Faith-Healing Mandate Nixed from Senate Health Care Reform Bill

Victory! Christian Science Provision not in Merged Health Care Reform Bill

November 20, 2009

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to report that the mandate requiring private medical insurers to reimburse for "religious or spiritual health care" was not included in the merged health care reform bill that Sens. Reid, Baucus and Dodd have sent to the Senate floor. This provision was previously removed from the House version of the bill. This action removes the language that would have mandated payment to Christian Scientist practitioners for "faith-healing" expenses. This is a great victory for the separation of church and state, and a deserved defeat for the Christian Science lobby—responsible for the passage in most states of "faith-healing" exemptions to protect parents from prosecution when they fail to seek medical treatment for gravely ill children on religious grounds.

The bill, HR3590, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, just passed through the Congressional Budget Office's analysis and will soon be voted on in the Senate.

Leading this effort was Rita Swan, director of Children's Health Care is a Legal Duty (CHILD), based in Iowa. CHILD has been working since 1983 to "protect children from abusive religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect."

Rita wrote to FFRF:

"Thank you, good friends, for your contacts to Congress. It's bad enough that the Internal Revenue Service allows Christian Science prayer-treatment bills to be deducted as a medical care expense and that some federal government employee plans pay bills for Christian Science prayer-treatment. It would have been so awful to have a federal law calling prayer medical care and requiring insurance companies to pay for it. It could have pre-empted the child neglect laws in this country and made it impossible to require parents to obtain real medical care for their children. The final product shows that the Senate listened to your many calls and letters. With appreciation, Rita."

 

While there is reason to celebrate, Rita said the Christian Science church has claimed they will have floor amendments introduced and also try to add their religious health care mandate in conference. This may mean that more action on this may be needed in the future.

"Thank you to all the many Foundation members who contacted members of Congress to stop this unconstitutional provision. Congress should act to protect children from medical neglect, not encourage it," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

For more information, see previous Action Alerts from Sept. 30 and Oct. 30.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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