Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Allow me to wish all of my readers, friend or foe, a very Happy and Blessed New Year. To my opponents and critics, I appreciate the support you show by reading my work carefully enough to take it seriously. To my supporters and fans, I appreciate your encouragement, your kind words, and your financial support.
All the best for 2009!
Dr Morse

Political Science

Tis the season to bash abstinence education. Every season, in anticipation of budget quarrels over abstinence ed vs. comprehensive sex ed, you can count on a new study to come out claiming that children are harmed by abstinence ed. This year's entry was reported in the Washington Post.
The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

The study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage, including those that specifically ask students to publicly declare their intention to remain virgins.

However, a virginity pledge is a one-time promise, not a comprehensive program designed to give kids enough information to change their minds and enough activities to change their behavior. Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, reports her conversation with Valerie Huber:
The National Abstinence Education Association disputed the whole premise of the study, using this obvious tack. Its executive director, Valerie Huber, remarked to me in an e-mail interview: "The author inaccurately equates the holistic breadth of an abstinence education program to the one-time event of a virginity pledge. A pledge and an abstinence program are not synonymous."

KayLo continues:
Does that mean we pass out condoms at school because we're not going to change the culture anytime soon? No. It means kids need support and reasons engage in activities other than sex. Abstinence has to be about saying "yes" to something in order to work. We need to focus on the idea that kids can actually think, and should want more from a relationship than sex. We need to be open to programs that aren't all about copulation, but about character education.

Because, as Huber and others have noted, building strong lines of parent-child communication while developing and maintaining a sturdy ethical core helps kids immensely when it comes to keeping their pants on.

IN other words, we need something like comprehensive abstinence education, that does more than yammer about sex, but which helps kids in the whole of their lives.
I actually prefer to think of it as Comprehensive Marriage Education, which prepares kids for married life, and gives them something to look forward to. I've seen communities that create that kind of supportive environment and it does work. I've written about them here and here. Unfortunately, these kinds of communities are too much like cocoons in today's day and age. That kind of overall support system for sexual restraint and marriage preparation needs to be much more wide-spread than it is now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the season for porn?

I will be called names for writing this column. It always happens. Raise the issue of the pornification of the culture and its fanatical devotees will come gunning for you. If they hope to be intimidating, they've forgotten what delete keys are for.

It's Christmastime and the Fox News Channel, the most conservative of the major media outlets, is running an ad for PajamaGrams, "the only gift guaranteed to get your wife or girlfriend to take her clothes off." The ads feature soft porn images of women disrobing and tossing slips and bras to the floor. The ads run at all times of the day and night. Thus do we usher in the season supposedly devoted to the Prince of Peace and the Festival of Lights.

We all know how far the pornification has gotten. A mainstream movie apparently treats the subject as cute and fun (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) and it runs at the multiplex next to Four Christmases and Madagascar. Hotels offer pornographic movies and omit the titles from the final bill. Victoria's Secret graces every mall — and its windows resemble the red light district of Amsterdam. Viagra and its imitators are hawked ceaselessly. Television, music videos, and supermarket checkout magazines contain the kinds of suggestive words and images that would once have been labeled soft porn.

We know this. But what is less well understood is the world of hard-core porn that was once the province of dingy "adults only" stores in the harsher parts of town but is now available to everyone at the click of a mouse.

Earlier this month The Witherspoon Institute convened a conference on pornography at Princeton University and invited scholars from a variety of fields to contribute. The statistics are mind-numbing. Pamela Paul, author of Pornified, reported that "Americans rent upwards of 800 million pornographic videos and DVDs per year. About one in five rented videos is porn....Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66 percent of 18- to 34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month."

Read "The Social Costs of Pornography" (The Witherspoon Institute)

They are not, Paul and others explained, looking at Playboy magazine-like images of naked women. Instead, they are descending into darker and darker realms where sadism, fetishes, and every imaginable oddity are proffered. Sex and violence are offered together. Women are presented in a degraded — not to say disgusting — fashion.

Surely only people with peculiar sexual tastes are drawn to this sort of thing, right? Not exactly. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, noted that pornography use actually changes the brains of consumers. Like other addictions, pornography use breeds tolerance and the need for more intensity to get the desired result. He quoted Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, in which a college kid asks casually, "Anybody got porn?" He is told that there are magazines on the third floor. He responds, "I've built up a tolerance to magazines...I need videos." Tolerance is the medically correct term, Doidge notes, which is why pornography becomes more and more graphic.

The men (and they are overwhelmingly men) who become hooked on this bilge are often miserable about it. They know that it affects their capacity to love and be loved by real women. As Doidge explained, "Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and a release from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn't like it." Hugh Hefner, the godfather of mainstream porn, apparently does not have normal sex with his many girlfriends. Despite the presence of up to seven comely young women in his bed at a time, he uses porn for sexual satisfaction. Think about that.

Internet pornography truly is, as one researcher put it, "a hidden public health hazard." It isn't cute or funny. Relationships are crashing, women are suffering in silence, and men and boys are becoming entrapped by it. The Witherspoon Institute has done a valuable thing by starting a more public conversation about this cultural poison.

'Licensing' morality out of the law

Could lawyers be thrown out of the profession based on their religious conviction against homosexuality?

The State Bar of Arizona is considering whether to require new attorneys to swear they will not let their views on sexual orientation get in the way of providing legal services. Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University's Law School, is concerned.

"I believe that this is a major threat to the practice of law," he contends. "This is an attempt to literally license those out of business and to revoke the license of those who, in fact, have traditional moral values."

Staver believes the campaign is going nationwide and will be a tool used by homosexuals to hold back Christian lawyers. "If they then can hold over your head the license and the ability to practice law, that will be a devastating blow to those of us who believe in traditional family values," he points out. According to Staver, this is an issue that lawyers and law school students cannot ignore. "It's a ticking time bomb," he concludes. "It is a land mine just waiting for someone to step on them."

The Arizona Bar plans to make a decision in January.

'Choose Life' car tag campaign goes to Texas

Texas could soon join the ranks of states with "Choose Life" license plates.

A proposal will go before the next session of the Lone Star State's legislature. Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, is confident in the results.

"We think we have the votes to pass it," he contends. "[We believe] it has tremendous...grassroots support and we are optimistic that going into our legislative session, which begins in January, that we can get this bill past the legislature and to the governor's desk for his signature."

Pojman describes how the license plate fee would be split up. "Eight dollars would go for administrative costs to the Department of Transportation," he notes. "Twenty-two dollars would go to a special fund that would be administered to non-profit charitable organizations, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and Gabriel projects that help pregnant women who are considering adoption."

So far, 19 states have Choose Life license plates; three more have approved them and will soon make them available.

Planned Parenthood investigation called for in Indiana

An Indiana state representative wants a full-fledged investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities in that state.

The call is from Representative Jackie Walorski in the aftermath of a recorded undercover investigation by Lila Rose, president of Live Action Films, that revealed staffers trying to help what they believed to be a 13-year-old girl who was impregnated by a 31-year-old man, get an abortion -- allegedly pushing aside the responsibility to report it as statutory rape.

"Indiana state laws...are in place to protect that minor, and there were so many egregious violations from the employee not wanting to know the age of the supposed man that impregnated this minor, which in this case was a statutory rape charge, which is a felony in Indiana," she explains. "And then we have a mandatory reporting of a sexual abuse crime in Indiana which is a misdemeanor. They blew through that as well."

Walorski, who notes that two clinics were caught red-handed, wants her call for an investigation to be taken seriously because of the number of potential victims. "I think that an agency like Planned Parenthood in the state of Indiana services, I believe something like, 95,000 women a year; and of those 95,000, just a little over 11,000 are girls under the age of 17," she points out.

She hopes the state will cut off Medicare funds to Planned Parenthood if the allegations prove to be true. notes Rose's footage is the second video revealed in a series of investigations that document "how secret abortions keep young girls trapped in cycles of sexual abuse."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Maternal Mortality: Death by Childbirth

Third world mothers face health risks that have been eliminated from the industrialized world. Mercator Net interviews Dr. Robert Walley, the founder and executive director of MaterCare International and an emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

Dr. Walley: Mothers in the developing world are experiencing unimaginable suffering due to a scandalous lack of effective care during pregnancy and childbirth, with the consequence that many thousands are dying. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are over 500,000 maternal deaths annually, of which 99 per cent occur in developing countries. There is no accurate data to substantiate these numbers, the reason being that most developing countries do not report information on births, deaths, the sex of dead people or the cause of death. However, figures from my own experience at a mission hospital in Nigeria, where the in-hospital maternal mortality ratio was 1,700 per 100,000 live births, illustrates the enormity of the situation.

