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Featured Articles

World Report, Week 21, 2014

WORLD News Service – May 30 2014

Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy

Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes

Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals

The Missing Part: Champion golfer Bernhard Langer isn't shy about his Christianity

Child of Light Invites Gamers Into a Captivating Fairy Tale

Orphan Rescue: Groups mobilize to bring orphans in unstable eastern Ukraine to western regions as tensions with Russia continue

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

 

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--Taxpayer dollars could soon pay for sex reassignment surgeries for elderly or disabled Americans on Medicare, thanks to a ruling Friday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency’s Departmental Appeals Board lifted a three-decade-old ban on using Medicare funds for transsexual surgeries. The decision means the government considers the surgeries medically necessary and effective treatment for some individuals who do not identify with their biological sex.

The policy reversal came in response to a request from 74-year-old Army veteran Denee Mallon to have Medicare pay for genital reconstruction. Mallon, from Albuquerque, N. M., was born a man but has been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a state of distress about one’s biological gender. Medicare denied Mallon’s request for surgery two years ago, but today the appeals board overturned that decision.

“Sometimes I am asked aren’t I too old to have surgery,” Mallon said before the board’s decision. “My answer is how old is too old? When people ask if I am too old, it feels like they are implying that it’s a ‘waste of money’ to operate at my age. But I could have an active life ahead of me for another 20 years. And I want to spend those years in congruence and not distress.”

Gender reassignment surgeries vary by type and scope: For men, they can involve castration and genital reconstruction. For women, they can involve mastectomy and the implantation of a prosthetic. The cost of transsexual surgeries range from $7,000 to $50,000, according to the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, Calif.

Friday’s ruling means individuals on Medicare who can provide documentation from doctors and mental health professionals stating that a surgical sex change is medically indicated for them can bill Uncle Sam for the procedure. The government-run Medicare program provides healthcare for 49 million Americans.

In explaining its decision, the appeals board said the old ban on sex reassignment surgery was based on medical evidence compiled in 1981 and said new research showed the ban was “no longer reasonable.” Rather, it called the surgery “safe” and an “effective treatment option.” It noted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service did not try to challenge its decision, which is final unless appealed in federal court.

The Boston-based organization Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders hailed the board’s decision, calling transsexual surgery “medically necessary for many people with gender dysphoria.” The advocacy group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, helped Mallon file his appeal last year.

Transgender advocates said the Medicare decision could influence private insurance companies and state-run Medicaid programs to also cover transsexual procedures, since they often look to federal government policy as a guideline. 

Although there are no reliable statistics to indicate how many people on Medicare could take advantage of the revised policy, demographer Gary Gates of The Williams Institute, an LGBT issues think tank in Los Angeles, has estimated 0.3 percent of the U.S. population identify as transgender.

 

Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--In what some are calling a sham proceeding, Houston leaders on Wednesday approved an Equal Rights Ordinance that adds the LGBT community to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. Supporters claim it provides necessary protections for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered residents. But religious liberty experts warn it could be used to force churches, colleges, and Christian-owned businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality.

The ordinance, which takes effect in 30 days, passed the Houston City Council 11-6, and local television news broadcast the LGBT supporters’ jubilation. Reports said fewer than 30 people out of more than 200 in attendance spoke against the measure, but they failed to mention that more than 150 pastors and pro-family advocates felt so disrespected by the proceedings that they staged a walkout early in the meeting.

Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, attempted to “stack the deck” against critics, said Jonathan Saenz, director of the conservative group Texas Values. The council moved homosexual activists to the front of the speaking line, denied pro-family African-American pastors the same courtesy, then moved more homosexual activists to the front. The pastors described the move as “flagrantly disrespectful,” Texas Values reported, equating it to being “sent to the back of the bus.” As much as half the room walked out, Saenz said.

Houston joined nearly 200 cities and counties nationwide with similar ordinances, and gave LGBT activists a clean sweep among major Texas cities. San Antonio passed a similar measure that was heavily disputed last year in the conservative state. Parker said passing her city’s ordinance was the “most personally meaningful thing I will do as mayor.”

