NEW YORK — A recent letter from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee says a “right-to-life group” will march in the 2015 parade in New York City.

But the letter does not identify which group will be marching and what its banner will say.

“I hope they really do have someone,” Elizabeth Rex, president and co-founder of The Children First Foundation, told the Register.

Rex said she received a letter, dated Jan. 22, from John Dunleavy, chairman of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, informing her that the committee had rejected her New York-based pro-adoption organization’s application to participate in the March 17 parade.

Rex applied to march in the parade three months ago, after reading a Sept. 21 story in the Register that quoted Bill O’Reilly, the committee spokesman, saying a pro-life group’s application for 2015 would be looked at favorably and that the committee “looked forward to seeing their application.”

O’Reilly made that promise shortly after the parade committee announced that Out@NBC Universal — a pro-homosexual group of NBC employees — would be allowed to march under its own banner in the 2015 parade. The announcement came after more than 20 years of lobbying and legal challenges from the homosexual lobby.

O’Reilly did not return an email or phone call from the Register seeking comment for this story. The letter that Rex received said the unnamed pro-life group will be led by a fourth-degree Knights of Columbus honor guard and that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the 2015 parade’s grand marshal, had been “made aware.”

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined to comment, saying that any decisions or statements about who marches in the parade should come from the parade committee.

“The archdiocese is not involved in that process, and we would let them make any announcement they wish to make before making any comment of our own,” Zwilling said.

 

Remaining Hopeful

Rex said she is hopeful that, despite Dunleavy’s letter, which she received on Jan. 28, along with her application forms and refund of her $200 application fee, “at least now a pro-life group will be included, not excluded.”

“The only problem now is: Which one? Which is it?” said Rex, who added that none of the New York City-area pro-life groups she has contacted have said they are marching.

“It has to be a group that would have been blocked from marching before,” Rex said.

The New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also has “no additional knowledge” about any pro-life groups marching in the parade, said spokesman John Mulvey.

Mulvey told the Register that Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, who says he was promised last September that a pro-life group would march in the parade, has “no further information.”

“[Donohue] wishes the parade good luck. He hopes they have a nice parade, but he has no thoughts about any particular groups that are marching, especially since he doesn’t know what the groups are,” Mulvey said.

In a lengthy online statement, Donohue previously said the Catholic League will not march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade because the parade committee “double-crossed” him by reneging on a private assurance that it made to him that a pro-life group would march in 2015.

“They not only told me one thing and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish, while stifling pro-life Catholics. This is as stunning as it is indefensible,” said Donohue in another statement. He added that he sought confirmation about a pro-life group marching after the parade committee announced on Sept. 3 that the homosexual group would be allowed to march. Until then, the committee had excluded both homosexual and pro-life organizations from marching under their own banners.

 

Mixed Messages

“I found it very disturbing that a door had been opened for a gay group and then slammed in the face of a right-to-life group,” said Rex, whose organization promotes adoption as a pro-life option for women in crisis pregnancies.

Rex said she received a response only after her attorney sent the parade committee a letter threatening legal action unless The Children First Foundation received a response by Jan. 22.

“They have stonewalled us since September,” said Rex, who added that Donohue sent her a letter commending her efforts to highlight the issue.

Rex said the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade — which bears the name of the patron saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York — is on the verge of becoming a “diversity parade.” The free-speech rights of faithful, pro-life Catholics, Rex said, are “under attack,” though she added that it will not stop people like her from speaking out.

Said Rex, “You cannot stifle pro-life Catholics.”

Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.