A United Nations treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities went down to defeat in the Senate on Tuesday in a 61-38 vote, reports thehill.com. The treaty, backed by President Obama and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation as dozens of Senate Republicans objected that it would create new abortion rights and impede the ability of people to homeschool disabled children. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued the treaty would infringe on U.S. sovereignty, an argument echoed by other opponents. “This unelected bureaucratic body would pass recommendations that would be forced upon the United States if we were a signatory,” he said. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dick Lugar (Ind.), John McCain (Ariz.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with Democrats in favor of the treaty. Mike Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association remarked to friends after the vote, “I am so grateful for your efforts over the past few weeks as you stood up for parental rights and against the United Nations dictating care for disabled people. Your calls, emails, and personal visits made the difference in defeating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As we and many others said, this UN treaty was never about protecting the disabled: our nation’s laws already provide the greatest protection for these precious people, and our nation’s great example should be held up as a model for the rest of the world. Rather, this UN treaty was all about who should make crucial decisions for people with disabilities: their parents and caregivers, or UN bureaucrats? This UN treaty was all about who should make laws and policy for American citizens: our elected leaders, or unaccountable UN bureaucrats?” The battle waged by foes of the treaty is not over, however. Said Farris, “We won the battle, but not the war. Senate leadership has already announced they will bring the CRPD back up for a vote in the next Congress. We know that the Obama administration is pushing for more UN treaties, chief of which is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We only have a few short weeks to prepare for the treaty being re-introduced and we need your help!”
- The Eldorado High School girls’ soccer team in New Mexico will play in the state tournament without its head coach, reports koat.com. Tom Hirschman was forced to resign after violating Albuquerque Public School policy. ”I was shocked that it went straight to where it went and the manner in which it was taken,” Hirschman said. The coach said he was forced out because he violated district policy twice. The first incident happened last year when he watched movies with the girls that the team had picked. He said the movies can be interpreted as having religious undertones. “We used them as team building and a platform to spread positive character trait and I think a lot of what’s happened is we’ve taken things out of context,” Hirschman said. The second issue happened this season when an opponent got hurt on the field. ”I was asking the kiddo if I could pray for her and prayed with the team for her and that’s a direct violation of APS policy,” Hirschman said. The APS athletic handbook states no school employee representative or coach should initiate encourage lead, promote, or participate in prayer with students.
- For decades, visitors from around the world descended on the small Ozark mountain hamlet of Eureka Springs, Ark., to see The Great Passion Play, the story of Christ’s last week on earth. The play with a cast of hundreds, including live animals, was performed for 45 seasons in the shadow of the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks statue on Magnetic Mountain. But no more. The lights are out on the statue, and it and a 700-acre campus are up for sale, reports charismanews.com. The Elna M. Smith Foundation, which owns the site, has announced it is unable to continue producing the play, which ran from May to October each year. The foundation has also shut the doors on exhibits including its famous Bible collection. “Our hope and prayer is that The Great Passion Play will continue in some way to tell ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,'” Keith Butler, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, said in a statement. For Eureka Springs, a Victorian tourist town of 2,074 people, the closure is a major blow. Its visitors bought meals, rented rooms, and made important contributions to the local economy. The Elna M. Smith Foundation was founded in the 1960s by Elna and Gerald L. K. Smith, a 1944 presidential candidate for the America First Party. He was known for his conservative views, pushing an anti–United Nations agenda. In the 1960s, the couple retired to Eureka Springs and bought a historic house and 167 acres on Magnetic Mountain. The Smiths raised $1 million to build the Christ statue, constructed with 320 tons of reinforced concrete. It is one of the largest statues of Jesus in the world and can be seen from 20 miles away. The couple then created The Great Passion Play in a natural amphitheater on Magnetic Mountain. The play featured 200 cast members and live animals on a 500-foot-wide stage. It was one of Arkansas’ leading tourist attractions for decades. The production, at the height of its popularity, drew 250,000 to 300,000 visitors a year, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. It is estimated that more than 7 million people have seen the production. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he and his wife, Janet, honeymooned in Eureka Springs and have fond memories of the site. Huckabee told Reuters he first saw the play when he was about 10. “It was a very powerful presentation,” said Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister. “I have seen it many times through the years and always appreciated it. It was a wonderful attraction for tourism in Arkansas for many years, and I’m saddened by its closure.”
