The language -- which would bar discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare" -- would put Christian Science prayer treatments on the same plane as clinical medicine, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The Church of Christ, Scientist isn't mentioned specifically in the bill language.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home of the church's headquarters.
Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science official, told the Times prayer treatment is an valuable alternative to conventional healthcare.
"We are making the case for this, believing there is a connection between healthcare and spirituality," Davis said.
Critics said the measure could bestow medical legitimacy on practices beyond the realm of science, the Times said.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said the chance to receive payment for spiritual care could encourage other groups to seek similar status.
"This would be an absolute invitation to organize," Gaylor said.