Patrick Craine

Exclusive interview: ‘Join me’ challenges Canadian pro-life prisoner of conscience

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

TORONTO, Ontario, June 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After being released from prison on Friday, pro-life advocate Linda Gibbons is preparing yet again to challenge the injunction that has landed her in jail for nine of the last 17 years.  But this time, she’s calling on other pro-lifers to join her campaign.

“I really feel if we’re going to turn this around, there has to be some kind of a mobilization,” said Gibbons, who spoke with LifeSiteNews from her temporary quarters in Toronto on Monday.  After her lengthiest prison stay to date, the grandmother and devoted prisoner of conscience plans to head right back to jail again at the end of July.

Gibbons’ campaign against the injunction has gained notoriety in the last year, propelled by the length of her most recent imprisonment, with multiple cover stories in the National Post and growing rumblings from pro-lifers about joining her.

“I think that it should be a movement. … Our witness at the abortion clinic is saying we’re here with our bodies,” she said.  “And when the court says, ‘Well, no you’re not going to be here,’ we’re saying, ‘Well, regardless of the cost, regardless of the risk.’”

A life-saving witness

Gibbons was freed Friday after 28 months of uninterrupted imprisonment for witnessing prayerfully outside Toronto’s Scott abortion facility.  It is one of several in the city that is protected by a 1994 court injunction banning pro-life activity within a specified zone.

Though Gibbons has repeatedly been prosecuted by the Crown in a criminal court, the “temporary” injunction was actually instituted in a civil court at the request of Bob Rae’s NDP provincial government.  It came amidst calls for a government crackdown against the pro-life movement after they were declared guilty by the media for the 1992 bombing at abortionist Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto facility.

Charges were never laid in that bombing, however, and the prime suspect was the father of a child aborted at the facility.  A Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report even suggested the bombing was likely perpetrated by pro-abortion activists.

Nevertheless, the injunction has had the effect of silencing pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, and effectively shutting down the life-saving work of sidewalk counselors and vigil-keepers.

Gibbons, who has dedicated her life to challenging the injunction, called it a “political construct” that lacks “legal propriety” and “proper authority.”  She noted that the injunction itself states the pro-life activity was threatening the financial interests of the abortionists.  “[The government is] extorting money from Canadian citizens to pay hired killers to butcher babies,” she said.  “The injunction [is] to protect that activity.”

“Since when does a government have an obligation to the commercialization of killing?  The government’s duty is to protect life,” she added.

Though she could be released on bail, Gibbons has remained behind bars for long stretches because she steadfastly refuses in conscience to accept a bail condition that requires her to stay away from the abortion facilities.  Signing the bail papers, she told LifeSiteNews, would be to say, “Yes I will cease defending innocent unborn children that are about to be killed.”

“I have no intention of agreeing to that.  It violates principles.  It violates conscience,” she explained.

‘Are you pro-lifers really acting like abortion is murder?’

Gibbons’ 17-year campaign has been fueled by a deep love for children in the womb, and hence a keen awareness of the atrocity of abortion.  She has taken to heart a question she was asked once by a Jewish reporter from the Ottawa Citizen: “Are you pro-lifers really acting like abortion is murder?”

“If a two-year-old was being murdered next door, you’re not going to sit down and write a letter to your MP,” she explained.  “That we need to do more, that’s obvious, obvious. … If I was going into a house to save a child from a fire, no one’s going to charge me with trespass for that.” At the same time, she insists that she has no interest in calling into question the efforts of pro-lifers who do not join her campaign.

But for Gibbons, the effort is a simple question of maintaining an authentic Christian witness.  “If the Church is not seen defending life, it puts the impression that Christ is not really concerned about it,” she said.  “The way the Church acts and behaves gives validity to our beliefs.”

She has often been asked if she regrets the time lost with family and the missed birthdays, marriages, and graduations.  “When we’re having unborn children slaughtered at the rate we are in Canada, … should our lives go on as normal?” she asked in response.  “It’s not normal to live in the Holocaust and sort of pretend it’s not happening.”

“I want [my life] to be a witness that the lives of these children cannot be forgotten,” she continued.  “I’m ready to surrender all my assets, … all my time. [Otherwise,] we’re saying these babies must be allowed to die so I can stay in my comfort zone.  Because what we say then is it doesn’t matter.”

“When we begin to suffer for the unborn, our identification with them, that’s when we’re going to impact society, when they see that,” she added.  “The Church is not hurting enough for the unborn.  When we start feeling their hurt in a real concrete way, then things are going to change, because then we’re saying very clearly that this cannot go on.”

Saving babies in prison

Gibbons has been a vocal critic of conditions at Milton, Ontario’s Vanier Centre for Women, where she says women in outer cells are subjected to hypothermia-like conditions as a result of the cold.  And she admits that the length of her stay this time around had her convinced that she would never get out.

Nevertheless, she puts her jail time to good use, counseling women struggling with drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, keeping the peace as needed, and spreading the Gospel through one-on-one conversations or by leading Bible studies with small groups.

“I treat them like my daughters.  I call them my girls.  It’s a matter of just trying to love them where they’re at,” she said.

In fact, in her most recent stint she was able to convince three pregnant prisoners to keep their babies, and connected them with a Toronto pregnancy resource center when they left.

‘As long as God gives me life and breath’

While the grandmother would normally turn around to challenge the injunction again in less than a week, this time she’s going to take a brief break in order to visit her 89-year-old mother and take care of medical needs.  But she says she’ll be back at it by the end of July, and is committed to the cause until the very end.

She said she will continue to challenge the injunction “as long as God gives me life and breath.  If I can get out of bed and put my feet on the floor, then I want to continue.”

“My mission is to be all that Christ wants me to be.  It is his mission and we are simply walking with Christ,” she said.  “It becomes simply a daily moment-by-moment walking with Christ.”

See the LifeSiteNews Feature page, Linda Gibbons, Prisoner of Conscience, listing many past reports on her efforts to steer vulnerable women away from making the same mistakes that she herself made.

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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 millions 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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