John Jalsevac

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Obama joins Cardinal Dolan/Romney at Al Smith Dinner: pro-life leaders react

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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October 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – President Obama and Mitt Romney traded barbs and shared a meal with Cardinal Timothy Dolan last night at the lavish Al Smith Dinner – an annual Catholic charities fundraiser that this year was dogged by controversy over the question of whether the president should have been invited.

Many pro-life activists opposed Obama’s presence, citing fears that the light-hearted tone of the evening as well as the inevitable photo-op of the president yucking it up with the cardinal risked leaving the impression that all is amicable between the Catholic Church and the Democratic candidate. Dolan stated about the two candidates, “I’m privileged to be in the company of two honorable men, both called to the noble vocation of public service, whose love for God and country is surpassed only by their love for their own wives and children…”

The photo-op occurred as predicated, with various news media posting photos of the three laughing participants, similar to photos in the New York Times, the NY Daily News and the Associated Press, its syndicated photo being posted on the prominent Politico website.

At the center of the controversy is the president’s HHS birth control mandate which many, including the country’s Catholic bishops, have slammed as an unprecedented attack on religious freedom, as well as his extreme pro-abortion views and support for gay ‘marriage.’

Priests for Life’s Fr. Frank Pavone, Judie Brown of American Life League, and Monica Migliorino Miller, the Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, were among those who publicly criticized the decision to invite Obama.

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But at the dinner itself any controversy took a back seat, the event mostly staying true to its traditional character – with Obama roasting his opponent in a light-hearted and self-deprecating speech, and vice versa.

Romney, however, took a notably more aggressive approach, at one point reminding attendees of the president’s strained relationship with the Catholic Church, joking, “the President has found out a way to take out the sting of the Obamacare mandates for the Church. From now on they’re going to be in Latin.”

Shortly before this the Republican candidate had mentioned “differences” between Obama and Dolan, suggesting that attendees would know if there were “no hard feelings” if Obama’s water turned into wine.

In his concluding remarks, Romney again hinted at the HHS birth control mandate controversy, thanking the Al Smith foundation for its work “in defense of the rights of conscience and in solidarity with the innocent child waiting to be born.” This last line earned Romney a sustained applause.

For his part, Obama steered clear of any reference to his difficulties with the Church. At one point, however, after acknowledging the “extraordinary work that is done by the Catholic Church,” the president went on to quote Scripture, saying, “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” - a scriptural choice that left one of the country’s top Catholic media personalities scratching his head.

EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, host of The World Over, noted the remark, tweeting, “In light of HHS mandate, seems an odd citation.”

In the days before the dinner, the New York Post had quoted an anonymous source “close to Dolan” suggesting that the Cardinal wasn’t entirely comfortable with his decision to invite Obama. “He knows the president wants this for one reason, and that’s the photo,” the source claimed.

But if the cardinal had any qualms, he didn’t show it last night. In his concluding remarks, the cardinal, who has been in the thick of the charge against the HHS mandate, defended the event, saying, “might I suggest that this annual dinner actually shows America and the Church at their best?

“Here we are: in an atmosphere of civility and humor, hosted by a Church which claims that ‘joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence;’ men and women; young and old; of every ethnic and racial background.”

Dolan went on to mention Al Smith’s conviction that government should be on the side of the “uns” – the unemployed, the unhoused, the unfed, and the “un-wed mother, and her innocent, fragile un-born baby in her womb.”

Reactions to the dinner among pro-life leaders have been largely muted. Deal Hudson, the founder of Catholic Advocate who served previously as the director of Catholic outreach for George W. Bush’s campaign, told LifeSiteNews that he thinks the dinner “will either have zero impact on the election, or it will be to [Obama’s] detriment.”

“The media attention to this event did nothing but underscore the contrast of Obama’s pro-abortion position with the teaching of the Catholic Church and, particularly, with Cardinal Dolan,” he said.

Hudson pointed to the “loud applause and cheering” that erupted when Cardinal Dolan mentioned the unborn, which, he said, “tells you the audience was waiting for the pro-life message to be delivered in Obama’s presence.”

Jill Stanek, a popular pro-life blogger and activist, said that after watching the speeches she was undecided about the event. “I understand the view that Obama should not have been invited to speak, that to give him the podium could be viewed as giving him tacit approval,” she said. “I held that view before watching the speeches on t.v. and catching the vibe. I may still hold that view; I’m persuadable.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, however, said he believes the dinner was ultimately harmful. “No doubt, the Obama campaign will use his presence at the dinner to say, ‘Look, I’m not attacking the works of the Catholic Church. On the contrary, I’ve helped raise money for them,’” Pavone told LifeSiteNews. “Meanwhile, the actions of his Administration continue to threaten the very survival of Catholic institutions.”

Pavone said he believes in “respectful dialogue” with those with whom Priests for Life disagrees, pointing to some of his friendships with pro-abortion activists. But, he said, “We just seek to do it in ways that minimize the chances that it will be exploited for the political gain of those on the other side of the disagreement.”

“Engage Obama respectfully, yes, but don’t use him for fundraising or let him use us by claiming credit for the fundraising.”


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
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

LifeSiteNews staff
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

Tony Gosgnach
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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