Supporters say the measure offers local protections against all forms of discrimination in housing, employment, and services provided by private businesses. “If Houston wants to be considered a community that values all of its citizens, this ordinance should be passed today,” said Robert Brewer, a Houston attorney who identified himself as gay. Violating the ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a $5,000 maximum fine. Cases would be tried in municipal court.

Christian businesses aren’t the only ones affected, though. “It raises serious constitutional questions,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel at the Texas-based Liberty Institute. Critics painted religious liberty exemptions as poorly written, rushed at best and downright nefarious at worst.

For example, Parker removed a section of the ordinance explicitly criminalizing those who refuse to open restrooms to the opposite sex unless they have a “good faith” reason. But a different section bans all discrimination in public accommodation. “The mayor admitted this and so did the city attorney, that the ordinance can still be used to prosecute people on the bathroom issue,” Saenz said. The adopted ordinance removed the “good faith” defense for those who stop people from entering the wrong bathroom when they do not appear or act transgendered.

The ordinance also bans discrimination among employers and in housing. The final version of San Antonio’s ordinance omitted the sweeping ban on city officials of the “demonstration of a bias, by word or deed,” a clause that caused religious liberty advocates the most concern. It also gave more clear, defined religious exemptions, even if they are problematic, Mateer said. But Houston’s exemptions are limited and ultimately “clear as mud.” Mateer said he believes some Christian bookstores and even church organizations, like a church-run coffee shop that’s open to the public and donates its profits, would not be exempt.

The law also could prevent colleges from upholding their sexual conduct requirements. Religious colleges can restrict housing to church membership “unless membership in the religion is restricted because of a protected characteristic,” according to the ordinance.

Liberty Institute lawyers have been looking at the various ordinance proposals for two weeks, and they’re still “scratching their heads,” Mateer said. For example, the ordinance defines religion as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” By banning itself from discriminating on the basis of religion when seeking city contractors and banning contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual choices, the city explicitly encoded a contradiction. “It is just so poorly drafted,” Mateer said.

San Antonio’s law, when published several days after the September vote, turned out to be a watered-down version of what initially was presented to the public. Mateer said he knew of no complaints filed so far, and the law cannot be challenged on its face as blatantly unconstitutional. “In Houston, we’re seriously considering that,” he said. The Houston city code also allows opponents to collect signatures to place a repeal measure on the November ballot, and many have pledged to do so.

Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a Christian baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s decision in December that Jack Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple sued.

Phillips, a devout Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

The commission disagreed, ruling that religious liberty does not go beyond beliefs to practice. “I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said. The panel issued its decision verbally, ordering Phillips to “stop discriminating against gay people,” document any customers he refuses to serve, provide “anti-discrimination training” for his staff, and report quarterly for two years.

Phillips said his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes. His legal counsel, which includes religious liberty attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, are considering an appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The couple who sued Phillips, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, described themselves as “thrilled” by the ruling. Gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado, but state law prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on sexual orientation. Phillips told the men he would bake them any kind of cake other than a wedding cake.

Court rulings this year have not favored Christian-owned businesses caught in discrimination cases. The U.S. Supreme Court in April refused to hear the case of a Christian wedding photographer fined after she declined to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission levied a $6,637.94 fine, and the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled her refusal was the same as if the wedding were between people of different races.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries also ruled a Christian couple can’t refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. LGBT activists forced that couple’s storefront shop to close with boycotts, threats, and vandalism.

Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--A judge in Hawaii gutted a new lawsuit on Tuesday filed by two atheists against churches that rent space from public schools. The lawsuit is a renewed effort to prove the churches acted illegally after the same judge threw out their first attempt at a conviction late last year.

In March 2013, Holly Huber and Michael Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against five churches who met in public schools, claiming they collectively owed the state’s Department of Education $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid rental fees and utility charges for the prior six years. Under the state’s False Claims Act (FCA), the duo claimed they had inside information that would expose fraudulent billing.

