Will NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Allow Pro-Life Groups to March?

Following the approval of a homosexual group last month,The Children First Foundation has applied to organizers for similar permission to participate in the 2015 march.

NEW YORK — The Children First Foundation, a New York-based charitable organization that promotes adoption as a pro-life option for women in crisis pregnancies, has applied to march in the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Dr. Elizabeth Rex, president and co-founder of The Children First Foundation, told the Register she hopes the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee — which last month changed a long-standing rule by allowing a homosexual group to march in the 2015 parade — will also be open to organizations that espouse a pro-life message.

“I’m just hopeful we can get approved. If we are approved, I will see that as a positive sign the parade can be inclusive, respectful and tolerant — that we can actually have a wonderful parade and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which is what the parade is all about,” said Rex. She added that William O’Reilly, the parade committee’s spokesman, encouraged her to apply.

However, whether or not the parade committee will actually welcome The Children First Foundation or other organizations with a pro-life message to march in 2015 remains to be seen.

Conflicting public statements from committee members since early September have sowed confusion. O’Reilly told reporters on Sept. 3 that only one homosexual-rights group would march in 2015, but John Lahey, the parade committee’s chairman, later that same day said that similar groups could still apply.

Lahey, who is president of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., also contradicted claims by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights that it had been assured a pro-life group could march in 2015. Lahey reportedly told the Irish Voice, “That won’t be happening,” though he added that 2016 “is a different story.”

The parade committee, through O’Reilly, declined to respond to the Register’s inquiries regarding whether The Children First Foundation’s application will be considered or whether additional pro-life organizations had applied to march in 2015. The committee also did not return multiple emails and phone messages seeking comment.


Catholic League Criticism

In a lengthy written statement posted online, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said his organization will not march in next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because the parade committee “double-crossed” him by reneging on a private assurance that it allegedly made to him earlier that a pro-life group would march in 2015. Donohue said he sought this confirmation after the committee announced on Sept. 3 that Out@NBC Universal — a pro-homosexual group of NBC employees — would be allowed to march under its own banner in the 2015 parade.

In subsequent comments, the committee opened the possibility that more than one homosexual group, and even pro-abortion organizations, would be welcome to apply in future parades. A statement from the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual organization that champions same-sex “marriage,” announced on Sept. 15 that it was applying to have a contingent march in the 2015 parade. Additionally, the statement said three other New York homosexual-rights groups in New York, including Irish Queers, had also applied to march.

Meanwhile, O’Reilly told The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 9 that no pro-life organizations had applied to march, and the list of groups marching in the 2015 parade was already “settled.” In his statement, Donohue said this comment was “truly amazing,” given that pro-life organizations would have had no reason to apply, since the committee had not previously announced it was changing its application rules.

“Under the direction of Lahey, who has effectively taken over the parade, there is no room for a pro-life Catholic group in 2015, but there is room for a non-Irish, non-Catholic gay group,” said Donohue. He added there is “a lot of money at stake” for the parade committee and NBC, as well as significant prestige to be garnered in elite Catholic circles by showing colleagues how “progressive” one is.


Seeking Equal Treatment

Rex said organizations like The Children First Foundation should be able to march in the 2015 parade since other groups that were previously prohibited from marching are now encouraged to apply. “So I would be concerned if we were not allowed to march, given other organizations that had been prohibited are now marching,” said Rex.

She said she decided to apply after reading a Sept. 21 story in the Register that quoted O’Reilly saying a pro-life group’s application for 2015 would be looked at favorably, and the committee “looked forward to seeing their application.” Rex said she has completed various forms, filed an application letter and submitted a $200 parade fee.

In her Sept. 24 letter to parade committee Chairman John Dunleavy, Rex said The Children First Foundation’s purpose is to promote and support adoption as a positive choice for an unwanted pregnancy or newborn.

“We believe that adoption is a loving and courageous pro-life choice that deserves greater public awareness, understanding and support,” said Rex, who also described The Children First Foundation as a non-denominational and non-political charitable organization that has been endorsed by the New York State Catholic Conference and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade under her organization’s banner would have special meaning for Rex, since the parade route passes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where she and her husband, Charles, a violinist in the New York Philharmonic, were married in January 1990.

Rex, who is of Irish descent through her mother’s side of the family, said she believes The Children First Foundation would be a “wonderful addition” to the parade.

“We have hundreds of supporters who would turn out, I think, who would be willing to march to support adoption and safe havens,” Rex said.


Celebrating the Parade’s Meaning

If her organization is approved, Rex said she would encourage Donohue to reconsider and have the Catholic League rejoin the parade.

Said Rex, “I sincerely hope that we can all come together and celebrate what the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is really all about: namely, honoring St. Patrick, New York City’s great patron saint, and also to honor and celebrate New York City’s vibrant Irish-Catholic heritage that has done so much to promote tolerance, mutual respect and sincere charity towards one another, especially those most in need.”

Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.