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Stem cell rally stirs Christians

Some who attended anti-cloning event vow to "spread the word."

Last week, Joy Price didn't know anything about Amendment 2. Today, she will be spreading the word that she is against the Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.

The Hartville resident was one of about 700 people who attended the Christians Against Human Cloning rally Thursday night where she heard several speakers explain the initiative as a "hoax" that plays on people's hopes that embryonic stem cell research will find cures for serious diseases — an accusation initiative supporters deny.

"I'm going to take brochures to work," Price said, after licking the envelope for her donation to the campaign. She had just heard Alan Keyes give a stirring speech that called on Christians to "choose life."

Mike Holland of Springfield said he will also "spread the word" after learning more information about the science of stem cell research.

"It will only change if people like me go out and tell others," Holland said.

Both Price and Holland learned about the rally from their pastors — Price from A. Wilson Phillips at Abundant Life Ministries and Holland from John Marshall at Second Baptist.

One of the goals of Thursday's rally, and other rallies held around the state, is to get pastors to preach the message from the pulpit and members to take the message out.

"We're praying they will," said Rick Scarborough, author, evangelist and founder of Vision America who has led the rallies. Keyes, who has served in the U.S. State Department and has unsuccessfully run for president twice, has joined Scarborough in the effort.

Keyes, the keynote speaker for the evening, combined the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Bible to tell the audience that voting for the initiative is tantamount to abandoning the "clear moral principle" that "all men are created equal."

Keyes had harsh words for those who promote the initiative: "The folks that would prey on our hopes at the cost of our souls ... God hates you."

Stem cell supporters

For Michael Cunniff of Springfield, the hope of stem cell research — whether on embryonic cells or adult stem cells — is real. Cunniff, 67, has Type I diabetes and heart disease.

"The stem cell research would definitely be a benefit to me and every other diabetic," said Cunniff, who worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., where he met Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, who supports the initiative. It would prohibit the state from outlawing embryonic stem cell research.

"I feel as a member of this community I have to give something back," Cunniff said, explaining his efforts to help the initiative. "This amendment is primarily to allow the state of Missouri to do the same things with stem cells that the federal government allows."

Former State Sen. Roseann Bentley, now a member of the Greene County Commission, is also a supporter of the initiative. She is an honorary co-chair of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

Bentley, whose husband is a physician, said she is confident "many people could benefit from the research." She took exception to some of the comments by the other side, claiming false hope.

"I think some of their language has been very misleading," she said. "I think it's better when we can take that kind of language out of the debate and really present the facts without stirring people up to such heights."

As a practicing Catholic, Bentley's position is in opposition to her church's stand on the issue.

"I certainly searched my own conscience as I made the decision on it," she said. "I feel that in this instance the church is taking a stand with which I can't agree.

"I really feel that God gave human beings the intellect to move forward and pursue breakthroughs to help people."