Orthodox union lauds stem cell research legislation

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, issued a statement Wednesday welcoming a Senate vote approving two bills aimed at aiding stem cell research in the United States.

The bipartisan Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would allow federal funding to support research on stem cells derived from embryonic cells donated to In Vitro Fertilization clinics with the consent of the donors . The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act will aid research into techniques of deriving pluripotent stem cells without harming or destroying human embryos.

In reaction to the Senate vote, the organization said: “The Jewish tradition places great value upon human life and its preservation. The Torah commands us to treat and cure the ill and to defeat disease wherever possible; to do this is to be the Creator’s partner in safeguarding the created.”

“The traditional Jewish perspective thus emphasizes that the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. We commend Senators Specter and Santorum for sponsoring their legislation, and applaud Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for securing the unanimous consent agreement that cleared the way for this legislation to be brought to the floor for consideration,” the group added.

Disagreement with Bush

Referring to reservations concerning the legislation motivated by religious beliefs, the UOJCA stated that, “We recognize that those who oppose this research and this legislation do so upon the basis of deeply and sincerely held moral beliefs. So too, the UOJCA supports this legislation because of our deeply held moral and religious traditions. We commend all those who engage in this important debate with respect and civility for those with whom they disagree; that is the only type of debate this issue deserves.”

Commenting on President George W. Bush widely known opposition to stem cell research being funded by the government, the group said it respected the president’s views, but that it “respectfully disagrees.”

“We would hope President Bush would allow the legislation passed by Congress to stand; failing that we would encourage Congress to override the President’s veto,” the UOJCA concluded.