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EDITORIAL: Pastors with only a prayer

Obamacare teaches the Methodists a hard lesson

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The familiar folk wisdom, "be careful what you pray for, you might get it," is particularly poignant for the United Methodist Church, one of the largest and oldest of the mainline denominations and the church home of, among others, George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Methodist circuit riders took the Gospel to the American wilderness, and Methodist preachers invented revivals. But in recent decades, the Methodists have turned to the "social gospel." None pushed harder for the "Affordable Care Act," using the usual tropes of compassion, justice, mercy and so forth to promote the federal takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. "For decades, the General Board of Church and Society has worked alongside thousands of United Methodists to achieve health care for all in the United States," Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, told the church's new agency when Obamacare became law. "This vote brings us closer to that reality."

Liberal politicians hurried out to the cameras to praise the Methodists and share the credit. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, a Roman Catholic, lauded the Methodists for having sent "a clear message to members of Congress: Say yes to health care reform." Ms. Pelosi, the former speaker of the House, took pains to post some of the praise on her website. That was then, as another saying goes, and this is now. The denomination has become a target of Obamacare.

Under Obamacare, certain groups of low- and moderate-income families can receive special tax credits to cover the cost of commercial health insurance plans, such as the plans covering Methodist pastors. However, the law doesn't include church workers in the group eligible for the tax credits. The result, United Methodists fear, is that churches that offer plans through the federal exchanges won't be able to use those credits. This leaves many of its preachers and other staffers without coverage.

Only churls would tell the Methodists, whose dedicated pastors labor long hours to bring the consolations of faith to the broken world, "We told you so." The denomination's passion for "social justice" outpaced its understanding of political reality and the particulars of mandated insurance. They're learning, like the rest of us are, that politicians who set out to design a health insurance scheme for all are destined to fail, like the famous committee that set out to design a horse and came up with a camel.

The Methodists have moved on from the camp meetings and brush-arbor revivals they made an important part of early America, but there's repentance for Obamacare at the end of another sawdust trail. There's time to get on the side of the angels and demand that Congress repeal the health care monstrosity and start afresh.

Instead, they're out looking for a little hair of the dog that bit them, backing a bill from two Democratic senators, Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas and Chris Coons of Delaware, to right the clergy-insurance wrong. Republicans in both houses, determined to keep as far away from disaster as they can, are in no mood to join them.

Millions of Americans who aren't Methodists were fooled, too, many of them by soothing ministrations of Ms. Pelosi. "We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy," she told us. Now we're finding out, and the fog thickens.

The Washington Times

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