Michael Hichborn, American Life League

Where there’s smoke?

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn

Aug. 14, 2013 (ALL) - For the past couple of years, Catholic Relief Services has been at the center of a scandalous controversy regarding the funding of organizations promoting abortion and birth control. In some instances, there have even been claims that CRS was itself involved directly in the distribution of abortifacients and contraception. Through it all, CRS has denied any direct involvement in either the funding or distribution of such things. Though it has, on occasion, conceded that some of its own documentation wrongly promoted the use of condoms, CRS consistently and vehemently denies that it has ever done anything wrong. There’s an old saying: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The problem is that smoke has a way of concealing the flames. But if we look carefully, we should be able to cut through it all, get right to the source, and see just what kind of fire this is.

Plenty has been written about CRS’ funding of organizations like CARE and Population Services International, and the question about the fungibility of the money from CRS to these organizations is still lingering. But what I would like to focus on is the question of CRS’ direct funding and participation in the promotion of birth control.

After LifeSiteNews reported CRS’ $5.3 million grant to CARE International, one of the defenses offered by CRS was that “none of the funding from CRS was fungible.” 

However, this defense could not be offered when it came to CRS’ dues-paying relationships with other abortion and birth control spreading organizations. When reports came out that CRS is a dues-paying member and on the board of directors of MEDiCAM and CORE Group, CRS issued (in part) these two respective responses:

(Regarding MEDiCAM) MEDiCAM, similar to some networks and professional associations to which CRS belongs, includes organization members and program areas which do not align with all tenets of Catholic teaching. CRS staff who participate in these associations acknowledge our differences, air our disagreements on these issues, and contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation. As a member of such associations, we are able to represent the Catholic positions on health care as well as highlight our work and demonstrate the efficacy of such approaches. 

(Regarding CORE Group) Some networks to which CRS belongs include members which do not uphold all tenets of Catholic teaching. We acknowledge our differences, air our disagreements on these issues, and contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation. As an active and influential member of the CORE Group, we are able to represent the Catholic positions on health for mothers and their infants. 

It is important to note that MEDiCAM has made the spread of abortion (including the individual training of abortion providers) a primary focus of its strategy sessions since at least 2007, and CORE Group spent nearly 50 percent of its total budget toward “family planning” in 2011. The point is, the dues that CRS pays to MEDiCAM and CORE Group are indeed fungible, meaning that any money CRS is giving to these organizations is applied also to the spread of abortion and birth control. CRS does not deny this, but instead attempts to justify the dues-money and the relationship. So, as it stands here, CRS’ defense on the grounds of fungibility does not work.

Last year, while CRS was defending the grant it gave to CARE, it made it very clear that it would never give money to an organization like Planned Parenthood because “there’s a threshold in terms of what the focus of an agency is, and the preponderance of their work.” However, in July of this year, CRS was caught giving $2.7 million to a population control organization that uses its work in distributing anti-malaria drugs and mosquito nets (the area for which CRS says it gave funds to PSI) as a means of spreading its population control programs. In fact, PSI even stated in its own material that “reproductive, maternal and child health, and malaria are all deeply intertwined, affecting poor and vulnerable populations in rural areas together. Success (or failure) in one area, such as malaria, can free up resources to focus on other areas, or drag down progress.” 

In every region where PSI is working, it is also spreading abortion, birth control, or both. There is simply no area where its staff is working where they are NOT doing this. As such, it can and must be said that the focus of PSI as an agency, and the preponderance of its work, is population control through the spread of birth control and abortion. And yet, even as CRS made abundantly clear in defense of its grant to CARE that it would never fund an organization like Planned Parenthood, it was in the process of facilitating millions of dollars to an organization an awful lot like Planned Parenthood.

Most recently, Population Research Institute published a couple of reports accusing CRS of being directly involved in the distribution of abortifacient contraception. According to CRS, “CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work.” Simply put, both claims cannot be true. Either PRI is incorrect, or CRS is incorrect. So, for the answer, we’ll turn to CRS’ programs and documentation.

