Stem Cell Research is Pro-Life

Embryonic stem cell research is one of the hotly contested issues of the contemporary culture wars. Even within the Republican Party, a division exists over this issue. Prominent Republicans such as Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research while others, such as former President George W. Bush and former Governor Mitt Romney, oppose embryonic stem cell research on ethical grounds. Before exploring the ethics of embryonic stem cell research, it is important to define it and highlight some of its potential and remarkable benefits. A great deal of misinformation exists about stem cell research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a stem cell information Web page that provides extensive information on this type of research. The following are some excerpts from the NIH Web page:

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A Renewed Call for Civility from LDS Church Leadership

During the most recent LDS General Conference, we heard yet another call for civility in our public dialogue. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. Violence and vandalism are not the answer to our disagreements.

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Responding to Facebook Post

I was asked to critique why  Barack Obama's Speech on Race was good/great - March 18, 2008

Where we should start is the assumption that this speech is good/great. I guess the issue I have always had comes not with the content (I think the content is remarkable) but the timing. I remember quite clearly the context that drove these remarks (and even more problematic for Obama were the comments that came after). This entire speech was a deflection and a political maneuver around Rev. Wright’s salacious comments. Does the context then taint the content?

In this speech, Obama is masterful at playing both sides of the race argument, from society's grind on minorities, to reverse discrimination found in programs like affirmative action. He is amazing at positioning himself somewhere in the middle as you would expect a pragmatist would. His speech intends to unify, not divide, and he delivers the remarks from a vantage point where one would not question his experiences or his positioning.

With that being said he touches very little on the new race that divides our nation, and he focuses on areas that are safe. He ventures very little on the new Brown vs. Board of Education or the segregation developing in politics. The greatest divide we currently face in this nation, is not color or creed, but political affiliation. It’s hard to deny that Obama is a beneficiary of race, or his personal story places him in the persuasive middle of the color argument. This is why the race subject is safe for him. But the destructive forces of political posturing are overcoming this nation and dividing us from within.

Why have we come this far? Why does Obama’s name create sudden divide in the masses? Why do we venture to the point of routing for failure just to be right? Why do we fill the pockets of the egocentric individuals whose sole purpose is to divide this great nation? When will we arrive back to the point in time when compromise was the end solution and not a “my way or the highway” mentality? Obama starts his speech with an illustration concerning the Framers of our Constitution. He elicited memories of the first signing of the Constitution by individuals who were no more philosophically divided then the people are today. The difference? Compromise was sought in all matters. The original patriots were able to lock themselves in a room and work together to arrive at a common outcome. No 24 hour CSPAN to record what today would be perceived as weakness. No media filtration to paint a picture supporting their viewer’s perceptions. No posturing that would not be called out for what it really is. Obama has often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But selective sunlight creates flawed arguments and black marks on political discussions.

We all agree that healthcare needs to be fixed. We all agree that illegal immigration is a problem. We all agree that terrorism threatens our moral standards. We all agree that poverty can be corrected. And we agree that greed is overcoming our capitalistic roots. What we disagree on is government’s role regarding solutions to these issues. But disagreement is not foreign to our political dialogue. Do you think the conservative right was aligned with Reagan’s decision to provide amnesty to four million illegal immigrants? Or the liberal left was aligned to Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act? With 300+ million citizens disagreements will come. The problem we now face is our tolerance with reaching across the aisle to come to a unified agreement.

Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech details very little of this national crisis. Part of me believes that he was naive or miscalculated the political divide we now face. He misjudged the alarming influence the media has on steering opinions instead of presenting facts. Case in point: Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do while on the campaign trail. He passed a stimulus bill. He passed healthcare reform. He passed cap and trade legislation. He increased troops to Afghanistan. Yet his popularity has never been lower.

We as Americans have disingenuous dialogue based on differences not similarities. We seek opposition not unification. We are color coded, not by skin color, but by geography and ideology. We seek to stereotype, not by pedigree, but by affiliation.

The hard reality is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. We do not demand the serious conversation needed to repair the divide. We cater to entertainment instead of enlightenment. Our sources of information are limited to 45 second sound bites; hardly enough information needed for compromising and identifying. In Obama’s speech I remember distinctly his awareness of the success this great country afforded him. He stated that no other country could have vaulted a man from his background to the levels he has now ascertained. As fear and anger creep into our discussions I wonder if ideology becomes the new skin color, and party becomes the new religion. If there is one overarching theme I share with Obama’s speech, it’s that reality needs to drive our perceptions, not perceptions driving our reality.

(My favorite speech Obama has ever delivered was right after he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton)

LDS Church Going Green

Lest one thinks being environmentally-conscious is only a "liberal" idea, the Church recently announced a pilot program where the roofs of new chapels are fitted with solar panels. In announcing the program, Bishop H. David Burton of the Presiding Bishopric stated, “for decades we have looked for innovative ways to use natural resources in our meetinghouses that reflect our commitment as wise stewards of God’s creations.” Furthermore, the Church has indicated their estimation that this program will save money in the long run, proving that being environmentally conscious is also in our economic interest. In addition to the solar panels, the new earth-friendly design includes, "high efficiency heating and cooling system that can interface with the solar power equipment, landscaping designs and plumbing fixtures that cut water use by more than 50 percent, and Low-E Solarban 70 windows that block 78 percent of the sun’s heat energy. "

I've always felt that being good stewards of the environment was a Christian duty, and particularly an LDS duty. I recall one particular conservative friend from BYU who would always point to Doctrine and Covenants Section 59, verses 18-20 as evidence that humans could do whatever they wanted to the earth and to support his belief that environmental protection laws were not appropriate. The funny thing is that verse 20 states that our use of the earth must be done "with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion," a point my conservative friend conveniently glossed over.

In speaking about our stewardship over our planet, President Gordon B. Hinckley once stated, "This earth is [God's] creation. When we make it ugly, we offend Him."

Complications with Criminalizing Abortion

In the previous post, I demonstrated the LDS Church’s political neutrality on the debate over the government’s role in regulating and criminalizing abortion, even as the Church emphasizes the sanctity of life and counsels its members not to obtain elective abortions. Those who believe in criminalization of elective abortion (the pro-life position) should consider the repercussions of such a law. What are some of the costs and unintended consequences of compelling a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term? I don’t intend the following as an argument against the pro-life position. I simply hope that by exploring of some of the underlying implications of criminalizing elective abortion, we will realize that abortion policy cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The implementation of ethical pro-life laws would require a significant amount of social welfare programs, which most pro-life advocates vehemently oppose.

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LDS Church Neutrality on Abortion Legislation

While a student at BYU, I encountered an incredible amount of misconceptions on the political issue of abortion. It seemed that anyone who spoke to me of the issue assumed that Democrats and liberals "believed in" abortion, meaning that those who were pro-choice thought abortions were good things, and not something to be avoided. Over the next few posts, I aim to explore various aspects concerning the political issues of abortion, stem cell research, and as President George W. Bush termed it, "the culture of life." To be clear, this is not an effort on my part to support the pro-choice position as I do not define myself as pro-choice, nor do I define myself as pro-life. I hope to establish a framework for thoughtful people to have rational discussions about these issues.

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Sean Hannity Scams Injured Vets, Children

Conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel revealed that Sean Hannity's "Freedom Concerts," which are ostensibly for raising money to pay for college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to assist wounded military veterans, spent less than "20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively" for these causes. This is based on information obtained from a Fox News source and from publicly available tax return information on Hannity's charity, Freedom Alliance.

According to the Fox News source, "there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet”... of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event."

"The Rage is Not About Health Care"

Frank Rich stated what I was trying to point out in my previous post, "Right-Wing Terrorism," in a much more eloquent and straightforward fashion than I did. (That's probably why he's a NYT columnist and I'm not.) Here are some of the best parts:

In fact, the current surge of anger — and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism — predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “traitor” and “off with his head” at Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have spiraled ever since — from Gov. Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Tea Party rally in Texas to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies last summer to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot... If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory.

...As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas. Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.

Glenn Beck Called Out By Mormon Leaders

Glenn Beck, who recently demonized churches that preach social and economic justice as communist and fascist, caused some LDS church leaders to become so uncomfortable that they personally apologized to a reverend whom Beck had attacked. More specifically, Glenn Beck said, "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" He went on to compare organizations that practice social and economic justice with communism and fascism.

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Right-Wing Terrorism

The news over the past few days has demonstrated that elements of the Tea Party and others on the far right have resorted to blatant bigotry and threats of violence in the run up to and in the aftermath of Sunday's House vote on the landmark heath care reform bill. As some Democratic lawmakers were making their way up to Capital Hill on Sunday, Tea Party protesters hurled racial and other epithets, like ni***r and fa***t to a few black congressman and one gay congressman. One black congressman was even spat upon.

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