Tennessee Knights of Columbus endorse Yes on 1 campaign

Knoxville Knight Mike Wills is convention featured speaker, Jerry Dougherty is Knight of the Year           

By Andy Telli, The Tennessee Register

Mike Wills

Mike Wills

Tennesseans are facing a crucial vote on the abortion issue in November, when an amendment to the state Constitution allowing the state legislature to pass “common sense” regulations will be on the ballot, delegates to the Tennessee Knights of Columbus were told during their annual state convention held May 2-4 in Franklin.

“This will be the No. 1 vote you will ever cast on the sanctity of life in the State of Tennessee,” said Myra Simons, director of special projects for Tennessee Right to Life and board president of Yes on 1, an organization working to pass the amendment.

The effort to amend the constitution was prompted by a 2000 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court overturning three laws passed in the 1970s. The laws required informed consent, a 48-hour waiting period, and that second and third trimester abortions be performed in a hospital.

The state court ruled that the Tennessee Constitution provided broader protections for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

The amendment, which will be the first one listed on November’s ballot, reads: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

Pro-life supporters are asking voters to vote yes on this key amendment.

“There are so many people who don’t yet know about this amendment,” Simons said. “We need to educate people about the importance of this issue.”

She asked the Tennessee Knights to help Yes on 1 in its education efforts.

“One of the important things the Knights do is to educate others on the importance of the sanctity of life,” Simons said. “Help us to hand victory to the unborn.”

John Park, a parishioner at St. Edward Church in Nashville, and the state deputy of the Tennessee Knights of Columbus, which is the highest elected office in the state council, said he signed a letter of endorsement for the campaign.

Mike Wills of Knoxville, the immediate past state deputy and a current Supreme Director for the international order, was the featured speaker at the convention.

Since being elected to the Supreme Board of Directors last August, Wills said, he has gained a clearer appreciation of how the Knights’ insurance program complements its charitable giving and fraternal programs.

Surplus revenue from the insurance program is used to support charitable activities around the world, Wills said, including $1.4 million the Knights are providing Special Olympics this year to house all U.S. and Canadian athletes; support for the St. John Paul II Institute and Shrine in Washington, D.C.; and a $35,000 grant for the Eucharistic Congress hosted last fall by the Diocese of Knoxville to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its founding.

Growing membership helps keep the insurance program strong, which in turn allows the Knights to continue supporting various charities, Wills said.

A recent poll of what Catholics know about the Knights showed that most people associate the Knights with putting on dances and other social activities in parishes, Wills said.

“We need to make people aware of what we do for charity,” he said. “We do the work, let’s do a better job of getting the word out there.”

Several councils and individual Knights received awards recognizing their successful activities, including:

■ Knight of the Year Award to Jerry Dougherty of Council 12633 in Loudon;

■ Church Activity of the Year to Council 11542 in Sewanee for renovations to Our Lady of Lourdes Church;

■ Community Activity of the Year to Council 7447 in Columbia for its Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner;

■ Council Activity of the Year to Council 11049 in Soddy-Daisy for its Valentine’s Spouse Appreciation Dinner;

■ Culture of Life Activity of the Year to Council 6099 in Chattanooga for its pork loin sales fundraiser to support culture of life activities;

■ Family Activity of the Year to Council 7449 in Germantown for its Family Prayer Week project;

■ Vocations Activity of the Year to Council 8349 at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Nashville for its vocation awareness project;

■ Youth Activity of the Year to Council 4947 in Loretto for its fundraiser to support Sacred Heart School;

■ Family of the Year to Ed and Cecilia Stahl of Council 15393 in Memphis;

■ Lifetime Achievement Award to Mike Porter of Council 9282 at St. Stephen Church in Hermitage. Porter is a past state deputy of the Tennessee Knights.

The state council also presented Frank Jackson of Tullahoma with a special award in recognition of his service as a past state deputy, the supreme warden, and a supreme director.