- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

Does God have an opinion on the Obama health care bill? Most religious groups think so, which may be why 1,950 Jews told Sen. Joe Lieberman to do “tshuvah” — a Hebrew word meaning repentance — for filibustering the bill until key provisions on Medicare and a public option were dropped last weekend.

Those who disagreed with him signed a petition at www.shalomctr.org telling the Connecticut independent that he violated the Torah.

“A lot of people in the Jewish community were outraged,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center and the petition’s originator. “It is very unusual for 150 rabbis and 1,800 people to protest. Lots of the signatories are leaders of Jewish organizations and a lot are Jews in the pews. This has to do with health care for the lower and lower-middle classes.”

The bill has taken on biblical proportions now that the Family Research Council has termed it a “pro-abortion, pro-rationing, pro-tax, pro-death law fit for King Herod himself” in an eleventh-hour phone campaign.

“Isn’t it a little ironic that as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of a baby in a manger that the health care bill hinges on unborn babies?” FRC President Tony Perkins said Wednesday.

Southern Baptist leader Richard Land had already condemned Sen. Ben Nelson, a United Methodist, for caving on the bill’s abortion language, saying the Nebraska Democrat got very little in exchange for a clause that forever exempts Nebraskans from paying for increases in state Medicaid payments.

“The vast majority of the National Association of Evangelicals are opposed to this bill without the [pro-life] Stupak-Pitts amendment,” he said, referring to the House version. “They find [the Senate bill] a pitiful excuse for a compromise.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also opposes the Senate bill, saying anyone buying a federally subsidized health care plan will pay for other people’s abortions whether they want to or not. In a stream of daily press releases, two bishops and a cardinal state the health care bill is “deficient,” does not include conscience protections for pro-lifers and does not come close to providing decent care for immigrants.

Last weekend, Catholics and evangelical pro-lifers held vigil at the Scranton home of Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, saying that if he voted for cloture on the health bill, he had voted for abortion. He voted for cloture Monday morning.

Conversely, three dozen liberal evangelicals and Roman Catholics on Friday applauded an alternative proposal by Mr. Casey for the bill’s abortion provisions. The lead signatories included Evangelicals for Social Action President Ron Sider, the Rev. Joel Hunter of Florida, Christianity Today’s David Neff and former National Association of Evangelicals Vice President Richard Cizik. Numerous Catholic academics also signed on.

But Mark Tooley, a United Methodist and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, called the signatories’ assent “an unholy compromise.”

He wrote, “Obamacare, in any form, has become such a totem for many religionists that they are straining to embrace almost any accommodation to ensure passage.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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