Kathleen Gilbert

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The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Note: This article is Part III in a three-part series exploring all aspects of Rick Perry’s record on pro-life and pro-family issues. Read Parts I and II here:

Who is Rick Perry? (Part 1 of special report)
Who is Rick Perry? - Part II: A Texas governor’s pro-life legacy

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has displayed formidable staying power near the top of the GOP presidential pack – at least in part thanks to the support of pro-life and pro-family advocates.

But while he has been enthusiastically welcomed by many social conservatives due to his very public stance against abortion and same-sex “marriage,” others have expressed concern about some aspects of Perry’s past that they say call into question Perry’s social conservative credentials, and may even indicate a degree of hypocrisy.

Two haunting endorsements

Perhaps most damaging to Perry’s reputation as a social conservative was his 2008 decision to support GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in a “very strong and proud way,” despite Giuliani’s well-known support for legal abortion, and liberal views on other issues.

“We spent an inordinate amount of time together over the course of the last six weeks talking about issues both on the phone and face to face ... I looked him in the eye and I asked him questions on some issues that we don’t agree on,” Perry said of the former New York mayor on Fox News on October 17, 2007.

“And, but here’s the - I don’t get tied up with the process, what I look for is results,” he continued. “Rudy Giuliani is the individual who will give us the results that will make America safer, that will move our economy forward, will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court ... that covers a host of issues that are important to me.”

Leading pro-life conservatives at the time took a very different view. Less than three weeks earlier, on September 30, Giuliani’s frontrunning campaign had been shaken after conservative magnates vowed to support a third-party candidate should someone as pro-abortion as Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

“Giuliani is beyond the pale,” said Richard Viguerie, a leading conservative fundraiser who had met with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Focus on the Family leader James Dobson. “There’s no way that conservative leaders are going to support a pro-abortion candidate. It was unanimous.”

In an interview with Time magazine August 11 of this year, Perry defended endorsing Giuliani, saying he was effectively supporting a constitutional path to eliminating abortion by backing a believer in conservative jurisprudence.

“He and I were 180 degrees on social issues, but he would put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, which dealt with those social issues,” he said. “I happen to be comfortable that I was making the right decisions and that as President, when it comes to those social issues, it’s very important to have that strict constructionist view of who you put on the Supreme Court.”

Similar concerns still dog Perry over his ties to Al Gore, for whom Perry served as Texas presidential campaign manager 23 years ago, when Gore was U.S. Senator for Tennessee, at a time when both men were Democrats.

Although much of today’s controversy surrounds Gore’s climate change beliefs, the 1988 campaign was also a sensitive turning point for Gore, who had spent much of the decade transitioning from pro-life to pro-choice talking points, on social issues.

While still opposing federal funding of abortion, by 1987 Gore had stepped away from previous statements - and an 84% pro-life voting record - supporting the unborn’s right to life, and made clear his support for legalized abortion. A New York Times article in 2000 cited critics who pegged the 1988 campaign as the moment Gore “brought his positions in line with the party’s powerful feminist and abortion rights constituent groups.”

Perry, who deserted the Democrat party in 1989, has laughed off the association - at least regarding his erstwhile friend’s flagship position on climate change.

“I certainly got religion. I think he’s gone to hell,” Perry said of Gore in 2009, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Gardasil controversy

Also prominent in the arsenal of conservative Perry skeptics is the controversy over Governor Perry’s decision in February 2007 to issue an executive order that made Texas the first U.S. state (20 currently do so) to mandate an HPV vaccine for middle school-aged girls – an action that drew national attention. Responding to conservative backlash, state legislators overturned the order within months, and Gov. Perry withheld his veto.

At the time, Gardasil, a drug found in more recent years to cause severe side effects and even death, was the only approved vaccine for HPV – a sexually-transmitted disease.

