Kathleen Gilbert

PHOTOS: ‘This is tyranny’: tens of thousands decry HHS mandate in 146 nationwide protests

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Christine Dhanagom contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Another “Occupy” movement has just rocked the United States of America - but with a very different message.

Tens of thousands of men and women gathered in 146 protests on Friday, joining a grassroots effort that organizers say grew far beyond expectations. The rallies were held to protest the Obama administration mandate forcing religious universities, charities, and other groups to pay for abortifacient drugs and other birth control for students and employees.

But while the purpose of the Occupy protests last Fall was sometimes criticized as being somewhat hazy, the message of this event was clear. According to the Friday rallies, the HHS mandate is not a birth control issue, but a religious freedom issue, and a challenge to fight that won’t be ignored.

One fulcrum of the national protests was Washington, D.C., where about 1,500-2,000 gathered on a hot and sunny afternoon before the Health and Human Services building. Beneath the windows of HHS offices was heard the chanting of “We will not comply,” car horns honking in solidarity, and the rallying cries of several prominent speakers, including Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, conservative activist Star Parker, and Lila Rose of Live Action.

Hawkins put the issue in blunt terms, stating simply, “This is tyranny.”

“We are being told that our beliefs, our conscience, no longer matters,” said the pro-life youth leader. “What stops them from targeting someone else next?”

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In a speech that elicited a strong reaction from the crowd, Star Parker said that, “No more should my auto insurance cover your tune-up should my health insurance cover your sex life. Not your Viagra, not your condoms, not your birth control devices, not your abortions.”

Lila Rose highlighted the interests of abortion and contraception giant Planned Parenthood, the leading lobbyist in favor of the mandate, and criticized the progressive talking point that standing against the mandate was a “war on women.” “The very group that’s manipulating, victimizing women - you talk about a war on women, that’s the war on women,” said Rose, whose investigations have famously unveiled Planned Parenthood’s abetting of sex traffickers and child rapists.

Rallies in 145 other locations showed evidence of similar zeal across the United States.

Over 1,000 gathered under the shadow of George Washington’s statue on the steps of Federal Hall in New York, while hundreds more gathered from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., to Winston-Salem, NC, to Ann Arbor, Mich., to a rainy Cincinnati, Oh.

Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, one of the lead organizers of the event, estimated that there were around 1,500 people present in Chicago, despite the pouring rain. While the rain killed the rally’s public announcement system, Scheidler said, “We soldier on.”

2,200 were reported in St. Paul, Minnesota, where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was visiting Friday.

A rally in the small town of Front Royal, Virginia - where the Occupy movement protest last year consisted of two - drew 200.

Local media reported 400 attendees in Livingston, “hundreds” in Grand Rapids, 500 in Allentown, 150 in Rochester, “hundreds” in Omaha, “hundreds” in Ann Arbor, “hundreds” in Toledo, “over 600” in Buffalo, “hundreds” in Goshen, and “hundreds” in Evansville.

The protest even appears to have gone international: a Youtube video posted on Facebook rally pages shows a demonstration of solidarity in Pakistan.

During a rally of about 100 in Germantown, Md., a noticeable number of drivers honked and waved in support - and participants lamented the fate of healthcare under the anti-Catholic effects of the mandate.

“If this HHS mandate goes through, the backbone of so much of the healthcare in the United States Is going to collapse because it’s Catholic,” Fr. Francis Martin, chaplain of the local Catholic lay group Mother of God Community, told LifeSiteNews.com.

Another Catholic priest, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of the Archdiocese of Washington said at the D.C. rally that the mandate is not only “worse than Roe v. Wade” because it will directly coerce people of faith, but that this coercion is part and parcel of the administration’s ultimate goal.

“The one thing this anti-freedom of religion mandate is not about, is contraception,” said the priest, who noted that the country is already “flooded” with birth control.

“If you attempt to nationalize 1/6 of our economy - the health care sector - you need to get rid of intermediate structures in society, the churches and other institutions stand as a buffer zone between the state and the citizen,” he said.

“Some people don’t like that.”

Carolina Agostino, a Virginia schoolteacher attending the D.C. rally, agreed that the mandate would mark a seismic shift for America.

“I cannot believe that this is happening in our country, the United States of America,” said Agostino, who emigrated to America from Uruguay as a teenager. “You can expect it from other countries maybe, but not the United States.”

Despite the spirit of opposition, the crowds were joyful and peaceful: the only police interference at the D.C. rally was to ask children not to climb the concrete pylons.

Some speakers even saw the administration’s “war on the Church,” for all the danger, in a positive light, and called to attention the long-overdue nature of the debate over how religious freedom and sexual morality intersect.

“The Church has been called out ot defend its position as a moral authority in this great country,” said Star Parker. “The bright side of this government overreach [is that it] gives us reason to have a conversation that we should have had way back in the 60s.”

Pat Mahoney, leader of the Christian Defense Coalition and emcee of the D.C. event assured his audience that the movement against the mandate would not end in tandem with the last of Friday’s rallies.

“This is just a starting line,” he said.

 


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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