Tony Gosgnach

Linda Gibbons found not guilty after judge rules outdated injunction was used

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach
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TORONTO, Ontario, November 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After three months in prison, Linda Gibbons was found not guilty on a charge of disobeying a court order and released from custody to the hugs of supporters in a downtown Toronto courtroom Friday afternoon. Justice Alphonse T. Lacavera determined Sheriff Peter Krause improperly read the text of an outdated injunction when he directed that she be arrested outside the Morgentaler Clinic (known corporately as “Lexogest Inc.”) abortion site this past August 4.

Krause, he said, read the words of an interlocutory (temporary) injunction issued in 1992 that prohibited pro-life demonstration within 500 feet of Morgentaler’s site, wherever it might happen to establish itself. However, that document had been superseded by a permanent injunction issued in April 1999, the terms of which were not read to Gibbons. Lacavera noted she consequently could not have had the necessary mens rea (“guilty mind”) when she appeared at the Hillsdale Avenue site with a placard and pamphlets in her hands as part of a peaceful, silent protest.

Gibbons had been in custody since her arrest. It was her first appearance at the Morgentaler site after a number of years demonstrating and being arrested outside the Scott Clinic abortion location on Gerrard Street East.

Through her lawyer Daniel Santoro, Gibbons pleaded not guilty going into the trial. Krause and Crown attorney Marie Abraham consistently referred to Morgentaler’s facility as a “business” as the sheriff testified about his role on August 4. He said after cautioning Gibbons several times to remove herself more than 500 feet from the abortion site entrance, he called in the Toronto Police Service to effect an arrest.

Under cross-examination by Santoro, Krause agreed Gibbons was simply walking to and fro on the public sidewalk in front of the building and he did not see anyone impeded from entering the building. He also agreed with the characterization of the demonstration as a peaceful, silent protest.

Krause said he had not seen the 1999 permanent injunction, was unaware of its existence and had not read the text of that document to Gibbons. Santoro then asked Lacavera for a directed verdict of not guilty, noting that the court order in effect at the time of Gibbons’s arrest was not the one being enforced. Crown attorney Abraham countered that Gibbons was nonetheless named within the terms of the 1999 injunction as a “Jane Doe.” Lacavera replied that the onus was on the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gibbons knew of the valid order in effect. He then called a break in the proceedings to consider the competing arguments.

Upon his return almost an hour later, Lacavera said there was indeed no evidence Gibbons had been aware of the 1999 injunction at the time of her arrest. “She did not have the requisite knowledge of the permanent injunction,” he said. “She cannot be found guilty.” He then directed that a verdict of not guilty be entered.

Awaiting a late lunch bought by jubilant supporters in a food court afterward, a free Gibbons observed the verdict was a just one. “It was pretty basic ... It is just fundamentally wrong we’re not allowed to be there. It is our constitutional right to be there.” Of her time in prison awaiting trial, she turned attention off herself, noting that there were “a couple of pretty serious pro-life issues to deal with” among other prisoners, but that “we’re seeing results.”

Attention is now being turned to a crucial Supreme Court of Canada hearing this December 14, in which the country’s top judges will decide whether it is proper for Gibbons and others to be prosecuted in criminal courts for violations of injunctions laid down in civil courts. She has always been prosecuted in criminal courts, even though the injunctions regarding the Morgentaler and Scott abortion sites were enacted by civil courts.

“For 20 years, we’ve been shoved into criminal courts when it belongs in the civil courts,” she said. “Now that the Supreme Court is going to examine that, I’m really hoping that at the end of the day, the injunctions will be struck down and recognized for what they were - political devices to stifle pro-life witness.”

As far as considering a legal counteraction if the Supreme Court finds she has been improperly prosecuted criminally for some 17 years is concerned, Gibbons appeared unenthused. “If I thought for one second it would advance the cause of the unborn, I would do it. But for personal loss and suffering, my purpose has always been to bring relief to the unborn children.”

A summary of the Supreme Court case can be read here.

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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Rick Perry: Joan Rivers’ death shows Texas is right to require abortionists to have admitting privileges

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By Kirsten Anderson

In the wake of the high-profile death of comedienne Joan Rivers due to complications from throat surgery at an outpatient clinic in New York City, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pointed to the tragedy as an example showing the necessity for his state’s one-year-old law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.

