Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak has said he can block proposed health care reform legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment to the bill.
The Hyde Amendment, named after the late U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions. The current health care bill, H.R. 3200, is under fire for measures that allow federal funds to circumvent the Hyde Amendment and also mandate insurance coverage of abortion.
Rep. Stupak of Michigan claimed he has as many as 39 Democratic allies who could join Republicans to block the complete legislation from coming to a vote unless the House leadership allows a vote on a Hyde Amendment.
“If you don’t give us a vote, everything is off the table,” he said in an interview with CBN. He added that he didn’t want any “backdoor policies” on abortion.
Rep. Stupak explained that he was “very cautious” on the matter because any “right-to-life riders” pro-lifers have sought to add to prevent abortion funding have been denied or have had their language “watered down” under the current administration.
“We want to see the language [of the bill], we want to work with pro-life groups, we want to make sure we’re doing everything right,” he told CBN.
The proposed House bill is a “drastic change” from past national policy on public funding for abortion, Stupak remarked, adding that he did not want to jeopardize the “sanctity of life” both at its beginning and at its end.
Rep. Stupak also said he would not vote for the final bill unless he thoroughly reviewed it.
New York City, N.Y., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - Thursday night, during the 2009 NFL season’s opening game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Knights of Columbus aired a 60-second 9/11 tribute promoting the importance and necessity of service.
The ad, which ran during halftime of the match up,reminded Americans: “we can still see the best in humanity today," if we "give back."
The commercial featured the story of Capt. Al Fuentes of the FDNY Marine Division. On 9/11 he was trapped beneath the World Trade Center debris for nearly two hours before being rescued.
“What I have been given is another chance,” Fuentes recalls in the commercial. "I need to, and I will, give back: that is what the Knights of Columbus have always shown me for 38 years."
The commercial also directed viewers to www.servicetogether.org, a site with resources for volunteers set up by the K of C.
The commercial was aired in New York City, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Los Angeles. It will also be broadcast in the same cities during the NFL games on Sunday.
Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - Arguments are set to begin in a federal appeal seeking to reverse a New Jersey school district’s policy that banned the performance of religious music in the district’s public schools. Opponents of the ban claim it singles out Christian traditions for disapproval and hostility.
Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia on September 14, the Law Center reports.
Muise noted that Christmas is a national holiday and described religious music in the public schools as “one of the rich traditions of this season.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael Stratechuk, who sued on his own and on behalf of his two children, who are students in the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey. The suit alleges that the ban is an impermissible government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility towards religion, violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Further, the suit claims that the ban deprives Karl and Kurt Stratechuk of the right to receive information and ideas. The Law Center describes this right as an “inherent corollary” of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
The Thomas More Law Center charges that the school district’s 2004 ban was specifically aimed at preventing Christmas music, including simple instrumentals, during the traditional year-end holiday concerts. Traditional Christmas music has been performed at these concerts for over 60 years.
“Those that are hostile to these traditions hide behind the mantle of ‘tolerance,’ only to promote intolerance,” Muise commented. “We learn to understand and respect traditions, customs, and beliefs not by being offended or threatened by the traditions of others, but by understanding the meaning of such traditions and why they have the capacity to inspire.”
According to the Law Center, the disputed school district policy was featured in Fox News anchor John Gibson’s book “The War on Christmas.”
Belmont, N.C., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - Defending itself from a U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission ruling that its refusal to provide contraceptive coverage was discriminatory against women, Belmont Abbey College has retained the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to appeal the decision.
After a faculty member discovered that contraception, abortion and voluntary sterilization were covered by the North Carolina college’s health care policy, the drugs and procedures were removed from the plan in December 2007. Though the state of North Carolina requires this coverage, it offers an exemption for religious institutions.
Reuben Daniels Jr., Director of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charlotte District Office, issued an August 5 determination holding that that the denial of prescription contraception drugs constitutes discrimination based on gender “because only females take oral prescription contraceptives.”
“By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women,” he added, according to the Gaston Gazette.
The EEOC also ruled that the college retaliated against faculty members who filed charges with the Commission by identifying them by name in a letter to faculty and staff.
An initial March 2009 ruling found no evidence of gender discrimination. A press release from the Becket Fund claimed that the reversal came “presumably at the direction of the new administration in Washington.”
The Becket Fund joined the college’s legal team on Thursday.
Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, president and founder of the Becket Fund, said that President Barack Obama had “talked a good game” about protecting conscience in his speech at the University of Notre Dame.
“But when his administration went to Belmont Abbey, where the rubber meets the road, it was a very different story,” he said.
Hasson said that the case was a “very important part of a much larger battle” to protect “the good name of conscientious objection in America.”
“Ever since the Quakers, with their gentle stubbornness, persuaded a skeptical America that they should not have to swear oaths or serve in the military against their consciences, we have recognized that principled people are an asset to a society, not a liability,” he continued.
“The EEOC’s action is a direct assault on the principle of conscientious objection itself, and we will resist it vigorously,” Hasson stated.
