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Friday, March 14, 2014

Rep. Schock Pushes For Religious Exemption From Health Law

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., is pictured on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., is pictured on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

There are just a few weeks until the Mar. 31 deadline for sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and many are still unhappy with the idea of mandatory healthcare.

Earlier this week, the House passed a bill allowing individuals to opt out of mandatory health insurance by writing “sincerely held religious beliefs” on their tax return, along with a sworn statement explaining their objection.

The Equitable Access to Care and Health Act (EACH) was sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois and heavily lobbied by the Christian Science church.

Although there was strong support from both sides of the aisle, some Democrats argued that allowing people to opt out of the bill could cost American taxpayers when uninsured individuals turn up in the emergency room after accidents or other emergencies.

Other opponents, including Rita Swan of the children’s healthcare advocacy group Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), who is a former Christian Scientist herself, are concerned the bill will encourage Christian Science parents and members of other religious sects to not seek medical treatment for their children, which could cost them their lives.

Congressman Schock joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the religious exemption bill that he hopes will make it through the Senate.

Interview Highlights: Aaron Schock

On his reasoning for sponsoring the bill

“I take my oath of office very seriously, and that oath is to protect and defend the Constitution, which guarantees the practice of religion to its citizens. And we don’t just protect the majority religious view in our country. We protect even the most minority religious belief, even if it’s just a single American citizen. In the case of Christian Scientists, they represent tens of thousands of constituents of mine in Illinois. We have one of the only Christian Scientist universities in the country in Illinois, Principia College. But there are Christian Scientists that live all over the country, and they believe in the power of healing. They do not participate in the traditional health care delivery system as we know it here in our country. And so, on April 1 of this year, they have a choice that they are going to have to make, which is continue to practice their faith or violate their religious conscience to avoid attacks by the federal government. And that’s really not in keeping with the promise made in our founding documents and the oath of office that we all take as members of Congress, to protect and defend religious liberty.”

On comparison to Massachusetts’ health law exemption 

“Since 2006, since the law in Massachusetts was enacted, only 6,000 Bay Staters have taken the exemption. So in relative terms, it’s actually a small number in the overall millions of people that live in Massachusetts and have benefited from your health care law. And at the end of the day, regardless of the number, how big or how small, what’s important, first and foremost, in our Constitution and our founding documents, is people’s ability to practice their religious beliefs. This law ensures that.”

On the possibility of people exploiting the exemption

“If at some point they decide they want to enter the traditional health care system, they want to show up at the emergency room for care, they want to go to a primary care physician for preventative care — then, there’s this stiff financial penalty that’s put in place, similar to the Massachusetts law, so that if somebody is trying to skirt the system and not buy health care, and then seeks medical attention, then they have to pay back taxes, back fees and a stiff financial penalty for doing so.”

Guest

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. The House voted again today to delay the requirement that individuals buy insurance by March 31st. The Senate isn't likely to agree. So some members of Congress are scrambling ahead of the deadline to pass a bill exempting people opposed to medical care on religious grounds.

The Affordable Care Act already exempts the Amish and Mennonites, but a bill passed in the House this week also exempts, for instance, Christian Scientists with sincerely held religious beliefs. People who have to state that on their tax returns, and that prompted Representative Henry Waxman to take to the floor during debate to ask how would that be checked?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY WAXMAN: This is impossibly difficult to enforce, and frankly it is not a role we want the IRS to take on. If the IRS chose to define sincerely held religious beliefs broadly, HR1814 could allow essentially anyone opposed to the Affordable Care Act to opt out of coverage.

YOUNG: The group CHILD or Children's Health Care is a Legal Duty also worries that children will not be insured because of the exemption. Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock is the House bill's sponsor. He joins us now. Congressman, welcome.

REPRESENTATIVE AARON SCHOCK: Thank you, Robin, it's great to be with you.

YOUNG: And what was your personal interest in this bill? Are you Christian Scientist, or do you hold these beliefs?

SCHOCK: You know, I'm not, but I take my oath of office very seriously, and that oath is to protect and defend the Constitution, which guarantees the practice of religion to its citizens. And we don't just protect the majority religious view in our country. We protect even the most minority religious belief, even if it's just a single American citizen.