Some 200 million women are pregnant, world-wide, each year. Most mothers deliver in villages without access to safe, clean facilities and without a trained person to assist them. Most maternal deaths occur during the last trimester and in the first week following delivery. Practising in Canada prior to going to Nigeria in 1981 and since then, I have never had a mother die under my care from a direct obstetrical cause, or been present at such a death. Maternal deaths in Canada are at the level of what is called irreducible minimums, 1/100,000 live births. However, at the mission hospital maternal deaths were almost a daily event. I recall one weekend during which there were four deaths of mothers who had arrived at the hospital, two in extremis from haemorrhage, one in agony from obstructed labour, and another with a ruptured uterus after days in labour because she was young and consequently her pelvis was too small. Others would arrive unconscious due to pregnancy-induced hypertension, or suffering from malaria or severe anaemia resulting from malnutrition. Most mothers die in Africa alone and in terror in villages, as they have no way of getting to the hospital. These deaths of mothers and babies are the greatest tragedies of our times especially since they are readily preventable and treatable.

The disparity in maternal mortality and morbidity rates, between developed and developing countries, is greater than any other commonly used measure of health status. Pregnancy related deaths are one of the major causes of death and disability occurring among women in the reproductive age group. This loss is twice that of any other diseases including AIDS, malaria, TB or sexually transmitted diseases. There is no single cause for male mortality in this age group that comes close to the magnitude of maternal mortality and morbidity. The tragedy is that the solutions to this suffering have been known for decades and cost very little. ...

MercatorNet: It is 21 years since the Safe Motherhood Initiative was launched in Nairobi to address this problem, and 8 years since it was made one the UN's Millennium goals, and yet the director general of the WHO said recently that "the world failed to make a dent" in it. What is your analysis of this failure?

Dr Walley: A report in the British Medical Journal in July 2007 said that at the present rate of progress the 5th Millennium Development Goal will not be met for 275 years -- in 2282, not in 2015 as intended. The reasons are poverty, lack of compassion, lack of political and professional wills, a conspiracy of silence, and a lack of imagination. That any woman should die giving birth in the 21st century is an international disgrace.

The responsibility in my view lies partly with national governments but also very much with Western governments, the UN and other international agencies e.g. those of the European Union, DFID (UK), CIDA (Canada) and USAID and, of course, the radical feminist movement, which cares little for motherhood. These are compromised by their desire to control populations in developing countries. While billions of dollars have been and are being spent on reproductive health programmes (a euphemism for birth control) only a small fraction is focused on providing emergency obstetric services that ensures that women survive their pregnancies -- services which are freely available to all mothers in rich countries.

We have known the causes of maternal deaths for over 100 years -- haemorrhage, infection, hypertension, obstructed labour, septic abortion -- and we eliminated them in the our rich world by providing essential obstetrical care to mothers one at a time. The former Director General of WHO, Dr. Halfdan Mahler, commented in Nairobi in 1987, “We know enough to act now, it could be done; it ought to be done; and in the name of social justice and human solidarity, it must be done.” It hasn’t been.

MercatorNet: What we do hear a lot about is "unsafe (illegal) abortion", along with some alarming statistics. Is this a major cause of maternal deaths and ill health? What's the real answer to this problem?

Dr Walley: Abortion unfortunately has been around forever. In our times it has been promoted as choice, as a right; we are all familiar with the arguments which has brought us to the devastating numbers found in developed countries. Septic abortion is said to account for 8 per cent of maternal deaths in developing countries but, again, nobody knows as statistics are not kept. Nevertheless, abortion is a sad fact of life resulting from poverty, lack of education, coercion and a lack of alternative help. In panic the woman goes to the open door of the abortionist who may be a traditional birth attendant in the village, but is frequently is a health provider who has limited skills and equipment, who procures the abortion for money. However, the numbers are exaggerated to promote an agenda which is to have abortion legalized as a human right.

Read the whole interview here.

Bill Duncan on Jerry Brown

Ruth Institute Academic Advisory Board member Bill Duncan posted this analysis of CA AG Jerry Brown over at National Review On-line.
In a December 19 press release, the attorney general said: “Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification.” ...

To understand the depth of the betrayal here it is necessary to remember how we got to this point. In May 2008, the California supreme court announced that the state’s constitution contained a hitherto unseen mandate redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. In response, pro-family groups had gathered the requisite signatures to put Proposition 8 on the ballot. This measure would add a definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the California constitution, thus correcting the state court’s misunderstanding of that document.

The California supreme court decided not to wait for the people of the state to weigh in on marriage and allowed licenses to issue to same-sex couples beginning in June. The attorney general also did his part in opposing the amendment by changing the official ballot description from a neutral description (that the amendment would define marriage) to say that Proposition 8 “eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

On November 4, it became clear that despite every effort by the judicial and political classes of the state to prevent their doing so, California voters had affirmed the principle that our inherited understanding of marriage as the union of a husband and wife deserved constitutional protection.
Opponents of the measure, including the city and county of San Francisco, then filed suit saying that Proposition 8’s single-sentence amendment was such a major change to the state constitution that it should have been approved by the legislature before going to voters and was thereby invalid. (This same legislature had twice voted to overturn California’s marriage law, enacted by voter initiative, despite a clear constitutional provision saying that a voter initiative could not be overturned by a legislative vote.) This is the case in which the attorney general has now decided that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman is beyond the pale.

Ken Starr will be part of the legal team defending Proposition 8 on behalf of its proponents. It should be remembered that these proponents were granted the right to defend the marriage law only because the California supreme court gave them special permission to be part of the case. Without that permission, Proposition 8 would have gone without a voice in court.

All of this serves to confirm the worst fears of Proposition 8’s supporters. The political and legal elites of the state have done all within their power to endorse the idea that support for traditional marriage is the rankest kind of bigotry that does not deserve even a nominal word in its favor by government officials....

A court order invalidating Proposition 8 would also give the supreme court a super-constitutional power, above the amendment process provided for in the text of the constitution, to determine what subjects are germane to constitutional lawmaking by the people of the state. There is no other way to understand this new theory that a manufactured and unenumerated “right” can become so “fundamental” that it can no longer be the subject of a simple amendment. And, of course, who will decide whether a right has attained this stature? The California supreme court.

Benedict XVI on Marriage

In the course of calling for a "human ecology," Pope Benedict XVI said this about marriage:
while the Church needs to "defend the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us [... ], it must also protect the human being from his own destruction."

"It is necessary that there be something such as an ecology of man, understood in the proper manner," he said.

This human ecology, he affirmed, is based on respecting the nature of the person, and the two genders of masculine and feminine.

"It is not outmoded metaphysics," Benedict XVI affirmed, "when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected."

He said it has more to do with "faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, the contempt of which will lead to the self destruction of humanity."

The Pope warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term "gender" is altered.

"What is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender,' is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator," he warned. "Man wants to create himself, and to decide always and exclusively on his own about what concerns him."

The Pontiff said this is man living "against truth, against the creating Spirit."

"The rain forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as creature indeed deserves no less," he added.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Compulsory Tolerance

Spero News author James Thunder shows that the tolerance demanded by the gay lobby comes at the expense of everyone else's freedom.
Representations have been consistently made by the gay community that allowing gays to marry will not affect heterosexuals. They note as one example of this that they will not push the government to require religious denominations to conduct gay marriages. Ah, but we now have at least two examples where gay people have persuaded our government to compel the private sector to help gays date, mate and procreate.

Specifically, he notes that the recent bullying of eHarmony amounts to forcing a company to provide a service they don't want to provide.

a company has been compelled by our government to start a new service, and fund it and market it for at least two years, to promote gay dating and mating.

