AMERICAN ELECTION RESULT POISED TO SHIFT BALANCE OF US SUPREME COURT
Uniting a diverse coalition of blue-collar workers, pro-life advocates and people of all backgrounds, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the U.S. election, becoming the 45th President of the United States in “the biggest political upset in American history” as The Economist and media outlets worldwide reported. The victory was unexpected partly because polling models did not fully account for what issues motivated certain voters. Exit polls showed that “Seven in 10 voters nationwide say Supreme Court appointments were either the most important factor or an important factor in their decision to support a candidate.” Describing those motivated by the appointment of new judges, ABC News stated: “These voters overwhelmingly favoured Trump.”
Led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the Trump transition team will be making headlines daily over the next two months, working to place conservative personnel to lead departments across the Executive Branch, including in domestic, economic and foreign policy. From government funding of abortion to the rise of assisted suicide, from bioethics concerns to conscience rights for medical professionals, every new staff member has the potential to be involved in protecting and defending lives. Yet it’s the empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court pro-life advocates are intently focused upon. Who will Mr. Trump nominate for this seat, and how will the U.S. Senate guide his decision? While some believe Inauguration Day is the date to refocus on politics, important moves will be made in the coming weeks.
“The first appointment to fill the vacancy will give Donald Trump the opportunity to preserve, and improve, the divided court that existed before the election,” says Allan Parker, President of The Justice Foundation who has been involved in pro-life advocacy for more than two decades. A media circus is expected with any nominee to the high court, often focusing on the potential Justice’s gender or other external traits. Yet the important questions will centre on his or her judicial philosophy. “Donald Trump should appoint an original intent constitutionalist, one who interprets the Constitution according to the original intent of the American founders and ratifiers,” states Texas attorney Allan Parker.
“Of course, the Constitution can and has been amended over the years, but not by judges. There is a process for amendments which is subject to the consent of the governed.” Trump is expected to announce a nominee in the first weeks of his presidency, with much fanfare. During the campaign, he released a list of 21 potential judges from which he would ultimately choose one important name. “Donald Trump showed real leadership by putting out a list of excellent candidates for the empty seat on the Supreme Court,” says Carrie Severino, policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network. “That list, combined with the position taken by Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Grassley, is what made the Supreme Court such a key issue in this election.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee carries responsibility for vetting all Supreme Court nominees, including during the high-stakes nomination hearings. The committee, currently chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is comprised of 11 Republican and nine Democratic Senators. While Republicans were elected to majorities in Congress, with the Democratic Party having few ways to obstruct the process, the Senate’s role of providing advice and consent on new personnel appointed by President Trump could result in a holdup. “It will be a busy spring,” Severino continues. “The U.S. Senate will be in the unusual position of having to process a Supreme Court nomination at the same time as over 1,200 presidential appointment positions.”
At least one Senator is leaving the Judiciary Committee. After opting not to run for re-election, Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) will retire this year. Another committee member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) has forged a close bond with President-elect Trump as one of his strongest backers, leading some to speculate he will leave the Senate to work in the Trump Administration. In this event, two Republican seats on the committee will need to be filled. “This election was all about the Supreme Court, so engaged citizens are expecting pro-life leaders in the Senate to act accordingly,” says Pam Olsen, a Florida prayer leader who supported Trump during campaign season. “We need men and women of true conviction on the Judiciary committee!”
Replacing the empty seat left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia may not be President Trump’s only appointment to the High Court. Three current Supreme Court justices are also approaching retirement age: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 83), Anthony Kennedy (age 80) and Stephen Breyer (age 78). Last week, retirement rumours surrounding Justice Kennedy surfaced. “With as many as three more vacancies possible in the next four years, the conservative domination could become overwhelming for generations to come,” stated NPR News in post-election analysis. Yet considering recent pro-abortion court decisions, is it astute to envision some future Supreme Court case that will weigh innocent pre-born lives on the scales of justice? Attorney Allan Parker sees a path for such an outcome.
“Decisions such as Roe v. Wade and its companion case can be overturned under the doctrine of stare decisis,” asserts Parker, referring to a legal principle of constitutional law by which more than 200 Supreme Court decisions have been overturned. “All judges take an oath to defend the Constitution, which means honouring that written text more than any prior opinions, including court opinions. The U.S. Constitution expressly has a right to life in the fifth and fourteenth amendments,” states Parker. Matt Lockett of Bound4LIFE International, who leads a team of pro-life Christian intercessors based on Capitol Hill since 2004, echoes this statement.
