(RNS) The California agency that distributes public funds for stem cell research has apologized for honoring a poem that appropriated language from the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine held a poetry contest to promote Stem Cell Awareness Day and draw attention to the complex and controversial field of medical research. When the two winners were announced on Oct. 6, some Christian groups protested that one, “Stem C,” by Tyson Anderson, was “blasphemous.”

The poem begins, “This is my body/which is given for you,” and concludes, “Take this/in remembrance of me,” language attributed to Jesus during the Last Supper and memorialized at Christian worship services during Communion.

“The language introduces a religious element that we now realize was offensive to some people,” CIRM said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry for any offense caused by the poem. Neither the author nor CIRM intended for the language to insult or offend any religious group.”

CIRM, which helps distribute $3 billion in state funds for stem cell research, said it has removed the poem from its website.

The California Life League, which has battled CIRM over embryonic stem cell research, said in a statement, “The choice of this poem for a prize represents the deliberate pilfering of the holiest of voluntary, sacrificial acts in the history of humanity … to promote the wholesale destruction of human life.”

While many scientists say embryonic stem cell research holds great medical promise, some Christians call it a wanton destruction of human life because embryos must be destroyed in order to harvest the stem cells.

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