Tampering With Divine Order
Japanese researchers have issued a new warning about cloning after research revealed that several mouse clones died prematurely. Previously, many animal clones have experienced obesity, problems with the immune system, and genetic defects. This is the first link, however, between cloning and early death.
In a study at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Japanese scientists found that ten of twelve cloned mice died at a young age. The rodents were additionally found to be suffering from severe pneumonia, liver failure, and tumors. The scientists cite the cloning process itself as a probable cause of these medical problems. Still, they recognize that other factors, such as the underlying genetics of the mice and the type of cell from which they were cloned, could also be to blame.
The team, however, concluded that, "The possible negative long-term effects of cloning, as well as the high incidence of spontaneous abortion and abnormal birth of cloned animals, give cause for concern about attempts to clone humans for reproductive purposes."
Dr Donald Bruce, a bioethicist who heads up the Church of Scotland's Society, Religion, and Technology Project, commented that while the study is not totally conclusive, it does provide a stark warning for those in favor of human cloning. "I would be cautious about extrapolating from one mouse paper under one set of conditions to all types of animal cloning, but for human cloning, this is another adverse indicator, to add to problems in pregnancy, Dolly's arthritis, and the French paper on problems with a clone of a clone," he said.
Dr. Bruce concluded, "In this case, the risk of creating children who were likely to have much shorter life spans and problems with immune systems or liver function, it would be unethical to attempt the procedure."
BBC News, February 11, 2002
True Mental Health
According to a Canadian study, regularly participating in religious worship can relieve the severity of mental health problems and shorten the hospital stays of psychiatric patients.
"Our results show that religious commitment has a significant im- pact on depressive symptoms, satisfaction with life, hospital use, and alcohol use," says the study, which was published this spring in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
By studying forty-four adult male patients and forty-four adult female patients admitted to Canadian psychiatric in-patient units in 1999, researchers found that patients who worshipped more frequently, attending religious meetings once or more weekly, appeared to benefit the most. These patients were less depressed, had shorter hospital stays, lower rates of alcohol abuse, and longer life expectancy than those who worshipped less frequently or not at all.
Dr. Marilyn Baetz, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon added that the findings suggest regular worship can help to regulate behavior and provide social resources for coping with stress and "a sense of coherence and meaning to life."
National Post Online, March 28, 2002
Less than half of those Americans who claim the title "Christian" believe that salvation comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ, according to the Barna Research Group. Among those who are born again, only a minority looks to the Bible for moral direction in their lives.
In this study, Barna classified those who claim to be Christians in three categories. The smallest of those categories was the "evangelical" group — those who believe that their relationship with Jesus Christ will provides them with eternal life, and who accept a variety of Bible teachings as accurate and authoritative. Slightly less than ten percent of all who claim the title "Christian" qualify as evangelical according to Barna. Thirty-nine percent of all Christians are non-evangelical born again — a segment that also believes they have eternal salvation by grace through their personal faith in Christ, but who do not believe in various core doctrines taught in the Bible. The largest group, slightly more than half of all Christians, Barna calls "notional Christians" — people who consider themselves to be Christian, but do not claim they know their eternal destiny and are less likely than others to embrace core Bible doctrines.
One of the most striking differences between evangelical and non-evangelical believers falls in the area of theological beliefs about Jesus and Satan. One hundred percent of evangelicals believe that Satan is a living being and not merely a symbol of evil. Only 26 percent of non-evangelicals share that belief. One hundred percent of evangelicals also believe that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth while only 53 percent of non-evangelicals agree.
Barna noted that though an overwhelming majority of Americans claim to be Christians, there are an increasing variety of definitions associated with the term "Christian."
"The research suggests that even within the 85 percent who say they are Christian, there is enormous diversity of belief and practice. Most interestingly, perhaps, is that we find such diversity to be common even within individual Christian churches," Barna said.
Barna Research Online, January 29, 2002
"R" Doesn't Stand For "Revenue"
In Hollywood, apparently 'R' doesn't mean 'Revenue' when it comes to box-office sales according to a report from FOXNews.com. The report reveals that in 2001, family-friendly movies netted far more profit than their R-rated counterparts, confirming what Christians have long known — inappropriate content does not generate more ticket sales.
Of the top nineteen grossing films in 2001, only three carried R ratings. The year's four most lucrative films, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, and Monsters, Inc., all carried G, PG, or PG-13 ratings.
