Sunday, September 23, 2007

Children Must Not See What Grown-ups Do To Other Little Children

This is a story that merits a lengthy posting.

I’ve divided the posting into the following sections for ease of reference.

  • The story from the San Mateo Daily Journal “Parents protest photos”
  • Over 300 comments from readers about the story
  • A recent letter to the editor in support of Ross Foti
  • A brief bio of Foti is given in San Francisco Faith
  • One of the reports issued about Foti by the pro-aborts
  • A letter to the editor which Foti himself wrote
  • Foti’s opposition from the priest at St. Matthew’s Catholic School

  • Latest up to date news: Ross Foti has agreed to cover the graphic pictures
  • Former postings on the use of graphic images
  • Vote Life, Canada! asks some very basic questions

The story from the San Mateo Daily Journal “Parents protest photos”

A group of parents fed up with driving their children past large graphic images of aborted fetuses on the way to St. Matthew’s Catholic School have begun holding sheets in the parking lot as a way to protect young eyes.

The parents are frustrated that pro-life activist Ross Foti parks his A-frame truck with posters of aborted fetuses on Notre Dame Avenue while attending morning mass. Parents are required by the school to use the small public street to drop their children every morning. Foti will not cover the images or park elsewhere despite requests from the school, church and parents.

Freedom of speech protects Foti. He won lawsuits protecting his right to protest several years ago. The church has the right to prohibit him from parking in its private parking lot. The small, one-way Notre Dame Avenue, however, is a public street owned by the city of San Mateo and officials are considering ways to transfer the property.

Parents are fed up

“I have a first-grader who I think doesn’t need to see a murder scene every day on the way to school,” said Lynne Santamaria, one of the women behind the sheet idea.

Santamaria regularly stands in the parking lot between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. holding poles attached to white bed sheets in front of the graphic images. Parents in a long line of cars on Notre Dame Avenue clapped, gave the thumbs up sign and personally thanked the group yesterday morning. Parents have spent months trying to get the church to do something about the disturbing truck.

But both the church and school have their hands tied by Foti’s First Amendment rights.

Foti, 72, drives a white truck with large posters of what he describes as aborted fetuses affixed to the outside. Some contend the posters are actually of stillborn babies because they appear larger than the average aborted fetus. Foti has parked his car in front of the church 14 of the first 16 days of school and does the same outside Planned Parenthood five days a week for approximately three hours a day.

Foti did not return two phone calls for comment Thursday. In a previous interview with the Daily Journal, Foti said he is following “God’s law” and “helping” others. He claims a long list of children he has saved and believes all abortion is wrong, even in the case of rape and incest.

His right to protest has been upheld in the state Court of Appeals.

Parents feel they are stuck between upholding a contractual obligation to the school — in which they were asked at the beginning of the year to only use Notre Dame Avenue to drop their children off at school — and parental responsibility.

Parents were asked to sign contracts this year agreeing to use Notre Dame Avenue to drop their kids off at school. The agreement between the school and parents is the result of Aragon neighbors who complained about the traffic and parking problems on the streets surrounding the school. Earlier this year, the church submitted an expansion proposal and recently held a second neighborhood meeting to address residents’ concerns.

Still, some parents choose to park on neighboring streets to avoid Foti’s car.

“It just reaches a point where your conscience can’t let you put up with it anymore.” said parent Carlos Santamaria. “It’s terrorism at our school and we’re not taking it.”

Meanwhile, the pressure is building on school officials.

“In the past it was once or twice a week. Now, it’s every day,” said Principal Ken Boegel. “What it comes down to is that I don’t have the power to stop it.”

Boegel, Rev. Anthony McGuire and parents met with Foti in May. Foti told the group he would cover the posters if McGuire agreed to preach every Sunday about abortion and if parents would join him while picketing in front of San Mateo’s Planned Parenthood.

“I feel he is making us do his bidding. I don’t feel it is appropriate to blackmail,” McGuire said. “While [the posters] may be helpful in certain circumstances, here they are actually turning some off to his message.”

Parents don’t understand why he wants to push the anti-abortion message on fellow Catholic parishioners and their elementary school children. Parents and teachers agree the images frighten children. Some parents play games with their kids to make them look away while they past the posters and others grimace while their children hide their faces and shriek.

“He’s here to stalk us. We feel harassed and bullied,” said parent Claire Grant.

If Foti has the legal right to park his truck than parents have the same right to hold white sheets in front of that truck, reasons Santamaria. The parents take extra precautions not to touch his truck.

Teachers deal with the ramifications in the classroom.

“They are jumpy, confused and scared. They don’t feel safe,” said second-grade teacher Mary Downs. “They come into the class and they think he’s a baby killer.”

Parents have lodged complaints with the city. San Mateo Police have only been called to the school once, on Sept. 5, but many more complaints began filing into the City Attorney Shawn Mason’s office last year. The city is familiar with Foti who regularly attracts attention on Palm Avenue by parking his car in front of Planned Parenthood.

