Michael Hichborn, American Life League

Where there’s smoke?

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn

Aug. 14, 2013 (ALL) - For the past couple of years, Catholic Relief Services has been at the center of a scandalous controversy regarding the funding of organizations promoting abortion and birth control. In some instances, there have even been claims that CRS was itself involved directly in the distribution of abortifacients and contraception. Through it all, CRS has denied any direct involvement in either the funding or distribution of such things. Though it has, on occasion, conceded that some of its own documentation wrongly promoted the use of condoms, CRS consistently and vehemently denies that it has ever done anything wrong. There’s an old saying: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The problem is that smoke has a way of concealing the flames. But if we look carefully, we should be able to cut through it all, get right to the source, and see just what kind of fire this is.

Plenty has been written about CRS’ funding of organizations like CARE and Population Services International, and the question about the fungibility of the money from CRS to these organizations is still lingering. But what I would like to focus on is the question of CRS’ direct funding and participation in the promotion of birth control.

After LifeSiteNews reported CRS’ $5.3 million grant to CARE International, one of the defenses offered by CRS was that “none of the funding from CRS was fungible.” 

However, this defense could not be offered when it came to CRS’ dues-paying relationships with other abortion and birth control spreading organizations. When reports came out that CRS is a dues-paying member and on the board of directors of MEDiCAM and CORE Group, CRS issued (in part) these two respective responses:

(Regarding MEDiCAM) MEDiCAM, similar to some networks and professional associations to which CRS belongs, includes organization members and program areas which do not align with all tenets of Catholic teaching. CRS staff who participate in these associations acknowledge our differences, air our disagreements on these issues, and contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation. As a member of such associations, we are able to represent the Catholic positions on health care as well as highlight our work and demonstrate the efficacy of such approaches. 

(Regarding CORE Group) Some networks to which CRS belongs include members which do not uphold all tenets of Catholic teaching. We acknowledge our differences, air our disagreements on these issues, and contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation. As an active and influential member of the CORE Group, we are able to represent the Catholic positions on health for mothers and their infants. 

It is important to note that MEDiCAM has made the spread of abortion (including the individual training of abortion providers) a primary focus of its strategy sessions since at least 2007, and CORE Group spent nearly 50 percent of its total budget toward “family planning” in 2011. The point is, the dues that CRS pays to MEDiCAM and CORE Group are indeed fungible, meaning that any money CRS is giving to these organizations is applied also to the spread of abortion and birth control. CRS does not deny this, but instead attempts to justify the dues-money and the relationship. So, as it stands here, CRS’ defense on the grounds of fungibility does not work.

Last year, while CRS was defending the grant it gave to CARE, it made it very clear that it would never give money to an organization like Planned Parenthood because “there’s a threshold in terms of what the focus of an agency is, and the preponderance of their work.” However, in July of this year, CRS was caught giving $2.7 million to a population control organization that uses its work in distributing anti-malaria drugs and mosquito nets (the area for which CRS says it gave funds to PSI) as a means of spreading its population control programs. In fact, PSI even stated in its own material that “reproductive, maternal and child health, and malaria are all deeply intertwined, affecting poor and vulnerable populations in rural areas together. Success (or failure) in one area, such as malaria, can free up resources to focus on other areas, or drag down progress.” 

In every region where PSI is working, it is also spreading abortion, birth control, or both. There is simply no area where its staff is working where they are NOT doing this. As such, it can and must be said that the focus of PSI as an agency, and the preponderance of its work, is population control through the spread of birth control and abortion. And yet, even as CRS made abundantly clear in defense of its grant to CARE that it would never fund an organization like Planned Parenthood, it was in the process of facilitating millions of dollars to an organization an awful lot like Planned Parenthood.

Most recently, Population Research Institute published a couple of reports accusing CRS of being directly involved in the distribution of abortifacient contraception. According to CRS, “CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work.” Simply put, both claims cannot be true. Either PRI is incorrect, or CRS is incorrect. So, for the answer, we’ll turn to CRS’ programs and documentation.

