Apr 12, 2010

Sheehan: "Who says US soldier's life is better than an Iraqi baby or an Afghan baby?"


Peace activist Sheehan gets her say - outdoors

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There are two places in the United States where anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is not welcome: the White House and Scranton.

That is what Ms. Sheehan told a group of about 50 peace protesters gathered on Courthouse Square on Friday afternoon, after the Gold Star mother was turned down by half a dozen area venues that organizers approached to host her, most notably the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton.

"This is the first time I've been shut out of an entire community," she said on the windy green.

Ms. Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and she has spent the subsequent six years protesting that war and other U.S. military engagements.

She began her speaking tour of Scranton in front of the diocesan Chancery Building just after the bells stopped ringing for the noon Mass.

Ms. Sheehan was initially scheduled to speak Friday at St. John the Evangelist Church hall on Fig Street, but the diocese revoked that invitation because of her stated support for abortion rights and gay marriage.

Ms. Sheehan, a former Catholic, said in front of the Chancery that she does hold those beliefs, but the purpose of her visit was to express her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the use of unmanned drones in Pakistan.

"I come with the message that killing is wrong," she said. "A pro-life message."

The diocese issued a prepared statement saying it "respects Ms. Sheehan's right to speak about the issues involving the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," but that she "cannot be given a forum inside a Church facility" because "she supports positions that are contrary to Church teaching."

Joseph Rogan, president of Pax Christi of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Catholic peace organization that arranged her appearance, attended Ms. Sheehan's speeches on Friday but distanced his organization from some of her positions and her criticism of the church.

"Our organization invited Cindy Sheehan to talk to us about peace, and we support her on peace," he said. "She talked about other issues that we do not support."

Mr. Rogan also clarified that several area hotels had agreed to rent out space for Ms. Sheehan's talk, "but we don't exactly have a big treasury."

On Courthouse Square, Ms. Sheehan focused her comments primarily on her opposition to the U.S. military engagement in the Middle East, especially the deaths of civilians there.

"Who says that one American soldier's life is better than an Iraqi baby, or a Pakistani baby or an Afghan baby?" she asked. "Who made the value of an American life more than any other life?"

Standing in front of a statue labeled "Love," she criticized the sayings etched into the granite veterans wall surrounding the courthouse.

"I find it despicable that this courthouse is festooned with pro-war sentiment," she said, then added later, "War - I'm sorry, it doesn't matter how many quotes you can find - war is not noble."


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