FRC Blog

Judge: This land is your land…

by Suzanne Bowdey

October 20, 2008

It’s been five years since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, but the shockwaves are still rippling through the national church.  Across America, congregations have exploded in protest.  Despite pleas from many in the 2.2 million-member church, Episcopal leaders stubbornly refuse to back down from their liberal, pro-homosexual theology. 

After months of negotiations failed to bring the denomination back to its conservative teachings, a band of 11 Virginia churches took the unprecedented step to sever all ties and realign under the Anglican Church of Nigeria.  Together, these congregations made the courageous-and costly-decision to separate from a denomination whose American roots are more than 300 years deep. 

But the stand for Biblical truth has come at great price to the faithful in Virginia.  They face financial hardship, eviction from their property, and a multi-million dollar lawsuit from Episcopal headquarters. 

Since early 2007, the Diocese of Virginia has attacked the churches in a vicious suit that threatens to confiscate their church homes.  With almost no resources, the 11 churches banded together in defense of their land, resulting in the largest property dispute in the history of the Episcopal Church. 

At every stage of the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia court battle (now four rounds old), Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows has ruled in favor of the breakaway churches.  Last week, Judge Bellows rounded out this series of victories by ruling that Truro Church-the second largest parish-“could retain ownership of land sought by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.”  In a story of true David versus Goliath proportions, the news continues to stun the mainstream church.

But despite how far the Virginia parishes have come, the Episcopal Church shows no sign of giving up.  Its national leaders have vowed to fight these decisions all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.  In a press release, the Diocese says it “will continue to explore every legal option available” to seize these church homes.  Despite the mass exodus this month from parishes in Pittsburgh and San Joaquin (see George Will’s Sunday column “A Faith’s Dwindling Following”) and the impending rift in Fort Worth, the Episcopal Church leaves no doubt that the legal battle has just begun.  In fact, it could continue for years.  

If you’re interested helping the churches at “Ground Zero” in the Anglican crisis, please log on to Truro’s website  and consider standing with them for biblical truth.

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It’s iPS Cells by a Hair

by David Prentice

October 18, 2008

Researchers have now shown that they can efficiently and quickly produce human iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells), increasing the efficiency 100-fold. Moreover, they have done it using cells from a single human hair. The iPS cell type is equivalent to embryonic stem cells, but is produced without using embryos, eggs, or cloning. The results with iPS cells continue to mount up rapidly, making it more and more difficult to justify use of embryos, eggs, or cloning to produce human embryonic stem cells.

The results were published online in Nature Biotechnology on 17 October 2008.

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Post-abortion Mental Health Effects Panel Update

by Brittany Smith

October 15, 2008

WORLD Magazine’s website published a short article on the abortion panel that took place last Thursday at FRC:

http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/14537

Also, here is the video link from the panel if you want to watch some of the speakers, including FRC’s own Tom McClusky:

http://www.frc.org/lectures/post-abortion-mental-health-effects-awareness-and-politics

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The Wiki Court of Connecticut

by Family Research Council

October 14, 2008

 

There is a lot of things in the Connecticut Supreme Court same-sex “marriage” case to  either laugh or cry about.  There is one section in the majority decision where the four judges who invented the same-sex “marriage” right in the state of Connecticut make the argument that because homosexuals are underrepresented in the political, business and academic world that they are being discriminated against. 

Insofar as gay persons play a role in the political process, it is apparent that their numbers reflect their status as a small and insular minority. It recently has been noted that, of the more than one-half million people who hold a political office at the local, state and national level, only about 300 are openly gay persons.  Andersen v. King County, supra, 158 Wash. 2d 105 (Bridge, J., concurring in dissent); see also R. La Corte, ”State Legislature Has Second-Largest Gay Caucus in U.S.” (January 24, 2008) (putting figure at about 400 openly gay persons), available at  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004140976_webgaycaucus23.html?syn. No openly gay person ever has been appointed to a United States Cabinet position or to any federal appeals court, or served in the United States Senate, and only two currently serve in the United States House of Representatives. See ”Current Members of the United States Congress,” available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_United_States_Senators. Gay persons also lack representation in the highest levels of business, industry and academia. For example, no openly gay person heads a Fortune 500 company; G. Shister, ”Gay Chief Executives Come Out Winners” (January 28, 2008), available at http://web.archive.org/web/20080129030005/http:/www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20080128_Gay_chief_executives_come_out_winners.html; and it has been estimated that there are only fourteen openly gay college and university presidents or chancellors; see ”An Openly Gay Chancellor Heads to Madison, Wis.,” Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog (May 29, 2008), available at http://chronicle.com/news/article/?id=4574; a number that represents only one half of 1 percent of such positions nationwide.”

I am troubled that a court document uses Wikipedia as a credible source (talk about some lazy law clerks!).  According to this article a search of all federal and all state court decisions ever made revealed that 247 have cited Wikipedia, despite Wikipedia telling users not to cite them as a reliable source.

What is of deeper concern is the logic in the judges’ paragraph.  Do the judges actually believe that homosexuals are a put upon class in society?  A Comm Group/G Society study released in October 2001 shows that the median household income of homosexual households is $65,000 - compared to the national average of $40,800. Also, 47 percent of homosexual men and 40 percent of lesbians hold professional or managerial jobs - more than twice the figure for the general population. 

As for fortune 500 companies, The Human Rights Campaign themselves cite that of the top ten companies in the Fortune 500 nine (90 percent) prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, five (50 percent) prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and eight (80 percent) provide partner health benefits.  The numbers they cite for the rest of the 500 are similar.

