PictureSyrian Rebel forces training

Are American taxpayers funding the persecution of Christians and murder of civilians in war-torn nations?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 25th, 2013)

Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines earlier this month when he called on world leaders to unite in fighting anti-Christian persecution. Putin has made significant efforts in recent days to underscore the importance of Christian virtues to the Russian people, and his latest statement condemned the violence that has been perpetrated against Christian people in the Middle East and in North Africa.

President Obama didn’t respond in agreement. Indeed, shortly afterwards, he cancelled a scheduled summit with the Russian President. However, Putin’s statement resonated deeply with many Americans who have been working to call attention to the plight of Christian minorities worldwide.

The trouble is that, far from doing our part to end these atrocities, extant American foreign policy seems calculated to exacerbate them. Rather than making an end of the bloodshed, our influence has been making things worse.

Last week, Syrian rebels opened fire on a Christian village during the celebration of a feast day and killed 9 Christian villagers and 2 others. Women and children were among the dead.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, know this is no isolated incident. Since the beginning of the conflict between Sunni Muslim rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad, thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes or brutally murdered. Several Catholic priests and clerics have been beheaded or gunned down in their churches.

Radical Muslim groups, who back the rebel Free Syria Army, see Christians as supporters of Assad’s regime and enemies of their religious belief system, even though many Christians who have been targeted took no active part in supporting Assad.

Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra warned in July that young, Christian women are bearing the brunt of the civil war, with widespread reports of rape in Christian communities. Of the war’s 100,000 casualties since 2011, as estimated 5,000 have been children under 16. A disproportionate number have been Christian women and girls.

Earlier this week, a disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the execution of two young boys by Syrian rebel forces. The boys, who were accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, are shown blindfolded on their knees beside each other as a masked man hastily reads off what sounds like a list of charges behind them. The video then continues to roll as the boys are riddled with bullets and left lying prostrate and immobile on the ground. Viewer discretion is advised.

In another incident in June, a 14-year old boy in the Northern Syrian city of Aleppo, who was accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was flogged and executed by rebel forces. Reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim the boy was first taken by the rebel gunmen to an unknown location where he was beaten and tortured. He was returned with his body slashed with the marks of a whip and a shirt tied around his head. He was then shot repeatedly in front of a crowd. Grisly photos were released of his bloodied body, a gaping hole all that remains of his nose and mouth.

The Islamists claim that the shockingly violent acts which have been committed by their army are nothing compared with the “genocide,” that has been conducted by Assad’s regime, but it seems the gap is narrowing, as the rebels continue to stack up more and more incidents against themselves. And, obviously, these are only the incidents that have been reported to western news outlets. Who can know what is really going on in the dark recesses of the war-torn nation? 

Of course, the last thing anyone would expect is that a civil, respectable, tolerant, and progressive society would be willing to fund such a malicious, vengeful war, or take any part in providing assistance to either side of such a vicious conflict. You wouldn’t expect America, a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, to be giving $250 million in defensive combat supplies to Islamist rebels who violate Christian girls and torture young boys and shoot them up in front of their parents.

But you would be wrong.

Catholic Franciscan Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa warned Vatican Radio in June,

“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this. The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.”

Syria isn’t the only place where “Arab Spring” violence has resulted in increased persecution of Christians. Following widespread violence in Egypt this week, CNN reported over 52 churches have been torched and looted by Islamists since Wednesday, along with uncounted Christian homes and businesses.

The unrest began when supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched a protest against the military-imposed state of emergency. The protest, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, culminated in a “Friday of Rage” yesterday, which left over 600 people dead and over 4,000 injured.

What we’re seeing right now in Egypt is literally a pogrom,” said Middle East expert Eric Stakelbeck, “where Christians are systematically being targeted. Right now there is a bulls-eye on the back of every Christian living in Egypt.”

One lawmaker in DC has come to the conclusion that what is occurring is unacceptable. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of US foreign policy and foreign aid spending, introduced a bill at the end of July to redirect approximately $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Egypt and use it to rebuild US infrastructure. “In our hour of need in our country, why are you sending money to people that hate us?” Paul asked.

His remarks are reminiscent of another speech he made in June, when he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that persecute Christian people.

"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul said in June, at a conference in DC.


"There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide. And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it."

The bill failed to pass, with only 13 Senators voting in favor of it. Senator John McCain argued that cutting the foreign aid to Egypt would harm Israel, and that other nations would quickly step in to fill the “vacuum” left by the cuts. The ponderous list of things Sen. McCain doesn’t understand just got a lot longer. Added to it is the fact that choosing to support a murderous society for the reason that someone else will be sure to step in and do it if you don’t, is no reason at all.


The web of the world is a great, impenetrable mass of humanity, ideology, corruption, violence and faith. To attempt to summarize in a few short paragraphs the state of the planet is more than a trifle arrogant. Who of us, out of our limited understanding, can say who is responsible for all of the deaths and the decapitations of the past few months in nations seething with sectarian differences, and violent values systems? Who can tell which side is more evil in a conflict where unspeakable atrocities are being perpetrated by both sides?