In the case of Christian Scientists, they represent tens of thousands of constituents of mine in Illinois. We have one of the only Christian Scientist universities in the country in Illinois, Principia College. But there are Christian Scientists that live all over the country, and they believe in the power of healing. They do not participate in the traditional health care delivery system as we know it here in our country.

And so they have a choice that they are going to have to make, which is continue to practice their faith or violate their religious conscience to avoid attacks by the federal government.

YOUNG: Well, there's some precedent for this thinking here in Massachusetts. Former Governor Mitt Romney had a similar exemption in this state's mandatory health care, of course which started years ago. It allowed individuals to opt out for religious reasons. And in this state, over 6,000, 6,500 people claimed a religious exemption.

SCHOCK: Only 6,000 Bay Staters have taken the exemption. So in relative terms, it's actually a small number. What's important first and foremost in our Constitution and our founding documents is people's ability to practice their religious beliefs. This law ensures that. And it's why the bill was voted on by acclamation. It had 216 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, which is unprecedented.

And the Senate companion is sponsored by the likes of Kelly Ayotte, by Senator Durbin, by Senator Schultz of Alaska, Senator Bernie Sanders. It's certainly not a conservative group. It's a pretty broad section of the House and of the Senate, both recognizing that regardless of our belief of the underlying bill of the Affordable Care Act, at the end of the day we want to make sure we uphold people's ability to practice their religion.

YOUNG: But how does your bill ensure that people won't take advantage of your exemption as a way to get out of health care coverage?

SCHOCK: If at some point they decide they want to enter the traditional health care system, they want to show up at the emergency room for care, they want to go to a primary care physician for preventative care, then there's a stiff financial penalty. They have to pay back taxes, back fees and a stiff financial penalty for doing so.

YOUNG: As I read it, it looks as if there are only a few things that people can do. Optometry is one, they can get glasses; chiropracty for some reason is in there. But there are a few things that people can do and still opt out of insurance coverage in your bill.

SCHOCK: Right. That means that they can seek that coverage on their own, basically meaning they can pay out of pocket. But it goes so far to say if you show up in the emergency room, and you have exempted yourself from the Affordable Care Act, and you attempt to pay for emergency room services with cash, you will obligated under the Affordable Care Act to pay the penalties, fines and back taxes.

So you cannot access traditional health care in any sense under this provision and not be held accountable under the Affordable Care Act. So it's why - look, this is a big, overwhelming, bipartisan support. Henry Waxman, his concerns were not so grave that he actually voted against the bill.

YOUNG: Well, let's go to some of those concerns because they go directly to what you were saying. Both Congressman Waxman and Levin said that as you just described, it is not always how it works. Very often, people who don't have coverage based on their religious faith end up in the emergency room through an accident, for instance. They're not able to speak with anyone, and they are given emergency medical care, which is paid for by the taxpayer.

And then there's the other question, and let's raise this. As you well know, the organization CHILD, which is concerned about children of parents who don't opt for medical care, the group's president is a former Christian Scientist whose child died because she said she followed church teachings and didn't treat the child. She says parents like her may not comprehend the risk they're taking with their child's life if they believe the government is endorsing their actions through legislation like yours, and further that churches could use laws like yours, religious exemption laws, as evidence that legislators, the government, agree with them, that things like Christian Science can heal disease as effectively as medical care.

What do you say to those two concerns, one that these people often have care paid for by taxpayers anyway, and two that your law would seem to be endorsing their choice?

SCHOCK: Well, that would make my law unconstitutional. Rather, the current law is unconstitutional. Our Constitution says that Congress shall make no laws either supporting or opposing religious practice. And as it's currently written, we have a law that opposes certain religious practice, and that is why the Congress overwhelmingly needs to change the underlying Affordable Care Act.

I'm not interested in getting into a debate about which religion is good and bad, which religious beliefs I support or don't support. I don't believe that's the role of Congress. And so I think that's a very dangerous slope for us to go down to legislate, and so for me to advocate for a law that would make it illegal for someone to practice their Christian Scientist faith I think is un-American.