While researching the situation at the school, Mason discovered the city actually owns Notre Dame Avenue. Realizing that “there is no public value to the property,” the city is considering selling the one-block street to the church. The city is having the street appraised. It is unclear how much the city would sell the street for or if they could donate it, Mason said.

“I’m not prepared to say it’s illegal for the city to donate the property. There are legal issues,” Mason said.

The church is also doing its due diligence.

“Each solution has it’s consequences,” McGuire said.

The city is researching what can be done about Foti’s presence on Palm Avenue. Mason would not disclose details.

The likelihood of ridding the city of Foti, a Belmont resident, is slim.

“It’s unlikely we’ll get to a point where we can make him go away,” Mason said. “As disturbing as the images are they are not considered obscene.”


Over 300 comments from readers about the story

Over 300 comments from readers about the story, of which the following is very typical. Thankfully there were a few pro-lifers who also posted comments.

I do not respect someone who tries to force their beliefs on anyone with violent pictures, especially a block away from an elementary school on a road the parents are obligated to drive down. These parents wouldn't have a problem with it if this zealot wasn't trying to force feed his religious beliefs to elementary school children (and that is exactly what he is doing, because his beliefs are bible-driven).

Also, if you had read the article, those pictures were likely still-born's, not aborted fetuses. They were larger than the average aborted fetus.

He is within his rights to have the signs, but his deliberate attempts to force his propaganda on children is reprehensible. He can park it in front of an abortion clinic all he wants, but disturbing children who don't understand what he is protesting by showing some vulgar and violent pictures is disgusting.

A recent letter to the editor describes Foti as a champion and unsung hero.

Entitled “Foti tells it like it is” this resident thinks Foti ought to be treated as the champion he is. Take particular note of the comment that Foti’s parking spot is actually “quite removed from the school.”

Dear Editor: Ross Foti is controversial because he dares to tell it like it is regarding abortion. His large photo-posters of aborted babies are graphic and horrific because that is the way abortion is. Foti's posters shine the spotlight on the unborn child, innocent victim of abortion. This tactic is particularly galling to the pro-choice crowd because it moves the argument into an area where they lose. The humanity of an unborn child is plain to see in its aborted remains.

And then there is the group of school parents at St. Matthew's in San Mateo who allegedly fear for their children's mental health if Foti is allowed to park his placarded pickup truck on church property while he attends morning Mass. Actually, Foti normally parks in a spot quite removed from the school and not visible from the schoolyard. In other words, any student exposure to the posters is minimal.

How ironic that the truth about abortion sparks Catholic parental outrage against Foti, the messenger, rather than against the abortion industry itself. Foti is unique in that he has the toughness and commitment to publicly oppose abortion day after day. He should be championed, not vilified.

James Quinn,

A brief bio of Foti is given in San Francisco Faith

Ross Foti is hardly a household name in California pro-life circles, but he is well known in the offices of abortion attorneys throughout the state. Foti, 66, a retired Belmont businessman, is a sidewalk counselor who spends much of his free time trying to talk pregnant women out of doing away with their babies at Bay Area abortion mills. Through his efforts he has come to know the names of some of the children he has saved, but he has also been harassed, assaulted, and sued by the 'pro-choice' camp. Foti patrols the sidewalks in front of abortion mills at least three times a week from Daly City to Menlo Park.

One of the reports issued about Foti by the pro-aborts

Foti has been protesting outside PPGG's San Mateo clinic since 1998. He sued PPGG for violating his right to free speech after the organization asked him to move because of an injunction that requires protestors to remain 15 feet from the clinic. PPGG countersued, and the parties have been arguing the case for years, according to Mike Millen, Foti's attorney and a volunteer with the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which covers Foti's legal costs.

Foti protested outside the clinic every Saturday and was sometimes joined by members of antiabortion groups. The protestors at the San Mateo, Calif., clinic were the "most aggressive" and "most consistent" of all the clinics in the PPGG chapter, according to Erin Kiernon, the clinic's communication manager. Staff members consistently "warned" patients of the protestors when they made appointments, according to Kiernon. Foti, however, said that PPGG escorts harassed him until he began carrying a video camera.

A letter to the editor which Foti himself wrote

I was able to find a letter to the editor which Foti himself wrote after the recent Supreme Court ruling on partial-birth abortion

Abortion ruling

Dear Editor: Why is it that when the anti-life organizations and the anti-life politicians lose a court ruling on abortion, they go berserk and become paranoid?

As you have probably witnessed on TV immediately after the recent Supreme Court ruling, Planned Parenthood, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Justice Ruth Ginsburg came out with their typical rhetoric and same excuses against the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Their first excuse is that the banned method partial birth abortion is often safer than the conventional abortion. Wrong. Abortion procedures are all dangerous. Abortion procedures can result in death, uterine, bowel and bladder perforations, pelvic clots and heart attacks.

