Sunday, May 29, 2005

If you have any interest in the stem cell debate or even just in the role of faith in politics, you should check out Dana Milbank's column this morning in the Post. It starts out with a bit about how Orthodox Jews disagree with President Bush in regard to his stance on stem cell research. As Milbank points out, Orthodox Jews have been in sync with Bush -- and with conservative evangelical Christians -- "on the Terry Schiavo case, public displays of the Ten Commandments, opposition to assisted suicide and same-sex marriage, and more federal support for religious charities."

However, as far as Orthodox Jews are concerned, the "potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life," and therefore stem cell research is morally justifiable. Providing further explanation, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America explains, "the traditional Jewish perspective does not accord an embryo outside of the womb the full status of humanhood and its attendant protections."

Okay, that makes sense.

About a week after the 2004 election, when everyone was talking about the role that "moral values" had played in the outcome,
the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America's public policy director, Nathan Diament, wrote a piece about how Orthodox Jews had come out solidly in support of Bush. (Seventy percent voted for Gore/Lieberman in 2000, while seventy percent vote for Bush/Cheney in 2004 -- a turnaround that obviously had something to do with Gore having selected an Orthodox Jew as a running mate.) Diament attributed this to the "moral values" question, but then goes on to explain that, as Milbank quotes, "Orthodox Jews are not merely evangelicals who read the Bible right to left." They, unlike conservative Christians, are in support of stem cell research and, with the same goal of saving lives, believe that abortion should be available in cases where the mother's life is at risk.

Again, that's all all good. It makes sense.

Now here's where things go off the tracks with conservative Republican hypocrisy/spin. It's like when Senator Frist (R-TN) said that Democrats were playing partisan politics with the filibuster debate with a straight face. Right, Bill, politics has NOTHING to do with trying to rewrite Senate rules in order to stifle the voice of Democrats in Congress.

Anyway, so The National Review published a piece last week from Eric Cohen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in response to Diament. The jist of which is to explain, "why Judaism is WRONG (my caps) on stem cells."

Cohen says that Orthodox Jews' views on stem cell research are "morally unconvincing," "irresponsible," "disingenuous," and "misguided".

Okay. Lively debate. No one says we all need to agree. I have used "irresponsible" on more than one occasion when describing the policies and opinions of those on the right: withholding condoms and preaching abstinence to a continent where millions of people are dying of AIDS, for example.

But here's that special moment from Cohen. "Jews seem to have forgotten even the minimum liberal wisdom of tolerance -- the wisdom of not trampling on the moral opinions of their fellow citizens, like pro-life Christians, who believe embryo destruction is not only evil but the gravest evil." That's the quote from Milbank. If you read Cohen's piece, he continues by suggesting that it is wrong to force "pro-life" Christians to pay for this research through their taxes. That would work if many taxpayers weren't opposed to having their money pay for imposing the death penalty, fighting unjust wars, sending innocent people to jail, and so on.

Either way. It's more of that conservative hypocrisy/spin at which they excel. Blabbering on about having your moral opinions trampled on while not bothering to look down at the moral opinions of others, upon which you just trampled.

Maybe you don't need to read the Milbank column now . . . No, go ahead. Check out the bit about the multiple choice test answers people gave when asked what a filibuster is. It's pretty funny stuff.

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