YOUNG: Well, and people like Rita Swan of the group CHILD, they don't see it as a question of religious belief, they see it as child endangerment. I'm looking at just a couple of cases from members of the Church of the First Born, a church that also endorses faith healing. Two sets of parents had children die because they didn't treat them, in one case for appendicitis and in another case for diabetes.

One set of parents, the Rossiters, was arrested on charges of manslaughter. Rita Swan, again from CHILD, her point is that legislation like yours would seem to be endorsing what she sees as not a religious belief but child endangerment.

SCHOCK: I don't know what to say other than I disagree. The State of Massachusetts has seen the need to pass a similar law. There has not been a great upheaval in that state. I would hardly claim the state of Massachusetts or its legislature is a conservative, right-wing group. And if the Massachusetts lawmakers saw it fit to protect and defend Christian Scientists' right to practice their religion in the state of Massachusetts, I would hope to think that the rest of us in 49 states would be able to do the same.

YOUNG: That's Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock. He sponsored the Equitable Access to Care and Health Act. You can find out more at hereandnow.org. Congressman Schock, thanks so much for speaking with us.

SCHOCK: Thank you, you have a good day.

YOUNG: You, too.

And next week we'll speak with Rita Swan. Again, her child died because at the time she was following Christian Science teachings. She opposes the exemption for the sincerely religious because of children. Your thoughts, we've love to hear them. Weigh in at hereandnow.org.

You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • Tim Rohe

    Regardless of what you think of this particular bill, the idea that “Obamacare” is unconstitutional based on Rep. Schock’s First Amendment reasoning is ridiculous. Both federal and state governments have passed laws regulating religious practice (see: polygamy), just as they have passed laws to regulate the other rights enshrined in the First Amendment, like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The only institution that gets to decide whether or not something is unconstitutional is the Supreme Court and they’ve already ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act as it stands. I also don’t see this Bill passing the Senate or being signed into law by President Obama.

    • LindaW

      Just what I was thinking when he kept saying Congress can’t Constitutionally pass any laws that affect religious practice. We don’t allow human sacrifice, even if it is a tenant of some religions (Aztec, Thugi). So yes, you have a right to practice your religion, so long as that practice does not infringe on the rights of others.
      In this case, if you have a religious objection to insurance (it’s gambling after all) your opting out is fine so far as it does not affect others. I don’t see a problem with the bill Rep. Schock is advocating, but I disagree whole heartedly with the argument he is making in support of it.

  • Jfarrdad

    According the Rep. Shock’s reading of the first amendment, I wonder how he feels about tax exemptions for religions.

    • reuben

      Presumably he is also in favor of allowing followers of some Native American religions to use hallucinogenic drugs and Rastafarians to smoke weed and Pastafarians to gorge themselves on noodles. I think that last one might already be okay.

  • Tom_in_Quinebaug

    There is no obligation to risk the public health to indulge a theological construct

  • Hannah

    If a consenting adult wishes to follow their faith and not use conventional medical intervention then that is their right. But children are not consenting adults and should be given the scientifically proven care that can save them from dying of curable ailments. Let adults make their own choices, but kids can’t choose or make informed decisions about their faith or medical care. Kids should not suffer because of their parents beliefs.

    • Shibboleth

      The Supreme Court agreed with you in the 1940′s in a decision about a kid distributing religious pamphlets with their parent, and you’re referencing far more potentially endangering circumstances than that. But occasionally in this country judges have given parents, those who rely on prayer, a period of leeway to see whether the child’s health improves or not before compelling them to seek conventional medical help.

  • Yar

    So is changing religious affiliation a life event that qualifies to change health coverage? Since religion is often connected to family relationships choice to have coverage may be made by one one person for the entire family. Paying for healthcare does not obligate a person to use it, so it doesn’t violate religious principles. Choosing not to participate has a tax penalty, all perfectly legal in our society.

  • Sue Royston

    I believe we all have the right to our religion as it affects our own body, but I do NOT believe we have the right to impose that on our children. They can choose what they do with their bodies when they become adults, but until then, children need to be protected! I was 14 and had hemorrhaged for 21 days before my father took me to the ER for blood transfusions, 3 pints in the first 30 minutes. My Grandmother asked my Mother to ask me if she could pray for me rather than being hospitalized. My Mother is a Christian Scientist but was not practicing at that time and said no. I would have died had I not received the transfusions. I have been there and I am glad to be alive…..had my Grandmother had her way I would not be.

