Michael Cook

An unmet need for sound thinking

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook
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July 16, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - If you are not too greedy and need only a modest amount of other people’s money, get a sawed-off shotgun and a balaclava. However, if you are more ambitious, get an acronym. This is clearly the lesson to be drawn from the latest banking scandal, in which Britain’s leading banks scammed US$300 billion, perhaps much more, by fibbing about the Libor—the London Interbank Offered Rate—an acronym which politicians had never heard of and regulators hardly questioned.

But the same mistake was made all over again at this week’s London Family Planning Summit. The rich and famous of the world have donated $2.6 billion to meet the “unmet need” of 120 million women in the developing world for family planning. The UK has pledged $800 million, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $560 million, the UNFPA $378 million, Norway $200 million, the Netherlands $160 million, and Germany $122 million. Those are just the donors in the hundreds of millions.

Do any of these governments and organisations really know what $2.6 billion of “unmet need” means? In a year when voters in some countries are rioting over “austericide” in the wake of the global financial crisis, are they tipping money into a gigantic black hole?

A professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Lant Pritchett, told MercatorNet that “unmet need” is a meaningless concept employed by no one except a coterie of family planning experts. Pritchett, who was described last year as one of the world’s 100 top global thinkers by the magazine Foreign Policy, was scathing in an email to MercatorNet. “Wow, I thought all of this was dead and gone… I wonder what is driving this revival?”

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“It has never caught fire except in a tiny group that push and push and naif outsiders assume they know what they are talking about and take it at face value. No one who has looked at it closely… really thinks it has any analytic use other than advocacy value. I am just amazed this nonsense has come back from its well-deserved dustbin of history.”

The argument which has diddled some of the world’s richest governments and philanthropists was set out this week in a special family planning issue of Britain’s most prestigious medical journal, The Lancet. Melinda Gates and Australia’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, contend that “Across the developing world, some 222 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern method of contraception”. Providing them with contraceptives will—they claim—lead to 600,000 fewer newborn deaths and 79,000 fewer maternal deaths each year. With fewer children, women will have more money to spend educating their daughters. And with fewer people there will be a “demographic dividend” allowing more economic growth.

The $2.6 billion pledged at the Summit will reach 120 million of the 222 million women with an “unmet need” for contraception.

“Unmet demand” was dreamed up in the first family-planning surveys in the 1960s. Its high-water mark was the Cairo population conference in 1994 which resolved that: “Governmental goals for family planning should be defined in terms of unmet needs for information and services”. As the organiser of the London summit, Melinda Gates has breathed new life into the idea. But as Pritchett points out, there have always been knotty problems with “unmet need”.

First of all, “unmet”. According to a World Bank briefing note, women with “unmet need for contraception” are those “who do not want to become pregnant but are not using contraception”. Astonishingly, this includes women who are currently pregnant, women who are breast-feeding, and women who find it difficult to become pregnant. The World Bank blandly acknowledges that “women with unmet need may still not have any intention to use contraception were it readily accessible and of good quality”.

In other words, Melinda Gates’s 220 million women include women who know all about contraceptives, can access them, and can pay for them. But they are worried about side effects, or they have religious objections or they have husbands who are working overseas. This makes no difference. Even if they don’t want contraception, Mrs Gates and her supporters know that they need contraception. “Note that the measurement of unmet need,” says the World Bank, “does not include an assessment of whether women want or intend to use contraception.” Even Africa’s 65,000 Catholic nuns fit into that definition.

“The strange thing is,” says Pritchett, “that one of the stalwarts of the family planning movement, Charles Westoff, wrote a paper decades ago showing many of the same criticisms of ‘unmet need’ – eg, that is does not correspond to what women want, that it includes women not currently fecund, etc.—but then they just went on using it anyway.”

Second, “need”. What does “need” for contraceptives mean to a woman? Does it mean “desperation”—Mrs Gates seems to think so—or does it mean “like”? A woman staggering through the Sahara is desperate for a drink; a woman staggering through a bar would like (another) one. In Mrs Gates’s books, both of them have an “unmet need”. But among the 220 million women, should those who are just vaguely interested in contraception be counted?

In a thought-provoking paper which Professor Pritchett wrote in 1996, not long after the Cairo Conference, he pointed out that in comparison to the need for food, water, medical care and fuel, the need for contraception was very small in poor countries.

“Contraception is a very effective technology for having unregulated coital activity and not having children but no one needs contraception in order not to have children. There is no question you need a parachute to jump out of airplanes and not suffer serious injury, but does that mean you need a parachute? Well, the need for parachutes is obviously only as great as the need to fling oneself out of planes, which is pressing if you’re in the 82nd Airborne, but not really otherwise.”

Third, the idea of “unmet need” is patronising, even demeaning, for women. How can they “need” something that they do not want? This kind of reasoning comes from a patriarchal mindset. Women in developing countries are already pushed around too much. They should be allowed to make their own choices in peace. Pritchett told MercatorNet:

“This is exactly like calculating the ‘unmet need’ of Jewish people for pork. That is, one could do the calculations of the ‘need’ for protein, look at which Jewish people are getting enough protein, conclude that the experts think the most cost-effective way of getting protein is pork and then attribute an ‘unmet need’ for pork to people who are Jewish. Of course it is completely disrespectful of women to not listen to their reasons for not using contraception and insist they have a ‘need’ for something they do not ‘want’. It is precisely this kind of disrespect for women and their autonomy and choices that led to the disasters in India and China.”

Fourth, “unmet need” may possibly make sense in marketing, but as an analytical tool, Pritchett says, “it makes no economic sense at all”. Even in underdeveloped regions, women are well aware of the existence of contraception. If demand for it were high, the price should rise. In fact, family planning organisations often have to work hard to give contraceptives away.

As Pritchett points out in his 1996 paper, it is not a question of price. Even poor households in countries like Indonesia and Nepal spend between 2 and 3 percent of household income on tobacco. “If the household can afford tobacco the household can afford contraception,” he wrote.

More recent research shows that the use of contraceptives in developing countries does not decline if their price rises. This suggests that the problem is lack of demand, not lack of supply. American academics examined sales of contraceptives during the severe financial crisis which hit Indonesia in the late 1990s. They found that “very large changes in prices of contraceptives have little impact on the decision to use contraceptives or on method choice, even among the poorest couples.”

In an interview with The Guardian about the Summit Melinda Gates described improving access to contraception across the globe as her life’s work. Unfortunately, a gremlin in the typesetting had her claiming that 200 billion women wanted access, rather than 200 million. But perhaps when you are dealing with esoteric matters like Libor or “unmet need”, billions and millions, whatever, all sound the same. As long as the donors feel good about themselves and family planning bureaucrats continue to draw their paycheques.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License. 

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Dan Guernsey

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Where’s the tolerance in San Francisco?

Dan Guernsey
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April 20, 2015 (CardinalNewmanSociety.org) -- Proclaiming their values of tolerance, inclusion, and non-judgment, 100 “prominent” San Francisco Catholics last week took out a full-page ad in the newspaper to tell the Pope and the world that they will not tolerate or include and indeed soundly condemn the archbishop of San Francisco.

His crime? Following Canon law, which requires him to ensure that “Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life” (Canon Law, 803, § 2). He is also condemned for following the teachings of the U.S. Bishops, who have consistently taught that “all members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education…. Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials” (1976, Teach Them, p. 7), and the bishops’ National Directory for Catechesis which requires Catholic school leaders to “Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals” (2005, National Directory for Catechesis, p. 231, 233).

Archbishop Cordileone and all U.S. bishops are bound by Canon law and Church teaching to do what he is doing: ensuring that Catholic schools in his diocese are Catholic. And indeed, he is not alone in this effort. He is joined by similar significant efforts underway by bishops in the dioceses of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Santa Rosa, Honolulu and Oakland, among others.  He is just currently the biggest target in a bastion of the fully-empowered tyrannical Left who will not tolerate any deviance from their liberal orthodoxy.

The sexual dogmas of the liberal orthodoxy are so confused and so consuming that any other understanding of the nature and purpose of human sexuality and marriage, even those views held by the vast majority of humanity throughout all ages, must be condemned and ultimately silenced. To state the clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching that the only proper and moral exercise of the marital act is exclusively in the context of a committed natural marriage in the service of both love and life is viewed by some as a type of hate crime.

These “anti-bully” bullies are doing what bullies do. They are seeking to gain in their own social status and self-concept by belittling, shaming and humiliating someone outside their local social norm. As the authors admit, the social sexual norms in the Bay Area are completely supportive of sex outside of natural marriage. Those who control the culture are dead set on humiliating and eliminating anyone who would not fully support their power and the status quo.

Many other dioceses have stipulations in their employee handbooks and in their contracts related to the need to uphold Catholic teachings in word and action as terms of employment. This is nothing very new. A challenge has occurred more recently, because of the rapid deterioration of social norms related to human sexuality, and because so many Catholics and Catholic school employees are so poorly catechized regarding human sexuality and complex but critical human life issues.

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It is possible that some employees can unwittingly jeopardize their employment by running afoul of the expectations of their employment agreements. In a preemptive effort to avoid such suffering and embarrassment, a number of dioceses are striving to clarify and publicize these expectations of Catholic teachers in a spirit of truth and charity and to ensure that folks do not unwittingly join in an evangelical enterprise they cannot advance, support or—even worse—work against. Charity demands clarity and truth. Justice to one’s employees demands clarity and truth as well. Justice to ones’ employer demands that one should not work against his interests or intent. The more clearly we can all be about what we intend and believe, the better.

It is also important in a pluralistic society, where we should not all have to agree with each other on complex issues and matters of faith, that we leave room for dissent and marginalized thinking and thinkers—especially in the realm of religious thought. Our country was founded by religious dissidents whose religious views and practices did not fit in with the dominant cultures and beliefs of the powerful in their home countries. They came here seeking freedom of religion—freedom to practice their faith as they saw fit without governmental persecution. Archbishop Cordileone has sought no retribution or even disparagement against those in San Francisco who clearly disagree with the Church; he only seeks to protect his right not to hire them to do the work of the Church, a reasonable and just freedom.

While these wayward Catholics seek to drive their archbishop out of San Francisco in the name of the dominant culture, but not the Catholic faith, we must be aware that many more of us are endangered from attack as well in this rapidly declining culture. These same bullies demanding that Archbishop Cordileone lose his job as a bishop for teaching the truths of the Catholic faith will next deem it critical that Catholics lose their jobs for agreeing with him and the Church.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society

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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Rubio: I’d attend a gay ‘wedding’. Walker: I have. Santorum: I wouldn’t. Cruz: Pass.

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Are you now, or were you ever, willing to attend a same-sex “wedding”? That seems to be the question lighting up the Republican presidential field, as GOP hopefuls who may one day have their finger on the nuclear button are asked the query over and over again.

So far, the Republican hopefuls' answers are yes, no, I have (sort of), and...unclear.

The media began by asking Florida's U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, if he would attend a homosexual 'wedding' ceremony, especially if he were invited by a relative or close friend.

“If there’s somebody that I love that’s in my life, I don’t necessarily have to agree with their decisions or the decisions they’ve made to continue to love them and participate in important events,” Rubio told Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV's America program.

Rubio, who became the third Republican to throw his hat in the ring last week, likened attending a same-sex “marriage” to attending the second marriage of a divorced friend. “If someone gets divorced, I’m not going to stop loving them or having them a part of our lives,” he said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – who has not yet formally announced his candidacy yet is considered a front-runner – said that he attended a same-sex reception, but not a ceremony. “I haven’t been to a [homosexual] 'wedding,' that’s true,” he said, “even though my position on marriage is still that’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the Constitution of the state.”

“But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception,” he added.

A series of candidates and potential candidates have faced similar hypotheticals.

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, a libertarian-leaning Republican who strongly supported Mitt Romney in previous primaries, asked two contenders “a meta-question.” Is it more important to know whether a candidate would attend a homosexual wedding or whether a president will “destroy the Islamic State before it throws hundreds of thousands of gay men to their deaths”?

Former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has said he is considering another presidential run, said it was “amazing that the Left has not risen up” against Islamic Shari'a law. “They don't focus their energy on anything except the attempt to gather more power in this country by using this issue of same-sex 'marriage' as a tool to do that.”

Then he addressed the direct question: Would he attend a gay “marriage” ceremony?

“No, I would not,” he replied curtly. When asked why not, he said, “As a person of my faith, that would be something that would be a violation of my faith. I would love them and support them, but I would not participate in that ceremony.”

Ted Cruz, the first Republican to say he will seek the GOP's presidential nomination next year, gave a more roundabout reply.

“That's part of the 'gotcha' game that the mainstream media plays, where they come after Republicans on every front, and it's designed to caricature Republicans to make them look stupid or evil or crazy or extreme,” he said. “Sadly, most media players are not actual, objective journalists. They're active partisan players.”

He called reporters “the praetorian guard protecting the Obama administration” now gearing up to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Cruz said he had not attended a gay “marriage” ceremony but made no commitments about the future.

“Well, I will tell you, I haven’t faced that circumstance,” he said. “I have not had a loved one have a gay wedding. You know, at the end of the day, what the media tries to twist the question of marriage into is they try to twist it into a battle of emotions and personalities. So they say, 'Gosh, any conservative must hate gays.'”

The Texas senator said that he is a conservative Christian and also “a constitutionalist.”

“What we’ve seen in recent years from the Left is the federal government and unelected federal judges imposing their own policy preferences to tear down the marriage laws of the states.”

“And so if someone is running for public office, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them their views on whether they’re willing to defend the Constitution, which leaves marriage to the states, or whether they want to impose their own extreme policy views like so many on the left are doing, like Barack Obama does, like Hillary Clinton does,” he said.

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Lesbian teacher Pam Strong teaches a classroom of elementary students at Ellengale Public School on Day of Pink in 2012. http://etfovoice.ca
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Lesbian teacher: How I convince kids to accept gay ‘marriage’, starting at 4-years-old

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Some of the pro-gay children's books Strong uses with her students. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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The chart Strong uses to show her students that same-sex partnerships are the same as male-female families. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

TORONTO, April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A primary grade lesbian teacher from an Ontario public school revealed in a workshop at a homosexual activist conference for teachers earlier this month how she uses her classroom to convince children as young as four to accept homosexual relationships.

“And I started in Kindergarten. What a great place to start. It was where I was teaching. So, I was the most comfortable there,” Pam Strong said at the conference, attended by LifeSiteNews.

The conference, hosted by the homosexual activist organization Jer’s Vision, now called the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, focused on the implementation of Bill 13 in Ontario classrooms. Bill 13, called by critics the ‘homosexual bill of rights,’ passed in June 2012 and gave students the right to form pro-gay clubs in their school, including Catholic ones, using the name Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).

Strong, who is in an open relationship with another woman and who has been a teacher for about five years, focused her workshop on what she called the “power of conversation” for promoting LGBTQ issues in an elementary classroom. She began her talk by relating how she reacted the first time one of her students called another student ‘gay’ as a putdown.

“With [the principal’s] encouragement, we decided that I would go from class to class and talk about what ‘gay’ means, what does ‘LGBTQ’ mean, what do ‘I’ mean,” she told about 40 attendees, all educators, at her workshop.

Strong related how she began with the junior kindergarten class.

“And I read a [pro-gay child’s] book [King and King], and I started to realize that conversations can be very difficult, and they can have the most power when they are the most difficult.”

“But difficult conversations are a part of what we do as teachers, right? And when these conversations are properly supported by teachers within the safety of the classroom, they provide a rich environment for our students as they unpack these complex social issues and they reflect on their own preconceptions, right, of gender, sexuality, love, all these different things,” she said.

Strong related that as she was reading “King and King” in the junior kindergarten class as a springboard to discuss her sexuality with the kids, she got to the part where the two princes become ‘married’ when one of the boys suddenly shouted out: “They can’t do that! They can’t get married. They’re two boys.”

Recounted Strong: “And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, they can. It’s right here on page 12.”

To which the boy replied, according to Strong: “Oh, yeah, I know Mrs. Strong, but that’s just a story. That’s not real life.”

“And I said: ‘It happens in real life too. I am married to a woman. I am gay. And I am in love with my wife.”

Strong said the young children “just all kind of went silent.” She then told them: “That may seem different to you, how many of you have heard of that before?”

“Not one hand went up,” she related. “And so I said: ‘That may seem different to you, but we’re not that different. Would you like to know about what I do with my family?”

“Yeah, tell us,” she recounted the children enthusiastically saying. 

“I said, you know, we take our kids to the park. I swing them on swings,” she related, telling conference attendees that she could share things she did with her own children that “mostly likely all of their families did with them.”

Then she told the children: “We laugh together. We go grocery shopping together. I read to them. I tickle them, sometimes until they scream and laugh and when they cry, I hug them until they stop.” 

Strong said that at that point, the boy who had used the word ‘gay’ looked and her and said: “Well, you’re a family.”

“And I said, yeah, we are,” she related. “And off I go to the next classroom.”

Strong said that she went from “class to class to class and continued with these conversations, and they were very powerful.”

‘It’s normal in my classroom’

Strong related an incident that happened last fall involving a new boy who had recently entered her grade 5 classroom. The new boy had not yet been made aware of Strong’s sexual preference for other women.

“All my class is very used to who I am. My family picture is very proudly in my room now. On Mondays they quite often will say, ‘What did you do with your wife?’ It’s normal in my classroom.”

Strong said that a conversation between herself and the students came up one day where it was mentioned that she was a lesbian. The new boy put his hands over his mouth and said, according to Strong: “Oh, my God, I think I’m going to puke.”