Kahle and Huber conducted a “rigorous, yearlong, church-by-church, boots-on-the-ground investigation, involving on-site surveillance and/or on-line research,” the suit said. It claimed they discovered “significant discrepancies” in the amount of time the churches claimed to use the facilities and the amount of time the two observed them using the space. They also used a public records request to obtain and review the agreements between 189 churches and 137 public schools.

But Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents two of the churches—One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu—asked the court to dismiss their clients from the case, declaring it had no merit because Kahle and Huber’s information came from public records and not from the plaintiffs personal knowledge. Because the False Claims Act forbids people from filing a complaint based in whole or in part on public records, ADF argued Kahle and Huber were “jurisdictionally barred” from bringing the lawsuit. A False Claims Act violation also requires proof of “false claims” by the churches, and the plaintiffs did not cite a single example of a false claim made by either church, ADF attorneys argued.

First Circuit Court of Hawaii Judge Virginia Crandall agreed with ADF and dismissed the two churches from the lawsuit in December. But she gave Kahle and Huber the option to amend the complaint and refile against the two churches within 45 days.

In the meantime, the churches remaining in the original suit decided to settle out-of-court rather than continue the battle. All three churches—New Hope Oahu, New Hope Hawaii Kai, and New Hope Kapolei—belong to the same parent denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. According to the settlement agreement signed in January, the churches admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay the state $775,000, with Kahle and Huber pocketing up to $200,000 of it.

“Hawaii’s False Claims Act was never intended to bully churches into settlements when they did nothing wrong,” said Erik Stanley, ADF senior legal counsel. “No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful.”

Kahle and Huber filed an amended complaint against ADF’s clients in March, alleging the churches and schools had an “illegal quid-pro-quo agreement”—or in American vernacular, a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” pact. For example, one church paid no rental fees for facility use, but donated a variety of in-kind services to the school, such as student mentoring, replacing the auditorium’s electrical wiring, and grounds maintenance.

ADF filed a motion to dismiss the new case because it was, in substance, the same suit brought the year before. On Tuesday, Crandall issued an oral ruling, throwing out most of the case because it was again based on public records. For example, although it was true one church paid no weekly rental fee, that fact was part of the written agreement between the school’s principal and the church, which makes it a part of the public record, not a secret or illegal activity.

But the judge did allow some portions of the suit to move forward. Stanley told me via email that questions about the churches’ use of the schools’ electricity and the use of facilities outside of contracted times are still under inquiry.

“But we are confident that when the facts come out on those issues, the churches will prevail,” he said.

The Missing Part

 

Champion golfer Bernhard Langer isn't shy about his Christianity

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--At age 56, Bernhard Langer is a two-time Masters Champion and Hall of Famer. But that isn’t what he wants you to know most about him, he revealed to a North Carolina sports radio audience last year. 

A young Langer earned pocket money as a caddie growing up in West Germany, left school to pursue a golf career, and joined the European Tour in 1976. His prowess grew rapidly until as a rich and famous 28-year-old he won the Masters Championship in 1985.

But like a more recent example of Tiger Woods, what he had wasn’t enough to satisfy. “The next morning, I had this emptiness inside of me—even though I was World No. 1,” Langer said. “I had just won a Masters, I had money, I had fame, I had cars, houses, and a beautiful young wife.”

The feeling stuck with him as he drove to Hilton Head Island, S.C., to prepare for his next tournament. During a practice round, fellow golfer Bobby Clampett invited him to a Bible study. “Bible study? What exactly is that?” he asked. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was an altar boy. But at the study, the chaplain shared from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus: “You will not enter the kingdom of God unless you’re born again.” 

“And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Born again? What is that?’” Langer said. “I hadn’t heard that in all the churches I had been to. … At first I thought, ‘Well, he’s using a different Bible than we use.’” But a few months after that Bible study, he “knew exactly” what he needed. “The Bible says nobody is so good that they can earn their way there,” he said, “but no one is so bad that God couldn’t forgive them their sins.”

