Stem cell research group pulls ‘blasphemous’ poem

I think that I shall never see a poem as offensive as “Stem C.”

That’s what an anti-abortion organization said Tuesday about a poem that received an award from the San Francisco-based California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The taxpayer-funded research center held a poetry contest to commemorate Stem Cell Awareness Day last week. First prize was awarded to a poet who compared a scientific procedure that takes cells from a human embryo to the Christian ceremony of communion.

The poem “Stem C.” by Tampa-based Tyson Anderson begins, “This is my body/which is given for you,” and ends with, “Take this/in remembrance of me.”

After the poem ran in national publications and on the research organization’s website, the Life Legal Defense Foundation lashed out and said the agency “rewards blasphemy.”

“The choice of this poem for a prize represents the deliberate pilfering of the holiest of voluntary, sacrificial acts in the history of humanity,” the group said in a statement.

The stem cell agency has since apologized and pulled all of the poems off its website, according to Communications Manager Don Gibbons, who also served as one of three judges on the panel that picked the winners. He noted that one of the other judges, Margaret Hermes, is a devout Catholic and didn’t think the reference was at all belittling to her faith.

“They found that use of religious language is artistically appropriate,” Gibbons said.

In the end, the poems were pulled because as a public agency we felt “a responsibility” to take them down if it caused offense, Gibbons added.

“We didn’t want it to be a distraction,” he said.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has been sparring with the Life Legal Defense Fund since the publicly funded agency was approved by voters with Proposition 71 in 2004.

The religious group challenged the constitutionality of a $3 billion public agency funding human embryonic stem cell research but lost in an appeal. The group’s president, Dana Cody, noted that while the group lost the lawsuit, the agency has since been held to much stricter public scrutiny.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Stem C.

By Tyson Anderson

This is my body
which is given for you.
But I am not great.
I have neither wealth,
nor fame, nor grace.
I cannot comfort with words,
nor inspire to march.
I am small and simple,
so leave me this.
Let me heal you.
This is my body
which is given for you.
Take this
in remembrance of me.

Bay Area NewsLocalNEP

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Organizer Jas Florentino, left, explains the figures which represent 350 kidnapped Africans first sold as slaves in the United States in 1619 in sculptor Dana King’s “Monumental Reckoning.” The installation is in the space of the former Francis Scott Key monument in Golden Gate Park. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What a reparations program would look like in The City

‘If there’s any place we can do it, it’s San Francisco’

Officer Joel Babbs at a protest outside the Hall of Justice in 2017 (Bay City News file photo)
The strange and troubling story of Joel Babbs: What it tells us about the SFPD

The bizarre and troubling career of a whistle-blowing San Francisco police officer… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 update at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Gavin Newsom under COVID: The governor dishes on his pandemic life

By Emily Hoeven CalMatters It was strange, after 15 months of watching… Continue reading

People fish at a dock at Islais Creek Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Islais Creek tells us about rising sea levels in San Francisco

Islais Creek is an unassuming waterway along San Francisco’s eastern industrial shoreline,… Continue reading

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Most Read