Thursday, May 24, 2012

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Bishop: Conservatives may ‘co-opt’ HHS lawsuits for ‘anti-Obama crusade’

by Ben Johnson Thu May 24 17:21 EST Comments (27)

 
Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California.
Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California.

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA, May 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A California-based bishop is concerned that the lawsuits to overturn the HHS mandate filed by the leading dioceses and institutions of his Church may be used to underscore political criticism of the Obama administration.

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton told America magazine that, while the bishops he knows in California “are strong supporters” of these religious liberty lawsuits, “I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into political issue.”

Forces “very far to the Right” may be tempted to make the legal challenge a part of “an anti-Obama campaign,” he said.

The bishop added, “there is a concern among some bishops that there ought to have been more of a wider consultation” before 43 leading Catholic archdioceses, dioceses, and religious institutions filed 12 lawsuits against the Obama administration on Monday morning.

Nonetheless, “the California bishops very strongly support whatever action has to be taken to promote religious liberty,” he said.

The bishop’s remarks themselves took on a political importance, as the wider media reported them. Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post asked, “Are America’s Catholic bishops getting co-opted by the political right?” 

Deal Hudson, former chairman of Catholic Advocate and former chairman of Catholic outreach at the Republican National Committee, told LifeSiteNews.com, “Bishop Blaire’s real concern when he talks about being co-opted by the Right is that he’s afraid it’s going to play into the hands of the Republican Party and hurt the re-election chances of President Obama.” He said the bishop used “code language” that the bishops’ actions would have “political influence of the wrong kind.”

“Everyone knows Catholic bishops don’t go around looking for fights, especially for legal fights,” Hudson said. “This is simply a matter of Constitutional necessity and Catholic necessity.”

Deacon Keith Fournier, a constitutional lawyer who has long been active on the political scene, said he was not familiar with Bishop Blaire’s concerns and wished him “only the best,” but he felt his Church’s hierarchy effectively stated their reasons for filing suit. “I think our bishops have been overwhelmingly clear that what is at stake here is the free exercise of religion,” Deacon Fournier told LifeSiteNews.com.

He said the lawsuits “were strategically filed, which shows that this effort is serious and well thought-out” – but they were only one part of the effort.

At the same time, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops launched “an excellent public relations strategy” and “the call for a fortnight of prayer and penance, which is “an example of the right kind of Catholic action that is needed in our day.”

Bishop Blaire is a member of the USCCB’s Administrative Committee that approved the upcoming “Fortnight of Freedom” campaign aimed at overturning the HHS mandate, beginning on June 21 and culminating on Independence Day.

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

He apparently wanted to take a more conciliatory stance with the administration. America reported, “Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored.”

“How can you put any confidence in future negotiations when past negotiations have all [produced] promises not kept and in some cases promises egregiously broken?” Hudson asked. He said the worst cases were the president’s commencement address at Notre Dame, when he promised to secure the conscience rights of health care workers and to make an effort to find common ground with the bishops. Those assurances, and many others Hudson said, were broken.

That leaves only a legal remedy.

“The Church is rising to defend for all men and women the free exercise of religion,” Deacon Fournier said. “She must do so, because what is really at risk here is Her right and duty to live and proclaim the Gospel in the heart of the culture.”

As a constitutional lawyer, Deacon Fournier believed the HHS regulation, requiring religious institutions to pay for or distribute abortion-inducing drugs, violated the First Amendment and the Founders’ views of the church’s role in society.

“If this HHS regulation is not reversed, so much of the good work of the Church – our hospitals, our soup kitchens, our outreaches to the needy, to the poor, to the broken, to the wounded – will be forced to be shut down,” he said. “That certainly doesn’t serve the public good.”

He believed ultimately the Founders’ intentions would prevail in court, and the Church’s ministries will be protected.

“The God of love and mercy we serve is very good at pulling good out of what is intended for evil,” the deacon said.

 

 

Tags: deacon keith fournier, deal hudson, hhs mandate, stephen blaire

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Western Civilisation End Game: what the World Meeting for Families is up against

by Hilary White, Rome Correspondent Thu May 24 17:16 EST Comments (27)

 
Hilary White

ROME, May 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 7th World Meeting of Families is set to begin next week in Milan, and the Vatican, from the pope down to his officials in the curia, is trying to warn the world that with the ongoing destruction of the traditional family, Western civilisation could be facing its end game.

Since his election in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has given prominence to the rifts, the deep fractures in modern western societies where the family used to take precedence in law and social custom. He has told the world again and again that the family is the foundation of our society, without which our entire civilisation would, or will, collapse. And while he was saying it, the family, as the primary institution of human societies, continues to be attacked by governments that have adopted what the pope sees as an essentially anti-human ideology.

A look at the global situation, the jurisdiction of the Vatican, shows a dismal vista for the family based on marriage. Marriage is under massive pressure from two directions. In the West, the growth of a relativistic philosophy and radical secularism have resulted in the state chipping away at the rights and legal protections of the family on one side and the meaning and nature of marriage in law on the other.

From the East, the pressure comes from a totally different, non-Christian paradigm of marriage that does not hold the same foundational concept, that of a monogamous relationship of love and mutual fidelity between one man and one woman - persons of equal dignity - for life. In many countries of what used to be called the Orient, including the Middle East, South and West Asia and the Far East, a more commercial and materialistic foundation is considered the norm, and in Islamic countries, these differences become radical.

It may be that Pope Benedict is increasing the volume of the Vatican’s responses to the crisis because he is aware, as few others are in a position to be, that the great societal shift in the western world is in its end stages. No one disputes the observation that legal “gay marriage” and civil unions are only the last of a long series of changes that have totally reshaped the modern world.

Since Benedict’s election in 2005, eight governments of formerly Christian countries have legalised “gay marriage” by simply re-writing the legal definition of marriage. This number does not include the many jurisdictions, like the UK, that have compromised and granted more or less identical legal privileges to same-sex partnerings as “civil unions”. Argentina, Portugal and Iceland: 2010. Sweden and Norway: 2009. South Africa: 2006. Canada and Spain: 2005.

These, together with the pioneers Belgium and the Netherlands, 2003 and 2001 respectively, make ten countries around the world. Mexico City and some of the US states also allow the practice and other places - Israel and some of the Netherlands’ overseas holdings as well as all states of Mexico - recognize same-sex “marriages” conducted elsewhere. Ten more countries are considering changing their laws.

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

Legal changes making divorce easier and marriage less secure started the process in the late 19th century. Many in the life and family movement believe that divorce is a lost cause, with every nation in the formerly Christian world except the Philippines and the Vatican City itself allowing some form of divorce. Indeed, it is difficult to answer the rejoinder from the other side of the marriage debates: if there was so little interest among traditionalists in defending marriage against divorce, why is it suddenly so important to oppose “gay marriage” now.

The ultimate result is that in places where divorce rates are finally dropping, experts believe it is only because of the increasing number of people not bothering to get married at all. Nearly all countries outside the Middle East have no laws prohibiting cohabitation, instead granting these “de facto unions” many of the same rights and privileges as marriage.

Divorce may have been the key that opened the Pandora’s Box, with all other legal changes to the protections of the family following in succession culminating in the nearly global legalization first of artificial contraception, then of abortion; the widespread social acceptance of sexual activity outside marriage; and the incredible proliferation of the pornography industry and what is now politely referred to in the mainstream press as the “sex trade,” that together are fuelling the international trafficking of human beings, including children.

Out of about 196 countries in the world, give or take Taiwan, there is only a tiny handful where abortion is still completely outlawed, and of the 17 countries of the western world that retain realistic abortion restrictions, only three are in Europe, including the Vatican city state.

Behind the primacy of the family lies a uniquely Christian idea. The reason the family is so important a defining feature of our societies is that it is founded in the concept of the equal moral dignity of all persons. The reason family traditionalists are nearly always also pro-life, the reason that the two go hand in glove, is that the two proposals, the primacy of the family and the right of the unborn and vulnerable to life, are founded on the same principle: that all human beings, regardless of their age, abilities, social status, anticipated income, nationality or state of “wantedness,” are persons entitled to precisely the same protections under the law. 

Pansexualists, those who believe that there ought to be no definitions or limitations on human “sexual expression,” accuse those of us who defend the traditional family, and Pope Benedict particularly, of irrationally clinging to a dead past, an outmoded or retrograde concept of society that has already gone extinct. 