Also does the judge honestly believe that college campuses are hostile to the homosexual agenda?  What colleges are they visiting?  And why cite the number of homosexuals in these fields anyway.  Why not also in the entertainment/news industry?  According to Peter Sprigg in his InFocus paper, “Homosexual Groups Back Off From ‘10 Percent’ Myth,” about 1.4 million Americans identify themselves as homosexual.  In comparison at least 125 million Americans identify themselves as “born-again” or “evangelical.”  Between homosexuals and Evangelicals which selected group is more prevalent in Hollywood? Homosexuals would be a good guess. Which group is better portrayed unfairly?  Evangelicals by far.

There is much wrong with the majority opinion from the Connecticut Supreme Court, its inexplicable use of random statistics about supposed unfilled quotas to justify its unjustifiable decision is just one of them.

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A Transparent Success by Corneal Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

October 14, 2008

Swiss researchers have published an online paper in Nature describing how adult stem cells in the cornea renew the transparent surface. The existence of stem cells in the eye and in the cornea has been know for some time. Most of the attention has focused on the limbus, the area at the outer rim of the cornea, as the source of stem cells for repair. This new work shows that the entire cornea contains stem cells that function in day-to-day repair of the cornea, and that the limbal stem cells are called into action when there is a more serious wound to the cornea that requires repair.

Transplants of limbal stem cells have been increasingly used to grow new corneas and restore sight in patients. The limbal stem cells can come from the patient’s own eye or from a donor eye, and new corneas can actually be grown from cells taken from a patient’s mouth.

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Name That iPS Cell Tune in Only Two Genes and a Sprinkle

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Researchers at Harvard announced October 12 that they have produced flexible, embryonic-like iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) by adding only two genes and “sprinkling” a helping chemical onto cells. The iPS cell method, first developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Japan in 2006, involves adding four genes (via viruses) to “reprogram” normal cells so that they behave like embryonic stem cells, but without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. The first human iPS cells were announced in November 2007 by Yamanaka and by Dr. James Thomson. The race has been on to simplify the reprogramming process, using fewer genes and safer viruses, or no viruses at all. Over the last ten months, numerous groups have reported improved methods and use of fewer genes, including a recent published report using safer viruses that deliver the genes and then disappear. Yamanaka has just published results showing that iPS reprogramming can be done completely without viruses for the gene additions. Meanwhile other researchers have been attempting to use simple chemicals or proteins to accomplish reprogramming, rather than using any DNA. Previous work has used soluble proteins with three genes, and a combined genetic and chemical approach. Now Doug Melton’s group, building on their previous work with making mouse iPS cells, has demonstrated that human iPS cells can be produced by adding only two key genes along with a simple chemical. They eliminated the need for potential cancer causing genes, adding only the two genes Oct-4 and Sox-2, both master regulators of stem cell gene expression. The chemical additive, valproic acid, acts on the DNA-protein complex in the nucleus of cells to open its structure, making reprogramming easier. While the method they used for this study still involves viruses to deliver the genes, Melton noted that “This study demonstrates there’s a possibility that instead of using genes and viruses to reprogram cells, one can use chemicals,” and “These results support the possibility of reprogramming through purely chemical means.” With the rapidly-increasing number of researchers moving into the cell reprogramming field and away from use of embryos and cloning, it shouldn’t be long before the possibility is realized.

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Stem Cells for Hair Growth

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Swedish researchers have found in studies with mice that actively growing stem cells play a key role in keeping hair follicles healthy. The group found that active stem cells had a specific protein on their surface, called Lgr5. These stem cells were long-lived and showed rapid growth. In the mouse studies, just a few of these cells were able to build an entire hair follicle. While it will still be some time before the results can be applied to humans, the study provides some hope for the follicularly challenged who miss their coiffure. The published study also notes that the same protein has been identified on stem cells in the intestine. So, it may take real guts (transplanted) to grow hair…

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Adult Stem Cells from Testes as Flexible as Embryonic Stem Cells

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Scientists in Germany have shown that adult stem cells with the same flexibility as embryonic stem cells can be grown from human testes tissue. Like embryonic stem cells and iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells, these human stem cells are pluripotent, showing the ability to grow for long periods in the lab and to form representatives of most or all tissues of the body. This is not the first report of pluripotent stem cells from testes. A different German team had previously published their results producing such flexible stem cells from mouse testes, and a U.S. group had also published their results producing these flexible stem cells from mice, while a U.S. company had claimed they were able to produce flexible stem cells from human testes. However, this German group is the first to publish evidence (online in the journal Nature) that such cells can be made from human testes tissue.

According to senior author Thomas Skutella, “The advantage these cells have in comparison to embryonic stem cells is that there is no ethical problem with these cells and that they are natural.” Skutella is a professor at the Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine in Tuebingen, Germany.

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Reprogramming iPS Cells Without Viruses

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and his team have done it again. This time they have produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) without using viruses. Yamanaka was the first to show that stem cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells could be produced from normal cells such as skin, without ever using human embryos or human embryonic stem cells in his research. The process involved adding four genes to cells using retroviruses. The added genes “reprogram” the gene expression of the normal cells, making them behave like embryonic stem cells, but without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. However, there has been some concern that the retroviruses, which integrate into the cell’s DNA, have the potential to induce cancer (beyond that usually seen with embryonic stem cells.) Yamanaka has now accomplished in mouse cells the reprogramming without the use of any virus, by using plasmids (circular pieces of DNA.) Using the same four genes, the cells were reprogrammed to iPS cells and behaved like embryonic stem cells, but without any of the added DNA integrating into the cell’s DNA. Published online 9 October by Science, this advance continues the avalanche of results for iPS cells seen in just the last year, emphasizing the lack of results with embryonic stem cells as well as the growing movement away from the use of embryos and cloning.

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