Ben Johnson

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University says condom vandalism of pro-life display has been ‘properly, decisively’ dealt with

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY, April 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The president of Western Kentucky University said the desecration of an approved pro-life display has been “properly, decisively” dealt with – although a pro-life student group has pointed out that there has been no apology to the pro-life students, and the student responsible has apparently not been disciplined. In fact, according to Students for Life, the woman who placed condoms over each cross in the pro-life display may still receive college credit for her act of vandalism.

The student group Hilltoppers for Life got university permission to erect 3,700 crosses in a Cemetery of the Innocents, commemorating the number of babies aborted each day. Early last Friday morning the group’s president, John Sohl, confronted the woman, Elaina Smith, and her non-student boyfriend as they placed condoms over thousands of crosses that made up the pro-life display. Smith said she had her professor’s permission for the project, according to Sohl.

Campus police allowed Smith to finish placing condoms over the crosses and take a picture for class before asking her to remove them.

WKU President Gary A. Ransdell issued a statement today saying the controversy is over.

“The offending student has apologized,” according to Ransdell. But Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins says the student has made no public apology. “We have still not be able to determine from the university whether or not the art student will receive class credit for putting her condoms on the pro-life group’s crosses,” said Hawkins.

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On Monday, Smith told local media, “I had worried that my idea might offend some. However, after giving it a lot of thought, I came to believe that it is no more or less offensive than the original installation.”

Ransdell wrote, “The faculty member’s intent of the art assignment was not to target this particular display. That decision was made by the student.”

While he wrote that WKU administrators met with the student and her professor, he did not indicate any further action would be taken against either.

“This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion,” Ransdell wrote.

“It’s a form of vandalism when you mark up somebody’s displays without permission, and it should generally be treated as such,” Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the academic watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told LifeSiteNews.com. “I would think that most faculty members would understand that when somebody puts up a display, whether it be for art or for political purposes, that’s not to be converted by somebody else, whether by the faculty or by their own initiative.”

“When you’re dealing with a contentious issue like abortion, sometimes people sacrifice their good judgment for political considerations,” he said. 

Students for life has asked President Ransdell and Western Kentucky University to do three things immediately “to remedy this situation and put it to rest”: have Smith publicly apologize, ask the campus police to apologize for their inaction, and to confirm in writing Smith will receive no credit for the vandalism.

Shibley said the college wants to move on as quickly as possible. “Universities are averse to controversy,” Shibley told LifeSiteNews.com. “Just because the university may not want it out there doesn’t mean you don’t have a legitimate problem with how the university is treating you.”

“I think it’s a sad fact that many faculty members across the county don’t have a good understanding of what free speech means in a free society like ours.”

Students whose rights have been violated should not be afraid to contact organizations such as FIRE, which represents students in court, or to go to the local media. “Tell your story and get the story out there,” he said. “FIRE is the leading organization doing that.”

Contact
WKU Police Captain of Professional Standards, Joe Harbaugh
joe.harbaugh@wku.edu
(270) 745-2543


The president’s response in full is below:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the unfortunate and distasteful act which occurred at the Hilltoppers for Life pro-life display on the WKU campus last Thursday night.  My colleagues on the faculty and staff at WKU take this matter very seriously.  Unfortunately, Dean Dennis George was incorrectly identified as a responsible party.  He is a Dean of one of six undergraduate colleges and in no way relates to our campus Police or student disciplinary procedures.

In response to your message, we offer the following insights.  The pro-life display was created by a sanctioned official WKU student organization called Hilltoppers for Life.  They requested and received permission to create their display which consisted of red and black paper covering the bleacher seats of our campus amphitheater with several small crosses made from popsicle sticks glued to the paper.  It was on display during the week of April 16 and was taken down, as scheduled on Friday morning, April 20.
On the morning of April 20 at around 2:30 a.m., one student and her non-student boyfriend chose to place condoms over some of the crosses as a gesture of birth control.  They said it was an assignment from an Art Installation course that involves placing art exhibits across campus.  The faculty member’s intent of the art assignment was not to target this particular display. That decision was made by the student who chose to make her own statement for birth control at the expense of the Hilltoppers for Life endeavor.

