Southern Religion

ERLC’s Richard Land deserves ‘Lie of the Year’ recognition

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.”

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Religion, SBC | , , , | 6 Comments

Religion Research finds majority support for health reform

The Public Religion Research Institute’s biennial American Values Survey reported this week that “a(54%) of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported health care reform.”

That’s a contradiction of of Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission chief Richard Land’s prediction in March that those who voted for health reform would be driven from office in a November electoral Battle of Midway.

There is still a Battle of the Pacific metaphor to abuse. Running hard against health reform may be a kamikaze strategy, Richard.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Health, Politics, SBC | , , | 1 Comment

Stupak reflects on the misuse of abortion against health reform: Addendum

Rep. Bart Stupak explains in Newsweek his disappointment over the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ reaction when he asked their support for “an executive order confirming that no federal money would support abortion:”

No, no, no, no, they said. We need statutory law. But an executive order can have the full force of law, I said. Lincoln used one to free the slaves. George W. Bush used one to block stem-cell research using human embryos. And President Obama assures me that this is “ironclad.” Besides, I said, it’s time to negotiate or lose our chance to shape the bill. Help me with it? No, they said. Won’t you at least look at it? No.

That call changed my relationship with the pro-life movement. In the 18 years I’ve been in Congress, pro-life Democrats like me have delivered, working out compromises that protect human life. Now we had the most important piece of legislation for our movement yet—with pregnancy prevention, prenatal and postnatal care, and care for kids—and we couldn’t get support.

That, from his time in “health care hell,’ is ultimately what hurt the most. He said:

It’s that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after protections were added.


Mark Silk, commenting on the same piece, certainly gets it right:

Stupak accuses bishops … of using abortion to oppose health care reform.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Oh no, Rubio! From outRichardLandish to uh-oh?

Promoted by SBC ethics czar Richard Land as a credible 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mario Rubio is under Internal Revenue Service investigation.

The Miami Herald reports that Rubio is one of three former Florida Republican Party credit card holders being scrutinized for their alleged use of party credit cards to pay personal expenses.

Whether a full-fledged criminal investigation is merited has not been decided, and Rubio adviser Todd Harris told the Miami Herland, “There is absolutely nothing to this.”

The principal effect, as Talking Points Memo suggests, is likely to be on the dynamics of Rubio’s fight with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican senatorial nomination, without which Rubio becomes another Land loser.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Politics, SBC | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is Rubio for president 2012 another outLandish prediction?

After making a scandal of himself in opposition to health reform, Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land has in an interview with Politico promoted former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio as a credible 2012 Republican presidential nominee who has “more experience than Obama had.”

The gimlet-eyed journalists at PolitiFact poured that outLandish claim through their fact-filter and emerged with a “barely true.” Even that conclusion is a stretch. It assumes, for example, Rubio is elected to the U.S. Senate and serves two years — although he has yet to win the Aug. 24 Fla. Republican primary.

Sarah Palin benefitted from Land’s dubious blessings. In 2008 he sang her praises as a potential vice presidential nominee in an interview with Brian Goldsmith of CBS, mentioning Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee only as an afterthought.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain chose Palin as his vice presidential nominee and after a brief popularity bubble, she helped sink his candidacy. Then, Palin the public servant went home to abandon the governorship of Alaska.

Palin’s former prospective son-in-law Levi Johnson said at the time that she left in pursuit of cash. The dollar figures have since born Johnson out. Matthew Mosk of ABC News reported:

Since leaving office at the end of July 2009, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has brought in at least 100 times her old salary – a haul now estimated at more than $12 million — through television and book deals and a heavy schedule of speaking appearances worth five and six figures.

Along the way health reform in which Land and Palin both invested so much vilifying energy and who both contributed to the “death panels” howler which copped a “lie of the year” award, passed.

