Southern Religion

Catholic Health Association president says it is time for health reform

“The time is now for health reform,” Sr. Carol Keehan, DC wrote in Catholic Health World:

As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans. Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes.

The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable. The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage.

CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

[H/T: CommonWeal]


March 14, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Obama, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Brit argues ‘America’ isn’t ‘a Christian Country’

Tim Collard, who is retired from the British foreign service and spent most of his diplomatic career in China and Germany, writes about the ongoing U.S. struggle with health reform for the London Telegraph:

You might argue that America is a Christian country too. Oh no it isn’t. You can’t serve both God and Mammon, the Man said, you have to choose one or the other, and the USA has made it admirably clear where it stands. And it flourishes. Yes, a few thousand lives are wrecked by the lack of access to healthcare. But that’s an acceptable price to pay for all the private jets and Manhattan super-apartments, surely? Let’s hope the Man was kidding when he said all that stuff about camels and the eyes of needles.

Read the entire blog here.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Brit argues ‘America’ isn’t ‘a Christian Country’

Right-wing politics, not theology, drives anti-abortion opposition to health reform

Sara Posner explores the inescapable:

… Democrats, who claim to be pro-life, are playing politics with health care reform, aligning themselves more closely with the anti-choice hard right and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) than their own party. They insist that efforts to ensure that no public funds will be used to cover abortion services are insufficient. This game-playing is not about public funding of abortion, already outlawed in the Hyde Amendment (which bars federal funding from being used to pay for abortions for low-income women under Medicaid and other programs). Indeed, the House bill already incorporates Hyde through its own amendment authored by pro-choice California Democrat, Rep. Lois Capps.

Instead, these Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, are pushing for an amendment to restrict womens’ access to abortion. And that’s not theology, it’s politics.

Read the entire piece here.

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Medical Care, Politics | , , | Comments Off on Right-wing politics, not theology, drives anti-abortion opposition to health reform

A death every 12 minutes from lack of health insurance

While Baptist Press promoted Kelly Bloggs’ shrill, CounterFactual, anti-abortion attack on health care reform, Eduardo Peñalver of Cornell Law School struggled with the daily human-life cost of U.S. health policies. Writing for the Catholic site dotCommonweal, Peñalver cited a new Harvard Medical School study which says:

Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year — one every 12 minutes — in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday. “We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction … than drunk driving and homicide combined,” Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters

Those were not concerns for Florida Baptist Witness editor James Smith, who was consumed with a conjectural cost in unborn lives, with fantasies of rationed health care and with attempting to prove Obama dishonest in his abortion reduction policies. On that last point, Smith’s arguments finally relied so heavily on arguments made by the National Right to Life Committee that they become almost identical to them. And he closes with a risible reference to “the danger inherent to the elderly” of rationed health care, as if health care were not already rationed. tells us, and agrees, that no version of the health reform legislation proposes new health care rationing.

Peñalvers focused instead on the overarching life issue posed by the deaths of the uninsured and by abortion deaths. Both. He acknowledged the argument that those newly insured via health reform might use resources thus freed up to help pay for an abortion.

What he further considers, but Boggs and Smith do not, is the larger issue:

… wouldn’t this abortion-facilitating argument be equally true for any government subsidy of the poor? How, for example, is it different from saying that we should not give the poor food stamps because (for some undetermined number of people) that will free up money from their personal budgets that they will then use to go out and procure an abortion that they otherwise would not have been able to afford? Should we require food-stamp recipients to sign some pledge that they won’t use their private money to procure abortions? Given the various positions that Obama has taken to try to defuse the abortion issue in the health care context, that it may nonetheless indirectly subsidize abortions strikes me as a very odd argument against Catholics supporting health care reform.

It is similarly odd for Southern Baptists to lose themselves in sweeping claims that the president “and his base supporters in Congress” have an unacknowledged abortion agenda.

