To give or not to give?

March 30, 2010 09:00 AM

Guest commentary by Leslie Tignor

Rarely a day, week or month goes by without it being designated as the day, week or month to support some sort of charity in our country. It seems that there is an ever-growing list of national events, races, telethons, radio-thons, ribbon car magnets, rubber wristbands and other charitable paraphernalia from which to choose to support these causes. There is the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart, the American Cancer’s Society’s Relay for Life, the Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure, Avon’s Three-Day Walk, Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies, trick-or-treat for UNICEF and a plethora of others. Oh, and let’s not forget those Girl Scout cookies!

Donating to charity is, of course, a laudable act. Certainly, we are called to help support the needy among us and to contribute to the well-being of our society. It’s very likely we all know of someone, either personally or indirectly, who suffers from a condition or an illness that begs for treatment or a cure.

But, can we give to all of them? Probably not. Are all of them even worthy of our donations?  Definitely not! The American Institute of Philanthropy can help you decide if a charity will use your money in a financially prudent way. But some of these organizations, in the quest to help the needy and the disabled or find the ultimate cure, are actually supporting immoral causes. Some are partnered with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations. Some are conducting, supporting, funding or otherwise lobbying for research using human embryonic stem cells or aborted fetal body parts. How on earth then, are we pro-lifers supposed to figure out just which organizations are worthy of our donations?

Research. It takes some time and a bit of effort on our part; but when you’re concerned about where your hard-earned dollars are going and what you are actually funding, it’s worth it.

First, start by contacting the charity directly. Call, e-mail or write the charity and specifically ask for a copy of its position statement or organizational policy on abortion and research involving human embryonic stem cells, aborted fetal body parts and cloning. Some organizations are so unabashedly anti-life that they will gladly inform you that they contribute in some way to these activities. (Note that we say ask for a copy. Don’t just take the representative’s word for it; often they do not actually know or may supply incorrect information.)

For example, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Statement on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” adopted June 25, 2005, states: “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society therefore supports the use of human embryonic stem cells for research and development of therapies whenever the proposed research is judged meritorious by the Society’s appropriately constituted scientific review committees and Board of Directors.” Despite the 2005 date, the organization has not changed this policy.


Second, check out the web site of the charity in question and enter “abortion” or “stem cell research” into the search field provided. Again, those organizations without qualms about supporting anti-life activities will have materials posted that answer these questions. 

Considering a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation? A recent search of its web site for “embryonic stem cell research” lists the following result: “LIVESTRONG applauds Congress and the White House for its quick action on items necessary to improve the lives of people affected by cancer, including Embryonic Stem Cell Research: President Obama signed an executive order lifting the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on March 9, 2009. LIVESTRONG supports exploring every avenue of research, including embryonic stem cell research within specified ethical limits, until a cure for cancer is found.” 

By the way, LIVESTRONG somehow finds it necessary to list abortion providers by state on its web site. And Lance Armstrong has been attributed with the anti-God quote you can find here. (Just something to think about the next time you see a kid with a yellow wristband.)

Other web sites may not be as direct, but sometimes they will supply enough information to raise red flags, or indicators of questionable positions. That means you need to delve a bit deeper. Search the internet. Pick a search engine and type in the charity name and "abortion," "Planned Parenthood" or "stem cell research," because connections not mentioned on the charity’s web site may be revealed elsewhere. While you may not find it listed under “partnerships,” charitable organizations frequently join coalitions and sign letters in support of related causes. You can find this out when you expand your search.

For example, the Alliance for Aging Research describes itself as “a member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), and holds a leadership position in that coalition. As such, the alliance supports public policies that advance research involving both adult and embryonic stem cells and regenerative medicine in general."

A search of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research reveals that CAMR published a letter in support of human embryonic stem cell research that was sent to every member of the 110th Congress. CAMR’s web site includes that letter as well as each signatory and links to the signatory’s web site.

Additionally, charities that function somewhat like franchises may allow each local chapters to make its own funding or grant decisions. While you may not find any links to anti-life policies on the national charity’s web site, an internet search may reveal connections on a more local level. Connections may also occur in the reverse direction, as well. The United Way and the Komen Foundation are good examples of this type of structure. The national offices of these organizations allow each local chapter to decide whether or not to provide grants to local Planned Parenthood chapters. In any case, don’t buy the line that since a local chapter does not support unethical practices then it is okay to give. If the national office allows it and other chapters do it, then the whole organization is tainted.
 
Another excellent resource is Life Decision International’s Boycott List. The Boycott List is a current and comprehensive list of all companies that financially support Planned Parenthood.  It also includes a “dishonorable mention” section that lists nonprofit corporations that are linked to Planned Parenthood and/or its agenda. Recent inductees include America Gives Back (American Idol), Audubon Society, Camp Fire Girls, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Save the Children, just to mention a few.

Of course, you can also check the list of charitable organizations on American Life League’s web site. ALL surveyed a number of organizations and compiled the results for our supporters. We are constantly revising this list as we learn of new groups and receive updated information. And there are actually several “good” groups listed as well. 

Finally, don’t allow yourself to become disheartened. While it may seem as if the culture of death only becomes richer by the minute, worthy charities are out there—and they do need your help. Sometimes you need look only as far as your own community: Local food banks, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and pregnancy help centers rarely have the resources to sponsor huge fundraisers or sell merchandise. Most likely, they are not tied to larger organizations steeped in unethical causes.

Today’s lesson? The time you spend doing the research is definitely worth the lives being saved. Give—but give wisely!

Leslie Tignor is American Life League’s director of associate programs.

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