Lynn v. Sekulow

Lynn v. Sekulow

God’s Chosen Healthcare Reform?

Yesterday at 5 o’clock Eastern time, I joined the President and 130,000 of his closest friends on a conference call about health care.  Earlier in the day, the President had a similar phone call with about 1,000 rabbis, initiated by my longtime friend David Saperstein, head of the Reform Action Center.

Was there anything wrong with these calls?  Here’s my take.

First, religious groups do have every right to advocate for specific public policies on any and all subjects.  Those on the Religious Right even have the “right” to support curtailing or abolishing the separation of church and state.  (I’ve spent much of my life trying to be an advocate on the other side of that debate.)

Second, these groups, like all others, may invite politicians, including the President to address their gatherings, live or on the telephone.  Ronald Reagan used to frequently address the primarily religious “March for Life” every January on the anniversary of Roe v Wade via a telephone call played through loudspeakers at the Capitol.  Many of us were horrified at what he said, but I don’t recall anyone saying he didn’t have the right to speak to these people.

This, however, is only one side of the matter.  The other is what politicos should say when they address such groups.

One, no politician should claim that his or her plan for anything–from
tax reform to health care reform- has gotten God’s stamp of approval. 
According to some reports,
including one via Twitter from another friend, Rabbi Jack Moline,
President Obama told the morning call yesterday that “we are God’s
partners in matters of life and death.”  Since no full transcript of
the President’s remarks have been released, it is not clear what the
context of that statement was, but it certainly seems to veer into the
“penumbra” of my fear about claiming to mirror some divine intent.

Two, even if a political leader does believe that his or her view is
consistent with a set of holy scriptures, that can’t be the basis for
policymaking.  There must be commonly shared secular values (including
those derived from the Constitution) which shape any programs or
proposals.  In the healthcare debate there are all kinds of rational
bases for seeing the need for dramatic changes in the current system. 
There is no need to have political figures “throw in” some references
to the Bible to buttress the evidence.

I wish President Obama would skip the religious rhetoric and instead
clearly lay out the kind of reform he’s looking for. If he wants the
support of religious leaders, he needs to be crystal clear about his
bottom lines for acceptable reform.  Is it cost savings, the public
option, limits on insurance company profits, or other specifics?  One
of the things the Religious Right often said after Reagan’s anti-choice
calls was that he never followed up on specific proposals.  Progressive
types ought to insist that the current administration make a firm
committment to specifics–and that last minute further compromises will
not show up on the table.

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Comments read comments(19)
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chuck in austin

posted August 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Well, this is very good. It certainly clears up what I inquired about in your “Health Care Disinformation” article. Thanks for speaking against the doctrinaire grandstanding by Obama.
Matters of religious interpretation should never be the basis of public policy. One day Obama and his cronies have the power of the Treasury and can try to run the whole health care show with legal abortions. The next day it could be someone from the Religious Right with the control of the Treasury and our health care system forbidding any abortions. Do we want to yield so much power to the federal government that we can live when political tides shift?
The more the government takes control of health care now, the more control the government will have over our lives in the future. This (health care) is not a matter for ideologues on either side to be allowed to usurp power at the expense of personal liberty. And we certainly shouldn’t yield any freedom on the basis of peculiar religious views of elected officials, be they from the Right or Left.

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Anan E. Maus

posted August 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Health care is simply about helping sick people and especially poor and sick people…
the opposition to Obama’s health care plan is coming from greedy HMO’s who want to make money at the expense of people’s health, safety and even their lives themselves.
HMO’s have killed people. Many people.
The opposition to Obama’s health care plan is also coming from Republicans who simply want to use the issue to diminish his power…a power game. A power game at the expense of the safety of millions of lives.
The religious duty is quite clear here…to help the poor and sick.
Anything that diverts from that, it an affront to everything religion stands for.

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chuck in austin

posted August 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Anna, which plan is “Obama’s” in any sense? He didn’t offer any plan but left it up to Congress to craft one, two, three…
So which one do you claim is his? Hmmm?
As far as “power games” and power grabs, I think you need a reality check. In the name of insuring 7.5% of the population lacking insurance — not lacking access to health care — the Congressional plans (such as HB 2300) up for consideration would affect the other 92.5% detrimentally. We don’t need to socialize the entire system, float trillions of dollars in more debt we don’t have the economic strength to pay right now, or use 1000+ pages to obtain coverage for that small segment of the population without insurance. HB 2300 is nothing but a power grab, and Obama should be ashamed of himself for pushing for its passage before the recess; after all, Obama criticized Bush for pressing for fast passage of bills (when all is said and done, there will be no qualitative difference between Bush and Obama aside from one being more or less conservative and the other being pretty far to the left).
Finally, religion is an invalid pretext for social policy. The role of the federal government isn’t to micromanage the private sector or the lives of free people. I’ll own up to being an affront to whatever you think religion stands for because I stand for freedom, including the freedom for YOU to choose to support the poor in whatever way you want so long as you use YOUR OWN money to do it instead of taking mine to do your charitable acts. If that makes me greedy, so be it. Just don’t expect me to accept that you’re more compassionate or religious than I am when you choose to take MY money to do YOUR random acts of kindness. I’d never do that to you. Why do you insist doing it to me?

