Dear Fr. Bloom,

I am writing to convey my thoughts regarding the Respect Life Committee’s actions on Friday March 25 outside the Institute of Systems Biology. I do not work at the ISB and am not in any way associated with it or its employees. However I was at one of the businesses on the other side of the road from the ISB for much of that morning which gave me the opportunity to observe your group’s activities and accept a copy of your letter to Dr. Hood from a member of your group.

I found your so-called peaceful prayer service to be offensive and hypocritical.

Hypocritical because, whilst your protest could technically be described as ‘peaceful’, I do not think that inflammatory and accusatory placards and signs are truly in the spirit of peace. If you were serious about discouraging embryonic stem cell research surely a more peaceful way to get your point across would be to hold an event endorsing your chosen alternative – adult stem cell research.

Offensive because 1) Hijacking Good Friday to promote your own agenda is beyond arrogant as well as being incredibly disrespectful of others who observe this occasion and do not share your point of view.

2) Harassing people in their workplace is rude and cowardly. Particularly cowardly was the way in which the members of your group and the Holy Family Parish hid behind the “Respect Life Committee” title which conveys nothing about the identity, affiliations or parent organisation of the group. The people working in the ISB building have no such luxury.

I was also disgusted by your complete disregard for other businesses and organisations nearby. You had taken the time to write to the ISB and inform them of the action but didn’t extend that courtesy to anyone else so far as I am aware. Yet you felt perfectly comfortable staging your protest in the carpark of the businesses you had ignored.

I doubt that Friday's event was successful in changing the ISB's opinion on embryonic stem cell research, but I am certain that it encouraged many people in the vicinity - myself included - to oppose the Respect Life Committee's opinion while further perpetuating the stereotype of the "religious right" that you object to so much.



Dear Kären,

I appreciate you taking the time to convey your thoughts about the prayer service on March 25 outside of the Institute for Systems Biology.

Over the years I have participated in peaceful protests on issues of civil rights, war and protection of disadvantaged members of our society. Exercising that constitutional right inevitably results in some inconvenience for others. I regret that, even though we made every effort to minimize such inconvenience. When we first formed our group on the sidewalk in front of the Institute, some of the members had spilled over into the parking lot, although eventually we got the members of our group onto the sidewalk area.

Before we began our service, I gave people the instruction not to respond to provocations. As far I could see, they followed that instruction, not responding to gestures and insults from motorists and people passing by. The car alarm, which someone set off when we first arrived, was a provocation more difficult to ignore, but I believe that members of the group attempted to courteously approach the person who set off that alarm.

The March 25 date was chosen not only because it was Good Friday, but because that is the date of the Annunciation, the moment when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Jesus’ human existence began with his conception; like us he was once a tiny embryo. The service focused prayer on the dignity of each human, from their first moment. We also prayed for those who would treat a human as an object to be used in experiments. The analogy to slavery is a fair one because these tiny humans are owned by others who utilize and dispose of them according to their own whim.

I am not sure what you mean by “inflammatory and accusatory placards.” Could you give an example or two? I thought that most of the placards simply expressed our concern – although of course it is difficult to express our entire concern in a few words.

Also I am not sure what you mean by saying that we were “harassing people in their workplace.” Could you give an example of behaviour which you considered as harassment?

The group was much broader than Holy Family Parish, including people from the greater Seattle area, both Catholic and non-Catholic, so we referred to it as “Respect Life Committee.”

Finally, while the event may not have changed ISB’s opinion on embryonic research and human cloning, I believe it did cause some of the workers to think more deeply about those issues. Also it helped people who pass by the Institute ask questions about what is really going on behind the façade. Those are worthwhile results because these questions about human dignity and the proper limits of scientific research are fundamental to the future of our society.

Again, Kären, I do thank you for writing and for the opportunity to discuss these vital issues. God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom