When the Iraq war began nearly five years ago, tens of thousands of parents who serve in the Armed Forces expected hardship and sacrifice. However, they never expected that their children might be taken from them while they were deployed, or that their own government might jail them upon their return.
Military service sometimes costs parents their children. For example, with the long deployments necessitated by the war, a military spouse can move to another state while his or her spouse is deployed, file for divorce, and then be virtually certain to gain custody through the divorce proceedings in the new state.
Given service personnel's limited ability to travel, the high cost of legal representation and travel, and the financial hardships created by child support and spousal support obligations, it is extremely difficult for deployed parents to fight for their parental rights. For many, their participation and meaningful role in their children's lives ends-often permanently--the day they are deployed.
In one highly-publicized case, Gary S., a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL, had his child permanently moved from California to the Middle East against his will while he was deployed in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 18-year Navy veteran with an unblemished military record has seen his son only a handful of times since he returned from Afghanistan in April, 2002. Meanwhile, he was nearly bankrupted from child support, spousal support, travel costs, and legal fees.
While some military parents face the loss of their children, others face prosecution and jail for child support obligations which their service has rendered them unable to pay. Support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When reservists are called up to active duty they sometimes pay an impossibly high percentage of their income in child support.
I've discussed this issue in numerous newspaper columns and on the radio, and I often hear from deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who tell me heart-wrenching stories of being hammered in divorce proceedings while serving.
The first success on this issue occurred in 2005 under the leadership of Michael Robinson of the California Alliance for Families and Children with the passage of SB 1082. SB 1082 addressed the way parents who serve are often taken advantage of in custody and family law matters while they are deployed, and helped resolve the child support nightmare many mobilized reservists face....
The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) (formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act) protects deployed soldiers against civil legal actions. Perhaps the biggest problem deployed parents face is that judges often do not interpret the SCRA as applying to family law proceedings. Today Robinson and the California Alliance for Families and Children announced that a new federal law will specifically extend the protections of the SCRA to family law proceedings and eliminate default judgments for deployed service personnel. Robinson writes:
"As some of you may know, we have been working on a provision at the federal level to provide child custody protection for deployed military parents. The original amendment was introduced by Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio, in HR 1585. Senator Gregg NH, had also introduced a stand alone bill in the Senate but that bill was killed in committee. The Gregg bill had the same language as the Turner amendment. After HR 1585 went to the Senate the provisions we were seeking went to conference committee and some of the language was lost but the overall intention of the bill was kept.
"For those of you not familiar with HR 1585, this was the National Defense Appropriations Bill that President Bush used the pocket veto on because there was language in the bill that would have allowed the current Iraq Government to be sued for past bad acts by Saddam. I was immediately informed of this even prior to press on the issue, but was assured that Congress was going to fast track a revised bill to fix the problem and that the provision we were seeking for protecting military parents with custody orders was not in jeopardy.
"Sure enough, they did in fact fast track a new bill, HR 4986 and the bill was cleared for the White House on 1/22/08 and presented to the President on 1/24/08. I was contacted today by Congressional and White House staff informing me that the President will sign this bill.
While the language is not as strong as the California statute, where it all started in 2005, and other state statutes we pushed, the language does at least provide protection in all 50 states now.
Blood-boiler: Berkeley vs. the troops
I told you on Sunday about the city of Berkeley's move to treat military recruitment centers like porn shops. Reader Bob USMC e-mails that Berzerkeley advanced two other anti-troop measures last night-voting to give Code Pink special treatment and send the Marine Corps a letter saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city. This must not go unanswered:
Members of the Berkeley City Council showed their opposition to a Marine Corps recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley last night. Council members supported the two resolutions-one supporting anti-war protests and the other criticizing military recruitment practices-citing opposition to the war in Iraq, deceptive recruitment practices and the right to protest.The other initiative is forging ahead:
"By taking a stand against recruitment we are protecting the health and safety of our youth," said PhoeBe sorgen, a member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission. "I see the protest as taking a proud and courageous stand."
