Virtual Voices

Faith and healthcare

Religion

"The single best indicator of how a person will vote is how he or she worships God," says pollster Frank Luntz in What Americans Really Want . . . Really. Does Luntz's insight apply to the way people view healthcare reform?

He notes that there is indeed "a partisan difference in religion," whereas 60 percent of Republicans attend church on a weekly basis, only 25 percent of Democrats attend worship. "Evangelicals are heavily Republican," Luntz says, adding that "atheists and agnostics are almost exclusively Democrats." For the most part, these numbers square with the Pew Forum's Religious Landscape Survey.

Last week I spoke as a panelist at a healthcare forum sponsored by a Republican organization in an upscale neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Because the forum was advertised as a community event, I assumed there would be a broad spectrum of political views represented in the audience. In other words, I was prepared to take some flak for my conservative views. When a minister opened the program in prayer and almost every head bowed, I thought I might have been on friendly turf, but I still wasn't sure. Due to the nature of the questions from the 130-person audience it became clear that most of the crowd was opposed to and fearful of Congress' plans for healthcare reform. I was on friendly turf. But it wasn't because most people in the audience prayed. Lots of praying people don't share this Orthodox Presbyterian's views on what Congress has been doing lately.

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Was the room filled primarily with church-going Republicans? Most likely. Does that mean that most supporters of healthcare reform are atheist Democrats? Hardly.

True, most supporters of the current versions of healthcare reform, according to the Pew Forum, are Democrats, while less than one-in-five are conservative, white evangelical Republicans. Yet, as of last March, a large number of Americans supported at least a government guarantee of healthcare insurance. This group included elements of the Christian community, consisting of 48 percent of white evangelicals, 55 percent of Catholics, and 56 percent of mainline Protestants. The Pew Forum also notes that Christian organizations and churches with left-leaning political views are organized and very much in favor of the efforts of Congress. An organization called "Faith for Health," a coalition of 33 left-leaning Christian organizations and denominations, is running a sophisticated program that includes congregational guides and grassroots informational campaigns for Christians and Jews. Among the coalition are eight large Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the United Methodist Church. Meanwhile, the "Freedom Federation," a coalition of mostly politically active Christian groups represents some Christians from the right.

Is one's faith the single best indicator of the way Americans feel about congressional efforts for healthcare reform? The Pew Forum claims a person's political affiliation is more reliable. But evidently denominational affiliation can be a good indicator as well. Clearly, there's a connection between one's faith and one's view of healthcare reform.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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