Religious figures back ban

OKLAHOMA CITY - A ban on human cloning drew unanimous support from representatives of Oklahoma churches at a legislative hearing on Monday, while scientists urged lawmakers to consider regulation rather than an outright prohibition.

The debate came before the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, committee chairman, has introduced a bill to ban human cloning, as has Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City.

Shirley Cox, director of social action for Catholic Charities, said cloning would devalue human life and the reproductive process.

Warren McWilliams, professor of biblical studies at Oklahoma Baptist University, viewed human cloning as immoral and said he could see no compelling reason to do it.

George Young, pastor of the Holy Temple Church and past president of the Progressive Oklahoma Baptist Convention, also said his reading of the scriptures convinced him that human cloning is wrong.

Young said his role is to prepare his flock to deal with the inevitability of cloning as scientists seek cures for illness and disease.

Dr. John Mulvihill, professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said a ban on cloning research in the United States could drive American scientists to the underground or to foreign shores.

Mulvihill suggested that a better approach by cloning opponents might be to regulate the practice so there is a high level of public scrutiny.

A ban on cloning activity in Oklahoma was prompted by news that a Massachusetts firm had cloned the first human embryo.

Mulvihill said he was dubious of the report and suggested cloning a human is not now in the grasp of scientists.

He also said some fears of cloning foes are overblown. For instance, he said it is "certifiably crazy" to think that scientists can clone human beings that would be biologically identical.

Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa, wondered if the reaction to using cloning procedures to cure disease is not similar to concerns expressed at the onset of organ transplant technology.

"We've talked about scientists playing God," Roach said. "I've been out here long enough to have seen some legislators attempt to play God, too."

Rep. Bill Paulk, D-Oklahoma City, said he had no scientific background but had no fear of human cloning, based on biblical teachings that there is only one creator.

"We can create cells, but I don't have any fear of creating a human being. It's just not going to happen," Paulk said.

Warren McWilliams, OU law professor, said any action taken by the state might be pre-empted by federal legislation.