Archive for May, 2008

Evacuation from China’s Tangjiashan Lake

May 31, 2008

Relief workers evacuated from Tangjiashan lake in China’s Sichuan Province

The evacuees, mainly members of the water and electricity section of the People’s Armed Police Force, are warmly welcomed by locals upon their arrivals at Mianyang, a city of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, May 31, 2008. The first group of 15 earthquake relief workers handling the Tangjiashan quake-formed lake in China’s Sichuan Province boarded a helicopter at 8:35 a.m. Saturday and were evacuated from the dam site. (Xinhua Photo)


The major project of a sluice — an irregular cube designed to discharge flooded water — from the Tangjiashan Lake is completed at quake-induced Tangjiashan Lake in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, May 31, 2008. The first group of 15 earthquake relief workers handling the Tangjiashan quake-formed lake in China’s Sichuan Province boarded a helicopter at 8:35 a.m. Saturday and were evacuated from the dam site.(Xinhua Photo)


The evacuees, mainly members of the water and electricity section of the People’s Armed Police Force, take a short rest before their evacuations at the dam site of quake-induced Tangjiashan Lake in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, May 31, 2008. The first group of 15 earthquake relief workers handling the Tangjiashan quake-formed lake in China’s Sichuan Province boarded a helicopter at 8:35 a.m. Saturday and were evacuated from the dam site.(Xinhua Photo)




Air Force Academy Graduation, Colorado Springs May 28, 2008

May 31, 2008

F-16’s from the Thunderbirds fly overhead as graduates toss their caps in the air at the conclusion of the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado May 28, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Hoopoe, National Bird of Israel

May 31, 2008

Dirty, treif, but fit for a king, the hoopoe’s our nat’l bird

Our newly crowned national bird, the hoopoe, may not be kosher or particularly hygienic, but it is fit for a king.

The Hoopoe, Israel’s national bird.

Photo: Courtesy

Hailed on Thursday by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel as the ideal choice for the honor, the hoopoe, known in Hebrew as duchifat, holds an ambiguous position in Hebrew scriptures.

Due to its association with King Solomon, the bird is traditionally viewed in a positive light. According to Jewish folklore (as well as the Koran), the hoopoe helped lead King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba. Unsure about the queen’s purity and motives, Solomon confided in the bird and trusted its advice. The king also praised the hoopoe’s observation techniques and called it “wise.”

In Leviticus 11:13-19, however, the hoopoe is among several creatures described as “detestable, abhorrent” and not to be eaten.

Still, in the race for modern national primacy, it easily met the strict competition criteria. The winner had to represent Israel’s character, be a permanent resident of the country and appear in Jewish tradition.

Israel is home to around 540 bird species. But bird-lovers had the chance to choose their favorite one from a shortlist of 10 species compiled by ornithologists. Ballots were placed across the country, including in national parks, the Ramat Gan Safari and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren and soldiers took part in the vote, which was also held in 40 Israeli embassies and consulates worldwide.

The hoopoe, which will now get a stamp of its own and other elevated status symbols, received 35 percent of the vote, the warbler (pashosh) came second with 10.3%, and the finch (chochit) took third place with 9.8%.

In announcing the hoopoe’s landslide victory in the nationwide vote by over 155,000 people, President Shimon Peres said the primaries were the most successful in Israel’s 60 years of statehood, but expressed regret that “the most Zionist bird in nature,” the dove, had failed to make the finals.

“The dove is a very special bird,” Peres said, “because no matter where it goes, how great the distance may be or the obstacles in its path, it always returns home.”

The brainchild of Dr. Yossi Leshem, a former head of SPNI, the national bird contest was created to draw attention to nature conservation during the state’s 60th birthday celebrations.

The winner’s identity was revealed Thursday at a festive ceremony at Beit Hanassi attended by hundreds of bird-lovers from Israel and abroad.

“It was my choice from the beginning,” biologist David Glasner, director of the Jordan Valley Bird Watching center, told The Jerusalem Post.

“I think they chose [the hoopoe] because of its appearance and beauty,” he enthused. “It’s unique [and] special for Israel because it’s not common – you can’t see it in every field.”

