Saturday, May 18, 2024

Faith Leaders Weigh in on Health Care Debate


On Friday, Los Angeles faith leaders held a religious service and phone bank to urge congressional leaders to include illegal immigrants in any health care reform bills.

As the health care reform debates continue, one continually contentious aspect is whether or not illegal immigrants should be given access. President Obama, who does not include coverage for illegal immigrants in his plans, has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans. For some in religious communities, health care for all – including illegal immigrants – is morally and spiritually important.

“If we were politicians, this would be definitely political suicide to come out for health care reform for those who are undocumented,” said Father Roland Lozano, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church. “But we’re doing it because we believe … it’s what God wants us to do.”

Father Richard Estrada, who runs the immigrant services group Jovenes Inc., believes that health care being provided for all immigrants is consistent with biblical teachings. He believes that all people are children of God and are therefore responsible for caring for society’s most vulnerable.

The Roman Catholic Church, the nation’s largest religious denomination, has held the position that health care is a basic human right since 1963. According to Kathy Saile, director of domestic social development with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Church believes that illegal immigrants should be included in any health care reform plan. “If health care is a basic right, you can’t start cutting people out,” she said.

This issue is not without debate within the religious community either. Richard Land, who heads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, said that biblical calls to help the poor apply to believers only, not necessarily to governments. “It’s noble and commendable to be charitable with your own money, but it’s something different to be charitable with other people’s money,” he said.

At Our Lady Queen of Angles on Friday, more than 150 people attended a Mass of “reconciliation and hope” for a health care reform discussion. Later, worshipers were asked to call their elected officials to encourage them to support health insurance access for illegal immigrants.

LA Times