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - After a visit to the grave of Pope John Paul II on Thursday afternoon, President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal of Panama met this morning with Pope Benedict XVI and extended him an invitation to visit his country.
The meeting with Benedict XVI took place at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandalfo, just outside of Rome.
The audience involved a discussion of the current international and regional situation.
"Attention also focused on certain aspects of the situation in Panama itself, in particular on the social policies launched by the government, development projects for the country, and collaboration between Church and State with a view to promoting Christian values and the common good," a statement from the Vatican press office said.
At the end of their conversation, President Martinelli invited the Holy Father to visit Panama.
Pope John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1983 was the last time a Pontiff spent time there.
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy See is joining in an effort to promote the cultural heritage of Europe by opening the Vatican Museums to the public free of charge.
The Heritage Days initiative was first started in 1991 by the Council of Europe, and has since added almost 50 countries to its effort.
The celebrations this year will take place on Sunday, September 27 and will have as their theme: "European Heritage for Inter-cultural Dialogue."
According to the Holy See's press office, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, the Vatican Museums and the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology are all collaborating in the event.
Saturday, September 26 will see the opening of a photographic exhibition at the San Callisto Catacombs on the Old Appian Way. The exhibition is entitled "Customs and Grave Goods of Rome in Late Antiquity: Christian, Pagan and Jewish tombs compared," and will remain open the next day.
On September 27, visitors will be able enter to the Vatican Museums free of charge. Entrance to all catacombs in Rome that are normally open to the public will also be free.
Owosso, Mich., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - James Pouillon, 63, a pro-life activist known as the "Sign Man" was gunned down this morning as he stood across the street from Owosso High School holding his pro-life sign.
According to Owosso Police Chief Michael Compeau, Pouillon, was shot several times by a 33 year-old male driving by in a car. The shooting took place shortly after 7:30 a.m. and caused officials to place the high school in lock down.
Owosso Police have taken the unidentified 33 year-old into custody and are saying he is also connected to the death of Mike Fuoss, 61, whose shooting was reported to police this morning, just after Pouillon's slaying.
Fuoss was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds just after 8 a.m. at his business Fuoss Gravel, but police officials are still unsure about when he was murdered.
Neighbors in the mid-Michigan town of 16,000 told WNEM TV that all three of the people knew each other. One neighbor said that after the Pouillon's shooting an oxygen tank and the sign that the well-known activist typically carried could be seen laying on the ground. The sign had a photograph of a newborn baby boy and the word "Life" across the bottom.
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life issued a statement on the slaying, saying, "We do not know the motive yet. But this is a time to console one another, and to renew our determination to organize peaceful protests. It is no time for fear. And I am waiting to hear the abortion advocates condemn this killing."
The American Life League also expressed its condolences, and said it is "heartbroken over the loss of a true pro-life hero, gunned down on the day Americans across the country mourn the violent deaths of 3,017 people."
"What a terrible irony that his death, on this day of infamy, brings to mind the 50 million innocent lives lost to abortion," said Shaun Kenney, the League's executive director.
Troy Newman, president of the Wichita, Kansas-based Operation Rescue, said that his organization is "stunned by Jim's murder."
"We denounce this senseless act of violence in the strongest terms, and pray that this murderer will be swiftly brought to justice," he said.
Pro-life groups across the country have been receiving death threats by mail, over the phone and via email in the past several months.
"We have received literally hundreds of death threats in the past three months. Our office has been vandalized three times. Just yesterday, the FBI was in our office and picked up a stack of threatening letters that we received," Newman reported.
"We denounce violence in the strongest terms. The bloodshed must stop both inside and outside of the abortion clinics."
Rome, Italy, Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) -
Police in the mostly Muslim country of Egypt have arrested at least 150 Christians over the past several days for publicly “interrupting” the Ramadan fast.
The leader of the Liberal Christian Movement in Egypt, Samwel Alashay, who is a Coptic Christian, said the arrests are “unconstitutional because Egyptian laws guarantee the complete freedom” of individuals.
Police arrested the Christians for eating on the street during the day. Some have been released after posting $100 in bail.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the movement has sent a letter to the Ministry of the Interior asking for an investigation of the officers involved. “The fact high-level police officers carry out these arrests is a grave sign for Muslims in general and for Christians in particularly, because the country is being transformed into a kind of Taliban state.”
Several organizations have posted statements on Facebook, urging supporters to stay at home and to dress in black as a form of peaceful protest.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - The State Congress of Oaxaca has passed a constitutional reform making it the 16th Mexican state to protect human life from abortion. The reform guarantees that human life will be protected from conception to natural death.
A press release from the Congress indicated 31 votes in favor of the changes to the State constitution granting legal protection to the unborn. “The inhabitants of the State shall enjoy all of the rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution, without distinction of origin, race, color, sex, language, creed, public opinion, social condition or position,” the new text reads.
State representatives said that the new measure is intended to strengthen the family, where respect for life begins. Without respect for the fundamental right to life, they said, “the rest of individual rights could not exist.” The dignity of the human person shall be defended, especially that of the women and children of Oaxaca, they continued, as “with the new constitutional norms the rights of the mother and the unborn are not in conflict, nor is one place above the other. Both complement each other,” they stressed.
