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NCC joins faith leaders' call for child health plan

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2007 The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) is among more than 20 faith groups pressing for health insurance coverage for many of the nine million uninsured children in America.

Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Episcopal, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders sent a letter to Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging them to produce the $50 billion needed in legislation to expand the successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

"The faith community worked hard to win $50 billion in new funding in the budget resolution. We expect Congressional leaders to use these funds to reach millions of uninsured children in our nation," said the Rev. John Bauman, S.J., executive director of PICO National Network.

The letter, signed by the religious leaders, asks Baucus and Reid to keep their commitment to spend $50 billion over five years to cover as many as six million uninsured children. The letter from faith groups representing 50 million Americans comes during intense closed door negotiations over SCHIP in the Senate. National clergy leaders are making personal appeals to key senators during a week of intense advocacy for children.

PICO National Network and the NCC have generated 9,000 letters to key senators over the past week and organized SCHIP clergy coalitions in key states such Indiana, Kansas and Missouri.

"We want Congressional leaders to understand that people of faith see covering children as our highest legislative priority this year," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC. "In our Christian tradition we follow a Jesus who said, 'Let the little children come to me...'(Luke 18:16). The most vulnerable were priorities for Jesus. Today, our uninsured children are among the most vulnerable."

In addition to Edgar, leaders in ten NCC member communions signed on to the letter. They are: Rev. Michael Livingston, executive director of the International Council of Community Churches (and NCC President); Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (and NCC President-elect); Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president, United Church of Christ; Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, The Episcopal Church.

Also,  Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; James Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church; Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A..

Also Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, national president, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.; Bishop John Richard Bryant, presiding bishop, 5th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. O.C. Edwards, Jr. (Episcopal Church), executive committee and co-chair, NCC's Faith and Order Commission; M. Garlinda Burton, general secretary, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, United Methodist Church; and Virginia R. Holmstrom, executive director, American Baptist Women's Ministries.

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA


June 7, 2007

The Honorable Max Baucus
United States Senate
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2602

Dear Senator Baucus:

As faith leaders we want to recognize your leadership in making covering America's uninsured children a top national priority this year. We thank you for consistently acknowledging the moral imperative that we have as a nation to protect the health of our children.

We speak from a broad range of religious traditions representing many millions of families in urging you to craft SCHIP legislation that will help our nation see a day when no child goes without treatment or relies on an emergency room for his or her primary health care.

As you move forward from broad principles to specific legislative language we ask that you fulfill the commitment Congress made to include $50 billion over five years in additional funding for children's health. The faith community worked extraordinarily hard to see that the Senate and House included $50 billion in new funding in the Budget Resolution. We want to see these funds used to support a strong SCHIP reauthorization.

As you know, most of the nine million uninsured children in the United States are eligible for SCHIP and Medicaid. SCHIP reauthorization needs to include new tools, such as Express Lane Eligibility to cut the red tape for children who also qualify for school lunches, WIC and other programs, along with strong new incentives that encourage and support state efforts to reach and retain eligible children. To assure that eligible children get the coverage they need, states should be given greater flexibility in how they document citizenship.

The majority of States are moving forward under the leadership of Republicans and Democrats alike to cover more children and many are expanding eligibility. A hallmark of SCHIP's success has been the flexibility given to states to meet the particular needs of their children and families. SCHIP reauthorization should provide states with the ability to expand income-eligibility and the option to cover pregnant women and legally documented immigrant children. States that see covering parents as a way of covering more children should not be undermined.

The religious community is engaged in an unprecedented grassroots campaign to rally people of faith to seize the opportunity this year to cover millions of uninsured children. Through hundreds of local events, tens of thousands of contacts with Members of Congress and scores of op-ed pieces and letters-to-the editor, people of faith are making their voices heard on the need for a strong SCHIP Reauthorization. We stand ready to support faithful action on behalf of our children.

With your continued leadership we see a day when all children in our nation receive the health care they need to grow into healthy and productive members of society.

For more information please contact Gordon Whitman, Policy Director, PICO National Network (


Father John Baumann, S.J., Executive Director PICO National Network

Reverend Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Reverend Michael Livingston, Executive Director International Council of Community Churches

Reverend John H. Thomas, General Minister and President United Church of Christ

Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop & Primate The Episcopal Church

Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Reverend Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

Reverend A. Roy Medley, General Secretary American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Reverend Dr. William J. Shaw, National President National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Bishop John Richard Bryant, Presiding Bishop, 5th Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church

Reverend Jim Wallis, Chief Executive Officer Sojourners/Call to Renewal

Kevin E. Lofton, FACHE, President and CEO Catholic Health Initiatives

Father O.C. Edwards, Jr. (Episcopal Church), Executive Committee and Co-Chair Faith and Order Commission, National Council of Churches USA

M. Garlinda Burton, General Secretary, General Commission on the Status & Role of Women, United Methodist Church

Virginia R. Holmstrom, Executive Director American Baptist Women's Ministries

Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women

Sister Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, National Coordinator National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

cc: Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid


NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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