Healthcare reform's holy war began last week, as several religious leaders and healthcare providers announced a joint effort to counter a campaign against President Clinton's healthcare reform plan that's been mounted by the conservative Christian Coalition.
The groups vowed to launch a lobbying and grass-roots effort of their own through a nationwide network of churches.
The Christian Coalition has said it will spend $1.4 million on advertising and grass-roots mobilization to defeat the Clinton plan. The group opposes the plan's abortion coverage, as well as Religious groupsother features, such as the employer mandate to provide health insurance and cost controls.
At a press briefing in Washington, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the Na tional Council of Churches, which will help lead the counter campaign, said ad vertising probably wouldn't be part of its effort. Instead, NCOA has drafted a pastoral message, which it said would be distributed to some 47 million parishioners in churches throughout the country.
The statement refers to the Christian Coalition's interest in the debate as "self-serving."
The abortion issue, which promises to be a lightening rod for controversy in the healthcare reform debate, "is not for us a bottom line," Rev. Campbell said. "The bottom line is universal coverage."
To advance its message, the NCOC plans the first of a series of "lobbying days" on March 16 and 17 for people to come to Capitol Hill and "educate" their senators and representatives. The NCOC supports both the president's plan and single-payer legislation sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).
InterHealth, a St. Paul, Minn.-based alliance of religious healthcare organizations and providers, also will be active in the effort, spurred by concern that the Christian Coalition could have a powerful impact on people who fear health reform.
"Money can buy ad space, but it can't hide the fact that the Christian Coalition doesn't know what it's talking about when it comes to healthcare," said Benjamin Aune, president and chief executive of InterHealth.
Mr. Aune said he was "disturbed that some would seek to further politicize the (health reform) debate in the name of God and under the banner of Christ."