Wisconsin Family Council: Welcomes new allies in McConkey v. Van Hollen

Wisconsin Family Council issued this press release this afternoon

10/29/2009

Contact: Julaine K. Appling, CEO
608-256-3228 (Madison); 888-378-7395 (toll-free)
Email: media@wifamilycouncil.org

WI Supremes Accept Community Leaders’ Friend of the Court Brief in Case Challenging Marriage Amendment

Madison – “We welcome the addition of this new friends-of-the-court brief in this critical case involving Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment,” said Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Council.

Until the last few months, Wisconsin Family Council (WFC) had been the only amicus (Latin for “friend of the court”) in this case since it began at the trial level in July 2007. McConkey v. Van Hollen is an attempt to sabotage Wisconsin’s marriage amendment, approved by nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters in November 2006. Professor Bill McConkey, who brought the case, alleges that the amendment deals with two subjects, rather than one as required by the state constitution.

Last month, after Wisconsin Family Action board members filed an original action petition challenging the constitutionality of Governor Doyle’s newly enacted statewide, marriage-like, same-sex-only domestic partnership registry, two different amici groups filed briefs in McConkey, supporting the allegation that the amendment is unconstitutional. Fair Wisconsin, a pro-homosexual organization, Lambda Legal, a major national homosexual litigation firm, and the ACLU of Wisconsin filed a brief arguing for an extremely narrow application of the Amendment. Separately, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which also opposed the Amendment, filed a brief supporting McConkey’s claims.

Click here to read the rest of the press release.

Unlimited discrimination

This morning the Assembly Committee on Children and Families held an executive session on Assembly Bill (AB) 453, a measure that would entirely remove the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits involving childhood sexual abuse–more on that here.

In the executive session, Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) offered two amendments (which both subsequently failed) to restore some equity to AB453.  The first amendment would have removed the caps on government liability in a lawsuit.  Thanks to sovereign immunity, it is next to impossible to successfully bring a civil lawsuit against a government entity in the first place; and if you are lucky enough to actually win the suit, current law limits financial liability for municipal governments to $50K and state government to $250K.

There is no cap, however, on the amount of money awarded in a case against a private entity, such as a church, private school, camp, or other not-for-profit organization.  All five Democrats on the committee voted against this proposal, Republican Richard Spanbauer (Oshkosh) voted with the Dems and Reps. Kestell and Pridemore (R-Hartford) voted for the amendment.

The second amendment, offered because the first one didn’t pass, would have created a monetary damages cap for private entities (think church, private school, YMCA, etc.) at $250K, the same cap for state government.

All five Democrats, again, voted down the amendment, claiming that this “wasn’t about money.”   This time, all three Republicans voted for the amendment.

In the end, the Committee passed the bill without any fix for the gross discrimination inherent in the provision.  All 5 Democrats were joined by Republican Richard Spanbauer, making the vote 6-2 in favor of passage.  If this “isn’t about money,” then why discriminate against churches, religious schools, camps and other non-profits by absolutely refusing to any level of equity with public entities?

And the police looked on…

On Monday the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee on the behalf of pro-life advocates who’ve been harassed, unlawfully jailed, threatened and physically assaulted.

In the lawsuit, ADF documents cases where police

  • did nothing when an abortion clinic employee kicked a pro-lifer outside a clinic
  • threatened to arrest a pro-life, sidewalk-counseling couple for child abuse and neglect when they brought their 4-month old son with
  • failed to provide equal protection for pro-life advocates

Click here to read more.

The Legislative Clock is Ticking

This week’s radio commentary:

Last week, the State Senate passed a bill [SB 103] that would make it illegal to compose or send a text on your cell phone or mobile device while driving.  The bill had broad bi-partisan support in the 33-member chamber, which is currently composed of 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Five Republicans voted against the measure.  If the Assembly passes the bill and the governor signs it, we’re going to see a lot of text-crazed teenagers—and maybe as many or more adults—pulled over for “operating while texting.”

Read/listen to the rest of the commentary here.

Winning Campaigns…Without Compromising Your Values!

Today begins a new chapter in the life of Wisconsin Family Action (WFA).  We officially launch our first campaign training session, “Winning Campaigns…Without Compromising Your Values.”

