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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)
 
 
PicturePrince William & Princess Kate and the Royal Baby

What's wrong and what's right about the #RoyalBaby celebrations: who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 24th, 2013)

Let’s face it: the media buzz and twitterverse hype over the #GreatKateWait and the subsequent #RoyalBabyBoy has been a bit ridiculous, a little over-the-top. From CNN’s Victoria Arbiter calling the Duchess of Cambridge “brilliant,” for delivering a boy on the first try, to Pampers seizing the moment for some timely advertising by tweeting, “Every baby is a little prince or princess. SHARE pics of yours at http://www.pamperslovesleepandplay.com,” the celebrations seem a little out of balance. Thousands were glued to their screens to watch the livefeed of the royal couple leaving the hospital. “Here’s the important question,” tweeted self-titled “royalty blogger” Brooke. “Will they give us a name when they leave? #RoyalBaby.

But even if the virtual chatter about the baby seems a little out of whack, on the whole all this talk and joy is a good thing. Because a child was born and our shallow, confused culture somehow decided to called it good.

We live in a culture where respected senators can wave wire coat hangers high over their heads in demand for unabridged abortion rights and thousands will march to protect the legality of late-term abortions that end the lives of fully-viable babies. It’s a country that elected a president who voted for the infanticide of partial-birth abortion, and a country where family planning agencies will defend the right of a doctor to kill children born alive and breathing.

But when Prince William and the Duchess walked through the swinging glass doors of the hospital Tuesday evening, cradling their frail and blanketed, unnamed baby in their arms, the spectators lining the streets erupted with a volley of wild cheering.

Is it possible the western world does know, however shallowly, something of the beauty and intrinsic preciousness of new life?

We must ask another question. Was this cheering a celebration of the fact that a new man has entered the world and, like every other man and woman already here, and yet distinct from them, has the opportunity to work his one precious life to inconceivable glory? Or was it a celebration of the supposed fairytale life that this one remarkable human has been born into?

There is a young woman is China who is not so lucky today as the world’s darling Kate. ChinaAid reports Li Fengfei, at 18 months pregnant, was dragged to the office of Family Planning officials on July 9th and beaten so that her front tooth was knocked out. Her fingerprint was forced onto an abortion consent form and she was given a dose of labor-inducing medications.

An estimated 35.9% of Chinese citizens are still living under China’s infamous one-child policy, and Fengfei was just one of these. In her case, however, everything didn’t go as planned, and her body did not immediately respond to the abortifacient drugs. 72 hours later, she was given another dose. Several days afterwards, it was reported she was in critical condition with her dead baby still inside her. According to a doctor who examined the report, she had been given a fatal dose of the drugs. Her fate is still unknown at this time.

In June, another victim of the brutal one-child policy, Feng Jianmei, was photographed lying stunned on a hospital bed with her aborted seven-month old baby beside her. The woman was reportedly taken from her home and beaten while her husband was at work. When her family did not pay the fine required by family planning officials, the child was forcibly aborted. The photos are graphic and horrible.

But these women aren’t Kate. Their babies aren’t royalty. They don’t live in palaces and wear chic clothing and dodge cameras and get featured on magazine covers. Their children wouldn’t have been third in line for any throne anywhere. They would, perhaps, have lived their whole lives in relative poverty, and known few material comforts.

But they might have been happy.

They deserved that chance, at least. At least they deserved a chance.

Until our culture makes as much fuss about the brutal murder of a poor woman’s child as we do about the happy birth of a wealthy woman’s son, we do not know anything that really matters.

Maybe Pampers did get it right after all: Every baby is a little prince or princess. Glad congratulations to William and Kate on the child they have brought into the world! And glad congratulations to the parents of every naked, squalling baby birthed yesterday in half-lit, sweltering hovels in the slums of India or Brazil. Who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?


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.)
 
 
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A mentally handicapped woman who narrowly escaped a forced abortion in Nevada has delivered a healthy baby

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 13, 2012)

In November of last year, the case of mentally-handicapped Elisa Bauer attracted nationwide attention when a Reno, Nevada judge asserted that he had the right to force the Catholic woman to undergo an abortion and sterilization against her will.

Elisa Bauer of Washoe County is a 32-year-old woman who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Adopted by William and Amy Bauer in 1992, Elisa is an epileptic who reportedly has the mental and social capacities of a six-year-old. Her parents, who retained their guardianship over her and had legal authority to make final decisions concerning her health and welfare, sympathized with Elisa’s insistence on carrying the baby to term, and had six qualified couples lined up, who were eager to adopt the baby, even if he or she turned out to be a special needs child. The parents were also providing Bauer with appropriate pre-natal care for a high-risk pregnancy.

However, when Washoe County Social Services expressed their concern that Bauer’s pregnancy would be detrimental to her health and that of her then-unborn baby, the case went to court, where Judge Egan Walker reportedly asserted, “I have inherent authority to [override the wishes of Elisa’s parents] because the court appointed the guardians and they are agents of the court.” The court-summoned doctor recommended abortion and sterilization in no uncertain terms, stating, “End this pregnancy and tie her tubes.”

