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Collection of Religious Groups Discuss, Support Health Care Reform

The Monroe County Religious Leaders, a Bloomington interfaith organization met Wednesday to discuss the intersection of faith and health care policy.

The group is a colorful collection of Baha’i, Catholic, Jewish, Unitarian-Universalist and Protestant faiths.  Despite the diversity of traditions, the group said it’s united in religious-inspired support of universal health care. Madi Hirschland from the Beth Shalom Synagogue said that her faith instructs her to care for her neighbor.  She quoted a Jewish saying:

“‘If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?  But if I’m for myself, than who am I?  And if not now, then when?’” she quoted.   “We’re responsible for each other. Health care is so clearly a moral imperative and a life and death issue for people.  Our neighbors, who by chance might be struck by illness, may die because there is not care for them.  It’s an ethical issue.”

Hirschland said that religious communities should feel comfortable participating, but not dominating political dialogue.

“For many of us our faiths are our moral base.  There are powerful interests that are going to speak on behalf of profits.  They’re not shy to speak up loudly with our representatives,” she said.  “And if we believe we must take care of our neighbor, we actually have to speak up at the level of policy as well.”

Reverend John VanderZee, the Presbyterian chaplain at Bloomington Hospital said there is a Biblical mandate to support a dignified life for all citizens. This dignified life, he argued, necessitates health care, even for those who cannot provide it for themselves. He said that fiscal responsibility sometimes becomes overshadowed in a faith-based consideration of health care reform.  However, he said cost decreases when all citizens are insured, and preventative imperatives are included in policy.

Rev. VanderZee said, “We think that the only way of reducing health care costs over the long haul is to get everyone insured.”

The group will send a faith-based letter in support of current health reform efforts to Indiana’s congressional delegation.

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