Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a group of Catholic nuns in southeastern Michigan, donated money to EMILY’s List, a Washington, D.C.-based political-action committee dedicated to electing pro-choice female Democrats to office, the Detroit Free Press revealed this week. They donated $200 to the group in August 2003, despite the church’s teachings against abortion and contraception.

The contribution was made to promote the election of more women into office, not to make a political statement about abortion, Sister Mary Katherine Hamilton, vice president of the order, told the Detroit Free Press. Many of EMILY’s List’s endorsed candidates shared the sisters’ positions on issues such as human rights, the environment, the economy, children and education.

The 600-member order is known for its social activism, donating about $25,000 each year to causes such as overseas missionaries, The League of Conservation Voters and Common Cause. The nuns have also run an AIDS hospice in South Africa and bought Detroit Edison stock to attend stockholders meetings to protest against the Fermi nuclear plant.

This contribution to EMILY’s List has stirred controversy, with some anti-choice groups and religious leaders up in arms. Archdiocese of Detroit spokesperson Ned McGrath told the Detroit Free Press that archdiocesan officials are puzzled about the donation.

“Supporting legitimate causes for the advancement of women is one thing,” he said. “Support for EMILY’s List, with its defining litmus test for abortion rights, is quite something else.”


The chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court demanded that presidential candidate Latif Pedram be expelled from the race for questioning marital laws that favor men, The Washington Post reported.

Pedram suggested at a recent women’s forum that the issues of divorce and polygamy be debated, the Post said. He said that it is impossible for a husband to treat all four wives equally and questioned how fair it was that men can divorce their wives at any time, while women must get their husband’s permission and risk losing their children if they leave.

His comments have outraged some conservative Islamic scholars who say Pedram has spoken against Islamic law. The chief justice of the Supreme Court sent a letter to the government election commission and to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan demanding that Pedram be kicked out of the presidential race. Pedram is one of 17 candidates registered to challenge Hamid Karzai, the interim president, in Afghanistan’s first national election set for October 9.

“What I said was not against religion or Islamic law,” Pedram told the Post. “I was just expressing an opinion about women’s rights. This is only happening because the fundamentalists want to sabotage my campaign.”

The letter has no legal validity and so far neither the election commission nor the prosecutor’s office has taken any formal action against Pedram, the Post reported. But news accounts added that no prominent Afghan women have defended Pedram, including Masooda Jalal, the only woman running for president in this race. She wouldn’t discuss marital rights in Islam or Afghan culture, saying she preferred to focus on “practical rights” for Afghan women, such as access to education and health care.

— Juhie Bhatia.