The Hilltoppers for Life students keeping watch over the exhibit, after allowing a few hundred condoms to be placed on the crosses, eventually called the police who arrived promptly.  It was a calm scene and the police chose to keep it that way.  They allowed the student to remove the condoms and leave peacefully—which is what occurred.  There was no aggressive behavior or incident.  The display was not damaged other than the disrespectful symbolism that this incident unfortunately created.

When I and the appropriate administrators learned of the situation, we promptly issued a statement in support of free speech and that the University does not condone any attempts by individuals or groups to inhibit anyone’s or any group’s right to free speech or creative activity.  The proper administrators have also met with the student and faculty member.  Our message was direct and firm.

No member of our University family should impede another member of our family’s freedom of speech or creative effort, especially when it comes to exercising religious freedoms.  The offending student has apologized.  This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion.  Your interest in and support of WKU and its priorities for First Amendment rights is appreciated.

Gary A. Ransdell
President

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A protester rallies against Hobby Lobby, protesting against the Supreme Court decision Dan Holm/Shutterstock
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

DNC chairwoman exhorts constituents to boycott local Hobby Lobby store

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was nearly two months ago, but the issue as hot as ever, as was demonstrated yesterday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, D-FL, urged constituents to boycott a Hobby Lobby store in her district.

In a press conference one lot away from the Hobby Lobby location in Davie, which opened in April, Wasserman-Schultz said that she wanted "people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here."

"If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

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Wasserman-Schultz said that Hobby Lobby's corporate ownership "doesn’t support its employees" and "wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values…."

She also criticized the Supreme Court's late June decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, which had sued the federal government over the Obama administration's HHS Mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, say it violates their conscience to pay for coverage for the four abortifacients and potential abortifacients that the mandate required them to cover.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous," said the Democrat. "No boss should have the right to dictate and employee’s health decisions because [they] don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees.

"A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby."

The Supreme Court's decision allowed closely held corporations to not fund coverage of contraception or abortion drugs and devices.

Wasserman-Schultz's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Through a spokesperson, the Green family declined to comment about the Congresswoman's statements. 

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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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America is rejecting abortion because pro-lifers are having more children: study

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

According to a new Northwestern University study, American attitudes about abortion are trending more conservatively than other contentious social issues, a phenomenon the authors credit to the simple fact that pro-lifers have more kids.

“We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes,” the authors wrote. Using GSS data collected between 1977 and 2010, “We test[ed] the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population.”

The authors wrote: “Support for abortion rights has turned flat after a period of increase following Roe v. Wade, and in recent years there are even indications of a reversal toward more restrictive attitudes. This U-turn is evinced particularly among younger cohorts, and is happening despite liberalizing trends in several ostensibly related issue domains.”

The authors speculated that the reason for the increase in pro-life attitudes among young people is that their parents had more children than their pro-abortion counterparts. When they examined the data, they found that pro-life individuals had, on average, 27 percent more children than those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”

Not only that, but pro-life parents appear to be much more likely to pass their views on to their children. The researchers found that the younger generation’s pro-life shift was too strong to be blamed solely on differences in fertility – meaning children of pro-abortion parents are rejecting their parents’ views.

“[E]ither pro-life beliefs are always more faithfully transmitted than pro-choice ones; or, there has been a cultural shift towards more pro-life beliefs that is being reflected in the parent-child correlations,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that if it wasn’t for the higher fertility rate among pro-life people, the nation as a whole would favor abortion by about five percentage points more than it does currently – and researchers predict the pro-life trend will continue.

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“Taken together, these findings suggest that fertility has had at least some part in leading the population in a more pro-life direction over time,” the authors wrote. “Further investigation into this pattern indicates that not only are abortion attitudes associated with fertility, but in proportional terms—which is what matters for cultural change—the gap is widening.”

“Fertility has declined for both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the past 30 years, but fertility has declined far less markedly for pro-life individuals,” they added. “Whereas pro-[life] individuals born before 1940 were only having about 1.2 children per one child born to a pro-choice parent, this ratio has grown to over 1.5 for those born in the mid to late 1970s. This pattern suggests that future cohorts may place an even stronger demographic drag on the liberalization of abortion attitudes.”

