I write to let you know that the Secular Coalition for America is working to defeat three proposed amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill that would alter public policy to privilege religious people. These amendments are in some House versions as well.
Of great concern is a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would require private and public health plans to cover all "spiritual care" - whether or not the individual has religous objections to medical care. This proposed funding undermines our Constitution and will open up your tax dollars to scam artists.
This amendment will make an existing problem worse. Religious people who object to medical care already have some "spiritual care" covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This "spiritual care" includes reimbursements for payments that Christian Scientists make to members of the Church who pray for them when they are ill. Numerous children have died while receiving this "spiritual care" when modern science would easily have saved their lives. And you helped pay!
Under the new amendment, all health plans would be obligated to cover such expenses. The Hatch-Kerry bill amendment doesn't stop there, expanding this practice to all Americans, regardless of whether or not they object to medical care. Tax payers would help foot the bill for this religion-based care, care offering no scientific evidence of effectiveness. "Care" which, in fact, endangers lives by placing government approval on non-scientific practices.
We are fighting another amendment, proposed by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), which would ensure that doctors can deny patients any care or information that violates the doctor's religious beliefs. This violation of medical ethics is labeled with the Orwellian term "Conscience Clause" - i.e. denying or delaying proper care for a person in need. This amendment cruelly places the religious beliefs of practitioners (such as pharmacists) above the medical needs of patients. This amendment threatens your access to contraception, end-of-life care, HIV care, and any other care to which a health provider employee objects.
Third, Senator Hatch has submitted an amendment requesting that funding for Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage programs be restored. Congress has wasted $ 1.5 billion on such programs since 1996. Numerous studies, including a 10-year government-funded evaluation of the Title V abstinence-only program, have found that these programs do not delay sexual initiation and have no beneficial impact on young people's health or sexual behavior. In addition to being ineffective and leaving out information on safe sex, many such programs contain false and misleading "medical" statements and teach religious propaganda and theologically-driven gender stereotypes to our children.
These amendments may or may not reach a vote, but if you are interested in opposing these amendments, please contact the Senators on the Finance Committee. Click here for their names and telephone numbers. Tell them you're calling as a supporter of the Secular Coalition for America.