Incoherence, thy name is H.R. 3.
In the case of abortion and health care, religious right organizations claim that even if individuals purchase their own abortion coverage, any tax subsidy for health care coverage that includes abortion constitutes federal funding– which is why they’re trying to pass the extreme H.R. 3 “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” But in the case of church exemptions and school vouchers for parochial schools, these same groups argue that a tax deduction or subsidy is not a form of government funding (because if it were, it’d be a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment).
In a House of Representatives hearing on the bill last week, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) exposes the incoherence of their argument while questioning Cathy Ruse from the Family Research Council and Richard Doerflinger from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Check out the video:
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land is closely identified with the lie that President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul the American health insurance system is a government takeover of health care that he deserves dishonorable mention.
A well-constructed Google search finds more than 9,000 ties between Land and that argument.
His most extravagant stunt in service of that lie was an alleged 1.3-million signature petition by the National Center for Policy Analysis/Salem Radio Network (for which he is a show host). At the time, he said:
This petition is indicative of a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest against a government takeover of the American health care system.
More extravagantly, on March 11, 2010, Land argued in an open letter:
… President Obama and the liberal congressional leadership are trying to ram through a takeover of nearly one-sixth of the U.S. economy with a new strategy.
Yet the St. Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning PolitiFact service concludes in naming the 2010 Lie of the Year:
Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)
By selecting “government takeover’ as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.
The phrase is simply not true.
Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “The label ‘government takeover” has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.’ “
They document the fallacy of the claim point by point, and its origin in a Republican strategy memo, here.
The SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s full-throated voice of a falsehood is not a new. In 2009, Land was likewise owed honorable mention (below Sarah Palin} for the PolitiFact Lie of the Year award trophy for elevating fictitious “death panels” to a topic of frenzied national debate.
Indeed, Land promoted both the falsehood that health reform involves eugenics programs, like those instituted in Nazi Germany, and the “death panels” myth which is part of those partly retracted claims.
Like Fox News, ERLC so often fosters misinformation that relying upon them has meant being misled on matters of historic significance.
Bold Faith Type offers a few other examples of Religious Right promotion of the falsehood:
- The Family Research Council held a webcast called “Government Takeover of Healthcare: Counting the Cost.”
- The Susan B. Anthony List took out radio ads alleging that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) “cast the deciding vote to allow the government takeover of health care.”
- FRCAction PAC ran campaign ads accusing numerous Democrats of supporting “big government” that is “taking over our health care.”
Once the Christian Right’s most reliable Congressional culture warrior, former Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay was found guilty Wednesday by a Texas jury “of one charge of laundering corporate money into political donations and one charge of conspiracy.”
Leaders of the Christian Right rallied to him when he was indicted on Sept. 26, 2006. For example, Brian Kaylor wrote for the Baptist Center for Ethics publication Ethics Daily:
[The late] Jerry Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University compared the indictment of DeLay to President Richard Nixon’s “vicious” attacks on his political enemies, and argued that DeLay “is the target of an ugly political witch hunt.”
Falwell also wrote: “While the dogs continue to yap at his heels, I hope that Rep. DeLay can get past the nasty politics that have seemingly brought him to this point. And I pray that he can quickly prove his innocence and get back to work as one of our eminent political leaders.”
DeLay, apparently still a member of Second Baptist Church in Houston, echoed those sentiments and others like them following his conviction. He described himself as “innocent” and said “This is an abuse of power, and it is a miscarriage of justice.”
Yet the evidence him was at the end compelling. Perhaps most dramatically among widely publicized disclosures, at one point, during taped negotiations with prosecutors, DeLay admitted prior knowledge that a staff member was going to commit one of the crimes of which he (DeLay) was accused:
DeLay told prosecutors that he knew that Jim Ellis, DeLay’s chief political aide in Washington, was going to exchange 190,000 dollars of corporate money for campaign donations from the Republican National Committee.
“Jim Ellis told me he was going to do it,” DeLay said. “Before he did it?” prosecutors asked. “Uh-huh,” DeLay answered.
USA Today’s Catalina Camia reports that as a result of the jury verdict:
DeLay, a former No. 2 House GOP leader, faces five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on the money laundering charge.
The hammer has fallen.
DeLay will remain free on bond until he is sentenced Dec. 20, reported the Austin American-Statesman:
[District Judge Pat ] Priest allowed DeLay to remain free on bond until sentencing, which is set for Dec. 20. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said no decision had been made on whether prosecutors would recommend prison time or probation for DeLay.
Yes, DeLay’s attorney is talking about filing an appeal.
Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, holds Christian Rightists’ feet to the fire for pretending their political gathering was a prayer meeting:
Conservative Christian leaders are plotting against President Obama, hoping to do to him what they did to President Jimmy Carter: use their moral authority and organizations to remove a fellow Christian from the White House.
. . .
According to Brian Kaylor’s exclusive news report, some 40 conservative Christian leaders met in early September near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport to keep Obama from being re-elected.
Their plotting discloses a lack of moral integrity. Rather than being honest, the group met under the pretense of a prayer meeting.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, there is a debate over a political speech masquerading as a prayer.
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a “non-practicing Baptist [atheist]” who lives without benefit of matrimony with her male companion.
Australians, it seems, are even less attentive to the blandishments of their religious right than voters in this country have become to the overstated suasions of the likes of Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land. As Joel Gibson wrote recently for the Sydney Morning Herald:
We’re a weird mob when it comes to God and politics. Two-thirds of us tick a religious box in the census but research for the Herald by Nielsen last year found three-in-four don’t care whether our leaders believe in God. There are as many of us who abhor it in politics as there are who crave it, and both are small minorities.
