Obama Abruptly Sacks Bio-ethics Panel Critical of Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 23, 2009 ( - The White House has dismissed the members of the President's US Council on Bioethics just a few months before their mandate expires, indicating their services are no longer required by the President and that he is looking for a more "practical" advisory board.

The New York Times reported that Reid Cherlin, a White House press officer, told the paper that President Barack Obama saw them as "a philosophically leaning advisory group" designed by the previous Bush administration, and he wanted to appoint a new bioethics commission which instead "offers practical policy options."

Dr. Alta Charo, an ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, told the Times that a new bioethics commission should form an ethically defensible public policy for the government instead of being what she said "seemed more like a public debating society."

The presidential council's mandate was set to expire in September. The group still had one last meeting and some reports to finish, including one on organ markets, before they were abruptly dissolved with one day's notice.

The move has prompted speculation that the advisory committee's public dissent from the President's executive order to fund new lines of embryonic stem-cells and begin cloning human embryos for scientific research may have precipitated their dismissal.

Earlier in March, 10 out of 18 members of the council had issued a public letter to President Obama expressing their dismay, calling the decision to devote taxpayer dollars to such embryo-destroying research "a step backward," because it did not respect the moral and ethical reservations that still exist among the American public.

Obama's executive order overturned restrictions put in place by the Bush Administration, and instructed the National Institute of Health to develop new guidelines and put them in place by July 7.

Dr. David Prentice, a Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at the Family Research Council noted in an article on the FRC blog that Obama likely dismissed them before the expiration of their work since, "It would be embarrassing to have another round of criticism from an existing 'President's Council.'"

President Bush had created the President's Council on Bioethics in November 2001 as an advisory board on bio-ethical issues after he decided to allow federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell research, but limited the research to 21 stem-cell lines already in existence. That council replaced an earlier advisory bioethics committee to President Clinton, which had expired by then.

"We have to ask why the President has disbanded this effective and well-regarded council," protested Daniel McConchie, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Americans United for Life (AUL). "Is this a move toward a council that is more of a rubber stamp of his administration's priorities, rather than a group that actively debates current issues with all perspectives having a seat at the table?"

Dr. Peter Lawler, a member of the terminated bio-ethics council, states that President Bush had convened a council not for the sake of giving his policies an imprimatur, but had given them "the additional mandate of public education, of developing a national dialogue on controversial bioethical issues."

"The truth is that the Kass Council was full of experts who disagreed on what the science says about who we are," writes Dr. Peter Lawler, a member of the disbanded council, in a reflection written for the Weekly Standard.

Lawler points out that the council's experts, such as Robert George of Princeton, leading neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, Francis Fukuyama, all had profoundly differing views on the status of human embryos.

"I want to emphasize that this was a scientific dispute on the moral implications of what the studies show conducted at the highest level," wrote Lawler. "Socratic dialogue illuminated the disagreement and allowed those involved to remain friends in common pursuit of the truth, but no expert consensus emerged.

"No Council member was ideological in the sense of having anything but the highest respect for and full openness to what we can learn from science. And if expert means being a genuine scientific authority, they were all clearly among our nation's most formidable experts," he said.

"There's no substitute, in a democracy, for thinking together about who we are before deciding what to do, and it's not 'anti-science' to sometimes conclude that science alone doesn't resolve every dilemma we face about human freedom and dignity."

A view of the reports by the US Bioethics Council and previous commissions can be obtained here

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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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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


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

Lianne Laurence
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,, 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 /
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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,” 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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