Interfaith clergy carry a cardboard coffin while leading a procession to protest attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 25, 2017. RNS photo by Madeleine Buckley

Clergy march in a ‘funeral procession’ to protest health care repeal

WASHINGTON (RNS) — For the third week in a row, clergy showed up on Capitol Hill to protest Senate action on health care.

As in past weeks, some were arrested.

But on this Tuesday (July 25), the group ratcheted up the drama by marching to the Capitol, carrying a cardboard coffin and poster-sized death certificates for those who would lose health insurance.

"We say, we will not bury the dead buried by your bills," said the Rev. Robin Tanner of Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, N.J. " ... Health care is a human right. And so we say, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, let our people live."

While they originally planned to deliver the coffin to McConnell, they instead waited more than two hours to witness the vote opening formal debate on the Republican bill scuttling former President Obama's health law.

The weekly protests have begun to take on a semblance of habit, and a press release from organizers said clergy will continue to gather every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. until Congress recesses.

According to Capitol Police, 31 members of the group were arrested when they began chanting "kill the bill" in the Senate gallery.

The group consisted of priests, pastors, rabbis and members representing religious organizations such as the Presbyterian Church USA and Faith in Public Life

But Tuesday's demonstration included a new partner —  doctors in white coats.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, a protester on the advisory board of the Physicians for a National Health Program, believes this is an important development.

"We're seeing this movement of movements coming together," said Flowers, a pediatrician turned activist. "So we really want to encourage that, because that's how we build our power to win this."

The Rev. Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ made a similar point during a passionate speech at the rally.

"The need for health care transcends religious beliefs," she said. " ... Some issues are more important than our partisan affiliations. Some issues transcend whether you're a Democrat or Republican. Some issues are matters of life and death. ... Health care is a moral issue."


  1. And the right-wing chattering about how “Mainline Churches are dead” begins in 3, 2, 1…. Sure. Just keep telling yourselves that. Your parishioners of right-wing churches are a mile wide and an inch deep. Recent demonstrations by right-wing groups have tended to number in the tens. Your politicians can’t govern and taking away healthcare won’t win you much.

  2. Good for these clergy and for those who offer sanctuary for immigrants.

  3. These lefties are telling the ill informed that health care is a right? I would bet that 85% of them have never read the ” Bill of Rights “. They are playing the progressive rulebook. Every where you go we have folks asking for more free stuff from the government, the morons don’t realize that the taxpayer is the one that eventually have to dig deeper to pay for others. Thank You.

  4. We started down that road with Medicare and Medicaid. The question is whether we should go all the way. Even the Republican health care bill moves in that direction. BTW, just because a right isn’t in the Constitution or Bill of Rights doesn’t mean the people can’t make it a right.

  5. Mr. Johnson can you tell me how the people can make it a right please. Because then the next move is the government has to pay for my college education because that is a right? And after that one the feds have to make sure I get paid enough money every month to pay my bills because I don’t like to work. Solutions are never easy. But We as a nation have too many dead beats living off our taxes? Thank You.

  6. ““We say, we will not bury the dead buried by your bills,” said the Rev. Robin Tanner of Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, N.J. ” … Health care is a human right. And so we say, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, let our people live.”

    Health care is NOT a human right! Putting one’s good energies into a job that provides for food, clothing, shelter, and yes, health care IS the chief human right!

    This UU minister might occupy herself better by ” letting her people live”–the Gospel of the transforming power of Jesus Christ BEFORE they die, and making sure the dead she buries, have come to know and experience that transforming power AFTER they pass on!

  7. Nothing wrong with repealing a bad law and replacing it with something better. What’s the big deal?

  8. If it were better, that would be something.

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