In 2008, CRS conducted an evaluation of its project called “Preventing AIDS in Northeast India” (PANI). This evaluation of CRS’ own project was conducted and written by two CRS employees from the headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland—Shannon Senefeld, CRS’ Global Director of Health and HIV, and Jennifer Overton, CRS’ technical advisor for HIV programs. In the evaluation, Senefeld and Overton indicate that one of the “correct ways to protect . . . from HIV” is to use condoms. They also lament that “only” 59 percent and 61.1 percent of surveyed individuals “reported using a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse,” and even complained on pages 62 and 63 that

there was almost no reference to full and accurate information about condoms; any references to condoms were made only to explain how the community used to condemn condom use. According to project participants who were interviewed for the evaluation, there is no discussion about condoms at all, even as a prevention method for HIV. This was particularly true in Nagaland where the society appears to be more conservative. It should be noted as well that local CRS staff are not fully aware of CRS’ policy on providing full and accurate information about condoms for prevention of sexually transmitted HIV. (emphasis original)

Page 71 of the PANI evaluation recommends: “There is need for additional training for these initial trainers to ensure correct information trickles down to all the program participants. This includes educating CRS staff and partners on CRS’ position on condoms.”

According to a February 2008 article by the Catholic News Service—the official news agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—CRS “is requiring its foreign partners to give ‘complete and accurate’ information on condoms in all HIV/AIDS programs.” So, it would seem that the PANI evaluation, in complaining that the project does not discuss condom use, is simply following the directives outlined by CRS itself. 

The PANI evaluation isn’t the only place CRS was found to be promoting condom use in its own documentation. In CRS’ sex education program for kids aged 8-12, called Window of Hope, CRS tells kids: “Sex with a condom is not always safe, but correct and consistent use of a condom helps to reduce the risk of getting HIV with an infected person.” In the same document is a script for a puppet show about HIV, conducted by a puppet that represents HIV. On page 174, the puppet says, “Some people use a condom. A condom is a rubber tube that is put on a man’s penis before having sex. If a condom is used correctly, it keeps the fluids from the penis and vagina from mixing and this way keeps ME out of THEIR bodies. Remember that condoms are not always safe, as they may break during sexual intercourse.”

Another of CRS’ programs called “We Stop AIDS,” says: “A condom is a rubberized thin sheath that goes over the penis of a man, forming a barrier between him and his sexual partner. The virus, which is in the semen and female sexual fluids, cannot pass through this sheath. Condoms are 80-90 percent effective when used consistently and correctly.”

In response to an SOP manual for a Vietnamese community center written by CRS, CRS said

CRS does not purchase, promote, or distribute condoms, nor do we provide funding to other organizations for the purchase, promotion, or distribution of condoms. LifeSiteNews recently made us aware of a document that did not conform to this position.

We continue to review all our publications and programs to ensure there is full compliance with this position. We thank LifeSiteNews for pointing out this inconsistency, which will be corrected.

The offending aspects of the document included a scheduled agenda session that answered questions on how to properly use a condom (page 85), and tells seminar instructors (page 164), “Do not forget to provide information on local condom provision.” 

Despite the fact that CRS claims that it does not promote condoms, it is clear from at least these three documents that this claim simply is not true. CRS’ own documents not only provide positive information on condom use, but CRS’ evaluation of the PANI project complains that not enough information is being given on the correct use of condoms and their effectiveness. Unless you are trying to encourage people to use condoms, there is no reason to tell them about how to use them, or about how effective they are. Because of this, CRS cannot claim that it does not promote condoms.

Whether CRS is defending its funding practices on the basis that it isn’t providing fungible money to abortion and birth control promoting organizations, or that in funding such organizations “there’s a threshold in terms of what the focus of an agency is, and the preponderance of their work,” or that it is never directly involved in the promotion of birth control, we can see in this one article that CRS fails on all counts. 1) CRS is providing fungible money to MEDiCAM and CORE Group, which directly promote abortion and birth control; 2) CRS is providing millions of dollars to an organization whose sole focus and purpose for existing is the spread of abortion and birth control for the purpose of population control; and 3) CRS’ own documents identify its participation in the promotion of condom use.

As I said in the beginning, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Considering the undeniable facts contained in this article, when an organization like PRI provides evidence that CRS is directly involved in the promotion of birth control and abortifacients, it is not unreasonable to consider that there just might be a fire behind that smoke, too.

Michael Hichborn is director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

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Drew Belsky

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ACLU sues Kentucky clerk for refusing marriage licenses to all couples

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Four Kentucky couples are suing a clerk of the court in their county for refusing to grant them marriage licenses.

The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan (pronounced "rah-win") County, declared that her faith prevents her from complying with the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, issued in late June, which legally redefined marriage to include same-sex couples.  She is withholding licenses not only to same-sex couples, but to everyone – in fact, two of the couples suing Davis, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are sexually complementary.

"It is my deep conviction and belief that God ordained marriage between a man and a woman," Davis told Kentucky station WYKT.  "I can't be a part of this."

