Kathleen Gilbert

Georgia Catholic bishops withhold support from non-binding Personhood ballot question

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert

ATLANTA, July 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - As Georgia Republicans prepare for a primary ballot question on whether human life begins at conception, Catholic Church leaders are withholding key support for the measure, a move that one state pro-life leader says is based on a misguided argument.

Ballot Question 5 will appear before voters in all 159 counties in Georgia’s GOP primary on July 31. The question, essentially a survey of GOP voters, reads: “Do you support an amendment to the Georgia state constitution so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the earliest biological beginning until natural death?”

Supporters say the non-binding question is designed to act as a weathervane showing state politicians the depth of pro-life conviction among Georgia voters in hopes of impacting the future of legislative policy. Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) reports that polls show support for the question as high as 70 percent.

“Imagine what our state polticians are going to see when their own constituents say they’re pro-life overwhelmingly and that life begins at conception - how that would promote pro-life legislation at all levels,” GRTL president Dan Becker told LifeSiteNews (LSN) this week. “It’s a tremendous tool to be able to move public opinion and impact public policy.”

Unlike the personhood question on general election ballots in states like Colorado and Mississippi, Ballot Question 5 has no legal weight to change the state Constitution or other law.

The state Catholic bishops’ conference, led by the Archdiocese of Atlanta under Archbishop Wilton Gregory, has said it is against supporting the Personhood bid. It is basing its argument against Ballot Question 5 on litigation concerns surrounding HR 536, a 2008 personhood question for Georgia’s general election ballot that had the power to change the state Constitution.

In a July 19 op-ed in the archdiocesan paper Georgia Bulletin, Rev. Douglas Clark described Ballot Question 5 as “tilting at windmills,” and cited the bishops’ conclusion about HR 536 four years ago. “It will do nothing to curb abortions in Georgia and, moreover, may prove a distracting windmill in Atlanta, just when our attention needs to be focused on the ‘ferocious giants’ in Washington,” wrote Clark.

An internal memo to clergy, religious, seminarians, and other diocesan leaders dated July 23 from the Respect Life office and the Georgia Catholic Conference indicated the position of non-support was in line with the policy goals of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because the national conference has focused on a federal Constitutional amendment. The memo, which the archdiocese provided to LSN, said Georgia bishops, like prelates in other states, would not support Ballot Question 5 because they would not back an amendment “which does not provide a realistic opportunity to end or reduce abortion.” “It is important to clarify that our position is not a disagreement about the fundamental teachings on the right to life. We will continue to work for positive alternatives and solutions that will actually save lives in Georgia,” it concluded.

The memo directs readers to a longer document regarding HR 536, listing constitutional concerns as well as several points under “Potential for Serious Negative Consequences.” One such point states that, should the Personhood amendment be declared unconstitutional, “a void provision does not legally exist, so if Roe were later overturned, the amendment would not spring back into existence and Georgia would have to begin the constitutional amendment process all over again.”

GRTL president Dan Becker told LifeSiteNews.com in a telephone interview this week that the bishops’ arguments against supporting HR 536 don’t apply to Ballot Question 5.

“It only talks about the futility of the Supreme Court challenge. That has nothing to do with a question on a ballot that has a political impact,” said Becker, referring to the Bulletin article. “There’s nothing binding about a political question on a primary ballot.”

“From the standpoint of wanting to communicate to our elected officials how the pro-life voters of the state of Georgia are ... [the bishops] are coming out against that, against the ability to speak to our legislature,” he said. “They’re really aiming at a legal outcome that is years down the road, so they misconstrued the whole exercise here.”

Becker said that he has met frequently since January with archdiocesan officials, among whom are “friends of long standing,” yet still failed to reach common ground. “Obviously we disagree on strategy and on what’s most effective. We’d love to continue to work with them towards common goals legislatively and policy-wise,” he said.  Becker, who is a non-denominational Christian, said about half the members of GRTL are Catholics.