Macquarie University academic, Marion Maddox, whose book For God and Country details the religious dynamics in Australian politics, says “Australians are suspicious of anyone who sounds too religious.” She has also said she expects the religious beliefs of politicians to fade from public discourse.
Aussie Labor Party member Gilliard isn’t like to be the final test of that, but this far she has been a boon to her party. She and her allies ousted failing Labor PM Kevin Rudd and the Herald Sun reports:
Ms. Gillard has turned around Labor’s fortunes, even in Western Australia where support had slumped to 28 per cent thanks to the mining tax. A poll in The West Australian yesterday showed support had jumped to 36 per cent in the wake of her promotion.
She’s expected to call for an election soon to establish her own governing mandate.
Don’t expect an American-style debate over the church she doesn’t attend. Indeed, that uproar Down Under isn’t happening already.
“CAAH [Community Action Against Homophobia was less hopeful] Sydney believes that Julia Gillard won the leadership with the support of the anti-gay right within the Labor Party and she will be beholden to their agenda,” [Ben] Cooper said. “We hope she will be supportive of issues such as same-sex marriage but we are not optimistic that this will occur any time soon.”
Oklahoma’s Bruce Prescott ponders the conjunction of dates. The millennials, “who were born after 1980 and came of age around the millennium,” certainly grew up amid the ardent voices of the Southern Baptist Convention’s fundamentalists and the others of the Religious Right. As Prescott observes:
The fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention began in 1979. The rise of the Religious Right in America dates from the same year.
Certainly Prescott is not the first to see “a link between in-your-face religion in the public square and declining interest in organized religion among young people.”
While not focused precisely on the issue Prescott addresses, Michael Gerson, senior research fellow in the Center on Faith & International Affairs at the Institute for Global Engagement, made a show of discovering the relationship for himself late last year.
Somewhat similarly, Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, responded to the shift in public attitudes away from right-wing political zeal and turned Ft. Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church away from its hyper-political, right-wing activist heritage.
Of course he had to fight off an attempt by the old hands to remove him from the pulpit there.
In the necessity of that fight is one answer to Prescott’s closing question: Will those who helped bring the alienation about “ever realize“?
In my mind, there’s something about Jesus’ injunction to “let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay” (Matt. 5:37) that is applicable beyond oath-taking situations and confirms the truth that “anything beyond these is of the evil one.” Christians have no business embellishing the truth and twisting it for political purposes and that is what the Manhattan Declaration does from beginning to end.
All driven by the desperation of a Christian Right which feels power slipping through its fingers like sand.
Newt Gingrich is on a spiritual journey back to power in the Republican Party and perhaps a run for president.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes about Gingrich’s conversion Catholicism, noting that it “says much about the transformation of the Republican Party that even Newt Gingrich is now carrying the cross.” Milbank says that even though Gingrich has never been close to the religion right, former speaker “is calculating that everything will get easier for him politically as a religious conservative.”
“But as his presidential aspirations swelled in recent years, Gingrich took the road to Damascus. He went on James Dobson‘s radio show to talk about his adultery. He spoke at Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University. He appeared on GodTV. He converted to Catholicism. He wrote a book, “Rediscovering God in America,” and produced two related films. He’s at work on a documentary about Pope John Paul II‘s role in defeating communism.”
Matt Bai looked at Gingrich’s resurgence in New York Times Magazine.
Bai describes a Republican retreat for congressmen in Virginia earlier this year, where Gingrich was the keynote speaker. Gingrich told inspiring stories from history and sports and even lightheartedly referred to himself as Moses, saying he’d help the GOP cross the Red Sea again only if it stayed on the other side.
Bai notes that Gingrich has “gone to great lengths to placate Christian conservatives.”
“The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek. In 2006, though, Gingrich wrote a book called “Rediscovering God in America” — part of a new canon of work he has done reaffirming the role of religion in public life.”
Gingrich told the conference attendees that the nation’s “first great challenge is spiritual.”
“This is a country in hunger for another Great Awakening, a wave of belief which has again and again swept this country and fundamentally changed us.”
Gingrich is positioning himself to ride that wave.
In April conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was mulling the obituary of the Religious Right – the oogedy-boogedy branch of the Republican Party. And tomorrow, very much alive, they’re likely to romp here and there.
Progressive Sara Posner writes:
From Virginia to New York to Maine, the religious right is playing a key in tomorrow’s off-year elections. The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.
. . .
Every other election cycle or so, the religious right makes noises that it might have to form a third party of its own. Although the likelihood of success for Christianist third party is nil, this “values voters” grandstanding is not an empty threat. It moves GOP candidates, particularly in the primaries, to the right. They can’t win without the Christian right money or ground troops.
She then conducts a tour of races in which the Religious Right has imposed its will, most notably in NY-23 where, win or lose, Sarah Palin & Co. ejected a Republican moderate and put a Conservative Party candidate in the lead.
They’re not the same, but the search for a redeeming new name isn’t on the minds of the prevailing Religious Right leaders tonight. That doesn’t mean they’re really back in electoral charge, however. It means they aren’t dead.
Did someone seriously think they would be dead? They have long made their political living by manipulating a target audience they know well and they are, of course, still good at it.
An interactive, online hate-crime map was created by National Public Radio. Very nice, and Dan at Bold Faith Type wants a list of prosecutions of clergy “for their speech in the pulpit” in those areas.
Perhaps in an interactive map, please?
He assumes our Christian Right friends are ready with a list, since they argued so strenuously that a federal hate crimes law would “lead to the silencing of clergy.”
Waiting . . .