Adam Cassandra

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

Adam Cassandra
By Adam Cassandra

November 28, 2012 ( - 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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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
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 /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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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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