RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service NCC urges renewed push for universal health care (RNS) The nation’s moral and religious leaders must renew the push for universal access to equitable health care, participants at a National of Council of Churches conference were told. Reform of the nation’s health care delivery system, including proposals for universal access […]

c. 1996 Religion News Service

NCC urges renewed push for universal health care

(RNS) The nation’s moral and religious leaders must renew the push for universal access to equitable health care, participants at a National of Council of Churches conference were told.

Reform of the nation’s health care delivery system, including proposals for universal access to health care, were a prominent part of the nation’s public policy debate in the early 1990s, but foundered on the inability of the two major political parties to forge a consensus on the complex issue.”We must recenter our gaze, our scholarship, our resources,”Jewish ethicist Dr. Lauri Zoloth-Dorfman told participants at the Ethical Alternatives in Health Care in the Context of Corporatization conference.”We need to reopen the debate about universal access,”she said.”All Americans should have secure health coverage. It is sinful not to have it.” Zoloth-Dorfman said that in encountering the poor and speaking out on their behalf”we encounter God. If our response to the `get real’ answer (to call for universal health care) was always `get just,’ we would keep faith and bear witness.” Dr. Allan Rosenfield, dean of the School of Public Health at Columbia University, agreed. He called on religious leaders to demand health care as a human right and not a privilege

The conference, a project of the NCC’s Resources for the Civic Conversation and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Booth Ferris Foundation, was sparked by changes in the health care financing system since the collapse of President Clinton’s plan for health care reform three years ago.

James Tallon, president of the United Hospital Fund of New York City, noted that there has been a”profound change in financing health services”in the last three years, which has turned on a doctor-driven and hospital-driven health care delivery system. Now, it is an insurance provider-driven system that”destroys relationships”between doctors and patients.”Whereas in the old system, a sick person was seen as a source of revenue, in the new system, a sick person is viewed as a generator of costs,”Tallon said.

Dr. Quentin Young, president-elect of the National Public Health Association, was even harsher, saying that changes in the U.S. health care financing system through the increasing role of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and cost-driven insurance companies was a”uniquely American craziness.” He said that 100,000 people per month are falling into the pool of the uninsured while the chief executive officers of HMOs and insurance companies are making millions of dollars.”This makes the robber barons of the last century look like pussycats,”he said.

Yale decides to renovate divinity school rather than move it

(RNS) Yale University, in the face of a lawsuit and other opposition, has decided to restore and renovate several key buildings of its Divinity School rather than demolishing them and moving the historic school to a smaller space on the school’s main campus.

The decision by the Yale Corporation to spend up to $30 million for the renovation project appears to end more than two years of debate on what to do with the elegant but deteriorating Sterling Memorial Quadrangle buildings that house the divinity school about a mile from the university’s main campus.

The 174-year-old divinity school is one of the oldest in the nation.

Under the current plan, the divinity school’s chapel and eight student residential buildings in the front of the quadrangle will be renovated to include classrooms and office space. Two large buildings behind the chapel will be demolished and the school’s total space reduced by about a third, according to Yale officials.

Last week, a group of alumni and students said they planned to file suit in New Haven Superior Court seeking to block the original plan under which the university would have demolished large portions of the divinity school campus and moved the school to other quarters.

The plan had also drawn fire from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

James L. Waits, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, the accrediting organization for 233 American and Canadian seminaries, praised the decision. Waits, a graduate of the divinity school, told The New York Times the decision sends”a major signal to the churches”that religion”has a major place in the university.”

UNICEF: Child labor abounds around the world

(RNS) From some of the nation’s poorest nations to the richest, including the United States, child labor is growing, according to UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s agency.

In a report marking its 50th anniversary, UNICEF said that six years after the international community adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, hundreds of millions of children still are forced to work long hours, often in hazardous situations, and many face torture and other punishment if their work is not up to par.

The main causes for child labor are poverty, poor education and entrenched social traditions, UNICEF said.”It can never be in the best interests of a child to be exploited or to perform heavy and dangerous forms of work,”said UNICEF Director Carol Bellamy.”Hazardous child labor must be left behind, consigned to history as completely as those other forms of slavery that it so closely resembles.” The report argues that at least 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working in conditions detrimental to their health. But the report said it is impossible to determine precise numbers because many children who work at home or in the so-called”informal economy”do not appear in any set of statistics kept by nations.”All that is clear is the number of child workers worldwide runs into hundreds of millions,”the report said.

Half of all child workers live in Asia, according to the report. In Africa, it said, one in three children work and in Latin America, the rate is one in five.

