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Is domestic law enforcement paranoia turning the US into a police state?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on November 7th, 2013)

Judging by the way the Department of Homeland Security is spending your money, domestic unrest may be coming soon to a city near you. The DHS has been making purchases lately that seem to signal a federal fear of riots across the nation in the coming months. The obvious question is, what do they know that they American people don’t? A more enduring and chilling question is what will be the end result of America’s increasingly militarized police force?

PressTV reported this morning that the DHS has stated its intentions, via the Federal Business Opportunities website, to spend half a million dollars on 240,000 pepper spray projectiles, 100 pepper spray launchers and 36 “riot expansion kits.”

PressTV explained,

“The PepperBall TAC-700 pepper spray launcher ‘features full auto, semi-auto, or 3 round burst providing up to 700 rounds per minute, and is accurate to 60 feet with area saturation up to 150 feet.’ According to a video demonstration, the TAC-700 has a ‘strong psychological influence’ on the people it is being used against because it is so loud and sounds like an automatic machine gun.”

The equipment was designed for use in riot control situations, although the contract on the website states that the purchases are being made for training purposes.

The recent controversy is only the latest in a string of far more alarming incidents involving what many see as paranoid behavior on the part of the federal agency.

In February a ruckus was caused when it came to light that the DHS was training officers with practice targets featuring photographs of children, young mothers, pregnant women, and disabled elderly people who were depicted as armed with handguns.

The No More Hesitation campaign was supposedly designed to break down stereotypes associated with generally non-threatening figures, for the purpose of saving officers’ lives. However, judging by the ensuing outcry, the American people seem to feel there are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable. Furthermore, they don’t want those constraints shot down by the domestic task force that has been constructed to protect them.

Last week, it was revealed that the DHS is set to spend $80 million dollars on hiring armed guards for use at “public demonstrations” and “civil disturbances” in upstate New York. The information was acquired via another posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

But it’s not just the policy-makers at the DHS who seem to be developing paranoid habits and an irrational fear of the American people. In recent months, local law enforcement personnel all over the country have drawn fire repeatedly for actions that many insist constitute severe violations of civil liberties.

In August, Sarah Boaz, a Texas resident of Richland Hills, was ticketed for running a stop sign. The New York Daily News reported Boaz lost the ticket and failed to pay it on time. She expected to receive a late fee, but was shocked when a city marshal handcuffed her outside of her house one morning and carted her off to jail, where she was unexpectedly subjected to a strip search that left her overwhelmed and confused – and not a little indignant.

In a similar story, accompanied by outrageous surveillance cam footage, Dana Holmes is suing officers who she claims illegally strip-searched her after jailing her for a DUI arrest. However, the only thing that isn’t entirely certain is whether the search was illegal, since video evidence shows it clearly occurred. In the seriously disturbing clip, three male officers and one female officer jerk Holmes off of wall and onto the ground, drag her into a padded cell and then proceed to remove all of her clothes.

“I just felt helpless and degraded… I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me,” Holmes told the local news station. “I just had all kinds of things going on in my head. I was scared and I lay there crying.”

Holmes’ experience is not the only instance of its kind. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that two Texas women are suing after they were subjected to cavity searches at traffic stops. The women were pulled over for speeding and considered the searches completely unwarranted and inexplicable. Thousands of Americans agreed, and Angela Dobbs, one of the plaintiffs, said she has received worldwide support.

Dobbs also said she’s heard from numerous other women who have experienced cavity searches after being stopped by state troopers, but who were too afraid to come forward. Clearly the outrage that Dobbs and Hamilton suffered was not simply a poor decision made by a rookie officer.

In an article for The Guardian earlier this month that raised questions about the 1033 program, an initiative that allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces, Michael Shank pointed to the mounting evidence that suggests the police force in America is looking more and more like the military. 

The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action,” he wrote, warning of, “the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”

Someone is training law enforcement officials in this heavy-handed behavior. The question is why? And what will become of civil liberties in a nation that tolerates these abuses at the hands of domestic officials?

