October 19, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, October 19, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
"Back end eugenics": African Americans in D.C. suspicious of pending assisted suicide law
We’ve been tracking as the culture of death continues to present itself to the American people in different places in different times with the face of different issues. The most urgent issue in terms of coming weeks is probably the issue of assisted suicide, because it’s coming before three states and the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia now offers us a very rare moment of moral clarity as this issue has unfolded. And the Washington Post yesterday ran an important story by Fenit Nirappil entitled,
“Right-to-die law faces skepticism in nation’s capital: ‘It’s really aimed at old black people.’”Show Full Transcript
“The D.C. Council is poised to approve legislation making the District the nation’s sixth jurisdiction to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill residents, adding momentum to a practice that had long been controversial but is gaining acceptance among elected leaders, the medical community and the public.”
The reporter goes on to tell us that a majority of members of the D.C. Council are expected to back the legislation. Now when you’re looking at the nation’s capital, you’re not just looking at a major American city, you’re also looking at something of a barometer, a bellwether in terms of the culture, because D.C. is overly populated with policy types and with very politically active people. It is also home to one of the nation’s largest African American populations, and it has been so for well over a century. It is indeed the racial element of this that is a very important part of the story. You’ll notice the subhead of the headline,
“It’s really aimed at old black people.”
The entire thrust of the story from the Washington Post yesterday has to do with the fact that there is an increased awareness on the part of African American residents, citizens of Washington, D.C., that assisted suicide is not really so much the promise of what is falsely advertised as the good death, it is instead a threat to their own human dignity and the sanctity of human lives and in this case of black lives. Even before getting to the District of Columbia proper, the Washington Post notes that in national surveys African Americans “have consistently stood against assisted suicide.”
The Post says that critics say the notion of doctors hastening death for terminally ill patients runs counter to religious teachings about the sanctity of life. Now that’s an interesting statement, because here you have the sanctity of life tied to religious teachings. This raises a huge issue, a very urgent issue. If the so-called religious teachings are denied, just how does one speak of the sanctity of human life? The word sanctity after all is from the same verbal root as the word holy, and holy, to say the very least, is a theological category. But the admission in that one-sentence paragraph in the Post seems to be precisely this, that if you deny what is described here as religious teachings, then you are likely to find it impossible to sustain an argument about the sanctity of human life. But the interesting thing to the Post is not just that there are theological moral objections to assisted suicide, it is what is evidently surprising, and that is that there is such opposition to assisted suicide from D.C.’s African American community. As the Post states,
“Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death.”
The Post attributed that statement to Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about what’s described as “the racial dynamics of assisted death.”
Professor King said, and I quote,
“Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don’t think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous.”
Now full stop there for a moment. Notice the word she used, it’s the word that seems to come up again and again and again. It is newly coming out as a matter of candor amongst the revolutionaries pressing not only for something like the redefinition of marriage or for a woman’s so-called right to abortion, but also in this projected right to die, the word again was ‘autonomy,’ in this case autonomous.
Now this also tells us something. One of the things it tells us is that the intellectual elites, overwhelmingly white and wealthy, really do believe that arguments based in human autonomy should be morally compelling arguments. That’s why they are overwhelmingly pro-choice as they describe themselves on the issue of abortion. That’s why they have been overwhelmingly in support of the LGBT revolution, and that’s why they are also significantly more supportive of the right to assisted suicide as it is now claimed. But you’ll also note something else. Here you have a law professor looking at the long and very tragic history of race in the United States and pointing out that African Americans in this country are not likely to be persuaded that assisted suicide is to be welcomed as a moral good on the basis of claims of autonomy. This also needs to point to something else which is easily demonstrable in terms of the world around us. Those who are most committed to this new moral impulse of personal autonomy tend to be white, and they also tend to be wealthy. They tend to have the money to buy the lifestyle that can then afford them the luxury of deciding that the most important thing in their life is their own personal autonomy, and the most important moral good they want to protect is what they claim will be the moral autonomy of others.
Now when it comes to this idea of autonomy, to state the obvious, if one is impoverished it’s a lot harder to make the argument about autonomy. And given the historic racism and the injustice suffered by African-Americans in this country, the claim that autonomy is the greatest moral good is likely to fall on deaf ears, and that’s exactly what the Washington Post discovered and made the subject of this most important article. The Post cites,
“Rev. Eugene Rivers III, a black minister from Boston with a national reputation for his work against urban violence, is helping a group of opponents called No DC Suicide. Rivers has called the legislation [that would legalize assisted suicide in the District of Columbia] ‘back end eugenics’ aimed at eliminating poor blacks.”
