Category archives: Human Rights

Amsterdam Becomes Green-Light District for Pro-Family Activists

by Peter Sprigg

September 9, 2009

When the World Congress of Families gathered in Amsterdam in the Netherlands last month, it was not considered friendly territory for the conservative, pro-family principles espoused by most of the international delegates. The city has museums devoted to sex and drugs, and its red-light district is treated as a major tourist attraction. Radical feminist groups decried the event, and the offices of one Dutch organization involved in planning for the WCF were even vandalized, with obscenities and anti-Christian slogans being painted on the walls. The Dutch media sought to stir up controversy over the participation in the Congress by several members of the Dutch parliament and one cabinet minister (who sent a video message the opening day). Five scheduled Dutch participants withdrew from the Congress shortly before it began over concerns that anti-gay messages would be promoted.

In the end, protests against the Congress mostly fizzled, and the delegates focused on issues such as the problem of depopulation in the countries of Europe. The Congress featured the European premiere of The Demographic Bomb (a sequel to the film Demographic Winter), which had its world premiere at Family Research Council on June 17.

Peter Sprigg and Pat Fagan represented Family Research Council at the event, with Dr. Fagan making two presentationsone at a breakout session on day care, and one major address on Family Diversity and Political Freedom. He spoke of how the culture of the traditional family, based on lifelong monogamy, is now being challenged by a competing culture rooted in a sexual ideal that is in some sense polyamorous, in that it is built on the expectation of multiple sexual partners through the life course. Dr. Fagan explained some of the political implications of these competing cultures, and offered a suggestion as to how they might be able to co-exist in a free society by insuring that all parents, of any viewpoint, have greater control over the education and upbringing of their own children.

Although liberals claim to place a high value on dialogue, one of the few who actually came to the Congress to engage in it was a Dutch judge and U.N. official, Jaap Doek, who defended the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) and expressed dismay that the U.S. has failed to ratify it. Pro-family activists are concerned that the rights of children established by the treaty would undermine parental authority in the home, but Doek contended that it only imposes limits and obligations on the state, not upon parents.

Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, or C-FAM (and the husband of FRCs Cathy Cleaver Ruse) offered a darker vision of the impact of the U.N. and international agreements. He delivered an address describing how radical elites have attempted to establish a right to abortion in international law. The soft law strategy involves inserting code words for abortion (such as reproductive health) in international documents and then asserting (falsely) that it is a matter of customary international law. The hard law strategy involves United Nations committees charged with monitoring compliance with actual international treaties and conventions. Although no right to abortion has ever been established in the text of such treaties, these committees will often tell member countries that they must protect such a right to be in compliance (for example, with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW). Ruse declared bluntly that such new norms are being forced upon nations undemocratically through treachery, lies, deceit and raw power.

At times it was striking how much people from different countries had in common. For example, at one session, an American state senator from Georgia, Nancy Schaefer, and a lawyer from Sweden, Ruby Harrold-Claesson, both decried the abuses sometimes engaged in by child protective services.

However, there was one notable difference evident in the way American conservatives and Europeans see pro-family policy. Most Americans take a more libertarian approach, believing that the best thing government can do for families is to stay out of their way. Yet it was evident that pro-family politicians from Europe and other countries see government intervention on behalf of the family as the best pro-family policy. For instance, Andre Rouveot, the Dutch cabinet minister who addressed the Congress by video, touted the creation of his Ministry for Youth and Families as a great step forward. Yet most American conservatives do not see the creation of a federal Department of Education as something that improved American education. Australian Member of Parliament Kevin Andrews discussed efforts by some countries to provide child care and family leave as pro-family because they make it easier for working women to become mothers; whereas many Americans would argue what is needed is to make it easier for mothers to stay home.

The Congress ended with the adoption of the Amsterdam Declaration, which cited as its touchstone the statement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State. Several countries are already in contention for the honor of hosting the next World Congress of Families, which has clearly established itself as the premier international gathering of pro-family scholars and activists.

