Should prayers be covered?
By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT)
As the health care battle moved forward last week,
Critics say the proposal would essentially put Christian Science prayer treatments on the same footing as science-based medical care by prohibiting discrimination against "religious and spiritual health care."
While advancing below the radar as debate focuses on larger issues such as the "public option," the Christian Scientists' proviso has begun to stir controversy because it rekindles debate on three long-running and sensitive issues: freedom of religion; the constitutional separation of church and state; and the question of whether faith-based approaches should be treated as equivalent to science-based medicine.
"We are making the case for this, believing there is a connection between health care and spirituality," said Davis, a senior church official, after distributing 11,000 letters.
"We think this is an important aspect of the solution, when you are talking about not only keeping the cost down, but finding effective health care."
On the other side of the issue,
"I think when
Chemerinsky predicts that if the provision becomes law, it will immediately spark court challenges questioning its constitutionality. But other legal scholars, such as
"As long as patients are the ones who choose, and religious choices are given no legal preference or advantage, the proposals would appear to be consistent with constitutional standards," McConnell said.
Christian Science officials and some other supporters of the legislation say it is not a mandate. Instead, they say, it is an instruction to insurers not to discriminate against spiritual care.
Others, including some congressional staff members and legal and health authorities, read it differently.
"It's the opposite of discrimination," said Dr.
Other critics say covering prayer treatments runs counter to the goal of reducing health care costs with evidence-based medical practices. The government's attitude about Christian Science prayer treatments has seemed ambivalent.
Moreover, some federal medical insurance programs, including those for military families, now reimburse for prayer treatment.
At the same time, criminal courts have convicted Christian Scientists in cases where children have died after visiting prayer healers instead of receiving traditional medical care. The church says no such cases have been brought for two decades.
The Christian Science religious tradition has always emphasized the role of trained prayer practitioners. Their job, as outlined by the church's founder,
Practitioners are not regulated by the government, but many buy advertisements in a leading Christian Science publication. The publication requires an application process for the ads that includes the submission of patient testimonials, a practice that church leaders say is tantamount to a vetting process.
Davis has been trained as a practitioner and still occasionally treats the sick. "We'll talk to them about their relationship to G0d," he said. "We'll talk to them about citations or biblical passages they might study. We refer to it as treatment."
During the day, Davis may see multiple patients and pray for them at different moments. He charges them
The outlook for the Christian Science coverage proposal is uncertain.
Final action on health care is still weeks away, and scores of changes and tweaks are likely to be made in the House and
Two House committees voted to include the measure in their versions of the overhaul, but Speaker
So far as the health care overhaul is concerned, the Christian Science provision would apply only to insurance policies offered by a proposed insurance exchange where consumers could shop for policies that meet standards set by the government.
Critics say the effect would be broader, conferring medical legitimacy on practices that lie outside the realm of science.
JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here.
Comment by clicking here.
© 2009,Tribune Co. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.