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Religion Last Updated: Jul 27th, 2006 - 01:03:20

From the Pledge to stem cells: Values Voters� vacuous values
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 27, 2006, 00:59

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Let�s see. It�s more important to preserve the words �under God� (added to The Pledge of Allegiance in 1954) than to fund 21st century research that has the potential to end enormous suffering and save countless human lives. Did I miss something here?

The Christian Right was in a state of rapture when the House of Representatives passed the �Pledge Protection Act,� which would remove cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance from the jurisdiction of federal courts. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council that�s sponsoring the Values Voters Summit in late September, was jubilant: �I am pleased to see Congress exercising its constitutional authority to check the power of the courts which have tried to strip �God� from the Pledge of Allegiance.�

But they all almost went orgasmic when Bush used his veto power for the first time to prevent federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The �Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act� had been passed and sent to the president by the Republican-controlled Congress. As The New York Times noted, by vetoing the legislation Bush put himself "at odds with many members of his own party and what polls say is a majority of the public.

"By defying the Republican-controlled Congress, which had sent him legislation that would have overturned research restrictions he imposed five years ago, Mr. Bush re-inserted himself forcefully into a moral, scientific and political debate in which Republicans are increasingly finding common ground with Democrats."

Even Republican strategist Ed Rollins questioned the wisdom of Bush�s veto: �It paints us in a corner as more and more single issue, and more and more unreasonable . . . I think an awful lot of Republicans say this [Bush�s veto] goes across common sense, this research has the potential of saving my father, my mother, or a friend, or curing cancer.�

A July 21, editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer made the case, poignantly:

When President Bush vetoed the DeGette-Castle bill on embryonic stem-cell research Wednesday, he surrounded himself with children. The real point was who wasn�t there.

There was no one suffering from Alzheimer�s. Parkinson�s sufferers? Nowhere. Also absent was anyone with myasthenia gravis, leukemia, liver disease, or dozens of ailments that someday may be treatable thanks to research employing human embryonic stem cells. . . .

But the veto won�t lead to fewer embryos being destroyed.

The bill would have extended funding to research using discarded embryos from fertility clinics. Thousands of embryos that could have been used in research will now simply be thrown away, thanks to the president�s principled pen. . . .

Alas for him and his party, most Americans, while they rightly grieve over the moral ambiguities, seem willing to trade some embryonic stem-cell research for medical benefit. Polls show wide support, including up to 70 percent of Republicans in some polls. That reflects a GOP hurt by calculated grandstanding on medicine and science. (Remember the Terri Schiavo fracas?) . . .

The main point, however, is not research but democracy. Bush showed the world Wednesday that, under the guise of �leadership,� he will ignore a growing social consensus in favor of the politics of the moment and his favored coterie.

But those who applauded Bush for putting his (and their) religious beliefs above medical science, Congress, and the well-being of the American people did make some interesting comments.

Joseph Farah runs World Net Daily (WND), a website that regularly features articles by Jerry Falwell and David Limbaugh. On July 19, WND featured an article by Alex Traiman of their Jerusalem bureau. It began with a question:

Are Israel�s troubles in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and the Hezbollah rockets slamming daily into major Israeli population centers here a result of the Jewish state�s tacit support for a homosexual parade slated for next month in Jerusalem?

Farah justified his defense of Bush�s veto on the basis of �morality� which, he claimed, can come only from religion: �I believe without the immutable laws handed down by God -- not just those etched in stone by Moses, but those etched on our hearts -- we wouldn�t have a clue about right and wrong.�

Farah mistakenly believes -- as many others have been taught to believe -- that �morality� stems solely from religion. Gresham Riley, former president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and president emeritus of Colorado College, addressed the subject in a December 4, 2003, OpEd in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Religion is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for morality.

It is not a necessary condition as evidenced by the existence of moral systems that do not depend on religious belief at all. Utilitarianism (one ought to do what produces the greatest good for the greatest number) is one example, and the Platonic belief that moral principles are as objective and true as mathematical and scientific knowledge is another. Parenthetically, Platonic thought was the basis for many of the Enlightenment ideas of our Founding fathers, including the self-evident (to them) moral precept that all men are created equal.

Neither is religion a sufficient condition for moral behavior. If it were, we would not encounter so many examples of devoutly religious individuals -- and of prominent religious groups -- engaged in acts most people believe to be immoral. As for individuals, we have the distressing case of pedophilic Catholic priests and the suicide bombings by followers of Islam who think that killing innocents is justified on religious grounds. As for religious groups, we had evangelical Protestants who provided biblical justifications for a segregated South, and closer in time we have a Catholic hierarchy who created and sustained a culture of protection in which people were sacrificed for institutional image.

To complement Bush�s religiosity, Farah offered some of his own: �Christians and Jews, the people who created Western Civilization . . ." How sad someone who runs a media outlet as large as World Net Daily has never heard of classical Greece, where the concept of democracy -- as well as �Western Civilization� -- were conceived.

In his praise for Bush and the veto, perennial candidate and overall political pundit Alan Keyes made some rather odd statements, for Alan Keyes at least: �The first premise of democratic self-government involves rejecting the idea that one human being has a greater moral worth than another.�

You remember Alan Keyes: the rabid homophobe whose run for the U.S. Senate resulted in one of the most humiliating defeats in America political history. In his 1996 presidential campaign, Keyes said, �If we accept the homosexual agenda, which seeks recognition for homosexual marriages, we will be destroying the integrity of the marriage-based family.� In his 2000 run, Keyes said that granting gay Americans the right to a civil union would mean �you�ve legitimized pedophilia.� And in his disastrous campaign for the U.S. senate in 2004, Keyes said that homosexuality is �selfish hedonism.� When asked if he considered Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, a �selfish hedonist� Keyes replied, �Of course she is. That goes by definition. Of course she is.�

Keyes� daughter, Maya Marcel-Keyes, is a lesbian. When she �came out,� CBS news reported that �Marcel-Keyes told the [Washington] Post her parents have thrown her out of the house, stopped speaking to her and refuse to pay for college because she is gay.� Apparently Mr. Keyes believes heterosexuals have �a greater moral worth� than homosexuals.

Keyes opened one paragraph with �American conscience rebels against the very idea of such inequality . . ." But apparently his does not, even when it comes to his own daughter.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, was featured prominently in the Christian news service Agape Press�s report: "the pro-family women�s organization had sharp criticism for those senators who voted to approve using taxpayer dollars to fund a practice the pro-family group�s president, Wendy Wright, compares to cannibalism.

"Embryonic research proponents have used deceptive claims and empty promises to push for expansion of ESCR funding, Wright asserts. And in their turn, she observes, too many senators have bought into and spread those same 'outrageous myths' about embryonic research."

Cannibalism? Only if you�re dysfunctional nerve cells in the body of a paraplegic or the cancerous cells of a tumor that embryonic stem cells could potentially �consume� and replace with healthy ones.

�Outrageous myths?� Would that we all had Ms. Wright�s self-proclaimed absolute scientific and medical knowledge. How will we know if embryonic stems cells can fulfill their potential unless we fully fund and do the necessary research?

Values Voters� values -- as well as their logic and reasoning -- are vacuous, and the only thing Bush is good at is condemning people to pain, suffering and death, at home and abroad.

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