Treaty News

by Michael Fragoso

June 9, 2009

Recently President Obama signaled to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee his treaty ratification priorities for the 111th Congress. Not surprisingly, the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is on the list as the lone “Human Rights” treaty Obama wants ratified. A pleasant surprise, however, is the conspicuous absence of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Both treaties are extremely pernicious and the United States should ratify neither, as Pat Fagan, Bill Saunders, and I explain here. It’s good to see that for now we only need to worry about one of them.

Free Press Rains on Tiananmen Umbrellas

by Jared Bridges

June 4, 2009

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen square massacre in Beijing. When BBC reporter James Reynolds tried to enter the square to cover any memorials that might be taking place, he was met with resistance and a bizarre display of what can only be described as umbrella censorship:

The earpiece-umbrella guys are indeed weird, but it’s a sign of the times that apparatchiki would be wearing shorts and alien T-shirts.

Hate Speech that is Destabilizing

by Family Research Council

May 24, 2009

On Friday government officials from the regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela raided the offices of Globovision, the only remaining television broadcaster in the country that openly criticizes Chavez. The pretext for the raid has something to do with the station’s news reporting on an earthquake in Venezuela in early May, which asserted that the government had been slow to report on the incident. According to press reports and comments from worried United Nations officials, Globovision stands to lose its license, which would mean the end of the last media outlet that dares to disagree with Chavez or his increasingly oligarchic powers. Interestingly, Venezuelan government officials characterized the Globovision report as “hate speech” that risked alarming the country and “destabilizing” the populace. Government’s facile use of such expressions is reason for alarm.

As The Washington Post notes this morning, Latin American caudillos are no novelty, but the silence of the United States (i.e., the Obama administration) in the face of such repression is a first. Not a first, but similarly worrisome, is the news that Nancy Pelosi, fresh from accusing the C.I.A. of lying to Congress in private briefings, is off to Beijing with nary a word prior to her trip of criticism of China’s abusive human rights practices. Time was, U.S. Democrats like former Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) were among the leaders of efforts to hold the Chinese accountable for their abuses of workers, and other Democrats spoke of Chinese denial of religious freedom and its record of forced abortion and sterilization. Pelosi instead wants to engage the oligarchs in Beijing only on climate change. But it is the climate for political freedom that is turning adverse.

Remember the Fallen.

by Bill Saunders

March 30, 2009

On March 4, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar Ahmad Al Bashir, the president of Sudan. The warrant charged Bashir with individual responsibility on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. Specially, it alleged he is criminally responsibility for a campaign of murder, rape, torture, pillage, and forcible transfer against the civilian, and largely Islamic, population of Darfur. The ICC alleges the campaign, conducted over the 5 year period from April 2003 to July 2008, was planned at the highest levels of the Sudanese government. The attacks were carried out by the Sudanese armed forces, the Sudanese police force, the Sudanese national security service, and allied “Janjaweed” militias. The warrant claims Bashir either coordinated the design of the campaign or, as head of state, used state agencies to implement the campaign.

 

We should recall that before the atrocities began in Darfur, they were widespread in the south of Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains (which I will collectively refer to as “the south”). In fact, the explosion in Darfur essentially coincided with the winding down of the war in the south. Cynics will say that the Sudanese government signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south, in part, to enable it to divert forces to persecute the people of Darfur.

The genocidal war against the people of the south (recognized as such by the United States government) has been largely forgotten in the justified world-wide outrage over Darfur. But millions of innocent people were killed by the government in the prior war. The government, dominated by the radical National Islamic Front, targeted civilians, destroyed Christian churches, and revived the slave trade through a declaration of “jihad” against the “infidels” of the south.

My point is certainly not to assume the wisdom of having an International Criminal Court. Rather, the occasion of the issuance of the warrant for the arrest of the president of Sudan is an opportunity to remember the dead, many of whom were true martyrs, dying for their Christian faith.

The occasion of the issuance of the warrant is also an opportunity for remembering the living, the millions who live without religious freedom, who are persecuted, who are enslaved, who are tortured, and who are rendered homeless through the destruction of their homes and villages. In the weeks leading to Easter, we should pray for them and do whatever we can to help.