On the next day, November 20, a California trial court issued a ruling allowing a case brought by a lesbian against eHarmony to proceed as a class action. The plaintiff’s attorney stated to the press that the New Jersey settlement did not change his case since eHarmony’s agreement with New Jersey to set up a separate website (with an acknowledgement on the main website that they were affiliated), was separate, not equal. He also decried the two-year minimum requirement for eHarmony’s operation of the gay options since eHarmony could choose to discontinue at any time after two years. Presumably, therefore, the California plaintiff will seek to make eHarmony stay in the gay matchmaking business permanently.

In another area of law, antitrust, companies are required to divest lines of business, never to establish them. Yet here we have the government requiring a company to start a new line of business with the prospect that it may never be able to cease that line of business unless it goes bankrupt.

Governor Corzine or Attorney General Milgram should renounce this settlement and defend eHarmony.

He also writes about the lesbian artificial insemination case, which I have written about extensively.
The Court ruled that the doctors had no right of free speech or freedom of religion under either the California or United States Constitutions to refuse elective medical treatment, including the establishment of a pregnancy, of a homosexual. The doctors and the clinic violated the law even though they had referred the patient to another doctor. The concurring opinion by Judge Baxter expressed concern for sole practitioners who had religious objections, but observed that that issue was not present in the North Coast case.

Thus, under this decision, and under the Unruh Law, as revised in recent years to include sexual orientation and marital status, our government compels medical personnel to help unmarried or gay or lesbian patients establish a pregnancy. Doctors -- and prospective doctors -- are told by our government to leave their consciences at the door or join medical groups that include doctors who have no consciences.

He concludes with a reference to Sir Thomas More and the play, "A Man for All Seasons."

Are we not free to refuse (for business or moral reasons) to help unmarried persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, date, mate and procreate? Are we not free to promote heterosexual marriage without being compelled by our government to promote relationships among homosexuals?

We have seen this scene play out before. Henry VIII was determined to have a male heir. In contemporary parlance, it was his reproductive right. He chose to exercise this right by using a woman who was not his wife and making her his wife. He had a right to marry – whomever he wished. Furthermore, the king was responsible for new legislation by which the law and Parliament recognized this right to marry and this right to reproduce -- and compelled the private sector to recognize this woman as his wife and their children as his heirs. A private subject who had long since resigned his office of Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, conscientiously remained silent, simply silent.

Sir Thomas More's story, told by Robert Bolt in “A Man for All Seasons , ” was revived on Broadway this year (until December 14). I suggest our legislators, prosecutors and judges watch the 1966 movie version. Thomas More declared, “I do none harm. I say none harm. I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith I long not to live.” And Henry executed him.

The difference between race and sexual orientation

According to Pastor Wayne Perryman: the difference is between behavior and a trait.
Homosexuality and heterosexuality is a sexual behavior expressed, it is not a physical status like black or white skin.

Having said that, Am I Homo-Phobic if I do not like, accept or feel comfortable with the gay’s sexual expression (behavior)? Homo-Phobic meaning: fearing or hating the gay person or the homosexual individual who engage in such behavior? Before answering this question, please let me share with you other behaviors that I am uncomfortable with.

I do not like (or I am uncomfortable with) heterosexuals who affectionately make out in public when they can do it in the privacy of their homes – Am I Hetero-Phobic and hate heterosexuals?
I do not like (or I am uncomfortable with) individuals who cheat on their spouse – This means I must have a Spousal Cheater-Phobic and hate or fear spouses that cheat....
Just because I do not like certain behaviors or that I am uncomfortable with certain behaviors, does not mean that I fear or hate the person who engage in such behavior....
As stated before, gays often compare their experience with the African American experience, but African Americans have never had the option of putting their black skin in the closet to escape or avoid persecution - and we were never hated because of our behavior, we were hated simply because we were black.

I would put it this way: the legal claim is that sexual orientation is an immutable trait, and forms the basis of a protected class. However, sexual orientation is not directly observable, only behavior is observable. Therefore, in practice, it is behavior that is being protected, not the unobservable trait of having a homosexual orientation.
BTW, I like Pastor Perryman's blog.

Maine begins battle to preserve traditional marriage

Christians in Maine are mobilizing for a major fight against same-sex "marriage."

Maine has a Defense of Marriage Act that currently protects the traditional view of marriage. Bob Emrich, founder of the Maine Marriage Alliance, tells OneNewsNow that homosexual activists are pushing to overturn the law.

"And it looks like they're poised to do just that. The gay rights organizations in the state and in New England have made it very clear that that's their desire, and that they have listed enough legislators as what they call marriage-friendly," he explains. "According to their claim, they have enough already on their side to overturn the law."

The Maine Marriage Alliance plans to wage a major battle in the legislature to stall the effort by homosexuals because it takes a simple majority vote to overturn the law, while it takes a two-thirds vote of both houses to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Emrich calls the church the Alliance's best asset. "The church in the state of Maine is waking up to this issue, is seeing the urgency and realizing the need to be involved," he points out.

He believes it will take a huge grassroots push to keep homosexual marriage from being legalized in Maine.

Porn company dupes advertisers, gets caught

A pro-family organization is responsible for dismantling what it calls a pornography scam involving major advertisers.

WorldNetDaily reports Florida Family Association founder David Caton discovered that major American companies were giving their advertising dollars to support the porn industry, and most of them were unaware of it. A pornography company based in Belgium, says the report, "slipped onto the vendors' site lists with non-entertainment, scientific descriptions that masked their true content."

"We learned that an international pornography company is attempting to move the industry from a subscriber-based type of user service to an advertiser-based service," Caton explains.

The switch in advertising strategy allowed the pornographer to offer the inappropriate content free-of-charge because of advertising support, so even children could access it through generally safe websites. Caton contends the operation was a blatant deception.

"The Internet sites that they had had applied for various advertising network buys," he points out. "They got their description changed so that the people who were buying the big mainstream companies did not know the content of these particular websites."

Once Florida Family Association notified the companies -- including Allstate, Bank of America, and JC Penney -- the advertisers cancelled their ads and are taking steps to prevent promoting porn in the future.

Defending the family with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Sixty years after it was adopted by the United Nations, the Declaration is still a robust shield for the family.

It is now clear that modernization and economic development come with great costs to our families. The spread of technical rationality in the form of globalization, the digital age, economic efficiency, and artificial reproductive technology can inject a variety of separations into the family. These include the separations of work and family, sex and marriage, reproduction and marriage, and reproduction and parenting. The cultural individualism of Western societies aggravates these separations. Although modernization and economic development offer much to overcome poverty and increase health, such gains can be lost if they come at the price of increased divorce, non-marriage, and their negative consequences for children, women, and even men.

Some people believe that the human rights tradition is also a part of modernization and is therefore a threat to families. I believe that when this tradition is rightly conceived, it protects the right of children to their families and therefore is a defense against the possible, but not inevitable, negative consequences of modernization.

So I ask, what was the meaning of the family in the most basic document of the human rights tradition – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? And how can this view of the family help guide the modernization and development process?

Historians tell us that an air of practicality dominated the Commission on Human Rights that wrote the Universal Declaration.(1) With the endorsement of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Commission’s first chair, attempts to ground the basic concepts of the Universal Declaration with reference to God or the idea of nature were either rejected or significantly qualified.

The Lebanese philosopher and statesman Charles Malik resisted these expediencies. He proposed inserting the sentences, "The family deriving from marriage is the natural and fundamental group unit of society. It is endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights antecedent to all positive law and as such shall be protected by the State and Society."(2) Malik believed that the words "natural" and "endowed by the Creator" assured that the marriage-based family would be seen as endowed by its own "inalienable rights" and not viewed as a human invention subject to the caprice of either the state or current public opinion.(3)

Malik was not successful in getting this entire statement into the Universal Declaration. However, Article 16 did retain part of his formulation when it declared that, "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State (Article 16, 3)."(4) This is less than Malik wanted, but more than first meets the eye.

The connection between marriage and family was deleted, principally out of the mistaken fear that it would stigmatize children born out of wedlock.(5) But the words "natural," "fundamental," and "group unit" were retained and are not meaningless. Furthermore, they point to some model of natural law. For Malik, it was the role of society and the state to protect the family, but he also argued that neither society nor the state created the family or endowed it with its basic rights. Family rights are independent of these social entities and, at best, society and state recognize and give public visibility to preexisting natural rights resident in the very nature of the family.

