One of the provisions proposed for the current health care bill has received little attention in the media: mandatory coverage for faith healers. Christian Science advocates are pushing for the inclusion in the bill under a provision barring discrimination against religious based healing. They previously won support from both Republicans and Democrats for the astonishing provision that would require insurance companies to pay religious healers in the same way as radiologists.
Recently, I ran a column on how faith-healing parents are being given light sentences in the deaths of their children, here.
This provision would create a mandate that such faith-healing practices must be financially supported as part of the national health care plan.
Faith healers like Susan Breuer receive money to pray people to good health. While this is likely to come as a surprise too many, it appears that the Internal Revenue Service already allows prayer sessions to be deducted on income tax forms as medical expenses. Faith healers charge between $20 and $50 for such sessions. It is not clear if a tip gets a little more effort with the Almighty or whether this is a fixed rate.
Any tax exemption by the IRS for faith healing as a medical expense is, in my view, utter lunacy and raises serious questions of separation of church and state. (The IRS already allows deductions for Scientology “auditing” sessions in another absurd decision). This proposed provision magnifies that constitutional problem.
Yet, supporters were able to get not only Sen. Orrin Hatch to support the provision in earlier versions of the bill but they secured the support of Sen. John Kerry and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. While it is not currently in the bill, it is simply astonishing that such members would endorse such a measure. While it was crafted as an anti-discrimination provision, it is clearly intended to force coverage for religious observances
The measure was approved by two House committees and one Senate committee.
This provision reinforces the fears of many citizens that this bill contains a host of unreviewed special provisions (including many unrelated to health care). This provision would have gutted separation principles and established a troubling endorsement of faith healing. Yet, there was virtually no discussion of the matter and Democratic leaders supported it.
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17 thoughts on “The Divine Referral: Christian Scientists Lobby for Faith Healing To Be Covered As Part of the National Health Care Plan”
No other ‘First World’ county is so steeped in magical thinking as is the United States. Then we wonder why it is that the rest of the civilized world looks upon the USA as a backwards nation inhabited by the toothless and delusional.
“… most people don’t even realize that you can change your thinking. it can cure the incurable so if you need help read science and health with keys to the scriptures by mary baker eddy and change your life.”
To the contrary, most people do realize you can change your thinking, and those, like me, hope you will. I have read Mary Baker’s Eddy’s work and her rejection of the existence of pain, disease, and even, death, cause me to agree with Mark Twain that she was the “queen of frauds and hypocrites.”
our care for christian scientists is excellent. it is of the highest standard of nursing care it is taken very seriously as a professional way of caring for those that need nursing care. it is wonderful to be around people who have their joy regardless of what they are working out on a phyical level. they live their lives loved by their spouses and children. they are the best parents in the world. If you want a happy life when life hits you hard become a christian scientist but I warn you the discovery channel says its hard to dicipline your thoughts ,most people don’t even realize that you can change your thinking. it can cure the incurable so if you need help read science and health with keys to the scriptures by mary baker eddy and change your life
To call Christian Science practice “faith healing” is to misunderstand completley what it’s about. It is healing based on understanding of our true nature as spiritual beings, not as material bodies. Even this small statement hardly does justice to the majesty of this philosophy. Having been healed several times just by reading the textbook of Christian Science, and not being a C.S. myself (I was raised Catholic), I can attest personally to the healing effects of this philosophy.
Moreover, what recourse do children have who are killed every year through the carelessness and misapplication of medicine by doctors? What recourse do children and adults have when they are killed by prescription drugs that harm the system? How many drugs have been recalled for deadly effects?
The fact is, many many more people are killed in our hospitals and by negligent doctors and health care personnel than by “faith healing.” I find it astonishing that you would point the finger at a few people who have been so grossly misled by their religious beliefs as to harm another whilst completely neglecting the hugely destructive effects of Western medicine on the unwitting people who are subject to its care.
Dear “Buddha Is Laughing”,
I very much appreciate your thoughtful and balanced reply. Although I am not qualified in terms of my knowledge of the law to comment further on the church and state issue, I believe you have raised some valid concerns. What’s most important to me, as a Christian Scientist, is that spiritual healing be considered as one means of addressing the healthcare challenges facing our country. Because spiritual care is preventive, curative and cost-effective, its availability should be encouraged as part of the overall solution.
I agree with almost everything you said. Except the part about separation of church and state. It will be an issue. Because if we let CS in, we have to let Voodoo in too. I’m not comparing CS to Voodoo, but read on and you’ll have clarification.
Let me first say that I have known, liked, and respected many Christian Scientists. In fact, one of my favorite undergrad professors and trusted academic advisor was CS. He was also one of the finest men I’ve ever met.
But CS takes advantage of the 501c3 tax exemption. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
If the various factions of the Eddian Science Church wants to participate in tax funded health care, then the tax exemption should go unless strict guidelines are in place like in California for example where CS practitioners are exempt from some license fees other health care providers have to pay. Even that to me is too much entanglement.
Personally, I do not find CS practice to be zealous or abusive of our systems of governance and that is a huge gold star next to your Church’s name in my book. I’ve never met a CS person who tried to preach at me either. They’ll talk to you about if you ask, but I’ve never had one try to force it down my throat. That impresses me. I also don’t think what you do, as you pointed out, counts as faith healing exactly either. As my advisor once told me, “It’s more like trusting the universe to do its thing and giving it as little direction or interference as possible.” In fact, I think CS is a very well behaved religious organization. In shorter terms, I admit I like your group’s style in a lot of ways. Your publishing trust runs the CS Monitor: one of the last actual journalism outlets left that doesn’t bother with telling you opinion over the simple basics of journalistic “who, when, where and sometimes how” and when they do publish opinion they never try to hide is as news. I know people in the foreign service community think highly of the unbiased reporting the Monitor does.
