By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — “Blackstone is not a think tank, it’s a do tank,” speaker Jeffery Ventrella, Ph.D., told Christian law students at an afternoon session of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship here, which has grown steadily in scope and participation since it began in 2000.
The students’ goal is to impact and restore the legal system to sound, clearly understood moral principles instead of arbitrary declarations from legal activists who impose decisions based on their personal preferences.
Attorney Ventrella is senior counsel and senior vice president of student training and development at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which advocates for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and the family. Blackstone is an ADF ministry.
Top Christian law students gather here each June for nearly two weeks of seminars and lectures before they jet off to their assignments for six weeks, followed by a return to Phoenix for an additional week of training and career guidance before they begin the next academic semester.
In 2000, 24 U.S. students served as legal interns during Blackstone’s first summer at locations around the nation. This year 154 interns from 11 nations recently dispersed from Phoenix to ten countries for their service. The program has been able to expand a bit every year due to additional financial support, bringing in an entirely new class each time.
The sites of the interns’ service include “public-interest law firms, law professors, think tanks, and public-policy organizations working to impact the culture right now in the arenas of constitutional law, religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family,” Blackstone said.
They learn to network and receive up-close training to hone the application of their abilities.
Ventrella told The Wanderer that 43 U.S. law schools have interns in this year’s Blackstone, “including at least one student from each of the top 14 schools,” plus participants from as near as Canada and as distant as Sweden and Argentina.
In addition to U.S. locations, they’re serving this summer in countries as close as Canada and as distant as Peru, Austria, and India, he said.
This year’s interns number 96 males and 58 females, with 49 Catholics as the largest single religious denomination represented, Ventrella said.
The Wanderer attended most of the sessions on June 16, with talks on the law, medicine, and ethics. The interns dispersed for the summer on June 20.
Referring to a relativism that supersedes traditional morals and ethics, Ventrella reminded the interns that Barack Obama defined “sin” as “being out of alignment with my values.”
Self-centered relativism “is where ‘choice’ leads,” Ventrella said, citing an astrologically minded woman who said she wanted an abortion because, if her baby were born, “It will be a Gemini, and I want a Libra.”
Sex-selection abortion is hardly the end of this kind of thinking, he said. “The idol of choice is always worshipped on the altar of death.”
Speaker Stephanie Gray, from the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, told the interns that “Babylon, the culture of death, has become comfortable in darkness,” and people cry out in distress, “Turn that off” if pro-lifers try to bring them into the light, because it hurts their eyes.
Pro-lifers need to equip people so their eyes can adjust as they walk in the light, she said.
Gray said pro-lifers need to understand what’s behind people’s words by asking questions about their thinking instead of just challenging what they say.
If a person says abortion is all right if the mother is in poverty, Gray said, then ask if killing the baby a year after birth is all right because of poverty, too.
“In one word, if you had to describe our culture: selfish,” she said, but people know that’s not the correct way.
Inspirational people cope with difficulty, not run away from it, Gray said. She contrasted the heroism of airline captain Chesley Sullenberger in January 2009 to the Italian captain who abandoned a cruise ship after it ran aground in January 2012.
The airline captain is a “hero because he put others before himself,” while the ship captain is the exact opposite, Gray said.
Sullenberger piloted a disabled commercial jet to a safe landing in the Hudson River without the loss of a single life, even walking down the aisle to make sure no one was left behind, while the Italian captain abandoned ship and nearly three dozen people died.
If a person says an unborn baby isn’t alive, Gray said, point out the baby is growing. Not human? The parents are human, so what else could the baby be? No rights? The baby has human rights.
Created Out Of Whole Cloth
Speaking about U.S. abortion law as created by judges, a University of Notre Dame law professor, O. Carter Snead, asked, “How can you sustain legitimacy” in the law when unelected judges exercise “unbounded discretion” in what they do?
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision, Snead said, “really reads like a statute” instead of constitutional interpretation because it was created out of whole cloth — a fabrication.
The companion Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were decided the same day, January 22, 1973. Doe specifically broadly defined “health” abortion so that it would apply throughout the time of pregnancy, Snead explained.
To say that the high court legalized abortion only for the “first trimester” is “a radically incomplete” description, Snead said, much like saying the First World War “was fought in France” — true as far as it goes, but seriously misleading.
“The key question to know is, what does ‘health’ mean?” Because it’s so broadly defined as even to include “familial” health, the person who decides how to apply the definition is the abortionist who stands to profit from it, Snead said.
Nineteen years after 1973, “we thought that Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned” in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, he said, but instead the Supreme Court tied its very legitimacy to affirming permissive abortion.
One of the court’s reasons in 1992, Snead said, was that people had come to organize their lives around expecting to have abortion available. However, he said, when the court had upheld racial segregation in 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, nearly a century earlier, it said that people had come to expect organizing their lives around the segregation system.
The court took a “totalitarian” view in 1992, he said — in essence demanding that “it’s time for everyone to go home now” and stop questioning abortion.
Another Blackstone speaker, whose background is in pediatric nursing, told of serious ethical problems with sales of human ova and the frozen embryos who can result.
There can be tremendous exploitation involved, she said, which “still undermines the dignity of women, still undermines the dignity of children.”