Secular Coalition Opposes Health Care Reform Exemptions for Christian Ministries

September 23rd- The Secular Coalition for America opposes a provision of Sen. Max Baucus' (D-Mont) healthcare reform plan that would exempt from the proposed health insurance excise taxes people who participate in religion-based healthcare-sharing ministries. Members of health-sharing groups—all of whom are professing Christians—pay a monthly fee that is either sent to the ministry, which in turn passes it on to other members with certain medical bills, or sent directly to members in need.

It is a violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution for the Baucus health care reform bill, or any other bill, to exempt persons from a tax merely because of their participation in a religious organization.

The language in the bill is as follows:

"Exemptions from the excise tax will also be made for...any health arrangement provided by established religious organizations comprised of individuals with sincerely held beliefs (e.g., such as those participating in Health Sharing Ministries)..."

This exemptions means that the nearly 100,000 Americans who participate in religion-based health care ministries would be exempt from the insurance requirement in the Baucus proposal.

For centuries, numerous mutual aid societies in the United States have sponsored insurance and social services organized around a shared ethnic background, occupation, geographical region or religion. For example, in 1787 African Americans released from slavery organized a nondenominational benefit society called the "Free African Society of Philadelphia." By stating that only people belonging to religious mutual aid societies can be exempt from mandated health insurance this provision privileges Christian Americans over non-Christian Americans.


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