“As I took the abuse — personally, as an individual – of those words, I also saw half of my class look at me with incredible concern. One student who was right in front of me already had tears in her eyes. And I noticed several other students who were looking at him. They were just very, very upset with this kid,” she related.

Strong said the boy instantly became aware that “something he had said had just created this unbelievable tension in the room.” She related how she addressed the boy, telling him: “I think that what you might not be aware of is that I am gay, and I am married to a woman, and my family has two moms.’”

“His eyes just started darting around, and he was incredibly uncomfortable,” she related.

“I looked at the other kids and I said: ‘Ok guys, what I want to ask you is: Am I upset with him?’ And the one little girl in my class put up her hand — that doesn’t usually get into these conversations very much in my classroom — and she said, ‘Mrs Strong, I know you’re not upset with him, because he hasn’t had the benefit of our conversations.”

“And I looked at my little friend, my ‘new’ friend, and I said: ‘But, we’re going to have one now,’” she related.

Strong said that she then directed her class to the board and asked them to write everything she had told them related to LGBTQ.

“And my class all of a sudden popped up. ‘LGBTQ’ was on the board, ‘lesbian,’ and all the different words coming out there. And I sat back and said, ‘Let’s review.’ So, the last year and a half of ‘inclusive’ education came alive in my classroom.”

Strong told her workshop attendees that her “new little friend” is now a devoted champion of diversity. She boasted how he was the one in her class to count down the days to the pro-homosexual Day of Pink that took place earlier this month. When Strong took a photo of all the children wearing pink shirts in her classroom, she said the boy requested to be in the front.

“For me, that is the power of conversations. That’s the power of sharing our stories,” she said.

LGBTQ classroom ‘conversation starters’

Strong called it “key” to develop a “positive classroom culture” — and she mentioned it often takes months — before getting into what she called “difficult conversations” with students about convincing students of the normality of her sexual preference for women.

She mentioned how she spends time “building a common vocabulary” in her classroom of words like “stereotype, prejudice, discrimination” so her students will be able to more readily conform to her pro-LGBTQ message.

“Sometimes with these big ideas there are also very big words that are very hard to understand. I find that whether it’s kindergarten, right up to grade six, visuals help a lot,” she said.

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The lesbian teacher has amassed a collection of “conversation starters” that she says helps get her started when presenting to her students the LGBTQ message. She said pro-gay children’s books are one of her favorites.

“I use current events, news articles, advertisement are great for gender, especially with Kindergarten kids, pink and girl toys and all the rest of it. Commercials are great, I use one right now, the Honey Maid commercial.” The 2014 “Dad & Papa" commercial depicts two male same-sex partners engaging with their children in normal family activities such as making s’mores, eating dinner around the table, and walking in the park.

Strong says she watches the commercial with her students up to three times, asking them to make a list of all the similarities between the gay-partnership and their own families.

“Of course they think it’s going to be so different, [that] this family is going to be so different,” she said.

Strong said the kids notice dozens of similarities, but usually only one difference, namely that the commercial has “two dads.” Other than this, she said the students “could not find one thing in that commercial that was different than their own families.” In this way she convinces the kids that a gay-partnership is identical to a family made up of a male and female. Strong called it a “fantastic lesson for kids of all ages.”

“There was nothing left for me to teach at the end of it. It was a huge learning for some kids,” she said.

‘Recruiting children? You bet we are’

Though homosexual activists their efforts in the schools as a way of combatting bullying, a number of homosexual activists have highlighted that the movement’s goal is in fact to “indoctrinate” children into accepting the normalcy of the homosexual lifestyle.

“I am here to tell you: All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie,” wrote Canadian gay activist Sason Bear Bergman, a woman who identifies as a transgender man, in a March 2015 piece titled “I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I'm Not a Bit Sorry).” Bergman holds nothing back, stating she wants to make children “like us” even if that “goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion.”

In 2011 U.S. gay activist Daniel Villarreal penned a column for Queerty.com stating that the time had come for the homosexual lobby to admit to “indoctrinating” schoolchildren to accept homosexuality.

“Why would we push anti-bullying programs or social studies classes that teach kids about the historical contributions of famous queers unless we wanted to deliberately educate children to accept queer sexuality as normal?”

“We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it. Recruiting children? You bet we are,” he added.

Homosexual activist Michael Swift wrote in 1987 in the Gay Community News that school children would become explicit targets for homosexual indoctrination. “We shall seduce them in your schools…They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us,” he wrote at the time. 

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