The hoopoe is widespread in Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is already the national bird of Italy, and among many African, Native American and Afghan tribes, the bird is seen as a positive cultural symbol. In France the hoopoe is considered stupid, however, and in Greek mythology it symbolizes murder and death.

They hoopoe is distinguished by its colorful complexion, its long, swooping beak and slicked back tuft of hair. The bird builds its nest in tree holes and has a notoriously fetid odor, keeping excrement in its lair to ward off intruders.

“It’s not a very hygienic bird. It smells very bad,” Jonathan Meyrav, a bird expert at Kibbutz Lahav in the Negev, said with a laugh. “It wasn’t my personal favorite – but the people have spoken.”


After five months of suspense, the hoopoe is crowned Israel’s state bird

By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

Tags: Israel, Hoopoe, finch

The wait is over: after five long months of campaigning, the hoopoe has beat out nine other finalists to secure the title of Israel’s state bird. The winner was announced on Thursday at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The hoopoe (duhifat, in Hebrew) won 35 percent of the votes, beating out the warbler (ten percent) and the finch (9.8 percent).

The national bird selection process, sponsored by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) began about five months ago. Voters chose from a list of 10 species on the SPNI website.

Surveys show that 46 percent of the votes for the winning bird came from Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

In Thursday’s celebratory ceremony, President Shimon Peres delivered a speech highlighting the importance of preserving endangered birds. He specifically referred to the vulture, after which he changed his name from Persky to Peres, which means vulture in Hebrew. The president said he would ask France and Germany, two countries that specialize in breeding the bird of prey in order to release it to nature, to cooperate with Israel on preservation.

Dr. Yossi Leshem, the Tel Aviv University ornithologist who helped initiate the campaign to choose a state bird, said that the election of city birds is next on the agenda. Tel Aviv has already announced that it will adopt the swallow as its municipal avian mascot and set up nest installations around the city.





Pistol pendant causes airport holdup

May 31, 2008

Marnina Norys toys with the gun pendant that a security guard at the Kelowna, B.C., airport forced her to remove and place in her checked luggage. (Ron Bull, Toronto Star)

Woman prohibited from taking Colt .45 trinket aboard plane because of its symbolic importance

May 30, 2008

Brett Popplewell

Staff Reporter

The Colt .45 hung cold around her neck, like a pendant.

Because it was a pendant.

On Monday, Marnina Norys, a 39-year-old PhD student of social political thought at York University, was forced to remove a piece of silver jewellery cast in the shape of an antique pistol by airport security in Kelowna, B.C., who feared the trinket posed a security risk to the passengers on her WestJet flight.

Approaching the security desk, Norys says she was stunned when guards labelled the 5-centimetre pendant, with no bullets or moving parts, a replica firearm.

“When the woman pointed at the pendant I had no idea what she was talking about,” said Norys, who was informed that replica firearms are banned from planes.

“They made me feel ashamed, as if I should have known that it was wrong to wear this type of jewellery.” Flustered, Norys stuffed the pendant into her carry-on, but was surprised when the guards opened her bag and analyzed the trinket as if it were an actual gun.

“I moved from shamed to irritated very quickly, because (the pendant) couldn’t do any damage to anybody,” she said.

Despite the trinket’s innocence, an unnamed security guard told Norys she’d have to check her jewellery in storage under the plane.

After checking the trinket and arriving back in Toronto, Norys told her friend and creator of the pendant, Calvin Dana Munroe of Toronto’s Bad Ass Jewellery, about the incident. “It’s absolutely absurd if you ask me,” said Munroe, 36.

“It was the applied symbolism that was the issue here. So what if I have guns on my T-shirt … or a gun tattooed on my neck? Is that going to make people uneasy?”

Norys has since received an apology from the Canadian Air Transport Authority (CATSA).

“The screening officer involved made a judgment call, rather than refer to CATSA’s standard operating procedures,” Dave Smith, director of screening operations with CATSA, wrote in a letter to Norys.

