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(RNS) Atheists are celebrating and Christian Scientists are worried now that a provision requiring private medical insurers to reimburse for “religious or spiritual health care” has not been included in the Senate’s health care reform bill.
In a news release headlined “Victory!”, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said the deleted language “would have mandated payment to Christian Scientist practitioners for `faith-healing’ expenses.” The Madison, Wis.-based foundation called it a “great victory for the separation of church and state and a deserved defeat for the Christian Science lobby.”
The Boston-based Church of Christ, Scientist, which teaches its followers to rely on prayer rather than medicine for healing, sees it as a matter of choice.
“President Obama said those happy with their current health care should be allowed to stay with it. We feel it is important that everyone have access to spiritual care,” said Phil Davis, who manages media and legislative affairs for the church worldwide.
The church maintains a three-person office in Washington, D.C., and is working to convince legislators to consider amendments to the health care bill, he said. The process is not yet over, Davis cautioned, noting that if the Senate passes its version of the bill, it would need to be reconciled with the one passed by the House.
It’s not a question of church-state separation, Davis said. “The framers of the Constitution wanted a balance. We have no desire to see an establishment of one religion over another, but we want to be sure of the free exercise of religion,” he said.
Four insurers now cover spiritual care, and Medicare reimburses for physical care provided by a Christian Science nurse, he said. The current health reform legislation, as it now stands, “would have a chilling effect on the public’s ability to be covered for spiritual care,” Davis said.
Solange De Santis
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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