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Tiny pro-life activist making big waves

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By John Jalsevac
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December 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When 12-year-old Lia Mills decided to tackle the topic of abortion for a grade 7 speech project in February 2009, neither she nor her family had any idea what lay in store for them.

Now, less than two years later, a homemade video of Lia’s speech, shot with their tiny digital point-and-shoot, has been watched over a million times on Youtube, at least one unborn baby has been saved from abortion, Lia has spoken before a crowd of over 10,000 pro-lifers at the National March for Life in Ottawa, and she is viewed as one of North America’s most promising up-and-coming young pro-life leaders.

“Never in our wildest dreams” did the Mills see what was coming, said Kimberley Mills, Lia’s mother, in a recent LifeSiteNews.com interview.  “This could only have been a God-thing because it’s so unbelievable.  Lia made a simple decision to speak on a topic she felt God prompted her to speak on and He took it from there.”

Against the odds

The last two years appear all the more remarkable in light of their inauspicious beginning – when Lia’s pro-abortion teacher found out the topic of her speech, she told Lia that she could present her speech to her class, but would be automatically disqualified from the speech competition attached to the project. She recommended that Lia choose a different topic.

At the recent International Pro-Life Conference in Ottawa, Lia told the crowd that being “a fairly competitive person,” she was eager to participate in the competition; however,  “after more praying and thinking” she decided that she would stick with the topic of abortion anyway, even if it meant disqualification.

Unexpectedly, however, Lia’s teacher was so impressed with the speech that she backtracked and, despite her pro-abortion views, recommended that Lia represent her class in the schoolwide competition. 

But before Lia had a chance to go before the school and the panel of judges, her teacher demanded that she remove one sentence from the speech that referenced God. Once again Lia was forced to choose between her principles and her desire to compete, and possibly win – and once again, she chose the former. “After a night of tears and prayer, I went to school, and sadly told my teacher that I couldn’t take that sentence out and that I would withdraw from the contest,” she says.

But once again her teacher changed her mind, and allowed Lia to compete anyway. 

At the schoolwide competition, one pro-abortion judge stepped down from the panel before Lia even began.  And after the speech, the judges initially told Lia she had been disqualified.  But controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia’s family learned the next day that Lia had been declared the winner.

But, as it turned out, this welcome and hard-won victory was only the beginning for Lia.

Not your typical young activist

When the young pro-life orator, who is now 14 years old, steps up to the microphone, you hardly know what to expect. At best, one looks for the normal fare of the precocious young activist – that is, a cute, but ultimately unoriginal parroting of the movement’s talking points.

Not so with Lia.  At the conference in Ottawa, Lia could barely see over the podium. But when she opened her mouth what poured out was a confident, well-structured, fluid and insightful look into the nature and struggles of the pro-life battle – a speech that stood on its own two feet, without any apologetic remarks about “her age.” Lia had written out her speech beforehand – but barely glanced at her notes the whole time she delivered it. 

(Read the complete prepared text of the speech here.)

“What I realize now,” she told the crowd, “is that when I made the decision to speak on abortion, it wasn’t just a decision to do a speech. It was a decision to step into a spiritual battle, a battle that I wasn’t aware of in the least and a battle that was growing in intensity.”

“I still don’t know why God chose me to do what I did,” she continued, “but I’m learning, ever so slowly, to try and embrace conflict, to try to realize that some things will only change as I become willing to stand in opposition to the status quo, as I become willing to see beyond my need for peace and safety and learn to step out of the boat and make some waves.”

Naturally, many of those who have seen Lia in action have questioned how much of the credit for her accomplishments she can truthfully accept: have not her parents held her by the hand all the while, prodding her to take on these controversial topics and perhaps even writing her speeches for her? 

But according to Lia’s mother, this simply is not the case.

According to Kimberly, not only did Lia independently make the decision to speak about abortion, but she and her husband even urged Lia to choose another topic when her original choice was opposed by her teacher. 

While Christian and pro-life in their convictions, the Mills had never been involved in the pro-life movement. “We tended to regard [abortion] as a ‘side issue’, and we focused our attention elsewhere,” says Kimberly. 

“Many times,” she continued, “we’ve asked [Lia] if she wants to step away from pursuing this.  Every time another speaking engagement comes up, we leave it to her to decide whether to accept.  Each time she prays and comes back with her answer and, up to now, she’s always felt that pressing on is what God wants for her.”

While Kimberly says she’d like “to think that, as parents, we’ve made a positive impact on Lia …  as I see what God is doing in and through her, I know it goes way beyond what we’ve done.  Often, I find myself, like Mary, just marveling and pondering these things in my heart.”

As for the actual content of Lia’s speeches, the writing and research is performed almost entirely by the young girl herself, though she does seek advice from her family regarding pacing, flow, and content. Sometimes her speeches will go through as many as 7 or 8 drafts.

The power of new media

When Lia’s parents uploaded her first speech onto Youtube, with the intention of sharing it with family friends, they were completely unprepared for the reaction. The statistics for the video immediately shot through the roof, and it sparked a heated debate – so heated, in fact, that the Mills were forced to shut down commenting on the video after death threats were leveled against Lia. 

Lia says that through witnessing the response to that video, “I really developed an appreciation for the work that any pro-life organization does, because there is so much backlash and opposition.”

But while the “opposition was extremely intense … so was the support,” she says.

The greatest affirmation of the effectiveness of that video came in the form of a comment on the video by someone who said that his aunt had decided against getting an abortion, after watching Lia’s speech.

After seeing the possibilities of Youtube, Lia has gone on to produce a number of new videos tackling different aspects of the pro-life issue. The videos have since become more sophisticated, as the Mills have begun to splice together footage and use other effects, but they are still recording with the same basic point-and-shoot as at first. 

While none of these videos have enjoyed nearly the same level of exposure as the first one, they all have healthy stats – between ten and fifty thousand views.

Big words from a little person

A quick glance at the comments beneath these videos shows that the commonest rebuttal to Lia’s arguments is her age … and her size. But while she herself is the first to acknowledge her youth and inexperience, she is completely undeterred.

“I know these all seem like big words coming form a very little person, but we’re all little compared to God,” she told the pro-life conference. “God’s not looking at how big we are, or how smart we are or how popular we are.  He’s just looking at how willing we are.”

Lia is certainly willing. And perhaps equally as important, given her age, so is her family. She has two siblings (plus a third in his mother’s womb), and - while Lia’s lookalike youngest sister can get frustrated explaining that she is not her famous sibling - they are both “very proud” of her, says Kimberly. In fact, when Lia first started getting so much attention her whole family prayed and fasted together to discern God’s will. “We knew that what was happening with Lia was going to affect us all in some way,” says her mother. 

And when the family finally “voted”  on where to go with it, “everyone was unanimous in their belief that God was behind this and that we should press forward.”

And press forward they have. 

As Lia explained it in the conclusion to her speech at the conference: “It’s often said and believed that God will never give us a problem that’s too big for us to handle. But my youth pastor took that and he dared to disagree. He said ‘No! God always gives us a problem that’s way, way to big for us to handle, but not too big for us to handle together with Him.’

“So here we are, with this, massively huge conflict and battle laying before us, but an even bigger God behind us, backing us up and watching over us. As someone wiser than me once said, ‘All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.’ In this conflict, let’s not be guilty of doing nothing. Stay strong, and do what you can; every little thing counts.”

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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.
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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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