The imposition of healthcare reform on the country is the single most important issue that will make conservative Christians and evangelicals vote against Barack Obama in November and probably cost him the election, Richard Land, a leading figure in the influential Southern Baptist Convention, tells Newsmax.TV.
Obamacare is the one issue that unites them and makes them want to oust the president from the White House, Land said in an exclusive interview at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C.
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“Most Southern Baptists, and certainly a majority of evangelicals, want Obamacare buried in a lead coffin with a wooden stake through its heart, lined in garlic and covered in cement. They hate it,” observed Land.
“They hate it because they intuitively understand that it is built totally on a pro-choice ethic, an anti-life ethic. It has cooked into it a rationing of care.”
Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant body in the United States, with more than 16 million members. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body.
Land said evangelicals and conservative Christians constitute the largest voting bloc in America and could tip the November election to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney,
"This election is going to be close and virtually anything could decide it, but let’s remember that self-identified evangelicals make up 26.3 percent of the population and they made up 29 percent of the people who actually voted in the 2010 election,” Land said.
“That’s the largest identifiable demographic group in the electorate. So this is the largest single voting bloc in the electorate,” he declared.
While conservative Christians had been reticent to embrace the former Massachusetts governor in the bitter Republican primary battle, there is little question that they much prefer Romney to the prospect of four more years of Obama — particularly with the president’s healthcare reforms, support for same-sex marriage, and his big-government approach to solving America’s economic woes.
“This time the economic consequences of the decision are so overwhelming that there will be no coming back from it. If we go in the direction that President Obama wants us to go — 4 more years of those policies — we will be locked into high taxes, high government spending, and our children and our grandchildren will be paying off our debts because we’re living on their earnings,” said Land.
“We’re borrowing from their future. And we will be so far down the road that there will be no coming back.”
Even so, pollster John Zogby recently told Newsmax.TV that 16 percent of evangelicals remain undecided between Romney and Obama, and a third say that they will never elect a Mormon president, referring to Romney’s membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“Well, some will, some won’t. I mean, clearly, there are some evangelicals who, for reasons of conscience, will not vote for a Mormon,” acknowledged Land, who believes that such thinking represents only a minority of evangelicals though he too has likened Mormonism to Islam.
“I think it’s a significant minority, but they are there and there’s no denying that. And whether or not that will decide the election, I don’t know,” he conceded.
The biggest strength of the Romney campaign is the president himself, Land claimed.
“Probably the most valuable thing that Mitt Romney has going for him among evangelicals is Barack Obama,” he said. “Obama’s policies will do more to unite evangelicals than anything Mitt Romney does.”
As one of the leading voices of the SBC, Land’s views are significant because the convention’s membership has been a key constituency of the Republican Party’s national coalition that has given it electoral success for congressional and presidential races.
While Southern Baptists do not share the same religious objection to contraception that has led a number of Catholic groups to file a legal challenge, Land respects their religious freedom to do so.
“We don’t agree with the Catholics about contraception, but we certainly defend to the death their right to have that conviction and not be forced by the government to pay for that which they find unconscionable,” he said.
Land described the president’s recent attempt to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples as “devastating” to American society.
“The attempt to redefine marriage, to include same-sex relationships, will shatter the definition of marriage and marriage is an endangered enough institution in our society, and it is causing enormous pain and enormous emotional and economic dislocation,” he observed.
“Up until now, no one has argued that mothers are optional accessories, but so-called same-sex marriage argues that mothers are optional accessories, that two men can do as good a job of raising a child as a mother and a father can. That’s just insane.”
He pointed to $700 billion a year spent at the federal level, and $200 billion more spent at the state level, to pay for needs-based welfare.
“We’ve had a 40-year experiment in this country on whether or not fathers are optional accessories in the rearing of healthy, productive adults and the answer is they’re not,” he said, adding that “same-sex relationships are not marriage.”
Obama’s own faith, though Christian, was most likely shaped by the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of the United Church of Christ, who had a personal relationship with Obama, and reportedly served as a mentor, sounding board, and pastor to the president, according to Land.
“The United Church of Christ is widely acknowledged to be the most liberal denomination in the phalanx of mainline Protestant denominations and Rev. Wright is one of the most liberal minsters in that denomination,” Land explained.
“So you would expect President Obama to be a reflection of his spiritual and religious background.”
With respect to immigration reform, Land acknowledged that there is growing agreement among Christians on both sides of the aisle on certain aspects of the issue.
“We have approximately 1 million children in this country who have done nothing wrong. They were brought here by their parents, some of them when they were babies,” Land emphasized, noting that many of the children have not known any other country but the U.S.
“Part of a comprehensive immigration process is to say to these young people, ‘here is a way you can come forward, and if you go to junior college — if you go to college, if you serve in the military — you can earn a pathway to legal status.”
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