“In retrospect, your revolver-shaped pendant is not a threat and should have been allowed on board the aircraft.”

But Norys isn’t satisfied with the explanation and says the real issue is institutional.

“The problem wasn’t that she didn’t follow operating procedures,” she said.

“It’s that she didn’t use her judgment at all and she’s not allowed to use her judgment as an officer at the bottom of the line.

“I blame the system, not just her.”

Sharon Stone quake karma remarks spark anger in China

May 29, 2008

Fred Dufour/AFP

Sharon Stone quake karma remarks spark anger in China

Wed May 28, 2:53 AM

BEIJING (AFP) – US actress Sharon Stone has sparked a storm of criticism in China after suggesting the earthquake that killed at least 67,000 was bad “karma” after Beijing’s policy in Tibet, state media said Wednesday.

Stone, 50, made the remarks at the Cannes Film Festival last week, leading to pledges by some Chinese cinemas not to show her films again, and reportedly motivating a cosmetics chain to remove advertisements with her image.

“I’m not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else,” Stone said in Cannes, according to footage widely available on YouTube.

“I’ve been concerned about how should we deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine,” she said.

“And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma — when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?”

The Beijing Times on Wednesday quoted Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain, as saying that from now on, no film featuring Stone would be shown in any UME cinema in Hong Kong or the mainland.

Stone’s most recent movie is The Year of Getting to Know Us, and four other movies starring the actress are scheduled in the period to 2010, according to the movie website

The Beijing Times also reported that the Chinese public relations company for cosmetic and couture giant Christian Dior — which uses Stone extensively in its advertisements — had distanced itself from her remarks.

Dior boutiques in major Beijing department stores that had until recently featured advertisements with Stone’s image had also removed these images by late Tuesday, the paper said.

Meanwhile, Chinese online activists have criticised Stone for her remarks, using YouTube among other forums to spread their message.

“I want her to say sorry. It’s not for me. It’s for the dead people,” said a young man, who described himself as a Chinese called Adam.

“I hope this video is usable for people to get together and help each other and let Sharon Stone say sorry,” he said in his YouTube video, which had been seen by more than 18,000 as of early Wednesday.

The May 12 earthquake, which struck in southwest China’s Sichuan province, is the nation’s worst natural disaster in a generation.

Ottawa ‘disappointed’ with B.C. court

May 28, 2008

Ottawa ‘disappointed’ with B.C. court ruling on safe-injection site


The Canadian Press

May 28, 2008 at 5:14 PM EDT

Canada’s federal health minister said his government is “obviously very disappointed” with a British Columbia court ruling that struck down laws prohibiting possession and trafficking of drugs by those accessing help at supervised injection sites.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling effectively granted a one-year reprieve for Vancouver’s controversial injection facility.

“We disagree with the judgment,” Mr. Clement told reporters in Ottawa.

“Our government believes that the best way to deal with the health issues of drug addicts is to offer treatment and indeed to prevent people from getting on to illicit drugs in the first place.”

Mr. Clement also strongly suggested the Conservative government was opposed to the facility’s continued operation.

“We don’t consider it the best health outcome to keep people in a position where they continue to use the illicit drugs, to inject the illicit drugs.”

The facility began as a pilot project and has been allowed to continue to operate because of exemptions granted by the federal government under a section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The latest exemption was to expire June 30.

But the B.C. court ruling allows the facility in the Downtown Eastside known as Insite to operate at least until June 30, 2009.

Clement said the federal government is “examining our options” and any decision to appeal would be announced by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Justice Ian Pitfield said in the ruling released Tuesday that denying access to the site ignores the illness of addiction and violates drug addicts’ right – enshrined in Section 7 of the Charter – to life, liberty and security.

“While there is nothing to be said in favour of the injection of controlled substances that leads to addiction, there is much to be said against denying addicts health-care services that will ameliorate the effects of their condition,” he wrote.

“I cannot agree with Canada’s submission that an addict must feed his addiction in an unsafe environment when a safe environment that may lead to rehabilitation is the alternative.”

