IFAS | Freedom Writer | September/October 1990 | corpus.html

Body of Christ, Texas

Corpus Christi ("Body of Christ" in Spanish), Texas is embroiled in a church/state controversy. Sheriff James T. Hickey, proclaiming that "my first duty is to God," said he would not arrest anti-abortion protesters. In fact, he led protesters on a march t o an abortion clinic in the city. The sheriff also hung pictures of aborted fetuses in county offices.

The City Council has been forced by petition to add an amendment to the city charter which states that life begins at conception.

Then, the Catholic bishop of Corpus Christi, Rene H. Gracida, issued a statement to law enforcement officials urging them not to enforce laws against abortion protesters. In addition, the bishop excommunicated two female employees of the abortion clinic. The women, both Catholic, believe their pro-choice position is not inconsistent with their religion.

One, Mrs. Elva Bustamante, who has three children, one grandchild, and five foster children, said, "I know that if these abortions were not performed that eventually there would be a child. I wish with all my heart that every child that was conceived was a wanted child and wouldn't become battered or abused or ignored. But I don't think I have the right to tell anyone they have to become a parent."

Pro-choice advocates accuse the sheriff and bishop of violating the constitutional principal of church/state separation. They also noted that the timing of their actions coincide with the city's "human life amendment" that says life begins at conception .

Rex Moses, a leading no-choice activist in Corpus Christi, disagrees. "This isn't politics," he said. "This is divine intervention"

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.