A legal expert is urging Mississippi to stand strong against a lesbian couple’s demand to use state facilities for a commitment ceremony, reports onenewsnow.com. The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum has declined to permit 20-year-old Ceara Sturgis and her partner to use the facility, just as the state-owned museum refused to allow a similar ceremony for two men earlier this year. Officials interpret commitment ceremonies to represent a union, and it cites a 2009 opinion from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, saying that stance is permissible because same-sex marriage is not legal in The Magnolia State. Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel says the looming threat against the state is outrageous. “Now they’re being threatened by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is an organization that supports radical homosexual agenda items,” he reported. “This particular situation, I think, is one where in Mississippi, same-sex marriage is not recognized. And so it would be impermissible, I think, completely wrong to use government facilities to recognize something that is absolutely banned in the state of Mississippi.” But Staver emphasizes that “the agenda of the sexual anarchist movement” is “to put this issue up—homosexuality, lesbianism and whatever the nomenclature of the alphabet may be from day to day—to simply push this into your face and to shove it down the throats of the American people. I believe that this threat of homosexuality and same-sex unions is the biggest threat to our family, to our morality, and to our freedom that we face here in America,” the attorney concluded. As for Mississippi, he believes the state stands on solid ground as it faces the threat of a lawsuit if it does not approve the ceremony by July 25. The SPLC says it is not challenging the state’s ban on same-sex unions, but it does believe commitment ceremonies should be allowed at the museum. Meanwhile, Baptist Press reports that federal judge Daniel Jordan III extended his temporary restraining order July 11 against a state law that could close Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi.
- The Guttmacher Institute released a report finding that states enacted 39 abortion restrictions in , notes lifenews.com. This means that was the second-most productive year in terms of the number of pro-life bills that were passed. The only year that was more productive was 2011, which saw the enactment of 80 pieces of pro-life legislation. Some of these pro-life measures have been largely defensive in nature. Four states (Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin) moved to limit coverage of abortion in the health-insurance exchanges that will be established as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Technological developments prompted three states (Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee) to ban the use of telemedicine for the provision of abortion medication. However, pro-lifers seized the initiative in other states. Three states (Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana) have passed versions of “Pain Capable Abortion Protection Act,” which bans abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, when there is medical evidence that the unborn can feel pain. Utah became the first state to enact a 72-hour waiting period before having an abortion. Arizona and South Dakota strengthened their informed-consent laws by requiring counseling on the negative mental-health consequences of abortion. Mississippi’s law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital has received plenty of attention due to the fact that it may result in the closure of Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic. However, similar laws were signed this year in both Arizona and Tennessee. Some have speculated that the Tennessee law, which took effect July 1, may result in the closure of both abortion clinics in Knoxville. When Republicans make substantial gains in state legislatures, there typically is a short-term increase in the amount of pro-life legislation that is enacted. However, the Republican gains in 2010 have resulted in considerably more pro-life legislation than the Republican gains in 1994. This is partly due to the impressive gains the pro-life position has made in the court of public opinion. It is also due to the fact pro-lifers are focusing more on the states and have become more creative in their thinking—emphasizing clinic regulations, public support for crisis pregnancy centers, and other strategies to lower abortion rates. All of this bodes well for the future of the pro-life movement.
- Census Bureau data reveals that most U.S. families headed by illegal immigrants use taxpayer-funded welfare programs on behalf of their American-born anchor babies, reports judicialwatch.org. Even before the recession, immigrant households with children used welfare programs at consistently higher rates than natives, according to the extensive census data collected and analyzed by a nonpartisan Washington, D.C., group dedicated to researching legal and illegal immigration in the U.S. The results, published this month in a lengthy report we said to be “hardly surprising.” Basically, the majority of households across the country benefitting from publicly funded welfare programs are headed by immigrants, both legal and illegal. States where immigrant households with children have the highest welfare use rates are Arizona (62 percent), Texas, California, and New York with 61 percent each, and Pennsylvania (59 percent). The study focused on eight major welfare programs that cost the government $517 billion the year they were examined.
- President Obama and top campaign staffers made it clear this past weekend they will not apologize for saying the financial company Bain Capital outsourced jobs under Mitt Romney’s leadership and suggesting Romney may have committed a felony with his SEC filings, reports Fox News. Fact-checkers reportedly have repeatedly found that records accurately show Romney instead left Bain in 1999. Romney challenged Obama to “rein in” his campaign team and called the comment “absurd” and “beneath the dignity of the presidency.” Thehill.com reports that Republican strategist Karl Rove called President Obama’s recent attacks on GOP candidate Mitt Romney “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort” and said the campaign is making a big mistake. Thehill.com also reports that The Republican National Committee hit Obama Friday for not taking more responsibility for the problems in his administration, saying that he’s unfairly attacking GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s record as a chief executive of a private equity firm when he has “scandals” of his own. The RNC pointed to “Fast and Furious” as a key example. The botched operation was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and authorized the sale of nearly 2,000 weapons to known straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels. It may have contributed to the killing of a Border Patrol agent.
- On Wednesday the United States Department of Agriculture declared that more than 1,000 counties and 26 states that have been affected by the recent drought had been declared natural disaster areas, reports freedomoutpost.com. That makes this declaration the largest natural disaster in the history of America, said the report. The declaration covers more than half of the nation and ends up giving farmers and ranchers who have suffered from the drought access to federal aid and low-interest emergency loans, or taxpayer money.