While Judge Pitfield’s decision striking down two sections of the federal drug laws doesn’t take effect until next year, he granted Insite an immediate exemption, allowing it to remain open.

Law professor Isabel Grant of the University of B.C. said the decision would almost certainly be appealed.

“When a court strikes down important legislation, the federal government is going to want more than just a single B.C. Supreme Court justice making that decision,” she said.

The judge’s ruling, said Prof. Grant, is asking Parliament to exempt trafficking and possession laws from those accessing treatment at safe injection sites.

“It wouldn’t be that difficult for Parliament to amend them,” she said.

“The judge is saying that because we’re dealing with the life and security of the person, the individuals who use this clinic, you can’t have these blanket prohibitions when it’s being used in the name of health care.

“There has to be some kind of exemption made to allow for this kind of medically supervised use.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association called the ruling a “major victory for social justice in the Downtown Eastside.”

“The court has decided that the government cannot deny drug addicts access to the health care that they desperately need and that Insite provides,” the association said in a prepared statement.

Praying for lower gas prices

May 28, 2008

Posted on May 27th, 2008 by Tracy Simmons

I had a two-hour layover in Baltimore this weekend as I was traveling to Ohio. I picked up the Baltimore Sun and read a story about a pastor, Rocky Twyman, who is going around to various gas stations and praying for lower gas prices. He’s been doing this for a month now, and sadly, prices just keep going up.

From the story: With prayer and more prayer, he believes prices will come tumbling down like the “walls of Jericho.” “It could be Buddha. It could be the Dalai Lama,” said Twyman, himself a Seventh Day Adventist, who believes the spike in oil prices and natural disasters of late are a sign that the end of the world is nigh. “We just think there needs to be some divine intervention. Because man has become greedy. How much money do they have to make while all these people are struggling?”

Do you agree with his beliefs? And, do you know if anything like this is going on around here?



Pray-in at S.F. gas station asks God to lower prices

David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.

Twyman – a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs – staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.

Yes, it’s come to that.

“God is the only one we can turn to at this point,” said Twyman, 59. “Our leaders don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring.”

Gas prices have been driven relentlessly higher this year by the bull market for crude oil, gasoline’s main ingredient. A gallon of regular now costs $3.89, on average, in California, while the national average has hit $3.58.

To solve the problem, Twyman isn’t begging the Lord for any specific act of intervention. He is not asking God to make OPEC pump more oil. Nor is he praying for all the speculative investors to be purged from the New York Mercantile Exchange, where crude oil is traded.

Instead, he says anyone who wants to follow his example should keep it simple.

“God, deliver us from these high gas prices,” Twyman said. “That’s all they have to say.”

Consumer advocates who have been howling about gasoline prices for months say they understand his frustration, even if they haven’t tried his tactics.

“Given the complete inertia and silence of this White House on a crisis that has people feeling just hopeless, prayer is probably as good as anything,” said Judy Dugan, research director with the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog. “Frankly, I wish them luck.”

Her organization has a list of proposals to help tame gas prices. Federal officials could stop adding oil for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve and start selling some instead, for example. That would boost supplies in the market and drive down the price. Officials also could tighten oversight of crude oil trading.

“This is government’s job – it shouldn’t be God’s job – but government is in gridlock or ignoring it,” Dugan said.

Some of Consumer Watchdog’s ideas may finally be gaining support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, on Thursday asked President Bush to stop filling the strategic oil reserve. And on Friday, she called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the oil market is being manipulated.

Twyman, 59, has a history of taking on interesting causes, some whimsical, some deadly serious. Three years ago, he led a petition drive to have Oprah Winfrey nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It didn’t work, obviously, but he says he had a great time with it.

His real passion, however, has been persuading African Americans to become bone marrow donors. A friend of his who had just adopted a child died from leukemia in 1995 without ever finding a donor, and Twyman threw himself into the cause.

For years, racial and ethnic minorities have been underrepresented on the national donor registry, a problem because people in need of a transplant have a greater chance of finding a match with donors of the same race or ethnic group. Twyman estimates that his bone marrow drives, many of them organized through churches, have netted 14,000 potential donors. The drives also brought him an Above & Beyond award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Twyman knows his approach to gasoline prices may sound simplistic. He’s quick to point out that anyone praying for cheaper fuel also has an obligation to do something more active about the problem.

