Espousing Life, Enacting Hate

This week, the Terri Schiavo case went from being a complex and tragic family dispute into a full-scale political and legal battle.

Conservative organizations such as the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, Free Republic and The Christian Broadcasting Network are up in arms over the ruling by a Florida judge allowing doctors to remove a feeding tube from Ms. Schiavo, who is in a “persistent vegetative state.”

Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson accused the judge of being on “a quest to use his authority to end her life,” according to one article. The American Center for Law and Justice—a group founded by Christian Coalition founder, Pat Robertson—is championing the case against Terri Schiavo’s husband, Michael, who claims his wife would not want to live in her current state, and conservative protestors are calling the Florida judge’s decision “state-sponsored murder.”

Forgive me for questioning their motives, but aren’t these the same organizations that denounced the recent Supreme Court decision outlawing the death penalty for juveniles convicted of murder? In response to the majority opinion handed down on March 1, Citizen Link, a news link on Focus on the Family’s Web site, expressed dismay at the Court’s reference to international laws and the fact that no other Western nation allows juveniles to be executed.

These same Christian leaders have played a key role in Pres. George W. Bush’s issuance of an executive order reinstating the “Global Gag Rule” barely two days into his first term, despite the fact that, according to Planned Parenthood International, more than 75,000 living, breathing women die annually from complications related to unsafe abortions.

And isn’t the same conservative zeal that convinced the president to fly back to Washington from his Texas ranch on Sunday to sign legislation forcing doctors to restore Schiavo’s feeding tube equally responsible for refusing to grant asylum to a gay man who faced torture and perhaps death in his native Jamaica?

What is it about conservative Christianity that seems to inspire such passion for the notion of protecting life but such utter disdain for the actual, everyday rights of human beings?

Both sides of the Terri Schiavo’s family face agonizing choices and I cannot claim to know what decision I would come to if faced with the same dilemma.

What is clear, however, is that the herculean efforts being made by right-wing politicians and conservative Christian leaders to “protect” Terri Schiavo’s life are disingenuous. These efforts are not directed at seeing to it that Schiavo lives a healthy, productive life, but rather at fulfilling a political agenda and exercising political muscle that is now inextricably connected with the Christian right in this country.

In a CNN interview on Sunday, Michael Schiavo expressed outrage “that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been adjudicated in the courts for seven years,” adding that “I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss.”

Michael Schiavo is right—while his wife Terri’s right to life or death should certainly be the top priority for her family members and friends, our federal government’s attention would be better directed toward the numerous constitutional injustices committed daily against thousands of Americans.

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