Langer’s priorities changed, and they remained so even as he won the 1993 Masters on Easter Sunday, participated in 10 Ryder Cups, and found himself in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. He’s still not bad at golf today. He has two wins on the Champions Tour this year, plus a top-10 finish back at the Masters in April. He’s not shy about his story, whether it be with a statewide audience on North Carolina’s David Glenn Show, other media engagements, or his autobiography. Where he once had emptiness, now he has “a personal relationship” with Jesus.

“That was the missing part.” 

 

Child of Light Invites Gamers Into a Captivating Fairy Tale

 

By Ben Cogan

(WNS)--Child of Light is a shining beacon of hope in the sea of recent mature-themed video game releases. It offers a colorful tapestry of gorgeous visuals and captivating storytelling you would expect from a fable of old, with gameplay that challenges and rewards those who take the time to plumb its depths. Add to all of this content and dialog everyone in the family can enjoy and Child of Light becomes a game that has broad appeal and the potential to set trends for the future.

The first thing players will notice about Child of Light is how beautiful it looks, like a vibrant watercolor painting come to life. The characters and creatures could have jumped off the pages of a child’s book of fables. In an age of video games striving to create more realistic 3D graphics that push the limits of current hardware, Child of Light stands out.

Another charming quality of Child of Light is the dialog. It rhymes. Like a Shakespearean play, every line of dialog follows iambic pentameter or other rhyming style. There is very little voice acting in the game, so most of the dialog appears as text, which reinforces the impression players are reading a storybook.

Humor in general is hard to pull off in storytelling, and it’s even harder in video games. Child of Light manages to be subtly witty and funny through its rhymes and context. One character, a jester and singer named Rubella, never fully grasps how to find the proper word to finish a rhyme and characters around her are constantly offering corrections. Her brother, Tristis, also is a jester in the circus who claims to be a comedian but instead has a demeanor more fitting for an Edgar Allen Poe story. 

Child of Light’s plot takes place in two worlds, with the young princess Aurora at its center. Like the Wizard of Oz, the game’s story involves a young innocent girl traumatized by catastrophic events who finds herself in a fantastical land accompanied by outlandish new friends. Unlike Oz’s Dorothy, Aurora is taken from her world by a chill in the night, and she never wakes up. Her father, the king, soon loses heart and falls into deep despair. It sounds very tragic, but before players have time to take this in, Aurora awakens in the magical land of Lemuria. Together with her new friends, Aurora must stop the evil queen that has taken over Lemuria and find a way home to save her father.

For players unfamiliar with the wide array of gameplay mechanics used in RPGs (role-playing games), Child of Light’s battles may be a sticking point. The fighting takes a turn-based style, with the action pausing when one character or enemy gets a turn to select their next move. As in a game of chess, this requires strategy and forethought. Unlike games for which players only need quick reflexes, Child of Light encourages players to think before they act and pay attention to who’s turn will be next to best utilize the characters they have in the fight. All of this can make the game a little overwhelming and frustrating at times.

One bonus aspect of playing Child of Light is an additional player can control Aurora’s firefly companion, Iniculus. The second player can help during battles by slowing opponents and healing allies.

The game is rated appropriate for everyone aged 10 and older. It contains fantasy violence and a few instances of alcohol and tobacco use. Child of Light is available on Xbox, Playstation platforms, and PC, as well as the Wii U.

Child of Light has already captivated gamers and critics alike. Wholesome games like this are a delight in an industry plagued by violence and in-your-face sexuality. Hopefully its success will encourage other game developers to set aside prurient thrills for more tales of innocent fun and adventure.