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posted August 20, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Chuck in Austin, I think President Obama’s intention in health care reform is to prohibit health insurance groups from discriminating against groups of people, and also to make sure that everyone is insured. I’m sure you are aware of those folks who have lost their health insurance once they have become ill, as well as those who cannot get insurance due to previous health conditions.
I personally favor single payer health insurance for many reasons, but one that is probably meaningful to you is that everyone would pay for health care through taxes. Those taxes in the U.S. are progressive, meaning that those who earn more also pay more taxes. From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.
A common thread that runs through every religion is the idea of “that which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” We do need to care for each other, because none of us would like it if we were not cared for. In act, I imagine we’d find it pretty hateful.
But I am also not terribly uncomfortable with President Obama’s comment. He was speaking to a religious group after all, and was hoping to appeal to a common cause that he shares with the clergy, in this case to work for that which is good. Had the President been addressing a group of social workers, for instance, he probably would have expressed the same sentiment, but in different words. It’s called connecting with your audience.
If the President’s comments to the religious leaders had gone on in a similar vein and never addressed the particulars of his health care reform goals, then I would be upset. But after watching him address many different groups and in many different venues, I sincerely doubt that happened.
Finally, I also worry along with Rev. Lynn, that last minute compromises will show up in the legislation that is voted upon, but the President is playing those cards close to his chest. As he has in every area of policy making, he has set up the outlines for what he’d like and kept all options on the table. We can’t hurry him. So, we have to wait and see… and be patient until then.

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Country Mouse

posted August 21, 2009 at 12:43 am

Like my cousin, Anan, the current opposition to health care does not impress me because medical issues are moral issues. I suppose that could make it a religious issue and I don’t object to the president appealing to people on that basis. The medical profession itself, as business-like as it has become, attempts to treat indigent injured people because the need for medical care is a very commanding human issue. To recognize medical care as something we provide our citizenry should be no giant leap for those of any stripe. The three men in the tub are who pays for it, who maintains it, and who gets rich off of it; serious rub a dub dubs!
On that score I agree with Mary-Lee, the cost must be born by those who have a relative excess of money. It’s just the way it is. The system which gives must be counter-balanced by giving to those in genuine need. Medical attention is genuine need, as anybody who’s ever needed it knows very well! Withholding it, delaying it, or pricing it out of consideration should not be the options we consider in forming our national healthcare strategy.
We must not wind up with the medical version of public defenders, or less, for the poor.

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chuck in austin

posted August 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm

How many of you supporters of a single-payer system will still support it when political tides shift and a different political party is running the show? Whichever party is in control at any given time will control not only our healthcare but also over all areas of our lives.
I think that’s way too much control to give any level of government.
You may think it’s fine so long as a party agreeable to your ideals is in power. You won’t find it acceptable when a party you don’t agree with gains control of the system. Consider a pro-life administration and a rubber-stamp Congress changing rules so that abortion, birth control, and HIV/AIDS research and prevention get the axe to further reduce costs. Don’t say it can’t happen. A finicky electorate outraged over healthcare power-grabs caused a sea-change in power just last decade (first time in 40 years?). They won’t merely dismantle the system, they’ll use it to legislate behavior and their view of morality. Just like you would.
Which raises another interesting question in light of those who have no objection to Obama arrogantly and stupidly playing the religion card in this context. Ask yourself if you’ll accept different religious opinions from those who oppose choice when they regain control over different branches of government. They’ll raise their religious and moral arguments just like you will. Is that any way to run a country?
Back to the issue of power shifts between political parties. Will you really think it’s such a great idea to entrust such matters to elected officials and their ideologically-driven appointees? Or will you yield your deepest held ideals and liberty to the ever-swinging pendulum of political fortunes of either party? Would the whole issue of Roe v. Wade be rendered moot by giving government so much control over healthcare that the whole issue of reproductive choice is bureaucratic and economic rather than constitutional?
There are much better and much less expensive solutions available that increase freedom rather than leave it to caprice of elections and the control of ideologues of any stripe. A single payer system doesn’t give any choice — it will reduce choice, reduce competition, reduce quality of care, and reduce treatment options. That’s without even getting to issues like I raised above. I think the American people deserve better than a system that’s going to be run by political hacks.
Be careful what you ask for, including a system that can be gamed by partisans of any stripe. You just might get it. Think about it.

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Your Name

posted August 23, 2009 at 8:26 pm

How can a single payer system reduce choice, quality, competition, and options for those who currently have no health-care? Sounds like republican scare tactics to me. The only thing they do anymore.
Single payer is the only sensible way to go to reduce costs while covering all Americans. One third of the money insurance companies take in–they keep. They waste almost as much through inefficiency. You say it’s too much control to give government–but not insurance companies?! Rrrriiiiigghhhht.

