2008-06-03 Pictures at church troubling

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This article has been removed from the original location; this content was rescued from a Google cache dated 2009-08-27.

Whether or not the pictures on the side of the truck parked at Mount Zion Christian Church will stop someone from having an abortion is questionable.

There is no question, though, that the color pictures of mangled fetuses will stop you from ordering cherry cobbler for dessert.

They stopped me recently, and I love cherry cobbler.

Mount Zion, on Fayetteville Street in Durham, is about one mile south of N.C. Central University. More disturbingly, it sits right between an elementary school and a high school. That means hundreds of impressionable young children see the images every day, and some no doubt have nightmares about them.

That, of course, is probably the idea. Despite telephone calls to the church, Mount Zion Christian Academy and his home, I couldn't reach the Rev. Donald Fozard Sr., pastor of the church. In a television interview this year, he explained and defended the stomach-turning display.

Fozard called abortion "the most evil atrocity in the nation" and said the display is intended to combat "white folks sending money to Planned Parenthood to pay for black abortions."

Say what?

Parents whose children are upset by the display, Fozard explained in the interview, should tell their children "this is a result of people who got involved in premarital sex, got pregnant and did not want to take care of that child."

Paige Johnson, vice president of Planned Parenthood for Central North Carolina, said she hasn't seen the pictures at Mount Zion, but she said she didn't really need to. "I've seen many like that over the years, and I do know that people have been known to distort photos to make them more inflammatory."

Inflammatory they are. Indeed, calling one of the images a "fetus" could be considered an understatement. Why? I won't say the image is of a full-term baby, but I will say that if they'd waited a little longer, the kid might've been able to drive himself to the doctor.

Johnson said, "It's very unfortunate the minister wants to put that up. This isn't about dialogue. They're meant to be incendiary. They have no positive impact."

She also doubts they'll have an impact on women considering an abortion.

"Pregnancy is complex and difficult under the best of circumstances," she said, "and women have very personal reasons" for choosing to have an abortion. "That's why we spend so much time educating young women about preventing pregnancy. I don't think they'll be swayed by a billboard."

Both Johnson and Mayor Bill Bell said they have heard from unhappy Bull City residents who, I'm guessing, had their meals ruined by the images.

"There's nothing we can do" about them, Mayor Bell told me, because it violates no city zoning rules.

I am a fan of Fozard's work with young men at the academy, and not just of their renowned basketball prowess. I've seen the young men, some of whom come from across the country to hone their hoop skills and attract the attention of college recruiters, practice and play in area gyms over the years, and they've always comported themselves respectfully.

Of course, you'd behave too if you had to walk past those gruesome pictures each day en route to class.