IPC Releases White Paper on Neocon War on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:03:10 PM EST
An Unholy Alliance: How Neoconservatives and the Religious Right Have Joined Forces to Fight Stem Cell Research.

For the past twenty-two years the Labor Day weekend has been a bit difficult for me. As someone confined to a wheelchair from LMG muscular dystrophy (first being diagnosed in 1985) I watch (and contribute to) the MDA Telethon. While offering me hope that others are committed to curing the forty plus forms of this degenerative disease, I cannot also help but being reminded of those who evoke a rigid form of faith in order to prevent embryonic stem cell research-an avenue that may one day let folks like me walk again.

Neuromuscular disease is often an ordeal that just doesn't adversely affect the patient, but his friends and family. To provide you with some context, let me explain what my family goes through to keep my law practice going.

Monday through Friday my wife wakes up at 5 A.M. and gets herself ready for work. An hour later she wakes me up then dresses me for court. As since my body does not mostly move of it own volition, she must roll me back and forth to get my pants on, lift me onto a slide board to get me into my wheelchair, lift my arms to get my shirt on and then knot my tie. Then after she gives me breakfast, she attends to getting our kids ready for school. She does all this before working an eight-hour day. I usually leave for court shortly thereafter driven either by my father my uncle or Chris, my driver.  

While this is a difficult routine, I still am more fortunate than most others with degenerative diseases. Many others have no job to support themselves, family to help them or even a place to call their own.

One morning during the summer of 2000 my wife was getting me dressed for court. We heard a promising report on the Today Show that then-President Bill Clinton was going to allow for the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. In December 1998 my neurologist had just told us of this then-recent discovery and how it offered so much hope not just for me, but for countless others suffering from different diseases and disabilities. He told us that the research was not a guarantee, but at least a real hope for possible treatments.

But this hope was dashed when the U.S. Supreme Court's decision essentially handed the presidency to George W. Bush. As a candidate, Bush had expressed his hostility to the research, playing to a religious right faction composed of Opus Dei Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants (I would later come to learn that much of this opposition has been organized by neoconservatives, using their several think tanks to hone their message). And as I told my pastor back in 2003, it broke my heart that my own church officially opposes medical research. I told him that I believe that Jesus, who lived His whole life on Earth as a religious Jew would not oppose (all four branches of Judaism support the research; Talmudic scholar Adin Steinsaltz went as far to state, ''We believe that mankind is given not only the permission but the admonition to make the world better.'').

But what I did not understand at the time was how the opposition to embryonic stem cell research was being organized and mostly driven by the very same neoconservatives who helped push this nation into the poorly chosen war in Iraq. Too many of us just don't understand that the neoconservative movement is just not about foreign policy, but domestic policy. The battle over embryonic stem cell research simply emphasizes that point.

As many of you know, I am a director of a newly formed think tank, the Institute for Progressive Christianity ("IPC").  IPC defines its mission as follows:

To further awareness and understanding that the progressive tradition is rooted in core Christian gospel values, and to relate that tradition to personal faith, public policy, family, and the common good.

And this is IPC's vision:

To create a national Institute for progressive Christian values. The Institute will serve as an educational facility to conduct research, seek to affect and advance policy, educate the public, and influence every sphere of American public life, including politics, academia, arts, and the church.

To this end, Eve Herold, the author of last year's book, Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines, and I have written a White Paper for IPC entitled, "An Unholy Alliance: How Neoconservatives and the Religious Right Have Joined Forces to Fight Stem Cell Research." Here is our opening premise:

Representatives and the Senate took up the issue of stem cell research once again, re-introducing a bill that had already been vetoed once by President Bush. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would have expanded U.S. federal funding (which currently applies to only 21 embryonic stem cell lines) to include about 200 new and superior cell lines. This year's version of the bill was passed in the Senate on April 11, but it fell four votes short of a veto-proof majority. Then the bill passed Congress by a vote of 253 - 174, only to be met once again with the slash of Bush's pen. The president has stood stubbornly by his anti-research policy against the wishes of the Congress, the Senate, and a large majority of the American people. His reason: the destruction of embryos, even for life-saving research, "crosses a moral line" that shouldn't be crossed. This, however, is not the consensus among all religious faiths, let alone among mainstream Christians; it is a narrow proposition held mostly by neo-orthodox Christians. The concept that embryonic research is off-limits is being furthered not just by religious conservatives, but also by their often nonreligious neoconservative allies.

Click here to download and read the document in PDF format. IPC is working on a hyperlink to the story for those who are unable to download the document.

Please feel free to give me your thoughts on the piece.

A clear majority of Americans --including Roman Catholics-- support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Yet neoconservatives and their Religious Right allies wish to impress their highly subjective will upon the rest of us not only by denying such funding, but in wanting to outlaw this promising area of medical science.

As I've said before, these are the very types of folks our Founders warned us about.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:10:58 PM EST

...at Daily Kos, Frank. It is so good in so many ways.


by Meteor Blades on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 11:39:13 PM EST

It wil go up at Kos, Cross Left, Street Propets and maybe one or two other sites.

And by the way, thank you for your very kind critique. Coming from you that means a lot.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:04:28 AM EST

I hope others are listening.


by khughes1963 on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:42:51 PM EST

...they will have to begin listening. And thank you too for your kind words.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:06:24 AM EST
Frank, and I suspect I am in a lot of good company.

by nogodsnomasters on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 04:20:00 PM EST
Tell the world about how the neocons are holding embryonic stem cell research hostage.

And of course, thank you for listening.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 08:59:48 PM EST

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