A top Southern Baptist official has apologized for accusing President Barack Obama and congressional Democratic leaders of attempting to do "precisely what the Nazis did."
A memorial to the Holocaust in Berlin. Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader, recently apologized for comparing Democratic efforts to reform health care to the Nazis, including comparing an Obama adviser to Josef Mengele, lower right.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, offered his apology to Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), following a critical letter from Foxman.
During a Sept. 26 gathering of the Christian Coalition of Florida, Land criticized Democratic health-care reform efforts by claiming that the Democrats were attempting to do "precisely what the Nazis did." He also compared Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, who is a health-care adviser to Obama, to German SS officer Josef Mengele. Mengele was a doctor who was called the "Angel of Death" because of his human experimentations during the Holocaust.
EthicsDaily.com reported on Land's remarks on Oct. 7 and included a column critical of them on Oct. 9 by Richard V. Pierard, professor of history emeritus at Indiana State University.
"To evoke images of Hitler or the Holocaust to thwart health-care reform is a brutal insult both to the victims and survivors of that Holocaust," Pierard wrote. "We must proclaim as widely as possible that the term 'Nazism' and images of the swastika have nothing to do with the issues at hand. Any such comparisons are false and are intended only to frighten and confuse people."
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On Oct. 9, Foxman wrote Land to express ADL's "concern" about Land's use of comparisons to the Nazis when describing health-care reform efforts. Foxman, who also spoke to Land on the phone about the issue, urged Land to "refrain from such [comparisons] in the future."
"While we understand there are deep convictions and passions regarding the healthcare reform, whatever one's views are, the Nazi comparison is inappropriate, insensitive and unjustified," Foxman wrote. "As a Holocaust survivor, I take particular offense. Such comparisons diminish the history and the memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who died at the hands of the Nazis and insults those who fought bravely against Hitler."
On Oct. 14, Land wrote a letter in response to Foxman to "apologize" and express his "regret" for making the comparisons to the Nazis. He pledged to avoid such comments and be more careful with his language choices.
"It was never my intention to equate the Obama administration's healthcare reform proposals with anything related to the Holocaust," Land wrote.
"Now that I have had the opportunity to speak with you personally and reflect on my words, I deeply regret the reference to Dr. Josef Mengele," Land added. "I was using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele. I will certainly refrain from making such references in the future. I apologize to everyone who found such references hurtful. Given the pain and suffering of so many Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime, I will certainly seek to exercise far more care in my use of language in future discussions of the issues at stake in the healthcare debate."
Land initially refused to apologize for his remarks when contacted by EthicsDaily.com before the Oct. 7 article. In an email response, Land reiterated his likening of Emanuel to the Nazis, adding that "the analogy is apt and I stand by it."
Last year, Land used an obscene Yiddish slur during a chapel address at Criswell College to mock U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish. After receiving criticism for the remark, Land claimed "ignorance" of the word's meaning and apologized.
Land's tactic of frequently resorting to name-calling has also been noted in other cases, including examples of him comparing Hillary Clinton to a witch, mocking Al Gore with animal noises and questioning the faith of Jimmy Carter.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com.