Fortunately for the Bauer family, the story prompted outrage across the nation, as readers scrambled to file petitions and place phone calls and express their views in strong terms. Kirsten Anderson of LifeSiteNews, who originally broke the story, writes,

“The stories we posted about the case spread like wildfire around Facebook and Twitter.  Readers were understandably horrified that something like this could happen in America.  They wanted to know what they could do to stop it. Rebekah O’Brien, our social media coordinator, suggested they call the judge’s office and make their voices heard.  She provided his contact information.  Our readers filled his voicemail box with messages until the system couldn’t store any more.  After that, they called the governor. That was about the time the court started changing its tone.”

Elisa’s adoptive father, William Bauer, wrote on the facebook support page, Save Elisa’s Baby,

“Even though the judge proclaimed that our religious views were of no effect in his courtroom; even though the judge clipped our statements and said he wanted only expert opinions; even though he brought in several experts, including lawyers, who wanted death for the baby; even though the judge treated us parents as if we sat on the stoop of our trailer eating pork and beans out of the can and watching re-runs of He Haw... Elisa's baby won a right to be born. Our attorney, supplied by the Thomas More Foundation and by another pro-life group, arranged a mediated conclusion to the treachery planned. We gave up our guardianship in trade for the life of our grandchild. The due date is May 11, 2013. The baby appears normal, and, since Elisa's retardation is not genetic, the baby will probably have normal intelligence.”

On May 2nd, Elisa Bauer gave birth to Cierra Marie, a healthy, full-term baby. The Bauer family’s lawyer, Jason Guinasso, wrote, “She is sweet and good natured.  By all measures, she is perfectly healthy and sublimely beautiful.”  Guinasso said that a loving adoptive family has been identified for baby Cierra, adding, “I can't adequately express how seeing her face makes my heart full.”


(This article first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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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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As sequester woes shut down White House tours, $4 million in taxpayer money goes to study alcoholism, obesity in lesbians

(posted by Bryana Johnson on March 22, 2013)

Last week, some disturbance was caused by news that the National Health Institute has awarded $1.5 million for a study to determine why 75% of lesbians are obese, compared to only 50% of heterosexual women. The issue is being called a matter of “public health importance,” and the grant reads,

“Obesity is one of the most critical public health issues affecting the U.S. today. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in the determinants, distribution, and consequences of obesity are receiving increasing attention. However, one area that is only beginning to be recognized is the striking interplay of gender and sexual orientation in obesity disparities. It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic.”

This study is one of those really crucial programs that is reportedly being threatened by the infamous and hyper-inflated sequester catastrophe. Yesterday, we learned about another one. Apparently, there’s not just an obesity epidemic among lesbian women, but also a plague of alcoholism.

Since 2009, the University of Illinois has been receiving federal grants for a study called, “Cumulative Stress and Hazardous Drinking in a Community of Adult Lesbians.” A description of the grant states,

“Studies using both probability and nonprobability samples provide ample evidence of lesbians' vulnerability to hazardous drinking. However, very little is known about the factors that increase lesbians' risk for hazardous drinking. We propose to build on and extend our study of sexual identity and drinking…to model effects of cumulative stress on hazardous drinking among lesbians.”

Doesn’t this make it a little more difficult to take our elected officials seriously when they babble on about how the teeniest funding cuts constitute the end of life as we know it?

Last month I contacted my congressman’s office to apply for a White House tour later this year. After providing detailed information for all of the members of my party, I was informed that I would hear back from the office regarding the status of my submission in about a month. However, I received a follow up e-mail well before the month was out, and it wasn’t the news I was waiting for.

“I wanted to update you regarding your Washington, DC tour request,” wrote my congressman’s tour coordinator. “Our office has received word today from the White House that:

Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours.’ ”

Not surprisingly, a number of our US senators and congressmen were incensed by the news that White House tours have been discontinued, reportedly due to funding cuts occasioned by sequestration. Especially since sequestration isn’t really a spending “cut,” after all, but only a reduction in the rate of spending increase.

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran stated, Cancelling White House tours is an unnecessary and unfair way for the Department of Homeland Security to meet its budget-cutting obligations.”

Is it really, though? What is it that makes one program special and another frivolous? Isn’t everyone just pursuing their own interests and working overtime to milk the federal cash cow?

Huffington Post’s Sam Stein seemed to insinuate as much in his column Thursday, entitled, “White House Tours Obsess GOP Lawmakers Despite Sequestration Hits Back Home.” Examining the complaints of Republican lawmakers following the announcement that the tours had been suspended, he points to the supposedly more serious cuts occurring in the legislators’ home states, as though to chide them for not showing enough concern for their own constituents.

The question is, at a time when our nation is over $16 trillion in debt, should we really be avoiding spending decreases like a plague, and expecting every government official to be fighting to keep as much of the available funding in his own state?

Or should we hope for a common sense response that finds lawmakers stepping up to the plate and laying their lucrative but useless and meddlesome projects on the chopping block? Would it be too much to hope that frivolous programs and studies and foreign aid might give way to a concern like allowing the American people to visit their own national monuments and federal buildings?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul may have said it best when he wrote on his facebook page, “We supposedly can't find $17,000 a week for school kids to tour the White House, but somehow still have $250 million for Egypt.

