May the President Appropriately Invoke God? Evaluating the Embryonic Stem-Cell Vetoes
40 Pages Posted: 21 May 2008 Last revised: 18 Apr 2013
Date Written: May 21, 2008
President George W. Bush has twice vetoed measures to provide federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos. Each veto was premised in part upon his religious beliefs. President Bush's reliance upon his faith has provoked a strong negative reaction. This Essay argues that this criticism is baseless.
The Essay demonstrates that important political leaders spanning three centuries - including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. - have invoked religious beliefs in explaining their positions. The principle of separation of church and state, properly understood, is not a persuasive basis for criticizing this religious heritage. President Bush, in relying upon his faith to justify his vetoes, acted in accord with well-established national tradition.
The Essay also examines various arguments that religious discourse in the public square is normatively inappropriate and thus should be excluded. All of these critiques fail. Anyone genuinely committed to diversity and to democratic ideals should support a rich array of disputants in public policy controversies, including religious believers openly proclaiming their faith-based values.
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