CULTURE DIGEST: Gay dads featured in JC Penney ad

EDITOR'S NOTE: Culture Digest will not be published next week but will resume publication on Friday, June 29.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- JC Penney, a department store chain whose founder ran his business according to biblical principles, is featuring homosexual men with their two children in its June catalog, just in time for Father's Day.

The ad shows two men on the floor playing and hugging their two children at home. It reads, "First Pals -- What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver -- all rolled into one. Or two. Real-life dads Todd Koch and Cooper Smith with their children Claire and Mason."

On its website, JC Penney says it is "re-imagining every aspect of its business in order to reclaim its birthright and become America's favorite store."

The American Family Association, in a letter to supporters, noted that the company's founder and namesake, James Cash Penney, was a Christian.

"Sadly, the re-imagining of the present-day J.C. Penney Company indicates a departure from its moorings to God's Word and Mr. Penney's leadership by taking sides in the cultural war in celebration of homosexuality," AFA said.

Richard Richie, pastor of Flint Baptist Church in Decatur, Ala., and a trustee of the International Mission Board, wrote to JC Penney, expressing his concern about the company's efforts to "change the definitions and perceptions of historic fatherhood by showcasing gay men as fathers."

"If [Penney and his family] were still alive today, they would be appalled at your marketing practices which spit in theirs and others' faces regarding Christian beliefs," Richie wrote. "I am very disappointed that you have gone in this direction with your company.

"Because of your choices and decisions, I will have to take my personal business elsewhere and will recommend that my family, church members and friends do the same. I hope that you will reconsider this decision and no longer promote the homosexual agenda," Richie wrote.

AFA recommends that concerned citizens politely express their disappointment to local JC Penney store managers, unsubscribe from the company's catalogs and close store credit card accounts.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OPENS HIGH SCHOOL CLINIC -- A Los Angeles high school has given Planned Parenthood access to its students through an on-campus health clinic that reportedly is the first in the United States.

The Planned Parenthood clinic at Roosevelt High School will provide free contraceptives, pregnancy tests and counseling to students in an effort to shrink the number of unplanned pregnancies, the Los Angeles Times reported June 5.

Planned Parenthood is the country's No. 1 abortion provider. Its affiliates performed more than 329,000 abortions in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available. Some of the abortion giant's critics, including former Planned Parenthood employees, have charged it with using other services to help prepare clients for its abortion business.

"So much for parents. And if you have seen PP's sex education materials, perhaps also so much for chastity," bioethics specialist Wesley Smith wrote on his blog.

GANGES RIVER TOP RELIGIOUS SITE -- Of the 100 million people who make religious pilgrimages each year, the Ganges River draws the largest portion of them, according to statistics reported by The Huffington Post.

About 20 million people annually visit the Ganges, running from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal and believed by some to have purifying waters capable of cleansing people from sin.

Jerusalem and Bethlehem placed eighth and 10th on the list, drawing just over 2 million and 1.4 million tourists annually, respectively. The two sites are much less popular than such non-Christian destinations as the Golden Temple, a Sikh site in India, which typically draws 18 million annually and ranks second on the list of the top 14 religious pilgrimages in the world.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City ranks fourth with 10 million visitors annually, along with other top Catholic destinations of Lourdes, whose 7 million visitors rank it sixth, and the Vatican, coming in seventh by drawing 4.2 million tourists.

Mecca is third with 13 million people per year. The least popular pilgrimage site of Stonehenge draws more than 80,000 visitors a year, according to The Post.

Of the world's 7 billion people, roughly one-third are Christian, according to a Pew Research report.

HOUSE APPROVES BAN ON DETAINEE ABORTIONS -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a Homeland Security spending bill that prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from funding abortions for illegal immigrant detainees.

Representatives voted 234-182 for the appropriations legislation June 7, with 17 Democrats joining 217 Republicans in the majority.

GOP conservatives added language to the bill in committee after they learned ICE's policy did not prevent the use of federal funds for abortions on illegal immigrants in detention, according to the Family Research Council (FRC). The rider provides exceptions in the cases of a threat to the mother's life, rape and incest.

"[A]ll House leaders did was bring Homeland Security in line with the other federal appropriations provisions that prevent taxpayer dollars for abortion," FRC President Tony Perkins wrote on his blog. "And if the greatest goal of Homeland Security is protecting lives, then surely that includes the unborn ones."

