An estimated 140,000 people of faith participated in an historic national conference call yesterday with President Barack Obama and Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes. The call was organized by Center for American Progress partners Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, along with PICO National Network and Sojourners, and sponsored by more than 30 religious denominations and organizations.
This enormous response launches a massive effort called “40 Days for Health Reform.” The campaign cuts across religious and race lines and is intended to mobilize people of faith from many different perspectives to press Congress to finish work on health care reform when they return after Labor Day.
President Obama called health care reform “a core ethical and moral obligation,” and spoke pointedly about those who are “frankly bearing false witness” with “ludicrous claims” designed to derail real change. The president also underlined that people of faith have led in the most significant movements for change in America, like the Civil Rights movement. Melody Barnes spoke directly to the most important priorities in health care reform and answered questions from the participants.
The call also included specific examples from Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders about what they have been doing to raise awareness about the need for real health care reform in their own congregations, as well as their communities and their states. A United Methodist pastor from Leewood, KS talked about an upcoming health care forum his church is sponsoring. They expect between 1,000 and 2,000 people to come to a panel discussion that includes both a hospital CEO and an ethicist to talk about why reform is needed.
A rabbi from St. Louis, MO, talked about how her synagogue has been involved in raising awareness about the need for health care reform for three years. They work in an interfaith coalition that is sponsoring two meetings this week to train religious leaders on how to respond to myths and fears. They are putting up a website called “Missouri Voices for Health Care Reform.”
A monsignor from a Catholic church in Lafayette, CO, shared how his congregation had conducted a survey on health care needs in their community. They have also held prayer rallies at the offices of their congressional representatives called “No Recess for Health Care.” This Catholic priest spoke movingly about how health care reform was a moral issue.
A United Methodist pastor from Little Rock, AK shared that congregation’s practical and attention-getting strategy called “No More Band Aids.” This campaign has people write their stories of struggles about health care on a card, to which they attach a band aid, and then send the card, the story, and the message “No More Band Aids” to Congress.
A common theme in these practical, faith-based strategies was getting out the stories of real Americans suffering from inadequate or no health care as a way to counter the emotionalism of those who oppose reform.
CAP Action Senior Fellow for Faith and Progressive Policy Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite provided live tweets during the call that may be accessed on your twitter feed at #sbthistle.
More information about the 40 Day Campaign for Health Care Reform is available at www.faithforhealth.org, including the call co-sponsors.