Chuck Colson

For the past few weeks, it seems that every time you watched a cable news program or a convention commentary, there was former New York governor Mario Cuomo, talking about his new book, Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever.

Cuomo urges ?conservatives and liberals alike? to ?resist the impulse to make Lincoln over in their own image.? Yet, in matters of religion and public life, Cuomo?s Lincoln  bears an uncanny resemblance to Cuomo himself.

Cuomo told CNN?s Larry King that Lincoln ?was not a particularly religious person.? I disagree, as do many scholars?but we?ll leave that to historians. What I will take issue with is how Cuomo defines faith: as a suspension of intellect.

For Cuomo, the lack of absolute proof disqualifies a religiously informed position as a basis of public policy. That?s why, according to Cuomo, Lincoln ?would never have built a public policy on a purely religious premise.? Instead, Lincoln would have insisted on a ?premise that everybody, religious or not religious . . . would accept,? one with a ?rationale that goes beyond your religious faith.?

Cuomo makes it clear that he?s referring to President Bush. The former governor claims that when Bush announced his policy on embryonic stem-cell research, he was saying, in effect: ?This is what I believe, because I?m a religious person. And you must believe it, too.? Of course, President Bush said no such thing.

The idea that opposition to embryonic stem-cell research is purely religiously-driven is fatuous. Many opponents, like Dr. Leon Kass, chairman of the President?s Council on Bioethics, are not moved by religion. Their opposition proceeds from what science tells us about the humanity of the fetus. Their ethical concerns are grounded in natural law and where experimentation on humans leads us.

Cuomo?s arguments are best understood as a sequel to his 1984 speech at Notre Dame, in which he argued that deeply held convictions, especially religiously informed ones, must await ?a consensus view of right and wrong? before they can become the basis for public policy. To do otherwise, he claimed, is to suspend reason in policy debates.

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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