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Does healthcare have a prayer?

November 06, 2009

Re " 'Spiritual healthcare' comes to Congress," Nov. 3

Regarding "spiritual healthcare" as part of the healthcare reform bill, doesn't that violate the principle of church-state separation?

I mean, if the Christian Science Church can receive my tax dollars for prayer healing, why can't the local diocese, synagogue, mosque or Baptist church?

A. Dunn

San Diego


It's absolutely outrageous that Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) has inserted a provision into the healthcare bill that would allow federal reimbursement for spiritual treatment -- also known as prayer.

In this modern, literate, industrialized society, there is simply no excuse for using taxpayer money to support something as ridiculous as organized wishful thinking. The bill is supposed to be about improving care and lowering costs -- neither of which can be achieved by paying people to pray to a magical religious figure for divine intervention.

When can national policy finally be guided by science and verifiable results instead of superstition? The Senate should be ashamed to even consider the provision.

Jordan Goldman

Los Angeles


Spiritual care is more complex than "prayer treatments." Medical professionals increasingly recognize that spiritual care, in the hands of professionals such as chaplains, is helpful to patients.

Chaplains are not private practitioners, nor are they normally paid by religious institutions. Trained in carefully supervised settings, they are selected and further supervised by other professionals in hospitals, prisons and other venues. They are approved members of professional organizations who monitor their qualifications to serve.

Spiritual care goes beyond praying, meditating or teaching affirmations -- beneficial as those are. Practitioners of spiritual care need training in ethics, bioethics and religious thought and supervised practice to ensure appropriate treatment of patients.

There is a vast need for spiritual care as an accessory to medical treatment, and it should be supported by health insurers. But blanket approval of prayer treatments does not meet the minimum standards for such an important field.

Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Tamar Frankiel

Los Angeles

The writers are dean of the Chaplaincy School and dean of academic affairs, respectively, at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California.


As a family of Christian Scientists, we have had effective results with prayer. We raised three children in Southern California and turned to prayer to heal everything from colds and flu to accidents and contagious diseases. Our children participated in the typical activities of the public school community. Their healings were usually quick and unnoticed by friends and neighbors.

One son was told repeatedly during military eye examinations that his eyesight was deficient. Through prayer, his eyesight improved so that he was classified "flight qualified" as a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier pilot without wearing glasses. He has been flying for the Navy for 18 years.

As the national debate is moving toward requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance, our hope is that there will be legislative recognition of spiritual healing through prayer as an option for those who have found it effective for generations.

Jim and Barbara Williams

Yorba Linda

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