There’s a New Anti-ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge

In this Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, photo provided by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Jim Rigg, right, superintendent of the diocese's 113 schools, and Elder High School Principal Tom Otten take the ice-bucket challenge at Elder High School in Cincinnati. The archdiocese is discouraging its students and staff from donating any money raised as part of the challenge to the ALS Association, saying the group funds a study involving embryonic stem cell research "in direct conflict with Catholic teaching." The diocese said schools could participate in the ice bucket challenge, but any money raised should be directed to groups like the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa, which conducts "pro-life driven" research, according to its website. (AP Photo/Archdiocese of Cincinnati)
Jim Rigg, right, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's 113 schools, and Elder High School Principal Tom Otten take the ice bucket challenge -- but not for the ALS Association.
AP

You’d probably think that raising millions of dollars to fund research to find a cure for a terminal illness that robs sufferers of the ability to move or speak would be a good thing. Well, some pro-life advocates found a way to disagree.

Pro-life activists and religious leaders are encouraging people to stop donating to the ALS Association. Their logic: at least one of the studies funded bv the ALS Association uses embryonic stem cells, and embryos (i.e. babies) must be ‘killed’ in order to harvest those cells. While those opposed to the research are still okay with the pouring of cold water over one’s head, they want donations to instead go to ALS charities that only fund research that uses adult stem cells, or that don’t fund research at all.

In an article titled “The ALS challenge kills babies,” the American Family Association’s Kevin McCullough wrote: “Millions of dollars raised through this specific challenge may be used to create a child only to kill it for what amounts to fruitless experimentation” and “this very challenge is contributing to the on going destruction of human life--intentionally.”

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According to New York magazine, it was pro-life news site LifeNews.com that first advocated against donating to the ALS Association, saying: “if you give to the ALS Association your money may end up supporting clinical trials that use aborted fetal cells. Even if the money is not directly going to facilitate such research, it will be going to organizations that see no problem in using aborted innocents as biological material for medical use.”

LifeNews suggested giving money to Team Gleason instead, as it helps people with ALS but does not appear to fund any research into curing the disease. Team Gleason is named after Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who has ALS. Incidentally, Gleason took part in the ice bucket challenge last week. He told the Seattle Times that ALS is “a silent, brutal, and until now an anonymous death. There is still no treatment or cure ... So, my advice is to pour ice over your head, donate, learn, share and care for someone with ALS.”

The anti-ALS Association ‘cause’ was recently taken up by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which encouraged area Catholic schools to tell students to donate money to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. The Institute does not use embryonic stem cells. Cincinnati Catholic schools superintendent Jim Rigg did just that when he took part in the ice bucket challenge on Thursday:

In trying to explain how it could advocate taking money out of a charity’s pocket, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese told another pro-life website, LifeSiteNews.com: “It’s a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that end must be morally licit.”

The Christian Broadcasting Network followed suit, posting a video of some of its employees dumping water on themselves and making it clear that they would not be donating to the ALS Association:

Time reports that the John Paul II Medical Research Institute has received “dozens” of donations since the anti-ALS Association challenge began.

Not all religious leaders have taken the anti-ALS Association stance. The father of Pete Frates, who has become the public face of ALS and the ice bucket challenge, told the Boston Herald that Frates’ priest took the challenge early on and said: “I think you just created a new sacrament.” John Frates added that he and his son are Catholic. John said he is “conflicted with the teachings, I struggle with it, too. I just want my son cured.”

The Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association also told the Herald that donors can stipulate that their money not go to funding embryonic stem cell studies.

Former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson has also refused to donate to the ALS Association, although her concerns were more about the sanctity of animal life than that of human embryos: she was protesting the experiments done on animals as part of the ALS Association’s research.

Former President George W. Bush, who banned federal funding for embryonic stem cell research during his presidency, posted his ice bucket challenge video on Wednesday. In it, he urged people to go to the ALS Association’s website for more information.