Peter Baklinski

Open to life, even with a 25 percent chance of cystic fibrosis

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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ALASKA, July 25, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ken and Allison Howell were leading what they considered a “charmed life.” The newly married couple were part of a Pentecostal church where the “preaching was fiery, the services long and emotional, and the music pulled one from the depths of weeping to the heights of dancing.”

But the Howell’s first child Rees, born in 1994 — four years into their marriage — was about to turn their charmed life inside out, leading them on a difficult journey that would test their marriage, their faith, and the way they valued human life.

Rees entered the world after a storybook pregnancy and birth. But by the time he was nine months old, he had contracted pneumonia twice, a rarity for a child who was breast-fed.

Further testing revealed why. Rees was found to have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease caused by two recessive genes passed on to him from his parents.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disorder which causers abnormally thick mucus to be produced, which often leads to serious respiratory infection. Havoc wreaked on the lungs by this disorder is the primary cause of CF-related deaths.

The Howells were devastated by the news, not only because of concern for their son, but also because of their participation in what Allison refers to as the “divine health-and-wealth-teaching church.” It was impressed upon members of that church that “divine healing is an integral part of the Gospel” and that “deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.”

“Although we were scared silly, we assumed that there would be some grand miracle for Rees to showcase God’s power,” said Allison who related her story to LifeSiteNews.com.

The Howells brought their son to “prayer warriors and healing services,” desperately clinging to the idea that his “sickness was from the Devil and that our faith in Jesus’ healing power was all that was necessary for his cystic fibrosis to go away.”

But the Howells had been set up for bitter disappointment.

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When Rees’ healing did not occur, the parents were led to believe that something was wrong with their prayers, their faith, their worship, or even with their trust in God. The leaders of the sect convinced the distraught couple they must be harboring a “secret sin” and that they “didn’t love God enough, didn’t love others enough, didn’t sing enough, and didn’t speak in tongues enough.”

For the first time, Ken and Allison began to doubt each other. They began to doubt God.

“The whole thing caused great harm to our marriage, as thoughts crept in of the other one being the hindrance to healing. Our relationships with God crashed.”

Ken and Allison ceased attending church services for a year, trying to sort out the spiritual mess which they found themselves in.

“We were angry with each other, angry with God, angry with our pastors and college professors, and maybe even angry with Rees,” she recounted.

A Turning Point

But the Howells did not want to give up so easily on their Christian roots. They returned to church services, wanting to pass Christian values on to their son.

But troubles in their church’s leadership led the couple to seriously question the matter of authority. What the couple discovered through reading and research led them to the door of the Catholic Church.

“We decided to investigate the Catholic Church’s claim to be the church founded by Jesus Himself. We bought books, lots of them. We rose early to read and spent our evenings reading. We interrupted each other. We shook our heads. We were excited.”

One evening while pouring over some books, Allison remembers turning to Ken and saying: “My God, we’re going to have to become Catholic.”

“We already are in our hearts and minds,” Ken replied.

The Howells were excited to discover the Catholic understanding of suffering as redemptive. They came to recognize that their son’s illness was not a curse from God, but a calling for him and for them to bear fruit by becoming united to the mystery of Jesus’ redemptive Passion.

Along with St. Paul, the parents learned to think of suffering as “complet[ing] what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

Ken and Allison desired to grow their family, but they were scared by the knowledge that a child born to them had a 25 percent chance of having CF.

“I remember wanting someone to tell me, when all we had was Rees, that it was OK to have more children,” Allison recounted.

However, as the Howells progressed in their faith journey, they came to realize that each life is a gift. They discovered in themselves a new attitude toward life and became open to having more children, even if that meant children with CF.

They realized that “no one is guaranteed tomorrow” and that health is not all what life is about. They recognized that every life, whether with CF or not, is imbued with a “spiritual component” that is “more real and lasting” than the elusive and ephemeral happy-healthy lifestyle that many people consider to be the reason for existing.

“All life is of value and all life is in God’s Hands, no matter how long or short, how fancy or poor, how sick or healthy,” they came to see.

