CULTURE DIGEST: Methodist men join calls against Boy Scouts change
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The General Commission on United Methodist Men has joined conservative voices urging the Boys Scouts of America not to open its membership to homosexuals.
GCUMM in February sent a letter to Wayne Brock, Boy Scouts of America chief Scout executive, urging the group not to implement proposals being considered at the BSA's annual meeting in May to open Scouting leadership and membership to homosexuals. The Methodist organization also is calling on Scouting to revitalize its relationship with the faith community.
"More time is needed for the 50 United Methodist Annual Conferences and the thousands of United Methodist churches to research in a thoughtful and prayerful manner exactly what this change might mean," the letter reads.
"We would further ask that this be the beginning of a new relationship between BSA and the faith communities that provide over 70% of the units and 62% of the membership in BSA. Ongoing work must grow from this experience as BSA and their ministry partners seek ways to implement a new, strengthened, faith-filled response to the Scout Oath and Scout Law."
More than 40 other faith denominations and conservative groups have voiced similar concerns, including the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, the American Family Association and the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.
The SBC Executive Committee in February adopted a resolution urging BSA leadership to stand on moral ground and reject the change to the BSA's admission policy.
GCUMM General Secretary Gilbert C. Hanke sparked controversy among Methodist men in January when he endorsed the BSA's proposed model of implementing the change in Scouting, leading many UMM to say Hanke had endorsed the proposed membership change.
Hanke later clarified he never endorsed opening BSA membership to homosexuals but rather endorsed the model of implementation that would have allowed the local church to make such crucial decisions on membership.
"The reason we endorsed this model of implementation is because it allows your local church to continue to operate exactly like it is operating today," Hanke said in January. "You choose the leaders, you recruit the scouts; the leadership of your troop and pack reflects the traditions and values of your faith community."
FIRST-GRADER CLAIMS HE'S TRANSGENDERED -- A Colorado first-grader named Coy Mathis has been featured by CNN and other news outlets because he wants to use the girls' restrooms at school, even though he was born a boy. His parents have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division claiming the child should be allowed to use whatever restroom he feels like using.
Mathis reportedly has dressed like a girl for the past year and wants to be considered a girl. His parents even made sure his passport and state-issued identification recognize him as female, CNN said Feb. 27.
School officials informed the boy's parents that instead of using the boys' restrooms, he may use the gender-neutral faculty restrooms or the nurse's restroom, but he may not use the girls' restroom.
Officials "took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls' bathroom would have as Coy grew older," according to attorney W. Kelly Dude.
Mathis' parents, though, contend that by making their son use anything but the girls' restroom, the school is singling him out for "stigma, bullying and harassment."
"Coy's school has the opportunity to turn this around and teach Coy's classmates a valuable lesson about friendship, respect and basic fairness," Michael Silverman, a Mathis attorney and executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, told CNN.
Dude noted that the school is complying with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act because the child attends class as all other students, is allowed to wear girls' clothing, is referred to as the parents have requested and has been granted access to restrooms other than the girls' restroom.
This news comes as, on the other side of the country, the Massachusetts Department of Education, prompted by a new state law that adds "gender identity" to the state's non-discrimination code, decided that boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex can use whichever school restroom they choose. Read the Baptist Press story here.
ARKANSAS GOVERNOR'S ABORTION BAN VETO OVERRIDDEN -- The Arkansas Senate voted Feb. 28 to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a ban on abortions at 20 weeks after conception that is based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 19-14 along party lines following a 53-28 vote to override by the Republican-controlled state House Wednesday. Abortions in the state now will be limited to 20 weeks after conception in most cases. The law provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother's life.
Beebe, a Democrat, rejected the bill Feb. 26 though seven states have enacted similar legislation. In a veto letter, he contended the measure "would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent." Beebe also expressed concern about the cost to Arkansas taxpayers to defend the law in court.
The Arkansas bill follows a model bill drafted by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) that is known as the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's director of state legislation, applauded the votes to override Beebe's veto.
"Basic compassion for human life demands that this legislation be enacted all over the country," Balch said.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD IN COLORADO SUED FOR FORCED ABORTION -- A doctor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., forcibly aborted a baby and left part of the child's body inside the mother, according to a new lawsuit.
Ayanna Byer, 40, filed suit Feb. 6 against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, alleging an unnamed doctor at the clinic performed an abortion on her in November even though she told him she had changed her mind, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her.
When she did not receive anesthetic, Byer said she did not want to proceed with the abortion, according to the suit. The doctor told Byer it was too late and began performing the abortion with a vacuum machine in spite of the lack of anesthetic. After about seven minutes, he halted the procedure and sent Byer home with pain pills, she said. A portion of her unborn child's body remained within her body without her knowledge, however.
Two days later, she went to the emergency room at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. She underwent an emergency D and C.
Steven Foley, who performed what he described as "high-risk surgery" on Byer, was concerned she might have had an ectopic pregnancy and contacted the Planned Parenthood clinic to check on pathology reports. In a written statement, Foley said clinic personnel told him they do not perform pathology tests. Instead, the abortion doctor "looks" at the tissue, Foley said he was told.
Foley expressed his concerns in a written review, saying, "No practicing physician can maintain privileges to practice and perform surgery if they do not provide specific coverage for their patients in case of a complication. It is considered 'abandonment' of your patient. It is not acceptable to refer your patients to the Emergency Department and assume the on-call doctor will take care of any complications and assume all the risk associated with the complications.
"It is medically inappropriate for a physician to remove products of conception and not confirm the diagnosis with pathology," Foley wrote. "I know of no physician or hospital that would allow the removal of a specimen of this nature and assume what the diagnosis was by just 'looking' at it."
Doug Romero, a lawyer affiliated with ADF, said in a written statement, "A woman's life is more important than Planned Parenthood's bottom line. What Planned Parenthood did to Ayanna is beyond the pale. They clearly put her through extraordinary cruelty and jeopardized her life. Their actions were intolerable."
PLANNED PARENTHOOD TO CLOSE 2 CENTERS IN IOWA -- Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will close two of its centers in Iowa, including one that provides abortions.
The affiliate of the country's No. 1 abortion provider said Feb. 20 it would close its centers at Fort Madison and Spencer, according to The Des Moines Register. The Spencer clinic provides abortion services. Planned Parenthood closed three abortion clinics and another center last year, according to Iowa Right to Life.
The action was motivated partly by new regulations under the 2010 federal health care law popularly known as Obamacare, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman told The Register.
Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, said, "It would be ironic if Planned Parenthood fought so hard for Obamacare and the publicly funded birth control mandate and had to lay off or cut the hours of their own staff to keep from paying the additional benefits required by Obamacare."
With the latest closings, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will have 19 clinics in Iowa and seven combined in Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Bowen told The Register, "It is not our desire to see the state of Iowa have so many abortion clinics. Obviously, every abortion is a life lost."
The national organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, reported its affiliates performed a record 333,964 abortions during 2010-11, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Planned Parenthood also established a record for funds received from federal, state and local governments with $542.4 million in government grants and reimbursements during the latest fiscal year.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler 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).