News Roundup

Canada Passes Law Criminalizing Use of Wrong Gender Pronouns

Canada’s Senate has passed a bill that puts “gender identity” and “gender expression” into the country’s Human Rights Code and also adds them to the ‘hate crime’ category of its Criminal Code. Once the bill is signed into law, it will make it illegal to use the wrong gender pronoun of a transgender person. Critics say that Canadians who do not subscribe to gender theory, which says a person’s ‘gender’ has nothing to do with their physical body, could be accused of hate crimes, jailed, fined, and made to take anti-bias training. Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, warmly welcomed the Bill’s passage, tweeting to his followers:  “Great news:  Bill C-16 has passed the Senate – making it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression. #LoveisLove.” Meanwhile, one of the bill’s fiercest critics, Psychology Professor, Jordan Peterson, decried the new law saying, “Compelled speech has come to Canada, . . . We will seriously regret this.”


Planned Parenthood nemesis wins stunning political victory

A former Vice-President of breast cancer charity, the Komen Foundation, who resigned her job after an onslaught of criticism from Planned Parenthood has just won a seat in the US House of Representatives after a stunning victory in a by-election in Georgia.

In 2012, Karen Handel had been in charge of public policy at the breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, when they cut an annual grant of $700,000 to Planned Parenthood. When word of the change was leaked to the press, Planned Parenthood unleashed a vicious, public campaign against Komen and Handel that drastically cut into Komen’s own funding and eventually caused the breast cancer charity to reverse its decision. Handel resigned and declined a severance package. She later wrote a book about the experience Planned Bullyhood: The Truth Behind the Headlines about the Planned Parenthood Funding Battle with Susan G. Komen for the CureFive years later, Handel became the Republican candidate in the special election for a vacant seat in the Georgia’s sixth district and Planned Parenthood ploughed over $700,000 into funding her Democratic opponent. However, Handel won the election by a four point margin and now is set to join Republicans in Washington as they pass a new budget that cuts half a billion dollars in grants to Planned Parenthood.


Oireachtas committee on abortion meets for first time, as Harris warns country to ‘Prepare itself’ for Referendum

The all-party Oireachtas Committee tasked with turning the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion into concrete political proposals meets for the first time today and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, warned the country to brace itself for a referendum. Pro-life members of the Committee include Mattie McGrath, TD, and Senator Ronan Mullen. A majority of the members are pro-choice or have no clear, stated position.

Mr Harris said the Taoiseach made clear his desire for a vote on this next year, and so, the Minister said, “It’s very important that this country prepares itself to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018.” As the Oireachtas committee considers various proposals for amending or repealing the pro-life amendment, Minister Harris will work in parallel, examining possible wordings of a referendum and the legislative options that could follow a successful vote. “I expect it will get on with its job and my Department will prepare to deal with recommendations that arise from that committee,” said Mr Harris, who has been given charge of the issue by the Taoiseach. The Committee will hold its first public session in September and is expected to produce a report by Christmas.


Arlene Foster letter on Scottish same-sex marriage legislation released

The Scottish government has published a 2015 written request of DUP leader Arlene Foster asking that gay couples from Northern Ireland not be included in legislation to enable the conversion of civil partnerships to same sex-marriages in Scotland. The request had originally been made by Ms Foster’s predecessor, Simon Hamilton, in March 2015. When Ms Foster succeeded him as Finance Minister, she reiterated her predecessor’s concerns about the proposal in a letter of September 2015. “In this instance we can achieve legal certainty by restricting the definition of a ‘qualifying civil partnership’ so as to exclude civil partnerships which were entered into in Northern Ireland,” she wrote.


US Supreme Court affirms free speech includes ‘hate speech’

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protecting free speech also protects speech that some might find racially offensive or hateful. Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’” Justice Anthony Kennedy added that laws restricting such speech are an “egregious form of content discrimination” and, as such, are unconstitutional: “A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence.”


