Comprehensive ban on human cloning one of first bills introduced in 108th Congress
U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), a prolife physician, has reintroduced a bill that would ban all human cloning, imprisoning and fining violators up to $1 million.

"Human cloning hasn't cured any diseases, it will commercialize women's eggs and wombs, it poses serious risks to the cloned child-to-be and violates human dignity," he said.

Weldon sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed in the House but stalled in the Senate, where opponents wanted a ban on reproductive human cloning but allowances for cloning for research and medical purposes. Though Republicans now control the Senate, the bill is expected to have similar trouble this year. Research into so-called "therapeutic cloning" says a spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), "offers hope to millions of people with incurable diseases. It would be unconscionable to stop that research and dash the hopes of those people."

Weldon dismisses such ideas. "I read the medical literature and there does not exist even an animal model for therapeutic cloning," he says. The chance of passing his bill, he told The Orlando Sentinel, "is yet to be determined, but I'm optimistic that we'll be able to do it."

Backers of the comprehensive ban say the threat of human cloning has been made apparent by the Raëlian UFO cult, which recently claimed they had created a human clone.

"In some sense, our friends in the Raëlian movement have helped us … to focus the attention of the American people on the perils that await us," Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told Reuters.

One item missing from Weldon's earlier bill is a ban on importing medical treatments that use human cloning techniques. The new bill still bans the importing of cloned human embryos. The treatment import ban was opposed by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who is now Senate Majority Leader.

In related news, the European Commission has called for a global ban on reproductive human cloning. "Reproductive cloning must be condemned not only for obvious ethical reasons and common values, but also because it is about an utterly irresponsible practice from the scientific point of view," Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said. "Experiments with animals show there is a huge amount of uncertainty and risk associated with cloning."

Manhattan senator: Ban priests from praying
While the U.S. Congress discusses a ban on human cloning, one of the issues facing the New York Senate is a proposed ban on Catholic priests. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan), the Senate's only openly gay member and a reported Roman Catholic, was furious that that Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard gave the invocation in the opening session yesterday. According to the New York Post, Duane "fired off an angry letter to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, asking that priests not be allowed to pray in the Senate in light of the ongoing Catholic Church sex scandal."

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Have the Anabaptists won?
Has the pacifist wing of the Reformation finally won out—after nearly 500 years of dissent over the issue of justifiable war, asks UPI religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto. It sure seems that way. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Calvinists are all using such pacifistic language over the looming war in Iraq that they sound more like Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish than they have in their historical affirmations of just-war theory.

Siemon-Netto, meanwhile, aligns himself with Lutheran theologian William Lazareth, who "makes the clear distinction between 'just war' coram Deo (before God), which is a theological impossibility … and 'justifiable war' coram hominibus (before men), a theory to which Christians and Jews have been historically committed."

The distinction, he says, comes from a doctrine "of God's twofold reign in this world … [which] distinguishes between the spiritual realm of grace, peace and forgiveness, which clearly is not one of war. This is the realm of the God who has revealed himself in Christ—the Church. On the other hand, though, God is also in charge of the temporal realm where he acts in a hidden way and where reason is the determining principle. And reason may well dictate the use of force to restrain the bad guys."

For a similar, but more entertaining take on the subject, check out Joseph Bottum's "AWOL Christian Soldiers?" from the Oct. 1, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard. Of course, back then the issue was Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Islamic alliance blames Christians for Pakistan church attack
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-party alliance of Muslim political groups that saw great gains in Pakistan's October elections, has a creative—and insidious—theory about who was behind the deadly Christmas attack of a Protestant church service in Daska. The MMA says the raid, which left three girls dead, was a ploy by Christians to get U.S. immigration visas. The Muslims claim that they, not the Christians, are the ones being persecuted.