The drug continues to be advertised as a means of preventing cervical cancer, which has been linked to HPV infection. Colleagues say Perry, whose mother and father both suffered from cancer, has often shown passion over the issue, such as in his pivotal role in creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

But over and against the arguments of conservatives, the Texas governor rejected any suggestion that the STD vaccine encouraged sexual activity.

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” Perry argued days after issuing the order.

Although some say the executive order violated parents’ rights, the text of the order altered then-current protocol to allow parents to submit a “conscientious objection affidavit” as an opt-out – a provision that opponents denounced as inadequate.

Some also criticized the move as a symptom of political pandering: World Net Daily cites potential ties Perry had to the pharmaceutical giant through two former Perry chiefs of staff who worked for Merck (the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine), and a current chief of staff whose mother-in-law worked there. Merck’s political action committee also donated $6,000 to Perry’s re-election campaign.

Politico recently reviewed FOIA-obtained emails from Perry’s office regarding the Gardasil decision. They found little defining the governor’s own stance in negotiations, but noted the matter appeared settled before the email chain began, six months before the executive order.

Although he stood firmly beside his “pro-life position” on Gardasil as late as last year, the governor has recanted his position after stepping onto the presidential stage.

“I readily stand up and say I made a mistake on that,” Perry said last Monday on an Iowa radio call-in show. 

Conservatives appear torn over the apology. RedState blogger Streiff has dismissed the HPV hullaballoo as “a nothingburger”; however, National Review’s Michelle Malkin vociferously rejected the backpedaling and accused Perry of “borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left” with “human-shield demagoguery” for his emotional anti-cancer defense of the mandate.

Hate crimes legislation

Another spot on Perry’s record noted by conservatives is his signing of a hate crimes measure, which included special protections based on sexual orientation, shortly after becoming governor in 2001. 

The measure, known as the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, was named after a Texas black man killed by three white men, but also included special protections for sexual orientation, including both homosexuality and heterosexuality. George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor as Texas governor, had refused two years earlier to support the measure based on his objection to any hate crime law, saying that all crimes are hate crimes.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner did not comment on the matter to LifeSiteNews.com.

Gary Glenn, Executive Director of American Family Association of Michigan, wrote in June that he was “disappointed” in Perry over the 2001 law, which he called “arguably the most dangerous element of homosexual activists’ political agenda.”

An unanswered question

In terms of personal pro-life beliefs, perhaps one of the most salient questions is also the most mysterious.

A quick search on Perry’s pro-life beliefs turns up a claim from OnTheIssues.org that the rural Texan native “said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases involving rape or incest or when carrying a pregnancy to term would threaten the woman’s life.” The site references an Associated Press article appearing on FoxNews.com Jun 25, 2002.

Neither the Associated Press nor Fox News have responded to LifeSiteNews.com’s requests for the article in question, and Perry’s spokesman also did not respond to inquiries. Two top pro-life leaders connected to Perry, one national and one state level, both told LifeSiteNews.com they were unaware if the claim was accurate.

However, one leader, Texas Right to Life executive director Elizabeth Graham, told LSN that Perry did not support exceptions for rape and incest.

“Governor Perry has been consistent in his position in that he opposes all abortion and he recognizes that there are very rare instances in which an abortion may be necessary to prevent the death of the mother,” said Graham.

Texas Alliance for Life founding executive director Joe Pojman, Ph.D., said a recent sonogram bill that excluded children conceived in rape or incest, as well as other exceptions, had not been influenced towards including the exceptions by the governor’s office.

Two local pro-life leaders sound off

The two state pro-life leaders LifeSiteNews.com spoke with were enthusiastic about Perry, although they conceded that the governor erred considerably at least once.

“Almost all the time he’s correct, but this time he wasn’t,” said Pojman, referring to the Giuliani endorsement.

Texas Right to Life’s Graham also said that the Giuliani endorsement was a surprise and a “departure from his typically pro-life views.” “It was just surprising because Gov. Perry has never been compromising with life,” said Graham, who says she tried to talk Perry out of what she described as a purely political move.

