Obama faith-based adviser 'frustrated'
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--A member of President Obama's faith-based advisory council says he has been "frustrated" at the administration's policies concerning life issues and that he plans on seeking clarification as to whether the president opposes all or only certain types of human cloning.
Frank Page, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press he wonders at times whether the administration is truly listening to pro-lifers. Page is one of 25 members of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
During Obama's March 9 order overturning past restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, the president said he was opposed "to the use of cloning for human reproduction." Many pro-life leaders fear that while Obama may oppose reproductive cloning -- that is, the making of a cloned baby -- he may quietly support research or therapeutic cloning, which involves cloning an embryo in order to destroy it and harvest its stem cells.
In both cloning methods, a scientific method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer is used. The only difference between the two methods is what is done with the embryo once it is cloned.
"I am going to personally deal with that issue with the council, because [research cloning] simply was not mentioned by Obama," Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told Baptist Press. "He was very specific in [opposing] reproductive cloning but not in research cloning. And I am going to assume at this point that he meant both, but I am going to seek clarification of that."
The council takes part in a conference call once a month led by Joshua DuBois, the head of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It also will meet in-person four times within the next year. Page's position is a one-year term.
Page said he hasn't been pleased with some of Obama's policies thus far.
"At this point I would have to say I have been very frustrated that what little protections there are for the unborn have been quickly and systematically removed," Page said. "So that has very discouraging. I have been somewhat encouraged that he has promised that he would not force someone -- a health-care worker, for example -- to be involved in an abortion if he or she should object on a conscience basis. But other than that, there has been the removal of protections and policies that would have protected the unborn."
Obama's order concerning embryonic stem cell research came on the heels of several moves that have frustrated pro-lifers, including the administration's overturning of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits international family planning organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or counsel for abortion. Obama's administration also has moved to reverse Bush administration regulations meant to protect health-care workers from being forced to take part in procedures to which they morally object.
Asked if he feels he can still do some good on the council, Page said, "I am beginning to wonder if my voice is being heard. But we haven't even had our first full meeting yet. We've had conference calls. ... So I am going to wait a little while longer to see if indeed voices that are being raised are being truly listened to."
Page has been assigned to two advisory council task forces: an abortion reduction task force and a fatherhood task force. He said he still has hopes that the administration will make progress on:
"I would hope that there would be the development of policies that would encourage true help for the poor, but which would not involve a development of an entitlement mentality," Page said. "And I truly do hope that there will be help for the hurting and the homeless and the hungry."
-- Abortion reduction.
"I certainly do hope and pray that there will be a reduction in abortions, and I know that the president is pro-choice and I'm pro-life -- unapologetically -- but I do hope we would find some way to work together and find some common ground that would help reduce those numbers. He seems to have a concern for that."
"I certainly do wish there would be policies implemented and programs supported that are helping men step up to the plate as fathers," he said.
Page said he covets the pray of believers.
"Pray for wisdom. Pray for discernment, that I'll say what I need to say and then be quiet when I need to be quiet," Page said. "Pray that I'll have a clear direction from God as to whether or not to stay on this [council], and if I do, then to speak at the correct times and in the right way."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.