Trade associations like the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) applaud filmmakers for the high volume of family-friendly movies, arguing that box office sales respond best to movies that families can watch together. "We have always believed and done research to support the fact that there are too many R-rated films made," said NATO President John Fithian. "There are a higher percentage of total films rated R than their box-office receipts can justify."
Some argue, however, that an emphasis on kid-friendly films may stifle the art of movie making, pointing to the number of R-rated films that are nominated for and win awards each year. "I would hate to see this have a chilling effect on the creative process," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., a Los Angeles box office tracking firm. "You can have an R-rated film that can transcend its rating and get a lot of critical acclaim … I hope this doesn't create a world where you just have PG-13 movies."
Despite this argument, Fithian remains supportive of family-friendly films. "Both for economic reasons and because it's the right thing to do, theater owners tend to support more family-friendly films than the studios," Fithian said. "What works in Hollywood doesn't necessarily work in Des Moines."
FOXNews.com, March 15, 2002
Legislation under consideration in the Georgia General Assembly would make it a crime to sell or rent violent video games to a minor.
The bill, known as the Violent Video Game Protection Act, states that "violent crime is a serious and persistent problem in our society, especially among our youth."
It then goes on to connect violence in video games to acts of violence committed by children.
"As confirmed by current scientific data, the repeated exposure to graphic violence and participation in violent interactive games may contribute behavior by our youth and desensitizes them to acts of violence," the bill reads.
Rep. Carolyn Hugley, the bill's author, says that a study by a Georgia television station on the accessibility of violent video games to minors encouraged her to draft the legislation. Currently, video games receive their ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which has rated over 7,000 game titles since its inception in 1994. No laws, however, prohibit children from buying games rated M (for mature audiences only). The study found that by and large, M-rated games are easily accessible to minors.
CNSNews.com, February 20, 2002
Advancing The Abortion Agenda
Pro-choice members of Congress have introduced a bill that would force hospitals to provide "emergency contraception" to sexual assault victims, even if the hospital is a private religious facility that is opposed to abortion.
The "Compassionate Care for Female Sexual Assault Survivors Act" requires that hospital emergency rooms make so called "emergency contraception" drugs available to rape and incest victims seeking treatment after an assault, and that the hospitals proactively inform women about the availability of the drugs. "Emergency contraception," more commonly known as the "morning after pill" works in one of three ways:
• Ovulation is inhibited, meaning the egg will not be released;
• The normal menstrual cycle is altered, delaying ovulation; or
• It can irritate the lining of the uterus so that if the first and second actions fail, and the woman does become pregnant, the human embryo is prevented from attaching to the lining of the uterus.
Supporters of the legislation laud it as a step forward in the care of sexual assault victims. According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), 300,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in the United States, and approximately 25,000 of them will become pregnant as a result. The group claims that as many as 22,000 of those pregnancies could be prevented with emergency contraception.
"Emergency contraception in the Emergency Room is compassionate common sense," said PPFA's president, Gloria Feldt.
Many religious hospitals, however, are concerned with the abortive potential of the drugs. According to Patrick Delaney, assistant director of public policy for Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP), "It's this third way [the drug could work] that causes a danger to a newly conceived life." He also noted the irony of supporters of the bill calling themselves "pro-choice" when they want to deny hospitals with a religious affiliation the choice to act in accordance with the beliefs of their faith.
"The problem is that — while insisting upon tolerance for their deviant view regarding the 'right' to kill a pre-born child — they will not provide the same freedom of conscience to Catholic hospitals that choose not to participate in early abortions," Delaney said.
One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) disagrees with Delaney though. She says religious hospitals are trying to force beliefs on patients that are out of the American mainstream, and she believes the United States is a "pro-choice nation."
"We're gonna put the 'anti-choice' forces in this country on the run," said DeGette. "I think they're already beginning to retreat, because we're not voting on all these crazy bills all the time in Congress. This bill today that we're introducing is the first step towards a proactive, pro-choice, pro-contraception agenda."
CNSNews.com, March 21, 2002
How Far Is Too Far?
A Florida company will soon ask the Food and Drug Administration for permission to sell microchips that can be implanted in people's bodies. The chips, which are about the size of the point on a ballpoint pen, would be inserted under people's skin and then read by scanners to obtain medical and personal information.
This new technology, called the VeriChip, is inserted in simple procedure performed in an outpatient, office setting. It requires only local anesthesia, a tiny incision, and perhaps a small adhesive bandage. Once the VeriChip is inserted, an external scanner can be used to obtain the chip's identification number and any other data contained in the device. Though a scanner is the main instrument of data transmission, the VeriChip data could also be transmitted, via telephone or the Internet.
