The failure of Massachusetts’ Question 2, which would have legalized assisted suicide in that state, has not dampened the enthusiasm of its advocates.  In a blog post appearing on the websites of both Compassion and Choices and the Death With Dignity National Center, Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center,  boasts of the successes she foresees for “death with dignity” in 2013.

This spring will abound with Death with Dignity legislation throughout the New England area. We’ll see activity in the Vermont legislature; and in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and perhaps, even Maine. Vermont will continue to lead the nation in progress toward end-of-life care policy reform through legislative means, becoming the first state to enact Death with Dignity through the legislature.  [Emphasis in the original]

But what deserves more attention are the preceding two paragraphs.  Note the harsh invective against the Catholic Church:

Speaking of the Church, I believe they will continue to quietly fund 70% or more of the opposition’s work in states like Vermont, Montana, and Massachusetts. An analysis of the anti-Death with Dignity campaign spending in Massachusetts shows 71% of all money raised by opponent ballot question committees ($3.4M out of $4.8M) could be attributed to Catholic resources.  [Emphasis in the original] …

These patterns will continue in 2013 with most of the money supporting anti-Death with Dignity efforts coming from the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the Church will hide behind organized medicine, minimizing their role in the opposition. Nowhere will the public find evidence of the true motives behind the opposition—opposition based on Church-based teachings—but rather the public will continue to encounter slippery slope arguments which haven’t proven to be valid in the 15 years of implementation in Oregon and Washington.

This is part of an extensive pattern of Catholic-baiting by proponents of assisted suicide.  In a 2008 column titled “Supporters of Assisted Suicide Bait Catholics,” Joe Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencier noted numerous anti-Catholic statements made by proponents of a Washington State ballot measure, Initiative 1000.  Connelly described these comments as “snarky” and adds that in playing the Catholic card, “I-1000 campaigners are dispensing noxious stuff.”

He also notes that I-1000 supporters had raised four times as much money as opponents.  Former Washington Governor Booth Gardner, who advocates assisted suicide for anyone who claims their suffering is unbearable, has been a major contributor to the cause.  Another huge contributor has been billionaire and Israel-hater George Soros.  Assisted suicide supporters clearly have their own controversial wealthy donors.

As a Jew, assisted suicide proponents’ obsession with “Catholic money,” the Pope, and Catholic healthcare strikes me on a deeper level.  Given recent history, Jews have even more reason to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide than Catholics do.  Rabbis from across the Jewish denominational spectrum came out strongly against assisted suicide proposals in Massachusetts and New Jersey.  We Jews are obviously not motivated by “Church-based teachings” regarding either end-of-life issues or other bioethical issues such as contraception, stem cell research, or in vitro fertilization.

This is more than just snarky, noxious stuff.  Substitute “Jewish” for “Catholic” and “Jewish money” for “Catholic money” and the bigotry of Compassion and Choices and others of their ilk is starkly revealed.  This is brazen antisemitism, straight out of Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with Catholics and the Vatican as a substitute scapegoat for Jews and Zionists.  Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin have argued cogently in Why the Jews: The Reason for Antisemitism that antisemitism is at its root a hatred of Judaism and its values—in this case, of the infinite value of every human life, including the lives of people with disabilities.  Since the Holocaust, antisemitism has become less acceptable in the United States, so the target of “death with dignity” bigotry has shifted to others who share Torah values—in this case Catholics.

In 2011, “intactivists” put a total ban on male circumcision on the San Francisco ballot, seeking to criminalize a core Jewish observance, and one important to Muslims as well.  Leaders of every religious faith, from Catholics to Sikhs (whose religion forbids circumcision) spoke out against both the ballot measure and the antisemitic comic book, Foreskin Man, used to promote it.  They understood that a bigoted attack on one religious community endangers all faiths, whether it be Jews in San Francisco, Muslims in Murfreesboro, TN, or Catholics in Connecticut.  I am thankful for the vocal oppostion of San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer to this assault on my people’s religious liberty.  Today I return the favor.

In the 1960’s, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Father Daniel Berrigan, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched together for the cause of civil rights and against racism.  Fifty years later, all of us admire the religious vision that undergirded the civil rights movement, exemplified by Reverend Dr. King’s oratory.  It is one thing to disagree with opponents of assisted suicide; it is deeply disturbing, however, when proponents disparage religious motivations held by some of the opposition merely out of political disagreement.

And finally, the claim that opposition to assisted suicide is based entirely on “Church-based teachings” and that “the Church will hide behind organized medicine” ignores and insults many of the most vocal opponents: people with disabilities.  Every major national disability rights organization has come out against assisted suicide, including Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, ADAPT, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Association, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and the National Council on Disability.  In Massachusetts, disability rights advocates from Second Thoughts were critical in defeating Question 2.

The disability community makes secular social justice arguments against assisted suicide, viewing it as lethal discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  While nondisabled people get suicide prevention, people with disabilites get suicide assistance.  According to statistics from Oregon, people request assisted suicide not because of pain that can usually be managed, but out of fear of losing independence in a disablity-phobic society.  The disability perspective shows that with adequate supports such as self-directed attendant care, one can live a good life even with declining physical abilities.  The inclusion of this perspective will help defeat assisted suicide legislation here in Connecticut.

With the united support of people with disabilites, elder advocates, people of diverse faiths, physicians, and other concerned citizens across the political spectrum, WE SHALL OVERCOME!

One Response to “Assisted Suicide Supporters’ Catholic-Baiting: A Jew Speaks Out”

  1. on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:14 pmenness

    I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess we really haven’t come very far from this:

    I really love the part about “hiding behind organized medicine.” Because as we all know, Catholics have no intellect, their brains are removed and kept in a Vatican repository. So silly…what a convenient way to cursorily dismiss doctors’ and nurses’ testimony.

Leave a Reply