When asked for a response to Becker’s comments, the archdiocese provided LifeSiteNews a statement by Respect Life Director Mary Boyert. “Advocates for the state personhood amendment are pursuing their agenda despite being fully informed of the serious concerns raised by the Catholic bishops of Georgia,” it said.

Georgia Catholic Conference executive director Frank Mulcahy added that the state bishops’ conference “remains committed to working on state and federal initiatives that will truly lead to the protection of all human life.”

Meanwhile, Becker says that the enthusiastically pro-life position of GOP leaders in Georgia can be attributed to the sometimes-controversial Personhood approach, which he called “a return to first principles” of the pro-life movement.

Unlike previous points in the movement’s history, he said, this is the first time enthusiasm for Personhood “has gone beyond the Catholic leadership.” “Both Catholic faithful and evangelicals are joining forces for the first time, and this is where I see the sticking power,” he said.

“The archbishops will be won over by the sheer pragmatism of the outcome. And then once again well have a single voice and a solid voice representing the sanctity of human life.”

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BREAKING: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

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By John Jalsevac

Nov. 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Five hours after a single male shooter reportedly opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, chatter on police radio is indicating that the suspect has now been "detained."

"We have our suspect and he says he is alone," said police on the police radio channel. 

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers also confirmed via Twitter shortly after 7:00 pm EST that the suspect was in custody.

The news comes almost exactly an hour after the start of a 6:00 pm. press conference in which Lt. Catherine Buckley had confirmed that a single shooter was still at large, and had exchanged gunfire with police moments before.

According to Lt. Buckley, four, and possibly five police officers have been shot since the first 911 call was received at 11:38 am local time today. An unknown number of civilians have also been shot.

Although initial reports had suggested that the shooting began outside the Planned Parenthood, possibly outside a nearby bank, Lt. Buckley said that in fact the incident began at the Planned Parenthood itself.

She said that the suspect had also brought unknown "items" with him to the Planned Parenthood. 

Pro-life groups have started responding to the news, urging caution in jumping to conclusions about the motivations of the shooter, while also condemning the use of violence in promoting the pro-life cause. 

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Pavone. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion.

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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Rubio says SCOTUS didn’t ‘settle’ marriage issue: ‘God’s rules always win’

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Surging GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, says that "God's law" trumps the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision imposing same-sex “marriage” nationwide.

The senator also told Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody that the Supreme Court's redefinition of marriage is not "settled," but instead "current law."

“No law is settled,” said Rubio. “Roe v. Wade is current law, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to aspire to fix it, because we think it’s wrong.”

“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called to participate in that process to try to change it,” he explained, and "the proper place for that to be defined is at the state level, where marriage has always been regulated — not by the Supreme Court and not by the federal government.”

However, when laws conflict with religious beliefs, "God's rules always win," said Rubio.

“In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin — violate God’s law and sin — if we’re ordered to stop preaching the Gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that,” Rubio expounded. “We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

“I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman," said the senator, who earlier in the fall was backed by billionaire GOP donor and same-sex "marriage" supporter Paul Singer.

Singer, who also backs looser immigration laws and a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, has long pushed for the GOP to change its position on marriage in part due to the sexual orientation of his son.

Despite Singer's support, Rubio's marriage stance has largely been consistent. He told Brody earlier in the year that "there isn't such a right" to same-sex "marriage."

"You have to have a ridiculous reading of the U.S. Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex."

Rubio also said religious liberty should be defended against LGBT activists he says "want to stigmatize, they want to ostracize anyone who disagrees with them as haters."

"I believe, as do a significant percentage of Americans, that the institution of marriage, an institution that existed before government, that existed before laws, that institution should remain in our laws recognized as the union of one man and one woman," he said.

Rubio also hired social conservative leader Eric Teetsel as his director of faith outreach this month.