Thankfully, it is not the place of the American people or elected officials to make these judgments, or to choose which murderous regime to depose, which to support, and which to instate. When our government does step in to make these kinds of calls, one outcome is guaranteed: the American taxpayer comes out of it with blood on his hands. The blood, perhaps, of young children, of uninvolved bystanders, of peaceful Christian families. The American taxpayer doesn’t want that.

When Americans all across the country found themselves in eager agreement with Putin’s call for an end to the persecution of Christian people, did they realize one of the first steps towards achieving that end might be cutting the funding that we give to the persecutors?

It’s time to realize it.

As a closing note, for those that remain unconvinced of the evils of indiscriminate US foreign aid to troubled war zones and terrorist organizations, one final piece of evidence is shrieking loudly, demanding to be heard.

America doesn’t have any money.


 
 
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Putin calls on world leaders to unite to end persecution of Christians, while President Obama condemns Russian defense of traditional marriage, cancels summit with Putin

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 10, 2013)

The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the chilling brutality of Stalinism, is in for a big, painful shock this week. The world has changed, and not only is the USA no longer the cheery western beacon of homely virtues, but one of her traditional enemies is standing in to defend the sacredness of the ideals she no longer cherishes.  

While attending a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vaulted into headlines by making comments urging the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe. Putin said he observed “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

Presumably, Putin was referring to the recent violence against Christians that is ongoing in Syria and has occurred in the Sudan during the decades-long Sudanese Civil Wars and the continuing unrest. In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been undergone beatings and torture in deadly prisons over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience suffering as a kidnapping victim in torture camps in the Sinai desert. "In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

These kinds of stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christian people has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.

What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”  

Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.

Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.”

They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births.

They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.

Today, Russia is ravaged by alcoholism, with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 15.76 litres, one of the highest in the world, and a shockingly low life expectancy. According to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years. Russia has a suicide rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. In 2008, suicide claimed 38,406 lives in Russia. Russia has been repeatedly rated the most corrupt European nation, tied with Iran, Guyana, and Khazakstan.

Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries. A 2006 World Vision report claimed Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism, and estimated 2 to 2.5 percent of Russian sex workers are minors.

With all of these sorry statistics to show for their experiment in statism and rejection of Christian virtues, is it any wonder that Putin is extending an olive branch towards the Russian church and seeking to reinstate what has been lost?

The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the UK and France, where “gay marriage” has just been instated, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of  “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during 17 centuries.”

“Eventually,”
Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”

These remarks come as Russia attracts global attention for its law banning homosexual propaganda directed at minors, and continues each year to pay fines to the European Court of Human Rights for prohibiting Gay Pride parades in Moscow.  In June 2012, Moscow courts enacted a hundred-year ban on gay pride parades.

Do Putin’s recent comments signal a Christian transformation of character? Probably not. What they do signal is a fear that grows as Russia slips deeper and deeper into the vicious results of the black hole of creedlessness. And perhaps they signal a growing friendliness towards the virtues of Christian culture.

While Western Europe and the US are slanting slowly towards the neutralization and ultimate rejection of classical and Christian ethics, Russia and Eastern Europe rushed into this chaos of amorality years ago and, it seems, are coming out on the other side a little wiser, a little steadier.

But are they even growing wiser than us?


This week, President Obama announced a planned summit with President Putin had been cancelled, and that US relations with Russia had moved from a "reset" to a "pause."

(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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From "Hail Satan" chants to violent protests, Texas abortion bill drama shows demonstrators’ true colors


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 13, 2013)



If the question is, “how dumb can you be?” the response of pro-choice protestors in Texas over the past few days has been, “pretty darn.”

The heated and emotionally-charged debate started at the end of June, when a bill went before the Texas Senate which had the potential to close down all but 5 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. The bill, which was ultimately passed at midnight on Friday, will make an end of all abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for the life of the mother, and will require abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as all other surgical centers. It will also require abortion providers to have permission to admit patients at a hospital within 30 miles of the provider's facility.

These new requirements come as more and more abortion horror houses have been revealed throughout the nation, from Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia butcher-shop to doctor Douglas Karpen’s Houston “clinic.” Concerned advocates of women’s health feel that tighter restrictions could help to prevent the continued mistreatment of young women in these hellish facilities. The fact that those restrictions will shut down 37 abortion clinics in Texas doesn’t seem like a point for the pro-choice side.

Be that as it may, rowdy pro-choice protestors didn’t seem to think it ill-advised to show up at the Texas Capitol last month and make a ruckus so loud it prevented the bill from being signed. Calling their actions a “people’s filibuster,” the unruly mob postponed the vote long enough that even after Democratic Senator Wendy Davis had been forced to end her 10 hour filibuster, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said he could not sign the bill.

At twenty weeks, a human fetus is about 10 inches long, and weighs 10 and ½ ounces. The unborn baby is swallowing regularly, feels pain, and has a fully-formed uterus of her own, with ovaries containing 7 million primitive eggs, if she is a girl. So much for those ridiculous signs proclaiming, “Give me my uterus or give me death!”