  • not a faith healer

    This is ridiculous. Could we include a card that “faith healing” believers carry that make hospitals and doctors exempt from the responsibility of saving their lives in emergency situations? As long as we the tax payer are responsible for the emergency care of faith healing believers then faith healing believers need to be responsible for the cost of that care. If they want to opt out, then we should get the same option.

    And I certainly hope that every child that is harmed due to parents who
    refuse to care for their children are punished accordingly.

    • KarlaV

      If you listened to/read the story, not a faith healer, Schock said that such a person could get emergency care, but would pay a stiff fine and back taxes as a result, correct? And you may not agree with Christian Science, but it is NOT faith healing. Lastly: the next time a child dies under medical care, should we as a society carry out what you outline in your last paragraph? I would think not. A perfect time for the lesson of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ (PS it is not “refusing to care” for children; it is sometimes caring for children in a way that might be different than your way.)

  • Steve Hassan

    As a Board member of the Child Friendly Faith Project, I was blown away by listening to Rita Swan’s story of how she was bullied and coerced to remain “faithful” and not do what her and her husbands deep parental instincts were telling them to do- to bring their little boy to the hospital.

    I am all for praying for healing, and respecting people’s rights to believe, but I believe freedom to think and have free will is at the heart of all religion.

    I also wish to point out that members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are indoctrinated to believe receiving a blood transfusion is a grave sin- and are arguing that 11 year old children are “mature adults” and should have the right to refuse a life saving treatment. I really applaud “Here and Now” for getting this into the public airwaves for reconsideration. I truly believe wealthy and powerful lobbyists are behind the passage of this law as opposed to broad support by citizens of America in the 21st century.

  • Tom Carlyle

    Rep. Shock and others are mostly indulging in election year posturing. The list of legal requirements and restrictions imposed on various religious groups, from Mormons to Santeria to members of identity Christian cults, is very long. But
    the “religion loophole” has been opened recently by those on the extreme right in order to play to their hate-oriented base. But even Jan Brewer was not willing to go there with them. There are provisions in the ACA, as passed by Congress and reviewed by the Supreme Court, that already allow people of sincere faith to opt out.
    True, they still must pay their fair share of the public system, but the Supreme Court has consistently rejected religious pretexts for evading civic participation in public initiatives. This includes religious objectors to the income tax, to military spending, to
    public education, to desegregation, and so on.

    What Shock is advocating is a free pass on the basis of the religion loophole. Having a religion does not exempt citizens from their civic duty to obey public ordinances, pay taxes, or participate in the life of the republic that has afforded
    them the safety and freedom to worship as they please. They can still follow their faith, but they will nevertheless have to pay their income tax, their FICA, their property tax, and yes the stipend required for the ACA. They are required to pay that; they are not required to seek or receive medical care they reject on religious
    grounds–just as employees must pay their share of FICA even if on moral, religious, or political grounds they vow never to apply for Social Security benefits. If Rep. Shock and his faction were to have their way, they would likely propose an exemption on religious grounds for FICA too. In fact, the planning is doubtless in place for that right now. His party has been seeking just this sort of loophole
    to destroy Social Security for more than 70 years.

  • Gilberto

    Hey, I’m a member of the Power or Prayer Church. I believe sincere prayer can solve all problems. It can ward off disease, prevent crime, and stop fires. Dear Mr. Shock: can I get out of paying my police & fire protection taxes too? Thanks!

  • Charles Soto

    So, we should set free Abu Anas al-Libi and similar muslim terrorists because their religious beliefs are deeply held, so the government’s prohibition of their killing American infidels is therefore unconstitutional.

  • Chris Tolley

    Hmmm. Am I wrong to think it is not against someones religious beliefs to PAY for health care? I thought it would only be against their beliefs to accept the care that the insurance provided. The paying of the premium could be simply thought of as a cost of citizenship much in the way the Amish pay for paving of roads and street lights even though they don’t drive cars.