"My Kentucky Constitution that I took the oath to uphold in January stated that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the constitution that I have vowed to uphold."

Laura Landenwich, an attorney with the ACLU, said that "Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion.  But as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who[m] she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs."

The ACLU's complaint avers that "Plaintiff and Plaintiff Class have suffered and continue to suffer irreparable harms, including harms to their dignity and autonomy, family security, and access to the full spectrum of benefits conferred by the state upon others."

Davis, a Democrat, is appealing to Kentucky's Bill of Rights, which states that "no human authority shall, in any case whatsoever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience."  Moreover, she told WSAZ reporter Kaitlynn LeBeau, "My Kentucky Constitution that I took the oath to uphold in January stated that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the constitution that I have vowed to uphold."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, has ordered all clerks in the Bluegrass State to comply with the Supreme Court's decision.

"Each clerk vowed to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal beliefs," Beshear said in a statement.  "I appreciate the clerks who are fulfilling their duties, issuing licenses to all couples, and I would expect others to execute the duties of their offices as prescribed by law and to issue marriage licenses to all Kentuckians."

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Davis' decision brought protesters to her office in Morehead last Tuesday.  The crowd comprised both opposition and supporters, bearing signs with messages including "Morehead = Equality," "Leave Religion out of your GOVERNMENT job!," and "We stand with you Kim."

Davis refuses to speak on camera because of an intensifying tide of threatening hate mail.  One man told her by email that she needed to be killed.  She has received gratitude and support as well, including from states outside Kentucky.

"This is a battle," Davis told one reporter by phone, "nationwide, that I think is vital to every person who holds near and dear to their heart the word of God."

Resistance to Obergefell is not limited to one Kentucky county.  All three staffers at the county clerk's office in Decatur County, Tennessee resigned following the decision.  Decatur County commissioner David Boroughs told a local paper that he is "proud of them that their faith is so strong and well-rounded that they feel they can do that."

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Matthew J. Franck

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Obergefell is so awful that it makes Dred Scott look like a piece of lawyerly precision

Matthew J. Franck
By Matthew Franck

July 6, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse) -- When the blow finally fell, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges—holding 5-4 that every state in the Union must license same-sex marriages—seemed somehow less crushing in its impact, less hurtful and wounding, than one might have expected from a decision that is so thoroughly a defeat for the truth about marriage and the truth about the Constitution.

Make no mistake, the harms from the Court’s appallingly illegitimate decision are many, and gravely serious. But the good news for a cockeyed optimist like me is that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion is so incompetent, so gossamer-thin as an exercise in legal or constitutional reasoning, so unpersuasive even in political terms, that it renews my zest for carrying on the battle of persuading my fellow citizens and turning the country around on this issue.

I should have known he would do this for us, as well as to us. For Kennedy began to travel this road nearly twenty years ago in Romer v. Evans (1996), in which a 6-3 Court denied to the people of Colorado the authority to amend their state constitution to prevent their elected state and local legislators from adding “sexual orientation” to the list of “identities” on the grounds of which discrimination by public and private actors alike is forbidden.

Is Anyone "Demeaning" Others' "Dignity"?

Yet at least in Romer, the word “dignity” had not yet appeared in Kennedy’s reasoning. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overturned state laws that criminalized homosexual sodomy, Kennedy turned away from the equal protection clause and to the textually and historically ungrounded jurisprudence of “substantive due process.” This meant, in Kennedy’s hands, the judicial protection of a free-ranging, judicially defined notion of “liberty” invoked to overturn any conduct-regulating statute that trenched on the “dignity” of persons whose wishes and desires tugged at the judges’ heartstrings.

In Romer, at least, Justice Kennedy had labored to produce something that resembled a competent account of the equal protection clause—though his attempt failed. But Lawrence was something else. Lawrence was a moment of real self-liberation for Kennedy. That can be seen in his quotation of what were probably his own words from the joint opinion he co-authored with Justices O’Connor and Souter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This “mystery passage” was already in 2003, and remains, the most widely lampooned bit of pseudo-reasoning of the last half century, but Kennedy sensed the cultural and political power that it represented, and in Lawrence he set it on course to colonize our constitutional law entirely. His opinion was also liberally salted with references to “dignity” (three times, including another line quoted from Casey), and to the idea that laws resting on negative judgments of homosexual conduct “demean” those who engage in it (four times).