Although the protestors managed to achieve their objective of stalling the bill’s passage, a few basic math skills would have been sufficient to demonstrate the ultimate uselessness of their actions. The vote, which was held after the filibuster, but was judged by Dewhurst to have taken place too late to be valid, showed a clear victory for the bill’s supporters. Two weeks later, it was passed by both the House and the Senate, in a special session called by Texas Governor Rick Perry.  

However, even supposing the odds had been in their favor, the damage done by these folks to their cause is incalculable.

Some bizarre photos of the demonstrators have elicited complaints from both sides of the aisle. Such as the ones showing young children toting explicit and vile signs, and the many profanity-laced poster-boards flaunted along the streets. Additionally, pro-choice protestors filing into the gallery for last night’s final vote were relieved by security of various interesting articles they were attempting to carry on their persons.
Such as bricks. Such as jars of paint. Such as jars of urine and feces. Such as packs of tampons and other feminine hygiene items. Such as contraceptives. The protestors were reportedly planning to attempt to obstruct the vote by throwing these items down from the gallery at the pro-life lawmakers.

Oh yeah. That’s a sure way to win friends and influence people.

But perhaps the most foolish and inexplicable form of protest utilized by the abortion supporters in Austin last week was something else entirely.

It shouldn’t take a whole lot of brains to figure out that chanting “Hail Satan,” as a crowd in a public place is probably not the best PR move imaginable. Especially when your opponents are singing Amazing Grace in a cheerful group around you. But then, as a wise scarecrow once said, “some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”

Predictably, this ill-considered move on the part of wrathful pro-choice protestors was considered very offensive by many. Indeed, in a grimly amusing turn of events, even the UK Church of Satan was offended, tweeting,

“Unfortunate to see Satan's name used in such a diabolical manner. Another example of what 'Satanism' doesn't represent.”

However, on this one point at least, the pro-choice protestors may actually be correct. A quick dictionary check would have reminded the Church of Satan that the term “diabolical” has its roots in the Spanish word for “devil.” If Satan’s fan-club wanted to suggest that violently dismembering 10-inch unborn humans is unacceptable, perhaps “diabolical” wasn’t the best word choice?


(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
PictureJanet Napolitano
FBI terrorism task force targets a pro-life leader & people begin to wonder if the Obama administration needs to learn a thing or two about religious liberty

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 31, 2013)

When US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in 2009 that the “opponents of abortion" are likely to engage in extremism, and included pro-life activists on a list of possible terrorist threats, she engendered a wave of backlash. Many religious groups felt not a little trepidation at the prospect of being lumped together with violent suicide bombers simply for planting their feet on the opposite side of the Obama administration regarding the issue of abortion. Some felt that the statements made by Napolitano were indicative of a growing tendency on the part of the administration to heavy-handedly counter traditional Christian virtues.

This opposition to their work was keenly felt by those involved with crisis pregnancy centers, (CPCs) of which there are an estimated 2,500 in the US today. These clinics offer varied services to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Some provide medical assistance like ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, free of charge, while others offer only resources and counseling. All are dedicated to promoting the value of life, discouraging abortion, and educating women about parenting and adoption options.

Sadly, it seems that Napolitano’s threatening tone towards the non-profit work of CPCs was only the precursor to a steady wave of intimidation tightening around the pro-life movement. The latest in a string of incidents involving pro-life leaders being harassed by government agencies, it was revealed this week that the FBI terrorism task force has called in the national director of a chain of CPCs “for questioning.” According to LifeSiteNews,

“Agents of Joint Domestic Terrorism Task Force told Chris Slattery, national director of Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, only that they wanted to meet him ‘for a mutually beneficial relationship.’

‘In other words, if I don't meet with them, it will not be beneficial for me,’ Slattery joked. ‘I'm not sure what I'm going to get out of it.’ ”

The summons from the FBI comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed Slattery’s group for not abiding by the standards of a consent agreement that Slattery says he believes expired more than 20 years ago.

Why does an FBI terrorism task force feel the need to go after peaceful, non-profit, domestic, religious, care groups? Slattery says he doesn’t know, but that “if the President orders them to do something, they have to do it.”

Last spring, the Justice Department was forced to drop charges against pro-life counselor Susan Pine and pay $120,000 of taxpayer money in attorneys’ fees when a judge ruled she had been wrongly accused of trespassing on property belonging to an abortion clinic. Her attorneys argued that Pine, a post-abortive pro-life activist was being targeted in a concerted effort by the Obama administration to silence sidewalk counselors. It seems they managed to convince Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, who wrote,

The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the [abortion clinic], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”  

One particularly interesting case involving a pro-life activist facing government pressure is that of AbortionWiki founder Andy Moore, who was visited by FBI agents last summer after the administrators of a late-term abortion clinic complained about his use of a bullhorn on the sidewalk outside of their facilities. Moore claims the agents pressured him to expose the inner workings of the pro-life movement and made indirect threats to separate him from his wife and family through imprisonment or deportation.

Aside from the horrendous impropriety of the FBI’s alleged actions, the soul of the controversy can perhaps best be realized by a video of the incident that provoked the initial complaint. The footage shows Andy standing on the sidewalk, reading off a list of facts describing the gestational growth of a human fetus. He concludes his reading by saying, “I just want everyone in there to know that I have nothing but love for you in my heart.”

After a time, Andy is called aside by police, who inform him that a city ordinance prohibits the use of a megaphone within 150 feet of a hospital. A trifle embarrassed, perhaps, Andy puts his megaphone away and resumes his activities without it. In his strong New Zealand accent, he says, “I just want you all to know that there are other options available, even in this last minute. I believe sincerely that women deserve better than abortion.”

How strongly do you have to believe in something to be willing to stand alone on the street and proclaim it through a megaphone to a crowd that actively disagrees with you and will almost certainly be extremely offended by your words?

What if you really do believe in it that strongly?

What if you really do believe that abortion is murder and that every woman who walks through the doors of the clinic in front of you is going in to take part in the murder of a child and will be coming out with a wound that will haunt her for the rest of her life? And if you really do believe that, how unloving to do you have to be to refuse to do everything within your power to prevent those abortions from occurring?

Atheist Penn Jillette, perhaps, says it best in a moving video about Christian evangelization. “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” he says. “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell and that people could be going to hell, or not, and having eternal life…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”


Regardless of how you feel about abortion, or the existence of God, or any other system of belief, it is a self-evident truth that faith is morally compelling. There are things that, if you sincerely believe them, compel you to take certain actions. It is for this reason that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are foundational American principles. Unfortunately, they are principles that the Obama administration doesn’t seem to understand.  

(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 

May 21st, 2013

05/21/2013

 
PictureThe Romeike Family

The German homeschooling family that fled to America in order to homeschool their children has
been denied asylum by the Obama administration

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 21, 2013)

The verdict on a massively significant case in the Sixth Court of Appeals has been returned. In a shocking development, the court has upheld the Obama Administration’s bid to deny asylum to the Romeike family, who fled to the US in 2008 after persecution in their native Germany for homeschooling their five children. The decision was announced Tuesday by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The HSLDA has been representing the Romeike family throughout a seven-year struggle to educate their children in the way they think best.

Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore are music teachers and evangelical Christians who withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith, and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment.

“As we were confronted with opposition to our choice we began to feel more and more that our faith required us to homeschool our children,” Uwe explained Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Romeikes, homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since it was outlawed by Adolf Hitler in 1938. According to the German Supreme Court, the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

The family accrued the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and faced police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home. On one occasion, their children were dragged away and taken to school in police vans. Uwe explained in an interview with The Blaze that current German law does not require police to obtain a court order before removing children from parental custody.

In 2008 the Romeikes fled Germany to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In 2010, the HSLDA helped them to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights. Federal immigration judge Lawrence Burnam, who initially granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruled that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. He called the German policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” 

However, it seems the Obama administration doesn’t concur. In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals tossed Judge Burnam’s ruling, forcing the family to head back to court, where Attorney General Eric Holder sought to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany.

HSLDA’s Mike Farris explained, “The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

In Farris’ opinion, this shows that, “the US government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.”

A crowd of the American people agree with Farris and have rallied around the Romeike family by signing a formal petition on the White House website. Part of the petitions reads,

“Every state in the United States of America recognizes the right to homeschool, and the U.S. has the world’s largest and most vibrant homeschool community. Regrettably, this family faces deportation in spite of the persecution they will suffer in Germany. The Romeikes hope for the same freedom our forefathers sought. Please grant the privilege of liberty to the Romeike family.”

The number of signers has exceeded the threshold necessary to earn a response from the White House, and the response is still being eagerly awaited. However, the verdict from the court has created a major setback for the Romeikes and makes their status in the US uncertain. The family may be faced with deportation.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Romeikes, told ABC News the family remains hopeful.

"They feel very comfortable that, in the end, things are going to work out for them," he said. "There is a lot of support for this family in Congress, it is possible that Congress might take some action."

Farris expressed his indignation at the verdict, stating, "You can't look at the lenient attitude to 11 million people who came here for economic opportunity, why we would not treat people who come here for economic freedom on par with people who came here for religious freedom I don't understand.”

Farris said the family is planning to appeal the decision first to the entire Sixth Circuit Court and then to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

READ MORE:
Deportation of German homeschool family affects US homeschool freedom
Interview with the Romeike Family
 
 
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Pro-life protest on the US Supreme Court steps

40 years after the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, where does America stand on abortion -- and how did
we get here?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on April 27, 2013)

Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973, when the passage of Roe v. Wade divided the nation on lines that still separate the champions of unborn life from the advocates of the woman’s right to choose. For a generation of young adults who have no memory of the years before abortion was legal, it may seem that this conflict is interminable and has no end. However, while the battle is still raging as fiercely as ever, in recent years some signs have appeared that seem to indicate a shift in the tide of popular opinion.