Taking the longer historical view, however, the idea that the pro-life and pro-family point of view is “retrograde” is heavily ironic. We in the Western World have been Christianised for so long that we have unconsciously subsumed these civilisation-building principles without being able any longer to articulate and define them. We have had our civilisation for so long that we have forgotten the barbarism it defeated and tamed. The result of this societal amnesia is that we are increasingly condemning as “retrograde,” or “oppressive” the very concepts that built, nurtured and protected our society.

So immersed are we in these foundational ideas, we have little insight to imagine a society not run on Christian moral principles. Beginning history students, even those who regard themselves as “emancipated” and secularised, are often shocked by the ideas that were considered normal in the ancient world.

In the world before Christianity, the idea that all human beings are equal under a divinely authored Natural Law was a wild innovation, an unprecedented and revolutionary novelty in an ancient world that had, since the dawn of history, universally accepted slavery, women and children as chattel and routine infanticide at the whim of parents.

On the other hand, nearly all the ideas so frequently championed by our philosophical opponents were part of the normal fabric of life in the ancient world; violent, brutal and arbitrary as it was. The notion that one spouse could dispose of the other at whim by a “no fault” system of divorce; that one parent, without being obliged even to consult the other, could decide which child would live and which would be “exposed”; that merely being human was not sufficient grounds to bestow the legal protection of the state: all were among the uglier aspects of Roman law. The notion that a man’s wife and children, slaves and dependent “clients” were possessed of exactly the same dignity and legal status as he was, would have shocked a Roman patrician of the 2nd century. As it would an Indian Brahmin of the 10th or a Confucian scholar-official of the 12th.

Only Christianity, and Christian philosophy and jurisprudence, has ever proposed to treat financially or physically or socially unequal human beings equally in law. The very concept of “person” in law did not exist until it was developed by Christian philosophers who also developed the notion of “human rights” based on nothing more than membership in the species, made in the image of the author of all creation.

And now Pope Benedict is sounding the alarm that those Christian concepts of law and philosophy are being rejected by governments, on so fundamental a set of priorities as the nature of the family. What is to stop our societies from sliding all the way back to our retrograde, and violent, pagan past?

Benedict’s papacy, including the mega-projects like the World Meeting of Families, can be described as a salvage operation, a mammoth project to revivify the Catholic institutions that have languished and declined since the cultural revolutions of his youth, and to redirect them toward their original task of evangelising the Christian message to the world.

Tags: benedict xvi

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Pro-life activists prohibited from collecting signatures outside Fátima shrine

by Peter Baklinski Thu May 24 16:19 EST Comments (18)

 
The Marian Shrine at Fatima

FÁTIMA, Portugal, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Portugal Pro-lifers say they were bewildered on May 12 as they were expelled from the exterior area of the famous Marian shrine in Fátima by shrine personnel and were prohibited from collecting signatures to promote a national pro-life referendum.

“We were not collecting signatures in the church buildings or in the open areas around,” said Luís Botelho of Portugal pro Vida to LifeSiteNews. “Under Portuguese law, everybody can collect signatures for petitions in any place, public or private property, as long as it is ‘public circulation area.’” 

“We were positioned just outside the main access gates to the shrine. Two of our teams were expelled from the area outside the shrine.”

Botelho, the leader of Portugal pro Vida, the country’s only pro-life party, described the situation as “a scandal” and “absurd.” He has resigned from his elected positions on May 13 in outrage over the incident.

“This small episode at the Marian shrine shows the mood of the times in Portugal, with a significant part of the Catholic hierarchy largely failing to support Christian groups carrying out pro-life activities,” said Portugal pro Vida in a statement emailed to LifeSiteNews.

LifeSiteNews contacted the shine Rector, Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, and local Bishop António Marto for comment but received no response.

CLICK ‘LIKE’ IF YOU ARE PRO-LIFE!

Pro-Referendo Vida has been campaigning to collect the necessarily 75,000 signatures if Portugal is to convene a referendum on the humanity of the unborn child. So far they have collected nearly half of what they need.

The referendum would ask the country’s citizens, 85% who identify themselves as Catholic, if they “agree that Portuguese law guarantees the inviolability of human life, from the moment of conception until natural death.”

Abortion on-demand in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy was legalized in the largely Catholic country in April 2007 following a referendum where 59.2% of the voter turnout approved the “decriminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.” According to the Portuguese Constitution, however, the results were not legally binding since only 43.6% of the registered voters turned out to vote. At that time, Prime Minister José Sócrates of the governing Socialist Party nevertheless decided to expand abortion in his country.

Pro-life activists from Pro-Referendo Vida who were collecting signatures that day at Fátima told LifeSiteNews how they experienced what they called a “dramatic showing of pro-abortion support or indifference to the pro-life cause” among the pilgrims visiting the world famous shrine where Mary the Mother of God was reported to have appeared to three peasant children in 1917.

During one of the apparitions, one of the seers heard Mary say that “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved.”

The pro-life activists said they heard statements from visitors at the shrine such as “Abortion is each one’s business,” “I’m pro-choice and proud,” and “Do you hear our Bishops condemning abortion? Why should we?”.

When Pro-Referendo Vida emailed Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, the rector of the Marian shrine, to let him know of their intention to gather signatures, he reportedly replied that signature gatherers are “prohibited” at the shrine not only in the “pray areas, but also all the areas under our property, including entrances, car parking areas…”

“Given the general susceptibility for pollution problems … also taking into account the wealth of applications that would arise in the future [should we grant you permission], … we ask for your best comprehension of our position.”

The pro-life activists told LifeSiteNews they thought they were following Fr. Cabecinhas’s directives by staying outside the shrine. Despite the opposition that countered their efforts, the group of 15 volunteers managed to gather 500 signatures in five hours beneath the blazing Portuguese sun.

One signature gatherer, Isabel Alexandre, told LifeSiteNews that there could have been no “greater joy that we could have given to Our Lady than working to prevent the death of many innocent people who are killed by abortion.”

“There could not have been a better day or a better place to raise awareness of the error committed by Portugal when it allowed abortion to be legalized,” she said.

Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of legislative analysis for Personhood USA, told LifeSiteNews that the Magisterium of the Church is “unequivocal” when it comes to granting personhood to babies in the womb. He referred to a passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states, “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

Garcia Jones emphasized that pro-life activists must be “solid on the principle and be bold in our pursuit of it.”

“When the guards at Fátima expel these pro-life missionaries from the shrine, then it is time to hit the entrance, if they are expelled from the entrance then it is time to go to the narrow streets leading to the entrance.”

Garcia Jones said that Catholic laypersons often find it “very difficult” to take a leadership role, but “what is absolutely clear to me is that we cannot wait for leaders to do the right thing, as long as, according to the teachings of the Church, we know what the right thing is.”

“John Paul II was the inspiration for our whole generation of pro-lifers, but leaders like him are rare and most members of the hierarchy don’t want to rock the boat, so our only choices are to leave in disappointment and frustration, or take up our cross and stand up for the Truth, maybe get persecuted, and then open the door for the grace of God to lead a revival through our suffering.”

“We stay faithful and we stay active, we pray for the Church and eventually Catholic leaders will join in the fight.”

In the meantime, as Botelho lamented, “as long as the Portuguese Catholic Church does not stand united in principle and in street-action in favor of the pro-life position, then Catholics in the country will remain confused and divided on the issue, and all our pro-life efforts will be like a voice lost in the wilderness calling out in vain for help.”


Contact information:

Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto in the diocese of Leiria–Fátima
E-mail: gabineteBispo@leiria-fatima.pt

Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, Rector of the Fátima shrine
E-mail: reitoria@fatima.pt

Tags: abortion, catholic, fatima, portugal

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Christian psychotherapist loses case after gay ‘sting’ operation

by Hilary White, Rome Correspondent Thu May 24 15:31 EST Comments (27)

 

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

LONDON, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was the subject of a “sting” operation by a homosexualist activist, has lost her appeal to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The BACP has informed her that she will lose her senior accredited status, after she was tricked into providing counseling for unwanted homosexuality at the request of a fake client who was secretly an undercover gay activist.

Pilkington was told that she should not have assumed that her client, Patrick Strudwick, wanted to proceed under a Christian therapeutic approach, despite the fact they had both agreed to do so. She was also told that she should not have taken his claim that he was depressed because of his homosexuality at face value.

The BACP also ruled that Strudwick had been a real client, despite his having admitted that he sought Pilkington’s help only as a pretense to entrap her.

The BACP ruling admitted that “in significant ways [Strudwick] deliberately misled her into believing that he was comfortable and accepting of her approach, such as saying Amen at the end of prayers and making statements such as, ‘I’ve become more religious again recently,’ lulling Mrs. Pilkington into a false sense of security.