If the issue is indeed preservation of life, the Harvard study tells us there is a death every few minutes which suggests that it is not enough to seek fewer abortions.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Health, Politics, Religion, SBC | , , , | 2 Comments

Needed: More clarity about health reform

Data analyst Nate Silver dissects the badly flawed new Washington Post/ABC News poll and finds that both the public and the polls demand clarity:

From my vantage point, what the poll “proves”, if anything, is that specificity will be helpful to the Democrats. They should either insist on the public option or remove it — but keeping their options open may be doing little more than confusing the public. And the pollsters.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Health, Law, Politics | | Comments Off on Needed: More clarity about health reform

Religious Right/Bush health insurance & economic legacy

For the Religious Right, attacking health reform is a source of revival. Actually killing health reform would extend the legacy of George W. Bush, which recently released documents show the Religious Right did so much to create.

The legacy of the president whom the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land likened to Harry Truman includes a growth of 6.6 million in the number of Americans not covered by health insurance. That loss of health insurance coverage hit the middle class hardest, observed Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysts. The loss would have been even larger had there not been an offsetting growth in the number covered by Medicaid and SCHIP, noted Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysts wrote:

The Census Bureau reported [Thursday, Sept. 10] that 46.3 million U.S. residents lacked health insurance in 2008, an increase of 632,000 over the previous year. [1] Nearly 6.6 million more people were uninsured in 2008 than in 2001, when the previous recession hit bottom. The proportion of the population without health insurance climbed to 15.4 percent in 2008, slightly above (but not statistically different from) the 15.3 percent rate in 2007 and considerably above the 14.1 percent figure in 2001.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health care, released Thursday, also suggests a bleak overall Bush economic legacy.

In the last year of the Bush administration “the average dollar income fell to the lowest level since 1997 — a decade’s worth of gains wiped out in one year.”

Bush is the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms, Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute is reported by The Atlantic to have observed. Bill Clinton (14 per cent), Ronald Reagan (8.1 per cent), and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (3.9 per cent) all oversaw increases in median household income.

All of that could be seen as raising questions about the qualifications of Land and the Religious Right to set, through public argument and lobbying, the national course on health reform.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Religious Right/Bush health insurance & economic legacy

Obama settled the health-care/abortion issue (you may have missed it)

An unfazed President Barack Obama laid down the law on the role of abortion in health-care reform, immediately after S.C. Rep. Joe Wilson’s factually wrong and possibly censurable “lie” outburst.

There will be no federal funding of abortions or abolition of conscience laws.

From the transcript of Obama’s presentation:

THE PRESIDENT: … There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not true. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

Convoluted struggle over the issue will continue, as pro-life blogger Jill Stanek demonstrated today with her argument that Obama is merely attempting to create a myth. That view isn’t taking hold. Two big Catholic health care organizations were persuaded by Obama’s speech, as was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Judging from the CNN poll and the Democracy Corps dial testing, so were Americans in general.


It is rare indeed for GetReligion to err, but they drifted away from the dock when suggesting President Obama said or implied that pro-life/anti-abortion advocates were spreading lies. Obama’s entire statement on that subject is excerpted above. He spoke of “misunderstanding.”

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Health, Law, Obama, Politics | , , , | 4 Comments

Christian talk radio petitions vs. scientific polls

BP News made itself a stenographer for the National Center for Policy Analysis/ Salem Radio Network (SRN) health reform petitions stunt, which through theatrical delivery hours before Obama’s health-care speech labors to create the impression that there is massive opposition to health reform.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an SRN host, said of the alleged 1.3-million signatures:

This petition is indicative of a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest against a government takeover of the American health care system. Anyone who doubts the strength and vitality of this movement needs only have attended one of the thousands of town hall meetings to know that this is real.

Or perhaps those with doubts have read the available public opinion polls, which reveal no “grass roots eruption” or even majority opposition to health reform, except among the wealthy.

A new Gallup Poll, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, Americans divided over how their representatives should vote. One quarter of those surveyed said they had not made a decision.

Gallup in its scientific poll found a majority against health care reform was found only among upper-income Americans — a direct contradiction of Land’s argument. Specifically:

A slight majority of upper-income Americans want their representative to vote against healthcare reform. Middle-income Americans are divided on the question while lower-income Americans are more supportive than opposed.

Moreover, Nate Silver today concluded that public option enjoys majority support in most Blue Dog Democrat districts.

Given the scientific polling data and expert analysis, it is unreasonable to accept professionally-promoted petitions which are “signed” online by clicking an eagle icon and filling out an online form as “a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest.”

