20 October 2004

Republicans for Stem-cell Research

or, Boycott the Salvation Army Now!

The Salvation Army will NOT be getting any donations from me this year, next year, or any year. It is not a Christian organisation when it refuses to support life-saving scientific research, when it shuns people who have good reason to speak for life-saving research, when it deceives the public about its true stand on stem-cell research, and when it cancels contracts without due recompense.

From the New York Times:

Patti Davis, an author and the daughter of President Ronald Reagan, has filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army accusing it of backing out of a speaking agreement because it objects to her support for embryonic stem cell research.

Like her mother, Nancy Reagan, Ms. Davis supports research on stem cells taken from human embryos because it may lead to a cure for neurological diseases like Alzheimer's, which afflicted Mr. Reagan. Antiabortion groups oppose such research because the cells are harvested from fetuses.

But the lawyer for the Santa Rosa, Calif., chapter of the Salvation Army, which initially expressed interest in hiring Ms. Davis to speak at a dinner next month, said its change of heart was not related to such research.

The lawyer, Michael G. Watters, said, "There was not a binding agreement, and it just didn't work out for a variety of reasons." The Santa Rosa chapter, Mr. Watters said, "categorically denies that the fact that this thing didn't work out had anything to do with stem cell research or her position on stem cell research."

The Salvation Army's position on the therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells is unclear. A spokesman, Maj. George Hood, at the national headquarters of the organization, in Alexandria, Va., did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. A search of news articles failed to reveal a public position by the organization, an international Christian charity based in London.

In the suit, filed Oct. 4 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan and made public yesterday, Ms. Davis asserts that the Salvation Army "breached" an agreement for her to speak in Santa Rosa on Nov. 19 at the Annual Dream Big Dinner for the Kids.

Ms. Davis seeks a $7,500 cancellation fee and punitive damages of $22,500 to be paid to the Greater Talent Network, her booking agent.

Mr. Watters implied that the deal killer was Ms. Davis's abilities as a speaker. The Greater Talent Network, Mr. Watters said, "sent out a demo tape or a copy of one of her TV shows or something, and people here said that we're not sure she's for us."

Lawrence Fabian, the lawyer for Ms. Davis and her booking agent, said Salvation Army officials in Santa Rosa "saw some television program - whether it was 'Primetime' or 'Dateline' I just don't remember - back in August, and Patti Davis talked about stem cell research."

Officials then told the Greater Talent Network that such a position was "not acceptable to them and that they would have to cancel the contract," Mr. Fabian said.

The booking agent is "not naming names at this time but they know the names, obviously," Mr. Fabian said.

Mr. Fabian emphasized that Ms. Davis's planned speech was about "The Long Goodbye," her book on her father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, set to be released next month.

"We've tried to make this a very simple matter that they breached the agreement with her and that this is the cause of it," Mr. Fabian said. Ms. Davis is "not trying to make a cause célèbre of this particular lawsuit."

In August, Ms. Davis appeared on ABC's "Primetime Live." She said: "My family watched as Alzheimer's conquered my father. Thousands of families deal with Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and diabetes. Stem cell treatment could be the miracle we've been waiting for."

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