Code Pink, a national anti-war grassroots organization, will be granted a parking spot for their regular Wednesday afternoon protests and will not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months, under one resolution.
The other resolution more directly criticizes the presence of the center in Berkeley. The city manager was directed to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city. In addition, the city attorney has been directed to investigate whether the city's anti-discrimination laws can be enforced at the center, based on the military's consideration of sexual orientation in hiring.
Local activists have proposed an initiative for the November 2008 elections that would require military recruiting centers to acquire a special use permit. "The Marines ought to have better sense than to come here," [Councilwoman Betty] Olds said.Move America Forward is spreading the word:
The City of Berkeley, California has passed two resolutions attacking the United States Marine Corps, calling the Marines, "uninvited and unwelcome intruders in the city." The Berkeley City Council voted to condemn the Marines on Tuesday night (January 29th) as part of a campaign by anti-war activists to shut down a U.S. Marine Recruiting Center located in the city of Berkeley.Every member of the California delegation should be pressed to state where they stand on Berkeley's troop-bashing actions-starting with Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Boxer and Feinstein.
The votes by the Berkeley City Council were immediately condemned by Move America Forward (website: www.MoveAmericaForward.org), the nation's largest grassroots pro-troop organization. "It is disgraceful that in the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, anti-military activists would attempt to silence the same military men and women who serve this country and give their lives to protect the free speech rights of all Americans, including these ungrateful and despicable people on the Berkeley City Council," said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.
The actions by the Berkeley City Council followed continuous protests by Code Pink and other anti-military organizations that vandalized and defaced the U.S. Marine Recruiting Center in September 2007.
One of the two resolutions passed by the Berkeley City Council last night granted a parking spot in front of the Marine Recruiting Center to be used by anti-military activists to harass Marine recruiters. The anti-military activists would not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months - allowing them free reign to disrupt the day-to-day operations by the Marines.
Move America Forward organized a counter-protest in support of the Marines last October that attracted over 400 pro-troop supporters who stood in solidarity of the Marine Recruiting Center. "We have hundreds of thousands of military men and women serving honorably overseas to protect our freedoms. Imagine how they feel when they go to turn on the news and see that they are being stabbed in the back by shameful people here at home, it's disgraceful!" said Catherine Moy, Executive Director of Move America Forward.
Christian Photographer Hauled before Commission for Refusing Same-Sex Job
The case of a Christian photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony", was heard before the New Mexico Human Rights Division on Monday. A same-sex couple asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband of Elane Photography, to photograph a "commitment ceremony" that the two women wanted to hold. Huguenin declined because her Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.
The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Division, which is now trying Elane Photography under state antidiscrimination laws for sexual orientation discrimination. The Alliance Defense fund (ADF), a legal alliance that is dedicated to defending and protecting religious freedom, sanctity of life, marriage, and family, is currently defending Elane Photography.
"On Monday we defended Elane Photography in court, saying basically that no person should be required to help others advance a message that they disagree with," ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice-President of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Jordan Lorence, told LifeSiteNews in an interview today. "That's a basic First Amendment principle. The government is punishing Elaine photography for refusing to take photos which obviously advance the messages sent by the same-sex ceremony - that marriage can be defined as two women or two men."
In their complaint the homosexual couple has sought for an injunction against Elane Photography that will forbid them from ever again refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony. They have also requested attorney's fees. "Depending on how far up the ladder this goes of appeal that could be a lot of money," said Lorence. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Lorence said that the ADF is framing its case in a similar fashion to the 1995 Supreme Court "Hurley" Case. "In the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade case the US Supreme Court said that the State of Massachusetts could not punish a privately run parade because it refused to allow a homosexual advocacy group in to carry banners and signs in the parade. They said that would be compelled speech, ordering the parade organizers to help promote a message they do not want to promote. To apply the discrimination law that way violates freedom of speech. We are making a similar kind of argument in this case."
