Patrick Craine

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Alberta backtracks: Parents can teach beliefs on homosexuality, but homeschoolers still concerned

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

EDMONTON, Alberta, March 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Homeschoolers say they remain gravely concerned over the Alberta government’s new Education Act, even after Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has distanced himself from his spokeswoman’s statements that homeschoolers would be forbidden to teach controversial aspects of their religious beliefs as part of their curriculum.

After learning that the province’s new Education Act may be opening the door to “diversity” education, and that it includes homeschools under the list of schools, LifeSiteNews had asked Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, about the controversial issue of homosexuality as a test case. In response LSN was told that faith-based schools and homeschooling families would not be able to teach that homosexual behavior is a sin in their programs. But after getting flooded with complaints over the remarks, the government is now hastening to assure parents that they can indeed teach their beliefs.

“At the end of the day, parents have the right to determine the curriculum. And yes, they can still teach whatever their beliefs are about homosexuality, one way or the other,” Janice Schroeder, Lukaszuk’s director of communications, told LifeSiteNews Thursday.

But Paul Faris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says the flap highlights the fact that the law needs to be amended to avoid interpretations like McColl’s by other government officials or future governments.

“While we applaud the government for repudiating the earlier remarks, we would prefer that they simply change Bill 2 to clearly steer well clear of interfering in homeschoolers’ private lives,” he said.

“From my perspective, the fact that they’ve repudiated the previous remarks is somewhat cold comfort because the government clearly doesn’t even know what their own position is on this,” he added.

Homeschoolers, including HSLDA and the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA), are alarmed over section 16 of the bill, which requires schools, including homeschoolers, to “honour and respect” the controversial Alberta Human Rights Act that has been used to target Christians and conservatives.

Though the government is insisting the bill will change nothing for homeschooling in the province, the groups are warning that it could be used to mandate politically-correct “diversity” education in the home.

Tabled by Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative government on Feb. 14th, the bill would replace the existing School Act. It is scheduled for second reading this week, possibly as early as Monday.

AHEA organized a peaceful rally at the legislature Monday to call on the government to amend the bill. They say Premier Redford is tracking how many people contact her or Minister Lukaszuk regarding the bill to gauge interest in changing the language.

At the same time, AHEA and HSLDA are backing a proposed amendment by the right-wing Wildrose Party to remove reference to the Alberta Human Rights Act in section 16. Another amendment they support would change the bill’s preamble to state that “parents have the paramount right and responsibility to make decisions respecting the education of their children.”

The groups are calling on Alberta citizens to keep the pressure on the government, which holds 67 of the 83 seats in the legislature, and urge them to pass the amendments.

Many were shocked last Thursday when McColl told LifeSiteNews that under the new Act, “You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

At the time, Faris said the comments signaled that the government was “in fact planning to violate the private conversations families have in their own homes.”

Under fire, Minister Lukaszuk sent a letter Feb. 24th to LifeSiteNews alleging the piece was “alarmist” and based on “unfounded” interpretations of the proposed Education Act.

“Home schooling families in Alberta need not be concerned that the provincial government intends to compromise their religious freedoms, intervene in their parenting styles or private conversations, or undertake any of the nefarious activities you suggest,” the Minister wrote. “The Government of Alberta fully respects religious freedoms – all religious freedoms – and has a number of protections in place.”

When LifeSiteNews spoke to Schroeder – McColl’s boss – on Thursday, March 1st, she was clearly shocked at McColl’s comments when LifeSiteNews explained that they were made in response to repeated questions, raised as a test case, as to whether homeschoolers of traditional values could teach that homosexuality is a sin.

“Wow. Well, that’s unfortunate,” Schroeder said. Asked if she wanted a transcript, Schroeder said she would take LifeSiteNews at our word.

She called McColl’s statements an “unfortunate miscommunication” and insisted the government would be “abundantly clear” when explaining the Act in the future.

“The general intent of the legislation was we believe the home education system is working well as it is,” she said. “We do not see anything in the Education Act that changes things for homeschooling parents.”

After LifeSiteNews asked Schroeder for a correction of Lukaszuk’s criticisms of our reporting, Schroeder asked LifeSiteNews late Friday afternoon to hold our story as she awaited approval of the new version. She confirmed Monday that they would release an updated letter, but could not confirm it would be by the end of the day.

Both Lukaszuk and Schroeder pointed out that the Alberta Human Rights Act, in section 11.1, gives parents the option of removing children from classes dealing with religion, sexuality, or sexual orientation without academic penalty. Lukaszuk wrote that for homeschoolers that section confirms that parents choose how these matters are taught.

And Schroeder emphasized that the Alberta Human Rights Act also protects the family’s religious freedom, in addition to protecting from discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”

But in the past Christians, such as Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary and Red Deer pastor Stephen Boissoin, have been targeted under the Act for espousing Christian teaching on homosexuality. In the case of Boissoin he was found guilty by a human rights tribunal after a local newspaper printed a letter to the editor in which he expressed concerns with the homosexual agenda being taught in schools.

Asked whether parents would be permitted to teach something deemed to violate the Alberta Human Rights Act, Schroeder said she would not “speculate.”

“You’d have to ask the human rights tribunal on how they would rule on something like that,” she said. “Our sense of it would be – well I’m not going to speculate on what our sense of that would be. Right now parents determine religious teachings for their children.”

In a letter responding to Lukaszuk’s letter to LifeSiteNews, Patty Marler, AHEA’s government liaison, took issue with the notion that the Alberta Human Rights Act would protect their religious beliefs.

“The Human Rights Tribunals have used the Alberta Human Rights Act to restrict and diminish religious beliefs and expressions, so how would those with deeply held religious convictions be ‘protected’ in any way?” she asked.

Commenting on McColl’s statements, she wrote, ”If this is the understanding of the spokesperson for the Department of Education, it is likely that this could be the interpretation taken in a court of law.”

“Quite frankly, I don’t care what the government’s intentions are,” said Faris. “I want to know what the law says. Because ultimately it’s what’s written in the law that’s going to matter.”

“Even if this government does have good intentions, if a different government gets in with nefarious intentions, they’ve got that law sitting there waiting for them to use,” he added.


Contact Information:

Hon. Thomas Lukaszuk, Education Minister
423 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018
edmonton.castledowns@assembly.ab.ca

Premier Alison Redford
Office of the Premier
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800-97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B7
Phone: 780-427-2251
E-mail: Use this form.

Contact info for Alberta MLAs.


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease,” Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that “it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the e-mail to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in” the ice bucket challenge,” said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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