An adjunct professor at the St. Thomas University (STU) School of Law who once was quoted saying he sees no difference between a chimpanzee and his toddler son, has now filed a lawsuit seeking personhood for chimpanzees earlier this month.
Steven Wise, the president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, requested that a New York state court declare a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”
The lawsuit demands the chimp’s immediate release to a primate sanctuary.
In a pressrelease, Wise compared chimpanzees to human slaves. “Not long ago, people generally agreed that human slaves could not be legal persons, but were simply the property of their owners,” Wise continued. “Abraham Lincoln put it best when he said that ‘in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.’”
At a 2002 book signing event, Wise went so far as to compare his own son to a primate. "I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee and my 4 1/2- year-old son,” he was quoted as saying.
Technically, the Nonhuman Rights Project takes no official position on abortion. But Wise appears to walk a very fine line when discussing the topic in writing. In one article, Wise said, “There are many reasons to support the argument that a woman should have the legal right to an abortion.” He took issue only with the decision being deemed a “policy” issue rather than one of rights.
He added, “It is hard to dispute that religion has rationalized many forms of subordination, including human rights in general, human slavery, women’s rights, abortion, and the environment.”
According to the Law and Politics Book Review, “Wise argues that Christianity is centrally responsible for the cruelties perpetrated by Europeans against Native Americans, African slaves, and animals. The argument would require far deeper analysis to be persuasive to the critically minded, but those predisposed to view religion as a negative force in human (and animal) history will find some plausibility to the claims made here. Although Wise [*396] clearly expresses some disdain for Christianity and the world-view it is capable of engendering, the book concludes with an optimistic assessment of the ways in which a particular branch of American evangelicalism may contribute to the expansion of animal rights in the future.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the proper order of life when it states,“The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.”
Just this past week, Wise appeared at a conference called Personhood Beyond the Human with Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer who has advocated infanticide.The website specifically mentions Wise’s affiliation with St. Thomas.
Far from not knowing Wise’s radical animal rights resume, STU’s law school promotes Wise’s history on their website profile, saying:
Steven M. Wise has practiced animal protection law for 30 years. A former President of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, he founded the Nonhuman Rights Project, which intends to file litigation demanding that a state high court recognize that a non human animal has the capacity for legal rights. He has written four books, RATTLING THE CAGE, DRAWING THE LINE, THOUGH THE HEAVENS MAY FALL, and AN AMERICAN TRILOGY, and has taught "Animal Rights Law" or "Animal Rights Jurisprudence" since 1990 at Harvard, Vermont, Lewis and Clark, University of Miami, and/or St. Thomas Law Schools. He lectures around the world on Animal Rights Jurisprudence.
“[St. Thomas University School of Law] embraces the duties and obligations of the Judeo-Christian ethic and endeavors to instill the values and ethics of that tradition and of the Catholic Church in its students,” states the university law school’s website. “As a Catholic law school, St. Thomas University School of Law has a fundamental duty to impart these values and ethics through the teaching of law.”
St. Thomas University did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.