“People have to walk more, leave those cars at home, and carpool, man,” he said. “We have to become more practical.”

He’s also hoping that if enough people start praying at the pump, politicians who might actually be able to do something about the problem will listen.

But he says his prayer for gas-price relief from God is sincere.

“I’ve seen him work miracles in my life,” Twyman said. “He told us that all we need to do is ask and believe. He can do it, and he will do it, but we have to ask him to do it.”

E-mail David R. Baker at

This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle



Rocky Twyman’s efforts resulted in a bone marrow transplant for Ramon Hilliard, 16. “Rocky is an amazing person,” said Denae Hilliard, Ramon’s mother.


Hopeless motorists turn to God for cheap petrol

By Karin Zeitvogel

WASHINGTON: At a petrol station in Washington, Rocky Twyman and an unusual group of activists were mad as hell about soaring fuel prices.

“Last week, this station was $3.51. Now it’s practically 3.60. So it’s gone up nine cents in one week,” Twyman said as he pumped five dollars worth of petrol into his thirsty American car.

“Someone’s making a lot of money and it’s really, really wrong,” added Twyman, who founded the Prayer at the Pump movement last week to seek help from a higher power to bring down fuel prices, because the powers in Washington haven’t.

The half-dozen activists Twyman, a former Miss Washington DC, the owner of a small construction company and two volunteers at a local soup kitchen joined hands, bowed their heads and intoned a heartfelt prayer.

“Lord, come down in a mighty way and strengthen us so that we can bring down these high gas (petrol) prices,” Twyman said to a chorus of “amens”.

“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life. We call on God to intervene in the lives of the selfish, greedy people who are keeping these prices high,” Twyman said on the forecourt of the petrol station in a neighbourhood of Washington that, like many of its residents, has seen better days.

“Lord, the prices at this pump have gone up since last week. We know that you are able, that you have all the power in the world,” he prayed, before former beauty queen Rashida Jolley led the group in a modified version of the spiritual, “We Shall Overcome”.

“We’ll have lower gas prices, we’ll have lower gas prices,” they sang.

At the weekend, Twyman had led a group of around 200 people in prayer at pumps in San Francisco, where petrol is nearing four dollars a gallon (3.8 litres).

On Thursday, US lawmakers and experts at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill painted a grim picture of how Americans are being hammered by record fuel costs and the steepest food price spikes in 17 years.

“We pay more to drive to the supermarket, and then get hit with higher prices when we get there,” Senator Charles Schumer told the hearing.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said Americans have been forced by soaring prices to go on a “recession diet”.

“In some areas of the country, people are paying four dollars for both a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas,” and are substituting meats fish and vegetables with cheaper pasta and canned foods, Maloney said.

On the forecourt of the Washington Shell station, retiree Rufus Simpkin was feeling the pain at the pump and praying for relief.

“I’m having to spend much more on gas, and I am retired,” he said. “It is really hitting me and my family hard.” Marcia Frazier-Foster was filling up her car for the long drive home to Laurel, a suburb from which she commutes 53 kilometres, four days a week to work in a Washington soup kitchen, serving hot meals to scores of men who have fallen on tough times.

“The cost of food has gone up, quantities we get from the food bank have gone down. The cost at the gas station has gone up and that means I spend more money to get here,” she said after joining the prayer for fuel prices to come down.

“Yet I don’t see anyone in power really concerned about the high gas prices President Bush doesn’t even think we’re in a recession,” she lamented.

Americans have turned to prayer because the earthly powers-that-be don’t seem to give a hoot, said Judy Dugan, a research director at Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit group based in California.

She described Prayer at the Pump as “the ultimate Hail Mary”.

“It’s what you do when you feel you have no one on your side, and they certainly don’t have the US government on their side on this,” Dugan said.

At the Shell station, Twyman had dire words of warning for those who are raking in profits from high fuel prices.

