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Is Obama’s lackluster response on Boko Haram tied to Nigeria’s gay ‘marriage’ ban?

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By Kirsten Anderson
Rep. Steve Stockman speaks at the 2013 Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Chantilly, Virginia. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

A U.S. congressman who led a delegation to Nigeria to investigate Boko Haram in June has accused the Obama administration of withholding key information that could help the Nigerian military fight the Islamic terrorist group, which has all but taken over the northern part of the country.

Rep. Steve Stockman, R-TX, suggests a key reason is the administration’s opposition to Nigerian “social policy.”

In the first six months of this year alone, Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 civilians, and in April, the group kidnapped hundreds of young girls from a school in Chibok with the intention of selling them as sex slaves. Most of the girls remain missing.

“We have information that would help the Nigerian military take back their country and get back those girls,” Stockman told World Net Daily earlier this month. “The mistake on our side – the United States’ side – is that we have laws preventing us from sharing that information with the Nigerian military. And one of the reasons is that we don’t like some of the social policy of the Nigerian government.”

An unnamed source told World Net Daily that the specific policy in question was Nigeria’s ban on same-sex “marriage,” which makes it a crime to enter into any sort of formalized homosexual union, or to in any way assist with one.

"We have laws preventing us from sharing that information with the Nigerian military. And one of the reasons is that we don’t like some of the social policy of the Nigerian government."

It is unclear to which law Stockman was specifically referring, but Amnesty International government relations manager Adotei Awkei told ABC News in May that the Leahy Law, in particular, has “been a major source of frustration for the Nigerians, who’ve wanted U.S. assistance.” 

The Leahy Law bars the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing assistance to foreign military units if there is credible evidence that they have committed “gross human rights violations,” defined as murder of civilians, torture, kidnapping, and/or rape. It also leaves room for the U.S. government to give or withhold aid on a case-by-case basis for lesser human rights offenses. The law, passed in 1997 and named for its sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, does not explicitly take into account a nation’s treatment of homosexuals, but Sen. Leahy vowed in January to push for a companion law banning aid to foreign countries that criminalize homosexual behavior.

Asked directly by LifeSiteNews whether Nigeria’s stance on homosexuality had impacted U.S. response in the region, a State Department spokesman who insisted on anonymity was evasive.

“Over the last few months the U.S. has continued to support our Nigerian partners as they have led efforts to combat Boko Haram and return the Chibok girls,” the spokesman told LifeSiteNews by e-mail.  “We have provided intelligence support, personnel, and other tactical and material support. We remain committed to helping Nigeria bring back their girls and helping the region to establish a durable and integrated approach to combating the regional threat of Boko Haram.”

But the spokesman added, “Our stance on LGBT rights is also clear. LGBT rights are human rights. In Nigeria, we’ve spoken out against the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition act. This is a law that not only criminalizes same sex marriage, but also restricts freedom of association, expression and assembly for all Nigerians.”

“We continue to engage extensively at the highest levels of government with the police and with regional and local officials to press the message of nonviolence and non-discrimination,” the spokesman continued. “We are also providing support to civil society, and we’re monitoring closely the implementation of SSMP and its impact on the LGBT persons and their allies. We’ll take appropriate actions as needed.”

Pressed further on whether the Leahy Law might be used to justify withholding information from Nigerian officials, the State Department spokesman said, “The Leahy law prevents the U.S. from providing assistance using funds authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act to security force units or individuals when we have credible information that they have committed a gross violation of human rights. ‘Gross violations’ are defined in statute, and include torture and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, rape, and prolonged arbitrary detention.”

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“We may or may not withhold assistance to units that have been involved in other forms of misconduct or have been implicated in other forms of human rights violations, depending on the facts for other policy or legal reasons,” the spokesman added. “We’ve been very open about our concerns about Nigeria’s human rights record.  Promoting respect for human rights is a key aspect of the assistance we provide.  In this instance, and in all of its counterterrorism operations, we call on Nigeria to protect civilians, respect human rights, address impunity, and address the underlying causes of the conflict.”

LifeSiteNews reached out repeatedly to Rep. Stockman’s office for clarification on his remarks, but were told he was out of town for the week and unreachable for comment.  Multiple staffers told us they were unaware of what law to which Stockman was specifically referring, and all said they were unfamiliar with the situation.

One staffer suggested LifeSiteNews contact the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, who accompanied Stockman on the June trip to Nigeria.  Mike McQuerry, Jackson Lee’s communications director, was initially cooperative and told LifeSiteNews he was trying to determine whether there was any truth to Stockman’s accusations, but after two days of follow-up, McQuerry stopped returning LifeSiteNews’ emails.

LifeSiteNews also reached out to Amnesty International and the Nigerian Embassy for comment.  Amnesty International said government relations manager Adotei Awkei was out of the office for the week and unavailable for comment. Three calls to the Nigerian Embassy’s main switchboard went unanswered.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

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By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website, www.babycaust.de, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” Katholisch.de editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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