In 2009, a Gallup poll indicated that the majority of American adults were identifying as pro-life, rather than pro-choice. Gallup commented, “This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.” Since that date, subsequent polls show that the pro-life majority has remained more or less constant.

What occasioned the shift? While it’s hard to say for certain, it’s undeniable that technological advances have enabled physicians and ultrasound technicians to gain more understanding than ever before of the nature of life inside the womb. 3D ultrasounds allow parents to see lifelike photographs of their unborn children and the vast accumulation of medical experience that has occurred since 1973 points relentlessly to the complexity and humanity of the fetus.

Disillusionment with the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, may also have something to do with the trend towards cultural acceptance of the pro-life message. Virgina-based student activist group, Live Action, started by then-fifteen-year-old Lila Rose, has generated nation-wide media coverage with their videos exposing Planned Parenthood corruption. Other reports from former Planned Parenthood employees have drawn attention to the massive fraud perpetrated against taxpayers by the abortion giant.

However, it is not far-fetched to surmise that the biggest factor influencing this astonishing and even unexpected trend is the accumulated testimony of hundreds who have come out of the abortion industry or have experienced abuse at its hands. From abortion survivors to post-abortive women, to former employees of abortion providers, to victims of botched abortions at the hands of physicians like Kermit Gosnell, the cries proclaiming the brutality of the industry have becoming impossible to ignore.

Nurse Kathleen Malloy of Jacksonville Florida writes of her own experiences in this disturbing fashion,

“I worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, and when we weren’t busy, I’d go out to help with the newborns. One night I saw a bassinet outside the nursery. There was a baby in this bassinet – a crying, perfectly formed baby – but there was a difference in this child. She had been scalded. She was the child of a saline abortion.

This little girl looked as if she had been put in a pot of boiling water. No doctor, no nurse, no parent, to comfort this hurt, burned child. She was left alone to die in pain. They wouldn’t let her in the nursery – they didn’t even bother to cover her. I was ashamed of my profession that night! It’s hard to believe this can happen in our modern hospitals, but it does. It happens all the time. I thought a hospital was a place to heal the sick – not a place to kill. While doctors will go to extraordinary lengths to save the lives of premature babies such as these, babies born alive during abortions at the same age are left to die.


I asked a nurse at another hospital what they do with their babies that are aborted by saline. Unlike my hospital, where the baby was left alone struggling for breath, their hospital puts the infant in a bucket and puts the lid on. Suffocation! Death by suffocation!”

Supporters of legal abortion are quick to dismiss such heartbreaking anecdotes as addressing circumstances unique to late-term abortions, which they tout as being only a miniscule portion of abortions performed in the US. However, it is a telling observation concerning the entire industry that it has repeatedly opposed all legislation restricting these brutal late-term abortions. In a shocking incident in March, a Planned Parenthood representative from Florida went so far as to voice support for “post-birth abortions.” Fortunately for humanity, the vast number of Americans don’t concur, and the majority seems to be slowly but surely pulling away from this callous attitude.

Last month, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced his long-awaited Life At Conception Act before the US Senate. Such bills have been ridiculed for years as useless, and dismissed as attempts on the part of politicians to pander to the pro-life voting bloc. But, despite the fact that Paul’s Life At Conception Act is unlikely to ever get a vote in the US Senate, there is still something different about this year’s bill.

What’s different is that this year, for the first time since the war on abortion became main-stream in the US, two states have already passed historic legislation stating that life begins at conception and that unborn persons must be afforded all of the rights and protections offered under the US Constitution to all persons.

Just a few years ago, it seemed this kind of legislation could never be passed. Yet Kansas’ bill was signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback last week, a testimony to how much can be done by dedicated activists with science on their side. The new law reads,

"On and after July 1, 2013, the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state, subject only to the constitution of the United States, and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court.”

The new law bans abortion providers from providing sex-education materials for schools and from accessing public funds or tax breaks. It also requires doctors to provide material about fetal development and resources to help pregnant women. Additionally, the law bans sex-selective abortions.

North Dakota’s bill has not yet been signed by Governor Dalrymple, but provides for a statewide referendum to be on the ballot in 2014.

Obviously, neither of the bills directly address the issue of banning abortion entirely. Legislators say they are hoping the new language will prompt a lawsuit that will end up at the Supreme Court level and result in the annulment of the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. That they’ve made it that far is a cause for great jubilation in the ranks of the pro-life movement, and serious consternation among the supporters of legal abortion.


(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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Does the new birth control mandate "compromise" really do anything to protect religious freedom?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 5, 2013)

The Obama administration sparked a massive controversy last year when it was announced that a new federal mandate would require all health insurers and employers to include coverage in their health plans for every form of contraception approved by the FDA. The mandate also required coverage for sterilizations.

Faith groups who teach against the use of contraceptives became immediately fearful that such a mandate would force violations of conscience. Some Catholics view every form of contraceptive use as sinful. A far broader base of Christian people accepts the use of most contraceptives but opposes the use of abortifacient “emergency contraception,” like the “morning-after pill.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration did little to allay their fears. While the mandate included a religious exemption, it only applied to church organizations themselves. It did not apply to church-affiliated non-profit institutions, such as hospitals, or to employers. An amendment was proposed that would have made provisions for employers to “refuse to include contraception in health care coverage if it violated their religious or moral beliefs.” The Blunt Amendment was voted down 51-48 by the U.S. Senate last March.

