Canadian Council of Churches wades into U.S. health care debate

  • September 9, 2009
{mosimage}The Canadian Council of Churches launched a letter into the shark tank of American debate over health care and saw some surprising ripples on the surface.

The Aug. 10 letter to the National Council of Churches, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals became the starting point for journalist David Waters' Aug. 29 "Under God" column in The Washington Post.

"Would Rush Limbaugh support Canadian-style, government-run universal health care if he knew Jack Bauer thought it was 'damn-well worth fighting for'?" Waters asked.

Waters notes that the actor who plays TV tough guy Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland, is the grandson of Baptist minister and father of medicare Tommy Douglas. The Canadian church's wisdom on health care is "an interesting side note to the current U.S. health-care reform discussion/debate/Jerry Springer Show," wrote Waters.

The CCC letter has made headlines in a number of newspapers across the United States and Canada as churches play an increasingly active role in the U.S. health care debate, said CCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, who wrote the letter.

"It's not a question of sticking our nose in somebody else's business. It's a matter of offering our own experience," Hamilton told The Catholic Register.

In her letter Hamilton notes the role churches played in Canadian debates over health care both in the 1960s and during the Romanow Royal Commission in 2002. As "the Good Samaritan parable writ large," health care turns out to be an area of public policy churches cannot avoid, said Hamilton.

"Health care advocacy in our country is directly related to God's call to discipleship," she wrote in the letter to American church leaders.

The U.S. health care debate has grown religiously complex. Historically the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has always advocated for equal and universal access and a system which would prevent throwing families into bankruptcy because of unexpected medical expenses. And in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church the Vatican names health care as a human right and essential service to all for the common good (166).

But some U.S. bishops have been publicly worried that current proposals would expand access to abortion.

The National Association of Evangelicals has also urged that "Any health care plan which includes coverage for elective abortion should be rejected."

U.S. President Barack Obama told supporters Aug. 20 that claims his health care reform proposals would provide federal funding for abortions are "phony claims meant to divide us." The word abortion does not appear in any of the proposed health care legislation.

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