(First published at the 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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NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden and national intelligence director James Clapper both broke the law. What's the difference?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 27, 2013)

Whistleblower and former National Security Administration (NSA) employee, Edward Snowden, has been making headlines since he stunned the citizens of the United States three weeks ago with one of the most significant data leaks in the history of US classified intelligence.

After months of planning and preparing, Snowden abandoned his girlfriend, family, comfortable lifestyle, salary and job to flee the US and release from hiding in Hong Kong a collection of shocking documents revealing massive federal wiretapping programs operative in the US.

The documents revealed the existence of a project called PRISM, which has been utilized by the NSA for years to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. According to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just $20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and a mysterious category called “special requests.”

Other disturbing details revealed by the leak include the court order that compels Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis, all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” and forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the order to anyone.

Snowden also divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.

After capturing public notice by releasing the sensitive documents, Snowden has eluded captivity and set out on a dubious globe-hopping venture that continues to attract worldwide attention.

And not all of that attention is positive. The 29-year-old fugitive’s actions were illegal, after all. Some are calling the leak that disclosed NSA bullying of private companies like Verizon, “treasonous.” Kentucky Republican Representative King said Sunday that he thinks it is, “important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”

But when asked for his own thoughts on the criminality of his actions, Snowden told The Guardian, “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me.”
  
One Senator seems ready to agree with Snowden’s charge of hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that it remained to be determined how Snowden’s memory would go down into history, but gave an insightful warning regarding the opinions of generations to come.

"They're going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden," he said. "Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."

Paul was referring to an incident that took place in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."

"No sir," Clapper responded. "It does not. Not wittingly.”

“He [Clapper] said they were not collecting any data on American citizens,” Paul said, “and it turns out they're collecting millions of data on phone calls every day. So it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence community."

"I would say that Mr. Snowden hasn't lied to anyone,” Paul continued.

"He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to the Constitution, and he believes that, when James Clapper came in March, our national director of intelligence came and lied, that he [Snowden] was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. This is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt the administration and their word to us when they talk to us, because they have now admitted they will lie to us if they think it is in the name of national security."

Snowden and Clapper both broke the law, thus undermining our nation’s system of government. The difference is that one of them did so in the name of truth-telling and honesty and the other through lies and for the sake of keeping hidden what the American people have the right to know. One did so in the name of correcting the ills of the system of government he breached, and the other for the sake of protecting those ills by burying them deeper yet into the gaping well of classified information.

 

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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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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Planned Parenthood representative: babies born alive & breathing after abortion can be killed

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on April 1, 2013)



A baby was born alive during a botched saline abortion on April 6, 1977. Weighing just two lbs and severely injured by the abortion solution which had burned her skin, the child was premature and had cerebral palsy.  Her parents, two young teenagers, released her to the foster care system of the state, and she was later adopted at the age of four. Gianna Jessen is now a recording artist, public speaker and pro-life activist who seeks to raise awareness regarding the rights of abortion survivors. She understands, in a way many of us cannot, the brutal nature of abortion and the value of laws that protect infants born alive. She knows that if someone at the hospital where she was accidentally born had not intervened on her behalf, she could have been left to die in a utility room on a heap of soiled linens.

In 2008, nurse Jill Stanek explained in a riveting and shocking video that many abortion survivors have not fared as well as Gianna. Many have been denied medical care and simply abandoned. As 2012 Presidential Candidate Ron Paul shared in his ad, “Life,”  during his time as an ob/gyn doctor in Texas, he witnessed viable and breathing babies that were delivered after botched abortion procedures who were left to die, while premature babies born to expectant parents were given every consideration and surrounded by doctors and nurses fighting to prolong their lives.

It is incidents like these that have inspired “Born Alive” legislation all around the nation, providing legal protection for infants who survive an abortion procedure. This week, one such bill went up before a committee in the Florida House of Representatives.

Horrifically, although not surprisingly, the “Infants Born Alive” bill was challenged by the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates sent Alisa LaPolt Snow to present their case at the committee hearing. The video of her testimony is cringe-worthy and horrible, but profoundly indicative of the criminally callous nature of the abortion industry.