New models of natural law

It is widely acknowledged that Malik tried to ground the Universal Declaration in some kind of natural law theory. Although he was not completely successful, he did not entirely fail. Appeals to nature may have a more important role in grounding its ideas about marriage and family than the Commission believed. I will argue that a flexible natural law theory is in fact implied by the Universal Declaration, even as it stands. I also believe that such a flexible theory can be found in a variety of older philosophical and religious systems and is also consistent with much of modern knowledge.

Central to this flexible natural law theory is the importance of kin attachments and kin altruism to the strength of families. Kin altruism refers to the attachments and investments that biologically related family members have to each other by virtue of their shared biological inheritance. Rightly understood, however, kin altruism is a finite, in contrast to an ultimate, good. By this distinction, I am suggesting that kin altruism is not the measure of all goods for families but rather a highly central good to be enhanced by law, culture, and religion, and to be balanced with other goods.

Religious systems may carry and, indeed, strengthen the value of kin altruism as does Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, even more tenaciously than did early Christianity. In recently editing a book called Sex, Marriage, and Family in World Religions (2006), I learned how the value of kin altruism was particularly strong in Confucianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It not only functioned between family members in this life but extended beyond the grave in a cosmic cycle of intergenerational reciprocity and care between the living and the dead.(6)

But the importance of kin altruism for human life also can be discerned by natural observation and rational analysis. It is a value that philosophy, law and religion have frequently cooperated with one another to articulate, defend, and implement. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects this grand tradition, and its contributions to culture, law and public policy would be even stronger were the importance of kin altruism to family stability made clearer on its pages.

It is a matter of cultural variability as to whether families are patriarchal or egalitarian; extended, joint, or nuclear; polygamous or monogamous; multigenerational households or two-generation parent-child systems. But within all this pluralism of family forms, there has been in the past a persistent core value that is widely cherished around the world. This is the principle that the individuals who procreate an infant also should be, as nearly as possible, the ones responsible for its maintenance, care, and socialization. This value was based on the widely held assumption that the people who conceive a child, when they recognize their relation to it, will on average be the most invested in its nurture and well-being.

The centrality of kin relatedness to the investment in and care for children was elaborated in Aristotle’s Nichomachian Ethics and Politics. It is assumed in the folk psychology of early Christianity. It was systematically brought into Christian theology in the thought of the great medieval Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas. It is assumed as part of the political theory of the Reformers of the Protestant Reformation - Luther and Calvin. It influences the Roman Catholic social teachings of the late 19th and early 20th century, especially the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII and Pius XI. And it is from this source that Malik appropriated the ideas of kin altruism and the natural family for the Universal Declaration, but now presented by him as philosophical concepts.

Using the concept of kin altruism and the natural family in human rights documents, international law, and public policy requires a flexible understanding of natural law. The world of nature is full of proximate causes and conflicting tendencies, an insight that Charles Malik held as well.(7) But when the conflicting tendencies of human sexuality are guided by culture, law, and religion to consider the needs of children, then the natural inclinations toward kin altruism should and can have a commanding role in ordering our unstable natural urges. Such a view is consistent with the images of natural law now developing in the thought of contemporary philosophers and theologians such as Mary Midgley (8), Jean Porter (9), Stephen Pope (10), Larry Arnhart (11), and Lisa Cahill (12). If we are to make use of Malik and the Commission when they referred to the family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society," we must have something like this more flexible understanding of natural law in mind.

Philosophical and legal reflections

The power and function of kin altruism has been clarified by recent advances in the academic discipline of evolutionary psychology. From ants, to mammals, to those unique mammals and primates called humans, contemporary evolutionists have discovered the proclivity of biological parents to invest, favor, and even in some instances sacrifice themselves for their biological offspring.(13) Modern genetics helps us explain this process more concretely. Because of the long period of dependency of the human infant and child, the natural tendency of kin altruism needs the reinforcement of culture and the legal institution of marriage.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave considerable weight to this insight, but not by being prejudicial to single-parent families and other possible family patterns that the accidents of life create. Mothers and their infants – which Aristotle, Aquinas, and evolutionary psychology all hold to be the primordial family – rightly receive special protections in the Declaration (Article 25, 2) but without sacrificing the centrality of the trilogy of what the Abrahamic religions called the one-flesh union of mother, father, and child.

The idea of the family as the fundamental group unit of society is a concept that was repeated time and again in most of the great human rights documents since the Universal Declaration. It is repeated in an altered version even in the controversial United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.(14)

One of the most interesting and hopeful recent legal statements is the Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children presented by the Information Mission to the French National Assembly.(15) This report presents a perspective on the new French bioethics. It concentrates on the rights of the child to be born in a society that protects its chance of being raised by the people who conceived it. The report resists a large number of trends in international family law, including making cohabiting couples and other non-traditional families equivalent with married couples before the law. It rejects legal support for the use of assisted reproductive technology for other than medical reasons and for single individuals. It is not clear if the Mission’s proposals will become law and how they would be adjusted to other negative directions of recent French family law, for instance its pact civile de solidarite, a system of registration for various forms of cohabiting persons. But its recommendations do suggest that law has a role in resisting the family disruptions of first set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But law cannot stop family decline by itself. It must be part of a larger work of culture where law joins with religion, the human sciences, the market, public policy, and the arts to once again honor the natural family and equip persons to have the skills, commitment, supports, and rewards necessary to form and maintain it.

'Right of conscience' regulation faces hurdles

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has introduced legislation to protect medical personnel who object to providing services based on their religious beliefs.

The regulations implement over 35 years of civil rights laws governing healthcare, allowing medical personnel -- including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists -- to refuse to perform services to which they object. Otherwise, there was the threat of some hospitals being forced to close, according to Dr. David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association.

"If you can imagine...your Catholic, Baptist, or other religiously affiliated hospital in your own community not [being[ open, that was where this was heading [along] with an effort to force [out of healthcare] all those who do not do abortions...," Stevens explains.

Pro-abortions forces had already made headway in forcing their views upon medical professionals, so the regulations are needed, says the Christian CEO. "Two out of five of our members say they have either been fired or lost a promotion opportunity or discriminated against in some other manner based upon their religious beliefs," he notes.

Stevens expects a move in the next administration to overturn the rules, and he believes it will take a strong grassroots effort to keep them intact.

Benkof: A different strategy on same-sex marriage


A strong case can be made that more same-sex couples would be protected if the gay and lesbian community in New Jersey and elsewhere would jettison the whole marriage campaign and focus on a new, national strategy of "mutual commitments."

IN NEW JERSEY, litigation and lawsuits on behalf of the gay and lesbian community have resulted in civil union status for same-sex couples. Many observers predict that full marriage rights can be achieved in the Garden State as soon as next year.

But in celebrating such advances for gay rights, most of my fellow gays and lesbians have lost sight of the serious setbacks for same-sex couples in states far more hostile to same-sexers than New Jersey.

A strong case can be made that more same-sex couples would be protected if the gay and lesbian community in New Jersey and elsewhere would jettison the whole marriage campaign and focus on a new, national strategy of "mutual commitments" to protect same-sex couples not only in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts, but also in places less welcoming to gays such as Georgia, Nebraska and Texas.

The 30 constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, including Proposition 8 in California, are a direct result of the lawsuits-for-marriage strategy practiced by gays and lesbians since the mid-Nineties, including successful suits in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut. So achieving marriage in three gay-friendly states (two now that Proposition 8 has passed in California) came at the expense of barring marriage in 10 times as many states, many much less hospitable to same-sex couples.

Worse, 18 of the constitutional amendments, in places like Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, bar not only marriage but any kind of rights specifically for same-sex couples. That means that even in gay-popular cities like Austin, Texas, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, there can be no benefits for gay and lesbian couples unless and until those statewide amendments are repealed — an unlikely scenario.

'Mutual commitments'

Brilliantly, a coalition of concerned politicians from both left and right have come together in Salt Lake City with a plan that can be a model for those concerned about the problems faced by same-sex couples anywhere. Guided by Democratic Mayor Ralph Becker, the "mutual commitments" plan was approved with both liberal and conservative support in the city council and the state legislature. It provides a package of rights, including hospital visitation and health care, to any two people who can show financial interdependence. The pair can be a mother and adult daughter, two straight male roommates or lesbian lovers.