United States v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case from two years ago, gave us more of Kennedy’s free-floating jurisprudence of “dignity” (ten mentions including “indignity”), condemning laws that “demean” (three mentions).  Obergefell rests explicitly on this fragile, groundless rationale, with Kennedy mentioning the connection of marriage to “dignity” nine times, while three times saying that it “demeans” same-sex couples when a state limits marriage to one man and one woman, and twice invoking the matter of “identity.”

But there is something else quite new in Obergefell. Kennedy, somewhat defensively, mentions twice that defenders of conjugal marriage might believe redefining the institution to include same-sex couples “demeans” marriage itself. Since no one opposed to same-sex marriage actually speaks this way, this is a curious characterization, but perhaps an important one. In Kennedy’s mind, the Constitution has been converted into a great Dignity Document. The role of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate whose version of Dignity it embodies, which can be decided by pondering who is made to feel worse by having his strongest convictions “demeaned.” Victory will go to the one who can appeal successfully to strong feelings about his “identity.” As Chief Justice Roberts said in dissent, “The majority’s driving themes are that marriage is desirable and petitioners desire it.”

A Constitutional Crisis

Confronted by such a string of sentiments masquerading as constitutional principles, why then should I feel heartened by the new phase of the struggle into which the Obergefell ruling has just pitched us? The reason is that Kennedy is so terribly bad at his chosen profession of judge that he has now unmasked himself, and his four silent colleagues who joined his opinion for the Court, as imperial rulers with no regard for the Constitution, for the forms of reasoning that give the law its real vitality, or for the rightful authority of the people to govern themselves within the bounds of a Constitution they understand and respect.

Moreover, while noting all the manifold ways in which the marriage debate has been played out over the last two decades—just as he was attempting to shut that debate down—Kennedy evinced no understanding of what the arguments about marriage really are, not even grasping the arguments on the side he favored. In so doing, he showed himself to be, if not one of the least intellectually honest persons ever to come to that debate, then one of the least well-informed. His opinion is an act of the most breathtaking argumentative carelessness in the history of the Supreme Court. Roe v. WadeLochner v. New York, and Dred Scott v. Sandford—all rightly invoked by the dissenters in Obergefell as the true models for Kennedy’s reasoning—are closely reasoned works of lawyerly precision by comparison.

As a legal opinion, Obergefell is an utter failure. What the late John Hart Ely, who was politically in favor of abortion, said of Roe v. Wade, we can say of Obergefell: “It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” But Obergefell is also embarrassingly bad as a contribution to the political and social debate on marriage. From this I take heart that the battle can be rejoined, with the making of better arguments—each side offering its best against the other’s best—in a struggle that will continue for years to come.

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But wait. Isn’t the debate over? Isn’t that what a Supreme Court decision on the Constitution means? Well, frankly, no. The movement for rescuing and restoring marriage in our country will not be made to vanish by so transparently political a holding of five justices of the Supreme Court. The movement for defending the sanctity of life in our law, forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, waxes rather than wanes in strength. As the pro-life movement was joined, so the marriage movement will be joined, by defenders of the authentic Constitution so blithely traduced by the Court’s majority. The Roe decision has often made pro-life converts out of people who actually read it—I know, because I was one of them—and the Obergefell ruling, in time, will do similar work in adding strength to the ranks of marriage’s defenders.

A constitutional ruling so shoddily reasoned, so completely and, one may say, easily dismantled by the four justices who dissent from it, must paper over a cause that cannot ultimately win in an open democratic debate, and that therefore seeks the shelter of powerful friends in the judiciary. This is just what many young people will come to see for themselves simply by reading the decision, just as many have done by reading Roe. The twin discoveries, that a great constitutional wrong has been committed to give cover to a great moral wrong, will come together.

We may take heart, then, from Justice Alito’s observation that “even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims.” Indeed they should, for the debate is not over; it has only entered a new phase. That phase will necessarily include some sober deliberations regarding what can be done about a Supreme Court with (at least) five members who believe that they can rewrite the Constitution at will in order to transform fundamental institutions of our society. For Alito’s very next sentence is, “Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of authority have failed.” Indeed, they have, and so it is back to the drawing board. When even the chief justice complains of “the majority’s extravagant conception of judicial supremacy,” it is time to do some hard thinking about meaningful institutional reform of the federal judiciary.

In the Meantime

While we prepare for hard work on many fronts in the battles for marriage and for the Constitution, we should recognize and immediately try to mitigate the great harm the Court has done. Despite Kennedy’s pat denials, marriage has been grievously wounded as an institution, and we must do what we can to bind up its wounds, in our own families, communities, and churches. After all, every future generation is at stake. We must never tire of saying: every child deserves a mother and a father—preferably his or her own biological parents. That, as the dissenting justices recognized, is what marriage has always been about, in every age and culture, and it is why marriage has always been understood as the union of a man and a woman.

