Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, expert says

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 31, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In all, 15 European countries currently have laws on the books that effectively restrict the freedom of religious practice and speech of Christians, according to testimony at the annual meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), May 22 in Tirana, Albania.

Dr. Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and author said that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, with one Christian being killed out of religious discrimination every five minutes, particularly in Islamic or Communist countries like North Korea.

OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization.

“The most dangerous areas,” Introvigne said, “are those which limit the conscientious objection of Christians who do not want to cooperate in abortion, the sale of abortifacient pills, or the celebration of same-sex marriage.”

“In Europe, we have identified 14 laws that are likely to negatively affect the religious liberty of Christians in 15 countries,” he said. “Fortunately, Italy is not among them.”

In 2012, his group reported 169 rulings made in courts around Europe “that we judged to be dangerous to the freedom of Christians.”

Introvigne is the head of the Observatory on Religious Liberty established last year by the Italian Foreign Ministry and Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno.

He highlighted laws which “limit the freedom to preach through the misuse of laws against so-called ‘hate speech’; those which restrict the freedom of religious education and parents’ rights to educate their children, and those which place restrictions on the use of religious symbols.”

Introvigne warned that the “logic” of anti-Christian legal discrimination in Western countries could easily lead to more violent outcomes.

“Naturally, it would be a mistake to place homicidal violence against Christians occurring in some countries of Africa and Asia on the same plane with legal and administrative discrimination against Christians in Europe,” he said. “But in terms of religious liberty, the logic of the inclined plane applies.”

“Where discrimination becomes normal, the transition to violence is never far away,” he concluded.

At the 2011 conference, Introvigne said, “Between the 1st and the 20th centuries there were 70 million Christian martyrs and 40 million of them were in the last century.”

“Statistically,” he said, “persecutions of Christians are the biggest ones but the media dedicate the least time to them.”

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The Vienna-based OSCE has representatives from 57 states and focuses on issues such as arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. In recent years it has hosted the annual conference in response to the growing reports of anti-Christian discrimination in Europe.

Dr. Gudrun Kugler, the head of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (OIDC), said in her keynote address that it is mainly those Christians who attempt to take seriously the ethical demands of their religion who suffer.

“Sometimes I get asked, how can a majority be discriminated against? Well, it is not the nominal Christian who is fully aligned to society’s mainstream, who suffers discrimination,” she clarified. “It is those to strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity, who experience a clash. Those are not the majority. And even if they were: History has shown that a leading minority can discriminate against a peaceful majority, as we saw in the striking example of apartheid.”

The OIDC, she said, “documented 41 laws which effect Christians West of Vienna adversely.”

She added, “Unfortunately, with regard to the situation of Christians West of Vienna there is a problem of underreporting – not only by the people themselves, but also by their governments.”

The OIDC found laws limiting conscientious objection in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, and Ireland; curbing freedom of speech by “hate speech legislation” in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; violations of freedom of assembly and association in Austria, Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain; discriminatory equality policies in the EU, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and UK and limiting of parental rights in Belgium, France, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden.

Kugler said that Europe is “ready for honest reasonable accommodation when it comes to the clash between people of faith and a mainstream which seems to be at unease with religion. “I ask you to be wary of horizontal equal treatment legislation: Such policies can inflict serious dilemmas on Christians.”

She asked the OSCE member states to combat underreporting and develop materials on how to combat intolerance against Christians and to disseminate this through the OSCE region.

In Western countries, Introvigne in 2011 blamed the growth of “the dictatorship of relativism that allows expressing non-relativistic ideas only in the private sphere and not in the public one.”

This, he added, is particularly being manifested in the suppression of any objection to the homosexual movement.

The Italian government established the Observatory on Religious Liberty last year after a visit between Mayor Alemanno and Pope Benedict XVI, who said that historically and culturally Rome has “a special role to play in defense of religious freedom and particularly in denouncing the persecution of Christians perpetrated in the world.” Vatican specialist Andrea Tornielli reported the pope's words in La Stampa last June.

Introvigne was chosen to head it as the founder and director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, that focuses on combating racism, xenophobia, and discrimination, with particular attention discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

The founding document from the Foreign Ministry acknowledged Rome as “the center of Christianity, a meeting point between cultures, religions, and ethnic groups.”

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Lisa Bourne

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

Lisa Bourne
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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