Child labor also is increasing in such developed countries as the United States and Great Britain because of the growth of the service sector and the quest for a more flexible and controllable workforce.”Poverty drives children into hazardous labor,”the report said.”Yet if employers were not prepared to exploit children, there would be no child labor. In other words, children are employed because they are easier to exploit.”

Pope says Catholic Church is not responsible for Rwanda genocide

(RNS) Pope John Paul II, responding to allegations that Roman Catholic priests and nuns took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which at least 500,000 people were killed, said Thursday (Dec. 12) that the church could not be held responsible for the killings.

In a written speech to Rwanda’s new envoy to the Vatican, John Paul said that all members of the church who sinned during the genocide”must have the courage to bear the consequences of the acts they committed against God and their fellow man.” But he said the Roman Catholic Church, as an institution, could”not be held responsible for the blame of these members … who acted against the law of the Gospel. They will be called to account for their actions.” John Paul’s remarks were drawn from a letter he wrote to the people of Rwanda last March in which he also distanced the church from any role in the genocide.

Reuters reported that John Paul also told the new ambassador, Manzi Bakuramutsa, that in Rwanda”justice and equality should prevail at the judgment of persons accused of having taken part in the genocide.” Although several Roman Catholic clergy were among the victims of the 1994 genocide, the Catholic Church _ the largest Christian denomination in Rwanda _ also has faced accusations from eyewitnesses that priests and nuns engaged in or cooperated in the killings. Some of the largest massacres were committed against Tutsis in churches, where they took shelter and were hunted down by extremist Hutu militias.

AMA to study controversial late-term abortion procedure

(RNS) Delegates to the American Medical Association’s mid-term meeting in Atlanta have turned aside pleas from abortion opponents that the organization take a stand on a controversial late-term abortion procedure called”partial-birth abortion”by its opponents.

Instead, the AMA will study the issue, including the safety and ethics of the procedure, and will report back to the doctors’ group at its annual meeting in June.

Dr. John C. Nelson, a Salt Lake City obstetrician and trustee of the nation’s largest group of medical doctors, said the organization doesn’t have enough information to determine the safety or evaluate the ethics of the procedure.

Last year, both the House and Senate voted to ban the procedure, but the bill was vetoed by President Clinton, who argued that it did not have an exception that would allow its use to”advert serious adverse health consequences.”An effort to override the veto failed in the Senate.

Milton B. Engebretson, headed Evangelical Covenant Church, dies at 75

(RNS) The Rev. Milton B. Engebretson, who served as the sixth president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, died Tuesday (Dec. 10) in Northbrook, Ill., after a long bout with cancer. He was 75.

Engebretson, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., was ordained in 1965 by the Evangelical Covenant Church, a denomination which developed as a pietistic reform movement within the Church of Sweden. He served pastorates in Osage City, Kan.; Mankato, Minn.; and Minneapolis until 1962 when he was elected secretary of the denomination.

He served in that position until 1967, when he was elected president of the denomination, a position he held until his retirement in 1986.

From 1978 to 1986, he was president of the International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches.

Engebretson”became president of the church at a time of great tension,”said Paul Larsen, current president of the 92,000-member church, who succeeded him as president.”He led the church to an unprecedented time of unity and growth, significantly strengthening the church’s institutions and missions.” In 1974, Engebretson was decorated by the King of Sweden as a Commander of the Royal Order of the North Star.

He was an active ecumenist, often serving as a bridge between evangelical and mainline Protestant groups. In 1971, he was the convening chairman of the U.S. Church Leaders, a group of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, mainline and evangelical leaders. In addition, Engebretson was a member of the Congressional Leadership Breakfasts, a group of 10 denominational leaders who meet regularly with senators and members of Congress to discuss current issues of concern to the government and church.

Engebretson is survived by his wife, Rhoda, of Northbrook, Ill., and two sons, Jon of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Donn of Farmington Hills, Mich.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Friday (Dec. 13) at Anderson Chapel at North Park College, the denomination’s school in Chicago.

Quote of the day: Richard Dawkins, Oxford University

(RNS) Richard Dawkins, a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, is a self-avowed propagandist for the theory of evolution and a sharp-tongued opponent of creation scientists. In Washington recently to promote his recent book,”Climbing Mount Improbable”(W.W. Norton), Dawkins was interviewed by The Chronicle of Higher Education and had this to say about science, religion and Pope John Paul’s recent statement that evolution and faith can co-exist as long as scientists accept the idea that evolution is the work of God:”There’s a new way of trying to reinstate God. We can see that evolution is true, and anyone but a fool can see that it is true, so we’ve smuggled God back in by saying that he set up the conditions under which evolution might take place. I find this a rather pathetic argument. For one thing, if I were God and wanted to make a human being, why deliberately set it up in the one way in which it looks as if you (God) don’t exist?”


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