Between then and now, nothing much has changed. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Unites States Supreme Court, the Christian owners of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced at the beginning of this year that they would refuse to add the contraceptive coverage to their employee insurance plan. According to NPR, their attorney stated that they consider the emergency contraceptives “tantamount to abortion.” The company faced up to $1.3 million a day in fines for defying the mandate. Two weeks later, however, it was learned they had discovered a way to delay the fines. Peter M. Dobelbower, the company's general counsel, stated, “Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months.” But their time is running out.

Late last week, the Obama administration released a new version of the infamous birth-control mandate. Religious and pro-life groups were hoping the new regulations would spell out broader conscience rights for employers – like the Hobby Lobby owners – and institutions whose faith prohibits them from funding sterilization and various forms of contraception. Sadly, after examining the altered version of the mandate, pro-life legal groups have bad news. The new proposal barely changes existing policy and still allows for no business or individual opt-out, they say.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO and President of Americans United for Life, stated Friday, “With another phony compromise, the Obama Administration continues to insult the intelligence of the American people and trample our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”

LifeNews reports of the new proposal that it will not have any impact on businesses run by people of faith, such as Bible publisher Tyndale House or Hobby Lobby. They also explain that it provides no options for individuals seeking plans that accommodate their values on the exchanges.”

So, what does the new proposal do? Well, the only major difference for people of faith seems to be that the religious exemption has been modified so that it no longer specifies that churches must have “inculcation of religious values” as their purpose and primarily employ and serve people of their same faith in order to qualify for the exemption.

This doesn’t sound like much of a concession, once you get down to it. The change only broadens the definition of a church for the purposes of the exemption, and does nothing to protect the conscience rights of for-profit employers and individuals. 

The absurdity of this state of affairs is truly remarkable. To state it plainly, the Obama administration has conceded the right of churches to opt-out of participating in the funding of procedures their faith prohibits, but won’t provide the means for members of these same churches to avoid violating the dictates of their faith in their workplaces. What is the point of protecting the rights of a church as an institution and then trampling the rights of the individuals that comprise that same institution?

 
 
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Will legalization of same-sex marriage result in religious persecution?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 28, 2013)

Earlier this month, 1,067 UK priests, bishops and abbots prompted a significant stir by collectively signing what is being called one of the largest open letters ever produced in British political history. The letter was issued as a warning against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Such a development may spark religious persecution against Catholics, who oppose same-sex marriage based on the tenets of their faith, cautioned the multitude of priests.

The letter comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intentions to push through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the UK by the end of the month.

“The natural complementarity between a man and a woman leads to marriage, seen as a lifelong partnership,”
the clergymen declared in their statement. “This loving union – because of their physical complementarity – is open to bringing forth and nurturing children. This is what marriage is. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.”

“Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship,” they went on to warn. Those who signed the letter make up about one-fourth of all the Catholic clergy in Britain.

Regardless of where we stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, it’s important for us to determine whether or not this statement is backed by evidence and by the collective experience of states and nations that have already enshrined homosexual marriage in law. Surely the rights and religious liberties of the proponents of traditional marriage must be protected even as same-sex partnerships become more widespread and more widely accepted.

Is truth on the side of the UK clergy and should Christian people be taking a warning from their words? Is legalization of same-sex marriage a doorway into an era of universal goodwill and harmony? Or is it merely a sign that a new form of bigotry is at hand – a bigotry of hatred and violence unleashed against the traditional family and its supporters?

The obvious question is, have opponents of same-sex marriage suffered persecution and loss of religious liberty in other countries that have embraced this radical redefinition of marriage? The answer is in no way elusive. Let’s take a look at a little very recent history.

“Tolerance” in Brazil

Last week, members of the Catholic Plinio Correa de Olivera Institute gathered in the Brazilian city of Curitiba to protest abortion and the homosexual ideology and stand in support of the traditional family. Homosexuality has been legal in Brazil since 1830 and enjoys widespread acceptance in that country.

However, the Catholic demonstrators, who marched peacefully and carried signs, were not greeted with tolerance and acceptance. In fact, an angry mob soon gathered around them and began yelling threats and making obscene gestures. The Catholics were spat upon and one of them had an object thrown at his head which drew blood. As he held up his bloodied hand to show the camera, the crowd cheered. These incidents were caught on camera by the Institute and by an onlooker sympathetic to the unruly mob.

In 2007, the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed several lawsuits against opponents of the homosexual movement in Brazil. One of these suits targeted the websites that had just exposed homosexual activist Luiz Mott for his promotion of pedophilia and pederasty.

Another motion was filed against psychologist and therapist Rozangela Alves Justino, who provided counseling and therapy for homosexuals who wished to change their sexual orientation. Because Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychologists prohibited psychologists from performing reparative therapy for homosexuality, the ABGLT asked that Alves Justino’s license be revoked.

