Obama Stumps for Health Care Reform in Call to Faith Community
In conference calls with groups of religious leaders on Wednesday, President Obama called health care reform "a core ethical and moral obligation" and encouraged members of the faith community to promote reform efforts, the New York Times reports (Zeleny/Hulse, New York Times, 8/19).
In a call with about 140,000 members of churches and religious groups, Obama said, "I know there's been a lot of misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness," adding, "I need you to spread the facts and speak the truth" (Gerstein, Politico, 8/19).
Obama told the multidenominational coalition, "The one thing that you all share is a moral conviction," adding, "This debate over health care goes to the heart of who we are as American people" (Rushing, The Hill, 8/19).
Earlier in the day, Obama participated in a call with rabbis from Judaism's Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, who are preparing messages for the Jewish High Holy Days next month (Helfand, Los Angeles Times, 8/19).
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA who joined the rabbis' call, said that Obama "tried to root significant aspects of health care reform into a lot of moral precepts that are fundamental to Judaism and religion generally."
According to Pollack, "There are two impulses behind health care reform: One is altruism, and one is self-interest. He wants to make clear how this affects both things. With religious leaders, altruism gets more emphasis."
Some conservative opponents of health reform criticized Obama's attempt to get religious leaders on board.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "The American people are showing they have no faith" in Obama's plan, "and he's now trying to use the faith language and the religious left to convince people that this is a moral issue" (Parsons/Hook, Los Angeles Times, 8/20).
Religious Groups Launch Health Reform Campaign
"40 Days for Health Reform," organized by more than 30 religious denominations and groups, is launching an initiative that will include a national television ad, prayer rallies, a "sermon weekend" at the end of August, and meetings in congressional districts where representatives are on the fence about health reform (Los Angeles Times, 8/19).
Jim Wallis, an evangelical and president of the Christian social action group Sojourners, said that the intent of "40 Days for Health Reform" is not to "get into the weeds" about specific policy proposals, but rather to counter the people who have "demagogued" the issue at town-hall meetings during the August recess. He said, "There are people in the country who want to stop an honest, fair, civil and moral conversation about health care," adding that the "faith community is literally going to stand in the way of those who want to stop a conversation."
John Hay, an evangelical leader from Indianapolis, said that the campaign is "really an effort to refocus where the central moral issue is," noting that "it seems to have been derailed or taken off track by a lot of voices over the past couple weeks" (Norman, CQ Politics, 8/19).
Obama Promoting Health Reform Today
In related news, Obama on Thursday plans to discuss health care reform with supporters and opponents of his efforts (Los Angeles Times, 8/20).
The president will answer questions from conservative critics of health reform during an interview with conservative radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, who also interviewed Obama during the presidential campaign (AP/Boston Globe, 8/19).
Later in the day, Obama will attempt to rally support for an overhaul when he addresses questions from health care reform advocates at an Organizing for America event (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 8/20).
Broadcast CoverageAmerican Public Media's "Marketplace" on Wednesday reported on Obama's attempt to paint health care reform as a moral issue. The segment included comments from Princeton health care economist Uwe Reinhardt and Wallis (Keith, "Marketplace," American Public Media, 8/19). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.