Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson dedicated the August 5 broadcast of his Focus on the Family radio show to addressing the outcry over his August 3 comments comparing embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments conducted on live human patients during and prior to the Holocaust. Dobson characterized suggestions that he "apologize to the Jewish people" as "just off the wall."
Dobson stated that his recent comments are "being spun like a top by the ultraliberals who don't care about unborn life." He said that he has stated "many times" before that experimentation on human embryos has "a Nazi-esque aura to it" and that his August 3 statements are "not new." In addition, Dobson went on to deny that he had suggested that Nazi experiments could have resulted in beneficial discoveries.
From the August 5 broadcast of Focus on the Family:
DOBSON: [Reading from the Anti-Defamation League's letter to him] "Your suggestion that the Nazis' experiments could have resulted in discoveries that benefited mankind ..." That's not what I was saying --
JOHN FULLER [Focus on the Family vice president, broadcasting]: I was sitting here during that broadcast Wednesday, Carrie [Gordon Earll, Focus on the Family spokesperson] was too. You were not suggesting that that was the case.
DOBSON: Well, I was suggesting that some people might see it that way, but that doesn't make it right. That was my whole point.
In fact, in his August 3 comments, which he re-broadcast during the August 5 show, he did not merely suggest "that some people might see it that way"; he suggested that he himself might "see it that way." Dobson said: "In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind."
While he downplayed his prior statement that Nazi experiments would have "benefited mankind" and acknowledged that embryos (unlike the Nazis' victims) do not experience pain or suffering, Dobson concluded that embryonic stem cell research and the Nazi experiments are "morally ... tantamount to each other:"
DOBSON: And the end does not justify the means. There is no noble purpose when you are killing, and starving to death, and maiming, and causing great pain to individuals. I will give our critics this: For the embryos that die, there is no suffering, there is just death. So there is a great difference between the two [embryonic stem cell research and Nazi experiments], but morally they are tantamount to each other because they both result in experimentation on human beings that leads somewhere. You know, this is not the end today. What Senator [Bill] Frist [R-TN] and Senator [Orrin] Hatch [R-UT] and Senator [Trent] Lott [R-MS] and Senator [Gordon] Smith [R-OR] are going to apparently vote for is only going to open the door to other experimentation.
Dobson read the ADL's request for an apology to Holocaust "survivors, their families and anyone who may be offended by your statements," to which he responded: "And to imply that I need to apologize to the Jewish people for my comments about that is just off the wall. And I reject it categorically." Carrie Gordon Earll, Focus on the Family's "bioethics analyst," expounded on Dobson's response, arguing that the Jewish community "should be sensitive" to the "atrocities" of embryonic stem cell research:
EARLL: You know, Doctor, if anyone should have sympathy for the vulnerable when they are being experimented upon for goods other than their own, it should be the Jewish people. I mean, if anyone should be sensitive to the types of atrocities that are going on by destroying embryonic humans, I would think it would be the Jewish community. And it's very sad to see this twisting, when very clearly your point was to point out the unethical stance of the embryonic stem cell research, not to at all downplay the atrocities that happened in Nazi Germany.
In fact, far from opposing stem cell research, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America -- "the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization" -- asserted that the "Jewish perspective" reinforces their support of such research. A July 13 letter to the U.S. Senate asserted that the principles of Jewish faith are consistent with the principles behind stem cell research:
The Jewish tradition places great value upon human life and its preservation. The Torah commands us to treat and cure the ill and to defeat disease wherever possible; to do this is to be the Creator's partner in safeguarding the created. The traditional Jewish perspective thus emphasizes that the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Moreover, the traditional Jewish perspective does not accord an embryo outside of the womb the full status of humanhood and its attendant protections. Thus, stem cell research may be consistent with and serve these moral and noble goals; however, such research must not be pursued indiscriminately.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations also commended Frist's recent statement in favor of expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, of which Dobson has been heavily critical.