Several years ago, Christian pro-life writer Julio Severo fled Brazil after charges were reportedly filed against him for his “homophobic” coverage of Brazil’s 2006 Gay Pride parade. Severo left the country abruptly with his pregnant wife and two small children. At the time, there was still no official law in Brazil criminalizing “homophobic” behavior.

In February of 2009, LifeSiteNews reported that, “the Brazilian government has determined that 99% of its citizens are ‘homophobic,’ and therefore must be reeducated.” According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the federal government of Brazil intended to use the data from the study to “plan new policies.” Those new policies were implemented in May 2012, when the senate in Brazil passed a law criminalizing ‘homophobia.’

In the summer of 2012, Julio Severo interviewed Brazilian Christian psychologist Marisa Lobo, who said that the Brazilian Federal Council of Psychology pressured and terrorized homosexuals who were looking for help in overcoming their unwanted same-sex attractions. Marisa was also attacked by the Council when she questioned the “gay kit” that the Brazilian government attempted to distribute to students in public schools for the purpose of fighting “homophobia.” Due to explicit content in the kit and its favorable portrayal of homosexual behavior, the program was eventually suspended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

“When they learned that [I was] a Christian, they began to persecute me,” Marisa explained, “as a psychologist who categorizes herself as a Christian, and later in the process as a homophobe, because I said on Twitter that I love gays, but I prefer for my child to be heterosexual. And I still don’t understand why having an opinion instigates violence.”

It seems that the range of tolerated activity in Brazil is fairly narrow, despite decades of campaigns by same-sex marriage advocates against “hate” and “bullying” and “harassment.” And it is becoming increasingly evident that Christian family virtues are not included in the group of “tolerable” ideas.

“Diversity” and “Freedom of Speech” in Canada
Canada Day in Ontario last year was marked by a disturbing incident when Rev. David Lynn and a small group of friends attended the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Setting up a small stand on a street corner with a microphone and a video camera, Lynn preached, held conversations with passers-by, and handed out Bibles and tracts – that is, until Toronto police wearing LGBT rainbow stickers shut him down and forced him to vacate the area. Ignoring the profanity and violent behavior of angry parade attendees and demonstrators who verbally assaulted the group and even doused Lynn and his cameraman with water, police told Lynn he was ‘promoting hate’ and must leave. Videos of the incident are available here and here and here.

It seems only certain forms of free speech are protected in Canada nowadays. Criticism of homosexuality, even peaceful and motivated by loving concern, isn’t one of these.

When the Toronto District School Board revealed their new “anti-homophobia curriculum” in 2011 (Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum), many people were understandably disturbed. Naturally, things only got worse when the news came out that parents would not be able to opt their kids out of the program – not even their kindergarteners. Teachers would also not be permitted to decline to teach the course based on religious convictions.

It seems only certain brands of diverse thought are encouraged in Canada nowadays. Christian family virtues aren’t among them.

The curriculum taught students that “you can’t choose to be gay or straight, but you can choose to come out.” In 3rd grade, it is recommended that students read the book Gloria Goes to Gay Pride.  Students are encouraged to have their own “Pride Parade” in their school.

Unfortunately, most real-life Pride Parades are scarcely suitable for elementary school children.

The disturbing and seemingly totalitarian approach embraced by the Toronto District is but a foretaste of what lies ahead, suggests an education minister in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the Department for Education, warned in November that school teachers could be punished for not teaching pro-gay topics, should the British government follow through with plans to redefine marriage.

More Instances of Love and Acceptance

The adoption agency Catholic Charities has been systemically shutting down its branches in various states throughout the US, following a series of bitter legal disputes over the agency’s right to refuse to place children with homosexual couples. Similar laws have also forced church-affiliated agencies in Britain, such as Catholic Care, to separate from their churches or shut down entirely.

In January 2012, a New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling that the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” Last September, a gay couple filed suit against two Illinois institutions that refused to host their civil union. Christian “Bed and Breakfast” establishments, which are often family-owned businesses, have been especially targeted by homosexual rights activists for this type of harassment.

In Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom, plaintiffs Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane were fired from their places of work for declining to perform services involving same-sex partnerships and counseling. Ladele, a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, “was disciplined after she asked to be exempt from registering same-sex civil partnerships.” McFarlane was a counselor who was fired after he “declined to unequivocally commit to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy.” They appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but the court refused to hear their case.

"It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments,” commented Andrea Williams, the Director of the Christian Legal Centre.

Certainly this is a tragic remark and one that signals a gloomy answer to the question of whether or not the legalization of same-sex marriage will result in a loss of religious liberty. It is, of course, unfair of homosexual activists to expect people of faith to cast away their creeds and their dear, cherished ideals. But these activists make themselves odious indeed to civilized people when they force dissenters to violate their codes of morality and their very consciences by endorsing and promoting a lifestyle they consider abhorrent.

