By Janette Williams, Pasadena Star News Staff Writer
PASADENA - In a speech broadcast live Wednesday to All Saints Church and congregations nationwide, President Barack Obama called on people of faith to make their voices heard in the push for universal health care.
The "40 Minutes for Health Reform" call-in and audio Web cast drew more than 100 people to All Saints in an event notably lacking in protests or disruptions.
The president, whose remarks were punctuated by applause from the All Saints audience, struck some familiar notes on "affordable and accessible" health care.
But this time he urged people of different religious denominations to come together and "knock down ... the false witness" of opponents and the "extraordinary lies" circulating.
"It's time for any man or woman of faith ... to show the way," he said. "One thing we all share is the moral conviction that this goes to the heart of who we are as a people."
The president spoke of the "misinformation" circulating on health care proposals.
He cited "distortions" that had people wrongly believing illegal aliens would be covered when they are "specifically not," and false rumors that abortions would be funded. He also discredited the portrayal of voluntary counseling for the elderly on living wills or end-of-life wishes as "death panels" promoting euthanasia.
No one in America should be denied coverage because they are ill or have a pre-existing condition, Obama said, and no one should be "pushed to the edge of ruin" when insurance doesn't cover the cost of care.
The president spoke after Melody Barnes, head of his Domestic Policy Council, answered questions about the nuts and bolts of the health-care reform effort.
A handful of speakers told of personal problems with health care, and rabbis and pastors from around the county gave a round-up of what their congregations were doing to push the cause of universal health care
Among them, Jim Wallis of Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace, said there was "deep concern" among people of faith about the nature of the debate.
"The shouting, even hatred," he said. "We're in danger of losing the moral core of this debate."
A "steady moral drumbeat" must come from the faith community, he said, and a "clear call for truth-telling in this debate."
The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints said the national project was to inform and encourage religious communities to "come together around the issue and step up and speak out" about the need for universal access to affordable health care.
Led by Faith in Public Life, the program is organized by, among others, the Episcopal Church, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches in Christ and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
Tim Moffett, a former All Saints parishioner, said he hadn't been sure what to expect of the event.
"I expected the same old, same old," he said. "But it wasn't. I got more clear facts ... and now I want to keep the conversation going."