Orphan Rescue

 

Groups mobilize to bring orphans in unstable eastern Ukraine to western regions as tensions with Russia continue

By Jill Nelson

(WNS)--The day before Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25, dozens of orphans and foster families arrived in Kiev, eager to find out where their temporary residences would be. Evacuated from the eastern town of Mariupol near the Russian border, they were the latest group to arrive as part of a growing effort to remove at-risk orphans from a region that has attempted to declare independence from Ukraine.

Ukrainians hope the election of a new president, billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko, will usher in a new era of stability and end the separatist takeover of Donetsk and Luhansk, two crucial regions in the east. So far, Moscow has not given orders to annex the regions as it did with Crimea in March. But should the standoff between Russian separatists and Ukraine’s military continue in the east, NGOs and local churches are armed with a plan to protect orphans from a Russian system that has shunned American adoptions.

The endeavor has been both challenging and dangerous for Alex Gowen, director of The Fisherman, a nonprofit based in Raleigh, N.C.: “If I show my face in the eastern regions, I’m supposed to be killed on the spot.” Gowen—whose organization provides for the medical needs and general well-being of orphans around the world—said he has been targeted for being part of the team that is making it possible to move children legally out of the east and into homes and churches in western Ukraine. The separatists, he says, claim the orphans are Russian not Ukrainian. Pro-Russian rebels declared victory during an illegal referendum on May 11, despite polls showing that at least 70 percent want to remain with Ukraine.

There are approximately 40,000 orphans in the eastern Donbass region but less than 8,000 are legally orphans. The rest have parents in the area who cannot care for them but still have parental rights. Further complicating the situation, government orphanages have not approved the transfer of children to other regions, limiting the evacuation at this point to nongovernment orphanages and foster care families.

The Fisherman is working closely with The Alliance for Ukraine without Orphans based in Kiev, and Gowen says they’ve faced difficultly getting their national emergency response plan approved. “It’s sad, but governments by and large don’t care. It’s at the bottom of their priority list, and that’s especially true when faced with the possibility of being invaded by Russia.”

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist minister, eventually approved a plan to return as many children as possible to parents who were willing and capable of providing care, place some children in foster care, and relocate the rest to western regions where 3,200 churches have offered transportation and housing.

Unfortunately, they arrived on the scene too late to help in Crimea. “In Crimea, [orphans] are completely cut off. You cannot adopt them. You cannot support them. They are totally at the mercy of the Russian system,” Gowen said. Americans have adopted 11,000 Ukrainian children over the years, and there has been an uptick since a 2012 law halted American adoptions in Russia.

Alliance for Ukraine without Orphans board member Ruslan Maliuta says Crimea was the top summer camp destination for orphanage children, so they are currently looking for alternative camps in western regions. Americans can help by financially supporting orphan refugee relocation efforts and participating in summer hosting programs that bring Ukrainian orphanage children to the United States to experience family life for several weeks, he added. Many of these host families bond with the children and pursue adoption.

Adoptions have continued in Ukraine despite unrest that many say is localized and primarily in the east. One adoption facilitator I spoke with is expecting the arrival of two families in early June, and Maliuta knows of a third family on their way. He doesn’t recommend adopting in Donetsk or Luhansk regions, he said, where there is no guarantee of safety, but families arriving in Kiev for their appointment with the State Department of Adoptions are able to view the files of children referred and make an educated decision based on their locations.

Russian separatists continue to control key roads and government buildings in a number of eastern cities, and on May 23 armed rebels tore down the Donetsk prayer tent that had served as a pillar of hope for almost three months. The men threw the tent in the river, stole the speakers and electronic equipment, and beat pastor Sergey Kosyak. “Prayers will continue,” Kosyak told me.

Ukrainians say the election of their new president with 54 percent of the vote has the potential to stabilize the situation in the east where only 20 percent of polling stations were open after separatists threatened election officials and smashed ballot boxes. Nationwide, voter turnout reached 60 percent with long lines reported in the pro-Western capital of Kiev.

The day after his election victory, Poroshenko—nicknamed the “Chocolate King” and lauded as a pragmatist—swiftly approved military air strikes against separatists who had taken over Donetsk International Airport, killing dozens of insurgents. The new leader says he plans to pursue strong ties with Europe while mending relations with Russia and returning stability to the east.