Their second excuse is that the ban would be a major setback against women's right to choose. Wrong again. First, no women should have been given the choice or so-called legal right to kill their innocent pre-born baby. The anti-life proponents lack any sense of compassion for the victims of the cold blooded crime of abortion. They are only in a frantic race to declassify the humanity of the fetus, the pre-born baby, so that abortion on demand will not in any way be endangered. Abortion should never have become legal.

Roe v. Wade should be immediately overturned, and the American people should demand that our country return to its Christian roots upon which it was founded. Lastly, remember, God is the one who created the world and not the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ross Foti,

Foti’s opposition from the priest at St. Matthew’s Catholic School

Mr. Foti apparently hoped that the priest could be persuaded to take a more active role in condemning the violence of legalized child-killing, but it didn’t happen.

Foti proposed covering the pictures if the church's clergy agreed to talk about abortion at Mass one Sunday a month. He also urged his fellow parishioners to take action to help reduce the practice such as praying and counseling people who are considering abortion.

"It's prayers that stop the abortions," he said.

The church's pastor, Rev. Anthony McGuire, and parents called Foti's proposal blackmail and refused to agree to such a deal.

Yet according to this story, the priest, Rev. Anthony McGuire, doesn’t think it’s appropriate to even invite parishioners to join Foti’s protests.

Foti has said he would cover his posters if the church's clergy agreed to talk about abortion at least once a month during Sunday Mass. He said he would also like his fellow parishioners to protest with him, but that would not be a condition of covering up the posters.

"It's something that should be done," Foti said of his request that abortion be discussed at Mass. "It's not blackmail."

Rev. Anthony McGuire said abortion is something the church talks about and he does not believe it is appropriate to invite the parishioners to protest with Foti.

According to this story, the priest and school principal were prepared to go as far as making a deal between the city of San Mateo and St. Matthew Catholic Church to buy a parking lot owned by the city in order to prevent children from being exposed to the graphic message. That sounds like an extreme compromise to me.

In this news report, Foti said he does not object to the parents blocking his signs, and he believes the church should work out a compromise with him rather than buy the parking lot.

Perhaps the priest could have simply agreed to the once a month homily proposed by Foti. After all, it is a subject touching directly on the most fundamental social teaching of the Church. With a little creativity I suspect the priest could have used the arrangement to actually do something outstanding in regard to the catechesis of his people as well as bring Foti on side.

Go figure.

Latest up to date news: Ross Foti has agreed to cover the graphic pictures

As of yesterday, Ross Foti has agreed to cover the graphic pictures of aborted fetuses adorning his truck while it is parked at St. Matthews Catholic Church during school hours.

“I am happy to say that an agreement has been reached between Father McGuire and Mr. Foti. Effective as of [Friday] morning, he has agreed to cover the objectionable material on his truck and to not attend the children’s masses at school on Fridays or any other scheduled children's mass. If Mr. Foti does not uphold the agreement, Father will have him escorted off the premises,” Boegel said.

In a letter Thursday to McGuire, Foti said, “the controversy generated by a few parents has shifted the focus away from the evil of abortion to the location of my signs.”

Former postings by Vote Life, Canada! on the use of graphic images

Former postings on the use of graphic images and particularly as it relates to exposure to children.

Ross Foti did not dodge the question of children viewing the graphic images. In April past, the San Mateo Daily News reported that

Foti argues that the images do not impact children, and in his 16 years of protesting abortion, he has never received any complaints until now. Kids ages 1 to 5 do not pay attention to the posters and parents should talk to older children about abortion, he said.

These seem to me to be relevant points, along with others that appeared in the press.

Foti contends his pictures do not traumatize children and he believes they are an effective way to protest abortion.

"In almost 18 years of doing pro-life work and using those signs, I have never had a parent or attorney come to me with proof that those signs are hurting kids,"

Vote Life, Canada! asks some very basic questions

I have some very basic questions after reading all these reports:

Why is it that a man identifying himself as a Christian and who acts like he truly believes that little children are being ripped apart and killed in the womb is labeled as unreasonable, offensive, a radical and an extremist even by fellow Christians and even by Christian leaders—even by the priest who serves him Holy Communion? Exactly whose side is he on and on whose side are those that persecute him?

If this man is inspired by God to do what he is doing, then quite simply, God hates abortion with every fiber of His being, as does Ross Foti, who claims to be representing Him.

Or could it be that, like the Pharisees who accused Jesus of being possessed of the devil, this man’s adversaries are leveling the same charge?

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Although the direct context is wealth, Jesus made it clear that it was a choice between the things that are important in this world versus the next world.

So in this intriguing and ongoing saga, who is inspiring who?

Let the reader decide.

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