The government doesn't ask — and doesn't care — which.

The Salt Lake City plan relieves the distress of same-sex couples in a way that conservatives and traditional family advocates can embrace. It gives no special recognition to couples based on sexual orientation, but it does enable everyone to designate which one person gets their mutual rights.

This is a profoundly conservative idea. Conservatism is about freedom, so why should the government decide who can visit me in the hospital? I should be the one to make that decision.I propose that my fellow gays and lesbians, in New Jersey and elsewhere, immediately halt all litigation and lobbying to achieve same-sex marriage, and instead push to achieve mutual commitment laws in as many cities and states as possible.

With the promised new bipartisan spirit in Washington, a federal mutual commitment law should also be within reach, covering things like Social Security benefits and survivor's benefits for veterans.

I'm afraid most gays and lesbians may dismiss this proposal, because even though mutual benefits would help far more same-sex couples than a few more marriage victories in gay-friendly states, they are not completely equal.

As Garden State Equality's Steven Goldstein put it two years ago, his side "will settle for nothing less than 100 percent marriage equality."

When New Jersey and other gay-friendly states brook no compromise for the status of same-sex couples, traditionalist voters and legislators in more gay-hostile areas restrict any rights for same-sex couples in their states.

The result is great if you live in Massachusetts; not so good in the South or Midwest.

Weighing the greater good

Surely I'm not the only gay person who thinks the lack of same-sex marriage in an otherwise gay-friendly state like New Jersey is less important than the needs of same-sex couples in every state for rights to hospital visitation, health care and inheritance, among others.

Yet it was precisely our community's push for marriage litigation and lobbying that resulted in the restriction of many of those rights nationwide through constitutional amendments.

It's time for the gay community to reevaluate its priorities and embrace the Salt Lake City plan, which could help the same-sex couples who need it most a lot sooner than a dozen lawsuits ever could.

'Catch 22' custody crisis for Christian mom

A Virginia mother is fighting off attempts by her former lesbian partner to gain visitation rights to a child.

Lisa Miller, a former lesbian and now a born-again Christian, faces jail time for refusing to surrender her daughter to her ex-girlfriend in Vermont. WorldNetDaily reports that Miller could go to prison for refusing to allow her daughter to spend an unsupervised Thanksgiving holiday with her former lesbian partner Janet Jenkins.

When Isabella Miller, Lisa's daughter, was 17 months old, Lisa left the homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian. However, when Miller gave birth to Isabella, she was in a civil union with Jenkins. Miller allowed Isabella to visit Jenkins a couple of times after their separation, but she then determined it unhealthy for her daughter and refused to let the unsupervised visitations continue.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case, but there are additional hearings next month and another chance the case will go to the high court. Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver wants the court to take the case because Virginia and Vermont are struggling with competing marriage laws.

"And more important, people like Lisa Miller and her Christian daughter Isabella are hung in the balance, and their lives are really torn back and forth between these states that want to impose homosexuality or same-sex unions into another sister state," he points out.

Staver contends Lisa Miller is caught in a lose-lose situation. "She either protects her child and does not permit unsupervised visitation in an activist lesbian household in Vermont, or she protects the child and faces the fear of a court order to take the child away and putting her in the custody of an activist homosexual -- and that's a 'Catch 22' no parent wants to be in," he concludes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good news, Bad News on the black family

According to the NYT, The good news is that more black children are living with two parents.
The number of black children being raised by two parents appears to be edging higher than at any time in a generation, at nearly 40 percent, according to newly released census data....
According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.

The bad news is that it may be just a statistical artifact of having changed the definitions:
The Census Bureau attributed an indeterminate amount of the increase to revised definitions adopted in 2007, which identify as parents any man and woman living together, whether or not they are married or the child’s biological parents....
“The unmarried parent was invisible,” Professor Cherlin said. Given a new category, “living with both parents, not married to each other,” he added, “I think the news is that the Census Bureau estimates that about 3 percent of American children are living with two unmarried parents. Because of the increases in living-together relationships, this is probably a higher figure than a generation ago.”

Now, if we just increase the actual marriage rate, the kids would really benefit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Puberty-halting drug 'tragic,' 'ethical bankruptcy'

A professional group wants to use drugs on sexually confused children.

The Endocrine Society wants to use the drugs to delay puberty for children with gender-identity problems. Caleb Price of Focus on the Family tells OneNewsNow the drugs are designed to give adolescents more time to decide which gender they prefer for themselves.

"Well, there's been an increasing push in the medical and psychological communities to try and somehow more easily facilitate gender-confused people to transition to the gender of their choice," he explains.

Price says Focus on the Family has caught a lot of heat for referring to this philosophy as "ethical bankruptcy." He contends teens are not stable enough emotionally to make a decision of such magnitude.

"We see this as a situation that's tragic, foolish, and unconscionable for a professional medical group to encourage young people to move forward on a road where they might be making a decision about changing their gender," he adds.

According to Price, the drug treatment program is another example of parents and physicians bowing to political correctness and to the demands and feelings of young people.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Global porn bust rescues dozens of abused children

A worldwide child porn investigation has resulted in 170 arrests, 61 of them in the United States.

Eleven girls were rescued during Operation Joint Hammer, ranging in age from three to 13 years old. According to news reports, dozens more were located in Europe, where Operation Koala eventually led authorities to producers, distributors, and customers in nearly 30 countries. Pat Trueman, special counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, is thankful and hopes the trend continues. "One hundred seventy people sounds like a lot, but in reality it's a drop in the bucket," he says.

The multibillion-dollar-a-year business is fueled by those who use it, and Trueman knows that experimentation with child porn increases the desire and the demand. "The more perverted you are, the more perverted you will become -- and your lust is never satisfied," he adds. The result, says the former federal porn prosecutor, is "an endless number of children who are molested" in order to meet the demand.

Trueman says there needs to be more prosecution. "What we need is more tools for the law-enforcement community," he contends. "Much of this material starts right here in the United States, and yet [we have] just a fraction of the resources, financial and otherwise, that we need to go after those trafficking in child pornography."

The multibillion-dollar pornography business represents thousands of abused children.

No more 4-3 marriage decisions

By David Benkof

So far, 4-3 decisions have marked the implementation of same-sex marriage in all three of the states (Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut) to have done so (although California's voters reversed that state's high court decision). Such split decisions do not bode well for our democracy.

A key turning point for Proposition 8, which was once well behind in the polls in liberal California, was a television commercial featuring leading gay-marriage proponent and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom declaring that gay marriage will happen "whether you like it or not." Well, Americans have a funny way of deciding on their own whether something will happen if they don't like it.

Gays and lesbians often compare the state court decisions favoring same-sex marriage to the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision allowing interracial marriage in every state and especially the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring that segregated schools were inherently unequal. But there's a key difference between those civil rights cases and today's gay-marriage decisions. The civil rights cases were both unanimous, and thus carried a legitimacy that, while some still resisted, eventually held sway throughout the United States.

By contrast, all the gay marriage decisions have been 4-3, with stinging dissents from the justices who disagreed. Earl Warren, the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court when the civil rights cases were decided, would not have approved. In the two decisions cited above, he pushed for the court to be unanimous, and was willing to wait to rule until the court could speak with one voice on the outcome. It's a much smoother way to go about achieving social change.

But aren't gays and lesbians desperate and thus willing to accept split decisions if that's what it takes? First, we've already seen the split decision in the nation's largest state overturned. If gay-marriage decisions are overturned, that does little good to the gay community.

More importantly, gays and lesbians in states like California aren't desperate for rights and benefits. Because the domestic partnership law provides all the rights and benefits that the Golden State provides married couples, the opponents of Proposition 8 spent $37 million to try to retain little more than self-esteem for gay and lesbian couples. The gay community has far more pressing needs, especially in states where same-sex couples have no rights, to be waging huge self-esteem battles. And in any event, should self-esteem really be coming from the government?

David Benkof is a freelance writer who can be reached at

They're Having Babies. Are We Helping?

