Leaders Gather in Battle For the Uninsured

Mar 14, 2003 02:44 PM EST

WASHINGTON – Leaders of several Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations gathered to issue an open letter to people of all faiths concerning the 41 million Americans without heath insurance coverage, March 11. The letter calls all peoples to participate in nationwide interfaith prayer breakfasts and other events to be held Friday, March 14, as part of the “Cover the Uninsured Week.”

“We recognize that not having insurance takes a terrible toll on the physical and financial health of the uninsured, who often must go without the basic medical care needed to maintain general health and well-being. The uninsured are forced to delay needed tests and treatments. They live with illness. Tragically, they often die younger as a result,” wrote the letter.

The letter is signed by Rev. Eileen W. Linder, National Council of Churches; Dr. Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention; Bishop Cecil Bishop, Congress of National Black Churches; Hannah Rosenthal, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Nancy Wisdo, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Lt. Col. Paul Bollwahn, Salvation Army; Garland Pohl, National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers; and Bishop Melvin Talbert, United Methodist Church.

Richard Land, representative of the SBC and the Ethics and Religious Council, noted, "[M]any of us have very different ideas about where to start," Land said, "but we all believe that something must be done."

“The religious bodies supporting this effort have different theological beliefs and may be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we’re united in our common concern for people who do not have access to health care- a basic right we share as fellow human beings,” said Lindner, who coordinated the effort. “We’re using our collective voices to cry to secure health care as our moral legacy to the nation.”

“as people who have long been a source of care and comfort for those in need, faith leaders know the toll that being uninsured takes on the physical and financial health of millions of Americans,” said Risa.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 41 million people, including 8.5 million under the age of 18, had no health insurance during 2001.

The letter concludes, “This crises calls for all of our concern and commitment to ensure that everyone has the health care they need to live and flourish as our Creator intends,” calling for action.

In addition to such interfaith events this Friday, more than 650 activities are taking place as part of the “cover the uninsured week,” including town hall meetings, campus educational events, discussions and health fairs. The week was organized mainly through the cooperative funding of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Endowment and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

After signing the March 11 letter, Land commented, "the role of the faith community is to call the nation to be their brother's keeper and to say this is an unacceptable level of pain and suffering. ... [I]f we are able to raise this to a critical mass, we will see a very vigorous debate in the presidential campaign and many Senate and House campaigns [in 2004]. What we can do in the faith community is make certain this gets on the radar screen and high on the radar screen.”

By Pauline J.