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In 1998, researchers discovered that embryonic stem cells could be derived from early human embryos. This discovery has raised a series of ethical and public-policy questions that are now being confronted by multiple international organizations, nations, cultures, and religious traditions. This essay surveys policies for human embryonic stem cell research in four regions of the world, reports on the recent debate at the United Nations about one type of such research, and reviews the positions that various religious traditions have adopted regarding this novel type of research. In several instances the religious traditions seem to have influenced the public-policy debates.