“In his persistent questioning he manipulated the content of the sessions to a considerable extent in order to meet his own agenda.”

Strudwick told the homosexualist news service Pink News, “We want to root out therapists and psychiatrists who are practising these techniques and ultimately bring an end to them through exposing them, as well as disrupting their meetings. The ultimate aim was to prevent religious groups from offering ‘counselling’ which aims to change sexual orientation.”

In its initial correspondence with Pilkington, the BACP had called her work to help homosexuals who asked to leave the lifestyle “reckless,” “disrespectful,” “dogmatic” and “unprofessional.” Guidelines issued by professional associations force psychotherapists to “affirm” homosexuality, even if the client does not.

Pilkington told LifeSiteNews.com in an email this evening that she believes the whole process is in the hands of God to bring out good.

“I have the sense that this court case was always of the Lord and He has already used it for His purposes in that I have been able to get across via the media the gospel message in one form or another,” she said.

She said that the whole affair had clarified the position of believers and their opponents alike. “It has clearly drawn battle lines.”

Patrick Strudwick approached Pilkington, asking for help to leave the gay lifestyle. However, he secretly recorded their two counseling sessions and published them in The Independent newspaper as part of a campaign to discredit Christians in psychotherapy.

Strudwick launched the complaint against Pilkington with the BACP, claiming that she had failed to respect the “natural immutability” of his homosexuality. Pilkington has said that she clearly informed Strudwick that her therapeutic methods were Christian-based. 

Since his attack on Pilkington, Strudwick has become a campaigner against Christian-based therapies for homosexuality and has organized protests at Christian conferences.

Asked what she intended next, Pilkington said, “I feel I have a calling to continue to speak out about the perils of homosexuality and the consequent dangers to our society.

“People are generally so unwilling to speak out even when they know the truth. As well I feel it’s so important to continue to help those who are caught up in this destructive sin, and in fact several are coming to me as a result of the media coverage and I can still practice.

“In fact I feel more freedom to now practice as I feel the Lord would want me to and without the constraints of the political correct lobby of professional organizations, as I am also a qualified biblical counsellor which has not been affected.”

She thanked her supporters over the last two years of the case, saying that although the ruling was “not a victory as such” she is confident that God “uses all things for good.”

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

To contact the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
General Enquiries: (+) 01455 883300
bacp@bacp.co.uk

BACP House,
15 St John’s Business Park,
Lutterworth,
Leicestershire
LE17 4HB,
United Kingdom

Tags: homosexuality, leslie pilkington, uk

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3 retired, 80 former priests criticize Catholic bishops’ support for Minnesota marriage amendment

by Calvin Freiburger Thu May 24 14:55 EST Comments (57)

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Minnesota Catholic Conference has condemned attempts to “divide” Catholics in the state after three retired Catholic priests and 80 former priests penned letters criticizing the Catholic Church’s support for a state amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In a letter originally sent to the Minnesota Star Tribune - which declined to publish it - and subsequently published by Minnesota Public Radio, retired Revs. John Brandes, Thomas Garvey, and Timothy Power said that the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which will be on the November 2012 ballot, would “deny GLBTQ couples the right to pursue civil protection in their partnerships,” constituting discrimination which “should not be written into such a permanent document as our State Constitution.”

The three priests asked Catholics to remember that, “in our own parishes there are gay-lesbian couples who are strong active and faithful Catholics,” and argue that “there is not just one way for Catholics to vote in November.”

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

Eighty former priests also lent their names to a statement urging voters to “exercise their fundamental right to follow their conscience and to resist discrimination against any of God’s children” by rejecting the amendment.

One of the signatories, Ed Flahavan, said he “cannot see how same-sex marriage is in any way a threat to my happy marriage,” and another, John Estrem, said it “grieve[d]” him to see the church “promoting systematic exclusion in society.”

But state Catholic leaders rejected the criticism. “We certainly anticipate unfortunate attempts by some to divide Catholics from their shepherds, their bishops, and while we think it’s unfortunate, we do recognize it’s only a small portion of the Catholic community,” Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins said. “The vast majority of Catholics stand with their bishops and the teaching of the church regarding marriage and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The Conference also released a statement saying the dissenting priests “have now chosen to separate themselves from the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage” and are failing their “responsibility to communicate Catholic teaching on this most fundamental matter.”

In a separate statement released on May 17, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis accused Brandes, Garvey, and Power’s letter of misrepresenting Catholic teaching on the issue.

“[T]he writers misunderstand what marriage is – a social reality that unites a man and a woman and any children born from their union,” the statement reads. “Marriage is a natural and universal human institution that government and religious communities recognize and affirm. To say that man-woman marriage is simply a religious view would be to falsely assert that the truth of marriage as a social reality does not apply to all persons and societies.”

The archdiocese also argued that the amendment does not threaten gay couples’ rights to “share or distribute property, direct medical care, visit loved ones in the hospital, or attend to personal needs at the point of death,” and affirmed that gay people are “beloved family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors,” against whom the Church will not tolerate discrimination.

In January, LifeSiteNews reported that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis told his clergy that uniformity on the issue was essential to the culture’s future, with priests under a “solid charge” to “defend all that the Church teaches.”

“Today we can say with clarity what the natural reality of marriage is,” Nienstedt said. “That may not be possible in years to come if we fail to be successful now.” 

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis told LifeSiteNews.com that the diocese had nothing to add to their statement provided to Minnesota Public Radio.

Tags: john nienstedt, marriage, minnesota

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No evidence that anti-bullying legislation works: new report

by Thaddeus Baklinski Thu May 24 14:08 EST Comments (5)

OTTAWA, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - With legislation to combat bullying in schools currently being hotly debated in Ontario, and with many other provinces promising to consider such legislation, an investigation into anti-bullying policies and legislation across North America by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) has found that the effectiveness of these policies remains unproven.

The report, titled “The limits of anti-bullying legislation: A cross-Canada assessment of what legislation can—and can’t—do,” chronicles the position of Canadian provinces with regards to anti-bullying measures and legislation, and examines whether bullying policies and legislation actually work across North America.

“Politicians are falling all over themselves to introduce legislation without considering the basics of what they hope to achieve through the law,” said Peter Jon Mitchell, Senior Researcher at the IMFC. “It is reasonable to ask that more research be done specific to measurable outcomes before pushing forward with new legislation,” he stated.

Mitchell observed that most Canadians believe bullying is a serious problem among students.

However, while increased awareness and media coverage have lead some to believe that bullying is no longer considered “just part of growing up” but has become epidemic, Mitchell said that the introduction of provincial anti-bullying legislation in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia is “an escalated response lacking clear evidence of what can be accomplished combined with few tools to evaluate the practical outcomes.”

The report considers the millions of dollars that have been spent and the numerous programs and policies that have already been put in place without evidence that these dollars and policies work.

The Ontario “Shaping safer schools: a bullying prevention action plan” program, introduced in 2005 as the first part of a three phase school safety initiative, is highlighted in the report as an example of an expensive policy that “lacked sufficient reporting measures resulting in the ministry being unable to track the effectiveness of the policy on student behaviour.”

“When all safe school programs are considered,” the IMFC report states, “Ontario spent almost $150 million between 2007 and 2010. A 2010 report from the auditor general noted that the government plan dispersed funds inefficiently and lacked sufficient reporting measures.”

Touching on the Ontario government’s proposed anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, the IMFC report states that, “Much of the public debate has focused on the prioritization of anti-bullying measures aimed at the LGBTQ demographic, which is a serious issue, but accounts for a small portion of bullying incidents.”

All other provinces and territories are assessed in the IMFC investigation, with the finding that while “the majority of jurisdictions have some policy in place, usually under a broader safe school or anti-violence initiative,” Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia “have pursued the next step in the progression in the campaign against bullying by proposing legislation.”

“Other jurisdictions are sure to follow suit, yet we have no proof that legislation results in an identifiable reduction in school bullying,” the report concludes.

Looking at public policy responses to school bullying in the US, Mitchell notes that a report on state legislation up to April 2011 prepared for the United States Department of Education found that 48 pieces of legislation on bullying were passed between 2000 and 2006 with an additional 78 pieces of state legislation passed in the following four years. That report’s authors suggest that revisions and amendments are the norm for legislation in the United States as politicians grapple with how to enact the legal approach to bullying.

“If the American experience is any indication, the proposed provincial bills will only be the beginning in a long line of legislative action,” Mitchell said.

