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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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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