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Letter from Clergy re Stem Cell Research


June, 2005

Dear Senator Frist ,

As a diverse group of clergy and theologians representing many faiths, we are writing to you out of a common purpose. As you know, HR 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, passed the House of Representatives in May with bi-partisan support. We respectfully urge you to bring the bill to the floor for a prompt vote in the Senate.

We write to you not as politicians, elected officials or lobbyists--but as people united with you in faith. We also share with you a deep desire to relieve human suffering and to reduce political partisanship.

As theologians and clergy, we are very aware of the debate regarding the moral status of the embryo. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity and Islam--is the core conviction that each and every person is a unique creation of infinite value, that we are distinguished from all other beings because we possess a soul that connects us to the divine.

We are also aware that faith traditions disagree over when a human being becomes ensouled. We strongly believe that this debate is a religious and philosophical one that does not belong in the political sphere. To place the debate in that sphere creates the danger that one   religious belief will prevail, will be hardened into policy and law, and then be imposed on others--perhaps even a majority who hold different religious and philosophical beliefs.

We believe that as a nation, it is far better to pursue a path where there is common moral ground. One place of agreement is the shared belief among major religions that we have an obligation to relieve suffering and heal the sick. The enormous potential of embryonic stem-cell research to treat the sick and injured is, in our view, an embodiment of this religious view.

Moreover, the proposed legislation limits federal funding to embryos that remain frozen in fertility clinics and would otherwise be destroyed. Couples who no longer need these embryos for reproductive purposes should be allowed to donate them for research and treatment of disease, to relieve suffering and promote healing. Such an act, through informed consent, lies within the well-developed ethics and tradition of organ donation, which is also supported by major religions.

As you know, the principles in the proposed legislation are supported by a majority of Americans across the political spectrum and by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. We celebrate this consensus and its potential to heal our country's deep divisions.

Throughout history, we believe that God has worked through human beings to relieve physical and mental suffering, to prevent disease and promote healing. Many times this relief has come through scientific discovery. No one knows the mind of God or understands God's ways. What we do know is that medicine might be on the verge of a discovery that could use biology's regenerative potential to treat some of the sources of humanity's worst suffering.

Because we believe that the proposed legislation will provide principled, ethical support in using embryonic stem-cell research to discover ways of relieving suffering and pain, we ask that you schedule it for a prompt vote in the Senate.


1) Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr. , Senior Minister, Riverside Church , New York City

2) Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite , President and Professor of Theology, Chicago Theological Seminary

3) Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy , President, The Interfaith Alliance *

4) Rabbi Rebecca Alpert , Chair, Department of Religion, Temple University , PA

5) Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale , Vicar, St. David's Episcopal Church, Pepperell, MA and Interim Executive Director Political Research Associates

6) Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs , Temple Kol Tikvah *, Woodland Hills , CA

7) Rev. Fred Merrick , Chaplain, Department of Veteran Affairs

8) Rev. Debra W. Haffner , Director, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality Justice, and Healing, Norwalk , CT

9) Rev. Paul E. Mullins , Grace Lutheran Church , San Francisco , CA

10) Rev. Robert Chase , Director of Communication , United Church of Christ

11) Rev. Peter Laarman , Executive Director , Progressive Christians Uniting , Los Angeles , CA

12) Rev. Jennifer Kottler , Deputy Director, Protestants for the Common Good,  Chicago , IL

13) Dr. Mary E. Hunt , Co-director, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

14) Rev. David Helseth , Englewood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) , Yakima , Washington

15) Rev. Melinda V. McLain , United Church of Christ , San Francisco , CA

16) Jim Kinney, Executive Director, Interreligious Engagement Project

17) Rev. Joyce Lovejoy , retired clergyperson, United Church of Christ, New Boston, NH

18) Emilie M. Townes , Professor of Christian Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York , NY

19) Rev. Mark R. Pawlowski , CEO, Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan

20) Rev. Linda M. Maloney , Saint Matthew's Episcopal Church, Enosburg Falls , VT

21) Rev. Charles F. Holm , Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Easton , Pennsylvania

22) Beth Friedman- Romell , Ph.D., Associate Spiritual Leader, Knesseth Israel Temple , Wooster , OH

23) Rev. Dr. Joanne C. Sizoo , Presbyterian Church

24) Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson , Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) , Washington , DC

25) Rev. Hugh Sanborn , Ph.D., Fort Collins , CO

26) Rev. Mark J. Lukens , OCC, Pastor, Bethany Congregational Church, President, The Interfaith Alliance- Long Island Chapter

27) Denise T. Davidoff , Former Moderator, Unitarian Universalist Association, Norwalk , CT

28) Rev. Joe H. Leonard, Jr. , retired, Office on Family Ministry and Human Sexuality, National Council of Churches

29) Rev. James DeLange , Pastor, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and
Chair, The San Francisco Interfaith Council

30) Rev. Dr. Gail W. Cromack , Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church , San Bruno , California

31) James A. Stuckey , retired member of the Presbytery of Scioto Valley, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

32) The Rev. Dr. Joanne C. Sizoo , Presbyterian Church ( USA )

33) Rabbi Jack Moline , Agudas Achim Congregation, Alexandria , VA ; Vice-chair, The Interfaith Alliance *

34) Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord

35) Sister Maureen McCormack , Ph.D., Board of Directors, The Interfaith Alliance, Englewood, CO

36) Rev. Roberta M. Nelson , DD, Sedgwick , ME

37) Rabbi Dennis C. Sasso , Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth-El, Indianapolis , IN

38) Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso , Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth-El, Indianapolis , IN

39) Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock , Director, Faith Voices for the Common Good

40) Dr. Nazir Khaja , Chairman, Islamic Information Service, Los Angeles , CA

41) Rev. Meg A. Riley , Unitarian Universalist Association

42) Rev. Dr. Dan Rosemergy , Minister Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation , Nashville , TN

* for identification purposes only.

To add your name to this list, please contact Jessica Smith at or 202-822-5200.

Last updated: June-2005