Peter Baklinski

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Ontario Catholic School board to fight lawsuit seeking to exempt student from religious activities

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, February 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While a Catholic school board in Ontario has given in to the demands of a parent who demanded his son’s exemption from mandatory high school religion courses, they say they are unwilling to go further and exempt the student from all religious activiites. 

Parent Oliver Erazo from Brampton is now threatening legal action against the board if it will not further exempt his son from anything remotely religious in the school, including school-wide religious activities and events.

Despite the threat of legal action, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (D-PCDSB) says it will stand its ground and not offer the student further exemptions. 

“It is simply not possible to remove the faith aspect of a Catholic school in a system that infuses gospel values throughout the curriculum and life of the school,” wrote D-PCDSB spokesman Bruce Campbell in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

The D-PCDSB called Erazo’s wish akin to “wanting his children to attend a French school, but insist on instruction, for his children, to be in a language other than French…and to not participate in activities or programs that include aspects of French culture.”

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Erazo won the initial exemption for his son on the grounds of section 42.11(b) of the province’s Education Act, which states that students can be exempted from religious studies if it is “impractical by reason of distance or terrain or by reason of physical handicap” for a student to “attend a secondary school operated by a public board.” 

Erazo told media that he choose Notre Dame Catholic school for his children because of it being the closest school to his home and because the school was placed at the top of a list at a school-ranking website. 

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a lawyer working pro bono for Erazo, is encouraging the parent to pursue legal action against the board, saying that the province’s education act states that parents can obtain a full exemption for their children from religious courses, programs, and activities. 

“The exemption is clearly worded and it’s the law,” he said.

But critics of the initial D-PCDSB decision say that the board should not have caved into the parent’s request for exemption in the first place.

“The province’s Open Access policy does not require Catholic schools to simply allow students to opt-out of religious studies,” said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics to LifeSiteNews. “The legislation actually makes it extremely difficult, almost impossible, for most students (or parents) to obtain such an exemption.”

“According to media reports describing the father’s alleged reasons for seeking the exemption, he clearly does not qualify for the narrow conditions where an exemption can be provided, as described under Section 42(11) of the Education Act.”

Fonseca pointed out that Catholic schools in Ontario have a “constitutional right, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, to operate authentically Catholic schools, without limitation.”

Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada called it “troubling” that exemptions from religious studies in Catholic schools exist at all in the Education Act.

Landolt pointed out that the Catholic school system accommodated itself a “great deal” in 1985 — with the passage of Bill 30 — to the demands of the government so that the previously unfunded senior grades would receive full funding. She said that the Catholic system “watered down” its former confessional nature so as to “accommodate the funding” by including provisions for non-Catholic teachers and by allowing exemptions from religion class under certain circumstances.

While Landolt said the Catholic system essentially handed itself over to the whim of the government when it accepted public funding, she said that this particular case boils down to a parent sending his children to the wrong school.

“The parent is not a Catholic, the child has not been raised a Catholic, so what is the child doing there anyway? If you don’t want a Catholic education, go to a public school,” she said.

Fonseca agrees: “The solution for folks who want a Catholic school without the Catholicism already exists. It’s called the public school down the road.” 

Fonseca said that the board’s initial exemption sets a bad precedent. “I also fear that if boards were to give into this request for ‘religious studies’ exemption, it would give rise to Catholic students in future demanding the right to opt-out of Catholic teaching, prayer, mass and faith activities. Once you let the camel’s nose under the tent, the whole camel will eventually enter in.”

But the D-PCDSB appears for now to be adamant in its decision against further exemption.

“It is our expectation that all students be respectful of, and participate in religious events and activities. Or at least attend religious events and activities that are synonymous with attending a Catholic school,” Campbell wrote. 

“Parents who do not wish their children to be exposed to Christian Catholic teachings, values and traditions, factors that permeate the daily life of a Catholic school, and factors that they should most definitely have expected when they registered to attend a Catholic school, have other options available to them.”

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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