Archive of January 14, 2013

Protestors report 1 million in Paris march to defend marriage

Paris, France, Jan 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Over one million people reportedly took to the streets in France on Jan. 13 in opposition to President Francois Hollande's “marriage for all” proposal.

Figures show between 1.3 and 1.5 million protested against their president's plans to pass same-sex marriage, according Bruno Dary, the former military governor of the city of Paris. Numbers from other media outlets range from an estimated 340,000 to 800,000 attendees.

Set to go before France's parliament Jan. 29, the draft law proposes to redefine marriage as a union “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex.”

“It was a kind of a tsunami,” participant Catherine Vierling said of Sunday's demonstration.

“There was a very strong and powerful feeling of determination from everyone” said Vierling, who was part of the committee of the French Abroad of La Manif pour Tous, the event's main organizer.

“There was a peaceful and joyful feeling combined with an intense, strong power,” she added.

Vierling told CNA that Champs de Mars, a large park next to the Eiffel Tower, was so packed that according to the city of Paris, police had to escort buses that were stuck in traffic.

“There were families from all over the country who traveled the whole day,” she said. “My nephews, nieces and brother-in-law woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the train.”

“There were so many young people and people taking trains back at midnight, but families really felt this was needed,” she added.  

Demonstrators included wide range of participants, many with no reported religious affiliation. Numerous gay individuals took part in the event, with slogans including “We're more gay without marriage.”

Attendees also included French gay city mayor, Jean Marc, who is outspokenly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, as well as members from the organization HOMOVOX, which stands for “one voice for homosexuals.”

Those within the Muslim community, of which many had voted for president Francois Hollande for his immigration policies, were also at the event in disapproval of his plans to legalize gay marriage.

Many also protested against the socialist government's plans to legalize adoption for same-sex couples.

“You can have legal papers to protect a child, but this is uncalled for,” said Vierling, who is also a medical doctor.

“The whole thing will cause children to lose their identity and they need to know they came from a mom and a dad,” she added.

Some also opposed the president's failure to fix the economy with slogans “Give us jobs, don't change law on marriage” and labeling its plans for June as “silly actions.”

There were also socialists protesting against their own government's views saying “Please come back, Jospin, they all went crazy,” referring to France's former socialist prime minister.

Young women dressed as French Revolutionaries with phrygian red caps carried signs with “Don't touch my civil code.”

“This is just a political thing and it's going to create so much turmoil,” Vierling said.

“Our future depends on our feet and if we're walking the streets everything can change from one minute to the next, but not if we just sit at home comfortably watching TV,” she added.

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Hobby Lobby shifts insurance plan to delay mandate fines

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has found a way to adjust its employee healthcare plan to delay potentially crippling fines for refusing to comply with the federal contraception mandate.

The company will now “shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months,” announced attorney Peter M. Dobelbower in a Jan. 10 statement.

“Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plan,” Dobelbower said, adding that the retailer “will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties.”

By shifting its insurance plan year, the company will gain time in its battle against the federal contraception mandate, which would have taken effect for it on Jan. 1, 2013.

The controversial mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires that employers provide insurance plans that offer contraceptives – including some drugs that can cause early abortions – and sterilization.

While a narrow exemption to the mandate exists, it does not apply to for-profit businesses or those that hire members of other faiths.

Hobby Lobby is one of dozens of employers that has sued over the mandate, charging that it violates the First Amendment’s guarantees of free exercise of religion.

The company’s founder and CEO, David Green, started Hobby Lobby in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972. Since then, the company has grown to more than 500 stores in 41 states.

The Greens describe themselves as committed Christians who seek to serve God through all their endeavors, including their business. The family donates large amounts to charity, maintains a minimum wage that is considerably higher than that required by federal law and closes their stores on Sundays, sacrificing profit to allow their employees to worship and rest.

As Christians, the Greens object to funding or facilitating any drugs that can cause abortions, including the “morning after” and “week after” pills.

The company was recently denied injunctions by both a district court and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. An injunction would have temporarily blocked the mandate from taking effect while the case is heard in court.

Hobby Lobby then made an emergency injunction appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal was denied on Dec. 26 by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is responsible for hearing emergency requests from the 10th Circuit. Sotomayor stated that the case did not meet the extreme standard necessary for the Supreme Court to intervene.

The Supreme Court still has the option to review the case after the Hobby Lobby appeal is completed in the 10th Circuit.

