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Interfaith Clergy Group Advocates for Health Care as “Moral Imperative”

(September 4, 2009, Clearwater, FL)

As the nation prepared to honor workers on Labor Day weekend, spiritual leaders from Episcopal, Jewish, Islamic, Metropolitan Community Church, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, and other denominations joined together to advocate for health care reform as a moral imperative.

The group of clergy members held a press conference in Clearwater, Florida, on September 4 to call for civility in public discourse and the democratic process. Additionally, they urged elected representatives—members of Congress and the Senate—to transcend partisan politics and engage in dialogue that makes change happen. Finally, the group joined in affirming “the moral and justice imperatives of equal access for all people.”

The clergy released a statement which said, “We believe that there is no place for rancor, intimidation, and fear in our public discussions. True democracy encourages open and civil debate on issues, where people have the freedom to openly express their views without being threatened. People can and do disagree about health care policy. However, we must all join together to demand open, respectful debate that promotes deeper understanding, not division.”

The clergy, who all serve in the Tampa Bay area, reminded those attending that event that, on the eve of Labor Day weekend, seven to nine million Americans are jobless and others at risk of losing their jobs. In many cases, they said, “the health insurance linked to their jobs is also at risk, thus compounding an already complicated challenge that we face as a nation.”

Opening the meeting, Rev. Leddy Hammock said, “If anyone is vulnerable to suffering, we are all vulnerable, we all suffer. For the sake of our common humanity, let us call upon our collective intelligence to create a health care system that is inclusive, affordable, accessible, and accountable.”

Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, shared a Statement of Conscience that the clergy affirmed together:

“We, the undersigned, serve several religious and spiritual communities across the Tampa Bay. Our faith traditions teach us that care and compassion for the sick and injured is a basic human responsibility rooted in the foundational principle of affirming human worth and dignity. We believe that the crisis of American health care is not merely an economic or social or political problem—it is a moral problem that confronts us all. As people of faith, we envision a society where each person is afforded human dignity, health, and wholeness.”

The event, which was open to the media, was held at the Unity Church of Clearwater. Participants included Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and Rev. Bill Welch (Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater), Rev. Glad McCurtain (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Clearwater), Rev. Anton deWet (Faith United Church or Christ, Clearwater), Rev. Phyllis Hunt (Metropolitan Community Church, Tampa), Rev. Jim Culver (Unitarian Universalists of St. Petersburg), and Rev. Leddy Hammock (Unity Church of Clearwater), along with Rabbis David Weizman and Danielle Upbin-Weizman (Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater), Imam Wilmore Sadiki (St. Petersburg Islamic Center), and Aziz Merchant (Oldsmar Islamic Center).

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Last updated on Tuesday, August 23, 2011.

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Rev. Abhi Janamanchi


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A member of the Clearwater UU congregation speaks during the press conference.


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Some of the interfaith clergy who participated in the press conference.

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