Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

Gala revealed a lot about who we are

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac
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Recalling the April 28 LifeSiteNews gala still brings to mind many fond memories from that amazing ‘family’ event.  It revealed a lot about who we are and the passion and love of life and family that we share with each other, many leaders, and our supporters. Today, the first day of our summer campaign, I want to tell you more about that wonderful day and evening.

LSN staff and our US and Canadian boards of directors are spread around internationally.  One benefit of the gala was that it gave a rare opportunity for most of us to meet each other in person, many for the first time. We are mostly a virtual organization, with staff usually hired over the phone and by email, board members and staff usually meeting only by conference calls or on Skype, and some of us never having actually met in person.  Most of us work from our homes.

We were therefore thrilled to actually be together at a joint board/staff luncheon and a meeting during the afternoon before the gala.  The meeting was serious and productive business, but it was also a special occasion of joy for the LifeSiteNews team.

Part of the meeting involved discussions with Jean-Yves Cote, our lead defense lawyer in the Gravel lawsuit against LifeSiteNews, and Peter Breen, Executive Director of the US Thomas More Society. They both came to the meeting and gala from Montreal, Quebec and Chicago, Illinois respectively.

The first evening event was the pre-dinner VIP reception at which Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gave a punchy, unabashedly pro-life, pro-family talk. He was introduced by LSN US board of director Dan McConchie, VP of Government affairs for Americans United for Life.

Cuccinelli, who will be running for Virginia governor in 2013, gave a live witness that it is possible to be a very competent elected official and be thoroughly, openly, pro-life and pro-family.

Gala attendees told me they were moved by having personally met and talked to so many leaders that they have been reading about on LifeSiteNews. It was difficult getting everyone into the dinner room later on because of all the excited interaction going on in the halls.

LSN US board member and dinner emcee, Brad Mattes, did an outstanding job during the night. Brad, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute and the host of the award-winning Facing Life Head On weekly television series, helped to make it a classy yet warm evening for all.

Famed Canadian novelist and artist Michael O’Brien gave the opening invocation, as well as some revealing comments about the LifeSiteNews team and the depth of our mission. He was an especially big hit with dinner guests who are fans of his novels. Keynote speaker Abby Johnson said she “had the best night tonight getting to sit by Michael O’Brien and chat it up” and that “it was the highlight of my year.”

Patrick Novecosky, Editor-in-Chief of Legatus magazine, gave the introduction to Abby, stating, “Abby represents everything we hope and pray for those who work in the abortion industry.”

Abby’s spirited talk was a natural fit for the night. Being pregnant at the time and having some complications related to the pregnancy, Abby had to cancel other speaking engagements. We were very grateful, therefore, that she was still able to make that long trip from her Texas home to be our keynote speaker.

The former abortion center manager said, “I really believe in pro-life media and what LifeSiteNews is doing.” She told about her new ministry, And Then There Were None, that reaches out to abortion clinic workers.  In only its first four months, Abby revealed, they had “17 abortion clinic workers leave and convert on the issue of abortion.”

Facts, “not emotions, not yelling, not telling them they are a bad person,” are the key item that gets those workers’ attention Abby stressed. She related, “I kinda have a bank of articles that I use from LifeSiteNews that I can send to women and men who are considering leaving that abortion industry. Those facts, those articles, that is part of their conversion.”

After Abby’s talk there were lots of introductions – the LifeSiteNews US and Canadian boards, many leaders present and the LSN staff. This is our ‘family,’ and it seemed that by the end of the evening all felt that kinship and the joy that goes with it. John-Henry and I made a point of emphasizing that the people in that room are our heroes and that we see our role as one of being of service to all of them and their personal or organizational efforts.

We were very privileged to have in attendance Julia Holcomb, her very supportive husband and one of her sons who had all flown in from Texas for the Gala. Julia, who is now active with Silent No More Awareness, had donated two paintings for auction at the gala that were more awesome to see in person than any photos of them that we could have posted. The paintings were successfully auctioned off and many supporters had the opportunity to meet and chat with this gracious lady.

Then we premiered our 15-year anniversary video which blew away the audience. We will be unveiling that on LifeSiteNews soon!

That was followed by Deal Hudson, former adviser to the Bush administration, who expressed his strong admiration for the work of LifeSiteNews.  His task was to encourage donations from the dinner guests. We were humbled by his glowing endorsement and conviction in supporting LSN. He said, “I’m in”, and at the podium put his check for $200 in an envelope and then asked, “how many of you are also in? Put your hands up.”  We were amazed at how many did.

At the end my son John, our assistant editor and invaluable jack-of-all-trades, was moved to spontaneously approach the podium and thank John-Henry and myself for all that we had done in starting and leading LifeSiteNews. John especially wanted everyone to realize that we strongly encourage all staff to maintain a solid prayer life while doing this difficult work.

The program ended at about 10 p.m., but a proof of the success of the night was that many guests lingered for over an hour longer, wanting to chat about what went on and socialize further with the exceptional people who were there that evening. New relationships were struck that night.

There is much more that could be written about April 28. I think this report gives you a good idea of the spirit and significance of the day and evening, and hopefully a better sense of the importance of LifeSiteNews’ mission and the many influential persons who work closely with us.

To continue that mission we rely almost entirely on financial support from our readers. There is no large benefactor behind this organization, as some readers assume from time to time. It would be really helpful, but I can assure you that is presently not the case. We just get by from quarter to quarter with the generous donations that you, our readers, are able to send us at those times.

And of course, we are blessed by those key supporters who make recurring donations each month to keep us going as campaign funds are used up. These recurring donations are vital to our operation.

It is now time for our Summer Campaign. As Deal Hudson asked our guests at the Gala, “Are you in?”

During our Summer Campaign,
will you donate to this mission for truth?

(Click Here to Donate)

Our annual operating expenses now add up to about $600,000. For this campaign we have set a not-unreasonable goal of $100,000.

You can play a crucial role as a member of the LifeSiteNews family by sending a gift for our much-needed work TODAY!

Please send us your gift today – for life, for truth.


Steve Jalsevac
Co-Founder
LifeSiteNews.com

P.S. Abby Johnson ended her keynote address by saying, “When you are asked tonight to make a contribution to LifeSiteNews, I hope that you will remember the lives of the children and grandchildren and kids in your life who you love. Because I want to tell you, we have to sacrifice. As much as you can.” We hope you take her words as seriously as we do.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
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 more than $400 million 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."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"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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