Arrested As An Act of Moral Obedience - A Reflection on the Healthcare Debate from Rev. Robin Tanner

The Rev. Robin Tanner, minister of worship and outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, NJ, joined the Revs. William Barber, Traci Blackmon, Jennifer Butler and others outside of Senator Mitch McConnell’s office to protest the deep cuts to Medicaid included in the most recent version of the Republican healthcare bill. Rev. Tanner joined the group as a representative of the UUA and she shared this reflection on her participation:

I was arrested today as an act of moral obedience, a day after the 200th birthday of Thoreau. Below is my testimony. We need people of faith to rise up now. More details are coming soon if you are also called to moral obedience or civil disobedience as some call it.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I've served in parish ministry for seven years, but before that ministry I served as a hospital chaplain. Hospitals are filled with complex decisions, and at times, medical teams disagree about the best course of treatment or action. But there is one thing we were always clear on:

Health care is a fundamental human right.

My faith is clear—health care is a fundamental right. To care for the body of a human to ensure that they can live is a fundamental moral obligation in a just society and a moral obligation commanded by our constitution. Some things are complex—string theory and just war theory. This is simple: we have a moral imperative. Eroding and eradicating Medicaid is denying life to 22 million Americans. It may be done in the back room bargains of congressional offices instead of under the bright lights of an emergency room, but anyone who supports this—who supports the idea that care of the body is a privilege—has blood on their hands.

On my way here, I was stopped at the train station by a woman, Darlene, who asked me to pray for her because she is having back surgery to alleviate extraordinary pain. I'm here praying with my body and faithful witness that the only worry upon Darlene and millions of Americans will be recovery and healing not whether they have been deemed worthy by this Congress to receive care.

Our constitution and moral consciousness is clear:

No one deserves to die because they couldn't afford medical care.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Let America breathe, Congress.

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View of a clergy person from behind with hands ziptied being led by a police officer Image courtesty of Rev. Robin Tanner