Diocese asks anti-abortion group to stay out of its Garden of Hope
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2012
10/20/12 at 7:22 AM
Two Tulsa anti-abortion groups say they have the same goal but don't agree on methods.
The Catholic Diocese of Tulsa has asked an informal group of protesters to keep their signs out of the Garden of Hope, its park at 6135 E. 32nd Place, which is across the street from Reproductive Services, Tulsa's only abortion clinic.
Timothy Putnam, director of the Respect Life Office at the diocese, said the group uses methods that the diocese does not condone, including carrying video cameras and signs with graphic images.
In an email to Bill Darr, leader of the group, Putnam said, "You are welcome on our property any time you leave the signs at home."
Darr, who is the Oklahoma director of Operation Save America, said his group has been meeting outside the clinic weekly for 10 years.
"We are a pro-life group providing information to the women," he said.
"We're very much to the point. We show the aborted babies. But we're loving and caring. We're not there intimidating these girls.
"The signs are to tell the truth. This is an awful place. Would 'Schindler's List' (a Holocaust movie) have been effective without showing the victims?" Darr asked.
"We've learned that we need a video camera to protect ourselves against false accusations. A camera does not lie."
He said he still considers the people of the diocese his friends.
"We all need to work together to save the little ones," he said.
The diocese is conducting its 40 Days for Life anti-abortion prayer vigil at the Garden of Hope.
Participants in 40 Days for Life sign a statement agreeing not to display posters with disturbing images, not to act in a confrontational manner and to treat the clinic's staff and clients with compassion and love.
"The Garden of Hope was established to be a place of prayer and a place from which to offer help," Putnam said. "It was never intended to be a place from which to stage protests."
He said the diocese believes there is a time and place to publicly protest abortion.
"But Tulsa's only abortion center is not in the public square," he said.
"Many of the women who come to the abortion center are vulnerable, emotionally wounded and afraid. To expose them to further trauma is not helpful."
He said the goal of the diocese is to provide material and emotional support to women considering abortion.
The diocese provides free pregnancy testing, sonograms, referrals for prenatal care, help with food, clothing and housing, counseling, adoption services and other services, he said.
Putnam said the two groups have a "friendly disagreement," have had no altercations and share the same goal: ending abortion.
"They have a legal right to protest, ... and we have the legal right to not support efforts that we deem counter-productive," he said.
Original Print Headline: Diocese wants anti-abortion group out of Garden of Hope
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
Signs are a part of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa's 40 Days for Life vigil at its Garden of Hope, but the diocese is asking anti-abortion protesters not to take signs with graphic images to the diocese-owned park. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World file