Megapastors take Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS—but where did the money go?
Last week, several prominent megapastors took the ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge. A LifeSiteNews inquiry into whether the pastors donated to the ALS Association or another organization found that the pastors were, for the most part, unwilling to publicize where their monetary support went.
In challenge videos reported by the Christian Post, Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church; Jentezen Franklin, pastor of Free Chapel; Life Without Limbs ministry leader Nick Vujicic; Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church Houston; and TD Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House, all promoted ALS research donations. However, only Young's spokesperson provided donation details in response to LifeSiteNews' inquiries.
Since the Ice Bucket Challenge was launched in late July, it has raised over $100 million for research for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. However, three weeks into the viral challenge, several pro-life leaders found that the ALS Association supports embryonic stem-cell research.
The discovery led Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX, at least two U.S. archdioceses, and others to recommend ALS research dollars be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa. The organization conducts its research exclusively with adult stem cells.
Pro-life advocates oppose embryonic stem-cell research because embryos must be destroyed in order for the research to be conducted. The ALS Association has said that only one line of embryonic stem-cell research is currently being funded, and by one outside donor. It also says donations can be stipulated for or against various uses, such as not being used for embryonic stem-cell research.
According to Gary Moore, media liaison for Second Baptist Church, "Dr. Young took the Ice Bucket Challenge in front of several of our congregations, and subsequently made a check out to the ALS Association and specified it was for adult stem-cell research."
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In a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, Perry Noble said, "I believe life begins at conception and therefore I can't fully support research involving stem cells. I do however know that many people are diagnosed with ALS each year and it's a terrible, debilitating disease with no current cure and that is why I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I support and am praying we find a cure for this disease."
A follow-up request for details on Noble's donation garnered this response from his organization: "Perry has always kept what amount of money he personally gives and what organizations he gives to a private matter and therefore he will not be sharing anything further regarding your specific questions. Thank you for understanding."
Live Action Communications Director Drew Belsky told LifeSiteNews that, regardless of intent, Young’s donation to the ALS Association could end up funding embryonic stem-cell research because of the shifting of funds. "We should never forget that money is fungible – that is, contributions that go to any one source in an organization can free up other funds there for other pursuits," said Belsky.
"Specifically, those who rightly oppose embryonic stem cell research can't donate to the ALSA without some concern that their generosity will help fund that unethical enterprise in some way. An organization that explicitly repudiates embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, will present no such problem."
Vujicic and Franklin did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Likewise, Jakes did not respond to LifeSiteNews' inquiry.
Pro-life groups have been promoting the John Paul II Medical Research Institute as an alternative charity for those concerned about ALS. The organization can receive donations on its website.