As a result the report recommends that policymakers should consider the following before initiating legislation:

• Review existing policies and funding commitments
• Prioritize evaluation and research
• Minimize the scope of legislation, maximize community autonomy
• Communicate clear, pragmatic expectations of legislation

“Bullying is a relational problem that impacts the social climate of a school community,” Mitchell points out. “The law can provide clear definitions of bullying behaviour, mandate the need for policies, assign responsibility and empower educators with disciplinary tools, but it will be community level involvement that will best address the complex issue of bullying.”

“There is no question that schools must respond to bullying,” says Mitchell. “However, laws cannot be a substitute for the community level involvement needed to address bullying. Effectively addressing bullying begins with families, parents, students and educators, not the legislature,” he concludes.

The IMFC states that a follow-up report will examine effective community-based solutions to the problem of bullying.

To download the full report titled “The limits of anti-bullying legislation: A cross-Canada assessment of what legislation can—and can’t—do,” click here.

Tags: bullying, institute of marriage and family canada, marriage

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House Republican proposes measure to protect Planned Parenthood funding

by Christine Dhanagom Thu May 24 13:48 EST Comments (21)

 
Illinois Republican Congressman Bob Dold wants to protect Pl
Illinois Republican Congressman Bob Dold wants to protect Planned Parenthood funding.

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - House Republican Bob Dold is attempting to legislatively enshrine Planned Parenthood’s federal funding with an amendment introduced this month that would prohibit the government from denying Title X funds to an organization on the basis that it provides abortions.

The Illinois congressman was flanked by representatives from Planned Parenthood and the Republican Majority for Choice at a recent press conference announcing the introduction of HR 5650, the “Protecting Women’s Access to Health Care Act.” (Read the bill’s text here.)

The proposed bill claims that it merely “clarifies and reaffirms existing federal law,” which, it purports, already prohibits “discrimination” against abortion-providing organization in the distribution of Title X funds.

Dold said his bill is “critical,” because it “ensures nondiscrimination within the federal Title X family planning program.” 

“We should not discriminate against hospitals and organizations that provide access to basic, preventative, and in some cases life-saving services for so many underprivileged women through Title X,” he said.

Paul Linton, Special Counsel with the Illinois-based Thomas More Society and a resident of Congressman Dold’s district, pointed out that the law would “seem unnecessary” if its claim to be merely re-affirming existing law is to be believed.

However, Linton told LifeSiteNews.com, the law actually appears to be going one step further than current federal law by preventing any future president from adopting regulations such as those that existed under the first Bush administration to ensure that Title X funds do not “directly or indirectly underwrite abortion services.”

“The regulations made requirements about having separate physical facilities, separate bookkeeping and other requirements, to separate the abortion related functions of a grantee and the grantee’s Title X project,” Linton commented. “[The law] arguably would prevent any subsequent administration from adopting those same regulations that the Supreme Court upheld.”

The Title X Family Planning Program, established in 1970 to provide grants for “family planning” programs, funnels about a quarter of its annual funds to Planned Parenthood, often through programs administered by state and local governments.

While Planned Parenthood says that none of the money goes towards abortion services, pro-life advocates point out that government funding frees up other financial resources, indirectly bolstering the organization’s booming abortion business.

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Despite the bill’s claim that current law prohibits “discriminating” against abortion providers, Kansas and North Carolina have passed laws prohibiting the allocation of Title X funds to Planned Parenthood. Other states have cut off Planned Parenthood funds that were being drawn from other government programs. Many of those laws have been challenged in court.

The legislation would also present an obstacle to any attempt on the federal level to cut off Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding, such as Rep. Mike Pence’s amendment, which passed the House last February but was killed in the Senate. Dold was one of only seven House Republicans to vote against it.

While Dold’s bill has outraged pro-life Republicans, it has done nothing to endear him to abortion supporters, some of whom dismiss his bill as political posturing.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, told The Hill newspaper that the proposal was an opportunistic attempt on Dold’s part to “parade as a moderate.”

“I think it’s really important to understand that Bob Dold understands that if he is reelected, there is absolutely no chance — none, zero — that this legislation would go anywhere,” she said.

Dold’s current legislation is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House.

 

Tags: bob dold, jan schakowsky

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Vancouver Archbishop: Abortion is returning us to a ‘state of barbarism’

by Patrick B. Craine Thu May 24 13:05 EST Comments (12)

 

VICTORIA, British Columbia, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller says that abortion and other “threats against life” “eat away at the moral fiber of civilization itself, leading it to return to a state of barbarism, where life is treated trivially.”

In a homily before the May 10th March for Life in Victoria, which attracted over 1,800 participants, he also encouraged the congregation to get active in the political battle for life in Canada.

“As citizens of a democracy we seek political and legislative solutions which will serve the common good of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, including the unborn who have no voice but yours,” he said, according to an excerpt published in the B.C. Catholic.

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Preaching at St. Patrick’s Church, Archbishop Miller spoke against abortion and encouraged participants to take an active role in protecting the unborn.

He says, “Abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide are often justified by the argument that a person has ‘a right to choose.’”

“Our choices are to be for the good, especially when what we want conflicts with another person’s wants,” he explained. “In the case of abortion, the unborn cannot express his - or, more likely, her - desire to keep on living. They are still too small. Nor, when you think of it, can an infant.”

“And so we must protect them; we must act on their behalf. That is why we are here in Victoria today. To act on behalf of those who want a choice - the choice to live,” he added.

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The worst thing about ethics

by Judie Brown Thu May 24 12:39 EST Comments (4)

 
Judie Brown

Years ago my children used to enjoy hearing Winnie the Pooh’s sidekick, Tigger, sing:

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things . . .
They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun . . .
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I’m the only one

There never has been another Tigger. And just as the wonderful thing about Tigger is that he was the only one, the wonderful thing about ethics is that there should only be one standard. Yet, society has created ethics standards that are changing—and it’s telling its members that this is OK. Indeed, that change should happen and that we should embrace it.

As many of us know, there should never be more than one standard of ethics. Yet currently we have a mishmash of ethical frameworks—commonly referred to as bioethics—regulating everything from human embryonic stem cell research to abortion and dying. There is nothing wonderful about this scenario.

While the mainstream media would deny that there is ethical duplicity afoot, an honest mind cannot ignore the documented facts about how America is slowly depersonalizing the individual. The defense of this creeping disregard for the human person comes under the guise of personal faith. What this means in practice is that there are often no right or wrong answers. It’s up to the individual to determine what he/she feels is right or wrong.

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Perhaps such a position is convenient, but is it logical? Whatever happened to objective truth? It is simply easier in today’s culture to deny the existence of natural law ethics in order to justify the heinous acts of others.

Today the gravely ill are invited to sign forms such as the Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). This is a huge mistake! Research shows that what is being promoted to the patient as a means of determining one’s own fate is, in fact, a method for making certain that death is imposed at a time set by the caregiver, not the patient. Professor E. Christian Brugger has called POLST a “living will on steroids,” and has warned that many who sign it have no idea how powerful the document can be. Not only that, but he suggests that POLST is “fiscally driven” as well.

If money is becoming more important than patient care, whose ethics are these?

In the Journal of Medical Ethics, Catherine Constable argues that those patients who are diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state should not be given artificial nutrition and hydration because she denies that a PVS patient has an “interest” in living. She concludes, “Life cannot benefit them.”

Would she be willing to say that to people who have made miraculous recoveries from this diagnosis, like Steven Thorpe? Or is he just another disinterested dead person?

Whose ethics are these?

In the field of genetics there is an evolving interest in identifying certain genes that cause disabilities in born people so that such people can be “put out of their misery” prior to birth. As Kurt Kondrich, father of precious nine-year-old Down syndrome child Chloe, tells his readers,

When a society obsessed with perfection labels certain unique genetic codes as “risk,” it becomes very easy for people to classify children with disabilities as less than desirable. If [more than] 90 percent of children diagnosed prenatally with autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, schizophrenia, and other language difficulties were terminated, I wonder what the outcry would be. As expectant parents receive more genetic updates, will they become more inclined to abort and try again when they are told their unborn child contains a “risk gene”? As children with disabilities disappear from our culture, then so will the light that they bring to so many.

Again, I ask: Whose ethics are these?

“Converging and emerging technology” professions that today seek to produce superior classes of “people” for the “future,” and subjugate or eliminate those they consider inferior, create their own belief system. Global bioethics organizations based on transhumanism, futurism, technoprogressivism, postnaturalism, etc., find traditional ethics too restrictive when addressing subjects such as “designer babies,” surrogate mothers, “human enhancement,” human genetic engineering, robotics (including part humans/part machines), artificial intelligences, etc. These people are hard at work creating yet another brand of “ethics” to justify such activities. 

