What would Jesus do? Utah religious leaders raise their voices in support of Prop 3′s Medicaid expansion

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rev. Kim James of First United Methodist Church, Marriott-Slaterville, joins other Utah faith leaders at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City on Wed. Oct. 3, 2018, to make a joint statement in support of Prop 3, which would expand Medicaid in Utah.

Just under 20 men and women of the cloth, bedecked in multicolored religious symbols and representing a spectrum of Utah faiths, stood side by side Wednesday to reaffirm their collective support for Proposition 3, which would expand Medicaid coverage to 150,000 uninsured individuals in the Beehive State.

“The generosity of Utahns is unquestionable,” said Bishop Oscar A. Solis, leader of the state’s 300,000-plus Catholics, at a temporary podium in a plaza behind the Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City, “but charitable works often require government support to ensure no person who is experiencing poverty or has clear vulnerabilities falls through the cracks.”

Several clergy mentioned that Jesus was a healer and taught his followers to care for one another.

The Rev. Jodi Bushdiecker, Bountiful Community Church (United Church of Christ), said her congregation has a long history of aligning its social-justice stances with the “gospel value of loving your neighbor.”

That is what Prop 3 will do, said Bushdiecker, who relied on some Medicaid assistance as a single mother working two jobs in another state.

With this ballot measure, Utahns have a chance, she said, to do God’s work by extending health care to some of the most vulnerable in the state.

The Bible is full of healing stories, said the Rev. Kim James, of the First United Methodist Church in a suburb of Ogden. “Healing the sick occupied a great deal of his time and attention. Jesus and healing go hand in hand. That was true in the first century and it’s true in the 21st century. ...We must be involved in this ministry.”

The Rev. Monica Hall, from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ogden, and other clergy in attendance have advocated for Medicaid extension since 2014.

Hall said some state lawmakers she talked with seemed to care more about “rejecting federal funds” than about “taking action for those in need.”

Her faith tells her, Hall said, that “Jesus cared deeply about the poor.”

Though many more individuals and families would be helped if the measure passes, Imam Shuaib Din of the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy said it’s not about numbers.

“If even one Utahn would benefit,” Din said, “it would be a good thing to do.”

Passing Prop 3 is a “moral imperative,” said the Rev. Curtis Price of Salt Lake City’s First Baptist Church. “For five years, we have struggled with this. … It’s time for us to act together. … So much to gain and so little to lose. We the people can do this.”

Extension of Medicaid with this ballot measure is not only the right choice, said the Rev. Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson of the Granger Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), “it’s the ONLY right choice.”

One notable absence in the group was an official representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Utah’s predominant faith has been fighting Proposition 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Though not speaking for his church, Eric Biggart, chairman of the LDS Democrats Caucus, drew on Mormon scriptures and faith to explain his group’s support of Proposition 3.

“The savior came to earth to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the sick,” Biggart said. “It is not a declaration of policy. He did not tell us how to vote.”

His church urges members to “govern themselves,” the Latter-day Saint Democrat said, and “to offer comfort, not judgment on ‘the least us.’”