Peter J. Smith

$600,000 awarded to pro-life heroes at ‘perfect’ Life Prizes ceremony

Peter J. Smith
Peter J. Smith

See also the LifeSiteNews photo journal of this event

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That was the message of the 2nd Life Prizes Awards ceremony, which presented six pro-life heroes awards totaling $600,000 dollars, in recognition of their efforts to establish a culture of life in the United States and all over the world.

The Gerard Health Foundation, an organization set up by pro-life philanthropist Ray Ruddy and his wife, invited more than 500 guests – many of them leaders and activists from all quarters of the pro-life movement – to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the heart of Washington, D.C. on Saturday, for the ceremony.

“The purpose of Life Prizes is to honor those in the pro-life movement who have worked tirelessly to advance pro-life causes,” said Gerald Health’s Vice President Claude Allen. “Through Life Prizes, we are placing funds in the hands of a few who have done much to advance and defend life, because they know best where those funds are needed to save lives.”

Allen announced that Life Prizes 2008 award winner Lila Rose had been offered an additional $125,000 matching grant for her investigative work exposing the practices of other abortionists.

“Lila has met that match,” he announced, which the audience met with loud applause.

Laura Ingraham, a nationally syndicated talk show radio host and FOX News contributor, was master of ceremonies for the event, her second time in that role.

“Tonight we are able to celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Ingraham.

“These people we honor tonight heard the call of the most helpless of human beings: unborn children, and disabled patients abandoned by the medical profession, the legal profession, and sometimes unfortunately by their own families,” she continued. “Our honorees put aside their life plans to fight for people whom they never met. It’s the most important work in the world.”

Honoree Kristan Hawkins, the executive director of Students for Life of America (SFLA), was first. She was recognized for her tireless efforts to make SFLA the largest student pro-life organization in the world, expanding the pro-life movement’s reach among U.S. students through nearly 600 chapters on college and university campuses.

“Talk about a revolution!” Ingraham said, noting that the 25-year-old pro-life leader and married mom of two would sometimes get up at 2 am. to visit college campuses all over the nation and then get back home at the same time the next day.

Marie Smith, Director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, was also honored for her efforts to unite lawmakers and religious leaders to advance pro-life laws and policies on the international stage.

Smith, however, deflected attention from herself, and instead said she wanted to thank her husband U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), whom she met in their college years when most of their “dates” were going to pro-life events, for his tireless support.

After the event, LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) met up with Rep. Smith, who said that while he tried to persuade Marie to change her speech, in reality she is very much the rock that has sustained his own life. “I couldn’t do anything I do without her.”

“She is the wisest woman I have ever met. She writes well, she thinks clearly, is very logical, and she provides the insights, the ideas,” he said. “Now what she is doing internationally is just extraordinary.”

Also honored was Jeanne Head of International Right to Life Federation. Ingraham noted that Head had actually trained to be an actress on the stage, but instead found herself on the world stage, speaking and lobbying on behalf of life at the United Nations General Assembly.

The next awardee was the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, an organization founded and administered by the Schindler family, whose daughter and sister Terri Schindler-Schiavo was starved to death by court order obtained by her philandering husband.

Ingraham told the audience that the family had been just ordinary people – Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother, was a schoolteacher – before they dedicated themselves to bringing good out of Terri’s “brutal death” by establishing the Network. Their organization seeks to help save the lives of other incapacitated persons in life-threatening situations.

“It’s thanks to our good Lord above that their work has already helped, get this, one thousand families,” said Ingraham to an applauding audience.

Ingraham noted that the next awardee, Doug Johnson, NRLC’s legislative director, once trained to become a journalist, and ended up the most effective lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He has spent the past 30 years securing some of the greatest legislative victories of the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade.

“I am deeply appreciative for this honor. I accept it with gratitude,” said Johnson, who thanked his family for their support and sacrifices, in particular his wife Caroline, without whom, he said, “I would not be able to do this work for thirty days let alone thirty years.”

Johnson also praised the pro-life grassroots, the countless, selfless citizen activists, who he said “deserve the ultimate credit for every successful effort that I’ve been involved in.”

Johnson said “pundits wrote the obituary for our movement” when President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, but after two years on the defensive, the pro-life movement struck back with the partial-birth abortion debate, “the positive effects of which continue to reverberate.”

“Each human person is created by God, and thus each has intrinsic worth and rights. No human life is devoid of value. No innocent life should be taken by another,” Johnson said, noting that the next two years fighting legislative battles in Washington would be “critical to the future of our cause and humanity.”

Other honorees included Reverend Alveda King, the niece of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. She is founder of King for America and has become the public face of the pro-life movement in the black community.

“The gift will enable me to plant seeds for life. This gift will further advance the message for life and civil rights for the smallest and weakest of our brothers and sisters,” said King. “My uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. was a champion for civil rights, and as you know, he had a vision. His niece also has a vision that abortion will be outlawed in her lifetime.”

The awards ceremony began with live musical performance by vocalist Caitlin Jane, and had an intermission by the Christian pop band BarlowGirl.

“It’s an honor to be with all of you tonight, celebrating something that us girls absolutely love, and that is the right to life,” said BarlowGirl lead singer, Alyssa Barlow.

The BarlowGirls also hosted a post-concert to which 300 students had been invited, in addition to those attending guests.

“Tonight was an opportunity to see people who truly deserved the recognition they got, receive it in abundance, be a part of that room, feel that love, and know that it was earned with hard won blood, sweat, and tears. It was a moment of absolute sheer delight for me,” Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, told LSN. Gans said that many of those honored had been personal colleagues in the pro-life movement.

“If anybody applauded louder than me, I’d like to challenge them, because I was on my feet every single time with joy and admiration. It was a perfect evening.”

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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