Friday, May 14 2004 @ 12:10 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Federal District Judge Joseph Tauro head appeals from pro-family groups in the Massachusetts same-sex marriage controversy but decided late on Thursday that he would not stop the scheduled issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Massachusetts that is to become effective next week.
On Wednesday Judge Tauro had denied the Massachusetts Attorney General's request to dismiss the pro-family groups suits, as well as denying a similar petition from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
He heard testimony from the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP), Liberty Counsel, and other legal groups arguing that the implementation of the law should be stopped as a violation of the will of the people of Massachusetts. The groups represented 11 Massachusetts representatives and senators, and Robert Largess, Vice-President of the Catholic Action League (CAL).
CLP Chief Counsel Steve Crampton explained why the Massachussetts Supreme Court Justices had no jurisdiction to order the enactment: "Judges have no authority to make law, but that is exactly what the Massachusetts court did when it rewrote the law of marriage to mean what it has never meant anywhere, anytime, in any culture. When the court did that, it stole from the people of Massachusetts the right to determine, through elected representatives, what laws shall guide them which is the very essence of a republican form of government."
The court's order will continue to be appealed by the pro-family advocacy organizations to higher courts.
Legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry makes it legal for public schools to post the US mottos, "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of Many, One) and "In God We Trust" in classrooms, offices, cafeterias, auditoriums, and gymnasiums. State law never prohibited the practice, but now that it is specifically legalized, schools can post the statements without fear of frivolous lawsuits.
Judge Douglas Baird, of the Florida Sixth Circuit Court, has ruled that the legislation passed by the state legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush, ordering disabled patient Terry Schiavo kept alive with regular hydration and nutrition "unjustifiably authorizes the governor to summarily deprive Florida citizens of their constitutional right to privacy" and violates the Constitution by giving legislative powers to the governor and "unfettered discretion" over Schiavo's life and death. Gov. Bush immediately appealed the decision to the state Second District Court of Appeals. Schiavo will continue to receive nutritive care during the appeal process.
After the parents and supporters of Schaivo lost all attempts to intervene in preserving her life against the wishes of her husband, who wanted her feeding tube removed so she would starve to death, the process was begun by removing the feeding tube. In just a few short days, the Florida legislature passed legislation giving the governor the authorization to have her feeding tube re-inserted as she lay dying in the care facility.
Terri Schiavo, 40, lapsed into unconsciousness in 1990, possibly due to a potassium imbalance. Beginning in 1998, her husband, Michael Schiavo, sought legal authority to remove her feeding tube. Although she did not have a living will, he asserted that she had expressed to him that she would never want to be kept alive "artificially." Part of the ongoing dispute is what she meant by the statement, if she made it. A person awaiting a kidney transplant is kept alive "artificially," but most patients would not consider that in the same category as a dying patient with no brain life whose heart and lungs are artificially stimulated by machinery.
More at issue is the assessment of Schiavo's condition. While her husband had marshalled experts who describe her as not conscious, as being in a persistent vegitative state (PVS), as being unable ever to regain cosciousness, and as having extremely poor "quality of life," her parents are not in agreement.
They, conservative right-to-life advocates, and disabled rights supporters have amassed their own group of experts and evidence that others in her state have recovered meaningful, communicative consciousness even after such a long time; that with intensive therapy and rehabilitative services she could become much more alert, interactive, and independent; that some people who have been in her condition and later recovered have recounted that they were fully aware and wanting to live while they were considered unconscious by their care-givers; that she is not in a PVS but is simply unable to communicate successfully, and that as a living human being whose vital organs function independently, she has the same right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" regardless whether she is ever able again to communicate or be aware of the world around her. Michael Schiavo has refused permission for anyone, even her parents, to attempt therapy, rehabilitation, or interactive communication with Terri.
Althought the ruling overturned the implementation of the law, because of the state's appeal of the ruling, lawyers for both sides say her feeding tube will remain at least until the appeals have been exhausted. Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, explained, "We both agreed the last thing any of us wanted to see is Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, put back in, being removed, et cetera, which is really an affront to her personal dignity." Responded Ken Connor, Gov. Bush's attorney, "The effect of all this is Michael Schiavo effectively gets to kill his wife through starvation and dehydration if in fact this order is upheld." Most patients denied food and water die within 10-14 days. Advocates of the procedure say that since those subjected to this kind of death are not conscious, they do not feel the pain of dehydration, starvation, and the shutting down of the body and its organs as death approaches. Critics say there is evidence of patients who were thought to be unconscious actually experiencing pain, and that those who have experienced the full effect of such treatment are all dead and consequently unable to be interviewed about what they may have experienced.
Terri Schiavo's estate, although diminished because of care costs, is still substantial. Michael Schiavo will inherit from his wife if they are still legally married when she dies. He has lived with another woman for several years. They have children together and plan to marry after Terri's death.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thursday continued to classify "morning-after" birth control medication as a presecription only substance, rejecting pharmaceutical plans to make the medication available over-the-counter. The FDA cited concerns about young teenagers' use of the pills. Concern was not only because of the medications strong hormonal impact on developing bodies, but also about the unrealistic sense of security such availability might foster that could increase a young girl's sexual promiscuity, raising rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
The FDA's own panel of scientific advisors had encouraged the change, and there was intense lobbying by companies and abortion rights advocates for the liberalization of the drug's distribution. Convervatives had cautioned not only about STDs and unwanted pregnancies, but also about the nature of the drug, which does not prevent fertilization, but prevents the successful and continued development of the fertilized egg. The FDA said it based its decision primarily on the fact that there was no evidence that teens younger than 16 could take the drug safely except under the direct supervision of a physician.