WFA engaged Mark Montini, one of the nation’s premier campaign stategists and consultants, to help design this unique seminar.  The focus is on specific action items candidates need to win campaigns, with primaries given a special emphasis.   Mark has agreed to come and do the presenting for this kick-off event.

WFA is interested in seeing principled people elected to office in Wisconsin, from the local level through the federal level–people of character and conviction.  This campaign seminar is designed to instruct and equip such candidates to be successful and stand firm on their values–values such as marriage and family, life, and religious freedom, as well as a commitment to free market and limited government.  It’s training that is practical in nature–not just theoretical; it’s “do it,” not just “think it.”

Today and tomorrow local, state and federal candidates, campaign workers/volunteers, and concerned Wisconsin citizens will receive training that is second to none.   These are two days that may well change the lives of individuals, communities, our state and our country!

We’ll post blogs as we can to give updates on the seminars.  If all goes well, we’ll be posting some 30 sec videos on the WFA website.

Future “Winning Campaigns…Without Compromising Your Values” sessions will be scheduled.  Stay tuned for more information about these extraordinary training opportunities that WFA will be presenting.

Operating While Texting and Jeff Wood

Earlier this week, the State Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to compose or send a text on your cell phone/mobile device while driving.  The bill had broad bi-partisan support in the 33-member chamber, which is currently composed of 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Five Republicans voted against the measure.  As Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) pointed out, “We have laws on the book right now where we can enforce this.”  He’s right:

1. No person while driving a motor vehicle shall be so engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving of such vehicle. [s. 346.89 (1), Stats.]

If the Assembly passes the bill and the governor signs it, we’re going to see a lot of text-crazed teenagers pulled over for “operating while texting.”  Imagine trying to explain to your parents that you got a $400 (max) ticket for OWT.  “Oh, and what number text was that for the month? Guess what buddy, you’ve got another charge coming for exceeding your text limit!”

In the meantime, Rep. Jeff Wood (I-Bloomer) was arrested last night for what could be his 5th OWI offense and what was his 2nd arrest within four weeks.  Following Wood’s arrest on September 23rd, Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) offered a resolution to have Wood expelled from the Assembly, which Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) did not want to do at the time.  In fact, Sheridan was ready to offer Wood a prestigious committee chairmanship (the ultimate in Speaker approval) late last year, right after his December ’08 arrest.

According to a press release from Sheridan’s office later this morning, however, the Speaker of the Assembly may be having second thoughts about Wood’s ability to perform his job…while in rehab…where apparently he wasn’t last night.

I don’t think it would be good PR for the Democratic leadership in the Assembly to refuse to expel Wood for 4-5 OWI’s and then pass an OWT bill…but you never know.

Testimony on AB453 Statute of Limitations bill

Click here to read Julaine’s testimony on AB453.

Click here to read supporting material.

We’ve had a few comments on this particular blog.  We think some additional comments relative to our position on this bill are in order.

Let’s be clear:  We are absolutely opposed to all forms of child abuse and believe perpetrators of such crimes should be  prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Sexual abuse is unusually grievous because it offends a child’s innocence.   We know victims of such abuse suffer greatly, and our hearts go out to them.  Further, we know the pain is lasting.

However, the bill in question has some major problems.  First, it is unfair to private entities, such as churches, ministries, civic organizations, etc.  Public entities, such as schools, are held to a different standard on this issue.  First, it is virtually impossible to bring a lawsuit against a public entity because of “sovereign immunity.”  Second, a Notice of Claim must be filed against a public entity within 120 days of the incident.   Finally, even if a person succeeds in bringing and winning such a lawsuit, he/she would be awarded at the most $50,000.  Someone in a virtually identical situation in the private sector, under this bill, could sue 40 years after the incident and be awarded multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions.  That is patently unfair to the victim in the public sector incident and to the organization in the private sector incident.

No one believes that an organization, be it a church or other ministry, that is covering up for a perpetrator of child sexual abuse, should be given a free pass.  However, to be just, there must be a limit to the amount of time that can pass before the lawsuit is filed, just as there are statutes of limitation in situations where children are harmed by lead paint or toys, for instance. As noted in the hearing today, when the perpetrator is dead or the people involved in the organization are relocated or are physically or mentally impaired through illness or age, it is extremely difficult to have a fair trial. 