My final example of this mishmash comes from Slate, which published an article dealing with selective reduction—a practice that involves prenatal abortion of some, but not all, babies. The writer explained, “Ethics, by definition, change with circumstance.” In her view, the decision to choose how many babies should be allowed to live is up to the expectant mother and no one else.

Whose ethics is she writing about?

These ethics, or lack thereof, are of the fungible sort that defy logic and common sense.

Professor Dianne Irving addressed this sad situation by exposing the differences between the muddled bioethics I have noted above versus “an ethics which is objectively grounded on our very human natures, on what we know empirically is either harmful or good for us as human beings.”

The differences are stark.

I believe Tigger had the right idea—that only one is the real deal. He never changed his stripes! In the same way, we must never change our stripes or allow society to change them for us. We must demand fidelity to true ethics that never change. Nothing else will suffice.

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Florida Catholic U drops student health plan over HHS mandate

by Patrick B. Craine Thu May 24 12:28 EST Comments (3)

 

NAPLES, Florida, May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Florida’s Ave Maria University announced Monday that it will no longer require students to have health care coverage effective this fall because of the Obama administration’s mandate requiring insurance packages to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs.

Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, says the mandate is “an affront to our core values” and insisted the University “will not offer or pay for health insurance plans that violate our deeply-held religious beliefs.”

The announcement came within a week of a similar action by Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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According to Towey, Ave Maria’s current health plan “specifically excludes benefits for elective abortion, sterilization, and other morally objectionable services because the University is Catholic and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

However, because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Ave Maria students would have to pay for these services and would also see an increase in their premiums and deductibles.

The university was told by their insurance carrier that they would have to “pay all claims for ‘preventative care services’ regardless of the fact that they are specifically excluded in the Ave Maria group plan.”

“It is a sad day when Ave Maria’s students are forced to choose between enrolling in a health insurance plan that is both costly and offers morally objectionable benefits, and having no coverage at all,” said Towey.

The mandate has been slammed by bishops and Catholic organizations across the country as a grave threat to religious freedom. This week, 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations joined Ave Maria University and others in launching a set of lawsuits to overturn the mandate.

“The University remains confident that it will prevail in this litigation,” said Towey, though he lamented that “the Obama Administration’s promised ‘safe harbor’ for faith-based institutions is turning out to be no harbor at all.”

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Judging human worth

by Adam J. MacLeod Thu May 24 12:20 EST Comments (1)

 

May 24, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Some of the great civil rights battles of our day are being waged in Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, and Montana this year. If you do not recognize those states as civil rights battlegrounds, you are not alone. While advocates for assisted suicide have targeted those states with legalization campaigns, residents may not fully appreciate what is at stake.

The connection between assisted suicide and the civil rights struggles of previous centuries is foundational. To claim that some human lives are not worth living is to deny the intrinsic and equal worth of every human being. It is, in other words, to deny the principle from which we derived our prohibitions against slavery and racial segregation. Pro-life scholars and activists would do well to make this clear, and may be assisted in their efforts by consulting the arguments of Emily Jackson and John Keown in their new book, Debating Euthanasia. Jackson, a law professor at the London School of Economics, marshals the arguments for legalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, and Keown, the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, defends their continued prohibition by law on both practical and principled grounds.

Central to Keown’s case is concern for the equal and intrinsic worth of all human beings. The “cardinal ethical principle” of the inviolability of human life prohibits the intentional killing of an innocent person, and it is precisely this principle that grounds the “equal and inalienable rights” that we enjoy “in virtue of our common membership in the human family.” The authors of the Declaration of Independence thought this principle self-evident. Keown points out that the principle also finds expression in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and a 1994 report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Neither anachronistic nor novel, this idea explains the law’s insistence on protecting the lives of all, irrespective of age, stage of development, or condition of dependency. No one is better off dead, Keown maintains, “even if some patients lose sight of their worth.”

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It is precisely the failure to grasp the implications of intrinsic human worth that plagues arguments for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, including Jackson’s. Jackson quite candidly rejects the inviolability of human life. “There is nothing independently valuable about being alive, other than that it enables me to live a life.” But to claim, as Jackson does, that the value of life is merely instrumental is to reject the immutably inherent and equal value of all human persons. On Jackson’s terms, any particular human life is more or less valuable, and thus variably worthy of legal protection, according to some standard of instrumental usefulness. But this raises the questions of how the value will be measured and whom the state will authorize to make the valuation.

Jackson recognizes this problem but seems unable to resolve it coherently. She insists that we should not accept the judgment of the lovesick teenager that her life has no worth, and yet we should accept the same judgment from the elderly or terminally ill person for whom “life has become an intolerable burden.” Jackson discounts outright the lives of persons in persistent vegetative states because of the “important difference between simply being alive, and having a life which is worth living.” But here, again, we are no closer to understanding what a worthy life consists of.

Jackson tries to resist the full implications of her own argument. She protests that “accepting that someone’s life has ceased to benefit them is not the same as saying they have no worth.” Family and friends of a suffering patient, she claims, can assent to the request for death without assenting to the judgment that the patient’s life is worthless. Presumably, the operative principle here is one of deference to the personal autonomy of the patient, but Jackson does not explain why deference is necessary. Given the high correlation between terminal illness and depression, deference would seem especially inappropriate in such cases.

Jackson’s conception of human worth becomes clearer in light of her analogy to animal euthanasia. “When it comes to animals,” Jackson observes, “most people accept that euthanasia is not only justifiable, but also often the right thing to do.” For at least some humans, she argues, the experience of dying is no different than a cat’s. Even allowing for differences between humans and cats, such as the practice of making wills and other provisions for resolution at the end of life, these differences do not “justify forcing someone to suffer intolerably.”

That Jackson considers this argument persuasive indicates that she has not fully confronted the claim that human beings have intrinsic and equal worth. Keown is quite clear that we should not force anyone to suffer, nor should we preserve life at all costs. “That would be ‘vitalism,’” Keown explains, “and morally indefensible.” The right to life is a “right not to be intentionally killed” (Keown’s italics). Animals enjoy no such right precisely because they are merely animals, and not humans. Acting with a purpose to bring about the death of a fellow human being is fundamentally unlike acting with a purpose to bring about the death of an animal.

Jackson fails to appreciate her interlocutor’s arguments in other respects, as well. An important corollary of the inviolability of human life is the principle of double effect, according to which it is sometimes permissible knowingly to bring about harms (as foreseen side-effects) that may never be intended directly. Jackson attacks this principle with a hypothetical:

If I visit my doctor complaining of mild stomach cramps, it would not be acceptable for him to give me a life-threatening injection of diamorphine, and he could not escape responsibility for my death by pointing to the doctrine of double effect. My doctor could not claim that his intention was merely to relieve my pain, and that my death was a foreseen but unintended side-effect.

It apparently does not occur to Jackson that the doctor’s disproportionate response to the pain would in fact supply a significant, perhaps conclusive, reason to infer that his intentions were not pure. She ignores what Keown expressly states, namely, that one of the conditions of the operation of double effect requires a “proportionate reason for allowing the bad effect to occur.” Far from excusing the disproportionate conduct that Jackson rightly condemns, the principle of double effect would rule out the doctor’s actions.

By contrast, Keown takes Jackson’s arguments seriously. (In one instance, he makes the effort to strengthen one of her arguments before refuting it.) Indeed, the book’s most glaring weakness is its asymmetry. The rules of engagement required each author to submit his and her contribution blindly, unable to predict precisely what arguments the other would deploy. Nevertheless, Keown and others have developed many of the pro-life arguments over a period of many years. If Jackson wanted to understand the arguments she was trying to refute, then she could have found robust statements of those arguments with little effort.

Despite this asymmetry, Jackson’s contribution to the book is well worth reading. She is often refreshingly candid, as when she acknowledges the limits of personal autonomy. She remarks that the choice of suicidal patients to end their lives requires the cooperation of others: “they are crucially dependent upon other people, namely healthcare professionals, to comply with their wishes.”

