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« Scenes From The White House: Taking The 48 For A Ride | Blog Home Page | Grayson Jokes Too Much, Even For Biden? »

Obama: Opponents "Bearing False Witness" In Health Care Debate

President Obama made a faith-based pitch for his health care reform, urging religious groups to unite in this battle "between hope and fear" just as they did in the fight for civil rights.

Obama joined a teleconference organized by a coalition of religious groups as part of their "Forty Minutes For Health Reform" campaign. He didn't take questions, but in his six-minute pitch he also worked to dispel some misinformation about the legislation, accusing opponents of "bearing false witness."

He disputed that there would be "death panels," for instance, calling that an "extraordinary lie." He also denied that his plan would cover illegal immigrants. Lastly, he touched on a hot-button issue for religious groups: abortion.

"You've heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true," he said. "These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation, and that is that we look out for one another. That I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call."

Before the president joined, participants on the call were encouraged to spend the next 40 days (an important biblical number) spreading the truth about reform and rallying support in their congregations. Obama said that faith groups have always worked "to promote justice," while others push to "preserve the status quo."

"These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear," he said. "I'm going to need the help of all of you. ... I need you to spread the facts and speak the truth. Time and again men and women of faith have helped to show us what's possible when we're guided by our hopes and not our fears. That's what you've done before. That's how we are able to succeed in establishing Social Security and Medicare and bringing about justice through the civil rights movement. That's what you can do again today, to help us achieve quality, affordable health care for every American."

Obama did not take questions, but his top domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes, did take a few. Tomorrow, the president will take questions on another conference call, this one organized by his former campaign organization, Organizing For America.