The FDA said it would consider the proposal again if the drug companies addressed the underage usage problem. This could be done either by proving it was safe for young teens to use unsupervised, or if they could devise a workable way to make the drug restricted for young teens, but readily available to older women.
Protesting that Sudan is notorious for condoning and even facilitating massive human rights violations within its own borders, US ambassador Sichan Siv walked out of a UN meeting at which Sudan was appointed for a third term as a member of the UN Human Rights Commission. Siv said the appointment was an "absurdity" and pointed out that Sudan is full of systematic "ethnic cleansing," especially in the wastern Dafur region, where up to 1 million people have been displaced according to a UN study.
Sudan's deputy UN ambassador Omar Bashir Manis counter-charged the US, accusing US armed forces of engaging in degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners and committing "atrocities" against innocent Iraqi civilians.
Under UN rules, regional groups decide which countries are to be nominated to fill seats on UN commissions. In this case, the regional African group waited until just before the vote to submit its list of 4 candidates to fill the 4 seats open. This meant that Sudan (and Kenya, Guinea, and Togo) were unopposed and guaranteed their positions. Last minute attempts to recruit other African nations to run against Sudan failed.
Tuesday, May 04 2004 @ 10:53 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Three United Nations (UN) employees involved in recent years of peace-keeping activities with the world political organization have penned a manuscript that, if published as planned June 1, may result in two of the authors, still UN employees, facing disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from their jobs. The book is the personal recollections of Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomason (the first no longer employed by the UN). UN rules prohibit employees from publishing about activities related to their employment without prior approval. The two current employees did not seek approval until they were confronted by their employer, who then denied their request. The book is especially controversial for its depiction of gross incompetence in UN peace-keeping operations (specifically in Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia) as well as for accounts of numerous incidents of UN officials and staffs in wild drug and sex parties.
The book is to be published by Miramax books, which plans to go ahead with publication despite the warnings by the UN against the current staffers. Miramax plans to send the staffers on a publicity tour in connection with the book. They have also admitted that two other tell-all books are in production.
The UN has also recently suffered image marring by allegations of massive embezzlements in its Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program.
We Care America, a non-profit organization created to facilitate cooperation between faith-based charities and federal programs for social services, has developed a comprehensive video training series called The Community and Faith-Based Grants Institute(TM). Nearly two years after the Bush Administration established its Faith Based Initiative, the parameters and details for instituting now exist for a working relationship between the government and the faith-based charities that both respects the government religion-neutral stance and the charities' faith commitments.
"Faith-based organizations have been doing this work for a long time," noted Dave Mills, National Training Center Director for We Care America. He continued, "So the thought of helping the helpless isn't realloy anything new." The challenge, according to Mills, is to the faith community: "Will it re-engage as the leaders of redemptive service in American communities or will it relegate the central role of redeeming broken lives to other secular providers?"
Through meticulous planning, the Faith Based Initiative framework gives faith-based charities the same rights to provide services for social needs as are provided by secular organizations already. Rather than disenfranchising faith-based charities from the crucial work of providing for social needs, as was the norm before, the new program recognizes the value of religious charities while at the same time ensuring that no government money is used to propagate the religious aims of such organizations. "All they wanted was a level playing field. They wanted to compete on the same level as the secular organizations," said former Justice Department official James Davids.
A Florida legal advocacy organization has announced that it will defend public schools that preserve the rights of students for freedom of speech and expression of religion by remaining neutral about students' voluntary expressions at upcoming graduation events. The Liberty Counsel is a non-profit litigation, education and public policy organization dedicated to preserving religious freedom and traditional family values in America. The organization has represented schools in litigation when the schools have been preserving students' rights to free speech and expression of religious belief. Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver says the legal group will also oppose any schools that attempt to suppress the religious viewpoints of student speakers or presenters. Staver explained, ""Students surely have a constitutional right to engage in speech, and they don't lose that right simply because they walk up to the graduation podium. Schools allow students to engage in secular speech, and they must also allow schools and students to engage in religious speech as well."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard and 30 legislators of his ruling coalition are moving to propose legislation that will ban the recognition of same sex marriages performed elsewhere. The legislation is strongly supported by pro-family organizations in Australia. The majority of Australians favor defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The proposed legislation comes after reports that a same sex couple "married" in Canada would come to Australia and challenge the government on the issue. "Marriage is a rock-solid institution," said Senator Guy Barnett, the head of Howard's coalition. "It's not a fashion to be updated."
A decision by the US Supreme Court not to hear an appeals court ruling against voluntary prayer by cadets at the Virigina Military Institute (VMI) means that the prayers, offered voluntarily by cadets at mealtimes, will be forbidden. Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said that the Supreme Court, by refusing to hear the case, has lost an important opportunity to uphold a 160 year old tradition going back to the founding of the VMI. Justice Anthony Scalia dissented.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26