“Many have said that Roe v. Wade will never be overturned; they also said the election could never go the way that it did. I believe we are in a unique season of answered prayer. The pro-life movement must push forward right now with what we know is right and true,” declares Lockett. Parker emphasizes the new administration must live up to its campaign promises, saying, “Republicans need to be as bold and as confident as President-elect Trump was when he said that he would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.”
UNITED NATIONS SAYS 75,000 CHILDREN AT RISK OF STARVATION IN NIGERIA
Seventy-five thousand children are at risk of dying of hunger in north-east Nigeria, reports the United Nations (UN), as the region deals with the aftermath of Boko Haram violence. The UN also says that as many as 14 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in that region, the epicentre of the seven-year insurgency which has claimed more than 20,000 lives and displaced more than 2.5 million people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries (Niger, Cameroon and Chad). The Islamist group captured large parts of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Nigeria’s northeast, and in June 2014 declared a caliphate, with the town of Gwoza as its capital, before being pushed back in recent months.
Christians have paid a particularly heavy price. Open Doors, a global charity which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, estimates that, between 2006 and 2015, at least 15,500 Christians have died in religion-based violence in Nigeria’s north. It also says 13,000 churches were destroyed, abandoned or closed between 2006-14, and that 1.3 million Christians fled to safer regions in the country during that same period. In 2015-16, the situation worsened as violence spilled over into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon. In 2014, Boko Haram was named the world’s deadliest terror group, ahead of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to the Global Terrorism Index.
“Christians in Borno State are traumatised, displaced and have lost hope. In the Gwoza area where once Christians were in the majority, there is no single church standing. Even inside Gwoza town, and its surroundings, there were many Christians. Now there are no Christians left in that area,” Bishop William Naga, leader of the Borno chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said. Many Muslims with views different from Boko Haram’s were also uprooted. However, Christians who ended up in displacement camps with Muslims say they experienced discrimination there. Bishop Naga explained: “The Borno governor did his best when the Christians had to flee their places in 2014 and 2015. But when the care of the camps was handed over to other organisations, the discrimination started.
“They will give food to the displaced, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians. There is open discrimination.” John Gwamma, the chairman at an informal Christian camp, added: “We have started informal, purely Christian camps because Christians were being segregated in the formal camps. They had not been given food, nor allowed to go to church. As long as you are not a Muslim, they don’t like you to stay together with them.” Although the situation across the northeast is dire, circumstances in these informal Christian camps were particularly dreadful. During a recent visit to Maiduguri, workers from Open Doors witnessed how people had resorted to eating leaves.
However, since October the charity has distributed relief packages to 3,000 families, some 15,000 individuals; most of the beneficiaries of the aid were from Gwoza and its surrounding villages. The packages consisted of 100 kilos of maize, 50 kilos of beans, four blankets and some cash to buy oil or soap to help recipients survive for the next few months. “We had to flee Boko Haram because they didn’t allow us to go to our farm,” said Mary Charles, one beneficiary. “We had no drinking water and we didn’t have anything to eat. But I take courage from the Bible. It is written that there is a time when we will suffer, but that the suffering will end by the grace of God. We have to endure. I thank God for this food aid and I thank the people who brought it. We now have food that we can give to our children.”
Bishop Naga said: “The bigger towns are fully under the control of the Nigerian army. The outskirts of these towns however are not safe. Boko Haram is in control of big parts of the state. We cannot go back there. We fear living together with our former Muslim neighbours as we don’t know if we can trust them.” While the north-east remains in the grip of insecurity there is no hope for improvement to the humanitarian crisis. Christians cannot access their farms because of continued Boko Haram activities. Jack van Tol, Open Doors’ Director for West Africa, said: “Many Christians are in dire need of food aid. There seems to be general shortage of food aid in the northeast, and Christians testified they were discriminated against in general camps. Through the churches we were able to assist them.”
FORTY FIVE KILLED ON YET ANOTHER ATTACK ON CHRISTIANS IN NIGERIA
A spate of attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria recently left 45 dead and several more injured. They were in five villages in Kaura local government area, an area mostly populated by Christians, on 13 November. Most of the victims were women, children and the elderly, who could not escape the gunfire of the attackers, believed to be Fulani herdsmen. 120 houses, including 8 house-churches, were burnt down. A resident of Kitakum (one of the villages), Samuel Adamu, said the attackers came around 7pm local time. “They laid siege to the village before they started shooting sporadically and throwing explosives at our homes. “They were armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives. They slaughtered, butchered women, children and old people who could not escape” he said.
