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.

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