In this judgment, Rev. Rivers is absolutely right. There is no doubt that he has put his finger on exactly what assisted suicide would be, “back end eugenics.” He means back end as contrasted with the beginning of life. This is end-of-life eugenics. The idea behind eugenics is the claim that society should seek the good birth as now compared to what is claimed to be the good death. That’s why Eugene Rivers talks about “back end eugenics” as compared to front end eugenics, and African-Americans understand exactly what was involved in front end eugenics. It was an attempt to keep black women from having babies and to put limits on the black population and its growth.
The eugenicists, especially in the late 19th century and the early 20th century in the United States, argued that we should encourage more children from the fit and less from the unfit, and embedded in that ideology was explicit undeniable racism. Thus, many of the calls for abortion and birth control in terms of the early 20th century were deeply rooted in these eugenic arguments. And we also note, even as Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood, that the founder of that organization, Margaret Sanger, was herself decidedly a proponent of eugenics.
When Eugene Rivers speaks of “back end eugenics,” he means that there will be a disproportionate application of assisted suicide or euthanasia to the poor and to the disadvantaged, to the powerless and in particular to African Americans. Now we need to note that what’s behind this is not only a sense of economic urgency—we’ve seen that in terms of assisted suicide and euthanasia where people claim that we ought to offer assisted suicides so that people don’t continue to use up precious medical resources and become a financial burden upon their families—but when it comes to assisted suicide we can understand why Eugene Rivers and others see assisted suicide as a direct threat, a direct threat to the powerless, and that means most directly in the District of Columbia to the African American community.
I mention that Rivers is behind a group called No DC suicide, there’s a group on the other side of the issue as well. It’s known as,
“Compassion and Choices.”
Note how this issue of assisted suicide is cloaked in the morality of what is claimed to be compassion. The Post tells us that Compassion and Choices has been trying to sway black residents in the district by enlisting volunteers in all eight wards to hold house parties to discuss the legislation and by recruiting a black physician and a bioethicist “to assure that no one would be coerced into an early death.”
Now here’s what we really need to look at. If you have to have a group to recruit two people to go into the community to promise them that this legislation legalizing assisted suicide would not lead to anyone being coerced into an early death, you understand that if they have to say it wouldn’t, we already know that it will. It might not come in the form of coercion where a gun is put to someone’s head and they are told that they must sign this form, but it will come in the way of moral and of financial coercion in which people are going be told you are a burden upon your loved ones and a burden upon society and that means that the group known as Compassion and Choices is having to say that the third C, Coercion, is not going to happen. And this means that the moral test that is now coming before the District of Columbia Council is a moral test for the entire nation. Because what happens in Washington, D.C. not only won’t stay in Washington, D.C., what happens in Washington, D.C. inevitably affects the entire country.
The Post was honest enough to note the demonstrators at a recent rally outside the D.C. Council building calling for support for the death with dignity legislation, that’s what it’s called, they were mostly white. Leona Redmond, identified as a 64-year-old longtime district community activist whose been organizing other African-American seniors against the legislation, said,
“They are not people who look me.”
The Post says that,
“She’s concerned that low-income black senior citizens may be steered to an early death. When she hears politicians discussing end-of-life care, she fears they are mainly concerned with reducing government health-care costs. And she notes that African Americans are less likely to be able to afford expensive treatment when faced with a terminal prognosis.”
I will let the final words be those of Leona Redmond,
“Because of Jim Crow laws . . . we didn’t have the opportunity to have the same jobs, to have the same insurance, the same retirement benefits. It’s really aimed at old black people. It really is.”
Federal court to pro-life centers: You must tell women where they can get abortions
Shifting to the opposite coast, we need to look at a significant development in a decision handed down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most liberal appellate courts in the United States. That court ruled last Friday that California law AB 775, a law that compels Christian pro-life pregnancy centers to advocate for abortion, doesn’t actually impede their First Amendment right to exercise their religious beliefs. Bre Payton, reporting for The Federalist says,
“A federal court just ruled that pregnancy centers have to tell their patients where they can get publicly-funded contraception and an abortion—even if it violates their religious beliefs.”
