- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Princeton bioethicist and animal rights advocate Peter Singer says Christianity is harmful to animals.
Mr. Singer, who condones the killing of severely deformed newborns, made those views known at an animal rights conference Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in McLean and he reiterated them yesterday in a telephone interview with The Washington Times.
"One of the things that causes a problem for the animal movement is the strong strain of fundamentalist Christianity that makes a huge gulf between humans and animals, saying humans have souls but animals do not," Mr. Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton since 1999, said in a telephone interview from his home near the university.
The Australian-born scholar said "that kind of attitude is a problem in getting people to think of animals as objects of moral value."
Mr. Singer, a vegetarian who believes animals have the same rights as humans, has been described by the Los Angeles Times and others as the "godfather" of the animal rights movement.
He challenges the position that all human life is sacred, and says it is morally acceptable to euthanize severely disabled infants. Mr. Singer's views have sparked such vehement opposition that Princeton has given him a scanner to check his mail for bombs.
At Saturday's animal rights conference, Mr. Singer said fundamentalist Christians in this country take the Bible too "literally" and promote "speciesism." He defined speciesism as a belief by humans that they are "superior to any other being," reported Cybercast News Service (www.cnsnews.com), which covered the event.
"I am an atheist. I know that is an ugly word in America," Mr. Singer told an audience of 1,000.
He said the Judeo-Christian ethic also teaches that humans are made in the image of God and that God has given mankind "dominion" over animals. Coupled with the belief that only humans have souls, and animals do not, this belief has a "very negative influence on the way in which we think about animals," Mr. Singer was quoted as saying in the CNS report.
Neither the National Council of Churches nor the National Association of Evangelicals could be reached for comment yesterday. A spokeswoman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis declined to comment.
But Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a Princeton alumnus, had plenty to say.
"I've read Peter Singer's books, and I've suspended my donations to Princeton since he was hired there," Mr. Land said in a telephone interview yesterday from his office in Nashville, Tenn.
Mr. Singer's "basic assessment that orthodox and fundamentalist Christianity has been a problem for the animal rights movement is correct," Mr. Land said. "As orthodox Christians, we've been almost as much of a problem for animal rights as Peter Singer [has] been for human rights."
Mr. Land denounced the claim Mr. Singer made in his book "Practical Ethics," that parents of a severely disabled baby should be able to kill the child if they think it is better that the boy or girl not live. Mr. Singer wrote that parents should have 28 days to make that decision. But he said Saturday he now believes they should decide "as soon as possible after birth," CNS reported.
Mr. Land said yesterday that Mr. Singer, by taking that position, "denies the sanctity of human life" and "denies that a firebreak exists between human life and all other life."
The Southern Baptist official said, "Human beings are special and unique. We plead absolutely guilty to believing in speciesism. We believe humans are more valuable than animals and that [Mr. Singer] is barbaric for not believing it."
Mr. Land cited Genesis and other Old Testament scriptures that say God "created man in His own image" and that man has dominion over fish, birds and all other living things on earth.
"Human beings come first. We have an obligation to put humans above animals," he said.
But Mr. Land noted that God "made a covenant with every living thing." As a result, he said, "while we should reverence human life, we should respect all animals. We have no right to cause animals needless pain and suffering."
Mr. Land expressed dismay that there are laws to protect the unhatched eggs of turtles in Florida and spotted owls in the Northwest, while it remains legal to kill unborn human babies.


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