Monday, December 8, 2008

Pennies add up to abortion message: Church fills glass house with symbolic protest

JACKSON -- There's a half million dollars sitting on the corner of Mississippi and President streets in Jackson, but no one could possibly steal it.
That's because the cash is in the form of pennies -- 50 million of them -- that collectively weigh 156 tons.

The coins, which fill a glass house outside of the Mississippi Baptist Convention building, provide a visual reminder of the number of abortions performed in the United States since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.

"We just needed something to memorialize and help people see the magnitude of abortion over the last several decades," said Rev. Jimmy Porter, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention's Christian Action Commission.

Called the "Memorial to the Missing," the penny-filled structure is a project of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, which set out more than two years ago to collect one penny for each child who would have been born were it not for legal abortion.

Now that the convention reached its goal of collecting 50 million pennies, it plans to invest the money in a fund dedicated to anti-abortion causes.

"I think it's been real effective," said Rev. Clarence Cooper, who was president of the convention when the memorial was erected on Mother's Day weekend in 2006, "especially to those who have taken the time to read the large plaque that is there."

The plaque says the coins not only represent aborted babies but "the difficult process of decision-making, fear and loneliness" involved with abortion. It asks passersby to "stop, pray, consider what we are doing as a nation, ask God to forgive us, seek ways to help those who are struggling with the decision and look to the Lord to restore each of us."

Convention spokesman William Perkins said people often stop at the container to pray and insert their own coins into the structure's penny slot.

"There are a number of stories we've heard about grandparents who walk by and saw it and read the plaque and dug in their pockets and put pennies in the memorial for grandchildren who have been aborted," he said. "It's been an interesting couple of years."

Meanwhile, continued contributions can be made to the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission.

Removing the pennies from the container will be no easy feat.

"It will be interesting to see how that's done," Perkins said. "There's no clear-cut way to do that."

The coins are piled 6 feet deep in the 13-by-7 glass house. The structure weighs more than 300,000 pounds, or the equivalent of 100 sedans stacked on top of each other.

The container is made of steel and bulletproof glass and is reinforced by five concrete pilings buried 14 feet into the ground. The first batch of 20 million pennies were poured into the container when the memorial was dedicated in 2006.

Members of the state's 2,100 Mississippi Baptist Convention-affiliated churches contributed most of the coins that fill the glass house.

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