Peter Baklinski

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Ontario Catholic School board to fight lawsuit seeking to exempt student from religious activities

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, February 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While a Catholic school board in Ontario has given in to the demands of a parent who demanded his son’s exemption from mandatory high school religion courses, they say they are unwilling to go further and exempt the student from all religious activiites. 

Parent Oliver Erazo from Brampton is now threatening legal action against the board if it will not further exempt his son from anything remotely religious in the school, including school-wide religious activities and events.

Despite the threat of legal action, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (D-PCDSB) says it will stand its ground and not offer the student further exemptions. 

“It is simply not possible to remove the faith aspect of a Catholic school in a system that infuses gospel values throughout the curriculum and life of the school,” wrote D-PCDSB spokesman Bruce Campbell in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

The D-PCDSB called Erazo’s wish akin to “wanting his children to attend a French school, but insist on instruction, for his children, to be in a language other than French…and to not participate in activities or programs that include aspects of French culture.”

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Erazo won the initial exemption for his son on the grounds of section 42.11(b) of the province’s Education Act, which states that students can be exempted from religious studies if it is “impractical by reason of distance or terrain or by reason of physical handicap” for a student to “attend a secondary school operated by a public board.” 

Erazo told media that he choose Notre Dame Catholic school for his children because of it being the closest school to his home and because the school was placed at the top of a list at a school-ranking website. 

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a lawyer working pro bono for Erazo, is encouraging the parent to pursue legal action against the board, saying that the province’s education act states that parents can obtain a full exemption for their children from religious courses, programs, and activities. 

“The exemption is clearly worded and it’s the law,” he said.

But critics of the initial D-PCDSB decision say that the board should not have caved into the parent’s request for exemption in the first place.

“The province’s Open Access policy does not require Catholic schools to simply allow students to opt-out of religious studies,” said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics to LifeSiteNews. “The legislation actually makes it extremely difficult, almost impossible, for most students (or parents) to obtain such an exemption.”

“According to media reports describing the father’s alleged reasons for seeking the exemption, he clearly does not qualify for the narrow conditions where an exemption can be provided, as described under Section 42(11) of the Education Act.”

Fonseca pointed out that Catholic schools in Ontario have a “constitutional right, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, to operate authentically Catholic schools, without limitation.”

Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada called it “troubling” that exemptions from religious studies in Catholic schools exist at all in the Education Act.

Landolt pointed out that the Catholic school system accommodated itself a “great deal” in 1985 — with the passage of Bill 30 — to the demands of the government so that the previously unfunded senior grades would receive full funding. She said that the Catholic system “watered down” its former confessional nature so as to “accommodate the funding” by including provisions for non-Catholic teachers and by allowing exemptions from religion class under certain circumstances.

While Landolt said the Catholic system essentially handed itself over to the whim of the government when it accepted public funding, she said that this particular case boils down to a parent sending his children to the wrong school.

“The parent is not a Catholic, the child has not been raised a Catholic, so what is the child doing there anyway? If you don’t want a Catholic education, go to a public school,” she said.

Fonseca agrees: “The solution for folks who want a Catholic school without the Catholicism already exists. It’s called the public school down the road.” 

Fonseca said that the board’s initial exemption sets a bad precedent. “I also fear that if boards were to give into this request for ‘religious studies’ exemption, it would give rise to Catholic students in future demanding the right to opt-out of Catholic teaching, prayer, mass and faith activities. Once you let the camel’s nose under the tent, the whole camel will eventually enter in.”

But the D-PCDSB appears for now to be adamant in its decision against further exemption.

“It is our expectation that all students be respectful of, and participate in religious events and activities. Or at least attend religious events and activities that are synonymous with attending a Catholic school,” Campbell wrote. 

“Parents who do not wish their children to be exposed to Christian Catholic teachings, values and traditions, factors that permeate the daily life of a Catholic school, and factors that they should most definitely have expected when they registered to attend a Catholic school, have other options available to them.”

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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.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

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!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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