- As society has rushed to embrace homosexual behavior, the normal bonds of friendship between men have been curtailed, according to writer Trevin Wax in thegospelcoalition.org. When Hollywood produced Brokeback Mountain, a movie that celebrated the relationship of gay cowboys, people began joking about men who go camping together and sleep in pup tents. Men are no longer free to express affection and friendship in ways they did a generation ago. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality and horror stories about child abusers like Jerry Sandusky are enough to cause men to think twice before doing anything that could be misconstrued in a sexual manner. “What were once normal expressions of affection and love have been romanticized and sexualized. Our culture is losing the opportunity to have men who resemble Sam and Frodo—lasting friendships forged through trial and suffering, and yet whose affections were not romantic in nature.” Wax cited examples such as Theodore Roosevelt, who “wrote letters to other men that expressed great love and tenderness, to the point it makes modern day readers feel uncomfortable, and Abraham Lincoln, who was open about sharing a bed with Joshua Speed. Though some revisionists have sought to refashion this friendship a homosexual relationship, Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin is most certainly right: the fact Lincoln spoke so openly about Speed is a clear sign that his male friendships were just that, friendships.”
- In an age when the darkness of Satan’s influence lurks perilously in our society and schoolchildren are being reprimanded for standing up for their Christian beliefs, one Seminole County, Fla., young man—whose video “David After Dentist” has had 116 million views—has become a beacon of light for Jesus, reports charismanews.com. David DeVore, 12, a sixth-grader at Holy Cross Lutheran Academy in Sanford, Fla., recently was chosen as the grand-prize winner of the 19th annual Seminole County Poster and Essay Contest for his essay entitled, “Don’t Give in to Drugs. Give in to Jesus!” A total of 28 county schools were involved in the state-sponsored contest. In 2009, DeVore was the subject of a video posted on YouTube by his father, David, that made the younger DeVore a household name. It is one of the most viewed videos in the history of YouTube. The essay and his winning had nothing to do with the YouTube video. In spite of his YouTube notoriety, those who know David know it hasn’t gone to his head. “This is who David is,” the father said. “He speaks from his heart, and he is very sensitive to things about the Lord. He is always working on his relationship with Him. It was really nice to see him talk about that in front of all of those people.”
- When a family in Lenoir, N.C., decided to withdraw their son from public school last month in order to teach him at home, an official at the middle school refused to remove him from the public school rolls until the mother first produced a “home school license.” This meant that the child would be considered truant by the public school while being taught in a homeschool setting. After the parents contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance, Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote the school official and advised her that the family was in full compliance with state law, having filed a notice of intent to operate a homeschool with the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education. Black also informed the school official that there was no such thing as a “home school license” and, further, that there was no requirement under state law that parents operating a homeschool provide the school district with any documentation relating to its operation. Black’s letter stated that since the parents had already made a good faith effort to follow the school’s normal withdrawal procedure, they were under no obligation to take any other action in this regard.
- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio addressed three topics of prominent concern to evangelicals during an event in Washington Dec. 5, sharing his views on the age of the Earth, whether homosexuality is a sin, and when life begins, reports Baptist Press. At a breakfast hosted by Politico, Rubio did not back down from comments he made to GQ last month in which he said the age of the Earth is “one of the great mysteries.” “I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ. On Wednesday, Rubio told Politico’s Mike Allen, “Science says it’s about four and a half billion years old, and my faith teaches that that’s not inconsistent.” Rubio is Roman Catholic but has strong ties to Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation in Palmetto Bay, Fla., attending services often and listening to the church’s podcasts. In the GQ interview, Rubio had said, “I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says.” When Allen asked the senator if he believes homosexuality is a sin, Rubio, who does not support same-sex marriage, replied, “Well, I can tell you what faith teaches, and faith teaches that it is.” The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Rubio said, “but it also teaches that there are a bunch of other sins that are no less. For example, it teaches that lying is a sin. It teaches that disrespecting your parents is a sin. It teaches that stealing is a sin. It teaches that coveting your neighbor and what your neighbor has is a sin.” On the topic of abortion, Rubio said life begins at conception. “I wish there were more folks in this town who are deeply committed to science and the belief in science [and] would not ignore that scientific fact,” Rubio said. “They’re pretty brave about saying the age of the Earth, but they don’t want to say when life begins?” A challenge for the Republican Party moving forward, Rubio said at the breakfast, is applying their principles to the 21st century. “We applied them to the 20th century, but now we have to apply them to the 21st century,” he said. Also in the GQ interview, Rubio said Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., is his best friend, behind his wife. DeMint announced Dec. 6 that he is resigning to head the pro-family Heritage Foundation.
- A federal court has rejected a suit by a nationwide secular organization to allow their Indiana chapter to oversee marriage ceremonies in the state. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana ruled Friday that the Center for Inquiry Inc. could not perform solemnization services for marriages, writing that CFI “have not succeeded on the merits of their First Amendment or Equal Protection claim.” “Because Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate actual success on the merits in either of their stated causes of action, their remaining arguments are wholly unavailing,” wrote Evans. “As a result, and pursuant to guiding case law, Plaintiffs’ motion for permanent injunctive relief must be DENIED. Final judgment shall now issue in conjunction with this entry.” Paul Fidalgo, communications director for the Center for Inquiry, told The Christian Post that he was “obviously disappointed in this decision.” “To us, this matter is very clear: The law as it stands in Indiana gives a privilege to religious believers that it denies to nonbelievers,” said Fidalgo. “While those who belong to a faith tradition are accorded the accommodation of being allowed to have their unions made official by a representative of their particular worldview, nonbelievers must either settle for a bureaucratic process with an arbitrary government official.”
- Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Canada have the right to form a pro-life group, after an initial rejection by the student union of their application to form a pro-life club on campus. As LifeNews recently reported, the Kwantlen Student Association, which represents the students from the university’s four Vancouver Metro area campuses, explained its decision by stating that the creation of the Protectores Vitae club “is clearly against our own standing policy on Abortion and a Woman’s Right to Choose.” The group responded to the initial decision by getting the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms to take their case and weigh legal action. Today, in the midst of preparing to file a lawsuit against their student association for discrimination, the pro-life student group at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C. has been granted full club status, according to the National Campus Life Network, a Canadian network.
- Toy makers are being pressured by a Swedish advertising watchdog group to produce gender-neutral Christmas toy catalogs, reports onenewsnow.com. Sweden might be known for its safe, family-friendly Volvo cars, but its Christmas toy ads are anything but family-friendly by conservative standards. One of the most socially liberal nations on the planet now mandates gender confusion in ads geared toward youth: “If you’re a parent looking to audition your son for a toy ad in Sweden, he’ll be more likely to be holding a Barbie or hairdryer than a G.I. Joe or toy gun. And girls will be better off posing with toy assault rifles than Easy-bake Ovens to get a spot. This politically correct casting is done in the name of gender-neutral advertising. And who is producing this new role playing? None other than Sweden’s advertising regulatory body, which has cast itself as the eradicator of ‘gender stereotyping’─or normalcy. Four years ago, the franchise holder for Toys R’ Us and BR Toys, Top Toy, was demonized by Sweden’s advertising standards watchdog for the ‘sin’ of gender stereotyping in its Christmas catalog, which was guilty of displaying boys with guns and girls with dolls in its ads. Today, the toy franchise that spans from Scandinavia to Northern Europe is conditioned to see things the government agency’s way. Top Toy’s Jan Nyberg told Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra that her company was given ‘training and guidance’ from the advertising watchdog group about the way the retailer is to steer clear of gender stereotyping in its ads.”