The leaders’ faith in Perry’s pro-life beliefs, however, appeared unshaken.

Pojman, a former aerospace engineer who has worked with Perry on pro-life issues since 1999, recalled the candidate’s rumored “serious arm twisting” in the state Senate as lieutenant governor to speed passage of a parental notification law, a legacy followed up by a record of hard work against abortion.

“This issue really is dear to his heart, he understands it and he has always made it a priority,” Pojman said. “He’s not necessarily going to put it in every speech because he knows he’s got to get elected, but ... he’s not going to run from it, because it’s just who he is.”

Peter J. Smith contributed to this report.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Science magazine retracts pro-gay study over phony data

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

LOS ANGELES, June 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A discredited paper that alleges LGBT activists can change the minds of traditional marriage supporters in one conversation has been formally retracted -- against the wishes of one of its authors.

On Thursday, the magazine Science said on its website that "with the concurrence of author Donald P. Green,” it is retracting the report “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” which was published last December 12.

According to Science, "survey incentives were misrepresented." In the study, LaCour and Green said they had paid participants "to enroll, to refer family and friends, and to complete multiple surveys." However, Science said it "confirmed" with Green's co-author, Michael LaCour -- who has continued to defend the study -- that "no such payments were made."

Additionally, the paper misrepresented its financial sponsors. "In the report, LaCour acknowledged funding from the Williams Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund. Per correspondence from LaCour’s attorney, this statement was not true," said Science.

On Friday, Lacour released a lengthy statement in which he took "full responsibility for errors in the design, implementation, and data collection regarding the field experiments and panel survey reported" and apologized "for misrepresenting survey incentives and funding," though he also defended some of the survey's results.

"In fact, I received a grant offer from the Williams Institute, but never accepted the funds, the LA GLBT received funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund., and the Ford Foundation grant did not exist," said LaCour. Additionally, the grad student said that he "raffled Apple computers, tablets, and iPods to survey respondents as incentives. I located some of the receipts....Some of the raffle prizes were purchased for a previous experiment I conducted."

Science's final reason for retraction included the fact that "independent researchers have noted certain statistical irregularities in the responses. LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings."

According to LaCour, he destroyed data "in the interest of institutional requirements" at UCLA -- in other words, because that was the university's standard.

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The retraction follows more than a week of criticism that began when LaCour's co-author, Columbia University political science professor Donald Green, expressed concern about LaCour's work. Green said that the UCLA grad student's work comprised "an incredible mountain of fabrications with the most baroque and ornate ornamentation."

LaCour has maintained that the study, which was published in December 2014, should not be retracted, and his 23-page response to critics indicated that he has not changed his position.

In the meantime, LaCour has been accused of faking another study on media bias that BuzzFeed reports "was unpublished but frequently cited at scientific conferences." That study was privately critiqued by Emory University political science professor Gregory Martin a year ago. Martin decided to publicly report that criticism after the Science controversy arose. 

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James Matthew Wilson

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The joyful death of Catholic Ireland

James Matthew Wilson
By James Wilson

June 1, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- Do you remember the joke about the Irish brewery worker who drowned in a vat of suds? “Poor Sean,” the new widow said upon learning her husband’s fate, “He didn’t stand a chance.” “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Mrs. Reilly,” replies the foreman. “He did crawl out three times to use the bathroom.”

The Republic of Ireland has just voted, by a commanding and unprecedented popular vote, to establish “gay marriage” in its territory. The world, and the Irish themselves, who generally look at themselves from the viewpoint of the foreigner in a sad kind of “double consciousness,” will not fail to read the message: “Catholic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with De Valera in the grave.”