“It is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief,” Rep. Jim Boyd says to Snow. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

The response Snow has to give to his question is so reprehensible that she even seems embarrassed to give it. “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” she manages to say.

Rep. Daniel Davis then goes on to probe a little deeper. “What happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving. What do your physicians do at that point?”

Snow bristles. “I do not have that information,” she replies. “I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information.”

“I understand that you’re not a physician,”
Evans rejoins. “But you do represent physicians who do perform this activity. Can you tell me what happens when a baby is alive on the table? At that point, what do they do with the baby that is struggling to live?”

“I don’t know,”
says Snow hurriedly. “And, as it’s been referenced earlier, you know, we don’t know how prevalent this situation is.” Does she know that her statements are shocking to the civilized world as she pauses here and allows her eyes to dart about uneasily? Does it occur to her that even if the situation only happens once in the whole state of Florida, someone is going to be grateful someday for the law that gave them life? Someone, perhaps, like the beautiful Gianna Jessen?

Evans’ looks stunned as he appeals to the chairman. “I—I don’t know how else I can get an answer Mr. Chairman,” he says.

Rep. Jose Oliva addresses Snow again. “You stated that a baby born alive on a table as a result of a botched abortion, that that decision should be left to the doctor and the family. Is that what you’re saying?” The barbarity of this concept is hard to take in all at once.

Snow looks uncomfortable as she reiterates her earlier statement. “That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider.”

Oliva doesn’t miss a beat. “I think that at that point, the patient would be the child struggling on the table. Wouldn’t you agree?” he counters.

Snow pauses, caught off-guard. She laughs. “Uhh, that’s a – really good question. I don’t know how to – answer that,” she says. “I – uh, you know, I think – I would be glad to have more, you know, conversations with you about this.” She nods her head decidedly, signaling that she has nothing else to say. She has been defeated.

Or has she? In a civil, humane society, where vulnerable and innocent lives are respected, Snow’s little testimony would be a scandal and an abomination. To people who do honor and cherish the lives of babies, it is just that. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately clear that we do live in such a society. And when people like this woman hold high positions among us and lobby on behalf of the rights of adults to kill living children, my doubts get more and more pronounced.

The bill ultimately passed the committee on Wednesday.

 
 
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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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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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Senator Rand Paul: "I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, & we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 18, 2013)



President Obama yesterday released a list of descriptions of the 23 executive orders he is planning to put into place following an extended national debate regarding gun control. While some of these descriptions are so vague and redundant that they add practically nothing to our understanding of the President’s plans, others are plainer and more alarming.

All are confirmation that an arrogant and authoritarian approach to guns on the part of our leadership is imminent. All demonstrate powerfully the presence of a deadly epidemic in our national consciousness. That epidemic is our population’s ill-founded and seemingly inexorable insistence on trusting in authority figures to fix everything, to always know what to do, to make everything better for us.

Fortunately for the American people, Senator Rand Paul is one legislator who doesn’t seem to be suffering from this malady. Consequently, he released a plan of his own yesterday.

“In the United States, we do not have a king. But we do have a Constitution. We also have a 2nd Amendment. I will fight tooth and nail to protect it,” he wrote on his facebook page. “There are several of the executive orders that appear as if the President is writing new law. That cannot happen. My bill will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation. No president should be allowed to overstep the bounds of the Constitution.”

Paul’s bill is called the Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act of 2013 and it has several purposes. The first purpose is to condemn the use of executive orders which undermine the powers reserved for Congress. The bill points to Article I of the Constitution, which states, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.”

The bill then declares that the President’s recent executive actions and impending executive orders “could be construed to describe an attempt by the executive to make laws in violation of the Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment.”

A Capitol Hill source reportedly told The Daily Caller that Paul’s legislation is “expected to do three things: nullify Obama’s executive orders, defund them and ask the Senate to file a court challenge to them.”

“I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Paul said in an interview with Hannity Wednesday night.