But Maliuta said the thousands of Russian separatists with machine guns are unlikely to go away any time soon and vowed to continue pursuing rescue efforts of the remaining children in government orphanages. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will respect the results of Ukraine’s election, but many fear Moscow is behind a covert campaign to destabilize the east.

Gowen—who has also worked on programs to alleviate human trafficking—says the odds are against these kids if they aren’t adopted before they age out of Ukraine’s orphanage system at age 16 or 17. “Those traders are just standing out there waiting for these kids to come out, and usually they know exactly who is going to be released on certain days,” Gowen said. “So the more we can do here to support these children, the better.”

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Mahaney, Harris Leave Gospel Coalition Council

 

(WNS)--Two megachurch pastors and popular Christian authors are no longer serving in leadership roles with an evangelical group a few days after a jury convicted a former member of their church of child abuse. The “Council Members” page of the website for The Gospel Coalition (TGC) no longer includes C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris. In addition, Harris, the lead pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., has asked his church to place him on administrative leave, although it’s not clear whether that will happen. On May 15, a jury found Nathaniel Morales, a former Covenant Life member, guilty of molesting three young boys between 1983 and 1991. Questions have arisen over whether members of the church’s pastoral team, including Mahaney, who pastored Covenant Life at the time and served as a mentor to Harris, knew about the abuse but failed to report it. After Morales’ victims told their parents what happened, Morales disappeared. He later took a position as a pastor in Las Vegas, then married a woman with five sons from a previous relationship.

Compelled Speech?

(WNS)--The WNBA has become the first professional sports league actively to promote the LGBT lifestyle. Some teams have had their own events for years, including booths at gay pride parades. League research has found that a quarter of self-described lesbians watch games on TV or in the stands. But this new league-wide initiative, announced May 21, says it is “celebrating inclusion and equality, while combating anti-LGBT bias.” The wide-reaching objective includes a nationally televised “WNBA Pride” game June 22 on ESPN2, and players throughout the league will have to wear LGBT-promoting gear during certain June games. Franchises will also have “team participation” in LGBT Pride parades and festivals. How and if Christian athletes will be compelled to participate isn’t clear. League officials have not returned calls and emails.

 

D’Souza Pleads Guilty to Making Straw Donations

 

(WNS)--On the day his trial was supposed to begin, May 20, conservative commentator and former Christian college president Dinesh D’Souza instead pleaded guilty to orchestrating illegal campaign contributions. District Judge Richard Berman scheduled a sentencing for D’Souza in late September, and he faces 10 to 16 months in prison. “We are hopeful that Judge Berman will recognize Mr. D’Souza to be a fundamentally honorable man who should not be imprisoned for what was an isolated instance of wrongdoing in an otherwise productive and responsible life,” Benjamin Brafman, D’Souza’s lawyer, said in a statement. D’Souza declined to comment after the hearing.

Constitution Classes Not Replacing Gender Studies at South Carolina College

 

(WNS)--The University of South Carolina Upstate, in Spartanburg, announced it would close the school’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS) as of July 1, spurring outrage from feminist groups and praise from conservatives. At the same time, the South Carolina legislature allotted $17,000 for the school to teach students about the Constitution. The university revealed that due to increasing costs and declining state support, it would cut $450,000 annually through administrative changes and program reductions, the bulk of which would come from moving several staff from 12-month positions to 9- or 11-month positions, officials said. In addition, the school announced cuts to several programs including closing the women's center, which will save $45,000 a year.

Breaking Down the Government’s Role in Marriage

 

(WNS)--The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia, which a federal judge found unconstitutional. Legal heavy hitters again represented the gay couples who sued in Virginia for the right to marry. Ted Olson and David Boies are the same legal team who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court last year.  The three judges hearing the Virginia case were quite pointed with their questions, ranging from states’ rights to the history and tradition of the family unit. Judge Roger Gregory, appointed by President Barack Obama, was particularly critical of mom-and-dad-defined marriages, equating them to a totalitarian system. Gregory acted outraged when David Oakley, the lawyer defending a Virginia court clerk and the majority of Virginia voters, said the government had a legitimate interest in protecting children through the marriages of their biological parents.

