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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Religious Group Busts Stem Cell 'Myths'

The Institute for Progressive Christianity (IPC), which calls itself a think tank representing progressive Christians, has outlined a theological basis for Christians to support the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cell research promises to offer cures for sufferers of Parkinson's and other diseases, yet it has provoked controversy among some people of faith. President Bush used the only veto of his presidency to strike down an expansion of stem cell research.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no single "Christian" position -- let alone single religious position -- on stem cell medical science, the IPC says.

IPC describes the following myths:

Myth 1: Adult stem cell research has eliminated the need for embryonic stem cells -- Those who oppose this research on religious grounds too often make their arguments using incorrect premises. They claim that adult stem research renders embryonic stem cell research unnecessary. They will also incorrectly claim that adult stem cells are being used for treatments of 60 to 70 different medical conditions: this is a gross exaggeration, the organization says.

Myth 2: All religious organizations oppose embryonic stem cell and somatic cell nuclear transfer research. -- In reality, different organized religions take different or no position at all on the research. In fact, many religious organizations, including the Presbyterian Church USA, the Church of England, the American Jewish Congress, United Church of Christ, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Foundry United Methodist Church and a clear majority of America Roman Catholics all support this potentially life saving research.

All four branches of Judaism support embryonic stem cell research pursuant to the halakic doctrine of pekuach nefesh -- the preeminence of saving a life in being. Under Jewish Law a fourteen-day embryo has the same status as water. There is a very similar concept in Christian thought known as Epikiea. Great thinkers of the Judeo-Christian tradition have always understood that sometimes one needs to break the letter of the law in order to achieve the spirit of the law.

The Gospels consistently detail how Jesus adhered to pekuach nefesh through his many acts of healing. And as a Christians who have read the Gospels, the IPC leadership cannot cite one example of Jesus directly refuting pekuach nefesh. It logically follows that a Jesus who lived by Jewish law raises a presumption that he would not oppose this vital medical research. If anything, his healing the infirmed and disabled along with raising the dead contradicts those who oppose this research solely on religious grounds.

Myth 3: President Bush, U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum oppose embryonic stem cell and nuclear transfer research because they are consistently pro-life.

"If President Bush were truly pro-life, why did he -- as well as research opponents U.S. Sens. Jim Talent and Rick Santorum as well as Rep. Jean Schmidt, all continue -- to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from tobacco special interest groups?" IPC asks. "Consider this: tobacco has the potential to end lives but embryonic stem cell and somatic cell nuclear transfer research have the potential to save lives."


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