By Patrick Welsh

The girls gather in small groups outside Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School most mornings, standing with their babies on their hips, talking and giggling like sorority sisters. Sometimes their mothers drop the kids (and their kids) off with a carefree smile and a wave. As I watch the girls carry their children into the Tiny Titans day-care center in our new $100 million building, I can't help wondering what Sister Mary Avelina, my 11th-grade English teacher, would have thought.

Okay, I'm an old guy from the 1950s, an era light-years from today. But even in these less censorious times, I'm amazed -- and concerned -- by the apparently nonchalant attitude both these girls and their mothers exhibit in front of teachers, administrators and hundreds of students each day. Last I heard, teen pregnancy is still a major concern in this country -- teenage mothers are less likely to finish school and more likely to live in poverty; their children are more likely to have difficulties in school and with the law; and on and on.

But none of that seems to register with these young women. In fact, "some girls seem to be really into it," says T.C. senior Mary Ball. "They are embracing their pregnancies." Nor is the sight of a pregnant classmate much of a surprise to the students at T.C. anymore. "When I was in middle school, I'd be shocked to see a pregnant eighth-grader," says Ball. "Now it seems so ordinary that we don't even talk about it."

Teenage pregnancy has been bright on American radar screens for the past year: TV teen starlet Jamie Lynn Spears's pregnancy caused a minor media storm last December. The pregnant-teen movie "Juno" won Oscar nods. And there was Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, bringing the issue front and center during the recent presidential campaign. But I've been observing the phenomenon up close for a couple of years now, and the picture I see is more troubling than any of those high-profile pregnancies make it seem.

The somber statistics about teen motherhood are the reason the day-care center, run by the local nonprofit Campagna Center, was opened in T.C. Williams two years ago. The idea is to keep the girls in school, let them get their diplomas and help them avoid the kind of fate described earlier. I've been a teacher for more than 30 years, and I want the best for my students and to help them succeed in every way possible. I know that these girls need support. But I can't help thinking we're going at this all wrong. On the surface, Alexandria seems to be striving to stem teen pregnancy. Every high school student is required to take a "family life" course that teaches about birth control, sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy. The Adolescent Health Center, a clinic providing birth control, was built a few blocks from the school. The city-run Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy sponsors workshops for parents and teens. But none of this coalesces to hit the teens with the message that getting pregnant is a disaster. And within the school, apart from the family life class, the attitude is laissez-faire, as if teachers and administrators are afraid to address the issue for fear of offending the students who have children.

Once a girl gets pregnant, though, the school leaps in to do everything for her. But I wonder: Is it possible that all this assistance -- with little or no comment about the kids' actions -- has the unintended effect of actually encouraging them to get pregnant? Are we making it easier for girls to make a bad choice and helping them avoid the truth about the consequences?

And for many, it does seem to be a choice. "There's a myth that these pregnancies are accidental," says school nurse Nancy Runton. "But many of them aren't. I've known girls who've made 'I'll get pregnant if you get pregnant' pacts. It's a status thing. These girls go around school telling each other how beautiful they look pregnant, how cute their tummies look."

Pregnancy pacts, too, were in the news earlier this year when a group of girls in a Massachusetts high school reportedly made one (though some denied it). But that's only one way the situation at T.C. reflects what's happening across the country. The birth rate among teens, after falling 36 percent since 1990, went up 3 percent in 2006, the first increase in 15 years. And most of the rise is due to pregnancies among Hispanic girls.

Lots of white teens nationally have babies, but that's not really the case at T.C. Teen motherhood here is mostly a class issue -- and given Alexandria's demographics, that means the teen mothers are virtually all lower-income blacks and Hispanics with few financial or other resources. Moreover, the number of Hispanic girls with babies is double the number of black girls, which also reflects a national trend. According to Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Hispanics now have the highest rate of teen pregnancy and births of any racial or ethnic group in the country.

In our school of 2,211 students, we now have at least 70 girls who are soon-to-be or already mothers. Many T.C. teachers and administrators have decidedly mixed emotions about the situation. Social worker Terri Wright says that for many girls, getting pregnant before they turn 18 is a rite of passage. "They don't wear sweatshirts or baggy dresses to conceal their pregnancies," says Wright. "I get invitations to baby showers. Girls bring me pictures of their kids dressed up like little dolls."

"There is zero shame," agrees school nurse Runton. One girl walked into a colleague's class last month, announced that she was pregnant and began showing her sonogram around. Another 16-year-old proudly proclaimed that she was "going on maternity leave." The teacher tried to explain that maternity leave is a job benefit that doesn't apply to high school students.

Click here to continue this article.


Religious people have more babies than non-believers--and not just for the obvious reasons. Anthony Gottlieb looks into a philosophical puzzle.

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Winter 2008

If a Martian were to look at a map of the Earth’s religions, what he might find most surprising is the fact that such a map can be drawn at all. How strange--he might say to himself--that so many of the world’s Hindus are to be found in one place, namely India. And how odd that Muslims are so very numerous in the Middle East. With the disconcerting curiosity that is so typical of Martians, he might wonder what explains this geographical clustering. Do people move countries in order to be close to others of the same faith? Or do people simply tend to adopt the religion they grew up with?

The answer, of course, is the latter--on the whole. There are exceptions: Jews moving to Israel, for example, and there are many other cases of religious migration. Still, the huddling of the faithful is mainly explained by the fact that religion runs in families. If you have a religion, it is probably the same one as your parents. Earlier this year a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly three-quarters of American adults professed the religion in which they were raised. But instead of finding this glass to be three-quarters full, newspapers preferred to notice that it was one-quarter empty. It was the minority of Americans who either switched religions, or abandoned religion altogether, who were highlighted in reports of the survey (“Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in US”, ran a headline in the New York Times). Plainly it does not count as news that religion remains largely a family affair. Yet it should do, because of its largely unnoticed consequences. Some religious groups are dramatically outbreeding others, in ways that have an impact on America, Europe and elsewhere.

Consider the Mormons, who grew from six people in a log-cabin in upstate New York in 1830 to 13.1m adherents around the world in 2007. At the beginning of the 20th century, Mormons were a fringe sect in America, with decidedly unusual beliefs. (They officially hold that God once had a body; that people exist as spirits before they are physically conceived; and that Jesus will one day commute between somewhere in Israel and somewhere in the United States.) Today Mormons are about to overtake Jews in America; in fact, they may already have done so. And they almost had their own presidential candidate, in the person of Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. The rapid rise of Mormons in America, growing by an average of 40% every decade in the 20th century, is mainly due to their large families. The American state with the highest birth rate is Utah, which is around 70% Mormon. In America, on average, Mormon women have nearly three times more children than Jewish women.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, however, do have plenty of offspring. This fact is changing the face of Israel, where such families have three times more children than other Israelis. As a result, at least a quarter of Israel’s population of under-17s is expected to be ultra-Orthodox by 2025, according to Eric Kaufmann at Harvard. A similar but more gradual increase in the religious right has been taking place in America for decades, and not just because of Mormons. Conservative Protestant denominations as a whole grew much faster than liberal ones in 20th-century America, and it has been estimated that three-quarters of this growth is due simply to higher birth rates. Were it not for the fact that Evangelical Christians reproduce faster than other Protestants, George Bush--who attracted most of the Evangelical votes--probably could not have made it back to the White House in 2004.

Like other demographers, Eric Kaufmann expects western Europe to become markedly more religious in the course of the 21st century, as a result of the relatively low fertility of unbelievers and immigration from more pious places. Not only do denominations with traditionalist values tend to have higher birth rates than their more liberal co-religionists, but countries that are relatively secularised usually reproduce more slowly than countries that are more religious. According to the World Bank, the nations with the largest proportions of unbelievers had an average annual population growth rate of just 0.7% in the period 1975-97, while the populations of the most religious countries grew three times as fast.

If they want to spread their gospel, then, one might half-seriously conclude that atheists and agnostics ought to focus on having more children, to help overcome their demographic disadvantage. Unfortunately for secularists, this may not work even as a joke. Nobody knows exactly why religion and fertility tend to go together. Conventional wisdom says that female education, urbanisation, falling infant mortality, and the switch from agriculture to industry and services all tend to cause declines in both religiosity and birth rates. In other words, secularisation and smaller families are caused by the same things. Also, many religions enjoin believers to marry early, abjure abortion and sometimes even contraception, all of which leads to larger families. But there may be a quite different factor at work as well. Having a large family might itself sometimes make people more religious, or make them less likely to lose their religion. Perhaps religion and fertility are linked in several ways at the same time.

