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Religion & Politics Intersect in State Capital

People of Faith in Richmond to advocate on behalf of the poor and the environment.
People of Faith in Richmond to advocate on behalf of the poor and the environment.
January 25, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. – Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals and other religious orders are represented this week and next in the state capital with one goal in mind – to make their voices heard by state legislators on environmental, immigration and poverty issues.

A primary concern says the Rev. Jenne' Gilchrist, vice president of the Virginia Council of Churches, is the expansion of Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income Virginians.

"We don't see this as a religious issue so much as a common decency and compassion issue,” Gilchrist says. “It may be reflective in the doctrines we upheld in our varied beliefs, but overall it's not even a partisan issue rather than a humanitarian issue."

Keeping in place a ban on uranium mining and policies regarding in-state tuition for immigrants are also issues addressed by many of the religious leaders and advocates.

The Virginia Interfaith Center, a faith-based advocacy organization in Richmond, facilitated one event this week that drew more than 300 advocates from around the state. Regarding the issue of the Medicaid expansion, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell stated he does not favor the expansion unless the program is reformed.

Marco Grimaldo, the president of the Virginia Interfaith Center, sees the issue differently.

"That's probably not the right order,” Grimaldo says, “because the first step as we see it is to get more people covered, more people eligible for Medicaid so that in fact we can begin to initiate reforms that are meaningful."

Grimaldo says Medicaid has been successful in lowering costs and he hopes the governor will not stand in the way of allowing the expansion to occur.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pick up the tab for the full cost of the expansion for the first three years.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA