Ben Johnson

Austin passes new anti-crisis pregnancy center ordinance; pro-lifers promise fight

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AUSTIN, TEXAS, January 30, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week, the city of Austin repealed one speech-chilling ordinance targeting the city’s crisis pregnancy centers – and replaced it with another.

In April 2010, city council required the city’s four pregnancy centers – Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, the Gabriel Project Life Center, and Austin LifeCare – to post signs outside their facilities, in English and Spanish, stating: “This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.”

Failure to comply brought a misdemeanor citation and fines totaling $250 for the first offense, $350 for a second offense, and $450 for a third offense.

Attorneys representing the centers immediately notified the council of their objections. In October the Alliance Defense Fund, the Law of Life Project, and the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL) filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

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After council members were informed that the city’s law department recommended repeal of the ordinance “to avoid further litigation costs,” they replaced Chapter 10-9 with Chapter 10-10. The new ordinance does not mandate specific wording, but compels centers to post signs on their grounds stating whether all their medical services are supervised by a licensed health care provider or practitioner and if it is a medical facility. 

Samuel B. Casey of the Law of Life Project told LifeSiteNews.com the new wording does not solve the constitutional issue, because “it violates the same standards”: the First Amendment right of free speech, which includes the right not to speak. 

The government cannot “make a private citizen speak the government’s message,” Casey said. “It doesn’t matter what the message is. What matters is that it’s the government’s message.”

“The Austin ordinance is clearly unconstitutional and will eventually suffer the same fate as all the other similar ordinances passed in other jurisdictions,” said TCDL President Greg Terra.

Austin became the second city in the nation to require the signs announcing that the centers do not provide abortions or abortion referrals, after a 7-0 vote. The first, Baltimore, had its ordinance declared unconstitutional last January. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that the signage requirement “violates the Freedom of Speech Clause of Article I of the Constitution of the United States and is unenforceable,” because it “mandates the inclusion of a government message.”  As such, it infringed on the most deeply held religious views of the centers’ employees.

Judges have also granted a preliminary injunction against a similar statute in New York City and another in Montgomery County, Maryland. San Francisco considered its own version of the statute last October.

Casey stated Austin’s new law piles vague language on top of an unconstitutional structure, forcing him to add a new objection to his lawsuit.

Both ordinances were the brainchild of councilman Bill Spelman, who claims he only intended to produce “good consumer information.” However, he appeared in a YouTube video  uploaded by NARAL Pro-Choice NY in which he called a local crisis pregnancy center “a brainwashing outfit.”

In the video, “Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centers One City at a Time,” Angela Hooton of the National Institute for Reproductive Health lays out a national strategy known as the Urban Initiative, designed to harass crisis pregnancy centers in urban areas, which are often dominated by more liberal politicians. Spelman’s policy director, Heidi Gerbracht, credited the initiative as the inspiration for his original ordinance. 

“These ideologically motivated ordinances seek only to harass and to hinder the free services that pro-life pregnancy centers provide,” TCDL President Greg Terra said. “This ordinance targets pregnancy centers for purely ideological reasons, simply because they are pro-life and encourage women to consider options other than abortion.”

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul A. Gonzalez has also spoken out against the ordinances. “NARAL and the City of Austin have chosen to bully these non-profit pregnancy resource centers who provide valuable services to women,” he said. “Less competition means more money, and the abortion industry is all about the money.”

Volunteers at the Austin centers, which aim to give women alternatives to abortion, say the regulation is offensive and needless, because they already tell women they will not refer clients for abortion or birth control and always indicate whether they have medical personnel available. There have been no complaints nor reports of deficiencies from regulating bodies. Casey told LifeSiteNews the only evidence before the council about his client, Austin LifeCare, was a May 2011 report that described the center as “a valuable and much-needed resource for pregnant and/or parenting women in the Austin area.” 

Since the ordinance goes into effect on February 6, before a motion for preliminary injunction can be heard, Casey said he will petition the court for a temporary restraining order this week. He is confident of success.

“I think the city counsel either doesn’t care about wasting taxpayer money on attorneys fees or has not been properly advised by their lawyers,” he said.

The legal organizations that represent the city’s pregnancy centers operate pro bono and accept donations to defray the costs of their litigation.

Contact Information:
Alliance Defense Fund
15100 N. 90th Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
1-800-TELL-ADF (835-5233)

The Law of Life Project
801 G Street North West
Washingtown, D.C. 20001
(202) 587-5652

Texas Center for Defense of Life
501 S. Austin Ave., Suite 1130
Georgetown, TX 78626
(512) 763-9068

 

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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