Ted Turner Insults Catholics, Pro-Lifers

Billionaire media executive Ted Turner has once again made statements offensive to Catholics and others of faith. Speaking at a pro-abortion conference in Washington, D.C., he ridiculed Pope John Paul II, scoffed at the Ten Commandments and promoted a one-child population control policy. Addressing the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association on Feb. 16, Turner said that if he met the Holy Father, he would tell him to "get with it. Welcome to the 20th century." He combined this with a tasteless joke regarding Polish soldiers using their feet to sweep away land mines, asking, "Ever seen a Polish mine detector?" The cable television mogul and now vice chairman of Time Warner also called the Ten Commandments obsolete, saying, "If you're only going to have 10 rules, I don't know if [banning] adultery should be one of them." In addition, Turner advocated a one-child policy, which he says will reduce the world's population from 6 billion to 2 billion, if it is practiced for the next 100 years. He believes that world overpopulation carries a number of evils, including environmental degradation. The husband of long-time political activist Jane Fonda, Turner announced in September 1997 that he would give $1 billion to the United Nations over a ten-year period. It is expected that much of that money will find its way into population control programs, including those supporting abortion. Turner also savaged conservative Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), calling him "dumb," criticized former President Ronald Reagan and said that "people who think like us may be in the minority, but we're the smart ones." Those who disagree with him are "a whole bunch of dummies." The friendly conference crowd applauded these comments. The organization, which was founded in 1971, encompasses family planning clinics, government health departments and affiliates of Planned Parenthood of America. It boasts of representing 4,200 "pro-choice" clinics. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association provides information and lobbies on a whole range of issues which Catholic teaching opposes. Their interests include unwavering support for abortion, promoting international population control, approval and use of the abortifacient pill RU-486 and broad dissemination of contraceptives. One of the workshops at the three-day conference was "The Impact of Catholic Hospital Mergers on Reproductive Health." Acknowledging the expansion of Catholic hospitals, the preliminary schedule for the conference noted that "regardless of whether patients are Catholics or not, in their health care systems, reproductive health care is dictated by policies and standards set by bishops and Catholic doctrine, rather than by physicians and standards of medical practice." It added, "Mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals are compromising access to reproductive health services, including access to abortion, infertility services, contraception, and appropriate care to rape victims." The program lists Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice as one of the presenters. While Turner's comments were met warmly by this group, reaction from many others was negative. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said, "Ted Turner embarassed himself yesterday with his silly remarks, though it is doubtful he even recognizes what he did. "In the end," he added, "it is the pope who should welcome Turner to the 20th century, and not the other way around." Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer said, "This kind of raw anti-Catholic bigotry contained in Ted Turner's remarks is something we had hoped was a relic of the last century." Bauer, a Baptist, continued, "To begin to repair the damage, Ted Turner must not only retract his remarks but also issue a full and complete apology to the Holy Father and all American Catholics. This is the worst form of religious bigotry. "Ted Turner also needs to have greater respect for the core beliefs of all American Christians and Jews, who regard the Ten Commandments as one of the principal foundations of their faith. His apology on this point as well will be greatly reassuring to those who have great respect for religion in American life," Bauer said. Others also criticized Turner's attack on the Ten Commandments. In an interview with the Herald, Father Stanley W. DeBoe, director of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values, said, "These are ten values which have guided societies for thousands of years. To say that we now have a better insight today is rather elitist." The Center, which is based in Washington, D.C., also put out a statement, which noted that "devolving into ethnic slurs and insults reduces oneself to nothing more than a common thug. In this case, the common thug happens to be a billionaire." Rev. Robert L. Schenck, general secretary of the interfaith National Clergy Council, made similar comments. Rev. Schenck, an evangelical minister, is the promoter of The Ten Commandments Project, in which public officials are presented with stone tablets of the commandments during a brief ceremony. In an interview with the Herald, he said, "The ten commandments are the most enduring and most universal of all moral and ethical codes. For Ted Turner, of all people, to call them into question is the epitome of arrogance. "But he is an arrogant man. I would not be surprised if he believed that he and his wife ought to set the moral code for every human being on earth," he suggested. As a result of such criticism, the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., did issue an apology. It said simply, "Mr. Turner regrets any offense his comments may have caused while in Washington, D.C. and extends his heartfelt apologies." Donohue said he accepted the apology, but noted, "what will not go away is the knowledge that his offensive remarks about the pope were greeted with such enthusiasm by his audience. Anyone who has studied the population control movement knows that anti-Catholicism has unfortunately marred its record." In an interview, Donohue added, "It's kind of a purist, WASPish strain that you filter the population issue in a eugenic way--population control not just in quantity, but quality. There is an element in the anti-population movement which looks at humans as a problem. I look at them as a resource." Turner's population control views are alarming because of his largesse to the United Nations and because he has named former congressman and State Department official Tim Wirth, who also is a population control and environmental advocate, to oversee the money that goes to the international organization. Pro-life advocates have been disturbed by the strong United Nations support for abortion, abortifacients, and general dissemination of contraceptives. Among the U.N. groups which have come under attack are the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNFPA supported population measures in China, which has resulted in horrific programs of coercion. China's one-child policy was grippingly described by a former enforcer before a subcommittee of the U.S. House International Relations Commitee last June. Gao Xia Duan told of a program in which births must be approved by the government, involuntary steriliziation is routine for any woman with two children, and enforcement includes sending officials into the countryside to check on compliance. Turner's support for a one-child policy was not lost on China expert Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute. He said, "After all the suffering China's one-child policy has caused Chinese families, no sane person would call for its introduction into other countries. Such a policy would be inhumane by definition, and would mean the end of the family as we now know it. "It would further bankrupt Social Security, cause astronomical levels of crime, and send the economy into a deep depression. I suppose if you have $3 billion you don't have to worry about such consequences, but ordinary people do," he argued. Turner's comments, while drawing wide criticism, were consistent with his previous statements. On China, for example, he told a real estate conference last year, "People who abhor the China one-child policy are dumb-dumbs, because if China hadn't had that policy, there would be 300 million more people in China right now." After 39 Heaven's Gate cult members committed suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in March 1997, Turner said that such a tragedy represented "a good way to get rid of a few nuts." He added, "We've got too many nuts running around anyway, right?" Referring to that group's belief that redemption was coming for them through an alien spacecraft linked to the Hale-Boppe Comet, Turner said, "Is there that much different in other religions saying you're going to heaven?" According to a 1995 biography, Citizen Turner: The Rise of An American Tycoon, Turner has referred to Christianity as "a religion for losers." In a more secular realm, he spoke at Independence Hall on July 4, 1997, and suggested that "The Star-Spangled Banner" be scrapped because of its martial tone. Perhaps Turner's most interesting comment, however, was made before a group of foreign journalists in 1996. He told them, "The United States has got some of the dumbest people in the world. I want you to know that." Joseph A. Esposito, who lives in Springfield, writes on religion, public policy and history. Copyright ?1999 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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