Kirsten Andersen

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Petition asks U.S. government to make access to pornography ‘opt-in’ for internet users

Kirsten Andersen
Kirsten Andersen
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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new WhiteHouse.gov petition is asking the federal government to require internet service providers to block access to pornography by default, following the introduction of a similar policy in the United Kingdom.

“We are asking that people who are interested in porn should have to seek it and choose it,” the petition reads. “They should have to ‘Opt In’ for it by making arrangements to receive it with their Internet Service Provider. Everyone else should be free from it and assumed ‘Opt Out.’”

The petition’s author, “M.G.” of Greenbrae, Calif., echoed the concerns of frustrated parents nationwide who struggle to shield their children’s eyes from porn in a world where Internet access is available to many kids 24/7. 

“The average person, even children, can type in the word ‘cat’ or ‘home’ or ‘soup’ and instantly be inundated with offensive and disturbing pornographic images,” the petition states. “Parents and individuals have to go to great lengths to install Internet filters that often don’t weed out all porn. We are asking for greater protection and responsibility from Internet Service providers and our country.”

As of this writing, the petition has been active for three weeks and has garnered roughly 35,000 signatures.  It must reach 100,000 signatures in the next five days to become eligible for a response from the White House. 

Petitions submitted through the website are not binding on the government; the White House is not required to take any action on requests beyond issuing a statement. 

The U.S. government has a history of opposing mandatory filters – in 2010, when Australia proposed a similar plan, the State Department expressed its concern to Australian officials, and released a statement reiterating the U.S.’s commitment to “advancing the free flow of information, which we view as vital to economic prosperity and preserving open societies globally.”

But if the petition’s authors do succeed in getting the government to consider a mandatory nationwide porn filter, they may get more than they bargained for.  Free speech activists around the world, including some anti-porn advocates, have objected to the UK’s mandatory filters for being both ineffective and overly broad, and have accused Prime Minister David Cameron of introducing them potentially as a backdoor method for the British government to censor information and direct web traffic flow.  

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group said that when his group interviewed several U.K. ISPs to ask exactly what would be filtered out under the default settings, they were provided with a blacklist that included not just pornography, but violent or weapons-related material, ‘extremist’ and terrorist-related content, anorexia and eating disorder websites, suicide-related websites, alcohol, smoking, web forums, ‘esoteric material,’ and web blocking circumvention tools.

If the same parameters were applied in the United States, such filters might by default block pro-life websites, “fundamentalist” Christian websites, and sites that oppose gay “marriage,” all of which the Obama administration has defined as “extremist” positions or even “terrorism.”

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“David Cameron wants people to sleepwalk into censorship,” argued Killock.  “We know that people stick with defaults: this is part of the idea behind ‘nudge theory’ and ‘choice architecture’ that is popular with Cameron.”

In the United Kingdom, about 95 percent of homes are now covered by the government-mandated filters, which block all blacklisted content unless an adult who has provided proof of age specifically requests otherwise.  The vast majority of public wi-fi is also covered by these filters.  Coverage is expected to be universal by the end of 2014. 

The filters were put in place after Cameron made a speech in July announcing the changes, which he claimed were designed to protect the innocence of children.

While Cameron acknowledged the benefits of a “free and open internet,” he argued that “in no other market and with no other industry do we have such an extraordinarily light touch when it comes to protecting our children.  Children can’t go into the shops or the cinema and buy things meant for adults or have adult experiences; we rightly regulate to protect them. But when it comes to the Internet … we’ve neglected our responsibility to children.”

“The Internet is not a side-line to real life or an escape from real life, it is real life,” the prime minister said. “It has an impact on the children who view things that harm them, on the vile images of abuse that pollute minds and cause crime, on the very values that underpin our society. So we’ve got to be more active, more aware, more responsible about what happens online.”

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, author and activist Cory Doctorow agreed with Cameron that awareness and responsibility is the key to keeping children safe from online porn.  But he maintained that parents, not the government, should assume that responsibility, and argued that mandatory filters only provide a false sense of security while infringing on legitimate websites’ free speech rights.

“Presenting a parent who is trying to keep their children safe with the question: ‘Would you like to block all adult content on your internet connection?’ is terribly misleading, designed to play on parental fears and bypass critical judgment,” Doctorow wrote. “Better to ask: ‘Would you like us to block some pornography (but not all of it), and a lot of other stuff, according to secret blacklists composed by anonymous third-party contractors who have been known to proudly classify photos of Michaelangelo's David as ‘nudity?’’”

Argued Doctorow, “there simply isn't any way a parent can rely on Britain's ISPs to stand in for their personal attention and their work to help kids acquire the only filter that can work: common sense and good judgment.”

Free-market tools to enhance internet safety do exist, and are often free for download.  If you are interested in blocking explicit material on your home computer, you can find a list of helpful programs here.

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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.

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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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