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A declaration that PP is an 'enemy of the Church' would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication. American Life League
Lisa Bourne

New campaign asks Pope Francis to declare Planned Parenthood an ‘enemy of the Church’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League (ALL) is launching a campaign calling for the Catholic Church to declare Planned Parenthood an “enemy of the Church.”

Using prayer and education, ALL’s Defend the Family campaign seeks to expose the nation’s largest abortion provider for contribution to the destruction of human lives, as well as the family. 

The campaign, said Jim Sedlack, vice-president of ALL, is quite simply “a way of calling attention to the fact that this is a very bad organization.”

“Planned Parenthood is attacking the family, either by killing preborn children or by robbing the souls of the older children,” he said. 

A declaration that PP is an “enemy of the Church” would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication.

Such a declaration would not be unprecedented. Popes in the past have identified and condemned organizations that posed a grave threat to the Church, most recently Pope Pius XII in 1949 with Communism and Pope Clement XII in 1738 with Freemasonry.

While specifics would depend on the wording of the Papal pronouncement, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews if the Holy Father makes the declaration there would be no mistaking its intent.

“When the pope makes the declaration it becomes crystal clear,” Sedlak said. “There’ll be no shades of gray, it’ll be black and white, it’ll be clear to the world.”

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'Now is the time'

There are still people who are not fully aware of the extent of the societal damage inflicted by Planned Parenthood, said Sedlak, including members of the Church hierarchy. He said it’s important to emphasize the truth of what the abortion giant does.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the enemy,” said Sedlak. “When people really stop and focus on Planned Parenthood, they realize it’s the enemy.”

ALL cites Planned Parenthood’s targeting of children to sexualize them as a major cause of the destruction of the family and a fundamental reason for the Defend the Family campaign.

“They really push for getting young people into lives of sexual sin,” Sedlak said. “Young people who aren’t pulled into sexual activity do not provide a cent of income to Planned Parenthood, but young people who are pulled in provide millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire.”

ALL compiled a comprehensive report on Planned Parenthood titled, “The Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood,” as part of the Defend the Family campaign.

“The document builds the case,” said Sedlak. “Why Planned Parenthood, why now is the time.”

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that for its part Planned Parenthood has always recognized that its greatest enemy is the Catholic Church, even working to have the Church lose its status at the UN.

“They fight anybody who wants to take sex away from the kids in any way possible,” Sedlak said. “That’s one reason why Planned Parenthood is the sex mafia.”

And when Sedlak uses the term “mafia,” he means it literally, pointing out that the Holy Father condemned the mafia in his June 21, 2014, homily in Calabria, Italy, denouncing its, “Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Planned Parenthood kills far more people than the mafia,” Sedlak said.

Also underscoring the need for the Vatican to act on declaring Planned Parenthood an enemy of the Church, is the convening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October in Rome, which will lead into the general synod in 2015.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that these, along with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, are events that ALL will rally around to raise awareness of the Defend the Family campaign.

Preliminary response to the campaign has been very positive, he said.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that the “Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood” report was so well received upon initial presentation to Vatican officials, that ALL was asked to translate it into three more languages.

“The support we’ve gotten from talking to bishops has been overwhelming,” Sedlak said.

Prayer is priority #1

The Defend the Family campaign consists first and foremost of prayer, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews.

“Our approach is that we need prayer support,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to succeed is through prayer to the Blessed Mother; the only way it will succeed is if God wants it to succeed.”

Participants are asked to say regular prayers after Mass, to offer prayers for the pope and to initiate communication with local bishops about the dangers that Planned Parenthood poses to the faithful.

Sedlak also added that The Defend the Family campaign is for everyone, not just Catholics.

He said pro-life supporters of all faith traditions are invited to contact ALL for assistance in encouraging their religious denomination or church leader to declare Planned Parenthood an enemy.

In addition to prayers for the campaign, ALL is asking people to sign and submit ALL’s Declaration of Encouragement to the Holy Father, enroll in the Spiritual Bouquet for the Holy Father and to share ALL resources on Planned Parenthood.

Information, links and resources are available on the campaign website, defendthefamily.org.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that ALL is giving the success of the Defend the Family campaign up to God.

“This is all happening in God’s time, and so far he’s been blessing us mightily,” Sedlak said. “And we’re going to go wherever God takes us.”

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