After 'You lie!' Prayers to end 'hateful rhetoric'

A week after Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress, faith leaders will gather in Washington on Tuesday to pray for an “end to hateful rhetoric that creates a toxic environment for immigrant families.”

Participating in the vigil outside the Capitol will be Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, who chairs the Committee on Immigration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church and Dale Schwartz of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

They are to be joined by Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

From the release:

On September 15th and 16th, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) – a designated Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – will be in Washington for their annual lobby day and “radio row,” where an estimated 47 extremist radio talk show hosts will broadcast live from DC. In response to the divisive rhetoric and extreme anti-immigrant agenda of FAIR, leading faith leaders will gather in prayer to recall the humanity and dignity of immigrants, and the need for policies that will uphold our nation’s best values, not its worst instincts.

While we’re on the subject: With his outburst, Wilson was challenging Obama’s assertion that “the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” Was Wilson correct? According to the nonpartisan fact-checking operation Politifact, no.

When we look at all of this evidence, it seems that health reform leaves in place the status quo on illegal immigration, and certainly does not provide any new benefits particularly for illegal immigrants.

And finally, the Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, a liberal Catholic, had an interesting take on the Wilson affair in Monday’s newspaper:

Obama sandwiched [his assertion that the reforms wouldn’t apply to illegal immigrants] between his knockdowns of two other claims about his health reform plan: the ludicrous charge that it would create those death panels, and the accusation, also false, that it would promote abortions. In fact, the administration is negotiating very hard with pro-lifers to make the bill "neutral" on abortion.

The president included the line about illegal immigrants because he thought, probably correctly, that for many voters, it would be a deal-breaker if they learned that his health proposals would help those who broke the law to come to this country.

Yet it should bother us a lot more than it does that alleged plans to kill off seniors and promote abortion are spoken of in almost the same breath as the matter of delivering health care to fellow human beings, however they arrived on our shores.

Dionne concludes:

… I am not at all at peace with the fact that the one issue about which a member of Congress chose to rise up and accuse our president of being a liar related to the charge that our chief executive wasn't doing enough to build walls between illegal immigrants and health coverage.

How mean-spirited will we allow ourselves to become? How coarsened has our political culture made us? We like to see ourselves as a generous, caring and welcoming nation. Are we losing that part of our character?

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