The VeriChip's parent company, Applied Digital Solutions, Inc., stresses the chip's benefits, including non-invasive access to identification, medical, and other critical data. Some experts worry, however, that more sinister applications may result from such a device.
"The problem is that you always have to think about what the device will be used for tomorrow," said Lee Tien, a senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group. "It's what we call the function creep. At first a device is used for applications we all agree are good, but then it slowly is used for more than it was intended."
The Washington Times reports that the company is also developing another implant device that would work in conjunction with the VeriChip to allow satellite tracking of an individual's every movement.
Press Release, Applied Digital Solutions, Inc., January 9, 2002; The Washington Times National Weekly Edition, March 4-10, 2002
A second grader attending a public elementary school in Ventura, California was recently prevented from passing out videos to his peers during a gift exchange after school officials learned that his gifts were Christian videos about creation.
Upon being told by the school's principal that the he was absolutely prohibited from passing out such videos, the boy's grandmother sought legal action and sent a legal demand letter to the school's principal and superintendent requesting that the boy's right to pass out videos be reinstated. School officials responded, however, by claiming that the distribution of such videos is a violation of the other students' rights. The school district's attorney responded to the letter by alleging that "distribution of a religious videotape disrupts the orderly operations of the classroom, invades the rights of others, and subjects the students to the potential for coercion and proselytizing of a particular religious doctrine."
The school initially told the child's grandmother that students were not allowed to pass out gifts of any kind in the classroom. Upon finding that other students had in fact participated in a gift exchange, however, school officials told the boy he could distribute any videos deemed by the school to be "non-religious."
"The school district's action amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint-based discrimination of student speech," said Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute.
"This is really very ironic in that evolution is taught in many schools as fact unequivocally," he continued, "and then when one student, one little second-grader, decides to present an alternative viewpoint on creation, he's suddenly silenced and prevented from even being able to pass it out."
The Pacific Justice Institute assisted the grandmother in filing an administrative complaint against the school district to contest the school's action and policy.
Press Release from the Pacific Justice Institute, March 21, 2002; AgapePress, April 3, 2002
A group of religious communications professionals has given an award for "excellence in the communication of religion's values," to the NBC drama The West Wing. The particular episode receiving this honor, however, features the main character cursing at God and crushing a burning cigarette underfoot in a church.
The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), an international interfaith association of religion communicators, gave its 2001 Wilbur Award for Television Drama to this episode of The West Wing in recognition of its "excellence in the communication of religious issues, values, and themes in the secular media."
In the award-winning episode, which aired Sept. 19, 2001, President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, becomes angry at God while standing in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. following the funeral for his long-time secretary, who was killed in a traffic accident.
Addressing God, the fictional President Bartlett, portrayed in the show as a Roman Catholic, asks, "You're a son of a *****, you know that? What did I ever do to you to [your son] but praise his glory and praise his name?" The President continues, "Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?" He then stamps out his lit cigarette on the floor of the National Cathedral.
RCC Vice President Eric Shafer, a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, defended the RCC's selection of the West Wing episode. According to Shafer, to say that Bartlett was swearing at God "is a gross over simplification of the plot."
"He is yelling at God in language very similar to Old Testament prophets," Shafer continued. "And he even quotes Latin in it. He's coming to grips with this important death and his very strong … Roman Catholic Christian faith."
"I think it was the writers' understanding of Old and New Testament faith" that impressed the panel of judges who honored the show, he said.
CNSNews.com, April 3, 2002
Planned Parenthood has hired its first full-time chaplain. According to Pro-Life Infonet, Methodist pastor Monica Corsaro has taken a job with Planned Parenthood in Washington State as the group's statewide chaplain. In doing so, she becomes the first full-time statewide chaplain for the national abortion industry.
According to the Pro-Life Infonet report, Corsaro will be providing "pastoral counseling" to women seeking abortions, working with abortion facility staff, acting as a liaison with the religious community, and lobbying for abortion. Corsaro will also play a major role in Planned Parenthood's public relations battle against the perception that religious organizations are opposed to abortion.
Corsaro says she believes in each person's ability to make choices, including choices about one's body. She says most women who arrive for an abortion at Planned Parenthood believe God is going to send them to hell. To combat that feeling, Corsaro says she tries to focus on telling them God loves them.
AgapePress, April 2, 2002