But faith healing or not? It opens the door to arguments for paying for things like Voodoo. Or snake handling. Or who knows what other kind of dangerous practices. It’s not that CS deserves the boot so much in the separation issue. It’s that including it would open a flood gate to some really dubious practices. I don’t want my tax dollars paying for a chicken to die so a curse can be lifted when a shot of tetracycline would clear the condition right up.
It’s that open gate that will create excessive entanglement in contradiction of the holding of Lemon v. Kurtzman. CS isn’t the issue. It’s the really unusual people standing in line to be next to get the tax money.
I really hope you are not offended by this as I really do mean the nice things I’ve said about CS. And if you’ve read any of my posts regarding other religious organizations (of all stripes) you know I have no problem raising Hell over objectionable behaviors. If the RCC still had Inquisitors, I’d be a marked man.
I propose an alternative mechanism for those who wish to use church related non-medical science (if you get my meaning – it includes what CS does as well as some of the more . . . interesting practices out there). Make paying for the services 100% tax deductible and leave it at that. That way practitioners get their money back but there is not that chance of entanglement otherwise present when tax dollar pay the bill. It’s a hands off approach that would not financially penalize alternative practitioners.
Would you find that acceptable?
I am a practicing Christian Scientist and my family has successfully relied on spiritual healing for five generations now. My intent in posting this comment is not to “pitch” my preferred system of healing to those who depend on other types of health care, but to explain why I feel it is important that there be a provision for spiritual healing in any forthcoming healthcare legislation.
It would seem fundamentally unfair for someone to be required to pay for insurance that does not cover the type of healthcare he or she utilizes. In a policy climate where some form of mandated universal coverage appears likely, it would only seem fair that anyone required to pay into a system would have coverage for the type of health care that they have found works best for them (without depriving anyone else of their choices). If the individual mandate to buy insurance does not provide for those who rely on qualifying spiritual care, they may receive no benefit for their premiums.
Arguments concerning the separation of church and state are not entirely applicable to this issue. Taxpayer money wouldn’t support a “church” per se since Christian Science practitioners are supported directly by their patients – there is no financial connection between the practitioners and the church organization. In this context, it might be helpful to think of Christian Science as an “alternative” form of health care and not a religion or church. If money went to a doctor or therapist who happened to be a member of a Baptist church, for example, we wouldn’t think of it as a payment to their religion.
I should also point out that Christian Scientists do not consider their practice to be akin to faith healing. While Christian Scientists often choose a path other than conventional medicine, this choice is not based on blind faith. It instead reflects a systematic approach to prayer that has proven to be reliable and effective in the lives of those who practice it. Most Christian Scientists would agree that when praying about a health issue (especially for a child) RESULTS MATTER. Christian Scientists don’t believe or teach that their religion somehow exempts them from the legal and moral obligations that every parent has to provide the best possible care for their children. Indeed, I believe that most Christian Scientists feel a heightened sense of this responsibility and consistently practice their system of healing within that context.
I appreciate this opportunity to provide a different perspective on this issue. Anyone interested in learning more about Christian Science healing may wish to check out the website http://www.ChristianScience.com.
The USA is de-evolving. You’ll be back in the 1600s before you know it.
Mrs. Eddy would be soooo proud.
Aren’t we mixing up church and state issues here?
I could go and get some sort of wiccan/shaman/astrologer/voodoo doctor degree on line and set up a “bill the government healthcare” office on my front porch and never have to work again.
I wonder how much a Catholic priest could charge for an Exorcism?
I can understand Kennedy and Kerry’s support … Christian Science is headquartered in Boston … just buying votes with legislation like any good member of congress would do … and Hatch must have some sympathies for cults due to his Mormon roots ….
you have got to be kidding. Although I guess it cuts down on overhead.
Hey, I am all for dis’sheer new fangled gubmit faith-healin’ thang–on my own terms, of coarse.
As long a buxom moosooses is covered, I’m covered…where do I vote? I simply put a lotta’ faith in masseuses.
Reminds me of one of my all-time favorite gubbamint parodic melodies,
’bout the only thang I *own* is 10 kids n’ a *wife*
While I agree with you Sam and wonder about the legal issues raised by Elaine, there is something else to consider. In Japan, their health service covers spiritual healers as well as allopathic medicine. They have one of the healthiest populations in the world. I say this as an atheist, so I don’t think god/dess is healing anyone, but something is going on with what we call “spiritual” healing. IMO, it should be studied so that we can replicate it when it works. It is like placebo–it works, let’s find out how and use it.
Why is it that every time congress writes a bill they make a bad situation worse? Strip out everything of benefit and provide giveaways to the rich and powerful or in this case the looney who think that such a mandate would not be seriously abused.
Great!! Another way for those “faith healers” to get funds to help pay for their lavish lifestyles.
Praise the Lord, Now pay me for preysing you. I am offended that they are only offering 20 to 50 per session. Now if this were in .06 minutes session I think I could survive. Where do I sign up?
From one of your previous posts, “Religious Convictions”: When Children Die, Religion Is No Defense–“When minors die from a lack of parental care, it is usually a matter of criminal neglect and is often tried as murder. However, when parents say the neglect was an article of faith, courts routinely hand down lighter sentences.”
If faith healing were covered under a health care bill–wouldn’t it follow that criminal charges couldn’t be brought against parents who didn’t seek out other types of medical care for their sick children?
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