Jackson’s contribution also contains important reminders for opponents of decriminalization. Legalization proponents, like many citizens who are open to legalization, are motivated not by bias against the disabled but rather by compassion and respect. “It seems cruel to force someone to endure suffering they find intolerable,” Jackson’s argument goes, “and condescending to disbelieve them when they claim to be suffering so much.” Such advocates, therefore, tend to be unpersuaded by the common pro-life argument drawing analogies between contemporary legalization and Nazi euthanasia practices. As Jackson notes, the Nazis operated on social Darwinist theories of racial hygiene; their “motivation was never a compassionate response to individual suffering.”

Similarly, Jackson offers some insight into the relative inefficacy of “slippery slope” arguments. Accepting assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia does not, in her view, obviously set one on a course toward “the involuntary extermination of disabled people,” and therefore, a blanket prohibition seems to her “a peculiarly blunt approach to regulation.” Why not give carefully regulated legalization a try?

There are, of course, many good reasons not to try. Keown discusses the failures of regulatory efforts in Oregon and the Netherlands. Despite the prevalence of depression among those who request assisted suicide and euthanasia, fewer than 10 percent are referred for psychiatric evaluation. Oregon’s meager reporting requirements prevent any comprehensive study of abuse, but anecdotal evidence suggests that coercion by family members is sometimes a factor in the decision to commit suicide. And the speed with which the Dutch have moved from voluntary euthanasia of adults to non-voluntary euthanasia of infants should trouble even those who are unmoved by slippery-slope arguments. But for legalization proponents, these failures are insufficient reasons not to proceed with legalization, albeit with more rigorous regulations. Jackson herself criticizes the Swiss regulatory scheme for its lack of safeguards. For example, she favors rules that would require “thorough investigation of the person’s circumstances.” One has the impression that, no matter how many of these safeguards might fail in practice, Jackson will always be prepared to propose more, until reasonable concerns about abuse are satisfied.

Most importantly, Jackson has no answer to the moral argument against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. And herein lies a lesson for pro-life advocates as they fight legalization efforts around the country this year: they should resist the temptation to avoid making moral arguments. They are our strongest resources. To skirt the fundamental moral question would be both unnecessary and, it seems, a strategic blunder. Pro-life activists should not give offense or recall images of swastikas. It is enough to point out that a nation committed to racial equality should, for the same reason, be committed to the intrinsic worth of the sick and the disabled.

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

Tags: assisted suicide, euthanasia

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How many states have banned gay ‘marriage’?

by Peter Sprigg Thu May 24 11:35 EST Comments (7)

 
Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Center.

May 24, 2012 (FRC.org) - In the wake of the passage of North Carolina’s marriage amendment on May 8, by an overwhelming 61%-39% margin, there have been a number of media reports on the state of marriage law in the fifty states, and how many states have taken action to prevent the issuances of marriage licenses to couples of the same sex. The numbers reported in these stories have sometimes been contradictory, and this may lead to some confusion. With this article, I will try to clarify where the states now stand on this issue.

First, let’s look at states that have amended their state constitutions in such a way as to prevent the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in those states. Including North Carolina, there are thirty (30) states in which the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been directly enshrined in the state’s constitution in explicit language. In these thirty states, neither the legislature nor the state courts have the power to legalize same-sex “marriage” – at least, not unless and until the people of those states vote to amend their constitutions again to repeal the current provisions.

Opponents of the marriage amendment in North Carolina made much of the fact that the amendment on the ballot included not only language defining the word “marriage,” but also additional language intended to make certain that the state would not create some sort of quasi-marital status under another name (such as “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships”) to give some or all of the traditional legal “benefits” of “marriage” to same-sex couples.

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This provision was described by opponents as though it was a radical and extreme provision unique to the North Carolina amendment. The truth is exactly the opposite–in fact, a clear majority of the states which have adopted amendments to define marriage (twenty of the thirty) have used what is sometimes called a “strong” or “two-sentence” amendment to prevent civil unions and domestic partnerships, as well as same-sex “marriage.” The North Carolina amendment represented the norm, not the exception.

The other ten states have simpler amendments sometimes described as “single-sentence,” or “definition-only” amendments, which address only the definition of civil marriage itself. (The pro-homosexual lobby “Human Rights Campaign,” which usually tracks state laws very closely, has inaccurately omitted Kansas from the list of states with “strong” marriage amendments.)

Some opponents of the North Carolina amendment argued that it could prevent even private companies from offering “domestic partner benefits,” or prevent same-sex partners from even entering into private contracts with one another. Similar charges have been made about two of the “strong” amendments already adopted, those in Michigan and Virginia. These charges are plainly false–the amendments are intended only to bind state and local governments, not private entities (Virginia’s amendment refers explicitly to “this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions”).  North Carolina’s amendment language closely resembles that of Idaho, and added language in the Michigan and Virginia amendments was intended to forestall any effort to evade the amendment’s intent, which was to ensure that same-sex relationships would not be treated as equivalent or comparable to opposite-sex marriages in any way under the law.

Although thirty states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, there are actually thirty-one states that have amended their constitutions in an effort to prevent same-sex “marriage.” The thirty-first (in this analysis) was actually one of the first chronologically. The prospect of legalizing same-sex “marriage” was not taken very seriously until the early 1990’s, when a court in Hawaii gave indications that it might be the first to order legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

The people responded by amending their constitution–but the Hawaii amendment did not actually place a definition of marriage in the text of the constitution. Instead, the Hawaii amendment reserved to the legislature the power to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman (which they did, by statute). So in Hawaii, like the other states with marriage amendments, state courts have no power to change the definition of marriage. However, unlike the other thirty states, Hawaii has left the legislature with the freedom to legalize same-sex “marriage,” if they should choose to do so. (In my writings, I have usually not counted Hawaii’s as a true marriage amendment because it did not fix the definition of marriage in the constitutional text. However, it certainly counted as a victory in the fight to prevent redefinition of marriage.)

That brings us to 31; but you may also have heard pro-family spokesmen declare that after North Carolina, “32 out of 32 states that have voted on the issue have voted to uphold the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” Where do they get 32?

In 2009, Maine’s legislature passed a bill to legalize same-sex “marriage.” However, opponents of the bill were able to place it on the ballot, and before it ever took effect, the voters repealed it in a referendum sometimes referred to as a “people’s veto.” This was another victory for one-man-one-woman marriage, but it did not amend the state’s constitution—it merely removed the statutory language adopted by the legislature. (Because Maine does not have an actual marriage amendment, advocates of same-sex “marriage” there–apparently believing that public opinion has shifted in their favor since 2009–have been pushing for another referendum to restore same-sex “marriage.”)

To further confuse things–while the pro-family claims of a 32-state winning spree at the ballot box are accurate, this does not mean that traditional marriage has won every time marriage has been on the ballot. There is one state, Arizona, which has voted on marriage amendments twice. The first time, in 2006, voters weighed in on a proposed “strong” or “two-sentence” amendment which would have prevented the state from establishing “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” as well as same-sex “marriage.” This amendment was defeated–ironically, because opponents drew attention to its potential impact on opposite-sex couples, not same-sex ones. (Social Security imposes an unfortunate marriage penalty upon widowed recipients of survivor benefits if they choose to marry again. This has provided an incentive for some seniors–a significant population in the popular retirement state of Arizona–to cohabit rather than re-marry, and some states and localities have taken this into account by creating “domestic partnerships” for same-sex couples and opposite-sex seniors.) In 2008, however, voters adopted a revised, one-sentence, definition-of-marriage-only amendment, thus placing Arizona ultimately in the victory column.

There is one additional state-wide referendum that could be counted as a 33rd victory at the polls for the man-woman definition of marriage–even though the word “marriage” did not appear on the ballot. I refer to the 2010 judicial retention election in Iowa, in which three of the state Supreme Court justices who had voted to impose same-sex “marriage” on that state in 2009 were removed from office. This was unprecedented in the history of the state, and few observers doubt that the marriage case was the reason for it.

The 30—or 31—states with some form of “marriage amendment” should not be considered the only ones that have acted to protect the definition of marriage, however. Only six states (plus the District of Columbia) currently grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, so the number of states which define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is currently 44, not just 30.

In two of those states (Washington and Maryland), the legislatures this year voted to legalize same-sex “marriage,” but those laws have not taken effect, and pro-family forces in both states are attempting to place the issue on this November’s ballot in hope of achieving a “people’s veto” like the one that occurred in Maine. Even with Washington and Maryland excluded based on a pending change in their laws, the number of states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is 42, not just 30.