And we must do all that we can to institute safeguards for religious freedom in our country, which will now come under attack as never before. It was strangely gratifying to see Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas, in their dissents, give this matter their lengthy and considered attention. Thomas foresees “potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty” in this invention of a new “right” of same-sex marriage, and Roberts noted how telling was the way in which Kennedy shrugged off such potentials:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. . . . The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

The protection of religious freedom may rapidly become our most urgent legislative business, both in Congress and in state legislatures. But win or lose in legislative assemblies, the faithful and their pastoral leaders in the many religious communities devoted to the truth about marriage must prayerfully muster the courage to act, and to live as their faith informs their consciences, as well as to “advocate” and “teach.” As Alito notes, “those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent” on the marriage question will be ready to exploit the Court’s decision. Look at your social media feeds: That is already happening.

In our response to our counterparts in this great constitutional, political, and moral debate that now begins anew, we can start by preaching and practicing a truer, fuller understanding of dignity, in our families and churches, than the one about which Kennedy so vainly prattles. And we can fix our eyes on the prize of restoring, through real democratic debate and persuasion, the great goods of constitutional self-government and justice to individuals and families.

Thank you, Justice Kennedy, for giving us this opportunity. I know you didn’t mean it, but thank you nonetheless.

Reprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute

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Lisa Bourne

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US Episcopal Church faces backlash after approving gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The bishops of the U.S. Episcopal Church gave the green light last week for clergy to perform same-sex “weddings,” in a heavily-debated fundamental change set to come in the door incrementally.  

As of November 1 of this year homosexual couples will have the right to be “married” in the church, the result of new liturgies for same-sex couples approved Wednesday at the denomination’s General Convention in Salt Lake City.

The bishops also accepted changing the church’s canons (rules) governing marriage, to make them gender neutral, thus replacing the terms “man and woman” with “couple.”

Episcopal clergy however, will be allowed to refuse to perform a homosexual “marriage” with the promise they would not be penalized, and individual bishops were also given the right to refuse to allow same-sex ceremonies to take place in their diocese.

The compromise is angering Episcopalians on both sides of the issue, with liberal factions potentially trying to block the plan and insist on the immediate introduction of same-sex “marriage” with no way for dioceses to opt out, and conservatives likely to reach out to overseas leaders in the wider Anglican Communion for help in getting the church to stop.

The leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church, released a statement expressing his “deep concern” over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s resolution to change the definition of marriage.

“Its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.”

Blessings for homosexual unions were first approved at the denomination’s 2012 convention, along with acceptance of transgender clergy. The Episcopal Church still maintained at the time that marriage was an exclusive life-long covenant of one man and one woman, as held in the church’s Book of Common Prayer.

While several Episcopal bishops defended the Biblical definition of marriage at this year’s convention, the majority of bishops argued that the provisional and trial rites would expand the traditional teaching about marriage, without changing the church’s underlying text or doctrine of marriage.

Retired Episcopal Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, was among those at the convention who said homosexual sexual intimacy was morally acceptable and should be blessed in faithful covenanted relationships, stating, “I think it is time for us to do this.”

Robinson, whose 2003 elevation to bishop was a key factor in the denomination’s later split, said, “Gays and lesbians are living out their lives in holy ways,” and changing the church’s rules on marriage “allows us to recognize this,” to “declare how far we have come.”

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In response to an inquiry for comment on the Episcopal bishops’ resolution accepting homosexual “marriage,” the Anglican Church in North America directed LifeSiteNews to the church’s recent response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual “marriage,” which said in part, “The Anglican Church in North America only authorizes and only performs marriages between one man and one woman.” 

Leaders of the Anglican Global South, a grouping of 24 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement criticizing the U.S. Episcopal Church’s resolution as another unilateral decision taken without consideration for the Anglican Communion, ecumenical and interfaith relations and the mission of the church worldwide.

“This Resolution clearly contradicts the Holy Scriptures and God’s plan for creation as He created humankind as man and woman to complement each other physically and emotionally,” the Global South statement said.

“The church is intended by its Lord to be the holy leaven to shape society by its spiritual and moral values in line with God’s design,” it continued. “But sadly, by this action of (The Episcopal Church), the church gives way to the society to alter and shape its values. In other words the church is losing its distinctiveness as salt and light in this world.”

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