Testimony from Illinois faith leaders
at the Public Hearings of the Adequate Health Care Task Force
“We Lutherans, along with the United Church of Christ, live and work in partnership with the largest faith-based health care system in the state, and we derive both a deep sense of satisfaction and deep sense of responsibility from this healing work that we consider to be a sacred trust directly from God.
But increasingly we are entering a time when the government’s attitude and behavior concerning health care is not benignly passive. By its stubborn insistence upon using medicine as an instrument by which conventional power marginalizes the marginalized and renders the weak irrelevant and expendable, our culture is rapidly becoming the quintessential obstruction to the Biblical vision of God’s kingdom, and the indifference and neglect of our public leadership not only declines to relieve suffering, it is becoming the cause of unjust suffering”.
— Pastor Wayne N. Miller, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Elk Grove Village
“Our society has forgotten something very important, something that must be recovered. It is the dignity all people deserve and no one must be denied. There is no dignity in our present healthcare system for millions of Americans. As a Christian and an advocate, I have learned that when we can relate to people in pain and suffering, when we can imagine ourselves in the same situation, our hearts are more able to open to providing for the changes necessary to provide that dignity. We must use our voices collectively to follow the examples of those we follow, whether that be Jesus Christ or another example of one who gets it and advocate for universal healthcare coverage for all of our brothers and sisters.”
— Laurel Bault, Layleader, Epworth United Methodist Church, Elgin
“Our United Methodist denomination stance is based on the teachings and life example of Jesus, who frequently crossed the boundaries of his day in order to offer care and concern to those whom society had neglected or outright despised. We have a moral obligation to transform health from being a privilege, which it is now for many persons, to a right which it should be for all.”
— Reverend Robert Burkhart, Central United Methodist Church, Skokie
“Taking the Gospel mandates seriously, United Methodists are called to work toward a healthy society of whole persons. Part of our task is to enable people to care for themselves and to take responsibility for their own health. Another part of our task is to ensure that people who are ill, whether from illness of spirit, mind, or body, are not turned aside or ignored but are given care that allows them to live a full life.”
— Reverend Joseph Johnson, Epworth UMC, Chicago
“Jeremiah asks, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?’ Jeremiah 8:22. I ask why in our country, where we have so many physicians and medical resources, has the health of our people not been restored…
In the gospels, illness is recognized as not only a physical ailment, but is also viewed as isolation from the community. We cannot leave vulnerable people on their own to deal with their illnesses.”
— Associate Pastor Wendy Mathewson, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Evanston
“Virtually all religious traditions agree on the moral law known as the golden rule, where we are called upon to treat others as we wish to be treated. Is there any among us that wants to be turned down for insurance or go bankrupt because of overwhelming medical bills? We are a culture of extreme individualism, which is often one of our virtues, but in this case, our individualism is not helping us solve the problem. We will need a more cooperative response to be successful.”
— Reverend Michael Brown, Interfaith Alliance, Central Illinois Chapter, Peoria
“As a clergyperson serving a local congregation, I witness the need first hand. It breaks this pastor’s heart to hear the desperation in a parent’s voice as they try to secure much needed asthma medication for a child just released from the Emergency Room after an acute attack and not be able to help them with their request. It deeply hurts me when I hear the concerned voice of a wife who is trying to obtain critical medication to keep her husband, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, mentally healthy and not be able to help her with her request.
These calls also leave me wondering, if these are the people reaching out to the church for aid, how many others are there who are in need but don’t call our church for assistance? It is time for health care to be treated as a basic service all people deserve and not as a luxury only the wealthy can afford. I believe that this is a matter of justice, it is a matter of fiscal responsibility and stewardship and it is a matter of improving the overall health and wellbeing of the citizens of the state of Illinois.”
— Reverend Anna Saxon, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Peoria
“It’s impacting our society as a whole, but especially it’s impacting children. And that’s really what moves me and motivates me is when I see, you know, children in a bad situation because mom and dad can’t afford to go to the doctor. Because if they go to the doctor, then child’s not going to have a decent pair of shoes to put on or the refrigerator is going to be empty the coming week. It’s a big impact in people’s lives. And from my standpoint as a pastor here in Mount Vernon, and also am the director/CEO of the South County Youth and Day Care Programs, from where I sit every day and the people that we deal with every day, it’s really devastating to see some of the things that Americans are having to choose from in our society today — and all these things are necessities of life. And how do you choose between eating, clothing your children, have the utilities on, or being treated for your health problems?”
— Reverend James Gordon, Mt. Vernon
Illinois State Capitol
“People’s greatest fear is the terror that a major illness will strike them or a member of their family that could suddenly push them over the edge into poverty. Too many people in the US today frankly cannot afford to be sick. Neither can they afford to take time off from work to go to the doctor. For them, illness becomes a terrorizing situation. The Illinois Conference of Churches has worked to increase access to health care believing it to be a basic human right. In its Public Policy Declaration on Universal Health Care, the churches said: “Health care should not be a commodity bought and sold in the market place where the needs of the privileged are fully met while the needs of the poor are often ignored.” The liberating truth is that access to health care is the greatest safeguard against the terror of poverty.”