We in the pro-family movement do not consider the social institution of marriage to be inherently stronger in states which have defined it as the union of a man and a woman in the constitution than in states which have such a definition by statutory or common law. Marriage is not stronger there–merely safer, in that an amendment has the political and legal effect of making a redefinition of marriage more difficult and thus less likely in that state in the future. Researchers wanting to compare states on the issue of same-sex “marriage” should compare the 42 (or, for the time being, 44) states without it to the six states which have it–rather than comparing the thirty (or 31) states with amendments to the 19 or 20 without them.

So in conclusion, let’s walk through the numbers again:

Number of states in which the state constitution prevents legal recognition of same-sex “marriages,” “civil unions,” or “domestic partnerships”:    20

They are:

Alabama       2006

Arkansas       2004

Florida         2008

Georgia         2004

Idaho           2006

Kansas         2005

Kentucky       2004

Louisiana       2004

Michigan       2004

Nebraska       2000

North Carolina 2012

North Dakota   2004

Ohio           2004

Oklahoma     2004

South Carolina 2006

South Dakota   2006

Texas           2005

Utah           2004

Virginia       2006

Wisconsin       2006

Number of states in which the state constitution defines civil “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman:        30

To those above, add:

Alaska         1998

Arizona         2008

California       2008

Colorado       2006

Mississippi     2004

Missouri       2004

Montana       2004

Nevada         2002

Oregon         2004

Tennessee     2006

Number of states which have amended their state constitutions to prevent legalization of same-sex “marriage”:  31

To the states above, add Hawaii amendment (1998) reserving the definition of marriage to the legislature

Number of states in which voters have upheld the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in a statewide referendum:  32

To the states above, add Maine’s “people’s veto” (2009) of same-sex “marriage” legislation

Number of states where voters have, either explicitly or implicitly, rejected the legalization of same-sex “marriage”:  33

To the states above, add Iowa’s judicial retention election (2010), removing state Supreme Court judges who voted to impose same-sex “marriage”

Number of states where marriage remains the union of a man and a woman under state law:  42

Number of states which currently (May 2012) grant marriage licenses only for unions of one man and one woman:  44

Includes Washington and Maryland, where same-sex “marriage” legislation has been enacted but not yet taken effect.

Reprinted with permission from FRCblog.com

Tags: marriage

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Colombia’s Constitutional Court gives custody of two boys to American homosexual

by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Thu May 24 11:08 EST Comments (12)

 
Chandler Burr

May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Colombian government has lost a battle in the country’s ultraliberal Constitutional Court to protect two Colombian children from adoption by an American homosexual activist.

The Court has granted custody of two boys, ages 11 and 13 to Chandler Burr, a former perfume critic for the New York Times who is famous for promoting the claim that homosexuality is an inborn trait, an idea contradicted by numerous studies and regarded as unproven by many researchers.

Colombia’s General Procurator has declared its intention to ask for a nullification of the ruling, on the grounds that it violates the fundamental rights of children, and ignores the Constitutional principle that a family can only be based on a union between a man and a woman, according to local news reports.

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Burr’s s attempt to adopt the two Colombian children ran into trouble when authorities discovered his homosexuality, which was not revealed to them during the adoption process.

Although the government argued that Burr’s lifestyle was not sufficiently well documented to determine its appropriateness for the two children, the court disagreed, claiming that the children would be harmed psychologically if they were removed from Burr’s custody.

Burr, however, admits that the children developed an attachment to the “substitute family” that had custody of them during the dispute, stating that the older of the two boys now felt “connected” to his former foster mother. Temporary custody was transferred to Burr in December of last year, and the children were separated from the family.

The court also claimed that the Family Defender “did not have evidence that there existed any threat against the rights of children,” and that the agency overseeing adoptions “concluded that the children were in good physical health and appeared to be cared for” under Burr’s custody, which had occurred during a probationary period preceding the final adoption.

The Constitutional Court, which in recent years has also imposed abortion on the Colombia in rape and incest cases, and has recently ruled that homosexual couples constitute a “family,” is also expected to rule soon on a case in which a Colombian lesbian is seeking to adopt her four-year old partner’s daughter.

Tags: adoption, chandler burr, colombia, homosexuality

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Freedom of religion is a fundamental right

by Patrick B. Craine Thu May 24 11:07 EST Comments (8)

 

May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - You would think that the bishops were condoning sexual abuse – or, God forbid in this topsy-turvy moral age, maybe even cigarette smoking – so outraged are many amongst the Canadian left. In a letter last week from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, one line has stimulated the war against religion like no other: “Furthermore, we support (believers’) right to conscientious objection as a fundamental expression of the freedom of conscience and religion.”

Yes, that means that Catholics – or the many other people of faith in this country, like evangelical Christians, Jews and Muslims – who do not support the concept or practice of same-sex marriage will not be forced to get on their knees and beg this progressive age to forgive the transgression of their outmoded thinking and anachronistic dogma. Specifically, it means that marriage commissioners should not be coerced to perform same-sex marriages.

For the chorus on the left who are insisting that human rights must trump religious freedom, it is time to acknowledge that religious freedom is a basic human right and that neither sexual orientation nor, for that matter, marriage can be construed as a human right.  Sexual orientation is a descriptive term that can be defined as anything and therefore means nothing. No matter how one chooses to define or redefine it, marriage is a human choice – not a right – that may or may not be realized in one’s lifetime. So much for freedom of religion being trumped.

As history so well documents, there are no human rights without such a fundamental right as religious freedom. Most of twentieth century tyranny was aimed at the eradication of the Christian church in the hope that the death of Christianity would also mean the obliteration of the conscience and the non-recognition of right and wrong.

Has our society really become that misdirected and so unfocused on what is integral to a democracy and what is merely tangential, that libertines are prepared to jettison freedom of religion in order that homosexuals and others of less traditional sexual choices may walk through life without the danger of these choices being challenged? Are we so afraid of offending people and so insistent that every sexuality be applauded and reinforced that we must now check our basic philosophical contentions and religious convictions at the public forum door in order to avoid controversy or because refusing to perform a same-sex marriage is somehow a disavowal of human rights? This is surely madness.

The faith community that does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriage nor its sexual foundation is in no way endangering the human rights of the self-proclaimed gay community. There is no desire to marginalize their participation in society, reduce their influence upon the economy, impede their influence in the democratic process – there is no desire to force homosexuals to be anything other than what they view themselves and feel themselves to be.  We do not insist upon their sanction or demand their agreement. In a democracy we are prepared to agree to disagree.

But not so for the anti-religious left. They demand much more from the religious community. They demand obedience. We may be allowed to ruminate on our thoughts but not to articulate these musings. In reality, they would be even more content if we did not even think differently from what they consider sound doctrine.

There is more than a hint of irony in this, as the faith-hating opponents of religious freedom have become intolerant, intransient and intolerable secular tyrants whose bullying rivals that of any theocratic state. The same people who would nullify religious freedom with one sweep are really no different from those who would impose a religious consistency upon every mind and brook no argument.

Religious freedom is not some disposable commodity.  Yet for too many today it has been deemed to be just that and contingent upon the legislative flavour of the week.

David Krayden is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies.

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The president’s still-contorted position on same-sex marriage

by Carson Holloway Thu May 24 10:46 EST Comments (8)

May 24, 2012 (PublicDiscourse.com) - The president has recently received a good deal of credit from liberal commentators for having come out clearly in support of same-sex marriage. Having once opposed it, and having more recently said that his position was evolving, he has now said that he is in favor of it. The credit he is getting for this supposedly brave stand is undeserved, however, because the president’s position is still, on a close examination, very muddled. It is sufficiently inconsistent to lead one to suspect that it arises from a deep confusion or, alternatively, an equally deep cynicism about the principles at stake.

These contradictions are readily apparent to anyone who takes the time to read the full transcript of the president’s interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, in which he made national news by announcing his new position and discussed the reasons for it at length.

To begin with, it is noteworthy that the reasons the president gives for coming to support same-sex marriage do not in fact fully support such a decision. He indicates that he held back from supporting same-sex marriage because he thought civil unions would sufficiently protect the rights of gay Americans. Later in the interview he justifies his embrace of same-sex marriage on the grounds that it will grant gays legal recognition for their committed relationships, allow them to take on the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples, and to have hospital visitation rights. All of these things, however, could be achieved without same-sex marriage. What remains, then, apparently, as the real justification for same-sex marriage is that its absence treats same-sex relationships “differently” in some symbolic sense. The president thus seems to embrace the position, now insisted upon by gay-rights activists, that civil unions that give the same legal rights as marriage are inadequate, and that homosexuals are somehow harmed when a state decides to reserve the ancient and honorable title of “marriage” for husbands and wives without pursuing any discrimination at all.