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Church and state:

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Politics and law:

  • Conscripting God into battle | Presidents and rogues have always invoked the Deity when heading into battle, to galvanize their people, demonize the enemy and excuse violence (Gordon Barthos, The Toronto Star)

  • The party of unbelievers | A new survey shows that the religion gap is bigger and of more consequence than you think—both for Republicans and Democrats (Claudia Winkler, The Weekly Standard)

  • Christians urged to refrain from politics | The pastor of the Christian Mission Assembly in Sinkor, Rev. Alphonso Deam, asserted that he church is a place for solution and as such no Christian should be part of any political process that would hinder their services to God (The News, Monrovia, Liberia)

  • Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia rejects govt's request over constitutional review | "Our agenda, that remains a national tool, is that we want a constituent assembly and it will remain so" (The Post of Zambia)

Life ethics:

  • The falsehoods of abortion | 30 years after Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion position ignores facts (Thomas J. Ashcraft, The Charlotte Observer)

  • Wrong focus in abortion issue | No answers are likely to be found in absolutist positions (Norah Vincent, Los Angeles Times)

  • Soul of the issue | While we may have made scientific advancements of godlike proportions, there is one of God's prerogatives we'll never have the remotest license to, and that is His authority over our souls (David Limbaugh, The Washington Times)


  • Studying faiths | Schools can teach about various religions without promoting them, educators say (Gainesville [Fla.] Sun)

  • Christian student group sues Rutgers over access | Rutgers spokesman says university officials have not suspended or "de-recognized" the group and "have made it clear to the group that it still has access to the same facilities," but has suspended funds (The Washington Times)

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  • Playing the bias card | Using a verbal screen of "diversity," "fairness," and "nondiscrimination," university officials delegitimize religion by substituting campus orthodoxy for religious principles (John Leo, U.S. News & World Report)

  • Cobb issues evolution guidelines to teachers | Four months after Cobb County schools opened the door to considering "disputed views" of evolution, the district essentially told teachers Wednesday to handle the topic as they always have (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Bricks go, but seminary's liberal foundation stays | The Rev. Dr. Joseph C. Hough Jr. faces the twin tasks of keeping the Union Seminary true to its inclusiveness and paying the bills (The New York Times)

Persecution and violence:

  • Missionary pair flee persecution to local school | It would have taken nothing less than a miracle to bring a pair of African missionaries from a political jail in the Middle East to the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge. Miracle accomplished. (Beaver County [Penn.] Times)

  • Hate of the West finds fertile soil in Yemen. But does Al Qaeda? | Investigators examining the recent attack on a Baptist hospital in Yemen have so far failed to establish a link between the killers and Al Qaeda (The New York Times)

  • Killing American women: a game with no rules | The assassination of Bonnie Penner Witherall, the American nurse working in an evangelical hospital in South Lebanon, last November by an unknown gunman does not merely underscore the dangers of working at the intersection of religion and politics, but shows that the rules of the game have become much dirtier with the paradigm Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, has set for the Arab and Muslim militants (Editorial, The Daily Star, Lebanon)


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Church life:

  • Radical move, man | Some churches welcome skateboarders who otherwise might have no use for religion. But some kids say they come to skate, not for the faith (St. Petersburg Times)

  • Bringing God back to the church | The Suicidal Church, recommended by the Archbishop of Melbourne, says that the church is timid, institutionalized, racist, sexist, homophobic, and impedes the message of the Gospel (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Churches urged to diversify | Churches and chapels in south west Wales are being urged diversify in an attempt to make places of worship central to community life (BBC)

  • Unorganized religion | Sociologists tend to blame religious slippage on the frenetic and self-indulgent lifestyles of the baby boom generation. But surely some of the blame must be laid on the churches themselves (David Yount, Scripps Howard News Service)

Prayer and spirituality:

  • Finding his soul in a cell | From a teenage killer, San Quentin forges a spiritual man—awaiting parole after 25 years (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Family mourns woman hit by police car | The woman of God died while going from one church to another (New York Post)

  • Also: Faith sustains family of police-car victim | Rodriguez, a 63-year-old widow who attended church nearly every day, was struck and killed by an unmarked police car Saturday night as she walked to a prayer service (New York Daily News)

  • A revival under many tents in L.A. | The area's religiosity has new faces and speaks in multiple tongues. Yet Los Angeles is increasingly demonstrating how faith can be a common ground (Los Angeles Times)

  • On Ozzy's behalf | Praying for celebrities (Terry Mattingly, Scripps Howard News Service)

  • When privacy hasn't got a prayer | An Anglican bishop has warned that loneliness is in danger of worsening after new laws restricted the naming of people in weekly prayer lists (The Daily Telegraph, NSW, Australia)

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