I think that more often than not religious ethics in government do more harm than good, for example: not funding stem cell research, trying to ban abortion, and outlawing gay marriage. Stem cell research could further science and medicine so much, but because of religious ethics, it's on hiatus right now in America. Abortion is someone's personal choice and I feel that religion and the government have no authority over whether you want to bring a child into this world or not. And also who cares if homosexuals want to get married? It doesn't really affect you or me. Marriage isn't a holy communion anymore. There are lots of benefits to marriage such as tax breaks and I feel that anyone is entitled to that, same-sex or not. If I burnt down a church in the name of Satan (or nothing) and someone bombed an abortion clinic in the name of God, who would get the worse punishment? The church burner, of course, and that's where religious ethics in our justice system are flawed. But hey, as long as the cross around your neck is bigger than the gun on your lap, you are OK. (Not targeted to you or a personal attack on anyone.) But honestly, I'm glad we talk, and I am glad you take the time to reply. You seem like a nice guy.
You raise an interesting issue, so let's look at your examples and see if harm is caused by religious ethics.
Funding Stem Cell Research: Actually, the issue is narrower than what you presented. Stem cell research is being funded and conducted in the United States. What has been banned is embryonic stem cell research because the process of gaining that particular class of stem cells results in the destruction of the original embryo. There are a number of existing lines of embryonic stem cells that were created before the ban. The president decided that since the embryos had already been destroyed, these cells can still be used in research. Interestingly, no progress has been made in embryonic stem cells, despite the promise of endless possibilities. Yet meanwhile, stems cells taken from umbilical cords and bone marrow -- cells that can be harvested without destruction of the source have made significant progress.
Abortion: Here again, the "right" being claimed is a right to be destructive despite the existence of alternatives which are non-destructive. If a mother does not want a child, why is the destruction of the child before birth considered superior to giving the child up for adoption?
You state that abortion is a personal choice, but I would argue that the choice of having a child is made at the point of sex. At that point, a decision can be made that does not involve destruction. Some mothers teasingly state, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it." But the statement is false by both my standard and yours. Yet, if we argue from the standard of the "right" of a mother to chose whether to have a child or not, why do we stop at birth? Why is it wrong for parents to shot their children (as far too many have these days)?
It is interesting that society, as a whole, is very concerned about the extinction of various animal species. Animals are rescued at great cost because you never know whether they might carry an important line of genes vital to the survival of the species, and perhaps mankind as well. But we don't apply the same standards to our own species. How do we know that the child terminated might not have been the one who grew up to discover is a major medical cure or invented new process that saves costs or leads the country into an era of peace?
Religious ethics in both embryonic stem cells and abortion places a more consistent standard on decisions. Life is valued and destruction is devalued. And in both cases, alternatives exist which can accomplish a similar end without changing the scale.
Homosexual Marriages: I don't know if it was intentional, but you did hit the source of the contention. The issue is not really about marriage. It is about people wanting to go their own way but simultaneously reap the financial benefits of those who stay with tradition. It would be similar to someone demanding the starting salary of a college graduate even though they never bothered to finish high school.
Homosexuality does have its cost. The homosexual population has a far higher rate of disease than the heterosexual population. The average lifespan of a practicing homosexual is about half that of a heterosexual. Homosexual relationships tend to be highly unstable. Even while in a "long term" relationship, homosexuals tend to have many more sexual partners than heterosexuals.
Religious ethics places value on the stable relationship between a man and a woman. The reason is that such relationships result in stabilizing society as a whole. Children develop best when they are raised by both their mother and father. Parents tend to have more interest in the safety and development of their children when those children are biologically their own. This spills over into society. Far more juvenile delinquents come from non-married situations than those raised by their mothers and fathers in a stable marriage.
Marriage doesn't exist to give financial benefits to the married. Marriage is a covenant (a sacred promise) between a man and a woman to create a stable family. Society recognized the value of such relationships and in the past sought to encourage it by providing incentives, as well as disincentives toward dissolving such relationships. But what has happened is that people in their greed have demanded that those same incentives be given to them even though they are not contributing to the stability of society. It started out with heterosexual couples living together without marriage demanding financial benefits and recently spilled over to homosexuals. But we have lost sight of why the benefits were there in the first place.
Equal Justice: I am afraid I know of no proof that attacks on a church building are considered greater injury than attacks on abortion clinics in our court system. As far as I know, those caught have been given equivalent sentences. Here, in fact, is a place where Christian ethics would keep such bias at bay. The Bible teaches, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him" (Proverbs 24:17-18). "He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 17:5). While I object to abortion, the idea of vigilantes taking matters in their own hands is also against the principles God has laid out for us to follow.