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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lies Discredit Church

In a series of dishonest TV ads, print media, and DVD mass mailings, the Michigan Catholic Conference is attacking stem cell research, maligning Proposal 2— and undermining the good name of the Catholic Church.

My family is Catholic. But the truth is the truth, and when the Church is wrong, it’s wrong.

The Church is run by human beings, who can make mistakes. When the Church ordered Joan of Arc to be burned to death as a witch, that was a mistake. When the Spanish Inquisition tortured and murdered Jews and took their money, that was a crime. When the Vatican maintained silence about the Nazis in World War II, that was a sin of omission, for which Pope John Paul II personally apologized, to his great credit.

And when expensive TV ads (paid for by the Michigan Catholic Conference) talk about Proposal 2 wanting to raise taxes, or clone people, or mix cows and human eggs together, these are deliberate and knowing lies.

Proposal 2 does not raise Michigan taxes one cent. Proposal 2 does not change Michigan ’s strict law against cloning, which still carries a jail sentence. And the only embryonic stem cell research Proposal 2 supports is on blastocysts left over from in vitro fertility procedures—biological material that would otherwise be thrown away.

Right now, the Church’s leadership is out of touch with its members, the vast majority of whom support embryonic stem cell research.*

That is forgivable. Down through history many religions have been slow to support medical breakthroughs. Anesthesia was forbidden by the Church because the Good Book said women were supposed to “bring forth (their) children in pain.” The small pox vaccine was opposed because it was thought the disease was God’s punishment for sin.
Even X-rays were opposed because it was thought they might be used to see through women’s clothing!

But the Church is not supposed to lie, ever. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is a Biblical Commandment which applies to upper management like everybody else.

Anti-Proposal 2 advertisements (paid for by the Michigan Catholic Conference) are filled with manipulation, misinformation, deceit: so many lies, it is difficult to answer them all.

Each ad is built around a different falsehood.

Here are a few:

1. Alleged tax increase: false. The ad shows an actor dressed as a custodian shoveling bundles of dollar bills into a wheelbarrow. The camera pulls back, and the money is shaped like the state of Michigan . Michigan can’t afford to spend millions of dollars on stem cell research, the ad says. The reality? Proposal 2 has no taxation. Zero. There is not a single tax dollar in the whole measure. It is what is called a “permissions bill”, merely allowing scientists to do their work without fear of imprisonment.

2. Another ad shows fictitious cloning companies, with fake names like “Clone Crop”, implying that Proposal 2 would allow the cloning of people. This is utterly false. The reality is plain, and verifiable: Michigan has strict laws prohibiting cloning, including a ten year jail sentence; nothing in Proposal 2 changes that.

3. In a genuinely ridiculous ad, an actor in a cow costume raises his hoof in objection to a mad scientist wanting to make cow-people. This would be laughable if the purpose was not so damaging. The only kind of embryonic stem cell research Proposal 2 supports is the use of blastocysts that would otherwise be thrown away: leftover biological materials already destined for the trash.

4. The most recent ad is perhaps the worst. One of the cruelest acts ever perpetrated by a government was the Tuskegee Airmen Syphilis Experiment. This was a crime against humanity done by the U.S. Public Health Service, a symbol of shame—and now the MCC is attempting to tie that act of criminality to modern-day stem cell research.

Let’s take a look at reality.

First, what was the Tuskegee Airmen Syphilis Experiment? Google it. Find out about it, because it was a crime of Nazi-like evil, which must never be allowed to happen again.

Over forty years, 1932 to 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service denied cure to 399 African-American men with syphilis—even after penicillin was invented.

Those men could have been cured. But the government denied them the medicine which would have made them well. Many of them died because that medical advance was withheld.

Is this not very much like what the Michigan Catholic Conference is trying to do with these ads? As penicillin was denied to suffering African-Americans, even so research which might ease suffering and save lives for literally millions of Americans today is being held back.

Fortunately, survivors and family members of the Tuskegee Airmen tragedy have spoken out, objecting to the misleading advertisements.

“It’s disgraceful that they would use this horrible chapter in American history to score cheap political points and block patients from hope and cures,” said Aurelia E. Alexander Smith of Detroit , whose late father, Capt. Halbert L. Alexander was a Tuskegee Airman. “My hope is that people who see this ad aren’t fooled by the lies, and instead listen to the facts about stem cell research.”

Is the Michigan Catholic Conference ( MCC ) responsible for the outrageous lies in this ads? Absolutely, because it paid for them. The MCC is the single largest contributor to the opposition to Proposal 2. That is a matter of public record.

If the Michigan Catholic Conference wants to make a religious objection to the research, that is fine. It has every right to do so, just as some faith communities are opposed to blood transfusions, and forbid their membership to accept that medical treatment.

But lying is different. A church is supposed to be honest. If it deliberately and publicly deceives, not once but systematically, over and over-- how shall it be trusted?

Catholics everywhere should speak up. The faith of millions demands a public apology for these disgraceful ads.

And if anybody reading this would like to try and help balance the incredibly damaging impact of those TV commercials (which are being run over and over in Michigan ), they need only click on the following:


If you can, do what I just did and make a small donation. I put in another $25—I know, big spender, huh—but the good news is that money will be doubled. A matching grant has been promised, so that every dollar contributed will be matched by one from an anonymous donor.

Ads to answer the lies have been made, but it is difficult to find the money to pay for them being aired. The Catholic Church is the largest property owner in the world, and has extremely deep pockets. It would be a shame if their ads were not countered for lack of a few dollars.

But whether you can afford to contribute or not, go to www.CureMichigan.com, and take a look at the honest work these citizens of Michigan are doing.

They are standing up for everyone. The entire nation will benefit from their efforts to reverse what have been called the most restrictive anti-science laws in the nation.

They are fighting for the right of every American family to have access to the best medical care science can provide.

We must not let them stand alone.

*A recent national survey sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter shows “77% of American Catholics support stem cell research on excess embryos.” This is in line with other polls such as that done by Belden Russonello & Stewart, which found that “69% of Catholics support stem cell research with early human embryos”—July, 2008

Don C. Reed
Sponsor, Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act
Founder and Co-Chair, Californians for Cures

Don Reed is also Vice President of Public Policy for Americans for Cures Foundation; opinions voiced here as an individual may or may not reflect those of the Foundation.


1 comment:

Nathan said...

There's another one out there, too, which takes one statement made by someone completely out of context. It's ridiculous the lengths these people are going to, and it's obvious by this that they know they are fighting from an indefensible position.