    Does this not make the constitutional point moot as there is no actual violation in the act of paying for the coverage?

    • Unaff

      Amish in my community drive their buggies….on the road and don’t appear to swerve around the lighted areas.

    • Shibboleth

      Chris, You are absolutely correct in pointing this out. Rep. Schock is incorrect in thinking that the ACA causes Christian Scientists to violate their belief system when it is essentially a tax and not a medical enforcement mechanism of the state. I am a Christian Scientist, and I have no problem with something like the ACA though I believe the US should have more like a single-payer system to make medical care more affordable and remove the insurance industry as middle men.

  • Ken Stringer

    Others here have been accurate and eloquent on the most important issues. I would just like to point out three examples of statements made by Mr. Schock which were either untrue, half-true, or made to paint a deceptive picture. UNTRUE: He stated that Senator Bernie Sanders is a co-sponsor of the bill. This is completely false. Was this an innocent mistake or does Mr. Schock realize that many NPR listeners might well be disposed to back a bill they thought Sen. Sanders was for? HALF-TRUE: That Rep. Henry Waxman did not vote against the bill. Mr. Waxman made it exceedingly clear that it was a bad bill and that he was opposed to it. That he did not stay in the chamber to participate in a perfunctory voice vote against a bill that already had enough co-sponsors to pass is an irrelevancy. The die was cast when the Republican leadership pulled the bill out of committee without any hearings or public input. DECEPTIVE: Mr. Schock kept pointing to Massachusetts’ religious exemption in its healthcare law and how wonderfully he thought it was working with little or no impact on the functioning of the law; also that it was passed by a very liberal legislature. What he didn’t say, and what the moderator did not point out, is that the Christian Science Church is headquartered in Boston and wields a great deal of political influence in the state. Legislators in Massachusetts cross the Church at their political peril. Not only is Mr. Schock misguided on the policy, but he wrong on facts.

  • sandtrees

    Interesting interview. Christian Science is Christian healing, though it’s not faith healing. It is part of Christian Science practice to seek mainstream medical care when necessary. Many Christian Scientists have found their practice so effective, they’ve never needed mainstream medical care.

    • Shibboleth

      sandtrees: You are correct….except that too many Christian Scientists (including perhaps the Swans and those involved in their case) have interpreted their faith as saying, “Don’t ever seek conventional medical care” which it does not say. Christian Scientists are paying the price for too much unclarity and confusion on this point, and there have been what anyone would call abuse and needless deaths which have resulted. It’s time for the Christian Science Church to recognize that their faith very much allows for surgery, pain relief, and “temporary means” when prayer is not helping.

      • KarlaV

        (If this is a repeat, I apologize; I posted once and the comment vanished, so I am going to try to recreate it): Shibboleth, I could not agree more. But my understanding is that Rita Swan had medical care herself shortly before her son’s passing. If that is true, it would be another proof that Christian Scientists have complete freedom to get what healthcare they believe to be best.

        • Alexis

          I am getting tired of hearing that Rita Swan didn’t have a choice to choose medical care or was coerced by the church. Of course she had a choice; every parent has one. I think that the CS Church needs to make sure their members feel supported in whatever healthcare choices they make. If prayer does not seem to be helping the church and its members need to support a person’s decision to get medical help.

          • Shibboleth

            Alexis, This is part of the problem with EACH Act that seeks an exemption from the ACA for Christian Scientists and others. By the way the law is worded, it “compels” those who request an exemption from paying for medical insurance to not seek medical care for reasons not as much maybe for religious reasons as for financial ones. If you swear that you’re not going to go to the doctor, but for some circumstance or reason, you later do, then you are whammed not just by the total medical bill, but with a penalty. It’s something like adding super insult to injury, and it runs totally counter to the effort of the ACA—to both protect families from financial ruin and keep people from unnecessary trips to the ER—while also diluting the pool of those paying for insurance, thus adding to everyone’s premiums. So in the name of religious freedom, the EACH Act does not really provide support of a church for its people but instead it has the potential to amount to religious and financial roulette for at least some of those who seek exemption.