If the aim of legalizing same-sex marriage is, as we are so often told, to eradicate intolerance and bigotry, surely its activists should be alarmed to find that their efforts have been entirely unsuccessful. However, as shocking as it may seem, the advocates of same-sex marriage are proving repeatedly that they only endorse the toleration of one view and only believe in the protection of one speech – their own. 

 
 
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In which historian David Barton gets a lesson in honesty and we all benefit

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 26, 2012)

Moveon.org has come out with a fairly ridiculous ad that claims to expose the evil GOP strategy to oust President Obama from the White House. The way they see it, this master plan is a sinister three-pronged plot. The conspiratorial triad has the following elements:

1. Sabotage the economy and blame it on Obama

2. Use rich people’s money to spread lies about Obama
3. Suppress minority voters using Voter ID laws

The video is rife with errors, with one actor calling Republican Mitch McConnell the “Senate Majority Leader” suggesting that Republicans actually have the majority in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Democratic Harry Reid is, in fact, the Senate Majority Leader. The actors point out that conservative organizations have donated more money than liberal organizations, omitting to mention that the Obama campaign
is oustpending the Romney campaign by a significant margin in almost all of the key states. The two actors go on to state that there is a massive, racist design on the part of Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters by instating photo ID laws.

The flagrant deception displayed in the clip is sickening and many readers over at
The Blaze have complained that they weren’t even able to sit through the full 4.25 minutes of asinine drivel. By descending to this level of intellectual dishonesty, moveon.org has sunk into the primordial slime, doing further damage to their reputation even with many democrats and liberal voters.  In the culture wars, liars often prove a massive disadvantage for the causes they attempt to champion.

Conservatives and evangelical Christians have had to deal with a controversy of their own this week, and maybe a liar too, as
Wallbuilders founder David Barton’s newest book has been pulled by his publisher, Thomas Nelson, due to historical errors that were found to render it unsellable. Barton, who has been a hero to Christian evangelicals for years, is known for his claims that the Founding Fathers wanted America to be a Christian nation and that the majority of them were “orthodox, evangelical” believers.  Recently, however, a significant number of mainstream Christian scholars have begun to question the validity of his claims, with Christian college professor Warren Throckmorton going so far as to write a book debunking Barton’s views.  

One of David Barton’s main areas of interest is the spiritual life of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. Barton approaches this undeniably enigmatic subject with confidence,
asserting that Jefferson was “orthodox” for most of his life, that he fought against the institution of slavery, that he used federal funds to promote Christian missions to the Indians, that he didn’t believe in a “wall of separation” between church and state but in a Republic that would actively promote Christianity. He likewise suggests that Jefferson’s sexual morality was unimpeachable, that he didn’t really edit out the miraculous stories of the New Testament and that he founded the Virginia Bible Society. Throckmorton and others such as Michael Coulter, John Fea and Jay Richards, a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute, insist the documents show otherwise, with considerable evidence to back them up.

Barton’s Wallbuilders group has been a polarizing force for years, dividing the nation’s historical enthusiasts into two camps: those who swear by the supposedly Jeffersonian ideal of a separated church and state, and those who are of Barton’s persuasion, namely that revisionist historians have edited Jefferson’s evangelical beliefs out of the textbooks. Unfortunately, this divide leaves out a third very plausible and very reasonable possibility, which is that Jefferson was a product of his times, heavily influenced by the enlightenment deism of the age, slightly
racist as most Europeans were, and a staunch believer in freedom of religious expression. It is asking a lot to expect this 18th century thinker to measure up to either the contemporary ideals of either conservatives or liberals. Those ideals didn’t even exist yet.

While Jefferson certainly doesn’t fit Barton’s ideal of an evangelical Christian statesman who wanted a biblically-based government, neither can he serve as a poster boy for the secular, liberal vision. His statements about responsibility, fiscal sanity, traditional morality, and even God are too numerous to overlook. Indeed, they make up a great portion of Jefferson’s oft-quoted writings. Let’s take a look at a few which seem to soundly rebuff the contemporary liberal ideal.


I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” (A bit of a blow to the welfare state and the Life of Julia)

From
Notes on the State of Virginia: “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.” (Putting him squarely in the anti-Bloomberg opposition and against proponents of government healthcare)

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

Regardless of where you stand on the big Jefferson Question, the recent Barton saga delivers a critical exhortation that all idealists and public policy advocates would do well to heed.  Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And as a flawed mortal, you will likely need God’s help to do it.


Career politicians and mercenary public figures may be able to get away with shocking deceptions, but idealists who play at the mind wars for the sheer love of the things they espouse have no business twisting the truth even a little. We have not waded into battle, into these culture wars, for money or for fame, for public notice or for personal advancement. What do we have left on our side if we lose the truth?



 
 
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“Nowadays the devil has made such a mess of everything in the system of life on earth that the world will presently become uninhabitable for anybody but Saints. The rest will drag their lives out in despair or fall below the level of man. The antinomies if human life are too exasperated, the burden of matter too oppressive; merely to exist, one has to expose oneself to many snares. Christian heroism will one day become the sole solution for the problems of life.”

—Jacques Maritain



 

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