Ben Johnson

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Healing, not scarlet letters, promoted at national pro-life prayer service before March for Life

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 28, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The spirit of the National Memorial Service for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers was best expressed during the prayer recited as a candle was lit on stage: “We now light the Life Candle, remembering the innocent lives lost and the hope of reconciliation and healing found in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.”

In historic Constitution Hall on Saturday morning, an ecumenical gathering of 100 or more clergy members encouraged a crowd of hundreds to be active, to pray, and to offer grace and mercy to everyone who had ever taken part in an abortion – including the abortionists.

“Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey, she sends to you this morning her prayerful greetings, and she sends her requests for our prayers,” said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, during his dynamic homily, entitled “Recall Abortion.”

“She still has terrible wounds for having been the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade,” he said.

Between litanies of repentance and readings for post-abortive women – and men – and the unborn themselves, speaker after speaker said the violence of abortion can only be stilled when it meets the calm of forgiveness.

“We have to put aside the scarlet letters and the condemnation and show we really do care about those who are frightened, alone, and in trouble,” said Joe Schwartz, reading a statement written by his father, Michael. “The focus is to be upon the mother.” He also asked people to pray for the conversion of abortionists.

Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., led a litany for those who had died from abortions, beginning with Tonya Reaves, who passed away last year after an abortion at Planned Parenthood, and naming as many as she could. The response was, “Lord, have mercy on them.”

Kelly and Matt Clinger shared their testimony of abortion heartbreak, receiving a standing ovation before leving to fly out to the San Francisco Walk for Life.

One of the morning's two award recipients also reminded everyone present that millions more women will suffer trauma thanks to China's one-child policy.

“Since 1980 when the one-child policy was instituted, the Chinese Communist party boasts that they have prevented 400 million lives, which is greater than the entire population of the United States,” said Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers.

The policy often employs forced abortions, in which the Chinese government kidnaps women from their homes, aborts without anesthesia – and then charges them for the procedure.

“The greatest hemorrhage in the world today is flowing out of China,” she said. “This is the real war against women...Where is the pro-choice movement on this issue?”

“I had no idea what they were doing in China,” 17-year-old Elaina Choo of from Tacoma, Washington, told LifeSiteNews.com. “It brought me to tears.” She said she wanted to learn as much as she can about protecting life, at home and abroad.

Littlejohn received the Pro-life Recognition Award. The award was also given to Michael Schwartz, a movement stalwart who served as chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn. Schwartz, who is ill, sent his son Joe to received both that award and another from the Catholic business organization Legatus.

Fr. Frank Pavone's sermon brought the focus back to the United States. While the culture of life asks how it may sacrifice itself for others, the culture of death sacrifices others for itself, he said.

“Isn't it amazing that the very same words used by the culture of death to justify abortion are the words used by our Lord to proclaim life and salvation and love: This is my body!'”

“The pro-life movement arose, not primarily as a response to Roe vs. Wade, but as a response to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Abortion is the greatest violation of human solidarity, justice, love, and peace.”

He lamented that even in churches the issue of life is ostracized as "too political." And "when we speak about it in politics, we're told it's too religious,” he said. “In the world of media the topic is too disturbing. In the world of business it's too distracting. In the world of education it's too controversial. In the streets it's too disruptive.”

“So if abortion is wrong, where do we go to say so?” he asked. “We go into the churches, into politics, into the media, into the business world, into education, and into the streets!”

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The clergy's religious diversity showed, however, that the pro-life message is welcome in segments of many churches. “I think we have a denomination for every letter of the alphabet,” said Rev. Rob Schenck.

But Fr. Pavone had no intention of preaching to the choir. He outlined a specific response to every segment of society, calling on the Republican Party “to live out more courageously and consistently the words of its platform concerning the right to life of the unborn”; on the Democratic Party “to change the words of its platform regarding the unborn” and represent “the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, the most marginalized of the marginalized”; on Barack Obama “to change his position” and acknowledge our youngest neighbors; and for government at all levels to “take it off the market, rid America of this failed and destructive product, this false and empty promise.”

All the speakers on the dais stood for life with “no exceptions,” the phrase of March for Life founder Nellie Gray, whose absence hung heavily in every event associated with the first march after her death.

“It was as though a member of my family – my mother or my father – had died,” said Pastor Luke Robinson in his tender personal remarks.

“She gave a national audience to Silent No More,” he said. “She also did that for the African-American community.”

Following her example, hundreds vowed before God to remain faithful witnesses for the most defenseless children.

“Today I commit myself never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn,” they prayed. “I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, and never to stop defending life until all my brothers and sisters are protected, and our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all.”

The 19th annual service left everyone who attended uplifted. “I'd been wanting to come for a few years,” Choo told LifeSiteNews. “It was just wonderful.”

The service was sponsored by the National Pro-life Religious Council, the National Pro-life Center, Gospel of Life Ministries, the National Clergy Council, Priests for Life, Faith and Action, and National Pro-life Radio. It was also cosponsored by Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life.

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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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