Catholic Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking" and a longtime social activist, has been uninvited as the keynote speaker at the Diocese of Duluth education dinner in October.
In a letter to some diocese residents sent Monday, Duluth Bishop Dennis Schnurr said the decision to cancel the event and Prejean's address was based on her name appearing on an Aug. 3 New York Times advertisement calling for President Bush to be removed from office.
Schnurr said the ad was brought to his attention by lay people in the diocese.
"Upon reviewing the advertisement, I find that I share their concerns," Schnurr said in the letter. "Therefore we have made the difficult decision to cancel her appearance."
The event, which had been set for Oct. 1 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, was a joint fundraiser for Duluth and Iron Range Catholic schools.
The same dinner last year raised more than $30,000, with a Green Bay auxiliary bishop as the keynote speaker. The event was scheduled for the DECC this year because such a large crowd was expected, said Kyle Eller, communications director for the diocese.
"It's very disappointing. This is a very big event and we couldn't get another speaker in time," Eller said.
The problem wasn't the political nature of the issues raised in the ad, Eller said, noting that the church and Prejean often take stands on political issues. But the ad's partisan attack of Bush crossed the line, Eller said.
"When it gets into attacking (a political figure), that becomes partisan," Eller said, noting the church has both moral and legal obligations to remain nonpartisan.
During the last national election, several churches were criticized, and some investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, because they were alleged to have endorsed specific candidates or political parties, a violation of their nonprofit status.
The ad in question, titled "The World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!" carried the endorsement of 90 individuals, including Prejean, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in New Orleans.
The World Can't Wait organizers are sponsoring a mass day of protest against the Bush administration on Oct. 5.
Prejean, 67, is on a three-month sabbatical for renewal and writing, her office said Tuesday, and is unavailable until Sept. 1. But in a letter on her Web site, Prejean said the ad properly criticizes Bush's "reckless pursuit of war in Iraq, which has helped to destabilize the entire middle East; his approval of torture; his zealous promotion of imprisonment and executions; his fiscal policies which make the wealthy people more wealthy and poor people poorer."
The ad also criticized Bush's stand against abortion and contraception, and Prejean has since asked to be removed from the ad because she did not agree with its stand on abortion.
On her Web site, she said, "There is... one issue addressed in the ad that I cannot endorse, which if I had seen the final version of the ad would have led me to withhold my signature. My stance on abortion is a matter of public record. I stand morally opposed to killing: war, executions, killing of the old and demented, the killing of children, unborn and born."
But Prejean offered no apologies for her direct criticism of the Bush administration, saying her faith demands action against Bush.
"I signed the ad because as a follower of the way of Jesus and a U.S. citizen, I cannot stand by passively and silently as I witness my government wage such grievous oppression and violence," Prejean wrote on her Web site. "For me, personally, it would be sinful not to raise my voice publicly in opposition to the life-destructive policies and practices of the Bush administration."
Prejean was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1993 book, "Dead Man Walking," which chronicled her prison ministry work on death row in Louisiana. The book was made into a 1996 film. Her 2004 book, "The Death of Innocents," chronicles the executions of two men she says were wrongly convicted.
© 2006 Duluth News Tribune and wire service sources