Saturday, August 15, 2015

More Religious Discrimination - Colorado Baker Fined for Not Making Same Sex Wedding Cake

Colorado provides us with the latest example of anti-religious discrimination.  This time the target is, again, a Christian baker who felt making a wedding cake for a same sex marriage violated his religious beliefs.  Time Magazine reports:
Jack Phillips, Owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop
Photo Credit:  Time Magazine

Colorado baker is appealing a ruling from the state’s Civil Rights Commission that he either make cakes for same-sex weddings or face fines.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins in July of 2012, when the now-married same-sex couple came into his store while planning a reception.
“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies,” Phillips allegedly told the couple, citing religious beliefs as the reason for his refusal. “I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”   
Attorneys representing Phillips, who hasn’t made any wedding cakes since the ruling, argued Tuesday in the Colorado Court of Appeals that he has the right to refuse to make a same-sex wedding cake according to the First Amendment, the Associated Press reports. “Mr. Phillips has the same First Amendment right as the cake artist who doesn’t want to create a Confederate flag cake,” said Jeremy Tedesco, one of Phillips’ attorneys.
Who can be found on the other side opposing religious freedom and the constitutional Free Exercise Clause?  Well, of course, none other than the American Civil Liberties Union.  Ironically the ACLU was a big supporter of the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act which passed Congress nearly unanimously in 1993 and was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.  In the two decades that followed the ACLU and the Democratic Party has turned sharply against religious freedom.  During the 2012 presidential convention Democratic delegates openly booed a proposed amendment to reinsert a mention of "God" and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel in the party's platform.

To see another example of religious discrimination, read about what happened to the Odgaards.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Planned Parenthood Exposed in Video Sting Operation; Gov. Pence Calls for Investigation

Thursday I had to a chance to watch the undercover video in which the Planned Parenthood director talked about harvesting fetal body parts during abortions while glossing over violations of federal law.  Tim Swarens of the Indianapolis Star has an excellent editorial on the subject:
She sips from a glass of wine. Takes a bite of salad. Then discusses the marketplace's demand for intact livers, lungs and brains — harvested from aborted babies.   
In a two-hour, 42-minute undercover video — chilling in both its gruesome detail and the utter casualness with which the conversation unfolds — Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, explains how she fulfills orders for fetal organs.   
Dr. Deborah Nucatola
"I'd say a lot of people want liver," Nucatola tells two actors posing as representatives of

a tissue procurement firm. "And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they'll know where they're putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is calvarium. Calvarium — the head — is basically the biggest part. 
"We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part," she says nonchalantly as lunchtime chatter fills a restaurant in Southern California. "I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact." 
About 40 minutes into watching the video, I needed to turn it off, walk away and calm my soul. That was shortly after Nucatola described in excruciating detail how she routinely repositions babies inside the womb to perform what sounds like a procedure commonly known as a partial-birth abortion. 
So that the brain can be harvested. 
Because, as she acknowledges, brains are in high demand. 
And fetch a premium price.
During the video Nucatola talked about that, depending on which organs are wanted, sometimes the abortionist will "change the presentation" of the fetus, and "convert it to a breach."  That way valuable organs to be sold won't be crushed during the procedure.  When the issue turned to the possible violation of federal law in selling fetal organs and engaging in partial-birth abortion, Nucatola responded with a Bill Clintonesque that laws are open to intepretatioin.

My conversion on the abortion issue came in college when I wrote a letter on prenatal development.  In my research, I ran across what happened during an abortion. Fetuses, i.e. unborn babies are cut up and crushed during an abortion.  Truly horrifying.  The abortion issue is not at all what the liberals say it is - that the issue is about a woman's body.  And, alt for me at least, my opposition to abortion had to do with medical science, not religion.