        • Shibboleth

          Karla, It is true. She said in her 1980 interview with People Magazine that she had surgery for a cyst on her ovaries prior to Matthew’s illness. She also said she received criticism for that, but think how you would act as a parent. You might be reluctant to take yourself to the doctor but not your kid when they were suffering, so I don’t understand what she was thinking at the time. I do, however, sympathize with Mrs. Swan’s feeling a lot of peer pressure whether from the practitioner or church members NOT to go to the doctor. That peer pressure has to totally disappear and be replaced with unconditional love.

          • Alexis

            Shibboleth, a difficult situation for Rita Swan for sure. And I do feel great compassion for her and her loss. I couldn’t agree more with your point about unconditional love replacing peer pressure. For me the point of Christian Science is not avoiding doctors; the point is learning about God’s love and healing in all situations and the ability to follow what you feel is right. I am tired of hearing CS’s and others define CS as healing without medicine; I don’t define it that way — I think of it as healing with God’s power and love.

          • Shibboleth

            Yes!

  • erdoc

    As an ER doc and a EMS physician I listened to this broadcast with interest. I have a few observations.

    It is the rare person who believes in faith healing that doesn’t call 911 or go to the ER when the chips are down. I have given blood to Jehovah’s Witnesses several times and felt their gratitude afterward.

    If a child needs emergency medical care and the parents refuse it the child will be taken into custody and treated. It gets dicey in the latter teenage years. Bottom line – we err on the side of life.

    The host made a statement that if a person who doesn’t have insurance goes to an ER that the taxpayer picks up the bill. This is not correct. It is the doctor and the hospital that picks up the bill. Most ER doctors only collect about 28¢ on every dollar billed (granted it is still a lot).

    So when I see a patient who doesn’t pay – I don’t get payed – no help from the taxpayer. (we can’t write it off either)

    Further, I’m required by law to treat that patient. Yes, I have to provide care for free if I work in an ER. I would have it no other way – that’s why I work in an ER. The same is true for most of us.

    • pennyroyal

      my aunt, a lifelong Christian Science practitioner, in her last weeks woke up unable to breath and told the CS facility she was in, “take me to a hospital. I can’t breathe.” She had pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She did die in a CS home but only after a hospitalization, digitalis, anti-biotics for the pneumonia and making the choice to return to her prior course.

    • JJ2014

      Doc, please do not think that your “happing ending” antidotal experiences with adult Jehovah’s Witnesses and children of Jehovah’s Witnesses is every other doctor’s or hospital’s experience. There are a few stray hospitals, particularly in California, where administrators, particularly ethicists, have been brainwashed, if not infiltrated, into NOT seeking custody of JW children needing life-saving blood transfusions. There have also been situations where court-ordered custody came too late. As for JW adults, they refuse blood transfusions and die with regularlity — despite your personal experience of a few who assumedly secretly accepted blood transfusions. How many of those alleged JWs who accepted a blood transfusion under your care did so with the WatchTower Society’s Hospital Liason Committee onsite?

  • Diogenes67

    Why not let people opt-out of paying taxes by writing “sincerely held religious beliefs” on thier tax return aong with a sworn statement explaining thier objection?

  • Laserlynn

    As of this date the Christian Science record of healing is almost 150 years old. During that period thousands of individuals, including children, have been healed through the practice of spiritual healing. Several commentators have expressed concern for children who died because they were “subjected” to Christian Science treatment rather than referred to medical treatment. What is rarely mentioned is that there are far more children being healed after having been given up for incurable by the medical establishment than there are children who have died because of being treated through Christian Science. The latter is a rare occurrence.

    In the early 20th century William Randolph Hearst, one of the major newspaper owners and publishers of his day, forbade any of his papers to publish attacks on Christian Science or its Founder, Mary Baker Eddy, because his son whose case had been given up by the doctors, was healed by Christian Science treatment. Our family has relied on Christian Science for healing for 5 generations now. We have trusted our children’s care to spiritual means in both routine and severe cases of illness.

    It is a reliable form of health care. Newcomers to Christian Science when it was first being taught to the public, were willing to pay quite large sums of money to Mary Baker Eddy in order to learn how to heal.