Offensive Joke, Offensive Treaty

by Michael Fragoso

March 20, 2009

Last night President Obama went on the Tonight Show.  Deciding to go off-teleprompter, the President made a joke at the expense of the disabled, saying that his bowling skills might qualify him for “the Special Olympics.”  In other words, America was treated to the spectacle of her President engaging in a less-funny version of the traditional Rodney Dangerfield send-up (“I tell ya, I don’t get no respect.  I went bowling the other day, and my wife Michelle tells me…”) Lovely.  (It should be noted that Obama has since apologized for the comment.)

 

Jocular merits aside, one can’t help but wonder: would Obama’s joke violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  The Convention has a host of problems, not the least of which is its potential to be extremely anti-life, but to its credit it’s very clear about stereotyping the disabled in a negative way.  For example, Article 8, Section 1 states that state parties should take actions: “(a) To raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with disabilities, and to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities; (b) To combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices relating to persons with disabilities, including those based on sex and age, in all areas of life; (c) To promote awareness of the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities.”  Article 8, Section 2 urges state parties “To promote positive perceptions and greater social awareness towards persons with disabilities;” (a, ii) and “To promote recognition of the skills, merits and abilities of persons with disabilities, and of their contributions to the workplace and the labour market;” (a, iii).  This is to happen not merely at the governmental level, but also by “Encouraging all organs of the media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the purpose of the present Convention;” (c) Somehow I don’t think that the nation’s highest executive authority belittling the athletic skills of the disabled on the top-rated late night talk show is quite what the Convention has in mind.

Thankfully for President Obama the United States is not a signatory to the Convention, and has not moved to ratify it, so his flub won’t be discussed during any periodic reports before the implementation committee anytime soon.  On the other hand, Obama’s campaign did promise to see the treaty ratified by the Senate.  While I may think Obama’s joke last night was in poor taste, I certainly don’t think it should be subject to the scrutiny of a bevy of liberal, cosmopolitan “human rights experts” at the UN.  Does President Obama?  Does he still support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  Or is his policy simply to belittle the disabled at home, and empower their radically liberal “advocates” abroad?

FRC brief in Irish abortion case

by Bill Saunders

November 18, 2008

Last week, FRC filed a friend of the court brief in a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is considering a challenge to Ireland’s laws on abortion, which restrict access to abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger. FRC was one of 3 groups invited to file an unusual “joint” brief by the ECHR, and the only pro-life group in the USA invited to do so. (The others were SPUC of the United Kingdom and the European Center for Law & Justice from Brussels.)

The case is important because the European system of jurisprudence is quite limited when it comes to social issues. In other words, though there is a European Convention of Human Rights that binds all European nations that have ratified it (including Ireland), the resolution of “social issues” is left to the laws of the individual state to decide. Thus, it should not be possible for the ECHR to create a European-wide “right” to abortion.

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court created a right to abortion where none existed under our Constitution. Thus, just as our Court ignored the wording of the Constitution and principles of federalism to overturn the laws of all 50 states on abortion, it is conceivable the ECHR could do the same thing. In fact, pro-abortion groups have filed briefs urging it to do so. Thus, it was important for FRC - in alliance with our good friends of the Alliance Defense Fund - to file a brief urging the ECHR to stay out of these matters and to leave the resolution of the issue to the member states. Click here for the brief itself.

Abortionists are Human Rights Defenders? Seriously?

by David Christensen

October 28, 2008

The pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and its partners requested and were granted a hearing today at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States according to their recent newsletter (see p. 2).

The Commission will hold a hearing today titled the “Risks and vulnerabilities affecting defenders of women’s rights in the Americas,” raising the specter of human rights activists and defenders of women’s rights being “affected”. You can review the Commission program here.

But what is CRR’s goal? Legal rights for women? Is it the legalization of abortion? CRR is more ambitious. Their newsletter references a previous letter they sent to the United Nations which makes it clear that they are not so much trying to protect human rights defenders or defenders of women’s rights as they are trying to get international legal bodies to include abortion providers under the legal designation of “human rights defender.” If they are successful, abortion providers would be protected under the 1999 UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.