After an Easy Court Win, Gay Marriages Begin in Oregon

 

(WNS)--U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in May declared Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. At least one county office immediately started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples who were waiting to wed. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in February joined the list of state attorneys general who refused to defend their states’ marriage amendments in court. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) petitioned the court to take up the defense on behalf of Oregonians, but was denied. This morning, NOM appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, also asking judges for a pre-emptive stay againstMcShane’s ruling, which NOM anticipated would go in favor of gay marriage. The appeals court rejected NOM’s plea.

Pennsylvania Governor Won’t Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling

 

(WNS)--Pennsylvania’s Republican governor announced today he will not appeal yesterday’s ruling that struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Tom Corbett’s office mounted a defense to the legal challenge against the law after the state’s Democratic attorney general, Kathleen Kane, refused to do it. Conservatives expected Corbett to appeal the ruling, but he said today an appeal would be “extremely unlikely to succeed.” Even so, he said dropping the case went against his beliefs. “As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered,” Corbett said in a statement. “I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.” Unless a higher court intervenes, same-sex marriages can begin immediately.

Introducing the “Modern” California Family

 

(WNS)--California lawmakers are preparing to “modernize” the family. A new bill allows gay fathers and mothers to choose whether they want to identify themselves as “father,” “mother,” or just “parent” on a child’s birth certificate. The bill is currently on its way to the state Senate.  “The definition of a family needs to be more flexible, and same-sex parents should not be discriminated against when filling out a birth certificate,” Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release.  But this move towards “flexibility” likely will mean more confusion and instability, said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute and an attorney who defends parental rights and religious liberties. “It creates greater confusion with regards to the identity to a mother and a father and the role that they play,” he said. “Studies show that children need stability and an action of men recording themselves mothers or two mothers or women recording themselves as a father or two fathers creates confusion as to what is a mother what is a father.”

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Mexican Politician: Families Should Have Three Kids and “Not One More”

 

(WNS)--A pro-abortion Mexican politician is defending herself against claims of racism after she suggested Mexico’s welfare system would not care for families with more than three children. Rosario Robles, the government’s Social Development secretary made the comments April 30 to  a group of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol and Cora Indian women, off the beaten path in a Nayarit town of 350 residents. The program she discussed, Oportunidades, provides health care, nutritional, and scholarship assistance to poor families.  “Oportunidades is not going to benefit those who have a lot of children anymore,” Robles said. “It is going to support those who have few children, because small families have a better life." She encouraged the women to attend family planning workshops so they could make sure to “have three children and not one more.”

Saeed Abedini Taken from Hospital, Returned to Prison

 

(WNS)--After spending two months recovering in an Iranian hospital, Saeed Abedini has been returned to Rajai Shahr Prison, according to a report released today by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).  Family members said he was beaten at the hospital before officials dragged him back to the prison. Despite Abedini’s harsh reception at the hospital, where he was kept in shackles and did not receive much medical treatment, his conditions there had improved in recent weeks. Officials had allowed family members to visit and provide meals. Authorities gave no advanced notice he would be returned to prison, and it remains unclear what’s behind the move. One family member suggested the Iranian nuclear talks might be a reason. 

                 

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The West Michigan Christian News desires to glorify God while providing global, national, and local news to the West Michigan community. The West Michigan Christian News is a non-denominational, Christ-centered, advertiser-supported monthly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Manna Media Inc. It is unabashedly biased in its Christian presentation of news and views. It is also dedicated to the promotion of Christian unity by focusing on the 95 percent of the Christian faith on which all Christians agree while refusing to get drawn into controversies about the 5 percent on which we might differ.

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