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Prayer offered as solution to health care reform quarrels

Lexington had a town hall meeting of sorts on health care Sunday night. And unlike others, it came without any acrimony.

There were no unruly protesters. No heckling was heard. Nor was there any violent pushing and shoving.

Instead, the more than 100 people who congregated at Central Baptist Church off Nicholasville Road prayed quietly and listened attentively to a variety of religious leaders who called for affordable and accessible health care for all.

"This is not a political rally. It's in part because of those hostile environments we have seen across the nation on health care meetings, that we wanted to find a place of peace and unity on this," said the Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.

The council, a cooperative organization of 11 Christian denominations in Kentucky with about 800,000 members, and the Cleveland-based Faithful Reform in Health Care sponsored the Interfaith Prayer Service for Hope and Health Care Reform.

Taylor said the service was one of several across the nation in the largest faith-inspired mobilization ever for health care reform.

The speakers represented several faiths, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i.

"We come together as a people of faith and goodwill," Rev. Mark D. Johnson, pastor of Central Baptist, said. "We will not tolerate any standard of living that does not ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all our people."

Annette Mayer of Lexington said she attended the service after watching the weekend funeral of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"He fought so hard for health care," she said. "I want to do something about it. I support a single-payer health insurance system."

Such a system arranges the payment of health-care services from a single source established and managed by the government.

Mayer also said she was upset that U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, has declined to hold a town-hall meeting on health care in his district.

Although some members of Congress are holding open forums with constituents, Chandler has chosen instead to meet with small groups.

Marge Keller of Lexington, who also attended the service, said health care reform "can be done in many ways.

"I just want it so the little people are not forgotten," she said.

Imam Ihsan Bagby, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, said it is "unacceptable" that 46 million American are uninsured.

"God calls us constantly to be concerned about others," he said.

The Rev. Cynthia Cain, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, said the problems of the uninsured are close to home.

Her two sons in their 20s have no health insurance, she said, and ministers in her faith only recently got insurance.

She had emergency surgery this summer with eight days of hospitalization that cost $35,000.

"I don't have $35,000," she said. "Not having insurance would have devastated me."

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