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

Based on his interview, one may accurately summarize the president’s position as follows: (a) he is personally in favor of same-sex marriage, but (b) it is a state issue, and states have a right to decide it for themselves, but (c) the federal government has no authority to defend the states’ right to define marriage as they see fit. The latter position would seem to be the consequence of his claimed opposition during the interview to the Defense of Marriage Act, which Congress passed and President Clinton signed in order to safeguard the ability of each state to define marriage as it thinks best, regardless of what other states may decide. The glaring tension, of course, is between propositions B and C. The president, to say the least, has not been known for insisting upon limits on the federal legislative power, so it is strange that he would find a limit here. According to the president, the federal government has the power to compel individuals to purchase health insurance, but not to restrain the courts from using one state’s marriage laws to rewrite every other state’s marriage laws. Nevertheless, the inconsistency is evident even without recurring to the president’s positions on other issues besides same-sex marriage. If marriage is primarily a state issue, as he insists, why cannot the federal government legislate to ensure that it remains so?

One discerns even more confusion or equivocation if one looks beyond the president’s position to some of the reasons he gives for it. In the interview, the president takes partial credit for prompting the Justice Department to refuse to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. The Act, he says, is a “violation” of the “equal protection clause.” Now, the Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law. The Equal Protection Clause is found in the Fourteenth Amendment, which limits the powers of the state governments and places no limits at all on the federal power. It is, in other words, impossible on any reading for DOMA to violate the “equal protection clause.” Accordingly, we must give the president the benefit of the doubt and assume that he intends to refer to the supposed “equal protection component” of the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment, which does indeed limit the power of the federal government.

The reality of such a “component” is, of course, highly questionable, but it has been held to exist by the Supreme Court and is enthusiastically embraced by liberals such as the president. Nevertheless, his confusion on such details should embarrass the president and his partisans. A few weeks ago the president was ridiculed by conservative commentators for appearing to confuse the issues in Lochner v. New York, a case involving the power of states to regulate their economies, with the issues in the current health care lawsuit, which concerns the power of the federal government under the Commerce Clause. In truth, that was a rather cringe-inducing performance from a man who received a law degree from one of the most prestigious law schools in the nation and who then lectured in constitutional law at an only slightly less prestigious institution. Still, one might have offered a charitable defense of him on the grounds that his interests in constitutional law clearly lie in the realm of civil rights and civil liberties, rather than the powers and structures of government. The nature of those interests, however, leaves him utterly without excuse for his strange invocation of an “equal protection clause” that limits the federal government.

Be that as it may, the more important issue is the deeper confusion of principle suggested by the president’s remarks. Again, the president continues to affirm the right of states to decide the question of marriage as they wish. It is, he insists repeatedly, a state and not a federal issue. Therefore, his position seems to be that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits states to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but that the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment does not permit the federal government to do so. Moreover, as the Attorney General’s statement on the issue makes clear, the administration sees section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage for federal purposes as a union between a man and a woman, as unconstitutionally “discriminatory” against homosexuals. President Obama’s current position, then, is as follows: It is unconstitutional discrimination against homosexuals when the federal government defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman but not when the states do so. It is difficult to see any coherent thread of constitutional reasoning in such a mishmash of opinions.

Finally, those who are praising the president for coming out in support of same-sex marriage should notice that some of the principles he states tend—at least if he means them seriously—to foreclose the only plausible path to national recognition of same-sex marriage: litigation in the federal courts, leading up to a Supreme Court decision announcing a right to same-sex marriage. In his interview, the president criticizes Mitt Romney’s support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman on the grounds that it makes a national issue out of what should properly be a state issue. Fair enough. But observe that the same could be said about a Supreme Court ruling that finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage that binds all of the states. Is it really the president’s position that same-sex marriage should be achieved one state at a time, without recourse to litigation based on the federal constitution? Or does he support such efforts, in which case his position is that a constitutional amendment—enacted by the whole people—would improperly nationalize what should be a state issue, but this would not be the case for the “discovery” of a new constitutional right by the unelected justices of the Supreme Court?

Americans obviously disagree on the question of same-sex marriage. Some think it a wrongful redefinition of a fundamental social institution, while others think it a necessary step in the advance of civil rights. What they can clearly agree on, however, is that it is a very important question, one that deserves to be addressed in the most thoughtful and sincere manner by our highest elected official. Both opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage ought, therefore, to agree that the moral, constitutional, and political contortionism described above is disgraceful in a president of the United States.

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press). Reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com

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Pennsylvania works to cut Planned Parenthood funds; Louisiana nears passage of fetal pain bill

by Patrick B. Craine Thu May 24 10:35 EST Comments (1)

May 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Legislatures in Pennsylvania and Louisiana are working to bring in new laws that will protect unborn children.

Pennsylvania

Legislators in Pennsylvania proposed a new bill on Wednesday that will remove state funding from Planned Parenthood.

The Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act, an initiative of Republic State Representative Daryl Metcalfe and co-written by the Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defense Fund, will place facilities that provide abortions at the bottom of a priority list for funding, allowing more money to go to health care providers that offer services for women such as dental care, mammograms, and treatments for anxiety disorders.

Pennsylvania joins Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, and Oklahoma as they all enact legislation that will defund or take away significant amounts of funds from Planned Parenthood.

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Louisiana

On Tuesday, the Louisiana state Senate passed a new bill 35-0 to protect unborn children after 20 weeks gestation.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on medical evidence showing that unborn children begin feeling pain at 20 weeks gestation, and is an initiative of Louisiana Right to Life. Doctors who violate the new law and perform abortions after this stage could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

The bill includes an exception for women whose lives are threatened from complications with their pregnancy. Louisiana Right to Life estimates that the bill will save 150 lives every year.

This bill has been brought forward by Senate President John Alario, a Republican, and was voted for unanimously in the state Senate. The bill now heads to the House.

Seven other states have passed similar legislation: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

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Restless in reality: boredom and true leisure

by Eric Metaxas Thu May 24 10:15 EST Comments (2)

 

May 24, 2012 (Breakpoint.org) - For the past few days, I have been discussing the impact of mass media. I have told you about its ubiquitous and self-referential qualities. I also pointed out that the problems go beyond objectionable content to the very way that consumption of this media and popular culture it transmits can shape our souls.

All this leads to an obvious question: What do we do about it? Now, some people feel called to limit their and their family’s exposure to digital media. I think we should all think about that. Others feel called to work within the medium and try to change it — or at least create alternatives to the dreck that’s available.

What we are called to do is use discernment and to not ingest this stuff mindlessly. Avoiding that requires thinking about boredom and leisure from a biblical point of view.

Twenty years ago, Bruce Springsteen famously sang “57 channels (and nothin’ on).” While an updated version would refer to “300 channels and countless websites, and nothin’ on,” the dissatisfaction would remain the same, if not worse.

The exponential growth in access to media hasn’t reduced boredom — if anything precisely the opposite has happened. We require more and more stimulation to stave off the sense of unease. As theologian John Milbank has pointed out, our pre-occupation with novelty and variety has diminished our capacity for “sustained attention to detail and creative use” of the world around us.

Or as philosopher Thomas Naughton put it: “Too much entertainment makes one bored, restless, and anxious.”

We are bored, restless, and anxious because very little holds our attention for very long. For the Christian, watching something to simply stave off boredom should prompt some soul-searching. We should ask ourselves why we are bored and, more to the point, why we crave novelty and variety for their own sake.

Most likely, it’s because we have forgotten how to rest. For most people, “leisure” is synonymous with inactivity. It’s what we experience when we aren’t “doing something.” Since we think of leisure as being passive, it makes sense that we fill our “leisure time” with passive entertainments.

But that’s not how Christianity understands leisure. In his book, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture,” the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper called leisure a “condition of the soul.” It’s not the same thing as inactivity or quiet. It is “The disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.”

Leisure, he writes, consists of “a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.” It’s about seeing the world as God made it, affirming its goodness, and thus transcending the hum-drum and cares of our everyday existence.

According to Pieper, “only someone who has lost the spiritual power to be at leisure can be bored.”

That doesn’t mean that entertainment is bad per se. The problem, as Naughton says, is that “leisure understood only in terms of entertainment lacks meaning that is satisfactory to the human heart and mind.” It can’t satisfy us no matter how much of it we shove down our gullet.

Thus, we should ask ourselves why we watch a certain TV show or visit a certain website. Is it to relax or unwind, or is it because we are restless and afraid of being still or, even worse afraid of the Real?

Reprinted with permission from Breakpoint.org

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