The Religious Right and Health Care Reform

by Dan Quinn

One of the most puzzling things about the debate over health insurance reform has been the religious right’s strident opposition. If the movement’s leaders didn’t constantly remind you that they are pastors and people of faith, you’d never know it from their comments about health care.

Instead of honest proposals for how our society can make sure the sick and vulnerable get the care they need (didn’t Jesus talk about that?), we’ve heard religious-right leaders rail against taxes, a supposed “government takeover” of health care and fictional “death panels.”

Case in point: today’s e-mail from Rick Scarborough, who founded the Lufkin-based group Vision America to “inform and mobilize Pastors and their congregations to become salt and light, becoming pro-active in restoring Judeo-Christian values in America.”

Scarborough uses his e-mail today to criticize abortion opponents for backing a measure that bars health insurance plans that could be offered under the U.S. House’s recently passed reform bill from covering abortion.

“Even without the prohibition on abortion funding, the 2,000-page health ‘reform’ measure will necessitate rationing. If it’s passed, rationing will be inevitable.

The plan calls for insuring millions who (for whatever reason) are currently uninsured. Even with the enormous tax increases on individuals and businesses envisioned by the legislation, it’s impossible to raise enough revenue to pay the initial trillion-dollar price tag.

Whether it’s ‘death panels’ or penalizing physicians who provide care above a mandated level to Medicare recipients, Washington will find a way to ration medical care to the most vulnerable. Is the life of an unborn child more worthy of protection than handicapped children, terminal patients or the elderly ill?

With God’s help, Obama care can still be stopped.

The right-to-life movement needs to re-think its strategy. By continuing to push a ban on abortion funding — instead of working to defeat Obama-care with or without such a prohibition — it could end up losing by winning.

Let’s ignore for a moment all of the numerous distortions and lies in that e-mail. (“Death panels”? Rationing care for handicapped children, terminal patients and the elderly? Get thee to a confessional, Pastor Scarborough.)

What really stands out is the callous disregard — the complete absence of Christian compassion — for the millions of Americans who simply don’t have access to adequate health care because, through no fault of their own, they can’t get health insurance. We realize that there are many reasons people don’t have health insurance, some by choice, some not. We also realize that honest people can honestly (and honorably) disagree about how best to ensure that all Americans have access to the health care they need. To be clear: TFN has taken no official position for or against health insurance legislation under consideration in Congress right now. But surely we all should expect that those who claim to base their political agenda on their religious faith will at least acknowledge the tragedies that many families face when they have no health insurance. Shouldn’t we?

But what we get instead are screeds like Scarborough’s that dishonestly assign the worst motivations to those who are working for a real solution. He even promotes opposition to reform as a political strategy:

“(A) lot of vulnerable Democrats (and more are moving into that category every day) are looking over their shoulders. We need to encourage that apprehension.”

This illustrates a point TFN has made repeatedly: the religious right isn’t a religious movement. Far from it. The religious right is a political movement that often uses religion as a weapon to divide people and advance a political agenda. “With God’s help,” Scarborough writes, “Obama care can still be stopped.” But who will tell us which side God is on here?