“Woe be unto those people that are really greedy and taking advantage of American families,” he proclaimed from his pump pulpit.

“These prices will come down, just like the walls of Jericho came down in the Bible,” he said, as another chorus of amens punctuated the sound of cash flowing out of the pumps.—AFP


New Life Member Gets County Recognition, Promotes Prayer for Gas Prices

Rocky Twyman, a member of the New Life church in Gaithersburg, Md., has been in the news for a number of community outreach activities and contributions. Most recently, in honor of National Volunteer Week (April 27-May 3), the Montgomery County Council honored Twyman during a meeting at its headquarters in Rockville, Md. Members of the council, led by president Mike Knapp, drew up a proclamation dedicating April 29 as Rocky Twyman Day. The acknowledgment was a result of Twyman’s assistance in recruiting nearly 14,000 minority donors for the national bone marrow registry since 1992.

Bone marrow transplants help individuals suffering with rare forms of leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and Lupus. Ramon Hilliard, a 17-year-old cancer survivor and high school athlete, and his mother, Denae, testified at the meeting about Twyman’s efforts, claiming he helped save the teenager’s life. Twyman also led in the fight to save the life of the District of Columbia’s former first lady Effi Barry.

“I am grateful to God for touching the hearts of these elected officials to proclaim this day,” commented Twyman. “This could not have happened without the support of the Washington metropolitan media. I am especially grateful to Columbian Union Visitor staff who have promoted my bone marrow drives over the years.”

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society also recently saluted Twyman for his bone marrow registry activism. The society declared him the Maryland finalist for its newly created Above and Beyond Citizens Award. Fifty-one finalists were chosen from across the country. The award is considered the highest recognition that a civilian in the United States can receive.

The community organizer and public relations consultant is onto another outreach effort. Twyman founded the Pray Down the High Gas Prices Movement, which is sweeping across the country and gaining media attention. He is urging citizens to go to the pump and use the power of prayer to make the prices fall down.

You Tube

Court takes lesbian insemination case

May 27, 2008

May 27, 2008

Court takes lesbian insemination case

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Do religious beliefs give doctors the right to withhold medical treatment from lesbians and gay men?

That’s the question the California Supreme Court is scheduled to take up this week in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a lesbian who was denied artificial insemination at the only local obstetrics and gynecology office covered by her insurance.

Guadalupe Benitez, of Oceanside, alleges that after treating her with fertility drugs for nearly a year the staff of the private North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group refused to inseminate her eight years ago because of her sexual orientation.

The case is being closely watched by civil rights and physician groups who think it could have consequences for other medical procedures, including abortion and end-of-life decisions.

“There is confusion among many health care providers who believe doctors have the freedom to pick and choose their patients,” said Jennifer Pizer, an attorney with the gay rights legal group Lambda Legal who represents Benitez. “But doctors’ ethics may not be exercised in a discriminatory way.”

Benitez, now the mother of a 6-year-old boy and 2-year-old twin girls, sued Vista-based North Coast under a state law that prohibits for-profit businesses from arbitrarily discriminating against clients based on characteristics such as race, age and sexual orientation.

A San Diego County trial judge sided with her, but a midlevel appeals court reversed, ruling that the lower court needed to explore the disputed facts of the case before deciding whether the doctors’ religious views were a viable defense.

The appeals court noted that at the time Benitez sought treatment, California civil rights law still allowed businesses to restrict their clientele based on a customer’s marital status and Benitez’s doctors claimed the main reason they would not treat her was because she was unmarried.

Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the Virginia-based American Civil Rights Union, said regardless of what the doctor’s reasons were for referring her to another fertility specialist, a ruling in Benitez’ favor would set a dangerous precedent.

“If you have a genuine moral issue raised, as in this case, you have to recognize the rights of both parties,” said Ferrara, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the doctors.

Requiring them to act in violation of their beliefs “is a discriminatory resolution, and it discriminates against Christians,” he said.

Along with the American Civil Rights Union, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the California Catholic Conference, the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Americans United for Life and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council submitted briefs backing the North Coast practice.

