Peter J. Smith

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Who is Rick Perry? (Part 1 of special report)

Peter J. Smith
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AUSTIN, Texas, August 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Texas governor Rick Perry is getting ready to step onto the national stage and officially announce his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States. 

Perry, 61, is set to emerge on a crowded stage of GOP contenders, and many of them are wondering if he will be the “unity candidate” behind whom Republican, fiscal conservative, social conservative, religious, and Tea-Party voters will rally.

Current polls show that Perry’s emergence into the race would put him in direct contention with Romney. A USA Today/Gallup poll found Romney leading by 24 percent to Perry’s 17 percent, and a McClatchy/Marist poll showed Romney leading 21 percent to Perry’s 18 percent. 

Without even having declared yet, the possibility of a Perry candidacy has already shaken up the GOP race. With the spotlight on the Lone Star governor, the GOP faithful are getting a better look at the man who may be the one to challenge President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012.


Growing up Christian

Perry has been an Evangelical Christian since his youth, and often attends Lake Hills Church in west Austin, a church that has a membership of 3000 worshippers.

According to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Perry grew up as the fifth generation of Texans to work the land in Paint Creek, which he described as a place with “the country values of church, family, neighborliness, thrift and hard work that now seem part of a bygone America beyond places like West Texas.” (See full story here)

According to Perry, the three things to do in his hometown were “school, church, and Boy Scouts.” Perry is an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the famously traditional values-centered youth organization.

It’s an honor he hasn’t left behind with his youth: Perry wrote in praise of the Scouts and their principles in his 2008 book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting for.


Faith in the public square

Upon entering politics, Perry has maintained a record of defending religious expression in the public sphere.

He supported and signed a Texas bill in 2007, the “Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act,” clarifying that students and school employees alike had the right to express religious views in public, and that religious groups had the same right of access to public facilities as secular groups.

Perry advocated giving Texas schools the ability to teach intelligent design theory in addition to evolution.

He has also shown a conservative scientific viewpoint by strongly opposing the theory of man-made global warming, citing the lack of scientific consensus on the root causes of earth’s climate changes. 

But one thing that distinguishes Perry from the typical right-wing politician is his unabashedly public prayer life: the governor has called on Texans to pray and even fast in response to state crises or disasters. 

When wildfires were raging during a drought in Texas this spring, Perry released an official proclamation over the Easter weekend asking people of all faiths to pray for rain for three days, and to pray for firemen and other officials in danger.


The Response

“The Response”, last Saturday’s non-denominational Christian gathering in Houston, was Perry’s idea in December, after he won his third term as governor and before he began publicly courting a run for the presidency.

The event became a Christian invitation to people of all faiths to join in a day of prayer and fasting because the nation was facing a “historic crisis” that “demands a historic response from the church.” 

“We must, as a people, return to the faith and hope of our fathers,” said Perry. “The ancient paths of great men were blazed in prayer - the humility of the truly great men of history was revealed in their recognition of the power and might of Jesus to save all who call on His great name.”

While only 8000 persons had registered in advance for the event at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, over 30,000 participants showed up.

But Perry didn’t stop there: the Texas leader invited all other 49 US governors to participate. Only one accepted in person, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott participated by video.

Perry kept the event apolitical. However, political analysts noted that the event can only strengthen his image among Evangelical voters when he goes campaigning in early-decision states like Iowa and South Carolina.

(Perry’s speech at the Response can be viewed here)


States’ Rights and defending marriage

Perry is increasingly famous for championing the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution, by which states are granted whatever powers are not explicitly reserved to the federal government.

Despite a conservative record on marriage - Perry supported Texas’s 2005 amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman - his 10th Amendment loyalties led to some confusion among pro-family advocates when he indicated that New York’s decision to legalize same-sex “marriage” in June was “their business, and that’s fine with me.”

Perry later clarified that he was not defending same-sex “marriage,” but the principle allowing states to decide without intrusion by the federal government. He added that he supported a federal marriage amendment, which would mean an agreement by 3/4 of the states, to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman nationwide.

The Texas governor also defended Texas’s sodomy law, which the US Supreme Court struck down in 2002 in Lawrence v. Texas


Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney

Rick Perry may emerge as the GOP’s anti-Romney candidate for another reason: the two men have a rivalry that stems partially from a quarrel over, of all things, the Boy Scouts.

While the Scouts have resisted enormous pressure from homosexual groups and their political allies to incorporate homosexual youth and Scout leaders into their ranks, Romney has argued that the Scouts should admit homosexual Scoutmasters. 

Romney, also an Eagle Scout, had argued in favor of allowing homosexuals or anyone “regardless of their sexual orientation” into the Scouts during a debate with Sen. Ted Kennedy in his 1994 Senate race.

Perry has also accused Romney, as CEO of Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics, of denying Scouts volunteering opportunities there in order not to offend liberals in Massachusetts, where Romney was poised to run for governor.

Perry wrote in On My Honor that Romney “has parted ways with the Scouts on its policies over the involvement of gay individuals in Scout activities.”

Some supporters said that it was not Romney, but the Salt Lake Olympic committee’s minimum age of 18 for volunteers that was to blame. However, the rule nonetheless marked a huge break from past Olympics where Boy Scouts have enjoyed a public uniformed presence.

Next: Rick Perry’s pro-life legacy.



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Planned Parenthood closes rural Iowa abortion facility because of low business

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DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.

Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”

The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.

“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.

As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.

“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.

American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.

“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”

That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.

Be loving and compassionate, he said.

Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”

Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.

Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.



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Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers

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MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.

Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.

DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.

DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.

She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.

“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”

Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.

“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.

After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.

“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”

Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.

"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.

DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.

Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.

Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.

When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”

DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary. 



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This year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an honor on Vice President Joe Biden, the silence from the Catholic hierarchy is deafening. Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
Phil Lawler

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The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage

Phil Lawler

Ask Notre Dame not to honor pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. Sign the petition!

May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.

Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.

These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.

This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.

Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.

Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.

“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:

In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.

By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”

That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”

Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.

And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.



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