The reform allows abortion in cases of rape, life of the mother or fetal deformation.
The other 15 states that have passed pro-life reform are: Querétaro, Baja California, Chihuahua, Campeche, Colima , Puebla, Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Guanajuato, Yucatán, Sonora, Morelos and San Luis Potosí.
Lima, Peru, Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) - The vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay, Bishop Rodolfo Wirz, is lamenting the recent approval by the Uruguayan Senate of a law allowing homosexuals to adopt. The measure, the bishop said, “is a wrong decision that is going to jeopardize all society ,but especially our children” and is “a step backwards for development.”
Bishop Wirz told CNA that the Church respects homosexual persons but that when it comes to the issue of “adoption, that is, raising a girl or boy whose identity is at stake, and of the complementarity between fatherhood and motherhood, beyond the religious dimension, we think this measure is inappropriate, it is counterproductive and of no benefit to our society.”
“I think the passage of this law is a step backwards for the development of society,” he continued. “Moreover, being the first Latin American country to pass a law allowing homosexuals to adopt is not a point in our favor; rather, it is unfortunate and sad because this is not the way to help boys and girls who need to be adopted,” he said.
Defending the family
After pointing out that the decision by the Uruguayan Senate “goes beyond the religions dimension,” Bishop Wirz recalled that “in the humanistic dimension the family needs to be defended, not only as the basic cell of the Church but of society as well, as the Constitution acknowledges.”
“The stable relationship between a man and a woman who will be physically and spiritually fertile through adoption needs to be defended,” the bishop continued. “The family needs all the legal support and appreciation society can give, all of the Church’s contribution in the spiritual dimension, so that it can be strengthened, so that it can continue to be the basic cell” of society, he said.
“Without a doubt the family, more than ever, needs to be explicitly and directly defended and supported,” Bishop Wirz stressed. “We must be very clear about this issue because it affects us all. At the same time, we must discuss this cordially, helping people to see the benefit of a stable relationship
between a man and a woman who form a marriage.”
Owosso, Mich., Sep 11, 2009 (CNA) -
Harlan Drake, the 33-year old man arrested in connection with the murder of the Christian pro-life activist James “Jim” Pouillon as well as business owner Mike Fuoss told detectives that he targeted Pouillon because he was “offended” by his pro-life message. Drake also revealed that he planned to target a third man, but was arrested before he could carry out his plan.
This morning around 7:20 a.m., Drake drove to Owosso High School where he shot and killed Pouillon as he held a poster of a baby with the word, “Life,” written across the front.
A press release from Citizens for a Pro-Life Society spoke about the dedication Pouillon had to protecting the unborn. “The victim, dependent on an oxygen tank and who wore leg braces, was a committed pro-life activist who for many years stood outside of Flint area abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood offices in the hope of turning women away from their abortion decision.”
Following the shooting, Pouillon’s sign and oxygen tank could be seen in the grass near the street.
CNA spoke with Cal Zastrow, a close friend of Pouillon’s for 18 years who described him as a “wonderful, Christian, peaceful man.”
“Jim was ready for this,” Zastrow said as he recalled a time when they were both protesting outside of an abortion clinic in Saginaw, Mich. and were threatened by someone in a car driving by.
“Jim looked up at the sky and smiled and said, ‘thank you Jesus.’” He continued, “Jim was ready for this. His life had been threatened many, many times.”
Though some news reports have painted Pouillon as confrontational, Zastrow pointed out that abortion supporters consider “little old ladies with a handful of rosary beads on the corner” confrontational too.
Poullion, a born-again Christian was “a very peaceful man,” his friend stated. “Very non-violent, he never approved of violence and he never threatened anybody.”
This morning, Drake also drove to Fuoss Gravel where he shot and killed company president Mike Fuoss. According to ConnectMidMichigan.com, NBC25, Drake’s mother used to work for Fuoss.
Drake told detectives that there was third man he was planning to target, a realtor named James Howe. Before tracking him down, Drake decided to stop at his own house, where police were waiting to arrest him.
Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry has noted that “The indication is that he had ill will ... a grudge against these three individuals."
Colbry went on to say that Drake “was offended by the manner of Mr. Pouillon's message."
Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society Monica Migliorino Miller defended Pouillon in a statement saying, “Jim died while giving a peaceful witness to the sacredness of human life. He stood outside of the local high school on many occasions holding a sign of a baby to send a message to the students that abortion is the taking of innocent life. Now his life has been taken as he stood in witness against the injustice of abortion.”
“Jim Pouillon is a hero—he died for the cause of life,” Miller said.
The organization, Missionaries to the Preborn, also spoke highly of Pouillon, “Jim was a selfless, soft-spoken, kind-hearted man. All who knew him, knew this. Please pray for Jim's family.”
The Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Mich. released a statement saying that while they don’t know the specifics of what happened, the shooting is a “tragedy, since violence is never a justifiable way to solve problems.”