The coverage of the vote holds it up as an occasion of joy, of national pride, of a new era in an old country. I am sure there are some who use these expressions sincerely. Modern westerners usually think of life in this world in therapeutic terms. Matters of what is sometimes called “private” morality are decided entirely in terms of the question, “How will this make me feel?” while matters of “public” morality are submitted to a utilitarian calculus the numbers of which are usually undefined or unsatisfactory, boiling down to something like, “How will such-and-such a measure affect public health?” These are the only questions one can ask, if one inhabits an impoverished world where goodness and truth, happiness and justice, are taken for mere “subjective” projections onto the wandering atoms of the universe. But this diagnosis is not my interest today, because it cannot wholly explain the queer elation in Dublin.

What I want to consider is the specific conditions in Ireland that led up to this moment. My account will be somewhat hobbled; though for a number of years I resided in Dublin regularly, I have not visited the country since 2007, and so learned of some of the more recent and traumatic events in Irish life only from the newspapers.

My days in Ireland began just after the peak of the so-called Celtic Tiger. The economy was expanding, the “ribbon effect,” or suburban sprawl was spreading out around Dublin and Galway, and the restaurants, bars, and hotels were staffed by immigrant workers, most of them from Eastern Europe.

My interest in Irish culture was incidental to begin with. I had fallen in love with the modern Irish poets, from Yeats to Mahon, for their formal dexterity. But I also loved God above all things, and viewed the love of country as little less sacred than the love of one’s father and mother. The Irish narrative of faith and fatherland, fought and died for, resonated with me and, I thought, provided an occasion to deepen my understanding of those loves. To study Irish literature, it seemed to me then, was to study the work of authors who lived and died for the sacred.

What I found in the Ireland of 2001 provided little occasion for dwelling on any of that “rubbish.” In the previous decade, the hierarchy of the Irish Church had been wracked with scandal. Its prestige had come to be viewed as hypocrisy and arrogance, its power as conceit and corruption. Regular Mass attendance had dropped from nearly 90 percent a few years prior to around 60 percent, and it continued to plunge in the years of my visits. If practice of the faith was plunging then, it has plummeted since. The churches were full on Sunday, then, now they sit empty, as if Dublin were Paris or New York.

I saw few signs of genuine piety, and the demeanors of the pious seemed passive and weary. The Irish saw well that prosperity had at last come to their land; it seemed to entail a giving up of both Irish folkways and the ancestral religion, and that was a bargain they were willing to make.

The political elite in Ireland had long since come to have more in common with their counterparts in other western European nations than with the supposedly backward sensibilities of the people they ruled. They clearly saw the embarrassment of the Church as something to be capitalized on to advance the secularization of the country—its normalization, you might say, within the post-Christian mainstream. A prime minister brought his concubine to dinner with the Archbishop; it created a sensation rather than a scandal. Where Nelson’s Pillar had once stood—blown up in a symbolic act of nationalism by the IRA in 1966—the Irish government had erected a “millennium spike.” It is just as bad and stupid as it sounds. I wrote about it thus in my first book of poems, one inspired by the Belfast poet Louis MacNeice:

Where Nelson’s Pisgah pillar pruned, then plumed,
They’ve propped a sterile spike up like an altar
To pious E.U. secularity.

Irish society never fully recovered from the Civil War that humiliated it in 1922-23. The internecine conflict was, as Thomas MacGreevy once wrote, a last humiliation by the British Empire, disillusioning Irish nationalism just at the moment when it had achieved something like victory—a modest independence called “home rule.” In the subsequent decades, Irish politics was marked by a persistence of nationalist ambition to make Ireland in actuality what it has long been regarded as being: a distinctively Catholic republic that would stand outside the main tendencies of western Europe toward secularization, economic liberalization, and, later, the welfare state.

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In this ambition, they succeeded. The Church enjoyed a central place in Irish public life; its charitable institutions served as a non-state agent to educate, heal, and care for the Irish people in lieu of public schools, hospitals, and other social services. The long-reigning Eamonn De Valera attempted a third-way economy—one founded on agriculture and autarchy, especially in regards to its powerful neighbor. This last was not a great achievement, though it was more successful than it would have been had the ranks of Ireland’s lower classes not already been emigrating in a continuous flow for most of the previous century.

