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Oregon affirms assisted suicide; Washington holds moral line

VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP)–More than 60 percent of Oregon voters reiterated support for assisted suicide in a statewide ballot Nov. 4.
About the same percentage of Washington voters, meanwhile, said no to drug legalization and special rights for homosexuals.
Portland, Ore., Southern Baptist pastor Ray Pound laid the responsibility for that state’s vote on people who, like those in the Old Testament Book of 1 Kings, “did what was right in their own eyes.”
“God’s going to have to change the hearts of people before his words mean anything to them,” Pound said during an election night telephone interview. “He has chosen to do that through us — his people. This is another indication that we who claim relationship with him must get back to the main business of telling people about Jesus Christ.
Pound added, “we have our work cut out for us in prayer as well as in evangelism. God has laid out some truth for man to live by. The closer we are to him, the better we’ll understand and be able to transmit that truth.”
On the same day residents voted “No” on a ballot measure to repeal a 1994 measure that brought assisted suicide to Oregon, the state’s attorney general announced the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted an injunction that had been blocking the law.
A second challenge is expected, but for now, according to the state’s attorney general, assisted suicide is legal in Oregon — the only place in the world where it is.
“It’s a crime against God, that’s all,” said Gene Hines of North Bend, Ore. A retired cowboy and member at First (Southern) Baptist Church in North Bend, Hines campaigned for repeal of the law permitting assisted suicide. The lack of a residency clause makes it possible for anyone from anywhere to come to Oregon to die, Hines said. The lack of safeguards makes it possible for families and others to involuntarily end the life of a person who had become a burden to them.
“It’s up to us as Christians to make it right for someone, somehow,” Hines said. “Once this thing gets started, who knows how many people it will hurt.”
Washington voters brought a decisive halt to two moral issues on their ballots.
About 60 percent of those voting said “No” to a three-part proposal that would have legalized medical use of marijuana, heroin and other drugs; provided treatment instead of jail for people convicted of non-violent drug offenses; and denied early release to felons who committed crimes while under the influence of drugs.
The second moral issue to be soundly defeated by Washington voters was one that would have provided special rights to homosexual employees, according to Renton, Wash., Pastor Richard Seim, chairman of the Northwest Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Committee.
Though worded as to appear to “protect the rights of all people against discrimination,” Initiative 677 actually was designed to be the nation’s first “employment protection for homosexuals” law, Seim said. It was defeated by a 60 percent “No” vote.
“Homosexuals are guaranteed the same rights under the law that all people are,” Seim said. “They wanted special rights for their sexual orientation and behavior.”
“Apparently Washington voters are not as liberal as they are perceived to be,” Seim said in a post-election interview. “I do believe the Lord is honored and pleased with the way these initiatives were defeated.”
In Arizona, the Navajo nation rejected a measure that would have allowed as many as five casinos in Arizona and New Mexico. In the Navajos’ second rejection of gambling on the country’s largest Indian reservation, 54 percent of voters opposed the initiative, according to an Associated Press report.
“I am delighted that the Navajo nation recognized that the costs to people associated with gambling exceed any financial benefit that they might experience,” said Barrett Duke, gambling issues specialist for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“It is extremely encouraging to know that such an influential Indian nation would set such an important example for everyone in this nation to follow,” Duke said. “We should all learn from the courage that the Navajo nation has demonstrated and follow their example in looking for more constructive ways to improve the lives of our citizens.”
In Virginia, off-track betting parlors were defeated in three local votes. In Fredericksburg, the margin of defeat was 72-28 percent; Roanoke, 57-43 percent; and Martinsville, 56-44 percent.
Among national reaction to Oregon’s assisted suicide vote, Laura Echevarria, the National Right to Life Committee’s director of media relations, said in a written statement:
“This tragic vote means death rather than positive treatment for countless numbers of the most vulnerable in our society. “Euthanasia in Oregon will not remain voluntary for long,” she predicted. “All it will take is for a court to rule that denying ‘assisted suicide’ to people who have never asked to die, but are unable to speak for themselves, violates state constitutional ‘equal protection’ provisions. This is exactly what courts have done in the past concerning denial of life-saving medical treatment.”
Carrie Gordon, bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, said in a written statement:
“Oregon has now stepped out as the only place in the world that has legalized physician-assisted suicide. Today’s message from Oregon is clear: Doctors now have the green light to kill their patients. To the infirm, depressed and terminally ill — beware. You can no longer trust the law to protect your right to live. This unprecedented vote puts countless citizens in Oregon — and around the nation — at risk for an untimely death.
“A majority of Oregon voters deluded themselves into believing that physician-assisted suicide is about ‘personal autonomy’ and ‘choice,'” Gordon reflected. “They have now unleashed a force in this nation too powerful for man to control. Oregon’s approval of state- sanctioned killing perverts the practice of medicine and opens the door for coercion of vulnerable, suffering Americans to ‘choose’ an early death by profit-motivated health-care companies, misguided physicians and even well-meaning family members. In this age of skyrocketing health care costs and desperate cost-containing attempts, an early death may become a reasonable substitute for treatment and care.”
Gordon also predicted: “There is no questions that physician- assisted suicide activists will interpret this tragic vote as a clarion call to push their death agenda in 49 other states. Attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in other states must be vigorously opposed so we can assure our sick and weak citizens that they will not be killed in the name of ‘compassion.'”
The decisive defeat of the Washington initiative that would have granted protected status in the workplace to homosexuality followed by 12 days a U.S. Senate hearing on a similar federal measure, the Employment Non-discrimination Act.
“One of the most significant observations to make in all of this is that the credibility of the homosexual lobby has to be greatly questioned at this point,” said Will Dodson, the ERLC’s director of public policy. “At the hearing in the Senate on ENDA and in the days leading up to the hearing, the homosexual lobby assured America that the vast majority of Americans, something upwards to 70 percent, supported nondiscrimination on the basis of homosexuality. That is a consistent tactic on their part, that is to mislead the American people about how accepted and how prevalent homosexuality is.
“What the American public should learn from the vote in Washington, the best of all polls, is that information from homosexual rights advocates should be looked at with a very skeptical eye,” Dodson said. “This is particularly true in light of the fact that Washington is generally recognized as one of the more liberal states. People know in their heart of hearts that homosexuality is not a human right to be defended.”