Adam Cassandra

Student-athlete with Down syndrome, denied chance to play, becomes state champ

Adam Cassandra
By Adam Cassandra

November 28, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - Student-athlete Eric Dompierre is a state champion football player, winner of Sports Illustrated’s “Underdogs” contest and an all-around inspirational young man. And he has Down syndrome.

Eric, who attends Ishpeming High School in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan and is a kicker for the school’s varsity football team, wasn’t sure if the state of Michigan would even allow him to participate in sports this year. Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) regulations barred him, and others with disabilities, from playing athletics after turning nineteen-years-old before September 1.

Students with Down syndrome and other developmental conditions sometimes require extra years of schooling in their early years, making them older than their classmates in their senior year of high school. Currently 26 states do not allow waivers for older students with disabilities to play sports past an established age requirement deadline.

Eric and his father, Dean, fought for two years trying to convince the MHSAA to create a waiver policy allowing student-athletes with disabilities to play one year past the current maximum age.

“Michigan’s kids with disabilities should not have to beg their leaders for relief,” Dean said, adding the MHSAA should change its policy “not because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

After an outpouring of support for Eric, and petitions to overturn the policy from across the nation, the MHSAA announced in late May the approval of a new age waiver policy:

A two-thirds majority of votes cast is required to change the MHSAA Constitution. In a vote of schools conducted this month, 701 of 1,535 MHSAA member senior high and junior high/middle schools cast legal ballots, and 94 percent approved of the change. … As a result of that vote, the Association’s age rule, under which a student who turns 19 prior to September 1 of a school year is ineligible for interscholastic athletics, may now be waived by the MHSAA Executive Committee.

“I’m very excited,” Eric said after learning that he would be allowed to play football.

“It’s a great sense of relief,” said his father Dean. “I’m proud of the way he (Eric) has handled himself through this whole thing. He helped not only himself, but he helped out some other kids from the state. I also feel thankful for all the people who helped us out in this and made this thing happen.”

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But Eric’s story didn’t end there.

His football team, the Hematites, went on to win the MHSAA Division 7 state football championship last Friday with a near flawless season record. Eric kicked a number of extra points and even scored a touchdown during their championship season.

And on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated announced that Eric and his Hematites were the winners of their “Underdogs” contest, giving the school a $25,000 grant from Powerade and a trip to New York City for 10 of the team’s players to attend the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year event next week. But the Hematites are sticking together, and are trying to raise money to send the entire team to New York.

Sports Illustrated will pay for a charter bus for the whole Hematite squad to travel to New York, but the school needs to raise $3,200 to house and feed the students during the trip.

“The year as a whole has been quite remarkable,” said Eric’s father Dean. “Sometimes, it’s been remarkable in a negative way, or a sad way, and other times it’s been remarkable in a good way, but overall, it’s been quite a ride … We really want to thank everybody, not just in the U.P. but really all across Michigan and the country who went to bat for us, not only during our ‘Let ‘em Play‘ campaign, but also during this contest to help us come out on top.”

While studies have found that around 90 percent of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to have an abortion, stories like Eric’s show just how much of an inspiration and impact persons with disabilities can have on their families and their communities. Eric and the Hematites leave Monday for the Big Apple.

Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamcassandra.

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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