 We believe, the current statute of limitations, which is generous in comparison to other states, is a good and appropriate balance.  A person has until he/she is age 35 to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or organization.  Further, there is no statute of limitations for criminal cases of sexual abuse of a child up to age 16.

64 WI couples attend marriage mentor training

All the glory to God for the mentor training event on Oct 16th and 17th at which 24 marriage mentor couples were trained and certified as Prepare/Enrich facilitators. While that may seem a modest number, it is a huge first step for the Northwest Milwaukee Area.

Forty additional couples attended a mentor training class on Saturday afternoon. As Wes Johnson of Rawhide Ranch in Green Bay said, “this is a small army of trained mentors. They will have a tremendous impact on the community.”  Indeed.

More important than the training, certification and the numbers, we met men and women who attended the training for the sheer purpose of investing in the marriages in their churches and community.  That was extremely uplifting to all of us involved. I praise God for the opportunity to meet so many and be uplifted by their passion and zeal for marriage ministry.

A hearty thanks goes out to Thinkmarriage.org (Susan, John, Angie, and Dixie) who teamed up with WFC to serve the churches and couples. We are also grateful to Bishop Hines of Christian Faith Fellowship Church for making the Destiny Center available to us.   The kind staff at the Center were gracious and very helpful.  Finally, we are grateful to Wes Johnson for providing the bulk of the training.

For more information on marriage mentor training, contact me at 608-558-8224 or eskelton@wifamilycouncil.org.

A “Shout Out” to Prison Aftercare Network of WI

Every once in a while we use this blog to do a “shout out.”  Today, I’d like to do that for a group I was privileged to address last Friday in Wauwatosa.

Prison Aftercare Network of Wisconsin (PAN) is well deserving of a “shout out.”  This coalition of individuals and organizations that deal with Wisconsin’s prison population is impressive, to say the least.   While the focus of PAN itself is primarily on those prisoners who are about to be released, are just released, or have been released some time, their meetings include those who minister to inmates in both jails and prisons and those who work with “at risk” populations.

It was apparent Friday that this is a group of people who genuinely care about those who have, for whatever reason, found themselves doing time.   They recognize the inherent God-given value of each person who is incarcerated and devote themselves to giving a message of hope, beginning with presenting the Gospel and the true freedom that is found only in Jesus Christ.

But their work isn’t only in word–or even The Word; it’s also meeting tangible needs–such as helping prisoners develop a pre-release plan, connecting them after release to churches and ministries that can give spiritual support as well as provide housing and clothing, and assisting them in acquiring job-related skills and in finding a job. 

PAN is led by Nancy DeSandre who works with BASICS of Milwaukee, one of our favorite organizations, largely because we always find them right in the middle of things–just as they are with PAN.

In short, PAN personnel invest deeply in the lives of “the least, the last, and the lost,” those who are trying to re-enter families, communities, churches where reconnecting is tremendously difficult, in many, if not most, instances.  Certainly it is right that Christians be there to assist in every way possible–and PAN is doing a tremendous job of doing just that by meeting needs and coordinating efforts.   I’m blessed our paths have crossed.

Sex-ed: Surgeon General’s warning needed

We hear a lot about how kids need “sex-ed” in order to have “safe sex” and avoid STD’s and teen pregnancy.  If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that our sister organization, Wisconsin Family Action, has been dealing with a harmful sex-ed bill, AB 458, in the state legislature.  You can read more about that here.

The abstinence-centered message that we support contends that the entire “safe sex” message is exploitative of our kids and driven by a more-than-questionable agenda.  You don’t have to look further than this story on the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and their plan to entirely remove the marriage-promotion aspect (where there is one) of their version of sex-ed to find evidence of the questionable agenda.  It comes as no surprise, then, that AB 458 here would remove the current marriage component of our state sex-ed, or Human Growth & Development statutes.

This poignant story on the work of board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, Dr. Miriam Grossman, further bolsters the abstinence-centered message.  Read Dr. Grossman’s summary of her new book to find out just exactly why children and even teenagers are negatively impacted by today’s comprehensive sex-education.  And then ask yourself this question; which approach–comprehensive sex-ed or abstinence-centered education–is really about helping our kids prepare for a happy, successful life and which is exploiting kids to further a sex-driven agenda?