Along with rousing music and warm words about racial equality, the hundreds of people who packed into Community Christian Church on Sunday for the annual interfaith service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. got some fiery rhetoric about equal access to health care — an issue that troubled King and that is still dividing the country.
Half the nation’s political leadership is “waging war” on the Affordable Care Act, the law intended to insure about 40 million people, said guest speaker Frank A. Thomas, a minister and professor at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.
“What kind of nation are we going to be? What is the nature of our social contract?” Thomas asked. “Will there be no safety net?”
Thomas several times held out a comment King reportedly made at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Thomas asked whether failing to provide “the basic life necessity of the ability to get health care” can be morally justified in the richest nation in the world.
Thomas also called upon the religious community to be more active in providing education about the Affordable Care Act and helping people sign up for insurance coverage. It is not about politics, he said, it is a moral issue.
“I challenge the church,” Thomas said. “You cannot afford to be silent or complacent.”
The interfaith service is sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee as part of a series of events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday.
During the service, representatives of different faiths took turns reading from King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
Ah’Lee Robinson, founder and executive director of the Kansas City Boys Choir and Kansas City Girls Choir, received the Evelyn Wasserstrom Award for commitment to causes of freedom and justice for minorities and oppressed people in the Kansas City area.