TAG | Christian Science
WASHINGTON — Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments — which substitute for or supplement medical treatments — on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual healthcare.”
It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill — Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.
As I wrote back at the time, in this context I could not care less about the separation of church and state, but I do care a great deal about the separation of the taxpayer from his money. Senator Hatch clearly did not.
In the event, the proposed change did not get through, but that Hatch even tried this stunt is a reminder that, when it comes to protecting the taxpayer, Hatch is not a man who can be trusted.
I don’t know what eventually happened to the curious proposal (via Senators Hatch and Kerry) that Obamacare should cover Christian Science prayer ‘treatments’, but it does appear that the notion of religious privilege is alive and well elsewhere in the new healthcare legislation:
Fox News has the details (a phrase that always fills me with anticipation):
Most Americans would have to prove they have insurance or face a fine under the health reform legislation that is now nearing the finish line in Congress, but at least one group won’t have to worry, on religious grounds. Democrats are planning to exempt the Amish and similar religious groups from the health insurance mandate in the final health care bill. That’s because when the Amish need medical care, they go to regular doctors and hospitals and pay in cash often with financial help from their church and neighbors. They rely on each other, not the government or insurance companies as a tenet of their faith. “The Amish believe it’s the fundamental responsibility of the church to care for the material needs of the members of the church,” said Steven Nolt, a professor at Goshen College who has written books on the Plain community of Amish.
“And so they don’t buy commercial health insurance and they don’t participate in public assistance programs.” So while most Americans would be required to sign up with insurance companies or government insurance plans, the church would serve as something of an informal insurance plan for the Amish. Law experts say that kind of exemption withstands scrutiny.
“Here the statue is going to say that people who are conscientiously opposed to paying for health insurance don’t have to do it where the conscientious objection arises from religion,” said Mark Tushnet a Harvard law professor. “And that’s perfectly constitutional.”
This would not be the first time the Amish received this type of special accommodation. Congress exempted this and other communities from Social Security and Medicare taxes since 1965 for the same religious reasons.
I have little doubt that all this is constitutional, but it still leaves the impression that some forms of belief are more equal than others.
Via American Thinker, where there is also speculation that this exemption could also apply to some Muslims. At least on some interpretations of Islamic law health insurance is apparently forbidden.