Despite overwhelming scientific community and public support for embryonic stem cell research, Bush stubbornly refused to allow continuing medical research into, per President Obama, "these tiny cells (that) may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions:
- to regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair;
- to spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles;
- to treat Parkinson's, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them."
(See Obama 's Remarks on Lifting the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban for the full text.)
Imposing a Conservative Christian Agenda on All Americans
Bush's Christian evangelical-based reasoning for his stance is that embryonic stem cell therapy can require the destruction of a blastocyst, which is a days-old, laboratory-fertilized human egg. Much, but not all, of the pro-life religious right believes this to be murder of human life.
They believe that it is immoral to destroy a few-days-old human embryo, even to save or reduce suffering in existing human life, which they regard as of significantly lesser importance in their pro-life values spectrum. (See Pros & Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research.)
Why Americans Believe the Bush Ban Was Wrong
To most Americans, though, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan, this reasoning lacks all common sense because it eliminates vital scientific tools that could preserve, protect and support millions of existing human lives... all for the sake of a days-old embryo that will never become a human being.
Millions of Christians disagree with this religious right biblical interpretation. The President explained when signing this order:
"As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."
A secondary, nonsensical aspect of Bush's funding ban is the massive, lost economic opportunities for the U.S. Per President Obama:
"When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives."
Religious Right was Wrong to Force Its Values on All Americans
Of course, in the United States, people of all faiths are free to believe and live-out their values.
Millions of good and decent people fervently believe that embryonic stem cell therapy inevitably entails procedures that they find morally objectionable.
They have every right to register their concerns and objections, and to not allow the fruits of embryonic stem cell research to be used to aid themselves and their families.
But under the intent of the "establishment clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which states that ""Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...", Bush had no moral right to force his extremist religious-right beliefs on all Americans.
Barack Obama was absolutely correct in rolling-back the religious right agenda imposed by his predecessor on the United States, which is a religion-neutral nation.
And I'm delighted that the President took it a step further by announcing a new "Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."
The whole, blessed point of this overdue directive is to systematically rid the federal government of George Bush's across-the-board anti-science, pro-religious right bias by harnessing "the power of science to achieve our goals --to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives."
As a progressive Christian, I say THANK GOD!
(Photos taken on March 9, 2009 as President Obama signs order lifting George Bush's federal funding ban. #1, which includes including Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), the first quadriplegic to serve in the House: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. #2, of Obama surrounded by physicians and scientists: Win McNamee/Getty Images)