In 2008, CRS conducted an evaluation of its project called “Preventing AIDS in Northeast India” (PANI). This evaluation of CRS’ own project was conducted and written by two CRS employees from the headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland—Shannon Senefeld, CRS’ Global Director of Health and HIV, and Jennifer Overton, CRS’ technical advisor for HIV programs. In the evaluation, Senefeld and Overton indicate that one of the “correct ways to protect . . . from HIV” is to use condoms. They also lament that “only” 59 percent and 61.1 percent of surveyed individuals “reported using a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse,” and even complained on pages 62 and 63 that

there was almost no reference to full and accurate information about condoms; any references to condoms were made only to explain how the community used to condemn condom use. According to project participants who were interviewed for the evaluation, there is no discussion about condoms at all, even as a prevention method for HIV. This was particularly true in Nagaland where the society appears to be more conservative. It should be noted as well that local CRS staff are not fully aware of CRS’ policy on providing full and accurate information about condoms for prevention of sexually transmitted HIV. (emphasis original)

Page 71 of the PANI evaluation recommends: “There is need for additional training for these initial trainers to ensure correct information trickles down to all the program participants. This includes educating CRS staff and partners on CRS’ position on condoms.”

According to a February 2008 article by the Catholic News Service—the official news agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—CRS “is requiring its foreign partners to give ‘complete and accurate’ information on condoms in all HIV/AIDS programs.” So, it would seem that the PANI evaluation, in complaining that the project does not discuss condom use, is simply following the directives outlined by CRS itself. 

The PANI evaluation isn’t the only place CRS was found to be promoting condom use in its own documentation. In CRS’ sex education program for kids aged 8-12, called Window of Hope, CRS tells kids: “Sex with a condom is not always safe, but correct and consistent use of a condom helps to reduce the risk of getting HIV with an infected person.” In the same document is a script for a puppet show about HIV, conducted by a puppet that represents HIV. On page 174, the puppet says, “Some people use a condom. A condom is a rubber tube that is put on a man’s penis before having sex. If a condom is used correctly, it keeps the fluids from the penis and vagina from mixing and this way keeps ME out of THEIR bodies. Remember that condoms are not always safe, as they may break during sexual intercourse.”

Another of CRS’ programs called “We Stop AIDS,” says: “A condom is a rubberized thin sheath that goes over the penis of a man, forming a barrier between him and his sexual partner. The virus, which is in the semen and female sexual fluids, cannot pass through this sheath. Condoms are 80-90 percent effective when used consistently and correctly.”

In response to an SOP manual for a Vietnamese community center written by CRS, CRS said

CRS does not purchase, promote, or distribute condoms, nor do we provide funding to other organizations for the purchase, promotion, or distribution of condoms. LifeSiteNews recently made us aware of a document that did not conform to this position.

We continue to review all our publications and programs to ensure there is full compliance with this position. We thank LifeSiteNews for pointing out this inconsistency, which will be corrected.

The offending aspects of the document included a scheduled agenda session that answered questions on how to properly use a condom (page 85), and tells seminar instructors (page 164), “Do not forget to provide information on local condom provision.” 

Despite the fact that CRS claims that it does not promote condoms, it is clear from at least these three documents that this claim simply is not true. CRS’ own documents not only provide positive information on condom use, but CRS’ evaluation of the PANI project complains that not enough information is being given on the correct use of condoms and their effectiveness. Unless you are trying to encourage people to use condoms, there is no reason to tell them about how to use them, or about how effective they are. Because of this, CRS cannot claim that it does not promote condoms.

Whether CRS is defending its funding practices on the basis that it isn’t providing fungible money to abortion and birth control promoting organizations, or that in funding such organizations “there’s a threshold in terms of what the focus of an agency is, and the preponderance of their work,” or that it is never directly involved in the promotion of birth control, we can see in this one article that CRS fails on all counts. 1) CRS is providing fungible money to MEDiCAM and CORE Group, which directly promote abortion and birth control; 2) CRS is providing millions of dollars to an organization whose sole focus and purpose for existing is the spread of abortion and birth control for the purpose of population control; and 3) CRS’ own documents identify its participation in the promotion of condom use.

As I said in the beginning, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Considering the undeniable facts contained in this article, when an organization like PRI provides evidence that CRS is directly involved in the promotion of birth control and abortifacients, it is not unreasonable to consider that there just might be a fire behind that smoke, too.

Michael Hichborn is director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

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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 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."

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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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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
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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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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