It would be a travesty for international bodies to equate those who perform abortions, including those who perform partial birth abortions, with those who advocate fundamental human rights of others.

CRR in their letter raises violence against abortion providers as one of their key arguments. Violence against abortionists is wrong and should be condemned. But CRR goes much further. They are in fact making the case that any restrictions that would affect abortion providers’ practices would constitute an abuse of human rights defenders.

Indeed, CRR spends considerable time defending Dr. George Tiller of Kansas, an abortionist known for his late-term abortions (and advertising internationally for his services). It is odd that they would single out Dr. Tiller as a human rights paragon, until you realize that they oppose even peaceful protests at abortion clinics such as his, even when they acknowledge the fact that such protests are constitutionally protected.

CRR also opposes state laws that would require abortion clinics to have the same health standards as ambulatory clinics—regulations that would actually protect the health of women obtaining abortions. Indeed, CRR goes so far as asking the UN to “investigate” the United States for state and federal laws that conflict with their views. Again, violence against abortionists is wrong, period. But peaceful protests? Parental notification laws? Laws ensuring medical the competency of abortion providers? They want a UN investigation. Perhaps even more brazen, CRR wants international bodies to investigate cases of “smear campaigns” against abortion providers, in which any public campaign against such abortionists occur. They oppose the mere existence of legal restrictions because it would be burdensome to the abortionist, something most people think might be legitimate for physicians performing surgery on their patients. What about legal liability? Nope, CRR wants none of that either. The kicker may be that CRR wants these international bodies to impose fines on states that who disagree with them. Why? So they force local law enforcement agencies to implement “human rights teaching” on abortion in their training programs.

And these are people that many pro-choicers in Congress have tried to get you to fund with your taxes. I suppose if you can cast this asprotecting human rights defenders, it might just work.

FRC Submits Comments to HHS on Conscience Protection

by Chris Gacek

October 5, 2008

      On August 26, 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) asked the public for comments about rules it proposed to protect the rights of conscience of health care providers - in particular, to permit them to refuse to assist in, provide, or refer patients for abortions.  These conscience rights were created by three historic federal statutes known more commonly as the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

     The Family Research Council and several other groups filed comments on September 25th responding to HHS.  Get a copy of them here.

     Here is a summary of our main points:

  • HHS’s proposed rules (regulations) are needed because many participants in the health care system are violating the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments. Many intended beneficiaries of these landmark civil rights laws - intended to protect health care providers’ right of religious and moral conscience - do not know their rights under the law. HHS regulations are needed to clarify the extent of these statutory protections.
  • HHS should adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy (and thus abortion) because that is consistent with the prevailing medical dictionary definitions, religious thought, and medical science on when life begins: these are, after all, conscience protections, so they should protect the conscience’s of the various health care providers.
  • Even if HHS does not adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy, it should reject the implantation-based definition in HHS’s human-subject regulations for a number of reasons.

 o   For example, non-uterine, ectopic pregnancies demonstrate that uterine implantation cannot define the onset of pregnancy.

  • As a final alternative, HHS should recognize that the reasonable, subjective religious or moral conviction of the individual or institutional health care provider should govern, given the statutory focus on protecting conscience. Religious freedom and conscience in this country plainly reflect the views of the individual or institution, not the views of third parties.
  • Recognizing a right of conscience does not discriminate against women or violate any concepts mandated in Roe v. Wade and its progeny which do not purport to require any particular health care provider to participate in abortions.
  • HHS should enforce the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments in the same manner as it enforces other civil rights statutes, like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
  • HHS’s Title X regulations, which require grant recipients to counsel and refer for abortions, appear to violate the law as set forth in the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

 

 

HHS Proposed Conscience Regs Published in Federal Register

by Chris Gacek

August 26, 2008

Today, the Federal Register published the Department of Health and Human Services’ notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to ensure that HHS “funds do not support coercive or discriminatory policies or practices in violation of federal law” (lower case mine). The notice for these proposed conscience protection rules can be found in PDF via this link. The deadline for filing comments is September 25, 2008.

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