Rally fuels anti-cloning movement
Grassroots effort launched to defeat embryonic stem cell amendment
JEFFERSON CITY – Missourians in recent weeks have been bombarded with television, radio and newspaper advertising touting why they should approve a proposed constitutional amendment promoting embryonic stem cell research, or cloning. Those efforts have included promises of miracle cures and an economic boon for the state’s fledgling bio-tech industry.
On July 31 at Concord Baptist Church, pro-life advocates launched an emotional counter-offensive they hope will break the backs of the cloning lobby that has already spent millions of dollars in an attempt to secure constitutional protection for taxpayer-funded cloning.
What was said, sung and prayed in the two-hour rally seemed to resonate within the hearts of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 700 people representing perhaps a half dozen different denominations. Many left the sanctuary feeling like they had been given their marching orders for a three-month-long battle that will culminate in the general election Nov. 7. The goal: defeat the proposed constitutional amendment.
“The rally really did define our message,” said host pastor Monte Shinkle. “Information, explanation and inspiration were all there.”
A preacher, research scientist and former government official all presented a unified message throughout the evening that was as much religious as it was educational and political.
The preacher was Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptist from Texas who founded Vision America and is in the process of putting on four more rallies in Missouri in the next two months. The research scientist was Shao-Chun Chang, from the Washington University School of Medicine. The government official was Alan Keyes, who spent 11 years with the U.S. State Department and formerly served as an ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Scarborough noted that Christians are citizens of heaven and earth with a moral duty to fight, as the Apostle Paul did, in the face of evil. Chang admitted that science has limits and is “totally inadequate” when it comes to moral issues. Keyes quoted the Declaration of Independence in its assertion that all men are created equal by a Creator (God), which is a moral principle that cannot be proven by a scientific study.
This battle is about science, ethics and morals, but it is also about money and the millions of dollars researchers think they can make off patents if embryonic stem cell research, or cloning, produces cures that, so far, do not exist. Of the $16 million the pro-cloning group has raised, $15.2 million has come from James and Virginia Stowers, founders of the Kansas City-based Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Scarborough estimated that $10 million of that has been spent to intimidate Missourians by creating the impression that the amendment will pass by a 2-to-1 margin. The July 31 rally marked the beginning of pro-life Missourians telling the other side of the story which will result in the poll numbers tightening, he said.
Keyes, who compared the pro-cloning advertising campaign to “lying propaganda,” added that there could very well be a backlash against the supporters of the amendment once citizens learn the truth.
“The issue of truth telling is going to become crucial,” Keyes said in a July 31 news conference at the church. “In politics, one of the things that hurts most when it finally is clarified is when you have lured people into support for this or that by telling them things that are not true. Folks tend to resent that deeply, because they understand that that violation of trust destroys the whole basis for the electoral process. It ruins choice when you’re dealing with lies. So I think that’s going to become a serious issue.”
Rodney Albert, chairman of the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church, said he was extremely encouraged by the rally.
“This is where the battle begins,” he said. “We don’t have $16 million, but we have pastors who are convicted by the Word of God to tell the truth to their congregation. I’m absolutely convinced the pastors are going to rise up in these coming months and declare the truth to their people who are then going to go out energized and declare the truth to their friends.”
Of the 125 meals served in the Blue Room of the church before the rally, about 60 were served to pastors, who are seen as key educators in the grassroots strategy. Once these men begin to stand in their pulpits and tell the truth about the amendment, it will have a ripple effect, Albert predicted.
“Our first obligation as Christian people is to tell the truth of God,” he said. “Life is His, life is sacred, it belongs to Him, it cannot be manipulated, it can’t be created to be destroyed. We’ve got to tell that cause, but I think as well we are citizens of this state, and there are other truths to tell as well.
“We’ve got to educate ourselves about this science. It is cloning, and that is an aberration of what we want in this state. So we have eternal truths and truths of this generation as well.”
Keyes said the Founding Fathers never envisioned a day where scientists would act like creators in a culture that seems to be losing its respect for the One True Creator. When Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal,” going on to mention a Creator, he was putting forth the ideal that all human beings must be treated with respect, no matter what condition they are in, Keyes said. By destroying life at inception, embryonic stem cell research violates this historic American ideal, he said.
Scientists do not create, Keyes said. They manipulate existing matter. Science may be pioneering and progressive, but it certainly has limits, he said. The brand of “science” without limits that voters are being asked to validate at the polls may prove to be lucrative to certain wealthy Missourians, but Keyes asked rhetorically, quoting Scripture, what would it profit a man (or a state) if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?
Scarborough said adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of a human embryo, is good. Christians have a long track record of starting and maintaining hospitals, and God is unquestionably a healer. So while one side of the debate loves to talk about its passion for cures, the other side is just as committed to helping humanity, he said.
“We are all for cures,” Scarborough said.
Chang is to be commended as a scientist, Keyes said, because he is willing to admit that science does not contain the answers to all of life’s questions. Science is not to be worshipped for its alleged curative potential. It is to be viewed through the lens of proper, biblical theology.
African-Americans are free men. In 2006, they are recognized as human beings, even if the controlling authorities in previous centuries who did not have a sound understanding of the Bible once deemed them to be subhuman. Keyes is African-American. He does not want Missouri to go down a path of embryonic stem cell research (cloning) that would turn out to be similar to the one that America went down with his ancestors. Put another way, Keyes does not wish to see life being disrespected as a constitutional premise in Missouri by moneyed interests.
“We shall not sacrifice our freedom on their altar of gold,” he said to prolonged and thunderous applause.
The grassroots campaign to defeat the amendment at this point is a coalition of organizations forming under one banner.
Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC), the Chesterfield-based organization that is educating through www.NoCloning.org, was present at the July 31 rally through the dispensing of circular red buttons worn by many. Counted among MAHC’s board directors is Michael Whitehead, MBC legal counsel.
Another active organization is Missouri Roundtable for Life, or www.moroundtable.org, which includes Pathway Editor Don Hinkle on its board of directors. The Roundtable made a splash at the rally by distributing its 16-page critique of the amendment which dissects the deceptive language of the ballot initiative word by word. Hinkle mentioned that $3,000 in funding has been promised and will go toward the distribution of the booklet in 15,000 copies of an early September issue of The Pathway. Hinkle said unlimited numbers may be ordered by churches by calling The Pathway at 1-800-736-6227, Ext. 231.
Vision America will remain active as it puts on four more rallies with Scarborough, Keyes and others. Rallies are scheduled for Aug. 17 in Cape Girardeau at Notre Dame Regional High School; Aug. 28 in St. Louis at Life Christian Center; and Sept. 11 in the Kansas City area at First Baptist Church, Raytown. Another rally may be held either in Springfield or Branson in September.
All rallies begin at 7 p.m., with a complimentary dinner for pastors and their wives at 5 p.m.
“We’re trying to get past the slick ads and the untruth that is being pushed out there,” said MBC Family Ministries Specialist Joe Ulveling. “We’re just trying to let people know the truth.”