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posted August 24, 2009 at 7:28 am

To Chuck: You seem to have all of the republican talking points down. But, you are aware most if not all are false, right? Others have said & I agree: Republicans in opposition to this reform (many who have personally accepted millions from the health insurance industry) are outright lying for the sole purpose to “break” President Obama/Democrats. This reform is not a “government takeover”. Re: a change in party in power: Have Medicare or VA health services “changed” with each administration? Not that I’m aware of. These are examples of “single-payer” systems. Those on such programs are very pleased with their benefits. These programs are also for the “minority” much like the uninsured…would you also abolish these systems?
I agree with Barry Lynn; we need to keep religion out of all policy decisions.

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posted August 24, 2009 at 10:16 pm

How many of you people who are for the government ran, one payer system have ever received treatment under such a system?
I have and do not want to return. It is great so long as all you need is treatment for colds, flu, and minor injuries that can be treated at the doctors office.
The problem arises if you have a chronic illness or need major surgery. That is when a committee decides when and what kind of treatment you will get and part of the criteria will be quality and quantity of live remaining and cost.
One of the ways to help the working poor and those who truly can not afford health insurance would be to raise the salary limit for qualification for medicaid or medicare. That way there is no need to totally overhaul a system that works good for the majority of the people, unless it is really about government control.
Also, if the current system is so bad and the proposed one so good why will our representatives in government not go on the same system they are proposing for us? I say this not only for health care but also for retirement.

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N. Lindzee Lindholm

posted August 24, 2009 at 10:17 pm
Pres. Barack is certainly not God’s partner in life and death, if this was actually what was said in the conference call. Just the fact that this terminology was stated disgusts me since, from the get go, the President has been against abortion with the aborting of the Mexico City Policy, the movement to remove the Conscience Clause so medical professionals would be forced to perform abortions if it was against their conscience, labeling pro-lifers as “domestic terrorists”, and now making abortion funding mandatory in the health care plan. I can agree that the White House may be Satan’s partner in aborting life and killing the innocent, but it certainly is another blatant lie that the White House is God’s partner in life. They’re very far from it at that.

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Your Name

posted August 25, 2009 at 7:30 am

Weldo: The anwser is ME. Of my 66 years I have lived 33 in the USA and 33 in Canada. I far prefer the health care system of Canada, and I am considering continuing my retirement there. The Canadian retirement system supports a minimum annual income of $15,200 for a single person. Its a government run, single payer program. Want to try passing comparable legislation in the US? A book I have kept in my personal library for 40 years is “The Sacred Canopy” by Peter Berger. Essentially, this is a sociology of religion and theorizes about the role religion plays in supporting the power distribution, political structure, and policies of a country, including warfare. Every political leader of a democracy courts the favor and support of clergy and the alignment of political goals with the will of the better Sky Deities. Sad to say, Barack Obama would never have made it to the Illinois Legislature without the imprimitur of Jeremaih Wright and fake genuflection towards Black Liberation Theology. At least that part of Obamaology has disappeared in Washington.

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Your Name

posted August 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I don’t know about any of you but my family and I dont have healthcare. I lost my job in 2006 and have been unable to secure fulltime employment to date. I am in need of glasses and dental treatment. I wish I had a healthcare plan. Right now a government run healthcare is looking better than the one I have. I was a republican voter until 2006 when the rubber met the road and I began to lose control and all that mumbo jumbo did not feed my children or me.

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Me too

posted August 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm

I voted republican from Gerald Ford’s run through W’s first term…then I too figured out that trickle down economics and tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy weren’t tailored to my best interests.

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Your Name

posted September 1, 2009 at 8:48 pm

The problem is this, that the Democratic Party just so happens to stand up for letting people have the choice to murder their children.
Do I need to say more? You can talk about health care all you want when your standing up for people who let others murder children, there is a real issue of dehumanization. A lack of heart for the wellbeing of another. Do I need to spell it out any clearer?
If you are truly conscerned with the health care of others, try saving their life first!!!
Cara Floyd

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Trust God

posted September 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

God gave people a choice. It is called free will. So is God a murderer? Case Closed.

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posted September 5, 2009 at 3:11 am

It is very interesting when people starting secularizing their comments about abortion. Yes, God gave people a free will, and you can decide between good and evil, Heaven or Hell, that is what the free will is all about. It is your Choice! Which do you prefer?

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Larry Frank

posted September 5, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I do not understand why we are not concerned with the President placing czars over our economy and country. It looks to me like they are trying to create a dictatorship in our country. The healthcare system is just part of it. I would recommend you all talk to David Horowitz or Glenn Beck.

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Your Name

posted September 6, 2009 at 8:46 am

Yes, talk to Glen Beck, who sees symbols from 70 years ago on the walls of Rockefeller center as an indication that the current President is a communist. Yes, that’s a good rational voice to listen to.

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posted September 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Glenn Beck wears magical protective underwear. Horowitz is a racist idiot who thinks black people should pay reparations to the descendents
of slave owners for the loss of their “property.” Could you name two bigger idiots for us to question? ROFL!

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