Rebecca Millette

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Catholic group banned from town parade over baby picture on pro-life banner

Rebecca Millette
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PALATINE, Illinois, June 14, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic group in Palatine, Illinois has been banned from participating in the upcoming Palatine Jaycees Hometown Fest parade on July 2 because their banner displays a picture of an unborn child.

“They decided that an unborn baby is too offensive,” said Martin Kelley, co-founder of Palatine Area Catholics Respect Life. “It’s an ultrasound photo. It’s not a picture of an aborted baby.”

The banner displays a picture of the unborn baby and an elderly woman with the words “Palatine Area Catholics Respect Life ... from Conception ‘til Natural Death.”

The group marched with the banner last year, but this year organizers informed them they would not be allowed unless they removed or changed the picture of the unborn baby.

“Changing the photo would defeat the whole purpose of expressing our point of view that life does begin at conception,” said Kelley. “It’s a stand on principle. It kind of defeats the purpose to have a newborn baby or a three-year old. It was necessary for our message.”

The parade will take place July 2 and organizers have already approved approximately 80 groups for participation.  It is sponsored and organized by Palatine Jaycees, a private service organization.

“The Respect Life Group was denied participation in the Hometown Fest parade because [they] refused to work with festival organizers regarding their display materials,” the Jaycees said in a statement. “Unlike other groups who fully cooperate regarding display materials, the Respect Life Group refused to make any changes to the banner or even have a discussion about it.”

While the Jaycees maintain they are a non-political organization that does not reject the banner for its message, they retained the right to refuse admission based on the manner in which the message was displayed.  According to the Jaycees’ board of directors, the banner was offensive.

“What is offensive is subjective,” said Bill Pohlman, spokesperson for the Jaycees. “Everyone’s trying to promote their message. What crosses the line? The event organizers felt this crossed the line.”

Pohlman said they made a mistake last year in allowing the group to march with their banner.  He claimed the pro-life group sent in a blurred image of the banner and the organization did not attempt to obtain a better one.  It was only at the parade that the Jaycees saw the entire banner.

Spectators, said Pohlman, expressed their outrage at the pro-life banner to him personally.  If they would change the image, he added, they would be allowed to march.

Meanwhile, Kelley challenged Pohlman’s claims and said the pro-life group received tremendous applause the entire route last year.

He said the Jaycees have utilized a double standard in censoring the pro-life message.  The organizers have permitted other organizations, he added, such as Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays, while not allowing the pro-life group.

Kelley requested that the entire Jaycee membership vote on the matter.

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