Need to deal with abortion ‘definitively’, says Health Minister

Health Minister Simon Harris has said Ireland must deal with abortion “definitively”. He was speaking after the Abortion Support Network claimed that two women who had attempted suicide more than once were refused abortions in Ireland. Last night, Minister Harris said that he would make all possible resources available to draft legislation for a referendum on the issue. Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh warned that any legislation that might follow a referendum on abortion should allow for broad access to abortion services: “It is clear that any law that requires women and pregnant people to prove their circumstance before being allowed an abortion will not work in Ireland.” The Abortion Rights Campaign supports abortion-on-demand.


New UK figures show rise in religious practice among the young, with many inspired by visits to Churches

New figures show that more than one in five (21 per cent) people between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus, and 13 per cent say they are practising Christians who attend church. The study, commissioned by a Christian youth organisation Hope Revolution Partnership and carried out by ComRes, suggested that levels of Christianity were much higher among young people than previously thought.

Interestingly, around 13 per cent of teenagers said that they decided to become a Christian after a visit to a church or cathedral, according to the figures, which showed the influence of a church building was more significant than attending a youth group, going to a wedding, or speaking to other Christians about their faith. The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, who is the lead bishop for churches and church buildings, said: “This shows the power of church buildings – they are powerful for all sorts of reasons. “They give a sense of stability, and also the sense that the Christian faith has inspired people to build these extraordinary buildings,” he said.


New poll shows public split 50/50 on Good Friday drinking laws

The public is evenly divided on whether or not we should change our Good Friday drinking laws according to a new poll published today. The poll, commissioned by The Iona Institute, was conducted after the Government announced it would change the drinking laws to abolish the prohibition on selling alcohol in pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants on Good Friday. Conducted by Amarach Research, the poll found that 51pc of the public supports the move and 49pc are against it. Opposition to the move is strongest among 18-24 year olds at 58pc. Women are also more likely to oppose the move. Fifty-four percent of women are against changing the drinking laws on Good Friday while 56pc of men support the proposal. Commenting on the poll, Dr John Murray, Chairman of The Iona Institute said: “Given that the public is evenly divided on the issue of the Good Friday drinking laws, shouldn’t the Government think twice before giving in so completely to the vintners and restaurateurs? He continued: “Not every day should be equally commercial. This principle is widely recognised in many parts of Europe, including Germany, where shops are prevented from opening on Sundays. The German Government has not given into pressure from commercial interests on this matter nor has the fact that the reason for closing shops on a Sunday has a Christian origin inclined the Government there to open them in reaction against that fact. Other countries like Austria and Norway and parts of Italy, Spain and France also close their shops each Sunday”.

Supreme Court says No to polygamy but wants rights for second ‘wife’

The Supreme Court has decided that a polygamous marriage from another jurisdiction should not be regarded as valid here in Ireland. However, the Court did concede that the man’s marriage to his first wife should be regarded as valid. In a case concerning a Lebanese man with two wives who is now resident in this country, the Court said that polygamy violated the principle of equality and to “give legal recognition to such a structure would be to give legal effect to discrimination and subordination in a relationship where the principle of equality should show sway”. Nonetheless, while a man’s first marriage should be regarded as valid, the court called upon the Oireachtas to consider legislating for the fact of any subsequent wives and any rights and duties that might thereby accrue from that relationship.

Liberal Democrats leader resigns citing intolerance toward faith

The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK has resigned following an election campaign dogged by questions about his faith. Tim Farron is politically liberal, yet also an evangelical Christian and he was repeatedly asked by media on the campaign trail whether he thought abortion and gay sex were sinful even though he supports both abortion and gay marriage. After a poor showing by his party in the election, he submitted his resignation, citing difficulties with faith in particular: “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me”. Even though he steadfastly kept his religion out of his politics, he said he found himself “the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in”. He concluded: “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society. That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.” The former Liberal Democrat MP, Lord Alton of Liverpool, also released a statement where he lambasted the party for its intolerance of faith.  “It is ironic that a Party, which I joined as a teenager, because of its belief in conscience, human rights and free speech, has morphed into something so narrow and intolerant…that its leader has been forced to choose between his Faith and his Party.”
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