The persistence of these nationalist ambitions should not surprise us, given the tremendous symbolic power generated in the decades before independence. Nonetheless, it was a waning influence from the beginning. In the 1950s, the Irish economy was liberalized and increasingly opened to the European market. That was sufficient to make most Irish conclude that their country was nothing special; it should rightly assume its place as a marginal junior player in the global economy. Economic liberalization led to secularization, or might have, were it not for a string of public controversies, including votes on abortion and divorce, that reminded many Irish of their distinctive self-image as a Catholic nation—much to the anguish of liberals, including the literati, who sought to show that the only thing distinctive about Ireland was that it was much worse than other countries.

It was the expansion of the Irish economy and the sex scandals in the Church in the 1990s that brought this long developing contempt for Irish exceptionalism to a head. It seemed to vindicate every accusation of Ireland as a backward backwater of hypocrisy. But this contempt for the past was softened by the unprecedented prosperity of the Celtic Tiger. The young were too busy earning money and spending it to have children much less to attend to the dissolution of Ireland’s Catholic culture.

When the global economy collapsed in 2008, Ireland was among the handful of worst-hit small countries.  Emigration increased to highs not seen for decades.  The time had come for reprisals. Their hopes for prosperity dashed, the Irish had few political options, and a future of bailouts and austerity imposed from abroad.  Enda Kenny was elected Prime Minister on a European liberal economic platform, but it soon became clear that his power could only be enhanced by taking Irish society in a leftward direction.  Every confrontation he staged with the Church, he won.  He was called brave for taking on such a venerable but hidebound institution in the name of truth and progress; but, indeed, how much bravery could it require to fight a battle he could not lose?  The disappointments of Irish society were increasingly expressed as contempt for the Church.

Year by year, government inquiries into sexual abuse within Church-run institutions, the physical abuses of those in the care of nuns and priests, and finally the supposed unearthing of mass graves of children on the properties of homes for unwed mothers. The stories themselves were increasingly distorted in the press, but nobody cared; the outrage and contempt only increased. To present oneself as a faithful Catholic in contemporary Ireland would require far more bravery than, say, to present oneself as a practitioner of sodomy.

For more than a century, the Irish had been told, had told themselves, that they were something distinctive in the history of Christendom. A Catholic nation that had persisted in the faith despite domination by a Protestant foreign power, the service of country and of God seemed almost as one. But, for just under a century, a nagging doubt had haunted such convictions. Ireland was insignificant: its dream of itself consequently stood in the way of its simply getting on as one more country on a continent that had long since lost its faith but had embraced the mundane contentment afforded by a liberalized economy, the welfare state, and a far more immanent horizon of beliefs.

Some scholars tell us that the gothic genre of story-telling grew up as a response to the Catholic Irish. A society that saw itself as enlightened, rational, secular, and modern suddenly found itself haunted by some frightful other, a ghoul, a return of the repressed: an avatar of superstitious, atavistic, arcane Catholicism. The Irish and Catholic response to such tales of Whiggery was easy: Catholicism “returns” not as the ravenous claw of the past reaching up from the grave to strangle the present, but as the truth, which never goes anywhere. Truth always asserts its inescapable claim on every person.

But what is one to do when that claw represents not simply the past, but also the future, the Catholic nation that Ireland was meant to become, but never quite did? What is one to do when the gothic monster is not something intruding from the depths beneath one’s society, but is, if anything, the institution that seemed to represent the most distinctive virtues of that society? Kill it, of course. Kill it, and take joy in the sport.

The joy with which the “gay marriage” referendum is being greeted not only in the streets of urban Dublin but across the whole country must surely be a complex emotion. Insofar as the Irish are just like most of us westerners, they are celebrating a new freedom of the will to assert itself without any moral prohibition. But the therapeutic triumphed long ago, and didn’t need Ireland to cement its victory.