September 9, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion, SBC | , , | 2 Comments

SBC’s Richard Land to help present anti-health reform petitions [with addendum]


Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has announced plans to meet with other Salem Radio Network hosts tomorrow to deliver anti-health reform petitions to Congress on behalf of the National Center for Policy Analysis and SRN.

The National Center for Policy Analysis is a conservative think tank which is financed in part by the insurance industry and which had such close ties to the Bush administration that it fired staff member Bruce Bartlett upon publication of his book Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Regan Legacy.

Similarly conservative and sometimes controversial, SRN, syndicates Janet Parshall, Land and Hugh Hewitt, among others, and is owned by Salem Corporation.

Land said:

This petition is indicative of a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest against a government takeover of the American health care system. Anyone who doubts the strength and vitality of this movement needs only have attended one of the thousands of town hall meetings to know that this is real.

Characterizing professionally-promoted petitions which are “signed” online by clicking an eagle icon and filling out an online form as “a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest” should strain even Land’s credulity.

Similarly spontaneous, delivery of the dubious petitions to Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is take place a few hours before President Obama’s health care address to a joint session of Congress.


Dan Gilgoff writing for USNews somehow finds in this stunt with delivery via gurneys and ambulances what he calls “a clear indication that the sore feelings between the GOP and its Christian Right base that were in evidence in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2008 presidential election are fading.” Because Republican Senate heavyweights who were just involved in the desperate, failed attack on Obama’s school speech have involved themselves.

In August, 2008, Gilgoff applauded Richard Land’s anointment of Sarah Palin as the Christian Right’s and allegedly the Southern Baptist Convention’s Republican vice presidential selection. Also a stunt, which may not have turned out so well for John McCain.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Health, Religion, SBC | , , , | 1 Comment

Beyond partisanship: Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Caritas in Veritate’

In the University of Chicago Divinity School column Sightings, Rick Elgendy argues that the wedge-politics of the culture wars have no support in Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate:

Though frequently presumed to be the source of authority for those who would, say, deny communion to pro-choice politicians, Benedict here refuses to accept the ideological categories assumed in American politics: The same theological commitments that inform his convictions about the integrity of life demand a reimagining of prevailing social arrangements. Catholic and non-Catholic onlookers alike might hope that the encyclical will inspire political discourse that reexamines the standard binaries and turns to principled and civil conversation before partisan rancor (as Benedict himself did, by most reports, in his recent meeting with President Obama, in sharp contrast to how others dealt with the president’s Notre Dame commencement appearance).

Writing for Human Events, Ave Maria Law School’s Rev. Michael P. Orsi says no, Catholics must still be anti-abortion/pro-life at the expense of any health care reform legislation. He does so in an argument that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops violated fundamental principles by reasserting its longstanding position that “decent health care is not a privilege, but a basic human right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person.”

Mark Silk responds, and quotes with telling effect from Caritas in Veritate:

Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world[107]. A link has often been noted between claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centres. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties. Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become license. Duties thereby reinforce rights and call for their defence and promotion as a task to be undertaken in the service of the common good. Otherwise, if the only basis of human rights is to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, those rights can be changed at any time, and so the duty to respect and pursue them fades from the common consciousness. Governments and international bodies can then lose sight of the objectivity and “inviolability” of rights. When this happens, the authentic development of peoples is endangered[108]. Such a way of thinking and acting compromises the authority of international bodies, especially in the eyes of those countries most in need of development. Indeed, the latter demand that the international community take up the duty of helping them to be “artisans of their own destiny”[109], that is, to take up duties of their own. The sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.

Catholic neoconservative George Weigel attempts to escape that passage by arguing that it should be disregarded as a compromise by Pope Benedict XVI “to maintain the peace within his curial household.”

A strange argument to make about this pope who has backed up not a step in the face of one firestorm after another.

Agree or not, to understand the meaning of Pope Benedict XVI, do better to take Silk’s approach:

Read that carefully. The pope is saying that an asserted (or legislated) “right to excess” is wrongly made equivalent to those things that are objectively and inviolably “elementary and basic rights”–such as “elementary health care.” His point is that the affluent have to recognize that they have a duty to take steps to guarantee that the rights of the needy are not violated.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Beyond partisanship: Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Caritas in Veritate’