National Association of Evangelicals blasts GOP effort to repeal Obamacare

"Any policy and funding changes should be evaluated by how they treat the most vulnerable among us.”

A group of faith leaders protest a 2017 GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. CREDIT: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
A group of faith leaders protest a 2017 GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. CREDIT: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

A long list of faith groups from across the religious spectrum have condemned the various Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this year, with many vocally protesting the proposals on Capitol Hill.

But now religious advocates can claim a new, unusual ally in their effort to stop the GOP’s latest effort to do away with Obamacare: the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

According to a list of statements distributed on Monday afternoon by faith-based anti-hunger group Bread for the World, the NAE—the nation’s flagship evangelical organization which claims to represent around 45,000 local churches and “millions” of individual worshippers—spoke out against the latest effort to repeal Obamacare.

Although some self-identified evangelicals have opposed the bill, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has remained largely silent on the GOP’s campaign to end Obamacare. But the group broke its silence to criticize how Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are urging their fellow Republicans to rush the bill through Congress without appropriate vetting.

“Despite its impressive achievements, our health care system often fails to deliver affordable, life-saving help to many of our citizens,” NAE president Leith Anderson said in a statement. “Reforms are needed, but they should be carefully studied and not rushed through Congress without expert analysis and thorough debate on the inevitable trade-offs inherent in any reform. Above all, any policy and funding changes should be evaluated by how they treat the most vulnerable among us.”

“Reforms are needed, but they should be carefully studied and not rushed through Congress without expert analysis and thorough debate on the inevitable trade-offs inherent in any reform. Above all, any policy and funding changes should be evaluated by how they treat the most vulnerable among us.”

The NAE now joins an expansive—and strikingly diverse—group of religious organizations that have spoken out against the bill, with many arguing it fails to care for society’s most poor and sick. The NAE statement shows a rare point of public solidarity between its leadership and that of the National Council of Churches (NCC)—an organization of mostly liberal-leaning mainline denominations the NAE was created in part to counteract.

“There is not a single Member of Congress who does not understand that Graham-Cassidy will result in fewer people with health insurance and reduced spending on Medicaid,” Jim Winkler, president of the NCC, said in a separate statement distributed in the same email. “This bill will create unnecessary hardship for millions of our people. As Christian leaders, we cannot possible support legislation that will hurt the last, the least, and the lost.”

Although the bill, which was changed Monday morning, has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the non-partisan Brookings Institution estimated that passing an earlier version of the bill would leave 32 million more Americans without health insurance by 2027.

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair of the National African American Clergy Network, was also critical of the bill.

“The biblical call to care for the sick is crystal clear – and the Graham-Cassidy bill deeply violates it,” her statement read. “Cutting billions of dollars from Medicaid is misguided and dangerous and would worsen the lives of millions of poor people across the country. These cuts would disproportionately affect minority populations. I urge the United States Senate to reject this bill and work in a bipartisan way to improve the health care system in the United States.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—which initially opposed the ACA but has also passionately rejected the various GOP repeal efforts—chastised lawmakers for attempting to rush the bill through Congress. The frantic attempt to force the legislation to a vote has ignored demands by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to abide by “regular order.”

“Decisions about the health of our citizens—a concern fundamental to each of us—should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms,” their statement read. “The far-reaching implications of Congress’ actions are too significant for that kind of governance. Instead, the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist. Your constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process, deserve no less.”

Other leaders listed as criticizing the bill and its process include Jim Wallis, President and Founder of the progressive Christian social justice group Sojourners; Sister Donna Markham, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Director of Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World; Rev. Noel Castellanos, President of the Christian Community Development Association; Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers); David Hudson, National Commander of the The Salvation Army; Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita of The Wesleyan Church; and Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, Director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative.

Still other groups, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, the Episcopal Church and many others have consistently opposed attempts to end Obamacare. In fact, faith leaders have been among the loudest voices at protests condemning attempts to gut health care.