    Christian Scientists deserve to be exempted from having to purchase health insurance, because they have to pay for Christian Science treatment already, which is not covered by most health insurance carriers. No exemption under Obamacare would mean they would have to double pay: they would have to pay the Christian Science practitioner who treats them or their child AND they would pay for an insurance plan that does not even cover that treatment, resulting in double taxation, not a fair or just practice.

    • Shibboleth

      But the Christian Scientists whom I have spoken with haven’t read the “fine print” of HR 1814 that would require them to not just “double pay” for two types of insurance but, if for some reason, they ended up in a hospital after signing on to the exemption request, they would be required to pay both the total hospital bill plus the ACA penalty. When the subject of vaccination came up way back in 1901, the church’s founder said, “Let your children be vaccinated if it’s compulsory, and then know the vaccine can’t hurt them.” I believe, if she were with us today, her advice regarding a compulsory national health plan might well be, “Go ahead and get a relatively cheap ACA plan (with a high deductible!) and know by your prayers that it will not be needed.” The fight for exemptions didn’t really happen when she was around.

      • Ingrid Sonnichsen

        Thank you!~ As a Christian Scientist, I find this to be an intelligent comment! I hate the idea that we as Christian Scientists are refusing to join the citizens of this country in a first attempt at universal health care (long over-due, and it should have been single payer but it’s a great first step!) If only the insurance plans would offer to cover practitioners that would solve a lot of this mess! That’ would be a solution worth fighting for – not a complete refusal to participate.

        • Shibboleth

          Ingrid, The problem for those who have no belief in or knowledge about spiritual healing is that giving money to those who pray for you would be to them like giving money to the Tooth Fairy. That problem explains some of the skepticism in blogs like this. But a large part of the fault here lies with the Christian Scientists because over the past hundred years as conventional medicine has vastly improved its standards of accountability, the Christian Scientists have not done so. Their testimonies of healing are too anecdotal, therefore unbelievable to the average person. If the practice of Christian Science was well regulated and subject to independent verifications, the average person might be open to a law that included payments for practitioners. And I am a practitioner!

  • Marc

    I am a fourth generation Christian Scientist and have only known it to be a supportive denomination. One thing is that it is a system of care. There are Christian Science practitioners, nurses, and nursing facilities to access. All the generations of children in my family have been well cared for and safe. My uncle was healed of medically diagnosed polio as a child, my son received immediate recovery through prayer in a snowboarding accident, so I trust my family health to this system of care. I am grateful that Obamacare helps families get coverage they need. Like any parent, the well being of my children is top priority and has always been met through Christian Science, so that is why I am so grateful for EACH. And yes, if it was necessary that my child, or myself for that matter, needed medical care to ensure well being, I would use it and take full financial responsibility.

  • Clary

    From what I’ve heard, it’s not a church doctrine that people can’t have insurance or get medical care when a situation demands it. And I think Christian Science is totally different from faith healing. Lots of children die under medical care, too. Something to consider…

  • Steph Gardener

    When we offer an exclusion based on religion, we essentially drop away the safety net for tens of thousands of minors that have no say in their medical care. If a parent suddenly has a change of heart and wants to take their child to the hospital for urgent care, they now are prohibited not by their religious beliefs, but the many penalties that are imposed upon them. It’s a catch 22 for the child.

    How many times have we seen parents deny life-saving medical care to minors,
    only to have the courts step in to protect the child. (This just happened in the UK a couple of weeks ago: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-26420908) It happens with Jehovah’s Witnesses every day regarding blood transfusions. If that’s not bad enough, these same children are coerced into saying they will refuse this treatment because it’s what they want. (Read Anna Macaluso’s harrowing story here, and the lengths she went to to save her life while a teenager: http://aawa.co/blog/saving-my-life-with-a-blood-transfusion/) If minors are not old enough to drink alcohol, marry, vote, go to war, or make any number of important life decisions, how are they possible capable of choosing life or death while under unethical social influence?

    We need to keep this safety net to protect children, allowing them to grow up into free-thinking adults capable of making their own life and death decisions, without coercion.

  • Mr Moto

    So will we hear another view on “here and now”? Like how many busnisess can hide behind relligion to deny health benefits and birth control benefits to those employees who need them?

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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