Cecile Richards, President
Planned Parenthood
While some liberals remarkably began defending Nucatola, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards quickly tossed her under the bus.  Richards said Nucatola inaccurately described the organ harvesting process at Planned Parenthood facilities and that doctors don't change procedures to harvest organs.   It is not clear whether Richards is claiming that  Nucatola, who again is senior director of medical services for the Planned Parenthood, was lying to embarrass PP for some reason or she is just grossly misinformed about the medical services taking place at PP facilities.  Or could it be a PP official being honest not knowing that she was being recorded?  Yeah, I'm guessing the later.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood of Indiana.  The Star reports:
Republican Gov. Mike Pence ordered Thursday an investigation into Planned Parenthood in Indiana after an undercover video shot by anti-abortion activists sparked widespread outrage this week over the harvesting of organs from aborted fetuses. 
Citing federal and state laws prohibiting tissue trafficking, Pence said he directed the Indiana State Department of Health and the Attorney General’s Office to look into whether local Planned Parenthood locations have illegally profited from fetal organ donations.   
“I think every Hoosier should be appalled at what has come forward as allegations in this video,” Pence told WIBC-FM (93.1) conservative radio host Greg Garrison. “I’m deeply troubled by it. It is my obligation as governor of the state of Indiana to make sure that this is not happening in Indiana.” 
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky does not participate in a tissue-donation program, a spokeswoman has said.   
“And of course,” the local affiliate said in a statement, “we hold compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations as an imperative.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Oregon Takes Shot at Free Speech, Punishes Baker for Voicing Opposition to Same Sex Marriage

 On Thursday, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry handed down a decision that contains a chilling First Amendment assault on the right of the Oregon business owners to voice their opposition to same sex marriage.

The case involves a Christian couple, Melissa and Aaron Klein, who operated a bakery under the name “Sweetcakes by Melissa.”   Last year a long-time customer, Rachel Bowman-Cryer, came into the bakery and said she wanted a cake made for her wedding to her partner, Laurel Bowman-Cryer.  Aaron Klein declined saying the couple didn’t feel comfortable, that baking a cake to them involved participating in a ceremony that they had moral objections to.  The lesbian couple was apparently completely traumatized by the rejection, experiencing “outrage, embarrassment, exhaustion, frustration, sorrow and shame” after the rejection.  They did manage to pull themselves together enough to lodge a discrimination complaint with the OBLI.

See also:  Mennonite Couple Targeted Because of Religious Objections to Performing Same Sex Marriage

The administrative law judge for the OBLI found the Kleins had violated Oregon’s law against discrimination in public accommodations and awarded $135,000 in damages.  But Brad Avakian, Commissioner of the OBLI and who is responsible for signing off on the decision, decided the ALJ did not go far enough.   In a lengthy opinion, Avakian found that the Kleins also violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination advertising law, ORS 659A, 409.  That law provides:

[I]t is an unlawful practice for any person acting on behalf of any place or public accommodation as defined in ORS 659A, 400 to publish, circulate, issue or display, or cause to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of the place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of…sexual orientation.< It is common sense that the legislature intended the provision to apply to things like signs and advertisements in which a business owner indicated that he or she intends to discriminate in the provision of services. 

Commissioner Avakian, who the opinion
says in a footnote is an attorney but apparently flunked Constitutional Law 101, instead uses the advertising provision as a free wielding tool to attack the Kleins for daring to speak out about what the Oregon Department of Labor was doing to them.   In the opinion, Avakian cites the speech he thinks violated the advertising prohibition, speech that the Commissioner does not believe is protected by the First Amendment. First up is a passage from a Christian Broadcasting Network interview:
“A. Klein:  “I didn’t want to be a part of her marriage, which I think is wrong.”

M. Klein:  “I am who I am and I want to live my life the way I want to live my life and, you know, I choose to serve God.”
A. Klein:  “It’s one of those things where you never want to see something you’ve put so much work into go belly up, but on the other hand, um, I have faith and the Lord and he’s taken care of us to this point and I’m sure he will in the future.” 
The Kleins are also accused of violating the advertising law by a sign they posted in their business: 

“Closed but still in business.  You can reach me by email or facebook. or Sweetcakes by Melissa facebook page.  This fight is not over.  We will continue to stand strong.  Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith.  The LORD is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart.”
The Commissioner then returns to another CBN interview for more language that is deemed to have violated the advertising prohibition:

