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Separate Church & Medicine

Janet Brazill

The recent debate on Stem Cell Research shows the need to separate medicine from the control of religion in the same way that the operation of government needs to be free from theocratic control.

Our forefathers wisely devised a strictly secular government to avoid the problems other countries had experienced with religion.  This Separation of Church and State has done well in protecting each American's religious liberty, though its doors are being increasingly battered by certain denominations seeking political power.

Now medical research is under attack by religious forces. This began in the 1980's when abortion opponents convinced President Reagan to ban research using fetal tissue discarded from induced abortions -- research which might have held a cure for the Alzheimer's Disease now afflicting this former president.  For the most part, the mainstream media ignored the event, so the public was never made aware of this issue, letting religion fly under the radar.  Nor was there alarm raised when President George H. W. Bush extended the ban.

The 90's brought a medical breakthrough with stem cells, but that research progressed slowly, since publicly funded scientists were banned from the field.  Federal guidelines for the ethical conduct of this new research languished unfinished, the victim of political wrangling over abortion. Again, the public was largely unaware of the medical research or the political hold religionists exerted.

Now, with President G. W. Bush's recent decision on Stem Cell Research, everyone at last knows about the tremendous potential of these cells -- the possibility that medical science will be able to cure diseases, grow new organs, and restore bodies to good health.  Fantastic implications for the future of the human race!

So where is the anger?  Why isn't every person who has seen a family member suffer and die, outraged over the needless delay in bringing us this far? Why aren't more people clamoring for government funding WITHOUT the limitations that President Bush has imposed on the number of stem cell lines?  We should be furious that such a medical advance has been and continues to be impeded by narrow, religion-based ideology!

The American public is being held hostage by religion -- by those who consider using fertilized human eggs for research to be wrong, even when the eggs are excess from fertility treatments. These same people, as Christopher Reeve points out, make no effort to shut down fertility clinics which routinely destroy unused eggs, though if you believe that life begins at the moment of fertilization, they are committing murder by doing so.

Nature does not accord the same "reverence" to the embryo as these religionists attempt to do, since nature spontaneously aborts 30-50% of conceptions.  Even the early Catholic theologian St. Thomas did not believe the embryo is infused with a rational soul until the organism is sufficiently developed to receive it.  Now, however, modern Catholics aggressively promote the idea that a rational soul is present at fertilization -- a definite waste, if you consider all those spontaneous abortions!

What if a different religion had gained control of our political process? What if we had a president dictating laws based on the religious teaching that blood transfusions are wrong?  Or that cancers create living cells which should never be destroyed?  Suppose the majority of our Congress believed in faith healing, could funding for Medicare be cancelled?

Any governmental law or edict which favors one religious doctrine, is, by its very nature, unfair to Americans not sharing that religious faith.  How sad that President Bush's decision on stem cell research falls into that category.  How tragic for those who wait for a cure!


  Church and State, Science

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