Marriage is love.

Monday, March 21, 2005

From the President of The Interfaith Alliance

March 21, 2005

Dear Members and Supporters of The Interfaith Alliance:

Over the past several hours many of you have been kind enough to share with us your thoughtful reflections and questions regarding the tragic situation involving Theresa Marie Schiavo. Several of you have inquired as to whether or not The Interfaith Alliance has taken a position on the end-of-life issues swirling around Mrs. Schiavo or on the involvement of the United States government in this case by way of votes in the United States Senate and in the United States House of Representatives on Sunday evening and early Monday morning respectively.

The Board of Directors of The Interfaith Alliance has not adopted a position on end-of-life issues or directed the staff of The Interfaith Alliance to give attention to these issues either in our policy work or our educational efforts. I cannot speak for them or for the organization on these issues. However, I am astonished, appalled, and grieved by the actions of the two houses of the United States Congress and the White House that have prompted me to write this personal letter.

The life-and-death issues brought into focus by Mrs. Schiavo’s sad condition involve medical questions and legal considerations far too complex for me to address without more information. I might add that, in my opinion, members of the United States Congress would have been well advised to adopt a posture of humility and compassion related to these issues as they impact Mrs. Schiavo and her family. Neither Members of Congress nor any of us have any business seeking to dictate procedures for members of a grieving family and numerous doctors, lawyers, and courts that already have considered the familial, medical, legal and personal issues involved in this situation and attempted to address them with fundamental moral, medical, and legal values.

As a pastor for many years, I repeatedly have stood with troubled families grappling with the issues that surround Mrs. Schiavo’s bedside. Those experiences have taught me the myths that often get perpetrated as facts in public debates regarding circumstances like those involving Mrs. Schiavo. No perspective regarding a resolution for such a difficult situation has all of the weight of compassion and wisdom behind it

Alongside my concern for the family of Mrs. Schiavo stands my concern for our nation. A family’s grief over the loss of a loved one is being compounded by pontifical posturing among politicians and religious leaders who know too little about the situation even to comment on it much less to attempt to control it. A tragic situation is being made more tragic by the insensitive intrusion into it by Washington politicians seeking yet another venue for speaking to their partisan constituencies and for strengthening their political “base.” For Congress and the White House to jump into this tragic situation at the last minute, after years of court proceedings, and to take a position on the value of life so inconsistent with, if not contradictory to, many of their other decisions, represent unconscionable meddling in the private decision of an American family—a family who needs our thoughts and prayers, not our spirit of blatant judgment and our not-too-subtle politicization.

Profound questions disturb me. Are there no limits on the intrusive reach of this government? Where will Washington go next? Do claims of both religious and political authority give a government the right to invade the spheres of personal autonomy and religious independence? How long will the American public wait for such questions to be answered.

Dear friends, all of us would do well to step back from the bedside of a woman caught somewhere between death and life, divorce our political initiatives from this realm of personal and familial pain, pray for the peace of Terri Schiavo and her family, and after taking a hard look at how we feel about politicians who are willing to manipulate even personal pain in an effort aimed at political gain, decide what we are going to do about our democracy.

Rev. C. Welton Gaddy
President, The Interfaith Alliance