“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment
On March 13th one of the most important cases concerning the freedom of speech was argued before the United States Supreme Court, NIFLA v. Becerra.
The central issue at stake, in this case, is whether the government can compel organizations and individuals to share a message that is fundamentally in opposition to the organization’s purpose or an individual’s belief.
In 2015, AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, was passed in California. The FACT Act mandated both licensed and unlicensed pregnancy resource clinics (PRC’s) to post large signs with information about abortion and contraception services provided by the state.
AB 775 is about freedom of speech and pushing a pro-choice agenda. This can be seen in the fact that 98% of the clinics subject to this law are pro-life. Compelling PRC’s to share about abortion in such a detailed manner is wholly against the PRC’s purpose.
It was argued that the reason for the law is that pro-life PRC’s are manipulating women into a carrying out an unwanted pregnancy.
During a visit to a pregnancy resource center, however, the woman is counseled on all of her options. Even abortion is discussed. While these resource centers hope the woman will choose to keep her baby, they do not force her into a decision, and they will support her after regardless of her decision.
Josh McClure, a pregnancy center director, said this law will “require us to use our walls as a billboard to promote abortion.”
The case was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 13th. Attorney, Michael Farris, arguing on the behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) said: “A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is alarming.”
Should the United States Supreme Court Justices deliver an opinion in favor of the California law, the first amendment as we know it will be no longer exist with the same power and protection it has afforded the American people for centuries. The opinion from the Supreme Court is slated to be published sometime in June. Let’s hope the Justices keep the First Amendment intact and protect our freedom to speak or not speak certain messages.
This past January, the Statesman Journal published an article highlighting the top 11 causes of death for Oregonians in 2016. These causes and total deaths included:
- Cancer 8,076,
- Heart disease 6,976,
- Unintentional injury 2,108,
- Chronic lower respiratory heart disease 2,081,
- Stroke 1,944,
- Alzheimer’s disease 1,786,
- Diabetes 1,240,
- Alcohol-related 829
- Suicide 771,
- High blood pressure 557,
- Firearms 510
While these numbers are horrific and far higher than desired, there is a secret cause of death not mentioned in the Statesman Journal’s article.
The cause of death: abortion. In 2016 the Oregon Health Authority recorded 8,942 abortions. This startling number reveals more babies were killed from abortion that year than those who died from cancer. On average over 22 babies were aborted every day in Oregon. This injustice must be stopped.
There is hope. In the past 5 years, abortion rates have been going down. Since 2012, Oregon’s average abortion numbers have gone down by 909 babies. You can be a part of that change. Help abolish abortion today by becoming an advocate ORTL.org.
Ten-year-old Brianna Heim poses elegantly for the camera, a bedazzled sash ornamenting her beautiful purple dress. The tiara on Brianna’s head is nearly as bright at the cheerful smile on her face. Sitting close by is Brianna’s service dog Emily, who recently accompanied her on a special trip to Los Angeles to compete in Miss Amazing, a pageant designed for girls and women with special needs.
Earlier this year, Brianna won the title of Miss Preteen in Utah’s regional Miss Amazing Competition. Brianna, who lives with a speech and motor-skill imparing disorder called glutaric acidemia type 1, attended the National pageant where she participated in the weekend’s activities, including a talent portion, interviews, and an evening gown walk.
Brianna even got to witness the opening ceremony for the 2015 Special Olympics, held in Los Angeles that same weekend. Brianna’s mom says, “(The pageant) is a nice place for these girls to go and be themselves and it doesn’t matter what your disability is.”
The Miss Amazing Pageant was founded in 2007 by Jordan Somer in Omaha, Nebraska. Now, eight years later, the program has impacted more than 800 girls and women with disabilities all over the nation. Somer explains that Miss Amazing is designed to help young women see their unique capabilities and celebrate their individuality.
Jordan Somer says: “According to a study conducted by The Center for Women Policy Studies, disabled women and girls live at the corner of disability and womanhood. With two minority identities, a double dose of discrimination and stereotyping, and multiple barriers to achieving their life goals. Miss Amazing is looking to change that fact.”
Several promotional videos on Miss Amazing’s website highlight the joyful energy of the women who participate in this event. They dance, perform on instruments, bond with friends, and are given a platform to articulate their thoughts and to express themselves. These ladies tear up as they are handed trophies, and wave happily as crowns are placed on their heads.
