health Reform" teleconference will include members of the faith community from more than 30 religious denominations and organizations, representing millions of people from the Evangelical, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Jewish and Muslim traditions.

The call-in is part of a massive faith-based, pro-health care reform campaign that launched last week. The campaign called "40 Days for Health Reform" involves faith leaders, mainly associated with the "Religious Left," from across America who have committed to urge their local and state representatives to support health care reform.

Last week, television ads featuring local clergies began airing on cable TV. Also, supporters began in-district rallies and events, such as candlelight vigils, to get their message to members of Congress.

But not all faith leaders and organizations are blessing the health care overhaul.

Many conservative, pro-life groups and their leaders have been vocal opponents of the health care reform bill because they believe its ambiguous language on abortion coverage would leave the door open to the government funding the procedure.

Groups such as Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and Traditional Values Coalition have all criticized the proposed health care bill.

These critics also fear the new health care system will tacitly endorse euthanasia by rationing care to the elderly.

Jim Wallis, a leading supporter of the faith-based, pro-health care campaign, has emphasized that his coalition is not supporting a specific bill or legislation, but is simply saying the health care system needs to be fixed.

"This isn't a political issue, it is a deeply theological issue, a biblical issue, and a moral issue," said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, at the campaign's launch last week. "So we are not going to at any time during the debate weigh in on the particulars of policy questions…[We'll] leave the plumbing to the politicians."

The Obama administration is currently facing trouble recruiting support from Republicans as well as conservative Democrats for the health care reform bill.

The teleconference with President Obama will be webcast live. Members of the public can listen in at

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