This is, to say the least, strange. Crazy enough that Hatch inserted it, odder still that Ted Kennedy and John Kerry supported it. But if passed, this will open the floodgates to every fringe group out there:
Reporting from Washington - Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare."
It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill -- Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.
Can you say "Scientology"? I knew you could!
Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
"We are making the case for this, believing there is a connection between healthcare and spirituality," said Davis, who distributed 11,000 letters last week to Senate officials urging support for the measure.
Don't get me wrong, I happen to believe this myself. But I wouldn't dream of asking other people to pay for my spiritual beliefs without their full knowledge and consent.
And since many Christian fundamentalists consider Christian Science to be a cult, I suspect the uproar will get this pulled out of the bill.