And for studies to determine why lesbians get drunk and fat. I’m sure they’ll all be very appreciative.

(For those who are under the impression that this misappropriation of our money is a pair of isolated incidents, a quick look at Senator Coburn’s 2012 Wastebook might be enough to peel the scales from their eyes.)

 
 
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The Romeike family fled Germany for the right to homeschool their children. Now they face deportation from the US. What does this mean for US
homeschool freedom?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 15, 2013)

In 1938, the practice of homeschooling was outlawed in Germany by Adolf Hitler and the infamous Third Reich. It was a rough period in German history, as thousands of young people were being pried from their parents’ direction and authority and drafted into the Hitler Youth program, where they were supposed to be trained as Aryan supermen (and women). In a few short years, vast numbers of these youth would be bleeding out on the battlefields of Europe, on the wrong side of the war for the soul of the world.  

Sadly for freedom and for many families, Germany has never lifted this archaic and totalitarian ban on homeschooling. On the contrary, the German government seems to have stepped up its opposition to home-educating parents over the past decade, forcing several families to flee, and others to enroll their children in state-approved schools against their will. The German Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.” It sounds like they aren’t really big on religious or philosophical diversity over there.

Some notable victims of this small-minded and grasping totalitarianism are Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children.  Uwe and his wife are music teachers and evangelical Christians who for years have been unsuccessfully seeking the right to homeschool their children. The Romeikes 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. “I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” Mr. Romeike said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

After accruing the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and facing police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home, the Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Their case was taken up by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which helped the Romeikes in 2010 to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights.

The HSLDA explains, “The U.S. law of asylum allows a refugee to stay in the United States permanently if he can show that he is being persecuted for one of several specific reasons. Among these are persecution for religious reasons and persecution of a ‘particular social group.’ ”

On January 26th, 2010, Memphis federal immigration judge, Lawrence Burman, granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. Judge Burman also denounced the German policy heatedly. In a statement, he called it, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”  

HSLDA’s Mike Donnelley called the ruling, “an extraordinary recognition of the fundamental importance of the right of parents to raise their children according to the dictates of individual conscience.”

We were so relieved!” Hanne said. “We had been trying hard not to get our hopes up too high. [The HSLDA attorneys] had assured us that even if we lost at this level, we would appeal and that an appeal could take years. So we knew that we wouldn’t have to go right back to Germany. But to win at this point was such an answer to prayer. Our children were jumping up and down and everyone in the room was hugging us and celebrating. Tears were flowing in gratitude for God’s protection for our family.”

The Romeikes were able to continue quietly homeschooling their children in a small Tennessee town. For a time.

Sadly, their period of respite was not to last. The Romeikes’ case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with the US government seeking to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany. And the details of Attorney-General Holder’s arguments in the brief for Romeike v. Holder are sinister, to say the least.

According to Holder, parents have no fundamental right to home-educate their children.

HSLDA Founder, Mike Farris, warns,

“[Holder’s office] argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.

Let’s assess the position of the United States government on the face of its argument: a nation violates no one’s rights if it bans homeschooling entirely. There are two major portions of constitutional rights of citizens—fundamental liberties and equal protection. The U.S. Attorney General has said this about homeschooling. There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. So long as a government bans homeschooling broadly and equally, there is no violation of your rights.”

Farris goes on to reveal another argument presented by the Attorney-General,

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.”

The US Government, says Farris, “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.

Farris contends, “One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. Specifically, one doesn’t have to follow the dictates of a church to claim religious freedom—one should be able to follow the dictates of God Himself.

The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It is an extreme form of identity politics that directly threatens any understanding of individual liberty.”

While Romeike v. Holder is clearly crucially and immediately important to one huddled family yearning to breathe free, the implications of the arguments currently being presented by the US government against them are ultimately important to all American people. Will our courts uphold the rights of parents to raise their children in the ways that seem best to them, or will a government standard be imposed upon the 2 million homeschooling families of the US?

A look at historical precedents puts me in a big hurry to be on the side of liberty.

I give you Friedrich Hayek, from The Road To Serfdom:

There is scarcely a leaf out of Hitler’s book which somebody or other in England or America has not recommended us to take and use for our own purposes. This applies particularly to many people who are undoubtedly Hitler’s mortal enemies because of one special feature in his system. We should never forget that the anti-Semitism of Hitler has driven from his country, or turned into his enemies, many people who in every respect are confirmed totalitarians of the German type.”

For more information about the Romeikes, check out the following sources:

Land of Liberty: The Romeikes’ Journey (HSLDA, January 2010)
US grants home schooling German family political asylum (The Guardian, January 2010)
Judge Grants Asylum to German Home Schoolers (NYTimes, February 2010)
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Homeschoolers (TIME Magazine, March 2010)
German families look to US for asylum (Global Post, April 2010)
The Romeike Family: Still Waiting on Asylum Appeal (HSLDA, October 2011)
German Homeschool Case May Impact U.S. Homeschool Freedom (HSLDA, February 2013)
 
 
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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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