Churches collect funds for anti-abortion drive

September 20, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

County churches are preaching the sanctity of life and collecting money at services for the Vote kNOw Coalition, which is leading the drive to defeat the abortion-rights law on referendum in November.

After services last weekend, volunteers handed out pamphlets urging voters to learn what the law "really says."

Statewide, nearly 200 churches of every denomination participated in the collection, with another 90 -- including St. Joseph in Sykesville -- planning a collection this weekend.

By Friday, the coalition had "just over $200,000," said Elaine Kindler, coalition finance director.

She said the average donor gave about $12. Countywide, total donations were running above average at $6,300.

The coalition formed in February 1991, shortly after Maryland's abortion rights law was enacted. A petition drive gathered more than 144,000 signatures to force the law to referendum this Nov. 3.

Church leaders asked congregations for money to pay for televised commercials that aim at getting voters to reject the law.

"The church structure makes it easier for us to coordinate the campaign," said Ms. Kindler.

The Rev. David Pietropaoli, associate pastor at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, called the response to the campaign "very good," at the parish, which is one of the largest in the diocese.

The money, which is not tax deductible, was collected at all six weekend Masses there.

"The people told me after Mass that they felt good about contributing to the movement," said Father Pietropaoli.

"They felt it was something positive they could do to end abortion."

Ellen Willis, coordinator of Democratic campaigns in the county, said interfering with a ballot issue should not be a church function.

"The issue should be left up to individuals without the pressure of this collection," she said.

Father Pietropaoli said while the church considers it inappropriate to enter into bipartisan politics, it has a "duty to inform voters' consciences."

Envelopes marked with the donors' names and addresses were sent unopened to the coalition's headquarters in Columbia.

The amounts and donors' names will be publicly available, as required by election laws.

When the organization has a final count, from an independent accounting company recording donations, it will begin producing and airing the commercials.

Ms. Kindler, who has become well-versed in the costs of air time, rattles off figures like $3,500 for 30 seconds during prime time news and $4,500 for the same commercial time during "L.A. Law."

"Commercials can be produced quickly once we know what amount we have to work with," said Frederica Mathewes-Green, the coalition's communications director.

"We think it is critical to be on the air at the end of the campaign, but we will come forward from that date depending on the money."

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