Mary Eberstadt, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California, has suggested several ways in which the experience of forming a family might stimulate religious feelings among parents, at least some of the time. She notes that pregnancy and birth, the business of caring for children, and the horror of contemplating their death, can stimulate an intensity of purpose that might make parents more open to religious sentiments. Many common family events, she reasons, might encourage a broadly spiritual turn of mind, from selfless care for a sick relation to sacrifices for the sake of a child’s adulthood that one might never see.

Eberstadt argues that part of the reason why western European Christians have become more secular is that they have been forming fewer stable families, and having fewer children when they do. This, she suggests, may help to explain some puzzles about the timing of secularisation in certain places. In Ireland, for example, she notes that people started having smaller families before they stopped going to church. And, she argues, if something about having families can incline one to religion, this might shed some light on another mystery: why the sexes are not equally religious.

According to Rodney Stark, an American sociologist of religion, the generalisation that men are less religious than women “holds around the world and across the centuries”. In every country--both Christian and non-Christian--analysed by Dr Stark, based on data from the World Values Survey in the 1990s, more women than men said they would describe themselves as religious. There is no agreed explanation for this striking difference. Perhaps the fact that women play a rather larger role than men in the production and rearing of children has something to do with it. If family life does contribute to religiosity, then having larger families might backfire on unbelievers. It might make them more religious. And since faith is still largely a family affair, their children would then be more likely to be religious, too.

A pastoral message to homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

By Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As Bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, we are addressing this message first of all to the homosexual members of our Church. Given the controversy generated by the passage of Proposition 8, we want to reassure each of you that you are cherished members of the Catholic Church, and that we value you as equal and active members of the Body of Christ. At the same time, we would like to address this message to all the members of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and to all men and women in the wider community.

The passage of Proposition 8 in the State of California does not diminish in any way the importance of you, our homosexual brothers and sisters in the Church. Nor does it lessen your personal dignity and value as full members of the Body of Christ. The Church's support of Proposition 8 was our effort to resist a legal redefinition of marriage. Our support for Proposition 8 was in defense of the longstanding institution of marriage understood as the life-long relationship of a man and a woman ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of their children.

We are disappointed that the ballot information about Proposition 8 stated that the purpose of the initiative was "to ban gay marriage." From the very beginning, this was not our purpose.
When the United Nations was established in 1948, it proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which set in place some 30 Articles to embrace all rights of all peoples on the earth. Article 16 deals with marriage. In the context of the time when it was written, it is clear that the basic understanding of the family, as envisioned by the United Nations Declaration, was one founded on the marriage of one man and one woman.

Subsection 3 states: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." It is this universal understanding of marriage and family which Proposition 8 desired to guarantee in California.

Such an understanding of marriage is found in at least three major religious traditions which have described the origin, meaning, and intent of marriage in their sacred writings. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we find explicit reference to marriage between a man and a woman in 51 verses located in 19 books. The Christian Scriptures have 14 verses dealing directly with marriage in six books. The Muslim Koran records 14 passages dealing with marriage.

Thus, our faith communities and their sacred writings are in agreement about the application of the term "marriage." And there are other faith communities which, in their own sacred writings, concur with this understanding. Our faith communities have never understood this term to be applied to other types of relationships between people.

These sacred writings and traditions, spanning thousands of years, support the fundamental truth that God created the human family as male and female, sending them forth to be fruitful and multiply. This is the understanding of marriage which has prevailed throughout human history, and has been enacted in the laws of peoples, nations, races and religions everywhere. It is this truth that is at the heart of Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 was not crafted as a concern for civil rights but as an effort to resist a redefinition of marriage. "Marriage" is not a merely religious concept, but is so fundamental to human experience that it cannot be redefined legally.

The Catholic Church has historically opposed attempts to deny or to limit the exercise of the basic rights which are known through the natural law and which are expounded in Sacred Scriptures and in the charters and declarations of world bodies. Our efforts in this country to espouse equal rights for all citizens have frequently created adverse reactions for our Church: our somewhat belated efforts to prohibit slavery; our insistence on equal educational opportunities for all children; our strong support of immigrants' rights; our struggles on behalf of unborn children and those at the end of life's journey, and so many others.

In 1997 the United States Catholic Bishops' Committee on Marriage and the Family published Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, urging the Christian community and especially parents of homosexuals to offer them understanding and pastoral care.

Proposition 8 was never intended, directly or indirectly, to lessen the value and importance of gay and lesbian persons. Your intrinsic value as human beings and as brothers and sisters continues without change. If we had ever thought that the intent of this proposition was to harm you or anyone in the State of California, we would not have supported it. We are personally grateful for the witness and service of so many dedicated and generous homosexual Catholics. We pledge our commitment to safeguard your dignity.

Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles we began our spiritual and pastoral outreach to homosexual people over 20 years ago. And we were pilloried by many for doing so. We began the various Serra Residences for victims of HIV and AIDS when the public understanding and fear of this illness repulsed so many.

As we have come to learn over these past decades, there are many groupings of people residing under one roof across California. Some of these groupings are related family members, while others are companions and friends. There are now 17 rights for such companions and friends specifically included in the State of California's legal structure.

We are saddened that some people who opposed Proposition 8 have employed hurtful and accusatory language, and even threatening actions, against those who voted for Proposition 8. This is most unfortunate since such strategies obscure the basic matter at issue: the preservation of the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.

Supporting marriage as it has always been understood diminishes none of us.

We welcome thoughtful and civil dialogue with you so that we can deepen our realization that all of us cherish God's creative life which we equally share. We are committed to find ways to eliminate discrimination against homosexual persons, and to help guarantee the basic rights which belong to each of us.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Bishop Thomas Curry
Bishop Gerald Wilkerson
Bishop Edward Clark
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop Alexander Salazar
Bishop Oscar Solis

Monday, December 15, 2008

Colson - 'a converted, broken sinner' - honored by Bush

Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson has been honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal. The honor, which was awarded last Wednesday during an Oval Office ceremony, recognized Colson's work to bring the gospel of Christ to prisoners, former inmates, and their families.

Colson, who was a top aide to President Richard Nixon, was the first member of that administration to go to prison for Watergate-related crimes. Colson became a Christian and, after his release from prison, founded Prison Fellowship, which conducts outreaches to inmates and their families.

The ministry's success, says Colson, is an act of God. "The credit, if any is due for what's happened in Prison Fellowship, goes of course to God first; but then to the staff of people we have," he shares. "We've got a wonderful team that have [sic] been working at this -- the donors, the...50,000 volunteers across America that are involved in the ministry.

"As I told the president, I received [the Presidential Citizens Medal] on behalf of all those, like myself, who have had broken experiences, but know that redemption is possible...mainly the ex-convicts and convicts that I work with."

Colson was among 23 individuals who were recognized during a private ceremony in the Oval Office. The medal is one of the highest honors the president can give a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Marriage, Adoption and What's Best for Children

by Marcia Segelstein

A recent piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlights the ever-growing research that children are substantially better off when raised by their married parents.

Writer Jim Wooten cites the work of Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor of Family Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. Wilson spoke recently at a summit on Children, Marriage and Family Law. She analyzed research studies about what is best for children, and the results were crystal clear. “In virtually every study, weighing every variable – family structure, age, income, race, education – the evidence is overwhelming that children do better in families where married adults are rearing their biological children.”

But what about adopted children? Perhaps because Wilson herself was adopted as a child, she has paid special attention to this issue. In preliminary results, she found that adoptive parents “invest more [of themselves] in adoptive chidlren, on average, than biological parents do in their children.” She believes that adoption “shows that adults can be bound to children and protective of them…But what distinguishes adoptees from kids in boyfriend households that are fraught with peril for some kids is that both adults are committing to the child, permanently, for good, and with identical connections to the child. And they mean to be conneccted to the child, not just to one another.”

Forged consent note for abortion leads to lawsuit

An Atlanta abortion clinic is facing a lawsuit over an abortion performed on a minor.

