Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent

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Australian father of seven to spend 8 months in jail for protecting unborn

Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
Jason Rushton, Australia correspondent
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See follow up story: EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Australian father of 7 sent to jail for pro-life activism

SYDNEY, Australia. April 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A father of seven children will spend 8 months in jail starting Wednesday as a result of his efforts to the defend the unborn. 

It is the longest jail-term ever received by an Australian pro-life activist. 

Graham Preston, 56, was called by police last week to arrange a time for his arrest. He negotiated to move it back from 8am to 9am this coming Wednesday, May 2, so he would have enough time to get his children to school. 

Mr. Preston will serve 232 days in prison - seeing him out just in time for Christmas - for refusing to pay roughly $8000 in fines that have accumulated after ten years of non-violently blocking the entrances of four abortion clinics around Brisbane. 

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Since beginning non-violent direct action with the group Protect Life almost exactly ten years ago (April 16, 2002), Mr. Preston has endured more than ten months in jail over five separate jail-terms - mostly in Brisbane’s maximum security Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.

The warrant for Mr. Preston’s arrest came after he received a letter from the Queensland Justice Department telling him he had until April 6 - coincidentally, Good Friday - to pay the fines or else face prison. 

Mr. Preston refuses to pay the fines on principle, arguing that trying to save the innocent from harm should not be regarded as criminal behaviour. 

A similar letter was sent to Mr. Preston in 2010, although that time it was not followed up.

“Graham is amazingly humble. He doesn’t make a song and dance about his commitment,” said Anne Rampa, a fellow activist and mother of seven, who has herself been arrested more than twenty times over the last twenty years for protesting outside abortion clinics. “One thing he probably didn’t tell you is that he regularly meets with men who he met in jail, offering them hospitality and even legal help if he can.”

Mr. Preston’s wife Liz told LifeSiteNews.com that she was extremely proud of her husband: “I have immense respect for Graham. He is a very courageous person who has my full support in these actions. Facing the prospect of having Graham in jail for eight months is quite daunting -  however we have always realised that challenging the abortion culture would be costly and we have tried to not allow the potential cost prevent us from doing what we believe is right.”

Graham’s daughter Frances, 18, said: “I have a lot of respect for my Dad and how he takes his convictions seriously, I hope I can live as consistent a life as his. Of course I will miss him, and I will visit him as often as possible.”

Daughter Suzannah, 8, said “I will miss him every day till he comes home in December, five days before Christmas. I will pray for him every night.”

When Mr. Preston’s fines reached $12,000 in 2004, the Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce, remitted half of them. (Fines for failing to follow police orders to move-on were remitted; fines for obstructing police were not. Mr. Preston appealed this decision since both charges were given by different police for the same action. The appeal failed in 2009.) 

Normally in Queensland, a citizen receives one day in prison for every AUD $100 of unpaid fines. To deter Mr. Preston from ‘re-offending’, for most of the fines he will receive three days in prison for each hundred dollars.

Two years ago, Mr. Preston wrote on his website: “Going to jail is of course not a desirable thing, either for the person who does so, or for their family who may be very directly negatively affected. Yet our conviction is that this is probably an unavoidable part of seeing the value of all human lives given proper recognition. When anyone pays a very high price for something, it makes everyone ask the question, is it worth it? That is what we want our society to be asking, what are preborn babies worth? We want to say that babies’ lives are worth a person’s, or even many persons’, freedom.”

Warwick Marsh, the National Co-ordinator of the Canberra Declaration, said: “Graham is one of Australia’s great heroes, truly putting the kids of Australia first. He is being unjustly imprisoned for his peaceful protests, while murderers and rapists walk free from our court systems and jails.”


Contact:

Embassy of Australia in USA
Embassy address: 1601 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington DC 20036
Telephone: (202) 797 3000
Fax: (202) 797 3168

Australian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada
Suite 710 - 50 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6L2
Telephone: +1 (613) 236 0841
Fax: +1 (613) 216 1321

See follow up story: EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Australian father of 7 sent to jail for pro-life activism

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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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