The reason the Irish—as Irish—are celebrating is that they have with this referendum delivered a decisive and final blow to their venerable image as a Catholic nation. They have taken their vengeance on the Church. They must relish the unshackling; they must love the taste of blood. But, finally, they take joy in becoming what, it seems, they were always meant to become. An unexceptional country floating somewhere in the waters off a continent that has long since entered into cultural decline, demographic winter, and the petty and perpetual discontents that come free of charge to every people that lives for nothing much in particular.

James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor of Religion and Literature in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, Four Verse Letters (Steubenville, 2010) and of Timothy Steele: A Critical Introduction (Story Line, 2012), and a new collection of poems entitled The Violent and the Fallen (Finishing Line Press). A scholar of philosophical theology and literature, Wilson has lectured widely on topics ranging from modern American poetry to ancient Greek philosophy. Readers can learn more about his writing at jamesmatthewwilson.com.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine.

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Katie Yoder

Taxpayer-funded PBS pushes teaching sex ed to 4-year-olds

Katie Yoder
By Katie Yoder

June 1, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Watching PBS? Might want to ask the kindergartners to leave the room.

In a May 27 piece for tax-funded PBS, NewsHour producer Saskia de Melker argued “The case for starting sex education in kindergarten.” In her piece, she held up the Netherlands as an example for the United States in “sexuality education” – for those as young as 4-years-old to learn “honest conversations about love and relationships.”

To begin her piece, de Melker pointed to “Spring Fever” week in Dutch primary schools, or “the week of focused sex ed classes … for 4-year olds.”

“Of course, it’s not just for 4-year-olds,” she reassured about the Netherlands’ “comprehensive sex education.” “Eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. Eleven-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options.”

She assured prudish Americans that, “You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class,” she wrote. “In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education.” (Funny, that’s not how her headline read.)

Citing Ineke van der Vlugt, who works on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, “the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum,” de Melker urged the program is “about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.”

De Melker highlighted how Netherlands law requires all primary schools to teach “sexuality education” that must include “certain core principles” like “sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness.”

“The underlying principle is straightforward,” she wrote, “Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.”

And, according to de Melker, the approach works as the Netherlands “boasts some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health” with statistics on birth control, contraceptives, and sexual experiences.

“There are multiple factors that likely contribute to these numbers,” she hyped. “Easy access to contraception is one. Condoms, for example, are available in vending machines, and the birth control pill is free for anyone under age 21.”

De Melker provided more solid examples of just what kindergarteners learn.

“[S]tudents draw boys’ and girls’ bodies, tell stories about friends taking a bath together, and discuss who likes doing that and who doesn’t,” she wrote. “By the end of kindergarten, students are expected to be able to properly name body parts including genitals. They also learn about different types of families, what it means to be a good friend, and that a baby grows in a mother’s womb.”

11-year-olds, on the other hand learn to discuss “hypothetical situations” like:

  •  “You’re kissing someone and they start using their tongue which you don’t want.”

  •  “A girl starts dancing close to a guy at a party causing him to get an erection.”

  • “Your friend is showing off pornographic photos that make you feel uncomfortable.”

If a student thinks she’s a lesbian, some teachers, like Sabine Hasselaar, explain to the class, “It’s not strange for some girls to like other girls more than boys. It’s a feeling that you can’t change, just like being in love. The only difference is that it’s with someone that is the same sex as you.”

If you’re wondering where Dutch parents are in all this, it isn’t as though they’ve totally abdicated their responsibility to the state. Well, OK, it is. In fact, the schools teach them too.

“Parents nights are held to give parents tools to talk to their kids about sex,” and “Public health experts recommend that parents take cues from their kids.”

In other words, “if you walk in on your child masturbating, don’t react shocked; don’t punish or scold them,” she detailed. “Have a talk about where it is appropriate for such behavior to occur.”

While the U.S. is still far behind, de Melker encouraged that, in some places, “the tide is shifting toward an approach closer to that of the Dutch.”

Reprinted with permission from NewsBusters.

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