The boy and girl wanted to marry and have the child, but the mother of the 15-year-old's boyfriend insisted on an abortion, found a clinic that would do it, and sent them on their way. But Fenn Little, the girl's attorney, says there is a problem with that in Georgia.

"There's a parental notification law [that] requires parental consent for a minor to have an abortion -- and it requires some actual notice," he explains -- 24 hours notice, in fact.

The girl arrived at the clinic with a faked consent note forged by the boyfriend's mother on the day of the abortion. "[B]ecause it's a misdemeanor in Georgia to violate that notice law, [the solicitor] actually brought charges, and the lady was convicted and sentenced to the maximum term allowable [12 months]," says Little.

The girl's parents knew nothing of the abortion until two weeks afterwards, and have now sued Northside Women's Clinic saying it broke Georgia law.

Attorney Little sees some irony in the situation in that the girl's mother previously had taken her to have her ears pierced -- but was turned away. "WalMart sent them back home to get proof that she was the daughter to sign the parental authorization to get her ears pierced," he shares. "So you can get an abortion [without proof of parenthood], but you can't get your ears pierced."

Little hopes to prove in court that the clinic in question routinely performs abortions on minors and does not follow the law.

Planned Parenthood protecting child rapist ... again

Another incident has surfaced involving an underage girl receiving an abortion and no attention being paid to the child molester who impregnated her.

The incident happened at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the nation's capitol. Information on the incident comes from American Life League's Katy Walker.

"Counselors in Washington, DC, encountered a 13-year-old girl going into a Planned Parenthood in the downtown DC area [who] was accompanied by her mother and her aunt," Walker explains. According to the pro-life activist, following the abortion the aunt shared some information with sidewalk counselors outside the clinic.

"[S]he informs them that this little girl has been raped by the mother's boyfriend, and the mother wants to keep the boyfriend," says Walker.

Police were called, but the frightened girl would not provide information.

Walker contends similar cases are commonplace. "[T]his kind of stuff happens every day in Planned Parenthoods across the country -- every day," she argues. "They're covering for statutory rapists."

All states have laws requiring reporting of child abuse to authorities, and abortion facilities for the most part are not complying. That was the conclusion of an extensive investigation several years ago by Life Dynamics, Inc., a Texas-based pro-life group.

Case against sidewalk counselor in Oakland

From an email from a friend:

Dear Friends of Life,

Please read the article below. This case will set precedence in Oakland and throughout California.

Note below that Rev Walter Hoye apparently did nothing wrong.

I have personally met Reverend Hoye. He is a warm, loving and Godly man. He is being persecuted for defending life. He is being used as a cruel example to enforce the new "bubble, Mother May I" Law in Oakland.

What can we do?:

Prior to the trial on Dec 19, today if you can, write and fax the District Attorney Tom Orloff, let him know that we are aware of the truth behind this case, and we will be observing the trial and will hold him accountable for a fair trial for the Reverend Hoye.

The Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff is located at:
1225 Fallon Street, Room 900
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 272-6222
FAX: (510) 271-5157

Thank you for staying engaged. Let us continue to bond together and hold our public officials accountable. Together we are a strong voice.


City Attorney Calls Obstruction by Pro-Aborts “Creative”

OAKLAND, CA: More details emerged Friday of the scheme by government officials and abortion providers to silence pro-life advocate Walter Hoye of Berkeley. At a pre-trial readiness hearing in Oakland Superior Court, the Alameda County district attorney demanded that Rev. Hoye plead guilty to one misdemeanor count and agree to stay-away from local abortion clinics for an unspecified period of time in exchange for dismissing three other bogus criminal charges against him. Rev. Hoye refused and will go to trial next week.

Rev. Hoye, who is African-American, feels a special calling to work for the end of the genocide-by-abortion taking place in the African-American community. As part of his efforts, he stands in front of an abortion clinic in Oakland with leaflets about abortion alternatives and a sign reading, “Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help.”

Rev. Hoye’s peaceful witness enrages the all-white cadre of clinic “escorts,” who surround him to impede his movement, block his sign with large sheets of blank cardboard, and make raucous noise to drown out his quiet offers of assistance.

As this interference did not deter Rev. Hoye, the clinic then worked with Oakland city council members to pass a “Mother May I” ordinance, prohibiting approaching within eight feet of women entering abortion clinics without their consent. The penalty for illegally approaching a person to talk or hand out a leaflet is one year in jail and/or a $2000 fine.

On May 13, 2008, Rev. Hoye was arrested for allegedly violating the ordinance. One of the witnesses against him was an Oakland city attorney who was secretly watching from a car. In an e-mail to the clinic director, the city attorney said the escorts’ use of signs to block Rev. Hoye “was creative and seemed to be effective.”

The district attorney then expanded the complaint to include four counts, two for “unlawful” approaches and two for allegedly using “force, threat of force, or physical obstruction” against two of the clinic escorts. At a pre-trial hearing in July, Rev. Hoye’s attorneys cross-examined these “victims.” The escorts admitted that Rev. Hoye never used force against them, threatened them, or blocked them. They proudly testified that they routinely block Rev. Hoye to prevent patients from seeing his sign. Nevertheless, the DA has not dismissed the charges against Rev. Hoye.

“The district attorney’s office appears to be using these trumped-up charges as leverage to pressure Rev. Hoye into giving up his free speech rights,” said Hoye’s attorney Mike Millen. “The threat of four years in jail is a potent one, but my client is more interested in getting the truth out, both on the sidewalk and in the courtroom.”

Rev. Hoye will be back in court on Friday, December 19, 2008, where a trial date will be set.

Protecting pocketbooks from embryo research

Missourians are fighting back against passage of a November ballot issue providing state tax dollars for research on human embryos.

Ed Martin of Missouri Roundtable for Life says the measure, which would result in killing tiny human beings, won passage with only a fraction-of-one-percent majority.

"It was passed after almost $35 million were spent by pro-cloning proponents to pass it -- and the opposition obviously was much less than that," he shares. Martin's organization has launched a petition drive to put the issue back on the ballot in 2010 in an effort to reverse the 2006 vote.

"It became clear that one of the impacts -- and a major one, at that -- was the creation of law and policy that made it possible for tax dollars to be used for human cloning as well as for abortion services actually," the activist explains.

Martin points out that someone wanting to start a business must go to banks for financing. But in this case, he adds, clone research businesses want taxpayers to hand them the money.

Missouri Roundtable for Life has also filed lawsuits to block $21 million in state funds from going to the research. One of those suits was dismissed last month.

Iowa latest target for homosexual marriage

The Iowa Supreme Court has heard arguments from homosexuals in a challenge to the state's marriage laws.

Douglas Lapier, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, argued against homosexual marriage." "For over 170 years in Iowa, marriage has been defined as a union between one man and one woman," he explains. "It's [a] well-settled law in the state of Iowa." Lapier notes that a member of the court asked the pro-homosexual attorney what would happen in terms of polygamy and incestuous marriage if the court ruled in favor of homosexual marriage.

"The plaintiffs simply could not satisfactorily answer that question, which means that there is a great risk that if they open up the doors to same-sex marriage in Iowa, there's no telling what they're opening up their doors to next," he contends.

The case is now in the hands of the court, which is supposed to act as a referee and apply law, according to Lapier. "The Supreme Court of Iowa has to decide whether or not they have any business in deciding the definition of marriage as a matter of public policy, or if that should be left to the legislature and the people of Iowa," he concludes.

Last August, a Polk County judge legalized homosexual marriage for four hours before issuing a stay pending a higher-court decision.

Pro-lifers urge United Nations to honor life

Several organizations have attended a United Nations meeting with a serious task as the 60th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights is being celebrated. Numerous pro-life organizations collected signatures for a petition, calling on the United Nations to honor life. Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright was there. "Petitions were signed by over 400,000 people in over 168 countries that were presented to the U.N.," she explains.

Wright was asked what prompted the drive, besides the U.N.'s recent leaning toward pro-abortion ideas. "This petition drive was started after it was discovered that Marie Stokes, a British abortion group, was collecting their own petition that they planned on presenting...claiming that the right to abortion should be interpreted as being in the Declaration of Human Rights," she points out.

That group collected about 600 signatures. The declaration actually says, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person."