American religious leaders back uninsured children

By staff writers
June 18, 2007

The National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) has joined forces with more than 20 faith groups in pressing for health insurance coverage for many of the nine million uninsured children in America – a good number of them living in poverty.

Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Episcopal, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders sent a letter to Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging them to produce the US $50 billion needed in legislation to expand the successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

"The faith community worked hard to win $50 billion in new funding in the budget resolution. We expect Congressional leaders to use these funds to reach millions of uninsured children in our nation," said the Rev John Bauman, a Jesuit and executive director of PICO National Network.

PICO is a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities. Since 1972 PICO has worked to increase access to health care, improve public schools, make neighbourhoods safer, build affordable housing, redevelop communities and revitalize grassroots democracy.

The letter signed by the religious leaders asks Baucus and Reid to keep their commitment to spend $50 billion over five years to cover as many as six million uninsured children. The letter from faith groups representing 50 million Americans comes during intense closed door negotiations over SCHIP in the Senate.

National clergy leaders are making personal appeals to key senators during a week of intense advocacy for children, says NCCUSA.

PICO National Network and the NCC have generated 9,000 letters to key senators over the past week and organized SCHIP clergy coalitions in key states such Indiana, Kansas and Missouri.

"We want Congressional leaders to understand that people of faith see covering children as our highest legislative priority this year," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC. "In our Christian tradition we follow a Jesus who said, 'Let the little children come to me...'(Luke 18.16). The most vulnerable were priorities for Jesus. Today, our uninsured children are among the most vulnerable."

In addition to Dr Edgar, leaders in ten NCC member communions signed the letter on behalf of the International Council of Community Churches, Armenian Church of America, The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, American Baptist Churches in the USA, National Baptist Convention, African Methodist Episcopal Church and American Baptist Women's Ministries.

The NCCUSA is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations across all 50 states.

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