Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nebraska Interfaith Forum for Health Care Reform Brings Together Diverse Group for Common Cause

On November 21 at St. John AME Church, faith leaders, clergy and members from over twenty congregations gathered to share their moral and conscious conviction to support health care reform that is affordable and
provides ample access to low-wage workers and low-income families.
( Photos: Fr. Thelen and Rev. McCullough taking a lead on health care reform)

Faith leaders offered prayers and perspectives on health care reform. Stories were shared and songs were sung in solidarity with one another and those who need health care the most. Over a dozen faith leaders spoke and several elected officials came forward to share their thoughts. County Commissioner Chris Rodgers, former State Senator Lowen Kruse, and Senator Nelson's staff member Louise Latimer shared a few words with the gathering.
Rev. Frederick McCullough and his St. John AME congregation hosted the event while Rev. Brenda Hector of Bethel AME Church was the forum facilitator. Imam Muhammed Sackor of the Islamic Center of Omaha voiced his perspective as a Muslim, Fr. Bert Thelen of St. John's Catholic Church at Creighton University spoke from his Catholic faith, and several others led prayers of Unity, Justice, Peace and a Litany. Faith leaders who participated as speakers included Rev. Dr. Percel E. Hector (Bethel AME Church), Rev. Debra McKnight (First United Methodist Church), Rev. Portia Cavitt (Clair United Methodist Church), Bro. Henry Pablo (Pixan Ixim), Rev. Kate Rhode (First Unitarian Church), Rev. Dr. Selwyn Q. Bachus (Salem Baptist Church), Fr. Paul Coelho, SJ (Creighton University), and Rev. Robyn Fickes (First Christian Church). The surgical mask project was on display for folks to read stories of people from around Nebraska and write their own masks.

Together as faith leaders of Nebraska we have taken a stand for reform now, for the benefit of our communities and families. We believe it is our ethical responsibility to speak out for just reform that provides access to all, especially within marginalized communities that are struggling most. We will continue to express our support to legislators in making the right decision, to vote for reform now!

(Photo: Rev. McCullough, Rev. Dr. Bachus, Rev. Bentjen, Fr. Thelen SJ, Rev. Kruse, Rev. McKnight, Rev. Cavitt, Dr. Keasling, Imam Sackor, Rev. Hector, Commissioner Rodgers, Rev. Rhode, Rev. Fickes, Rev. Eden)

*For more photos, please see our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=194786171248

IWJ of Nebraska Joins Candlelight Vigil and March for Health Care Reform in Lincoln

Thursday, Nov 19, Interfaith Worker Justice of Nebraska joined the Alliance for Health Care Reform from across the state, including Change That Works Nebraska, NAACP, Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraska HCAN, Farmers Union, Teamsters, AFSCME, Change to Win, and Justice and Advocacy Ministries (ELCA-NE) for a candlelight vigil and march in Lincoln on the steps of the capitol. Over two hundred people were present and those in favor for reform far outnumbered the counterprotestors across the street.

Faith leaders Rev. Debra McKnight from First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Rabbi Ilan Emanuel of South Street Temple, Linclon and Rev. Janet Banks with Reach Out Christian Center, Lincoln joined small business owners, farmers and doctors to speak and represent the moral and ethical responsibility to take action on reform now! The surgical mask project was on display and available for folks to contribute their stories. One poster board display was left with a collection of items at Senator Nelson's office so that the voices of many would be heard by lawmakers.

Faith Leaders Meet with Senator Nelson's Staff in Lincoln and DC

On Thursday, November 19, faith leaders with Interfaith Worker Justice of Nebraska met with Senator Nelson's staff in both Lincoln and in Washington, DC. A coalition of folks from both Lincoln and Omaha met with the Chief of Staff, Tim Becker on Thursday afternoon in Lincoln. Faith leaders shared concerns about the need for reform and for Senator Nelson's support to allow the bill to proceed to debate on the floor of the Senate. Faith leaders told stories of those without insurance and those who struggle with the insurance and costs that they do have. Although Tim Becker did not say at the time what Senator Nelson's plans for the vote for motion to proceed were, the next day it was announced that he would vote 'yes.' A letter calling for reform signed by over 50 clergy from across the state was delivered to the staff as well. In addition, faith leaders asked for a 'yes' vote for cloture and on the final bill. While Tim Becker did not make promises, he did say that Nelson would do what he thinks is right and do what he can to make the bill one that would best for all Nebraskans. Rev. Frederick J. McCullough (St. John AME Church, Omaha) and two other members of IWJ of Nebraska met with Senator Nelson's staff in Washington, DC on the same day. They too shared stories and called for the Senator's support of health care reform that is affordable and accessible for all Nebraskans, especially those whose voices are not often heard.