Perkins (host):  …Tell us how this unfolded and your reaction to that.
A. Klein:   “Well, as far as how it unfolded, it was just, you know, business as usual.  We had a bride come in. She wanted to try some wedding cake. Return customer. Came in, sat down.  I simply asked the bride and groom’s first name and date of the wedding.  She kind of giggled and informed me it was two brides.  At that point, I apologized.  I said, “I’m very sorry, I feel you may have wasted your time.  You know we don’t do same-sex marriage, same-sex wedding cakes.”  And she got upset, noticeably, and I understand that.  Got up, walked out, and you know, that was, I figured the end of that.
Perkins:   “Aaron, let me stop you for a moment.  Had you and your wife, had you talked about this before; is this something that you had discussed?  Did you think, you know, this might occur and had you thought through how you might respond or did this kind of catch you off guard?”
A. Klein:  “You know, it was something I had a feeling that was going to become an issue and I discussed it with my wife when the state of Washington, which is right across the river from us, legalized same-sex marriage and we watched Masterpiece Bakery going through the same issue that we ended up going through.  But, you know, it was one of those situations where we said “well I can see it is going to become an issue but we have to stand firm.  It’s our belief and we have a right to it, you know.”  I could totally understand the backlash from the gay and lesbian community.  I could see that; what I don’t understand is the government sponsorship of religious persecution.  That is something that just kind of boggles my mind as to how a government that is under the jurisdiction of the Constitution can decide, you know, that these people’s right’s overtake these people’s rights or even opinion that this person’s opinion is more valid than this person’s; it kind of blows my mind.”
The Commissioner concluded that the above statements indicate a future intent to discriminate and thus violate Oregon law.  Perhaps in an attempt to evade an almost certainly successful as applied free speech challenge, the Commissioner concluded that while the Kleins violated the advertising law, the lesbian couple didn’t actually suffer any damage due to that violation. Rather the Commissioner said the entire $135,000 in “emotional damages” related to the denial service, not the public comments of the Kleins.  The Commissioner also made clear that the $135,000 was not punitive damages to punish the Kleins, which the Bureau had no legal authority to award, but was the sum necessary to make the lesbian couple whole for the emotional trauma that was suffered at the hands of the Kleins.

See also:  Odgaards Shut Down Wedding Venue After Facing Discrimination Complaint for Religious Objections to Hosting Same Sex Ceremony

At the conclusion of the decision, the Commissioner Avakian’s imposes a “gag order” on the Kleins as part of the judgment. While read in isolation it appears to simply track the anti-discrimination advertising language in Oregon law, it is clear from the facts the Commissioner cite as proof of violation that he intends a sweeping restriction on the Kleins’ ability to speak out about the case or voice their opinion on same sex marriage.  

But the decision goes beyond the Kleins.  Given he imposed no damages associated with the advertising provision, there is no apparent reason for Commissioner Avakian to have raised the issue and highlight rather innocuous comments he deemed violated the law.  Except for one reason. That reason is to use the case to tell the business community in Oregon that, if you are opposed to same sex marriage, you better sit down and shut up or you will be the next target of the Oregon Department of Labor.  The State of Oregon’s chilling assault on its citizens’ Free Speech rights needs to be repelled.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mother Who Used Medical Marijuana Charged with Five Felonies, Has Child Taken Away

Shona Banda
With a wave of states considering legalization of marijuana for medical reasons, we are presented with the curious case of Shona Banda from Kansas. Suffering from Crohn’s disease and having undergone 17 surgeries, Banda was prescribed fentanyl, a powerful and addictive narcotic to ease her pain. Then while separated from her husband and living in Colorado, Banda discovered that cannabis oil alleviated her discomfort, but also had a healing effect. Despite the risks, she moved back to Kansas where marijuana use is illegal in order to co-parent their 11 year old son.

During a drug education presentation by a police officer, Banda’s son mentioned his mother’s use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The child was whisked out of class and interrogated by the officer and school officials without Banda's knowledge. When she arrived home, law enforcement officials searched the home and turned up marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Banda was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia (lab), possession of drug paraphernalia, and child endangerment. In all, she faces five felony charges which could net as much as 30 years in prison.

The case shows why Kansas needs to reform its marijuana laws, at least to allow the medicinal use of marijuana for patients wanting to escape pain. But while the legislature ponders those changes, Kansas officials used extremely poor judgment in their treatment of Ms. Banda. While she appears to have technically violated the law, prosecutors are afforded discretion in charging for situations such as this. The prosecutor could have looked at the circumstances, the reason why Banda was using the banned substance, and declined prosecution or charged her with a much lesser crime. Making a felon out of Ms. Banda doesn’t seem to advance the cause of justice.

The claim that Banda is somehow endangering her child is even more outrageous. Even if Banda’s son witnessed her manufacturing oil out of marijuana leaves, it is unclear how watching that process could have harmed her son. If anything, he might have learned a thing or two about science.
The state of Kansas should not be in the business of breaking up families. Banda’s son should be returned to her home. If any charges are filed, it should be a marijuana possession charge, a misdemeanor. Given her lack of criminal history that should entitle her to a firm slap on the wrist, which given the reason why she used the forbidden weed, is all she deserves.

Note: Banda's husband, Terry, has put up a website to support her cause. She also has an on-line petition with over 150,000 signatures. Finally, Shona’s “Live Free or Die” Facebook page is linked here.