300 rally against stem-cell measure

Friday, August 18, 2006
About 300 people attended a rally against Amendment 2 at Notre Dame Regional High School on Thursday. Guest speakers included Alan Keyes and Dr. Rick Scarborough. The amendment, if approved by voters Nov. 7, would ensure access to stem-cell cures and treatments allowed under federal law. (Don Frazier)

Amendment 2 provides a stark choice for Missourians, opponents whipping up religious opposition told a crowd of 300 Thursday night.

Speakers at the Christians Against Human Cloning rally painted the proposal as the next step in a satanic onslaught, using promises of cures to promote tyranny and death.

Alan Keyes, the keynote speaker, said embryonic stem-cell research is the moral equivalent of Nazi medical experiments on the inmates of death camps during World War II.

And despite wording in Amendment 2 imposing harsh criminal penalties on anyone attempting to create a living human clone using the stem-cell research techniques, Keyes raised the possibility of an industrial effort to produce clones.

The result, he said, would be "new legions of humans to be enslaved and brutalized."

The rally at Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau is the second in a series sponsored by Vision America, a Texas-based evangelical organization. The leader of Vision America, Dr. Rick Scarborough, has joined the political opposition to Amendment 2, Missourians Against Human Cloning, and traditional conservative organizations such as Missouri Right to Life to put on the rallies.

The proposal they are fighting is commonly referred to as the stem-cell initiative. Supporters hope to win approval of the amendment, which bars the Missouri Legislature from making embryonic stem-cell research illegal in Missouri.

The measure does not require any state tax money be used for the research, but does mandate that lawmakers not punish state-supported research centers that engage in such work with private money.

It also imposes a 15-year prison sentence on anyone attempting to implant a cloned embryo into a woman's uterus to produce a live cloned human.

The rally's main speakers, Keyes, Scarborough and Cape Girardeau lawyer David Limbaugh, repeatedly called on military and religious imagery to make their case.

"There are people across the state who are standing for Christ for life and against their propaganda machine," Scarborough said, adding that Amendment 2 supporters "are leveling their howitzers at the prayer army."

And Limbaugh linked embryonic stem-cell research to the pro-choice movement, calling it all part of a "culture of death."

"There is a raging cultural war in America," Limbaugh said. "The stakes are indescribably high."

Each speaker received rousing support, some "amens" and frequent applause. Pat Moore, a teacher at St. Denis Elementary School in Benton, Mo., said she came already convinced to oppose Amendment 2.

"I had to come this evening to educate myself to know what to say," she said.

Few politicians ventured into the high school gymnasium. Only state Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, and judicial candidate John Heisserer, a Democrat, were there.

Cooper said he would be voting against Amendment 2 in November. Heisserer, who said he was "pro-life," declined to comment on the amendment because he is barred from doing so in a judicial contest.

No organized supporters of the amendment showed up at the rally. But Chris Hrabik, a 20-year-old who uses a wheelchair because of a car accident, watched with his parents Robert and Linda Hrabik.

Chris said he's going to China for stem-cell treatments not available in the United States. While those stem cells come from umbilical cord blood, he supports embryonic research.

"We just want to hear what misinformation the other side is giving," Linda Hrabik said.

After listening through the two-hour rally, Chris said he heard nothing to change his mind.

In addition to religious objections, Scarborough sought to portray supporters of Amendment 2 as profiteers. The founder of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, James Stowers, has provided the bulk of the $16 million spent by the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

The chief executive officer of the institute, Dr. Bill Neaves, said no individual will get rich from research at the institute. The institute will market any cures it discovers, he said, but every dime of profit will be put back into the institute's research into better cures.

"The terrible thing about the coalition is that they are willing to tell the most outrageous lies in the hopes that when November rolls around, for each of the lies they tell there is one small part of the population that remembers and will be motivated to cast a negative vote," Neaves said.

At the end of the evening, Scarborough pleaded with the audience to fill out donation cards or make donations right there. He told the audience they could either make a donation to the tax-exempt Vision America or to Vision America Action, a new organization registered in Texas.

He also asked for e-mail addresses, calling it the "easiest way to communicate with us and this army of opposition."

The costs for each rally will be similar to that for a July 31 rally in Jefferson City, Scarborough said at a news conference. Vision America spent $12,928, including a $2,500 payment to Keyes. The payment was far smaller than his regular fee, Keyes said, noting that he usually charges $7,500 to $15,000 for an appearance.

"I often do things to such an extent that it has kind of hurt my livelihood," Keyes said. "But I also have a family to support as well. When there is the wherewithal to offer a little something to help us keep living, neither the law nor the Lord requires that I turn it down."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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