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For week ended November 21, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Was last minute ban due to Mormons or to Discrimination? (Family Conference Stumbles Over LDS Participation)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Was last minute ban due to Mormons or to Discrimination? (Family Conference Stumbles Over LDS Participation)
Salt Lake Tribune 15Nov99 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune


Geneva conference hits roadblock
Deseret News 15Nov99 N1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND -- The Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of the first day of the Second World Congress of Families both discussed the decision of the Swiss Reformed Church to exclude the Congress from using its facilities for the opening session of the Congress. But the two accounts differed about why the Congress was banned from the historic St. Pierre's Cathedral in central Geneva.

The sponsors of the World Congress of Families arranged to use the building months ago. Last August, the Swiss Reformed Church withdrew their offer of the Cathedral when they learned that one of the speakers would be a Catholic Cardinal, offering instead the Fuserie, a smaller chapel associated with the same parrish.

The Church then asked last Wednesday if the meeting was organized by Mormons, saying that if true, "this would be a matter of considerable concern for us." After organizers replied that while Mormons were participating, they were only one of a number of participating faiths, the Swiss Reformed Church told the conference organizers, a little more than 24 hours before the event was to begin, that the facilities were not available to them.

Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, one of the two sponsors of the Congress, regretted the decision, "It was an unfortunate decision. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of hospitality."

The coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune gave the impression that this attitude toward Mormons was the reason for the decision to deny the use of the Swiss chapels. But the Deseret News includes additional speculation, based on recent activities of a Swiss Reform Church official, that gives the Church a political motive.

Last summer the Very Rev. William McCornish, dean of the St. Pierre Cathedral, was part of a group that produced the "Geneval Spiritual Appeal," which calls for "respect for the integrity of humankind" and a commitment to "a better and more just world."

This same "Appeal" led the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to issue a plea for religious leaders "to refuse to invoke a religious or spiritual power to justify discrimination or exclusion." In other words, a Church's moral position shouldn't be used to discriminate or exclude, according to the "Appeal."

Richard Wilkins of Congress co-sponsor World Family Policy Center is certain that this is the reason that the chapels were denyed to the conference, "I know we lost the cathedral because they saw that Archbishop (John) Njue and Cardinal Lopez Trujillo have been outspoken on maintaining the traditional position that marriage is reserved for men and women and that homosexuality is a sin. While we weren't told, we assume that was the reason we were not allowed into the cathedral."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information