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Church Seeks to Modify Judge's Ruling on Nursing Payments

The Christian Science Church has asked a federal judge in Minneapolis to modify his decision that would bar government reimbursement to Christian Science nursing facilities nationwide.

US District Court Judge Richard Kyle ruled Aug. 7 that federal regulations permitting reimbursement of Christian Science nursing care under Medicare and Medicaid were unconstitutional. He held that, by singling out only one religion by name, the accommodations were too "sect specific" under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The judge delayed putting the ruling into effect pending appeal.

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Christian Science nursing facilities provide room and board, supplies, and basic nonmedical nursing services to ill or injured Christian Scientists relying on prayer alone for healing.

The church filed a motion Aug. 19 asking the judge to modify his order. The brief asserts that the "Court should not invalidate the statutory accommodation entirely, but simply order the benefits of [the] accommodation be made available on a non-sect-specific basis - that is, be made available to all similarly situated religious persons and groups."

Thus, the church says, the law would cease to be sect-specific and the constitutional defect would no longer exist. The judge is now reviewing the motion.

The judge's ruling came in a suit brought by CHILD (Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty), an Iowa-based advocacy group, against the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, a federal agency, and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, which publishes this newspaper, joined the suit as a defendant.

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