Liberal Religious Groups Back Healthcare Plan

Tuesday, 30 Jun 2009 01:49 PM

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WASHINGTON – Liberal-leaning religious groups are launching radio ads in five states this week in which local pastors urge senators to back efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system.

In the ads, the religious leaders discuss the moral reasons for making health care more affordable. They are being sponsored by national and local groups including Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, the PICO National Network and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

While participants said they are not focusing on specific policies, they said they wanted legislation that would provide federal subsidies for people who cannot afford adequate care. The Senate Finance Committee, working behind closed doors on a bill it hopes to unveil after this week's congressional recess, has been reducing those subsidies to make its package less expensive.

"It's morally unacceptable in this country," the Rev. Cory Sparks of Lafayette, La., said of the current health system's problems in a conference call held by leaders of the effort Tuesday with reporters.

The drive is an example of how interest groups on both sides of the issue are ramping up pressure on Congress as it focuses on health overhaul legislation, one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. Labor, conservative, health industry and other groups are running television ads.

Besides radio ads, leaders of the effort said they are also sending a letter to lawmakers signed by 612 clergy members from 41 states backing an overhaul. They are giving booklets on the health care debate to 4,200 clergy members that will include two-page handouts to be distributed to 800,000 families. And they expect to meet with 30 to 40 lawmakers on health care, including a town hall with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., this Thursday that will be streamed live on the Internet.

The 60-second spots are running on Christian and mainstream radio stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska and North Carolina — all of them home states of pivotal senators, many of them Democrats. Participants declined to say how much money they were spending.

"The challenge is great," Rev. Joyce Hardy of Little Rock, Ark., says in an ad she narrates. "But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love. And our love must be a thing of action."

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