Churches in the ‘civil rights’ crosshairs
(WNS)–Massachusetts has become the latest state to approve protected class status for transgender persons, and churches should not expect any exemption from the law that goes into effect Oct. 1. According to the Gender Identity Guidance report by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, churches be can considered places of public accommodation and subjected to fines and penalties for not accommodating transgender persons in accordance with their gender identity. The push to revoke religious liberty protections for churches and faith-based organizations that object to the new definitions of sexuality and gender extends to the federal government, which recently issued its own report about ways to enforce the new cultural order.
California judge rules schoolchildren must have vaccines
(WNS)–A federal judge in San Diego denied a request on Aug. 26 that would have allowed unvaccinated children to attend California schools while a legal battle over that state’s mandatory immunization law plays out in court. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw declined a request to pause enforcement of Senate Bill 277, which took effect July 1. The law eliminates religious and personal-belief exemptions for vaccination requirements, compelling all kindergartners and seventh graders attending public or private schools to prove they are fully inoculated against 10 major diseases. The only exception is children who have a medical exemption signed by a physician. The decision comes as California parents are sending their kids back to school, forcing parents of unvaccinated children going into a “checkpoint” grade to weigh their options: homeschool, leave the state, or vaccinate.
Lingering pipeline protesters plan long stay
(WNS)–Brightly colored tents, campers, and tepees span nearly a quarter-mile along the banks of the Cannonball River an hour south of Bismarck, N.D. Flags from tribes across the country flap in the wind along the dirt road through the camp. Horses graze on prairie grasses, children run, and smoke from campfires wafts into the cloudless sky. The campers have come to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, an underground crude oil pipeline that is planned to cross under the Missouri River’s Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The pipeline does not bisect the reservation, but Native Americans and environmentalists argue it could contaminate the Missouri River, a major source of water for many communities, and that it will harm Standing Rock’s sacred sites and burial places.
Christian funeral home owner wins bias suit
(WNS)–A federal court in Michigan sided with a Christian business owner last week, ruling the family-owned funeral home did not violate federal law when it fired a male employee who decided to start dressing like a woman. Anthony Stephens worked at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes as a director and embalmer for seven years before telling his co-workers he’d been “living a lie” and planned to transition into a woman. Thomas Rost, Stephens’ employer, said allowing him to interact with grieving families while dressed as a woman wouldn’t work and decided to let him go. Stephens complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the agency decided to sue Rost for wrongful termination based on an employee’s sex, a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox ruled in a 56-page opinion that forcing Rost to accommodate transgender employees tramples his right to conduct business in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Methodist pastor keeps job after officiating gay wedding
(WNS)–A United Methodist pastor in Charlotte, N.C., who performed a same-sex wedding earlier this year against the rules of her church is escaping without punishment. The Rev. Val Rosenquist’s overseeing body, the Western North Carolina Conference, admitted in a Sept. 6 statement she will keep her position as pastor and will not face a church trial. The decision reflects the ongoing United Methodist battle between recognizing same-sex marriage and preserving the precepts of holiness put in place by founder John Wesley. “Over the last 4 1/2 years there has been a building movement … to disregard the church’s biblical teaching on human sexuality,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, the vice president of the conservative Methodist Good News Magazine. “This is just part of that.”
New York attorney general green-lights late-term abortions
(WNS)–New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, issued a legal notice to the state comptroller on Sept. 8 saying that abortions after 24 weeks are legal in the state. Schneiderman argued that the “health” exception in judicial precedent allows abortion at any time in a pregnancy. “New York law cannot criminalize what the federal Constitution protects,” Schneiderman wrote in the opinion. “[A]n abortion performed after 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy is legal in New York when the fetus is not viable or when the abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant woman.” The “health” of the mother is a nebulous legal exception that can mean physical, emotional, psychological, or familial health, according to the Supreme Court precedent in Doe v. Bolton.
Gay custody battles expand definition of parent
(WNS)–New York’s highest court changed the definition of parenthood in September to include former partners with no biological or adoptive tie to a child. The decision by the New York Court of Appeals overturns a 25-year-old definition restricting parenthood to a biological or adoptive person. The new definition expands the term parent to include caretakers who initially agreed to conceive and raise a child. Under the ruling, if an unmarried same-sex couple with children splits, the non-biological partner has a right to the children just like the biological partner. The court said the previous definition was “unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.” But the ruling also applies to unmarried heterosexual couples who conceive through artificial insemination, and critics say it might open the door to individuals with no close ties to a child dragging a biological parent into court to fight for visitation and custody rights. It also means marriage or adoption is no longer necessary to establish parental rights.
Mother, adult son fight for right to incestuous relationship
(WNS)–A mother and adult son charged with incest in New Mexico are going public with their relationship, saying they are willing to go to jail to fight for the “right” to be together. The mother, Monica Mares, 36, and her son, Caleb Peterson, 19, met again last year after nearly 18 years apart. Another family adopted Peterson soon after Mares gave birth to him. Their relationship soon turned romantic, according to the couple, and Peterson started living with Mares and her two youngest children, ages 5 and 6, in Clovis, New Mexico. Police learned of the relationship during a domestic dispute involving a neighbor in late February, according to reporting by the Clovis News Journal. Peterson admitted to having sexual relations with Mares. Mares and Peterson appeared in court March 10 to face charges of incest, a felony. Last week the court moved the trial date from late August to Oct. 26. If convicted, they could each face up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Abortion advocates using Zika as leverage
(WNS)–The spread of the Zika virus to the United States renews political footing for the abortion debate. Beginning in late August, volunteers from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, started canvassing neighborhoods in South Florida to warn residents about the risk of birth defects linked to Zika. The virus can cause microcephaly, an abnormally small head that restricts brain development, in unborn babies. “There is a lot of misunderstanding and unnecessary fear about the Zika virus,” said Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “And, unfortunately, those fears are motivated by politics.” A STAT-Harvard poll released early this month indicated Zika causes Americans to alter abortion views. A sample of 1,016 people was asked if they favored late-term abortions (after 24 weeks’ gestation). Only 23 percent said yes. But that number jumped to 59 percent if there was a serious possibility of microcephaly.
Study: Science doesn’t back popular views of sexuality
(WNS)–Over half the people in the United States believe gays and lesbians are born that way, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. It can be professionally dangerous to believe otherwise, as former presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson discovered last year when he said homosexuality was a choice and was later pressured into apologizing. But, Lawrence Mayer, a biostatistician, and Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist, both from Johns Hopkins University department of psychiatry, examined over 200 leading, peer-reviewed studies from social science, psychology, and biology and found science does not support much of what the general public, politicians, and policy-makers believe about homosexuality. Their 143-page review appears in the fall 2016 issue of the journal The New Atlantis. Mayer and McHugh found no compelling evidence that sexual orientation was innate. Studies found some minor differences between the brain structure and functioning of heterosexual and homosexual people, but the findings shed no light on whether those differences were inborn or the result of environment and psychological factors. In other words, there was no scientific proof that people were born with same-sex attraction.