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Terri Schiavo defenders gather; Mel Gibson adds his support

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–Terri Schiavo’s parents and lawmakers attempting last-minute efforts to stop the court-ordered death of a 41-year-old disabled Florida woman were buoyed by a “Rose Rally” of 500 people March 13 at the state capitol in Tallahassee.

Schiavo’s feeding tube is scheduled to be removed March 18.

Hollywood actor Mel Gibson lent his support to the rally via a message read by Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler Jr.

Singing, praying and standing quietly holding small “We Love Terri” signs, the crowd spent two hours on the windy, but sunny, Sunday afternoon listening to speakers talk about the sanctity of human life, the need for Terri’s life to be spared and the gratitude Terri’s parents have for those who have joined them in the fight to save their daughter.

James Dobson, founder of Colorado-based Focus on the Family, spoke to the crowd via a recorded message.

“It is an outrage that Terri’s life hangs in the balance today. We are going to do everything we can to protect her,” Dobson said. “Even though this is a somber day, we have a good reason for hope.”

A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would prevent the removal of a feeding tube from people in Schiavo’s condition unless their wishes had been registered beforehand in writing.

On March 14, the Florida House Judiciary Committee approved the measure (HB 701) 8-3. An identical bill (SB 804) is in the Florida Senate.

Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents who have been fighting for more than seven years to defend their daughter’s right to life, and Gary Cass, executive director of the Center for Reclaiming America, were joined at the rally by representatives of various pro-life organizations.

Bobby Schindler told participants that actor Mel Gibson, producer of “The Passon of The Christ,” telephoned his father, Bob, March 11 and said he supported the family’s efforts to save their daughter. Gibson also faxed a statement which Bobby read:

“I fully support the effort of Mr. & Mrs. Schlindler to save their daughter, Terri Schiavo, from a cruel starvation. Terri’s husband should sign the care of his wife over to her parents so she can be properly cared for.”


On Saturday, a seven-hour prayer vigil was held at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas, Fla., where Terri resides.

Single roses, without water and wilting under the Florida sun, lined a platform where pro-life speakers joined Terri Schiavo supporters who lined the narrow strips of grass outside the secluded, nicely landscaped facility and other supporters who gathered across the street.

“We love you Terri,” one vigil leader directed the crowd to yell on the count of three.

A smiling 10-year-old, Rosy Kimball, the eldest child amongst six siblings with their parents, told the Florida Baptist Witness, “Terri Sciavo deserves life like any of us. We are praying.”

Lorraine Guerrier, who attends Liberty Baptist Church, an independent church in St. Petersburg, Fla., held signs encouraging Gov. Jeb Bush to step in and place Terri in protective custody. In addition to the moral questions in the case, Guerrier underscored Schiavo’s constitutional right to life under the law.

“I believe this is a turning point for our nation,” Guerrier said. “Just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean they aren’t a human being or less deserving of food and water.”

Joseph Magri, a Tampa Bay-area attorney who has previously represented the Schindler family in the case, called on the crowd to remember the lessons of the Bible.

“You can get misled about the love of neighbor,” Magri said. “You have to ground love of neighbor in a love of God to make sure that decisions we make are good ones.”

In Washington, meanwhile, a bill to aid the disabled Florida woman awaits congressional action. In the House of Representatives, it is H.R. 1151; in the Senate, S. 539. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., are the lead sponsors. U.S. senators and representatives can be reached via the Internet at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov or by telephone through the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Florida’s lawmakers can be reached via the Internet at www.flsenate.gov and www.house.gov.

The statehouse Rose Rally was sponsored by The Center for a Just Society, the Center for Reclaiming America, Christian Law Association, Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel, National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, Coral Ridge Ministries, Eagle Forum of Florida, Florida Family Policy Council and Florida Right to Life.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan