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University says condom vandalism of pro-life display has been ‘properly, decisively’ dealt with

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BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY, April 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The president of Western Kentucky University said the desecration of an approved pro-life display has been “properly, decisively” dealt with – although a pro-life student group has pointed out that there has been no apology to the pro-life students, and the student responsible has apparently not been disciplined. In fact, according to Students for Life, the woman who placed condoms over each cross in the pro-life display may still receive college credit for her act of vandalism.

The student group Hilltoppers for Life got university permission to erect 3,700 crosses in a Cemetery of the Innocents, commemorating the number of babies aborted each day. Early last Friday morning the group’s president, John Sohl, confronted the woman, Elaina Smith, and her non-student boyfriend as they placed condoms over thousands of crosses that made up the pro-life display. Smith said she had her professor’s permission for the project, according to Sohl.

Campus police allowed Smith to finish placing condoms over the crosses and take a picture for class before asking her to remove them.

WKU President Gary A. Ransdell issued a statement today saying the controversy is over.

“The offending student has apologized,” according to Ransdell. But Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins says the student has made no public apology. “We have still not be able to determine from the university whether or not the art student will receive class credit for putting her condoms on the pro-life group’s crosses,” said Hawkins.

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On Monday, Smith told local media, “I had worried that my idea might offend some. However, after giving it a lot of thought, I came to believe that it is no more or less offensive than the original installation.”

Ransdell wrote, “The faculty member’s intent of the art assignment was not to target this particular display. That decision was made by the student.”

While he wrote that WKU administrators met with the student and her professor, he did not indicate any further action would be taken against either.

“This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion,” Ransdell wrote.

“It’s a form of vandalism when you mark up somebody’s displays without permission, and it should generally be treated as such,” Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the academic watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told LifeSiteNews.com. “I would think that most faculty members would understand that when somebody puts up a display, whether it be for art or for political purposes, that’s not to be converted by somebody else, whether by the faculty or by their own initiative.”

“When you’re dealing with a contentious issue like abortion, sometimes people sacrifice their good judgment for political considerations,” he said. 

Students for life has asked President Ransdell and Western Kentucky University to do three things immediately “to remedy this situation and put it to rest”: have Smith publicly apologize, ask the campus police to apologize for their inaction, and to confirm in writing Smith will receive no credit for the vandalism.

Shibley said the college wants to move on as quickly as possible. “Universities are averse to controversy,” Shibley told LifeSiteNews.com. “Just because the university may not want it out there doesn’t mean you don’t have a legitimate problem with how the university is treating you.”

“I think it’s a sad fact that many faculty members across the county don’t have a good understanding of what free speech means in a free society like ours.”

Students whose rights have been violated should not be afraid to contact organizations such as FIRE, which represents students in court, or to go to the local media. “Tell your story and get the story out there,” he said. “FIRE is the leading organization doing that.”

Contact
WKU Police Captain of Professional Standards, Joe Harbaugh
[email protected]
(270) 745-2543


The president’s response in full is below:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the unfortunate and distasteful act which occurred at the Hilltoppers for Life pro-life display on the WKU campus last Thursday night.  My colleagues on the faculty and staff at WKU take this matter very seriously.  Unfortunately, Dean Dennis George was incorrectly identified as a responsible party.  He is a Dean of one of six undergraduate colleges and in no way relates to our campus Police or student disciplinary procedures.

In response to your message, we offer the following insights.  The pro-life display was created by a sanctioned official WKU student organization called Hilltoppers for Life.  They requested and received permission to create their display which consisted of red and black paper covering the bleacher seats of our campus amphitheater with several small crosses made from popsicle sticks glued to the paper.  It was on display during the week of April 16 and was taken down, as scheduled on Friday morning, April 20.
On the morning of April 20 at around 2:30 a.m., one student and her non-student boyfriend chose to place condoms over some of the crosses as a gesture of birth control.  They said it was an assignment from an Art Installation course that involves placing art exhibits across campus.  The faculty member’s intent of the art assignment was not to target this particular display. That decision was made by the student who chose to make her own statement for birth control at the expense of the Hilltoppers for Life endeavor.

The Hilltoppers for Life students keeping watch over the exhibit, after allowing a few hundred condoms to be placed on the crosses, eventually called the police who arrived promptly.  It was a calm scene and the police chose to keep it that way.  They allowed the student to remove the condoms and leave peacefully—which is what occurred.  There was no aggressive behavior or incident.  The display was not damaged other than the disrespectful symbolism that this incident unfortunately created.

When I and the appropriate administrators learned of the situation, we promptly issued a statement in support of free speech and that the University does not condone any attempts by individuals or groups to inhibit anyone’s or any group’s right to free speech or creative activity.  The proper administrators have also met with the student and faculty member.  Our message was direct and firm.

No member of our University family should impede another member of our family’s freedom of speech or creative effort, especially when it comes to exercising religious freedoms.  The offending student has apologized.  This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion.  Your interest in and support of WKU and its priorities for First Amendment rights is appreciated.

Gary A. Ransdell
President

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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