Lorence said that this current case is demonstrative of a "tremendous threat" facing those with traditional views on marriage and family. "I think that this is a tremendous threat to First Amendment rights. Those who are advocating for same-sex marriage and for rights based upon sexual orientation keep arguing, 'We are not going to apply these against churches. We are going to protect people's right of conscience. We are all about diversity and pluralism.'"
But, in practice, says Lorence, "Business owners with traditional views or church owners with traditional definitions of marriage are now vulnerable for lawsuits under these nondiscrimination laws. There are 20 states that have these laws where they ban sexual orientation discrimination. Most of the major cities in the United States also have these kinds of ordinances. So these are a big threat, as the federal government debates whether to make this a blanket nationwide law. "We see that these [non-discrimination laws] are not rectifying some unjust discrimination, but being used to punish those who speak out in favor of traditional marriage and sexual restraint," he concluded.
Lorence said that the ADF is "cautiously optimistic that the commission will do the right thing." If the New Mexico Commission, however, decides against Elane Photography, Lorence said that the ADF would appeal the decision all the way up to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
Ratty Australian Leftist becomes a Muslim menace
PICTURE the sitting room of a modest two-bedroom flat at Lakemba in southwest Sydney. Neatly covered floor cushions lean up against the wall beside a shelf full of brass ornaments from the Middle East, while a tank of goldfish bubbles in the corner. It doesn't look like a terrorist's lair. The occupant is a 54-year-old mother of six and grandmother of two, retired and living on a disability pension. She doesn't look like a terrorist.
But this is the most-watched woman in Australia, monitored for the past 20 years by ASIO and described by intelligence analysts as the "matriarch" of radical Islam in Australia. Rabiah Hutchinson snorts with laughter at the description. "They've got it wrong. I am not important. I'm just a 54-year-old granny with diabetes and arthritis. What are they so worried about?"
Ms Hutchinson has been closely watched by Australian authorities since October 2003, when she returned to Australia from Iran, where she had spent nearly two years in hiding after fleeing from Afghanistan amid the US bombing raids that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. Her passport was subsequently cancelled, based on advice from ASIO to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that she was "likely to engage in conduct that might prejudice the security of Australia or of a foreign country (and) endanger the health and physical safety of others".
Ms Hutchinson remains barred from travelling overseas, believes she is under constant ASIO surveillance and claims her family and friends are continually harassed. After years of silence, she has decided to speak out to deny any involvement in terrorism and accuse the authorities of persecuting her and her family. "It's not just me they're targeting. Now it's my children and even my grandchildren," Ms Hutchinson says. "It's absolutely ridiculous - to think I had any personal knowledge of or contact with Sheik Osama bin Laden. I am absolutely nobody. I just happened to be there."
As she recounts her life story, Ms Hutchinson laughs, sometimes shouts and occasionally weeps - at the memory of friends killed by US bombs in Afghanistan, or the hardship endured by her children because of her activities. She is passionate, funny and articulate, a natural story-teller and eloquent advocate of her faith. Born of Scottish stock and raised in Mudgee, in central NSW, she is also very Australian, describing in a broad Aussie accent how she carried Vegemite on all her travels, even to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
She is certainly extreme - in her absolute and unwavering devotion to Islam. And she is also angry. "When we left Afghanistan, we became among those classified as the most hated people on the face of this planet," Ms Hutchinson says. "And being one of those people means that there are a lot of people on this planet who believe you have less rights than an animal, that you can be tortured, raped, maimed, renditioned and have the most horrific things done to you in the name of anti-terrorism."
Rabiah Hutchinson has been of interest to Australian intelligence since the 1980s, when she was living in Indonesia and joined the rising Islamic resistance movement opposed to the Suharto regime. She had arrived in Indonesia as a 19-year-old backpacker visiting Bali in the early 1970s. There she converted to Islam and married an Indonesian man, with whom she had three children. When they divorced, she returned to Australia, but later went back to Indonesia to study Islam, which she says transformed her life.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.