— Bishop Warren Freiheit, Central/Southern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, representing the Illinois Council of Churches
“The American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago [are] working together to give honor to God by trying to love the world in which we are placed like God loves that world, that is, not in some warm and fuzzy way but passionately and compassionately caring for those who need it most — those, that is to say, who suffer from human-made injustice. The unjust health care in this state and this nation that allows so much needless suffering and needless death is human-made. It is up to us as human beings to overcome that injustice. I thank you for the central role you are playing in helping us as a state and as a nation to overcome that injustice and bringing into being — with God’s help, I believe — an ever-widening community of health and wholeness, of justice and, yes, passionate and compassionate love.”
— Reverend Larry Greenfield, Executive Director, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
“The book of Isaiah says: “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like a noonday. The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places and make your bones strong. And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail”. (Isaiah 58:10-12)
As a pastor, I have seen people with inadequate and nonexistent health care coverage. These ones are the afflicted in our society. And as such, as a society we will be judged on our ability to ensure that health care is available to all of our citizens.”
— Reverend Jennifer Kottler, Deputy Director, Protestants for the Common Good
“Our health care system is in crisis. It is a crisis of faith. It is a crisis of man. And it is a crisis of government. Nobody is looking to the government to fix the problem, just to be part of the solution. There is a cost to health care, and there is a cost when healthcare is denied. There is a human cost. I challenge you to think broad, to think wide, and to think high outside the box as we attend to the healthcare needs of all people in this state.”
— Reverend Thom Parrot-Sheffer, Pastor at Union Church in Hinsdale (United Church of Christ)
“Here in southern Illinois, we have much to be thankful for, including the presence of many dedicated and highly-qualified healthcare professionals, and the continuing development of healthcare knowledge and technology, but we also need to be ashamed that those professionals, that knowledge, and that technology remain beyond the reach of so many people in our region.
In 1971, 1979, and again in 1992, the Unitarian Universalist association noted serious concern that our healthcare system was growing inordinately expensive, and that inequities in access to that system were only getting worse. We saw with alarm that healthcare was unjustly expensive for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, those who are least capable of affording healthcare services.
I believe that our state can take a leadership role in this area, and that we can design and implement a model healthcare system — one that will become both a catalyst and an example to other states and to this great nation of ours.”
— Reverend William Sasso, Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship
“I urge you to consider that the solution may well lie in finding a simpler and more efficient method of delivering health care. I expect you will find that method a single payer system with one entity responsible for administration and Medicare is such a system with administrative costs of less than 4%. We do not need multiple complex insurance programs. We do not need endless confusing paper work. We do not need arguments over pre-existing conditions. We simply need health care accessible, comprehensive and cost efficient that promotes fairness and quality that stresses prevention and provides timely access.
I will end where I began, as a person of faith urging you to act with justice and compassion, to ignore all special interests and act only for the common good. Give us health care that treats every on of us as equals.”
— Marjorie Parker, Layleader, Illinois South Conference United Church of Christ.
“We are one of the seven churches in McHenry County that operates a PADS program for the homeless. And we have 40 to 50 homeless people staying there every Wednesday night. None of them have health insurance. All of them have huge health needs that are not being met. Ten percent of our own members also do not have any kind of health care coverage. So it’s not a problem just with low income or minority people. It’s a problem with middle class people as well. Those are our experiences of our church and anything that you can do to help, anything that we can do to help, we would be happy to.”
— Reverend Dan Larsen, Congregational Unitarian Church, Woodstock
“In support of our working together to find a satisfactory solution to the increasingly difficult healthcare crisis, I want to reaffirm a resolution of thirty years ago in which I was a participant in which our board of Church and Society, our conference, set forth a policy calling for a new national healthcare program inclusive of every person and every age, every status of life without discrimination against anyone but inclusive of all. This year again a resolution of our Conference Board of Church and Society will be presented for a vote in early June.
I recommend to you that compassion and healing be the primary motivation in developing a healthcare system that is just and inclusive. Thus, I urge implementation of a totally nonprofit healthcare insurance system, a single payer system administered by the Federal Government and inclusive of every citizen and every resident of this nation.”
— Reverend Victor Ramsey, United Congregations of Metro East, Glen Carbon
“Now comes the worries, man-made worries, will she continue to have healthcare in the future? Will my son-in-law be able to find a job that provides healthcare, or if he does find that job and healthcare is provided, will they treat my daughter’s pre-existing condition? These are questions that require your attention today and in the future. They require your attention to recommend legislation to improve our state healthcare system for everyone. We come to you today to ask that you expand upon the concept of universal healthcare for all within our country and within our state to begin with and, hopefully, within our country. We need this desperately. The health and well-being of so many are dependent upon your actions in the future months.”
— Ken Aud, United Congregations of Metro East