This is a story we’ve been tracking, and it now reaches the point that a federal appeals court is ready to deny the religious liberty of pro-life ministries requiring that they tell people by the force of California law where they can get a taxpayer-funded abortion. Now let’s just turn the tables for a moment. If indeed this were a liberal group being told what they must say, there would be immediate cries that this is a constitutional infringement of free speech and of the free exercise of religion. But you’ll notice that when the state gets solidly behind a moral issue such as abortion and what’s described as abortion rights, it will bring coercion to the fore and will use coercion even to violate what is obviously a religious liberty issue. The religious liberty issue here is so front and center. These are pro-life ministries, crisis pregnancy centers as they are often called, and the entire existence of these pro-life messaging institutions and ministries to women is anathema, simply unacceptable to a pro-abortion culture. And in the State of California, a state that is so liberal in terms of its state government that legislation like this will find a legislature to adopt it and a governor to sign it, now you see how the coercive power, the coercive moral power of a government, is applied over against Christian ministries. And of course all of this gets tied together as Payton writes,
“The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a faith-based pro-life group with 111 clinics in California, has been embroiled in lawsuit against California Attorney General Kamala.”
Now she is not only the Attorney General of California, she is one of two persons running for the United States Senate, and she is running as one of two Democrats for that role because of California’s unusual primary system that awards the places on the general election ballot to the two top vote-getters for an office, in this case both were Democrats. That shows you just how Democratic the state has become, and Kamala Harris is not only the Attorney General who is now a United States Senate candidate, she is also someone who has been a major recipient of funds from, you guessed it, Planned Parenthood.
Explaining the impact of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, Payton reports,
“The court determined that because women aren’t just going to NIFLA’s centers for the services they specifically offer, but for counseling and educational resources, the group must also educate women about where they can get an abortion.”
Let’s just think about that for a moment. Specifically, the court said that they will mandate what must be included in terms of counseling and educational resources for women who might be considering an abortion. How long will it be before the State of California decides it will determine what must constitute the content of education and the approach of counseling for some other person, considering some other kind of issue or question in life?
Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defending Freedom said,
“Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms.”
There’s another urgent moral consideration embedded in this story and in the decision handed down by the Ninth Circuit on Friday. The Ninth Circuit said that the California legislature had found that crisis pregnancy centers “often present misleading information to women about reproductive health services.”
When that was said by the legislature, we looked at that time into what they were claiming was to be proof that these crisis pregnancy centers were presenting misleading information. And what did we find? That misleading information is actually information that runs counter to the pro-abortion argument that the State of California has now made a matter of state policy. What we have in this legislation in California and in this decision just handed down Friday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is proof positive of how a government begins to coerce speech and to shut down freedom in the name of protecting a reproductive right. As for now, the target of this law is over 100 crisis pregnancy centers in California. The pressing question is this: who is next to be in the center of that target?
Media bias by the numbers: 96% of campaign contributions from journalists went to Hillary Clinton
Next, in considering how culture is shaped by what the author David Halberstam called “the powers that be,” one of those most important powers is actually that of the press, of the media. And one of the things that makes the press such a potent cultural force in the United States is the extent to which they lean left and openly identify and support the Democratic Party and its candidates and its policies. A group known as the Center for Public Integrity on Monday released statistics indicating that there are hundreds of people who work in the news media who have donated at least $380,000 to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, while on the other side, only about 50 media professionals have given money to Donald Trump for a total of about $14,000.
Now this is such a radical imbalance that it cannot be attributed to personality and, furthermore, it’s a radical imbalance that mirrors previous election cycles. This isn’t, in other words, just about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is about the conservative and liberal wings of American culture and it’s about the Democratic and the Republican parties. The Center for Public Integrity summarizes that 96% of media dollars contributed to this presidential campaign cycle have gone to the Democratic Party and its candidates.
Intelligent Christians seeking to understand the culture around us must perceive that this is something that can’t be discounted in terms of how the culture thinks, how the people around us have their ideas shaped and their understanding of reality formed. The news media today is not what it was just say a half-century ago, it’s no longer limited to a few influential daily newspapers and of course the national radio networks and the television networks as well. Now it is a 24/7, nearly comprehensive culture that invades every dimension of American life and threatens to invade almost every waking second.
Now we should note that members of the news media have the same constitutional rights as every other American, including the right to their own political opinions and the right to contribute to the political candidates of their choice. There’s no doubt about this being a constitutional right, which is to be respected. But it is also a pattern that must be understood. This is not a neutral pattern. It’s not even close to being a balanced pattern. We’re talking not 96% of all contributions coming from the media and media professionals have gone to the Democratic Party and its candidates—96%.
It is interesting that the Washington Post was very quick to report on the story by assuring us in the headline that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Well, of course, there’s truth in that. Numbers very rarely tell the whole story, but the numbers in this case emphatically and loudly tell a story. And the closer you look at this story, the more imbalanced it becomes.