The couple’s newly discovered openness to life was fruitful. John was born in 1997, followed by Clare in 2001, both without CF. Then came Ian, Ambrose, Luke, and Joseph, all without CF. Adah was born earlier this year and has CF.

All Children are a Gift

Some people think the Howells are irresponsible, or crazy, for being open to conceiving children who might have CF. But Ken and Allison simply smile and tell them that “every single life can have health problems, from the moment of conception and onward through all of life.”

“No one is guaranteed anything in life,” they say. They tell people that CF is manageable and that there are ways to keep CF kids healthy.

They also point out that a child with health problems, like a Tiny Tim, brings out the best in people.

“They have ‘something’ you can’t put your finger on. They tend to be wiser. They charge into life, full-force. They make the world a better place and they want to be here.”

The most important lesson Ken and Allison say they have learned from their CF children is that “all life truly matters.”

They have seen how their own family has blossomed and grown more closer by ordering their family life around the lives of their children with CF.

“We are very close, in part because of the necessary CF care which includes things like ‘lung clapping,’ where one must pat the CF person all over the chest and back to loosen the thick mucus in order for it to be coughed up.”

Up until Rees was 10, the Howells would “hop onto the couch” with Rees to do his lung clapping (pulmonary therapy) for 20 minutes, three times a day.

“When more children came along, they would join us in the activity. Now that we have another baby with CF, the other kids argue over who gets to do ‘lung clapping’ for Adah.”

While Rees now uses a hand-held device for his pulmonary therapy, Allison is convinced that the years of hands-on therapy with her son has “forged an enviable closeness” that she says is now paying off in Rees’ teenage years.

Life is Normal with CF Kids

Rees, now 17, recently graduated high school and is looking forward to beginning college this fall.

Allison says that she cherishes her son’s every accomplishment because she knows the struggle behind what he has done.

When Rees achieved a black belt in marshal arts, Allison could hardly contain from shouting out to the crowd: “Do you people know that he has CF? Do you know that it took him a year longer to accomplish this than it took other kids? Do you know that he has lung troubles and hospitalizations?”

Rees’ recent graduation ceremony for homeschoolers had to be planned around one of his hospitalizations. He was given permission to attend the ceremony only if a nurse accompanied him. “We all met him in the city, he processed, walked, received, ate, visited, and headed back to the hospital. No one knew that under his gown was a taped-up IV tube in his arm.”

Now with little Adah following in the footsteps of her older brother, Allison says that she has the routine down pat.

“The baby needs to swallow tiny pills that I mix with applesauce before each nursing session, and she needs her scheduled ‘lung clapping.’”

The Howell family likes to spend “as much time as possible” hiking and camping in their beautiful Alaska. On their family outings, Ken and Allison make sure to bring everything that their CF children require to take part in the adventure.

“Pills, the flutter valve, and applesauce can easily be tucked into backpacks, and when a nebulizer is needed, we have an electrical converter that uses the cigarette lighter in the vehicle.”

At the end of each day, Ken and Allison rejoice in the lives of all their children. While they love their CF kids “exactly the way they are,” they nonetheless “pray every day for the researchers who are working on a cure.”

“Every child suffers in some way, whether with CF or not,” they say. “All parents can do is hold them, love them, and help them. There is an awesome mystery to life.”

The Howells have come to a simple conclusion: “Life is precious!”

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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

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Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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Lisa Bourne

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Girl Scouts returns $100,000 donation over transgender stipulation

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - An unusual request from a major donor to a regional branch of the U.S. Girl Scouts has drawn attention to the organization’s ongoing support for gender ideology and transgender issues. 

Girl Scouts of Western Washington CEO Megan Ferland revealed last week that the council had recently received a donation for $100,000. However, after the Girl Scouts’ practice of allowing boys who identify as girls to join the Scouts hit the news during the media’s coverage of the Bruce Jenner case, Ferland says she received a note from the donor putting a condition on the donation.

“Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the donor reportedly asked. “If you can’t, please return the money.”

In the end, Ferland said she chose to give the $100,000 - what could have comprised nearly a fourth of the council’s annual fundraising goal - back to the donor.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland stated in a report from SeattleMet.com. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In the meantime, the council used the publicity over the refused donation to launch a social fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, a social fundraising site. The #ForEVERYGirl has far exceeded its goal, raising over $300,000 for the group in just three days.

"Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region—regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world," states the campaign.

This is not the first time that Ferland has been involved in a controversy over the Scouts’ support for transgenderism.

When a boy self-identifying as a girl attempted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop in 2011 and was initially refused by the leader because of his male gender, Ferland, then head of the Colorado council, issued a statement welcoming boys identifying as girls, and saying efforts were in progress to find the boy a troop. The council also renounced the troop leader’s actions in refusing the boy access.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland stated at the time. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

Western Washington Girl Scouts current program brochures show that gender ideology is woven right into the council’s programming for girls, with promotion found right in the council’s workshops:

SafeZone for Girl Scouts Sat, May 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tacoma Learn how you can become an ally and advocate for your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) peers. Includes activities and discussion around: inclusive language, the process of coming out, the power of the straight ally, how to respond to homophobic/trans-phobic incidents, where to go for help and much more. Bring lunch.

Girl Scouts and radical feminism

For years, pro-family leaders have raised alarms about partnerships and programs that indicate that the Girl Scouts have moved toward embracing a radical feminist identity.

As far back as 2004 a U.S Catholic Bishop intervened when a Girl Scout-Planned Parenthood partnership threatened young girls. 

Then-Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to sign their children up for Planned Parenthood’s “Nobody’s Fool,” a sex-ed campaign designed for pre-pubescent children which had been integrated into the local Girl Scouts.

A survey, also from 2004, found that many Girl Scouts councils were partnering with Planned Parenthoood in some fashion. 

In 2010 the Girl Scouts were found to be pushing a radical agenda on its young members with Planned Parenthood given access to distribute an explicit ‘sex guide’ at a closed-door, no-adults-welcome meeting at the UN sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Lincoln, Nebrask Bishop James Conley warned in 2011 as auxiliary bishop of Denver that involvement in the Girl Scouts could serve to make girls more open to the pro-abortion agenda.

Roughly 90 Girl Scouts of Northern California members and their families marched in San Francisco’s 2013 Gay Pride Parade. 

"The San Francisco Girl Scouts participate in many parades that celebrate the diversity of San Francisco," Girl Scouts of Northern California Communications Manager Dana Allen told LifeSiteNews at the time. "Girl Scouts is inclusive and reflects the communities we serve."

A sexuality-based Girl Scout troop was started earlier this year in Utah aimed at gay and lesbian families and boys who consider themselves “transgender.” It meets at the Utah Pride Center.

"As long as a youth identifies as a girl or with girls, even if they are genderfluid on the day that they registered, then they can become a Girl Scout," Shari Solomon-Klebba, the Utah Girl Scout outreach coordinator, and an open lesbian who started the troop, told a local news station at the time.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged caution last year in engaging with the Girl Scouts after conducting a two-year examination of the scouts. That study identified concerns about several Girl Scouts USA policies, affiliations and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout alternatives

The representatives of two organizations for girls frequently considered a Christ-centered alternative to the Girls Scouts told LifeSiteNews this latest incident with the Western Washington Scouts underscores the need for other options for families and their children.

“There has been a huge cultural shift in redefining life-long truths that have many families carefully considering their youth program options. American Heritage Girls has often been regarded as a Christian-based alternative to the Girls Scouts,” American Heritage Girls National Communications Specialist Jennifer Troutman said.

American Heritage Girls marked its 20th anniversary this past week. There are more than 40,000 members within the organization.

“Now more than ever American Heritage Girls recognizes the importance of bringing Christ-centered, character development programming to girls across the nation.”  

The head of Little Flowers Girls’ Club concurred.

“I feel very blessed that we can offer an authentically Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts,” Joan Stromberg told LifeSiteNews.

Little Flowers started over 20 years ago, not as a reaction against what Girl Scouts were doing, or where they are now, Stromberg said, but as a way to help moms and girls bond together to learn about the world through a Catholic lens.

“It is sad that Girl Scouts policies and positions have put them in direct conflict with Church teachings,” Stromberg continued. “I am just pleased that girls and moms have alternative places like Little Flowers where they can go.”

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