Adamu accused the government of failing to stop the persistent attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives in Southern Kaduna. The attacks came a day after the Fulani herdsmen and indigenous communities in Kaura and neighbouring local government areas resolved to live in peace with each other. That peace deal ceremony, held in Samaru Kataf, was attended by Governor Nasir El -Rufai of Kaduna state who commended the communities and assured that his administration was determined to ensure security of lives and property. In reaction to the killings, the state government’s statement condemned the ‘barbaric’ attacks, saying they would not derail ongoing efforts at peace building in Southern Kaduna.
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) is the main church organisation in Kaduna State (950 churches, over 2 million members) and most of the victims are ECWA members. Its Chairman for Kaduna State, at a news conference, blamed the ongoing violence on a quest for grazing reserves. “We have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the announced intention of the Kaduna State Government, to re-create existing cattle grazing reserves in Southern Kaduna, serves as a major motivation for the renewed ethno-religious violence and cleansing currently being visited on Southern Kaduna communities” said Rev. Zachariah Gado. Since March 2013, at least 180 have been killed and 10,000 displaced, while hundreds of properties, including dozens of churches, have been burnt down laments ECWA.
He also said a donation by the Kaduna state governor for the reconstruction of churches destroyed during the attacks was a misplaced priority, stating that the money should have been given to security agencies. “As perpetrators continue to evade consequences for their illegal actions, impunity and lawlessness are becoming entrenched, to the detriment of the entire state”. “Since the violent aftermath of the 2011 Presidential election, there have been increasing indications of the existence of a desperate, well-funded, organised campaign not only to make life unbearable for the entire Southern Kaduna territory through threats, intimidation and psychological warfare, but also to occupy the land through what can only be described as ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia”.
Since March 2013, at least 180 have been killed and 10,000 displaced, while hundreds of properties, including dozens of churches, have been burnt down. Some 16 villages have been overrun by Fulani, who are now fully settled with their cattle and families, noted Gado. He appealed to both the State and Federal governments to restore all communities that were taken over by herdsmen to the rightful owners, saying that failure to do so will only encourage further lawlessness. Zachariah Gado also reiterated his calls for the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna state, to end the killings.
CANADA’S MP’S AGREE THAT PORNOGRAPHY’S EFFECT ON PUBLIC HEALTH MUST BE ADDRESSED
A Conservative member’s motion to study the health impact of pornography won rare unanimous support of all parties and members in the House of Commons. Northern Alberta, Member of Parliament, (MP) Arnold Viersen, the driving force behind M-47, told the House that “as a first-term MP, the impact of violent and sexually explicit material was not an issue I expected to bring forward when arriving here a year ago, nor was it on my radar.” But women’s and children’s protection agencies across Canada deluged the former auto mechanic with materials and entreaties to do something about what the London Abused Women’s Centre called in a supportive letter, “a global public health crisis.”
The motion calls for the Commons Standing Committee on Health “to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men.” Viersen said he could have asked that the Justice Committee examine the issue, but that committee can only recommend changes to the law or perhaps censorship of the Internet, an issue he was loath to raise. “I didn’t want to go down that road,” he said. Concentrating on the health implications was a good way to ensure all-party support and also to stress public education rather than legal restrictions. “I believe strongly in parental rights” he said. Ultimately, he wants the same kind of widespread condemnation of pornography that has already occurred with smoking.
OREGON OFFICIAL WHO FINED CHRISTIAN OWNED BAKERY LOSES ELECTION BID
The Oregon public official who levied a $135,000 fine against a Christian-owned bakery lost his bid to become Oregon’s Secretary of State. Since 2008, Brad Avakian has been the commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He ruled “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” must pay the fine after the bakery refused to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The owners said it would violate their Christian beliefs. The bakery closed in October. “We have closed Sweet Cakes,” Aaron and Melissa Klein wrote online. “We appreciate everyone’s continued prayer and support.” In the Oregon Secretary of State race, Avakian lost to former State Representative Dennis Richardson. The Daily Caller reports that Richardson will become the first Republican in 14 years to win a statewide office in Oregon.
MEDIA DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE GOD FACTOR SAYS FRANKLIN GRAHAM
“Did God show up? In watching the news after the election, the secular media kept asking “How did this happen?” Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor. Franklin Graham said “Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying like never before for this election and for the future of America. Families prayed. Churches prayed. Then Christians went to the polls, and God showed up. “I believe that God’s hand intervened to stop the godless, progressive agenda from taking control of our country” Franklin said. “Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence are going to need a lot of prayer. I pray that President-elect Trump will surround himself with godly men and women to help advise and counsel him as he leads the nation.”