- In the past three years, over 1,000 Christians in Nigeria have been brutally murdered by an extremist Islamic group known as Boko Haram, but the United States has refused to classify the group as being a terrorist organization, according to godfatherpolitics.com. Nigeria’s Christian leaders had asked the United States government to place Boko Haram on the list of terrorist organizations. The radical Islamic group has vowed to eradicate all Christians from Nigerian soil and will continue to murder men, women, and children in the process unless something is done to stop them. Instead of declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization, the U.S. government placed only three of the group’s leaders on a terrorist blacklist and then said that it was more important to address social inequalities in the country first. Christian leaders in Nigeria said the actions or perhaps lack of action by the United States has only served to make the group bolder and more aggressive in their pursuit to exterminate the remaining Christians. Appearing before House Foreign Affairs Committee, Christian Association of Nigeria President Avo Oritsejafor said the decision was “the equivalent of designating (Osama) bin Laden a terrorist but failing to designate Al-Qaeda a terrorist organization. By refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, the United States is sending a very clear message, not just to the federal government of Nigeria, but to the world that the murder of innocent Christians and Muslims who reject Islamism—and I make a clear distinction here between Islam and Islamism—are acceptable losses. It is hypocritical for the United States and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted.”
- For one day next month, the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team will become the Aints, reports Fox News. The Saints, known for off-the-wall promotions in the team’s 20-year history, will have a theme night on August 10 titled “A Night of Unbelievable Fun,” sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists. While the team’s staff generates many of the Saints’ promotions and giveaways, several ideas come from outside sponsors. This promotion fell into the second category, said Saints general manger Derek Sharrer. “I think our message here and our brand of entertainment has always been one that’s been inclusive,” Sharrer said. “When we were approached by the Minnesota Atheists, we felt like it was within our nature to be inclusive and certainly work with them to provide them the opportunity to provide their message in the same way that we have worked with hundreds and hundreds of faith-based groups over our 20 years here in St. Paul.”
- It certainly takes commitment to read all the way through the Bible. Many Christians rarely pick up their Bibles. Many others read only their favorite verses. Only a handful read through the whole Bible, even if it takes a lifetime. However, imagine going one step further. Imagine writing the whole Bible . . . by hand! Ennis, Texas, celebrated a dedication for a project that helped bring the community together in reverence with the unveiling of a plaque highlighting the dedication of the more than 350 individuals who spent several years writing and illustrating the whole Bible by hand, reports layman.org. Former President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 the Year of the Bible in the United States, inviting communities across the country to be a part of the observance. Ennis dove into the effort, with individuals from the city’s churches joining together to handwrite and illustrate a copy of the Bible. The completed work is now adequately honored and displayed in the city library. Carmen Osterheld was a key player in rounding people up and making sure each person completed their assigned section. She recruited people from almost every church in Ennis and across all age groups. Osterheld said the importance of the Bible in the lives of many Ennis residents is illustrated by the outpouring of support for the project when it originated. For her part, she says the effort showed her a lot about faith and fellowship. “It was not only the precious people who I met, taking pages with them, (the book contains more than 1,200 pages) not only getting to see the joy of those who wrote from their hospital beds or the little children adding to it,” Osterheld said. “It was taking the finished collection of parchment for binding to the book-binders in Waco.” Osterheld said Library Binding Company in Waco, Texas, hand-sewed the book over 11 hours of effort with a needle and thread. “This volume was the biggest book they ever bound,” Osterheld said. The company went so far as to request permission to take a photo of the Bible, their largest book, with the smallest binding job they had ever done as well. Artwork was a key part of the project, she said. Panel work by local grade-schoolers stands out in her memory, particularly a pen-and-ink drawing of a warrior that fit into the Scripture in Ephesians, a panel page by itself in the text. Overall, the project touched hundreds of lives in the town and continues to do so today. This Bible is truly inspirational. Ray Lowry, Ennis’s head librarian, will be glad to show off one of the library’s greatest acquisitions. He flipped through the large pages, taking time to show the two verses scrawled by a young child just learning to write in the midst of a passage of beautiful, flowing cursive handwriting by a senior citizen in a nursing home.
- Sen. John Kerry announced last week that he plans to pass the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities before July 26, reports ParentalRights.org. He has scheduled a formal committee vote on Thursday, July 19. “This is an unprecedented attempt to jam a binding international treaty through the Senate without proper time for debate or consideration,” said Parental Rights. A hearing last week “was a carefully-orchestrated attempt to get this treaty ratified without any serious consideration. There were nine total witnesses. Only two people opposed to the treaty were allowed to testify. The Administration seeks to promote two ideas that are simply inaccurate: 1. Disabled Americans who travel overseas will directly benefit by U.S. ratification of this treaty; 2. Ratifying a treaty does not require us to comply with international law. They are arguing that a treaty is an empty promise with no actual substance. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution makes it clear that the Administration is wrong. Treaties form a part of the Supreme Law of the Land once ratified. And no one even attempted a serious answer to our core parental rights concern. And no one even attempted a serious answer to our core parental rights concern. Article 7 of the UNCRPD gives government the ability to override every decision of a parent of disabled children if the government thinks that its views are in ‘the best interest of the child.’ This is a radical attempt to take away parental rights. Make no mistake—if they succeed at ratifying this treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is next. This is not a battle just for parents with disabled and special needs children. This is a battle for every parent.”
- The Episcopal Church’s 77th General Convention concluded Thursday with the adoption of a long list of resolutions, from one that calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act to another providing rites for pet funerals and making available liturgical materials to provide pastoral responses to people with animals, including at the time of their death, reports The Christian Post. Episcopal leaders, who met in Indianapolis for over a week, considered dozens of resolutions, the most controversial being the approval of transgender ordination and rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. In protest, leaders from the Diocese of South Carolina, including its bishop, left the convention early after expressing clearly their belief that the decisions mark a departure from Scripture and Anglican tradition. “These resolutions in my opinion are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church—to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform,” said S.C. Bishop the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence. “More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions.” Twelve other bishops also released a report to record their dissent.