If the Greens had not been able to adjust their insurance plan year, they could have been subject to fines of up to $1.3 million per day, beginning Jan. 1 of this year. By Jan. 11, these fines could have totaled more than $14 million.

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Mexico grateful for Church help in weapons surrender program

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 14, 2013 (CNA/Europa Press) - Mexico's federal district thanked the Archdiocese of Mexico City for its help in a weapons surrender program which took place last week at the plaza outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Speaking to reporters at the beginning of January, Gov. Miguel Angel Mancera said the response to the program was an indication of the desire for peace among Mexicans.  

Those who turned in their weapons would be given tablets and other tools aimed at helping to foster greater education, he said.  

Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City, who was present at the event, spoke about the violence that has swept across the country in the wake of widespread drug trafficking.

He noted that the Church “cannot remain aloof from this social phenomenon.”

“For this reason we want to join together today with the governor in this project of voluntary disarmament and we will continue to work with him.”

“Thank you for allowing us to collaborate for this great city that is so need of peace,” the cardinal added. “It is symbolic that we are gathered here outside the Shrine of Holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

“In 1531 our peoples were experiencing full-fledged war between the dominated and those who would dominate, with all the violence that this entails,” he said. “Holy Mary of Guadalupe was able to achieve unity between those of diverse cultures, religions and world views.”

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Stanford Law School launches religious liberty clinic

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Beginning this term, students at Stanford Law School have the opportunity to gain knowledge and real-world experience by participating in the nation’s only religious liberty clinic.

“The launch of this new clinic is a significant moment in the development of Stanford's clinical program,” said Stanford law professor Lawrence Marshall, who serves as associate dean for clinical education.

“The Religious Liberty Clinic is unique in the country, and will expose our students to issues that will expand their horizons while developing their expertise as lawyers,” he explained in a Jan. 14 statement announcing the start of the clinic.

To mark the program’s official inauguration, Stanford Law School hosted a Jan. 14 public reception and panel featuring respected religious liberty attorneys, law professors and judges.

The one-of-a-kind Religious Liberty Clinic will offer law students real-world experience in representing diverse clients and defending a wide span of religious beliefs and practices in various situations. It will provide opportunities for practice in the areas of administration, trials and appeals, as well as drafting amicus briefs.

The program will allow students to learn both statutory and constitutional law on religious freedom and to counsel and litigate for individual or institutional clients.

Students will represent clients seeking accommodations to practice their faith freely and will aid in long-term projects regarding religious expression and access in the public square.

The initial cases taken up by the clinic include efforts to help an inmate who has recently converted to Judaism to secure permission for an in-prison circumcision and an amicus brief supporting Native American religious practices.

In addition, the clinic is planning to handle cases involving free exercise of religion in public schools, zoning for a house of worship and employment accommodations.

The Religious Liberty Clinic is made possible partly by a gift of $1.6 million from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit institute that defends religious freedom for all faiths.

“The Becket Fund is proud to fund this extraordinary clinical legal program to teach future lawyers how to defend human dignity and a natural right,” said Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, executive director of the Becket Fund.

She stressed the importance of protecting “the freedom of religion for people of all faiths, when that freedom has been unjustly curtailed.”

Chosen to be founding director of the new clinic is James A. Sonne, an attorney with experience in both practicing and teaching law.

Sonne – who converted to Catholicism during his college years – holds a JD with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was mentored by Professor Mary Ann Glendon.

In addition to practicing law and teaching at Ave Maria School of Law, he has served as a law clerk for a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“I am thrilled to launch this one-of-a-kind clinic that will offer students an opportunity to learn about the ‘real practice of law’ in a unique and fascinating way,” said Sonne.

“It is an honor and a privilege to join the first-rate clinical program here at Stanford,” he remarked, “and I look forward to working with my colleagues to equip our students with the technical skills and professional values critical to their future success in law and life.”

The Religious Liberty Clinic will fall within Stanford’s Mills Legal Clinic, as part of the law school’s new legal education model, which stresses public service and hands-on experience.

“Clinical education is a cornerstone of our curriculum,” said Mary Elizabeth Magill, dean of Stanford Law School.

“Our students learn to be first-rate lawyers by representing clients under the close supervision of the extraordinary lawyers who direct our clinics,” she explained. “This clinic will expose students to legal disputes involving religious practice and belief, disputes that date back to the founding of the nation.”

“Our students will now have a unique opportunity to learn to be lawyers and professionals by taking on the responsibility of representing clients in this ‘old, but new’ field,” she added.

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