Playing Political Football

Brain-dead Ethics?

Statement by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-presidents, Freedom From Religion Foundation

The United States as a Christian-permeated culture is in deep denial about death. Consequently we deny the dying and terminally ill the right to die with dignity, often inflicting needless suffering and pain, or a nightmare existence in limbo, upon the helplessly ill. We do this in the name of protecting “life” even when such life no longer has a future or meaning.

Throughout history, religionists have decried medical advances and technology as “unnatural.” It was “unnatural” to use anesthesia to ease childbirth pains and defy the Genesis curse. Contraception is still condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as “unnatural”–even the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. More than 150 years ago, civil libertarian John Stuart Mill astutely pointed out it is no more unnatural to use a condom to avoid pregnancy than it is unnatural to hold an umbrella up against the rain.

Ironically and hypocritically, the Catholic Church and many fundamentalist Christian denominations are now embracing the thoughtless application of these so-called “unnatural” advances in medical technology to create the tragedy that is Terri Schiavo. In past times, Terri would have died quickly when her irreversible brain damage occurred and left her in an persistent vegetative state. Just because medical technology can artificially keep alive someone in a near brain-dead state does not mean it is ethical or compassionate to do so. Religious zealots, in their black-and-white, Ten Commandments worldview of “God’s will be done,” are incapable of seeing reality’s grey tones. In this Orwellian reversal, artificial prolongation of a life that is over is called “compassion,” and letting nature take its course is calling “killing.”

Everyone mourns the death of a young woman at 26. One could feel the heartache of Terri Schiavo’s Catholic parents at the loss of their young daughter, except that they have had 15 years to learn about her condition, and to accept the medical facts.

They willfully delude themselves about her condition and are complicit with rightwing politicians and antiabortion leaders, such as antiabortion bully Randall Terry, who want to use their daughter’s pathetic medical condition to advance an agenda to remove medical choice and control from Americans. Apparently, Terri Schiavo is just “red meat” to throw at the chomping antiabortion movement. As the shameless “talking points” that were circulated in Congress argued: “the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.”

What happened in Congress late last night was the most calculated and cold-blooded case of political grandstanding imaginable. (And didn’t they violate their esteemed Ten Commandments by working on the “sabbath”–and not just any sabbath, but Palm Sunday?)

Calling Congress back to session at the cost of millions of tax dollars to intermeddle with a Florida court ruling in Schiavo’s long-litigated case, is, as Rep. John Conyers Jr., pointed out, an unprecedented attack on the separation of powers. Rep. Barney Frank is correct to term those machinations the “the manifestation of a Constitutional crisis.”

Last Friday, when the feeding tubes were removed from poor Terri Schiavo, it was a “good Friday,” for reason, and for those who care about the dignity, not just the duration, of life.

Congress’ and the president’s actions are assailable on so many fronts. Those who voted “yes” are blinded by religious principle–or by the brazen political wish to pander to ignorant, mean-spirited, bullying religious lobbies.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend