Tag Archives: punish

Kentucky bill takes aim at animal-rights videos at farms

The Kentucky Senate has voted to punish animal-rights activists with jail and fines for secretly filming farm operations, attaching the proposal to legislation meant to prevent animal shelters from using gas chambers as a form of euthanasia.

But that’s as far as the bill may go.

The Senate’s action drew a defiant response from the sponsor of the original House-passed bill.

Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins said she would not ask the House to take up the broader bill in the final days of the General Assembly session, which would kill the measure.

She said the punishment proposed in the Senate version was misdirected.

“If a big factory farm is doing something that impacts the environment and public health, we shouldn’t be penalizing whistleblowers in those instances,” Jenkins said.

The provision to criminalize undercover filming or photographing of private farm animal operations was added by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The full Senate accepted the changes before passing the amended version on a 32-6 vote, sending it back to the House.

The amended measure would make it a misdemeanor for someone to gain access to a private farm under false pretenses and then film or photograph the operations without the landowner’s consent. Violators could face up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Kentucky Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said he was disappointed that Jenkins didn’t plan to have the bill brought up in the House.

Hornback said he sees the provision as an attempt to protect private property rights.

“When somebody comes in and misrepresents themselves on a farm just to try to take action against that farm, I think that’s wrong,” he said.

The provision was supported by Kentucky Farm Bureau but opposed by the Humane Society of the United States.

Humane Society officials said the “ag-gag” language surfaced about a month after an undercover investigation revealed animal cruelty at a western Kentucky pig farm. They said video and photographs showed large pigs confined in cages so small that they couldn’t turn around, and showed sows being fed the remains of diseased piglets.

In recent years, animal rights groups have released undercover video elsewhere around the country exposing instances of animal abuse at slaughterhouses and farms.

Paul Shapiro, the Humane Society’s vice president of farm-animal protection, said the Senate’s provision was meant to “block transparency” of the meat industry.

“The good news is that the meat industry will not prevent Americans from finding out about what happens to animals on factory farms,” he said of Jenkins’ refusal to bring the bill up again. “The bad news is that pets can still be put down in gas chambers in Kentucky.”

Meanwhile, Hornback didn’t rule out trying to attach the provision to another bill in the final days of the legislative session.

“If the opportunity arises, I would certainly do that,” he said.

Similar legislation was passed and signed into law in Idaho earlier this year.

Pope criminalizes child sex abuse, Vatican leaks

Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City State on July 11, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.

The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law which covers the universal Catholic Church.

The bulk of the Vatican’s penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many of the new provisions were necessary to bring the city state’s legal system up to date after the Holy See signed international treaties, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican’s push toward financial transparency.

One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict’s personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

Using the documents, Nuzzi published a blockbuster book on the petty turf wars, bureaucratic dysfunction, allegations of corruption and reports of same-sex liaisons in the highest levels Catholic Church governance.

Gabriele, who said he wanted to expose the “evil and corruption” that plagued the Holy See, was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Vatican’s police barracks. Benedict eventually pardoned him and he is a free man.

But his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.

In an indication of how serious the Vatican considers such confidentiality, the penalties for violations of the new law are stiff: Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a (euro) 2,000 euro ($2,500) fine; the penalty goes up to eight years in prison if the material concerns the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations with other countries.

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the president of the Vatican tribunal who presided over Gabriele’s trial, acknowledged this week that the Gabriele case could be seen as having an influence on the new crime, though he said the crime itself was “irrelevant” to the overall reform.

But the crime of leaking Vatican information never existed before in the Vatican legal system. Sexual crimes did exist, albeit in a general form in the archaic code as a crime against “good customs.”

The new law gives a broader definition of the crimes against children, including the sale of children, child prostitution, recruiting children, sexual violence, sexual acts with children and the production and possession of child pornography.

In the old code, such general crimes would have carried a maximum penalty of three to 10 years, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. Under the revision, the punishments go from five to 10 years, with aggravating circumstances bringing the maximum up to 12 years, he said.

It considers a minor anyone under age 18, and allows Vatican prosecutors to pursue the case on their own even if the victim or his or her guardians choose not to make a criminal complaint.

Dalla Torre stressed that just because such acts are illegal now doesn’t mean they were legal before. It merely means that, 100 years ago, child pornography was not specified as a crime in either the Italian legal code or the Vatican’s. 

Pope backs crackdown on nuns for social justice work

The Vatican says Pope Francis supports the Holy See’s crackdown on the largest umbrella group of U.S. nuns, who were faulted for focusing too much on social justice instead of issues such as opposing abortion rights.

American sisters had expressed hope that Francis, a Jesuit whose emphasis on the poor mirrored their social outreach, would take a different approach than his predecessor.

The Vatican last year imposed a reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious after determining the sisters took positions undermining Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “radical feminist themes.”

The heads of the conference met on April 15 with the Vatican’s doctrine czar, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller.

Mueller’s office said he told the sisters that in discussions with Francis, the pope reaffirmed the Vatican’s findings and reform program.

Official predicts passage of anti-gay bill in Uganda in 2012

Uganda’s anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of 2012 despite international criticism of the draft legislation, the speaker of the country’s parliament said this week, insisting it is what most Ugandans want.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told The Associated Press that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay acts, will become law this year.

Ugandans “are demanding it,” she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting of anti-gay activists who spoke of “the serious threat” posed by gays to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as “a Christmas gift.”

“Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,” the activists said in a petition. “We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.”

The anti-gay activists paraded in front of Kadaga, with parents and schoolchildren holding up signs saying homosexuality is “an abomination.” The speaker then promised to consider the bill within two weeks, declaring that “the power is in our hands.”

“Who are we not to do what they have told us? These people should not be begging us,” Kadaga said of activists who want the bill to become law.

Uganda’s penal code criminalizes homosexuality, but in 2009 a lawmaker with the ruling party said a stronger law was needed to protect Uganda’s children from gays. Parliamentarian David Bahati charged at the time that wealthy gays from the West were “recruiting” poor children into gay lifestyles with promises of money and a better life. Bahati believes his bill is sufficiently popular among lawmakers to pass without difficulty.

The irony is that wealthy and influential Christian right activists in the United States are promoting the anti-gay legislation in Uganda and other anti-gay efforts elsewhere in the world.

Gay rights activists in Uganda, while opposing the bill, point out that it has helped their fight for equality by putting what used to be a taboo subject on the national agenda. Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries.

Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, said the new push to pass the law was frustrating.

“It’s disappointing, but we are also going to seek a meeting with the speaker,” Onziema said. But it is unlikely the speaker will agree to such a gathering, he said.

While the bill appears to be popular in Uganda, it has attracted widespread criticism abroad. President Barack Obama has described it as “odious,” while some European countries have threatened to cut aid to Uganda if the bill becomes law.