ABORTION FORCED ON WOMAN 7 MONTHS PREGNANT -- Chinese officials have forcibly aborted the unborn child of a woman who was seven months pregnant and have threatened to end the life of a baby who is at five months' gestation, according to reports by human rights organizations.

The authorities acted on the basis of China's coercive population control program, which is commonly referred to as the one-child policy. In the incidents:

-- On June 3, family planning officials in Shanxi province beat and forced into an automobile Feng Jianmei, who was seven months pregnant, while her husband, Deng Jiyuan, was at work. The authorities levied a fine, and when Feng's family did not pay, they performed an abortion on her and placed the body of her dead child in bed with her. She is receiving medical treatment. Women's Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) provided the information based on a report by 64Tianwang, a China-based human rights organization.

-- On June 6, family planning officials in Hunan province broke into the home of Cao Ruyi, who was five months pregnant, and took her to a hospital, threatening her with a forced abortion. Cao and her husband, Li Fu, already have a 5-year-old daughter. After refusing a "voluntary" abortion, she was released during the weekend of June 9-10 after payment of a "social compensation fee" of the equivalent of $1,500. Authorities still are requiring payment of a $25,000 fine for Cao to proceed with the pregnancy. China Aid Association and WRWF reported on the incident.

"WRWF calls on the United States government and the leaders of the free world to strongly condemn forced abortion and all coercive family planning in China," WRWF President Reggie Littlejohn said in a written statement.

China's population control program, which was instituted more than three decades ago in the world's most populous country, generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children.

The policy has resulted in many reports of forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as infanticide. It also has produced a gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.

LOUISIANA'S JINDAL SIGNS PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTION BAN -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law June 11 legislation prohibiting abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.

On the same day, Jindal, a Republican, signed a bill banning euthanasia for the severely disabled and those who are not terminally ill. Previously, the state only protected the terminally ill from euthanasia.

"It is incumbent upon us to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, and these new laws will protect innocent human life," Jindal said in a written statement.

The House of Representatives passed the pain-capable abortion ban unanimously June 1, and the Senate approved it the same day with only one dissenting vote.

Jindal had signed a bill earlier this year requiring abortion to be performed by state-licensed physicians and another measure mandating an ultrasound image be offered for viewing and audio of the unborn child's heartbeat be played for a woman considering abortion.

VIDEO SHOWS FACILITATION OF SEX-SELECTION ABORTIONS -- Evidence continues to mount that clinics affiliated with two major abortion providers in the United States are willing to perform sex-selection abortions.

Between May 29 and June 6, Live Action released secretly recorded videos showing abortion facility employees in four cities appearing to provide aid to women considering abortions based on the sex of their unborn babies. Live Action is a youth-led, pro-life organization that has conducted a series of undercover investigations in recent years uncovering unsavory and/or illegal practices at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Live Action reported the clandestine filming was performed at Planned Parenthood centers in Austin, Texas, and New York City, as well as clinics affiliated with the National Abortion Federation in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.

In each case, the actress posing as a woman seeking an abortion expressed a desire to eliminate her unborn child if a test shows the baby is a girl.

The videos show clinic employees agreeing to go along with the woman's request and coaching her on the process of determining the sex and having an abortion.

At the Camelback Family Planning clinic in Phoenix, a counselor named Barb is shown saying when the actress mentions an abortion based on sex, "Don't tell us that, because we don't want to know." Barb says of the clinic doctor, "You can tell her, she's gonna tell you the same thing, just: Don't let it be down! She's really good about that. You'll like that about her."

Arizona is one of four states that have outlawed sex-selection abortions.

"Sex-selective abortion is a global search-and-destroy mission against little girls that is spreading at an alarming rate," said Lila Rose, Live Action's president. "[S]tate authorities should vigorously enforce Arizona's law. The clinics supporting sex-selective abortion should be investigated, prosecuted, defunded, and delicensed immediately."

Last year, a Live Action hidden-camera sting showed Planned Parenthood employees in several clinics demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly were in their early teens. Other secret investigations by pro-life organizations have uncovered PPFA workers seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.

The U.S. House of Representatives fell short May 31 in an attempt to prohibit sex-selection abortions. The House voted 246-168 for the bill but lacked the two-thirds majority required for passage. The proposal likely would have advanced no further had it gained the two-thirds margin. The Democrat-controlled Senate likely would have rejected it, and President Obama is opposed to it.


Compiled by Tom Strode, Diana Chandler and Erin Roach 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).