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CULTURE DIGEST: NFL player skips White House ceremony over abortion comments

NASHVILLE (BP) — Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk chose not to attend a White House ceremony because of comments made by President Obama in support of Planned Parenthood.

Obama honored the Baltimore Ravens June 5 for their Super Bowl championship but Birk did not join his former teammates for the event. Birk, 36, retired after February’s Super Bowl win.

A pro-life Roman Catholic and father of six, Birk said his decision stemmed from the president’s speech to Planned Parenthood’s national conference in April. At the close of his remarks, Obama said, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America.”

Planned Parenthood is the country’s leading abortion provider, performing nearly 334,000 abortions in the most recent year for which statistics are available.

“I would say that I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood,'” Birk told radio station KFAN-FM, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,” Birk continued. “I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way. I’m very confused by [Obama’s] statement. For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend.”

MARRIAGE KEEPS KIDS OUT OF POVERTY — The U.S. Department of Labor produced a report in 1965 arguing that “the decline of the black nuclear family would significantly impede blacks’ progress toward economic and social equality.” The document, known as the “Moynihan Report,” stirred heated controversy. The Urban Institute revisited the subject this year.

The new study again focused on the African American community and its disproportionately high poverty rate. Once again, it found that single-parent households lead to poverty, but now the percentage of black children born to unmarried mothers is three times higher than it was in the 60s.

The share of white children living without fathers also has increased, but rates remain significantly higher among blacks. In 2009, nearly three-fourths of African American children were born outside of marriage, resulting in 40 percent of black children living below the poverty line.

Regardless of race, single-parent families are far more likely to live in poverty, with four of every 10 single-mother families in poverty and only one of 12 two-parent homes in poverty. Another study by the Heritage Foundation found that most poor children are from single-parent families.

The new Urban Institute study gives a sobering perspective: “Over the past five decades, the statistics that so alarmed Moynihan in the 1960s have only grown worse, not only for blacks, but for whites and Hispanics as well.”

Things are bad, but they don’t have to stay that way. Marriage, according to the statistics, drops the probability of child poverty by 82 percent.

SUPREME COURT DENIES ABORTION IMAGERY CASE — The U.S. Supreme Court on June 10 refused to hear an appeal of a Colorado ruling that bars protesters from displaying graphic images of abortion in places that might upset children.

The case originates from a 2005 protest near an outdoor Palm Sunday service at Denver’s Saint John’s Cathedral Episcopal Church — a congregation known for its support of abortion — during which anti-abortion activists held up graphic images of aborted babies. The church sued the lead activist, Kenneth Scott, for displaying the gruesome images with 200 children present. Both the lower court and the Colorado appeals court ruled in favor of the church, saying there was a “compelling government interest in protecting children from disturbing images.”

Scott filed a petition seeking Supreme Court review. His attorney, UCLA professor and blogger Eugene Volokh, argued that “the ‘gruesome images’ provision restricts speech that is central to petitioners’ message,” and the restriction is content-based, applying to a “quintessential traditional public forum, a public sidewalk.”

The Supreme Court denied hearing the case and gave no reason for its decision.

“This remains as an issue across the country, and perhaps one day the U.S. Supreme Court will hear another case like it,” Volokh said.

According to The New York Times, Volokh told justices that allowing the presence of children to limit what adults may see could justify all sorts of pernicious restrictions on speech. He added that Scott’s images provided valuable information to young people. “Regrettably, many American girls are getting pregnant, and participating in the making of decisions about abortion, even in their teens,” Volokh said. “Children must be allowed the freedom to form their moral, religious and political views about abortion on the basis of uncensored speech before they reach the age when they have to decide whether to have an abortion.”

In a brief supporting Scott, First Amendment lawyers and scholars wrote, “The decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals, which upholds a content-based restriction on political speech in a public place, is fundamentally incompatible with this Court’s understanding of the First Amendment. It should not be allowed to stand. … The Constitution does not permit the government to restrict speech because it offends or disturbs others.”

Volokh told The Times that vivid images are “very often the most effective way of conveying a moral truth,’ and that ‘the gruesomeness of the image reflects the gruesomeness of the act [abortion].'”

ELCA LUTHERANS NAME OPENLY HOMOSEXUAL BISHOP — The Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America now has an openly gay bishop, the ELCA’s first.

R. Guy Erwin — a pastor in Los Angeles, professor at California Lutheran University and holder of a doctorate and two master’s degrees — told the gay rights organization GLAAD, “I know that many will see my election as a significant milestone for both LGBT people and Native Americans, and I pray that I can be a positive representation for both communities.”

The ELCA adopted a policy in 2009 allowing those in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.” The denomination has steadily lost members since its founding in 1987 but experienced a dip in membership after the 2009 decision. More than 600 congregations have left the denomination since the changed policy. The ELCA still has more than 4 million members, spread over 9,638 congregations.

The split echoes divisions among Episcopalians after their denomination opened the door to homosexual ministers in 2009. Many lawsuits over church property between disagreeing churches and the denomination after the decision have ended with church property awarded to the denomination and congregations left to fend for themselves.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) also removed its ban on gay ministers and ordained its first openly gay minister in 2011.

The more conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod are separate denominations from the ELCA and do not support its decision to ordain homosexuals.

A cooperative statement released May 30 by the Anglican Church in North America, Lutheran Church-Canada, North American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod affirmed a biblical view of marriage and sexuality: “Scripture holds forth a vision of human life as male and female — one which invites us to see that as embodied creatures, our Creator intends great joy for us. … God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. … As a man and woman relate to one another with rich love and profound respect, their one flesh union hints of and is intended to signify the union of Christ and His bride, the church.”
Compiled from reports by WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, and Tom Strode of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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