The California Medical Association initially sided with the doctors as well, but reversed its position after coming under fire from gay rights groups. The association ended up joining an amicus brief submitted by health care provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. The American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the National Health Law Program and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association also filed papers backing Benitez.

Benitez, 36, said she and her partner decided to pursue the case because they wanted to prevent other couples from suffering the disappointment and humiliation they did.

“Even now I still have reservations when I go to a new doctor,” she said. “The first question we ask each other is, ’Do you think they will have an issue and not take into consideration at all that we are a normal family like anyone?”’

Pizer says the fear that a victory for Benitez would require doctors to perform abortions and nurses who oppose assisted suicide to take an ailing patient off life support is alarmist. The point is that while doctors can opt out of performing certain procedures on religious grounds, they cannot exclude medically eligible patients from the services they do provide, she said.

California law allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense “morning after” pills to women who have had unprotected sex as long as another pharmacist is available to fill the prescription. In the case of North Coast, the staff citing religious reasons for refusing to inseminate Benitez would be like a pharmacist who opposes sex outside marriage selling birth control pills to only married women, according to Pizer.

“If a doctor in good conscience can’t provide good medical care, that doctor should not be in that field,” she said. “If a person isn’t willing to provide the care the person needs, they shouldn’t be wearing the lab coat.”

The case is North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group v. Benitez, Case No. S142892.


Further Reading

From Benitez’ lawyer’s viewpoint:

From Brody and Fenton’s viewpoint as the refusing doctors:

Lemonade Stand – Civics Lesson

May 25, 2008

Dominic Serino (left), 9, and Ryan Decker, 11, were forced to pack up their lemonade stand at Salem Common on Saturday.

Dominic Serino (left), 9, and Ryan Decker, 11, were forced to pack up their lemonade stand at Salem Common on Saturday. (Globe Photo / Zara Tzanev)

When life hands you lemons…
…get license, sheepish police tell boys

By Kay Lazar and Erika Lovley, Globe Correspondents | August 3, 2005

SALEM — They may have been squeezed out of the lemonade business, but two Salem boys say they are not bitter.

Dominic Serino, 9, and his neighbor, Ryan Decker, 11, were forced Saturday to shut down their lemonade stand at Salem Common after an employee of a nearby sausage vendor called police, complaining that the boys were hurting his sales.

The budding entrepreneurs had to call it quits, under orders by some reluctant police officers. The boys, after all, did not have a license, and rules are rules. The two packed up and trudged home. But they said yesterday that they remain fans of the sausage man.

”I have bought his sausages a few times, and they were really good,” Decker said.

The lemonade standoff started when a longtime employee of sausage vendor Kevin Kefalas called police. The worker, Jarrod Clowery, said the brouhaha has been blown out of proportion. Clowery said he has taken a lot of heat since Saturday and is getting icy stares around Salem.

”I regret ever calling the police,” Clowery said. ”I have a 3-year-old son myself. I know how it is.”

Clowery said he simply wanted police to ask the boys to move their stand — he estimated it to be about 50 feet from Kefalas’s stand — to a different location, perhaps to a popular basketball court nearby, where the two operations wouldn’t be competing. The episode was first reported in yesterday’s Salem News.

”I didn’t tell the police, ‘Listen, throw these kids out of here,’ ” Clowery said. ”I am superapologetic. I just didn’t want them to be within direct line of sight. It’s a tourist area. We spend big money for the spot.”

Salem police Officer Dana Mazola, who had to break the news to the boys Saturday, said that when he arrived on the scene and saw the two wide-eyed lemonade purveyors, he called his boss.

”I called the sergeant down to the scene because I didn’t feel like kicking these two kids out, and I asked him the situation, and he said they needed a vendor’s license,” Mazola said.

At that point, Mazola said, one of the boys’ fathers, who was also there, asked about the cost of a license. When Mazola said he didn’t know, the man then asked Mazola if they could set up outside the Common. A quick consultation with the sergeant returned an unhappy verdict: No license, no stand.

”It’s two little kids selling lemonade,” Mazola said. ”If I get a call like that tomorrow, I’ll let someone else take it.”