"It was interesting that when Joan Rivers -- and the procedure that she had done, where she died -- that was a clinic,” Perry said at a Texas Tribune event on Sunday. “It's a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.”

Many observers have criticized the governor’s remarks, noting that Rivers’ surgery was performed in a fully licensed ambulatory surgical center by a doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as is the current standard for abortion facilities in Texas, but died anyway.  However, the painstaking investigation into what may have gone wrong at the New York City clinic reveals that while all surgery carries risks, ambulatory surgical centers are required to take every precaution to ensure the safety of their patients, in contrast to more loosely regulated abortion clinics, where injuries and deaths are rampant, and often covered up.

While 32 separate medical associations have signed a joint agreement stating that anyone “performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital,” abortion businesses have fought such regulations tooth and nail, arguing that requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges is too burdensome and will cause clinics to close their doors.  

Abortionists have also opposed tougher safety restrictions forcing them to adhere to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers, arguing that upgrading their substandard facilities to meet hospital-grade requirements is costly and unnecessary.  But proponents of such regulations point out that the tiny parking lots, narrow hallways, and lack of elevators common to most abortion facilities are serious impediments to getting lifesaving help to women in case of emergencies, delaying paramedics who can’t park their ambulances or maneuver gurneys through such buildings.  In addition, licensed ambulatory surgical centers must have and properly maintain state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment, and train employees in their use – something abortion clinics have repeatedly been cited for failing to do.

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A protester at New York's Foley Square on Feb. 26, 2011 opposes funding cuts to Planned Parenthood in the GOP's budget. Dave Bledsoe / Flickr
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Teacher fired for protesting Planned Parenthood files $390K lawsuit

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By Kirsten Anderson

A pro-life teacher who was fired from his job at a Portland high school after protesting Planned Parenthood is now suing the school district for wrongful termination.

Bill Diss, who worked for eleven years as a math teacher at Benson High School, was escorted off campus in 2013 by a police officer and told not to return.  The school board later voted to fire him.  Diss alleges he was targeted by pro-abortion administrators for his pro-life views, and that his firing was the culmination of six years of progressively increasing tension over the matter.

After five years of positive reviews by administrators, Diss’ relationship with school officials began to deteriorate in 2007, when he protested the proposed opening of a Planned Parenthood headquarters in Portland.  Although the protests happened on his own time, away from school grounds, administrators confronted him after seeing him on television speaking out against the pro-abortion group.

“As the attention mounted, [Diss] was summoned for questioning by Benson High School administrators,” the lawsuit reads. “He was interrogated about his activities by the principal and by an attorney for the District. The activities in question occurred on his own time, not at school, nonetheless he was specifically instructed not to mention the fact that he was a teacher or where he worked when making public statements.”

Five years later, things took a turn for the worse when school officials tried to force Diss to allow Planned Parenthood to make a presentation to his class.  In late 2012, presenters with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) – a teen pregnancy prevention program run by Planned Parenthood and funded by a federal government grant – showed up at Diss’ classroom unannounced to give a recruitment pitch to students.  No one had told Diss they were coming, so he followed district policy and requested identification.

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When the presenters identified themselves as employees of Planned Parenthood, Diss was surprised and upset. At first, he refused them access, but Principal Carol Campbell demanded they be let in, and told him that the organization would be visiting his classroom throughout the year. Diss, a Roman Catholic, felt that he could not in good conscience participate in these presentations, during which students would discuss their sexual activities and methods of contraception.  He asked to be excused, but Campbell denied his request and told him he had to stay and “facilitate [Planned Parenthood’s] interactions with students,” according to the suit.

“Because (Diss) expressed his opposition to the activities of Planned Parenthood at Benson High School, he became a target of” the administration, the suit reads. “They launched a full-scale assault on the plaintiff as a teacher. He was observed and evaluated on the most minute aspects of his teaching.”  He was ordered to stop drilling deficient students on their multiplication tables and factors, calling it “repetitive,” and one administrator demanded he stop using the words “God Bless” in all of his communications with staff, students and parents.

He was later accused of “unprofessional, intimidating and/or harassing behavior” by school officials over comments students said he made in opposition to Planned Parenthood, including his assertion that “they kill over a million babies every three years.” It was this allegation that district officials would ultimately use to justify his firing.

Diss is seeking $90,000 in backpay and benefits, and an additional $300,000 for emotional distress.  He is being represented by attorney Rebekah Millard of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.

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