Culture of Life
U.K. Catholic Schools Cancel Red Nose Day
BY Cian Molloy
April 11-17, 1999 Issue | Posted 4/11/99 at 2:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, England—There were red faces among local organizers of Britain's Red Nose Day when it was discovered that the charity event was funding organizations that promote liberal abortion regimes.
On Red Nose Day, promoted by the charity organization Comic Relief, many British raise money for the organization's relief efforts and wear clown-style red noses to show their solidarity with its mission.
But when Catholic headmaster Jim Caffery realized that funds raised for Red Nose Day went to “pro-choice” organizations such as Marie Stopes International, the Brook Advisory Service and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, he banned the popular event from his three primary schools in Birmingham.
For 13 years, Red Nose Day has been a part of national life in the United Kingdom. Members of the public are encouraged to perform silly stunts for charity, with proceeds going toward development projects in Africa and programs in the United Kingdom. The event was prompted by the success of the Live Aid concerts which raised money for the victims of the Ethiopian famine in 1985. Comedians wanted to make a gesture similar to their pop music colleagues, and so founded Comic Relief in 1986.
The event dominates a whole day's television scheduling on BBC1, the U.K.'s main public service channel, and events linked with the charity telethon are supported nationwide. Troops on morning parade wear red noses as part of their uniforms and the prime minister and the leader of the opposition sport red noses during their parliamentary work.
It seems incongruous to us that we should even be thinking of children raising money when it will be channeled into anti-child and anti-woman activities.
Money for the ‘Needy?’
This year, Red Nose Day, held March 13, raised more than $35 million for Comic Relief. Since the first Red Nose Day, Comic Relief has raised about $233 million.
However, when these “needy causes” were investigated by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, the group determined that some were not as deserving as others. Marie Stopes International, which offers a “quickie” lunch-time abortion service, received $126,300 in 1992, $42,000 in 1994, $126,776 in 1996 and $66,840 in 1997.
Now, hundreds of other Catholic schools are considering following Caffery's example, and Nuala Scarrisbrick, founder of Britain's largest pro-life organization, LIFE, is calling on dioceses to give schools guidance on which charities they should and should not encourage in the classroom.
The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child also found that the Brook Advisory Service, which provides the “morning after” pill to under-16-year-olds without their parental consent, received $16,800 in 1994. International Planned Parenthood has received more than $668,000 from Comic Relief since 1992.
Even so, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child did not call for a boycott of Red Nose Day.
Spokesman Paul Tully said, “We support those who have decided to boycott. Equally, we support those who have committed themselves to the event and need to proceed to ensure that money raised isn't used for promoting or providing abortions.”
The Catholic Herald, Britain's biggest selling Catholic newspaper, spoke against Comic Relief with an editorial on “Why Catholics should boycott Red Nose Day.”
Caffery, who was the first to introduce a ban in a Catholic school, said: “It seems incongruous to us that we should even be thinking of children raising money when it will be channeled into anti-child and anti-woman activities. I take exception to this being regarded as a particularly Catholic stance. I regard it as a human rights issue in defense of and in protection of children and all women. I think Comic Relief is very misguided and is abusing its remit to give money to family planning activities.”
War of the Noses
Comic Relief dismissed that argument, and claimed that this year's event had the support of the charity agency of the English and Welsh Catholic hierarchy.
The organization issued a statement saying, “Every two years when we have Red Nose Day, pro-life campaigners send out misleading and inaccurate information about Comic Relief's support for projects in Africa with a family planning component. We do not pay for abortions. The campaigners know it, but still persist in trying to use us to gain publicity. It is very depressing that they choose this moment to do it.”
However, LIFE founder Scarris-brick said the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child's research was a matter of serious concern to Catholics.
“One doesn't want to be a party pooper, but there is a lot wrong with Comic Relief,” she said. “One of my long-standing objections is that it takes place each year during Lent when Catholic children are already making donations to Catholic charities. Red Nose Day comes along with its spirit of forced jollity that is not really in keeping with the Lenten spirit. It makes things difficult for Catholic children. The pressure from the television to take part in Red Nose Day is enormous, and Comic Relief provides magnificent educational material to schools.”
She said the organization should at least choose a day outside of Lent. But she said that the abortion support is even more serious.
“Why these organizations should benefit from charity, I don't know,” she said. “They are already receiving funding from the British taxpayer.”
She offered one suggestion. “Catholic schools should restrict themselves to helping Catholic charities — there is nothing wrong with picking a good missionary society.”
Cian Molloy writes from Dublin, Ireland
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