WASHINGTON (CN) – Brushing aside controversy, President Obama joined lawmakers Thursday during their weekly National Prayer Breakfast to deliver a sermon-like speech, suggesting they draw on their common humanity in passing health care reform. “We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system,” he said, “but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth.”
Obama pointed to the wave of American support for earthquake victims in Haiti, and reminded attendees that U.S. citizens die every day from starvation or lack of health care.
“Sadly, though, that spirit is too often absent when tackling the long-term, but no less profound, issues facing our country and the world,” he said.
Though Obama has always been open about his Christian faith, he has rarely addressed it so boldly as president, suggesting that the speech may be a last-ditch effort to sway Republicans — who often campaign on religious values platforms — to support health care reform.
But his attendance at the prayer breakfast drew criticism from some liberal groups, who say the event’s host, an evangelical Christian group called The Family, has ties to proposed legislation in Uganda aimed at killing and imprisoning homosexuals.
Obama quickly condemned the Uganda proposals, however.
“We may disagree about gay marriage,” he said, “but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it’s here in the United States or more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”
He then called on lawmakers to seek the vast common ground between the two parties and forgo partisan divides.
“Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God,” he said. “That we will do so all the time, not just some of the time, is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.”