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Following God, and Ted Kennedy, on Socialized Medicine By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Throughout the Bush administration, the media warned of government collusion with the Religious Right. Now that the so-called Religious Left is unleashing a major push to repeat the Democrats' talking points on socialized medicine, we learn its representatives take their marching orders from Ted Kennedy.

In early April, Religious Left groups met with Senator Kennedy’s Chief Advisor on Health reform to plot how to exploit religion for imposing socialized medicine on America. Evidently, they easily agreed to the June 24 “Interfaith Service of Witness and Prayer for Health Care Reform” in Washington, D.C., supported by “echo” interfaith rallies across the nation.

These staged, ostensibly religious gatherings “will draw attention to the moral message offered by every American faith tradition: affordable, accessible, inclusive, and accountable health care coverage for all.” But for the Religious Left, these goals can only be achieved through a federally controlled, centralized health system governed from Washington, D.C. that ultimately squashes private insurance.

Sponsors of the rallies operate under a coalition called “We Believe Together” and include the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Islamic Society of North America, Michael Lerner’s Tikkun and Network of Spiritual Progressives, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA lobby office, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, the School of the Americas Watch, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Regarding the latter two groups, evidently opposing the U.S. school for Latin American military officers at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and advocacy for unrestricted abortion rights are causes that easily align with socialized medicine.

Speakers at the D.C. rally at Freedom Plaza will include Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Sayyid Syeed, of the Islamic Society of North America, and James A. Forbes Jr., Pastor Emeritus of famously far-Left Riverside Church in New York and now head of the Healing of the Nations Foundation.

Concurrently with the interfaith prayer rally in Washington, a group called People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) is also rallying religious groups to socialized medicine. PICO was founded by Jesuit priest Fr. John Baumann, who learned Saul Alinsky-style community organizing in Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s and transferred his skills to Oakland, California. PICO and its allies see churches as convenient and susceptible tools for political organizing on the Left’s behalf, which nearly always entails expanding the power and control of government, while displacing the private sector. PICO’s socialized medicine campaign is working in coalition with Sojourners and Faithful America, which is the political arm of the National Council of Churches.

PICO and friends kicked off their latest national push for socialized medicine with a May 22 conference call between its activist clergy and reporters. Supposedly PICO has recruited nearly 600 clergy to preach the glories of socialized medicine and mobilize their congregations in June and July. It also professes that 10,000 religionists will lobby Congress "to work together to make quality health-care choices affordable for all families,” i.e., a federal takeover of the health care industry. PICO likewise will air radio ads called “Abundant Life” in key congressional districts. According to a PICO news release, the ads will stress "every person, created in the image of God, is of limitless value." Listeners are asked to contact their members of Congress to encourage them "to work together to make quality health-care choices affordable for all families."

How odd that “We Believe Together” and PICO, as religious coalitions striving to be prophetic, insist on speaking in such euphemisms. Why not just declare that social justice demands government-run health care? Or would such clarity impede the popular effectiveness of their appeal? "Religious congregations across the country are organizing," declared one Louisiana pastor and PICO activist during the conference call, according to a United Methodist news release. "We are making it clear to our members of Congress that the majority of Americans want them to support health-care reform legislation that lowers costs for families and covers everyone."

How often do federal takeovers of any human activity ever lead to “lower costs?” Religionists who actually recall the teachings of their traditions about human nature should know that the profit motive is usually a stronger incentive for productivity and lower costs than is any collectivist, government-provided service, subsidized by coercive taxation, and maintained by gargantuan and often unaccountable bureaucracies not typically inclined to human compassion or organizational efficiency.

A Presbyterian pastor and PICO activist from Nebraska announced during the media call that, “God cared about this issue long before it touched any of us.” Apparently, “With so many uninsured and underinsured, it is coming into our national conscience. But it reached God’s attention long ago, with the first uninsured person.” Most people of faith would surely agree that the Lord wants to see sick people helped. But is that the same as declaring God favors the federal government running the medical industry?

What more can we expect from a religious organization that takes its marching orders from Ted Kennedy?

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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