The Florida Baptist Witness reports that Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently made some extreme allegations about health care reform:
What they are attempting to do in healthcare, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did.
This accusation is shocking enough, but Land doesn’t stop there. He goes on to single out President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, the Democratic Party, and “the government,” accusing them of supporting euthanasia-like policies and practicing a “biological bigotry that is feeding a euthanasia mentality.”
Land’s comments are troubling on a number of levels.
First, they are just flat-out wrong. Neutral sources FactCheck.org and Politifact.com have de-bunked claims that health care reform promotes euthanasia (via government rationing, “death counseling” or “death books”) time and time and time again.
Second, while it is certainly possible, and valid, to have a civil debate regarding the net effects of health care reform, Land’s assertions are in another realm entirely. He takes an extreme leap of bad faith in assigning health reform advocates (including many Jewish groups) the genocidal intent of Nazis. His assertion that those who call for reform actually want seniors and those with disabilities to die is not at all in line with available evidence, especially given that the government has traditionally stepped in to offer more access to health care, particularly for vulnerable populations. Medicare is a perfect example of this as immediately prior to its creation in 1965 over half of seniors were uninsured because they were unable to afford or access the private insurance market.
Third, what does this rhetoric mean for our public discourse and the future of politics in our country, and what does it say about faith in the public square?
I believe in (and the Constitution protects) free speech; Dr. Land should of course be legally permitted to say whatever he wants. I have to wonder though, is this a Christ-like way for a Christian leader to engage in a public debate? Dr. Land’s polemical statements about the intentions of those who support reform do a disservice to the discussion, and I worry about where such incendiary and inaccurate speech takes us. Casting healthcare reform as some kind of proto-Holocaust can only serve to scare and inflame his audience, and the consequences could be severe.
UPDATE: Land has written a letter apologizing to the Anti-Defamation League stating, in part, “I was using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele.”
Thank goodness Sen. John Kyl doesn’t speak for all pro-lifers:
While his desire to keep health care costs down is understandable, this attitude about the importance of maternity care from someone who brands himself as “pro-life” isn’t.
Maternity care is expensive. It doesn’t take too much imagination to think that a woman with few financial resources might take those costs into consideration when deciding whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
Since child bearing and it’s costs impacts women most directly, expanding access to quality maternity care is an important plank in the emerging common ground platform on abortion.
People of faith from all over the country came to Capitol Hill to rally for affordable healthcare and lobby their Members of Congress yesterday, and as the video below shows, make a moral case for reform:
Yesterday’s rally and nearly 100 visits were part of the culmination of 40 Days for Health Reform, during which the faith community demonstrated widespread support for affordable quality health care for all — 300,000 people listened to the August 19th health care web-cast and call-in with faith leaders and President Obama, 20,000 called their representatives during a national-wide call-ind day, clergy in congregations across the country preached about health care reform and called for a civil and honest debate, and the faith community held large public events to build support for affordable health reform nationwide. In addition to the 40 Days campaign, numerous parallel allied efforts drove home the message that people of faith consider healthcare reform an urgent moral issue.
For months now, people of faith have been making a moral argument for healthcare reform in congregations across the country, on the airwaves in key states, on Capitol Hill and at public events nationwide, and 300,000 religious leaders and advocates tuned in or later streamed the call-in and audio webcast with local and religious leaders, President Obama, and Melody Barnes, Director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.
Drawing on her own background, our own Katie Paris makes the moral case for health care reform in Relevant Magazine today:
I have always been one of those people with good health insurance. So have my husband, my parents and my siblings. I understand from the president’s speech last night that health care reform is meant to lower costs in terms of out-of-pocket expenses for my family and me, as well as the long-term fiscal health of our country. I hope that’s true. But as a Christian, that shouldn’t be the only argument, or even the central one, as we think about health care reform. Addressing a problem of such gravity is not just a political challenge; it’s a moral one for those of us who claim our faith as our guide.
My 30th birthday came and went this summer without a single ache or pain, but this health care debate is beginning to make me feel old. I was 14 when President Bill Clinton joined a lineage of Democratic and Republican presidents, stretching from Roosevelt to Nixon, who tried and failed to fix our broken health care system. All the while, Christians across the country have sought to be part of the solution, continuing to minister to and care for the sick. But despite our best efforts in hospitals, clinics and congregations, and many piecemeal policy improvements by elected officials of good will, millions of children of God still fall through the cracks, and millions more stand at the precipice of losing their insurance, their homes and their savings if they come down with a serious illness.
Addressing a joint session of Congress last night, President Obama pressed forward with a speech Diana Butler Bass described as “a moral case based on compassion, care, and common humanity drawing from the general principles of ‘do unto others’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ He invited all of our religions, spiritualities, and ethical systems into the meaningful work of healing.” Following months of advocacy from religious groups, it was a noteworthy development.
Moral and religious arguments clearly drive home the point that our system is broken in a way that arguments about dollars and cents can’t. Look for more advocacy from this perspective next week, as people of faith from across the country call and visit their Members of Congress to make clear that quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans is a moral priority in the religious community.