So Much for Church-State Separation: White House Organizing 'Prayer Vigils' for Obama-Care, Says NYT

Friday's lead New York Times story by Robert Pear, "White House Set To Shape Debate Over Health Law," passed right over the fascinating fact that the White House is helping "coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court." Whatever happened to the dangers of mixing religion and politics, which was all the Times could fret about when it came to the Catholic Church's opposition to paying for birth control for employees?

The White House has begun an aggressive campaign to use approaching Supreme Court arguments on the new health care law as a moment to build support for the measure seen as President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, hoping to shape public opinion on an issue at the center of the battle for the White House and Congress.

On Wednesday, White House officials summoned dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.

The advocates and officials mapped out a strategy to call attention to tangible benefits of the law, like increased insurance coverage for young adults. Sensitive to the idea that they were encouraging demonstrations, White House officials denied that they were trying to gin up support by encouraging rallies outside the Supreme Court, just a stone’s throw from Congress on Capitol Hill. They said a main purpose of this week’s meeting, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, was to give the various groups a chance to learn of the plans.

For months, Democrats in Congress and progressive groups have urged the White House to make a more forceful defense of the health care law, which is denounced almost daily by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.


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Opponents of the law will be active as well and are planning to show their sentiments at a rally on the Capitol grounds on March 27, the second day of Supreme Court arguments. Republican lawmakers, including Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, are expected to address the rally, being organized by Americans for Prosperity, with support from conservative and free-market groups like the Tea Party Express.

Pear was able to identify the Tea Party as a "conservative and free-market group," but unable to specifically label a single leftist in this bunch of left-wing groups:

“The White House was very encouraging and supportive of our activities,” said Ronald F. Pollack, executive director of Families USA, one of more than 60 organizations that sent representatives to the meeting.

Mr. Pollack said the theme of events at the Supreme Court would be, “Protect our health care, protect the law.”

Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group, said White House officials emphasized that the court case provided “a great opportunity to highlight benefits of the law for real people.”

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Groups working with the White House include the Service Employees International Union; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Health Care for America Now, a consumer coalition that fought for passage of the legislation; Protect Your Care, a nonprofit group created last year to defend the 2010 law; and the Center for American Progress, a research and advocacy group with close ties to the White House.
 

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.