Faith leaders and those associated with the "Religious Left" are planning to launch a 40-day campaign Monday to press Congress to pass health insurance reform that makes quality health care affordable for every American.
The "40 Days for Health Reform" initiative, set to launch Monday at 11 a.m., will include the release of a national TV ad featuring local clergy and people of faith, prayer events, a nationwide health care sermon weekend, and a number of meetings with members of Congress, among other events.
"Right now, for families in our pews and our congregations, the time is right to pass comprehensive health care reform," says the Rev. Stevie Wakes, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Kansas City, who appears in one of the TV ads.
"Our families are suffering from lack of affordable quality health care. Families don't have any coverage at all. And they need to be brought into the table of health care plenty," he adds.
To Wakes and other faith leaders who are joining "40 Days of Health Reform," the issue of health care is fundamentally a moral one.
The argument contrasts starkly to that presented by conservative groups such as Family Research Council, which recently launched an ad that has run in selected states.
In FRC's ad, an elderly man and his wife are shown sitting at their kitchen table talking about how the government won't pay for the man's surgery but forces them to pay for abortions – a reference to the "abortion mandates" that have been strongly contested by members of the pro-life community.
"The liberals' national health plan is designed to push Americans from the private insurance market into government controlled plans, create a new mandate for abortion-providing plans through state 'exchanges,' and set the stage for the total repeal of the historic limits on government-funded abortion," says FRC president Tony Perkins.
"Our nation's families do not want to become co-owners of the abortion industry," he adds. "They want health care reform that gives them more options at lower cost, portability of their health care from job to job, and protection from having to pay for morally reprehensible procedures."
While there is growing agreement from both pro-life and pro-choice that health-care reform should not include funding for abortion, but should be abortion-neutral, those on the "Religious Left" accuse "Religious Right" groups of trying to "sabotage ... reform with half-truths and misinformation."
"These kinds of ads should be stopped," says Sojourners' the Rev. Jim Wallis of FRC's latest ad. "They do not contribute to the debate that is needed to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. It is rather exactly the kind of misinformation campaign that could destroy needed reform. We should all denounce these ads and urge that the debate be about the real issues."
Wallis, who will be among the leaders announcing the launch of the "40 Days for Health Reform" Monday, says it is essential that health care reform provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
This, adds Wake, is especially true given the state of the economy today.
"Up to 15,000 people now are losing their health care every day," notes the pastor, who is also a leader for the PICO National Network, one of the groups behind "40 Days of Health Reform."
"We all know people who have nightmares of suddenly finding themselves $20-30 thousand in medical debt, worried about money at precisely the time when they need to be focused on their loved ones' health," he adds. "We see these real life stories every day in our congregations and in our communities, and these are what compel us to act and to act now."
In addition to PICO National Network, "40 Days for Health Reform" is being sponsored and organized by Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
Leading Monday's launch event will be Wallis; the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the 13,000-member Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kan.; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.