Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Concerns grow that UK will force religious groups to participate in ‘gay marriage’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite government assurances to the contrary, concerns continue to grow that religious institutions will be forced to participate in “gay marriages” in the UK under soon-to-be issued rules. Secularist campaigners are openly questioning the right of Christians to be involved in the debate, while one Catholic bishop warns that the pressure is growing to keep Christianity strictly a private matter.

This week, the Catholic Education Service (CES), was criticized when it contacted 385 Catholic secondary schools asking that a letter issued by the bishops encouraging opposition to the government’s same-sex “marriage” plans be read out in classes. The CES also asked for participation in the petition being circulated by the Coalition For Marriage. As of this week, over 470,000 people have signed the petition, which is asking the government to retain the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Maeve McCormack, policy manger for the Catholic Education Service, told the Telegraph the bishops’ letter “was an explanation of marriage and a positive affirmation of marriage, celebrating the huge value that it brings to society – we are proud of the fact that these kinds of values are taught in our schools.”

But two secularist campaigners have responded with press releases questioning the legality of Christian educational bodies becoming involved in the debate. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said in a media release, “This is a clear breach of the authority and privilege that the Catholic Education Service has been given in schools.” Richy Thompson of the British Humanist Association, said, “The Coalition For Marriage petition is very deliberately a political document and for this reason we question whether the CES has broken the law.”

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In an impassioned keynote speech at a conference on religious freedom at Oxford University earlier this month, Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley, Scotland, warned that the government’s push for “gay marriage” will herald genuine persecution of Christians dissenting from the zeitgeist.

Those Christians who refuse to “bend to become a religion of the state,” he said, will soon no longer be tolerated by the powerful of British society, politicians, judges and celebrities. 

Bishop Tartaglia did not hesitate to name the source of the current conflict between the Church and the state in Britain. Shortly after his elevation as bishop of Paisley in 2005, Bishop Tartaglia said that he quickly realized that “the advance of the homosexual agenda, in concert with equality legislation was beginning to have a problematic effect on the freedom of the Catholic Church to operate in the public sphere.”

The bishop said that several cases in which courts ruled against Christians in conflict with homosexuals demonstrated to him that “with the support of the courts… the power of the courts and of the political establishment, that religious freedom and freedom of conscience could be set aside in favour of the advance of the homosexual agenda.”

Bishop Tartaglia asked, “Will society continue to afford the Catholic Church and other religious bodies the oxygen and the vital space to be themselves and to express themselves in the public square, or will my Church be forced to conform to a publicly acceptable form of religiosity, a kind of patriotic Church?

“Or worse, will we be driven to the margins of society, and perhaps denied the legal right to carry out our mission and to express our faith in public?

Some are concerned, however, that the Catholic and Anglican churches and their educational bodies, may have impaired their ability to stand against that advance, including the change to the definition of marriage, after years of ambiguity towards the central issue in the debate: homosexuality itself. Critics have pointed out that statements and letters from Catholic bishops defending traditional marriage have painstakingly avoided talking about Christian teaching on human sexuality, shying deliberately away from bluntly stating that homosexual behaviour is sinful, as many of their Evangelical co-religionists do regularly.

Leslie Pilkington, a Christian psychotherapist who is facing professional discipline for helping homosexuals leave the gay lifestyle, told LifeSiteNews.com that the failure of the churches to clearly articulate the moral objections to homosexual behaviour has significantly contributed to the current situation.

Pro-family campaigners have questioned whether the focus exclusively on the goods of marriage from both the Anglican and Catholic Churches in Britain, and the refusal to address homosexuality directly, comes from the long history in both communions of tacit and even overt support for the homosexualist political agenda.

As early as 2005, the Anglican Church of England voted to allow homosexual clergy to “marry” members of the same sex and live together openly. This March, the current Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced he was retiring from the position, after a ten-year tenure plagued with arguments over the acceptance of homosexuality that have all but fractured the Worldwide Anglican Communion. 

The last three Catholic Archbishops of Westminster, Cardinals Basil Hume, Cormac Murphy O’Connor and the incumbent, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, have actively endorsed significant points of the homosexualist program, including allowing the continuation of “gay Masses” in London that have been the subject of criticism from faithful Catholics around the world.

Last year, while expressing opposition to gay “marriage,” Nichols told media at a press conference, “We would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”

“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life,” Nichols said. “The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.”

Last year, Archbishop Nichols told an interviewer at the Tablet magazine that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales had no problems with homosexual civil unions, a stance that the pope has been specifically mandated against by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

At the same time, evidence continues to mount that the government, despite its assurances to religious leaders, will not fight the pressure of lobbyists to force churches and other religious bodies to participate in “gay marriage.”

Prime Minister Cameron did not reprimand one of his Conservative Party MPs who urged the government to force Christian churches to conduct homosexual “wedding” ceremonies. Cameron accepted without comment a letter last August by Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade, that said, “As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality.”

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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