The Kentucky Senator didn’t limit his criticism of executive action to the current President, however. “It's been a long battle that we've been losing gradually and even Republican presidents have also usurped their executive privilege to exert more authority than the constitution gave them. But, you know, our founders looked to Montesquieu, and Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and legislative powers.”

Paul says his bill should be introduced early next week.

But Senator Rand Paul is not the only one to challenge the President, and there is reason to believe that his bill will receive widespread support from citizens all over the nation. State legislators, sheriffs, and other authority figures from a number of other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming and Oregon have offered negative responses to the President’s actions.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a letter to Mississippi House Speaker Phil Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves that the president's Executive Order "infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history. I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the President illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement,” he added.

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote, "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals no matter how heinous the crimes to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws." He added that he would not enforce any laws which “offended the constitutional rights” of residents in his district.

Early in the week, Texas State Rep. Steve Toth declared that he will be filing legislation to "assist the protection of the Second Amendment." The Firearms Protection Act would make "any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state's boundaries.”
He also explained that "anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal."

"We can no longer depend on the Federal Government and this Administration to uphold a Constitution that they no longer believe in," Toth said in a statement. "The liberties of the People of Texas and the sovereignty of our State are too important to just let the Federal Government take them away."


 
 
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Senator Rand Paul warns indefinite detention is back: a House-Senate committee led by Sen. McCain has presented a new draft of the 2013 NDAA bill – without the Feinstein-Lee amendment

(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 21, 2012)

Just a month ago, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was making headlines by threatening to hold up the 2013 NDAA bill. The NDAA is a federal law that is passed every year, specifying the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense, although each year's act also includes other provisions. Paul’s demand was for a vote on an amendment to secure the right to a jury trial.

“If you don't have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out?” he pleaded in an address before the Senate on November 30th.

As anyone knows who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning on the night of the 30th with c-span on their screens and their hearts pounding, he seemed to win a quite glorious victory.

Amendment #3018, which was introduced by California Sen. Feinstein and Mike Lee of Utah and enthusiastically supported by Rand Paul, passed the Senate by a wide margin of 67-29 that night. It provided that,

“an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

Many embraced this amendment as a solution to the wildly unpopular clause in Section 1021 of the 2011-2012 NDAA, which provided for the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens judged to be involved in terrorism or “belligerent acts” against the US.

Others were not so sure, insisting that the line about an Act of Congress “expressly authorizing such detention” was a loophole allowing for Section 1021 to remain in effect. Congressman Justin Amash stated,

“Well, that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”

Mike Lee offered his full response countering Congressman Amash’s concern on his website.

On the whole, most defenders of freedom seemed to agree that, if not perfect, amendment #3018 still offered some protections to American citizens. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a practically legendary champion of liberty, wrote on his facebook page,

“I applaud the Feinstein-Lee amendment for moving the debate forward. In the House most Republicans believe that a habeas hearing is sufficient for due process. The Feinstein-Lee amendment makes clear that anything short of a jury trial is not due process.”

Today, Senator Paul had some sad news to announce: A House-Senate conference committee led by Senator John McCain has stripped amendment #3018 from the new draft of the NDAA bill. Senator Levin confirmed this, saying, “The language of the Senate bill was dropped,” but, according to Politico’s Juana Summers, declined to offer any further comments.

"The decision by the NDAA conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to strip the National Defense Authorization Act of the amendment that protects American citizens against indefinite detention now renders the entire NDAA unconstitutional," Sen. Paul warned.

When I entered the United States Senate, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is for this reason that I will strongly oppose passage of the McCain conference report that strips the guarantee to a trial by jury,” Paul further elaborated.

The good news is that your senators took that same oath. The bad news is that they need regular and animated reminders of the fact. The good news is that you have the opportunity to give them exactly that.

Now is as good a time as any to dial up both of your two senators at all of their offices and leave your message explaining the latest developments in the struggle for individual liberty. Remind them of their oath. You might also need to remind them that you watch, you listen, you care and you vote. They had better do the same.


(This article was first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 

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