By Bill Carroll
An Open Letter to My Congressman on Health Care Reform
I sent the following letter to my Congressman, the Hon. Charles Wilson, (Ohio, 6th District). I wrote similar letters to Ohio’s two Senators, George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown. In light of our Church’s clear teaching on universal access to health care, moving in the direction of a single payer, public system, I would urge all brothers and sisters to do likewise. In the letter, the colleague that I quote is the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints, Pasadena.
August 19, 2009
Dear Congressman Wilson:
I am writing to you as a constituent and the pastor of a church in your district. I am also writing you as a father and husband, and the son of aging parents. With these responsibilities in mind, I beg you to do all in your power to pass substantive health care reform. Please don’t listen to the hysterical voices that try to sidetrack us from this crucial debate. For every one of them, there are hundreds of Americans who struggle daily under the current system and want change.
Take our family, for example. Our eight-year-old son Daniel has significant developmental disabilities, and, like many Americans, we live in fear of losing our insurance. He is a walking “preexisting condition,” and the Down Syndrome that affects every system in his body renders him vulnerable to several costly and potentially life threatening illnesses.
We are lucky that the church I serve provides health insurance for our family. This is a huge financial burden for a small congregation. It costs us about $1700/month, a sizeable proportion of my monthly salary. I can only imagine how such expenses affect businesses, large and small, and hamper economic growth.
Even more importantly, however, health care affects real people. Some members of my congregation are not so fortunate as we are. I am writing this letter on their behalf, as well as that of underinsured and uninsured persons throughout Athens County. Many of these folks have turned to me for help when they could not pay for a doctor’s visit or fill a prescription. Others have needs too large for private charity to meet. The people we both serve need justice, not charity.
Our congregation and our diocese, the Diocese of Southern Ohio (82 congregations numbering nearly 30,000 people), have both endorsed universal access to care as the minimum morally acceptable standard. In fact, our church board voted unanimously to endorse these principles. Our denomination also supports universal access, with our eventual goal a publicly funded system. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, from a wide variety of backgrounds, united by our faith, which teaches us to love our neighbor and serve the common good. I am convinced that a public option has to be part of meaningful reform, which really moves us in the direction of healthcare as a public good rather than a private privilege. As a colleague of mine recently observed, “Jesus told his followers to heal the sick. When we turn our back to the sick, we are turning our back to God.”
I wish you well as you return to Washington, and hope that you will be fighting for all of us. I understand that politics is the “art of the possible,” and that compromises will inevitably be made. I want you to know that more may be possible than we think, if we listen to our hopes rather than our fears. I am praying for you and your colleagues as you engage this important debate.
The Rev. R. William Carroll
The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog. He also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.