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Health Care Cacophony

Plus: D.C. debates gay marriage, President Obama approves a new hate crimes law, and other issues advocacy groups were talking about this week.

Health Care Ads and Arguments

House Democrats introduced their nearly 2,000-page health-care reform plan today as Sojourners and the Family Research Council (FRC) rolled out two very different ads on health care earlier this week. The Sojourners ad invokes moral language, including phrases like "bear false witness" that allude to scriptural passages as it advocates for health care reform. The video, created in partnership with the American Values Network, features a series of nighttime photographs of people waiting at a free health clinic.

The narrator talks about "the millions of Americans who wait for health care reform," saying, "they are God's children, and they have a face."

"While the politicians bear false witness about reform, they wait," the voice-over continues. "While special interests reap the profits of fear, they wait. While angry protesters silence dialogue, they wait. … The time for health reform is now."

In contrast, the FRC ad could be mistaken as the product of a budget-hawk, anti-deficit action group. Previous FRC Action ads focused on "the moral, ethical and financial dangers of the President's Health Reform Plan."

In FRC's ad, a young boy asks if the grandfather is "still on the list" for his surgery, and whether it is expensive. The grandfather nods and explains that the surgery is free because the government is going to pay for it.

The grandson replies, "Daddy says nothing is for free. Who's going to pay for it?"

The background music changes from a few stark piano chords to a light, playful melody.

"You are," the grandfather scoffs. "You're late for work!"

The grandson then gets ready for his white-collar job as a narrator explains that "government-run health care would leave our children to pay for one trillion dollars of additional debt. They'd better grow up quickly."

This ad, which is being broadcast in Washington, D.C., does not include any discussion of federal funding of abortion, but this does not mean the group is no longer concerned about abortion funding. FRC Action provides a "clear conscience" website with information on abortion funding, a petition, and opportunities to contribute to FRC Action's efforts.

Focus on the Family Action's Ashley Horne said, "Congress needs a wake-up call," as most Americans oppose federal funding of abortions, and Focus has 150,000 signatures on its petition to oppose such funding.

Americans United for Life also continued their call for President Obama to "stop making false claims that abortion funding is somehow already prohibited" and to veto legislation lacking "explicit language prohibiting abortion funding."

Ken Connor of the Center for a Just Society emphasized the "ominous implications" that government-run health care would have for end-of-life care. With government-run health care, the doctor-patient relationship would be replaced by protocols that would emphasize cost cutting over the needs of individual patients, he argued.

Doug Carlson of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Comission (ERLC) argued for the need for more transparency in the legislative process. "Arcane and legalistic or not, the stakes are high," Carlson wrote. "The drivers of health care reform are intent on providing federal coverage for abortion, as well as including a government-run option, which would possibly slash Medicare benefits, raise health care premiums, and crowd out private insurance. A little transparency should not be too much to ask."

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition was more pointed in her criticism of the lack of transparency. "Obama is acting more like a Soviet bureaucrat than a man who believes in the democratic process," she said.

BreakPoint's Kathryn Wiley asked why there was not more talk about the health care options for those in U.S. prisons, who are required to receive the same level of care as those in the community. She noted that there are 2.3 million Americans in correctional facilities, and these prisoners have greater rates of serious illness than the general population. "Prisoners are in our custody, they are our responsibility and that makes them part of the discussion on health-care reform," Wiley wrote.

Same-Sex Marriage in D.C.

One issue that has clearly made its way inside the beltway is same-sex marriage. The city council held hearings on the topic and is expected to approve same-sex marriage. As with any decision by the district, Congress can still choose to reverse the city council (so don't expect the issue to go away soon).

The ERLC's president Richard Land submitted a testimony to the city council, arguing that same-sex marriage damages families, infringes on religious liberty, and is opposed by Southern Baptists. ERLC supported the idea of a referendum, saying that "it is too important of a decision to be made solely by legislative, executive, or judicial bodies."

Obama Signs Hate Crimes Law

On Wednesday, President Obama signed into law a bill that expands federal hate crimes laws to include victims based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The ERLC's Barrett Duke viewed the act as "an assault on evangelical belief." He wrote that Congress "has discouraged religious speech that is not affirming of homosexual behavior and created the opportunity for malicious people to harass those who hold religious convictions about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior."

The American Family Association (AFA) sent an alert that said " the 'hate crimes' law not only criminalizes thought, it creates a judicial caste system in which those who engage in non-normative sexual behavior perversely get more protection than heterosexuals."

AFA also warned that under the bill, pastors could be thrown in jail if pastoral teaching is connected to acts of violence against gays or transsexuals.

Faith in Public Life, however, welcomed the new law and criticized groups that opposed it.

"Thanks in part to misinformation from the likes of FRC and Focus on the Family, Congress rejected the late Sen. Kennedy's repeated introductions of the Matthew Shepard Act from 2007 to the end of the Bush administration," the group wrote. "But today welcomes justice, however delayed, to the victims of anti-gay violence, and to those who dare commit their hands to hatred."

Newt Gingrich, No Conservative?

Should New Gingrich run for president in 2012? According to Bryan Fisher of the AFA, the answer is a resounding "no."

"A Newt candidacy would be a disaster for conservatism in America," Fisher said.

Gingrich's support for Republican Dede Scozzafava in New York's District 23 special election is a sign of his liberalism, Fisher said, because Scozzafava holds many positions on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and the stimulus package that are more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

Scozzafava's opponents in the New York race are Democrat Bill Owens, who holds to more conservative positions on some social issues, and an independent candidate, Doug Hoffman. Fischer described Hoffman, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, and the Family Research Council, as a "perfectly good conservative candidate."

"Newt clearly would be a total disaster as a Republican candidate for president," Fisher said. "Newt should stick to writing books and serving as a TV pundit and leave the governing to genuine conservatives. We need to keep him as far away from the Oval Office as possible."

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers include:

Peace, Peace—But Is There Peace? | What Christian political groups said this week about the Nobel Prize, immigration reform, the hate crimes bill, and other issues. (October 16, 2009)
A Czar, a Cross, and Prayer Chain for Liberals | Conservative groups take aim at safe schools 'czar' Kevin Jennings. The Supreme Court considers the fate of a cross in the Mojave Desert. And all while Congress continues to work on health care. (October 9, 2009)
The Baucus Ruckus | This week the debate over health care reform moved from broad platitudes to specifics on abortion funding and abstinence education. (October 2, 2009)
Two Summits, Countless Agendas | Faith Leaders Summit urges G-8 to focus on poverty while Values Voter Summit targets domestic issues. (September 25, 2009)

Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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