Somers states: “The Miss Amazing Pageants are inspiring a culture that encourages women and people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential.” It’s clear that this is the case when one looks at girls like Brianna and young women like Mikayla Holmgren, individuals who truly are embracing their identity and thriving.
Those of us who grew up watching the TLC reality show Little People, Big World were in for a heart-warming thrill with the news of Zach Roloff’s wedding this past weekend.
Zach (25) and his bride, Tori Patton (24), wed at his parent’s farm in Hillsboro, Oregon on Saturday, July 25th. The couple had been engaged for more than a year; the countdown began last May after Zach proposed to Tori in an open field.
According to People Magazine, the wedding was nature-inspired and took place by a gazebo in front of a specially planted field of wheat. The bride wore an ivory dress with a chiffon-like skirt and a lacy, detailed bodice. Zach was quick to tell People magazine that the 200 guests made him feel a little nervous: “Neither of us are spotlight kind of people.” However, he also said the two of them are “looking forward to setting their lives in motion.”
Zach, who was born with dwarfism to two parents with dwarfism, has had unique issues to cope with in his lifetime. But despite adversity, and with support from Little People, Big World’s fan base and his supportive family, he has thrived and is now embarking on his own journey with his beautiful new wife.
Recently a video surfaced on Youtube that rocked cyberspace. Captured on a cell phone, the seven-minute clip shows a crowd of swimsuit-clad youth in a suburban Texas neighborhood, milling around anxiously while several police officers questioned them and forced some onto the ground.
The scene escalated as one particular officer began shouting and cursing at several juveniles, going so far as to throw one fourteen-year-old girl violently to the ground and handcuff her while sitting on her back with his knees. When a few of her friends rushed forward to help, the officer pulled out his gun and ran them off. This video now has more than 12,000,000 views.
A CNN article delves deeper into the event: some neighbors have come forward to say that the police were called because the kids were partying at the neighborhood pool without permission. Others say the commotion was brought on by a disturbance unrelated to the teens throwing the pool party. No matter what way you look at it, the image of a police officer kneeling on a teen girl leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Can anything good come out of a story like this one?
When I take a step back, I realize that while this incident never should have happened, I am glad it has at least received so much attention. The police officer in question, Eric Casebolt, has been rebuked far and wide across the inter-webs, and thousands have called for the removal of his police badge. Last Monday he did resign from the force after being placed on suspension, and the police chief of the McKinney, Texas police department pronounced Casebolt’s actions “indefensible,” adding that a full investigation will be launched. Television host Bill Maher spoke on the incident, voicing his opinion that this kind of behavior can and should be weeded out. His colleague on the panel added that, “This time we can have the conversation without a body on the ground.”
Situations like this one arise all the time. Unnecessary violence is often facilitated against the unarmed or innocent, whether it be a police man against young girl, an abusive husband against his spouse, or a person of influence against a subordinate. When these events are brought to light, as was this one in Texas, the population has a chance to see inequality and mistreatment in real time, and identify problems and solutions in their own neighborhoods and in their own lives.
America loves celebrities. We look to celebrities and media for entertainment and sometimes even to find inspiration. While there’s no shortage of scandal and intrigue in today’s media, there are quite a lot of inspiring celebrities out there spreading positivity. One of my favorite good-guys of 2015 is actor Chris Pratt.
Pratt recently made headlines after he posted a video of himself and his young son, Jack, saying the Pledge of Allegiance together this Memorial Day. Pratt wrote, along with the video: “I’m proud to be American.” The video of Pratt and his son paying respect to their country for Memorial Day has reached over a million people, encouraging us all with its positive message.
Chris Pratt, who is married to actress Anna Ferris, continually sets a solid example with glimpses we get of his personal life and in his public decisions as an actor. Since his role in Marvel’s hit superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt has made visits to Children’s hospitals in character as Star-Lord, spending quality time with delighted kids and arranging special screenings of the film.
No doubt Chris Pratt’s own life has moved him to reach out to these children; Pratt is open about the difficult birth of his little son. Jack Pratt was born nine weeks early and had to stay in intensive neonatal care until he weighed just over five pounds and could finally be taken home.
At last year’s March of Dimes Celebration of Babies, Pratt said this about being a father: “I’ve done all kinds of cool stuff as an actor,” the box-office heavyweight added. “I’ve gotten to jump out of helicopters and do daring stunts and play baseball in a professional stadium, but none of them mean anything compared to being somebody’s daddy.”
In a world where negativity often overwhelms mainstream media, it’s a wonderful surprise when actors and actresses celebrate the things that matter most: life, love, and family.