Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Stem Cell Research
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
The group has no explicit policy on the issue; rather it states that “one must be guided by one’s own relationship with God and Scripture.”
- David Maraniss, “Editorial: Everything is Relative.” PittsburghPost-Gazette, August 26, 2001.
- Correspondence with representative from the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
In this research package
Overview: Stem Cell Research at the Crossroads of Religion and Politics
Embryonic stem cell research, which uses cells found in three- to five-day-old human embryos to seek cures for a host of chronic diseases, has sparked a major debate in the United States.
The Science Behind Stem Cell Research
Stem cells, the “building blocks of nature,” can transform into any other type of cell in the body.
A March 2009 poll report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that opinions about stem cell research have been fairly stable in recent years.
Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Stem Cell Research
A breakdown of 17 major religious groups’ views on the issue.
Stem Cell Research Around the World
The U.S. is only one of many countries playing an important role in stem cell research.
Quotes on Stem Cell Research
Quotes on stem cell research from political, religious and other prominent figures.
Though Buddhist teachings do not directly address the issue, there are two main tenets – the prohibition against harming or destroying others (ahimsa), and the pursuit of knowledge (prajña) and compassion (karua) – that divide Buddhist scholars and communities. Some Buddhists argue that stem cell research is in accordance with the Buddhist tenet of seeking knowledge and ending human suffering, while others argue that it is a violation of the notion of not harming others.
- ABC Science, “Buddhism at one with stem cell research”
- Damien Keown, “‘No Harm’ Applies to Stem Cell Embryos: One Buddhist’s View” (reprinted by Beliefnet.com)
- Somparn Promta, Philosophy Department and Center for Buddhist Studies, Chulalongkorn University, “Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A View from Theravada Buddhist Morality”
In accordance with their anti-abortion stance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports adult stem cell research but opposes embryonic stem cell research since it creates or destroys human embryos.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not issued a statement on the issue of stem cell research.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Newsroom, Public Issues: “Embryonic Stem-cell Research”
In 2004, the church’s governing body, the General Convention, declared itself in favor of stem cell research as long as the embryos used would have been destroyed otherwise, the embryos were not created solely for research purposes and the embryos were not bought or sold.
- The Archives of the Episcopal Church, The Acts of Convention 1976-2006, “Support Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research”
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The ELCA does not have an official position on the issue. In 2005, the Churchwide Assembly, the governing body of the church, created a task force to study the issues of genetics and biotechnology and to present a report in 2011.
Though Hinduism believes that life begins at conception, the religion has no official position on stem cell research.
- HinduismToday.com, October/November/Decemeber 2004, “On Stem Cell Research”
- The New York Times, “How India Reconciles Hindu Values and Biotech”
There is no explicit Islamic ruling on the issue of stem cell research. While some Muslim leaders allow for stem cell research on the ground that, according to Islam, an embryo in the early stage of pregnancy does not have a soul, others argue that the termination of an embryo at any stage of pregnancy is morally impermissible.
- Islam 101: “An Islamic Perspective on Stem Cells Research”
- The Christian Science Monitor, “Stem-Cell Science Stirs Debate in Muslim World, Too”
All major Jewish denominations – including the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements – support both embryonic and adult stem cell research as long as it is for medical or therapeutic purposes.
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “Stem Cell Research, Position of the Reform Jewish Movement”
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, “Stem Cell Research and Education (2003)”
- Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, “Resolution on Educational and Political Support for Stem Cell Research”
- Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations Welcomes U.S. House Passage of Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (2005)
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
In 2005, the group reaffirmed its opposition to embryonic stem cell research, advocating instead for adult stem cell research.
- Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, “Christian Faith and Human Beginnings: Christian Care and Pre-implementation Human Life”
National Association of Evangelicals
In 2005, the National Association of Evangelicals issued a statement voicing its opposition to stem cell research.
National Council of Churches
After an evaluation in 2006 of the debate surrounding stem cell research, the National Council of Churches’ Human Biotechnologies Policy Development Committee adopted a position stating that “as a result of a lack of clear consensus [among ethicists, academia and scientists], the National Council of Churches neither endorses nor condemns experimentation on human embryos.”
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
In 2004, the Presbyterian Church’s governing body, the General Assembly, reaffirmed its position in favor of stem cell research that is intended to “[restore health] to those suffering from serious illness.”
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Washington Office, “Next Steps: Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research”
Southern Baptist Convention
In 1999, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed its “opposition to the destruction of human embryos … [and] support for the development of alternative treatments which do not require human embryos to be killed.”
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
In 2006, the association’s policymaking body, the General Assembly, stated its support for stem cell research as long as the research is for medical therapies and not the reproductive cloning of humans.
- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Social Justice Statements, “Pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act”
United Church of Christ
In 2001, the United Church of Christ ruled in favor of research on embryonic stem cells that would otherwise be discarded from in vitro fertilization.
- United Church of Christ, Resolutions, “Support for Federally Funded Research on Embryonic Stem Cells”
United Methodist Church
In 2004, the United Methodist Church asserted its support for therapeutic cloning in which spare embryonic stem cells resulting from in vitro fertilization are used. The church also maintained its opposition to the use or creation of embryonic stem cells solely for the purpose of research.