By Jacqueline L. Salmon
It was a spirit-filled 40 minutes with President Obama and the religious faithful today as the campaign for health-care reform took on a more religious focus.
A 40-minute call-in program marked the launch of a renewed blitz of TV ads, sermons, prayer rallies and lobbying campaigns by more progressive religious denominations and organizations to present health-care reform as a moral and spiritual imperative. It’s called the “40 Days for Health Care Reform.”
“The faith community will be satisfied with nothing less than accessible, affordable health care for all Americans,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, on the call. “In the weeks ahead, the nation will hear a steady moral drumbeat from the faith community about God’s desire for the health and healing of our nation.”
Melody Barnes, White House director of domestic policy, fielded questions from, among others, a Catholic priest, an Episcopal deacon and a Baptist minister. “Health reform is at the crux of the faith stewardship of our resources,” she said, mentioning that her minister in her Washington, D.C., church had been discussing it with the congregation.
(She also said that Obama is still committed to the public option as the “best way to lower costs and increase choice and competition.”)
For his part, Obama took aim at some of the claims against health-care reform, labeling as an “extraordinary lie” the claim that it would allow for “death panels,” and saying that claims that health-care reform would lead to the government takeover of health care and government funding of abortion are “not true.”
“There are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness,” he said, quoting from the Ninth Commandment.
Earlier in the day, Obama held a private call with 1,000 rabbis (if you can call that “private”), to brief them on health-care reform in preparation for their sermons on the High Holy Days next month.