When Land comes to anoint you, candidate Rubio, if you’re really interested in public service, then for heaven’s sake outrun him.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Conservative intellectual honesty’s price: Continued

David Frum, who lost his job at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) after his “Waterlooanalysis, clarifies the report that he said AEI scholars were being muzzled if they agreed too much with Obamacare. Frum wrote:

Did AEI muzzle healthcare scholars? I fear that in reproducing in print a private conversation from some months ago, Bruce Bartlett made a transmission error. I did not report as fact that scholars were laboring under any restrictions. What I did say was that AEI was punching way below its weight in the healthcare debate. I wondered, not alleged, wondered, whether AEI scholars were constrained by fear of saying something that might get them into trouble. To repeat: this was something I asked many months ago in private conversation, not something I allege today in public debate.

Well and obliquely said.

Bruce Bartlett then issued his correction. With elaboration. Summary: There’s a compelling “circumstantial case” for the muzzling, and AEI has demeaned itself by letting Frum go.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, SBC | , , | 1 Comment

Conservative intellectual honesty’s price: Part II

Just as David Frum was fired for his “Waterlooanalysis of the Republican health reform loss, Bruce Bartlett was fired by National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 when he shared with them the manuscript of his book, “The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.”

Bartlett reflected Thursday on the scope of the scope of the intellectual dishonesty involved in Frum’s dismissal.

The takeaway:

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia, if it hasn’t already.

Indeed, some Religious Right minds already have episodes of doleful echolalia.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Politics, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Conservative intellectual honesty’s price: Part II

Richard Land echoed (or the echo)?

The Christian Coalition issued a statement yesterday which compared “Sunday, March 21, 2010,” when health reform was adopted, to “a very infamous day full of betrayal and deceit” like Japan’s “sneak attack on America at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.” And so on.

Did they steal that image from Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission chief Richard land? Who after all went on from his Pearl Harbor to forecast an electoral Battle of Midway (casting the Democrats in the role of the Japanese Imperial Navy), whereas the Christian Coalition took another path.

Coordinate it with him?

Or was the similarly ineloquent lack appropriate restraint merely perchance?

March 24, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | 1 Comment

After the fall

Republicans not only lost, public opinion is shifting toward the enacted health care reform [USA TODAY/Gallup Poll] and they must decide what to do, as Newsweek headlines it, “After the Fall.”

Will Republicans follow those who helped lead them into this abyss by, say, raving about the Battle of Midway?

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, Politics | , | 1 Comment

Waterloo, not Pearl Harbor

Debated for a year, health reform has in the mind of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission chief somehow become an aircraft carrier-based surprise attack:

Liberals across America are rejoicing today over their ‘historic’ victory. My message to them is, ‘Enjoy it while you can.’ This was a Pyrrhic victory of epic proportions. The Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor won a ‘historic’ victory as well. Their celebrations were cut short six months later when most of them were killed at the Battle of Midway.

Richard Land’s curious view of World War II also came up in September, when he misappropriated Holocaust images to assault Obamacare. You may recall that he attracted attention as far away as Jerusalem with that, and was was driven to apologize at the time.

Land has a penchant for the counterfactual, and was joined in that on occasion this week by Baptist Press, which for example wrote:

The House of Representatives barely passed a controversial health-care bill Sunday, deeply disappointing pro-life Americans who hoped a small group of Democrats would block legislation they say will permit federal funding of abortion and likely increase the rate of the procedure.

Yet both Catholic and protestant pro-life Americans were famously divided on the issue, with pro-life/faith leaders applauding the Senate bill as pro-life. Thus some pro-life Americans were disappointed by the 219-212 House approval of health reform. While at the same time, some pro-life Americans celebrated passage.

Land’s radical denialism helped create the circumstances he seeks, with more of the same failed strategy, to undo. Former Bush speech writer David Frum has both commented on the magnitude of the defeat and explained that the legislation is effectively immune to repeal:

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

As for the voter outrage about which Land speculates, it isn’t there except perhaps in a radical minority, and isn’t likely to emerge. As Nate Silver accurately observes today, “history suggests that endeavors of this nature (Medicare, Social Security, Romneycare) generally become popular and are appreciated by the large majority of voters once they become law.”

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Health, Politics, SBC | , , | 3 Comments