However, things have not been entirely smooth for Rubio on marriage. Social conservatives were concerned when the executive director of the LGBT-focused Log Cabin Republicans told Reuters in the spring that the Catholic senator is "not as adamantly opposed to all things LGBT as some of his statements suggest."

The LGBT activist group had meetings with Rubio's office "going back some time," though the senator himself never attended those meetings. Rubio has publicly said that he would attend the homosexual "wedding" of a gay loved one, and also that he believed "that sexual preference is something that people are born with," as opposed to being a choice.

Additionally, days after the Supreme Court redefined marriage, Rubio said that he disagreed with the decision but that "we live in a republic and must abide by the law."

"I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman," he said. "People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

Rubio also said at the time that "it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood…"

“I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

The Florida senator said in July that he opposed a constitutional marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution to leave marriage up to the states because that would involve the federal government in state marriage policies.

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Former The View star Sherri Shepherd and then-husband Lamar Sally in 2010 s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Steve Weatherbe

Court orders Sherri Shepherd to pay child support for surrogate son she abandoned

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Sherri Shepherd, a Hollywood celebrity who co-hosted the popular talk show The View for seven years, has lost a maternity suit launched by her ex-husband Lamar Sally, forcing her to pay him alimony and child support for their one-year surrogate son LJ. The decision follows an unseemly fight which pro-life blogger Cassy Fiano says has exposed how surrogacy results in “commodifying” the unborn.

Shepherd, a co-host of the View from 2007 to 2014, met Sally, a screenwriter, in 2010 and they married a year later. Because her eggs were not viable, they arranged a surrogate mother in Pennsylvania to bear them a baby conceived in vitro using Sally’s sperm and a donated egg.

But the marriage soured in mid-term about the time Shepherd lost her job with The View. According to one tabloid explanation, she was worried he would contribute little to parenting responsibilities.  Sally filed for separation in 2014, Shepherd filed for divorce a few days, then Sally sued for sole custody, then alimony and child support.

Earlier this year she told PEOPLE she had gone along with the surrogacy to prevent the breakup of the marriage and had not really wanted the child.

Shepherd, an avowed Christian who once denied evolution on The View and a successful comic actor on Broadway, TV, and in film since the mid-90s, didn’t want anything to do with LJ, as Lamar named the boy, who after all carried none of her genes. She refused to be at bedside for the birth, and refused to let her name be put on the birth certificate and to shoulder any responsibility for LJ’s support.

But in April the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and now the state’s Superior Court, ruled that Shepherd’s name must go on the birth certificate and she must pay Sally alimony and child support.

“The ultimate outcome is that this baby has two parents and the parents are Lamar Sally and Sherri Shepherd,” Shepherd’s lawyer Tiffany Palmer said.

As for the father, Sally told PEOPLE, “I'm glad it's finally over. I'm glad the judges saw through all the lies that she put out there, and the negative media attention. If she won't be there for L.J. emotionally, I'll be parent enough for the both of us.”

But Shepherd said, “I am appealing the ruling that happened,” though in the meantime, Sally will “get his settlement every month. There’s nothing I can do.”

Commented Fiano in Live Action News, “What’s so sickening about this case is that this little boy, whose life was created in a test tube, was treated as nothing more than a commodity…Saying that you don’t want a baby but will engineer one to get something you want is horrific.” As for trying to get out from child support payments now that the marriage had failed, that was “despicable.”

Fiano went on to characterize the Shepherd-Sally affair as a “notable example” of commodification of children, and “by no means an anomaly.” She cited a British report than over the past five years 123 babies conceived in vitro were callously aborted when they turned out to have Down Syndrome.

“When we’re not ready for babies, we have an abortion,” she added. “But then when we decide we are ready we manufacture them in a laboratory and destroy any extras. Children exist when we want them to exist, to fill the holes in us that we want them to fill, instead of being independent lives with their own inherent value and dignity.”

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