The boys sold their brew, made from powder, for 50 cents a cup. Ryan’s mother, Angela Decker, described the concoction as ”the best in town.” She said the two youngsters may just make another stab at it, legally, of course.

”I have talked to Ryan about ‘the law is the law’ and you have to abide by that,” Angela Decker said.

She said the parents were using the stand to help teach the boys the basics of running a business, but the lemonade controversy created a real-life civics lesson for them, too. Now, she said, they will help the boys explore the option of applying to the city for a waiver from a license, which typically costs about $2,000.

”We don’t want the boys to give up,” she said. ”It’s about doing the right thing and doing it right.”

Calling All Maryland Adventists

May 24, 2008

By Roy Adams

Just about every editorial I write is addressed to the entire readership. But this one is directed to Adventists in the state of Maryland (where I live), who face a critical referendum this November.* As I understand it, the proposal on the ballot will be to amend the state’s constitution to authorize 15,000 slot machines in certain jurisdictions in the state. I think that Adventists throughout the state, whether or not the machines are coming to their own neighborhoods, should join other people of good will to defeat an immoral proposal, foisted upon the populace by misguided leaders and special interests.

Defeating the measure will not come easy. According to a March 8, 2008, editorial in the Washington Post, “a shifting but solid majority of Marylanders supports the slots scheme, which has a powerful ally in Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and backing from the horse racing industry, gambling firms, labor unions, and other special interests that stand to benefit.”

Nor is the state’s position entirely without merit. Like many other governments today, Maryland faces severe fiscal challenges. And scrambling for ways to fund vital state programs, it has come to see gambling as an easy way out. The proposal has received the support of powerful groups and organizations. The Maryland Association of Counties, for example, claims that slot machine gambling will prevent tax increases or severe budget cuts in their jurisdictions—the same arguments they’d made during the administration of O’Malley’s predecessor Robert Ehrlich (R), another zealous supporter of slots. In addition, supporters stress the danger of losing money to surrounding states where slot gambling has become legal: Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If voted, the measure is expected to bring into state coffers more than $600 million a year—nothing to sneeze at!

What we’re seeing here, however, is that a questionable activity, once the preserve of organized crime, is now being promoted by state government, following a multitude (of other states) in doing evil (see Ex. 23:2).

How should Seventh-day Adventists respond?

When the issue heated up in the legislature in 2005, Adventists remained virtually silent. But certain other faith groups didn’t. Many Maryland pastors spoke out against it, one of them characterizing slots as “a social scourge poised to afflict those who can least afford it.” And a 200-church coalition in Prince George’s County urged their parishioners and others to lobby against the introduction of gambling into the state.

I’m not sure how many Adventists of voting age we have in Maryland, but the number has got to be in the tens of thousands. Should we all choose to exercise our right to vote—and assuming we all oppose the measure—it could make a huge difference on election day, when combined with the opposition of other equally concerned citizens.

That’s what I’m hoping for, given the gravity of the issue. According to a respected study conducted in the mid-1990s and cited in the Post editorial, the anticipated results of bringing gambling into the state will be “a substantial increase in crime.” It says there’d be “more violent crime, more crimes against property, more insurance fraud, more white collar crime, more juvenile crime, more drug- and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime.” All leading the Post editorial to suggest that “[what] seems to promise quick cash on easy terms [is] in fact . . . a raw deal.” One legislator called slot machines “the crack cocaine of gambling.”

In Ellen G. White’s time the big issue was temperance legislation, and she couldn’t be clearer on what the responsibility of Adventists should be: “Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping [society’s] very foundations,” she said. “Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 8, 1881).

I believe the same argument is relevant to the issue before us. It’s unconscionable when governments seek to balance their budgets by destroying the lives of the most vulnerable of their citizens, leading many into dependency and addiction. No voting Adventist in Maryland can in good conscience refuse to stand up and be counted this November.

My hope is that we would care enough to act.


*Information for this editorial came from a multitude of radio, television, 
and newspaper reports, making detailed attribution cumbersome.

Roy Adams is associate editor of the Adventist Review.