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image-12Holding a presser without us? I don’t think so

FIC Blog has been on vacation, but our office has in no sense been idle — in fact, we have some exciting press to share. In case you missed it, you can still view the WTNH video of my rebuttal to Sen. Blumenthal’s press conference at the site of a new Hobby Lobby under construction in Manchester. Claiming to speak for women, as usual, Blumenthal & Friends have continued to harrass the Green family business, wasting time and taxpayer dollars with a bill that would purportedly “fix” Hobby Lobby’s Supreme Court victory. Predictably, their bid to fix what ain’t broken did not go over well in the Senate. Egregiously, the former Attorney General also misrepresented state law, as reported earlier this summer by none other than the Hartford Courant:

In Connecticut, insurers broadly must offer contraceptive coverage if the plans have prescription coverage. As with federal law, the state exempts church-controlled organizations from that requirement — but the state also exempts individuals for whom contraceptives are against their religious or moral beliefs. Exempted employers must alert their employees with a brochure explaining the lack of coverage in at least 10-point type.

I am pleased with how the interview and coverage went. I am not as pleased with other aspects of the experience…

Blumenthal Gives Me the Brush?

As I was chatting with members of the press, someone asked me if I planned to try to speak to Blumenthal. I mentioned that I had not been satisfied with his response to written correspondence in the past, but I said yes, I supposed I would try. I saw him moving in our direction, walked up, shook his hand warmly and said point blank, “Senator, I want to understand why you think the owners of Hobby Lobby are imposing their religion on their employees.” Pointing a finger toward me, he replied, “Give me a phone number and we’ll talk. I have to run.” Before I could even process this, he was halfway to a car.

The young lady and young man who had prompted me before got to bear witness to this exchange and my flabbergasted expression. They pointed to a woman, who also looked preoccupied, and said, “We think she is his aide.” At that moment I decided to pass, but I did follow up by forwarding (Heaven help me!) my personal cell phone number to the contact listed on his press release, explaining who I was and what had transpired. I received no confirmation.

Two days later I tweeted:

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As of today I’ve heard zip…nada.  I can’t say I am surprised; after all, our Senator clearly has a very busy schedule.

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Allow me to suggest a new hashtag: #NoTime4Ur?s

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[Pastor Rick McKinniss is the Senior Leader of Wellspring Church in Berlin, CT ~ PW]

The 4th of July is being threatened these days by an odd sort of “military coup”. In recent years I have witnessed a shift in how our national holiday of independence is framed in public celebrations. Instead of hearkening to the real historical events and the ideals that gave birth to our nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” to quote President Lincoln at the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, we have begun to reduce our public celebrations of the 4th to honoring our military for their service.

Let me be clear-it is always right and appropriate to thank and honor the men and women who have served or who are serving in our military. But the 4th of July is the celebration of the ideas that define our nation and the ideals that this experiment in self-government embodies. The 4th is the annual renewal of the Declaration of defining truths held by the signers to be “self-evident.” These include the foundational truth that all are “created equal” and “that they have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The 4th is also a celebration of the courage and the vision of the 56 signers, who pledged their “Lives, Fortunes and (their) sacred Honor” to seeing this cause through to the establishment of a new nation. These are the ideals our men and women in uniform serve to guard and protect and the advance. It is these ideals and the examples of courage and sacrifice that founded the nation that make present-day military service to the nation particularly noble and worthwhile.

I am not exactly sure why there is a movement and to ignore these ideals and the vision and courage of the founders—some of whom immediately had their property confiscated by the British upon signing; and all of whom would have been hanged as traitors had they been captured or had the Revolution been lost. 21st century political correctness makes it unseemly to celebrate the pioneers of earlier eras who do not live up to today’s socially acceptable norms and practices. The signers were all men. They were all white men. Some held slaves—failing to see the inherent contradiction in that heinous institution and the ideal of all being created equal. But there were no women in public leadership in the 18th century. And the Declaration of the ideal of all being created equal ultimately led to the eradication of slavery by means of a bloody civil war—white men dying to free black slaves. And the same ideal ultimately led to suffrage and equal rights for women. It is the ideals we celebrate on the 4th of July that continue to lead us, even if the founders failed to live up to all that they signed on to that day 238 years ago.

And of course, for some it is an antiquated and dangerous notion to credit the Creator as the One who endows all humanity with inalienable rights. This violates the 21st century version of the separation of church and state where God is not allowed out of the four walls of the sanctuary into the discussion of the public square. To declare that the Creator is the source and guarantor of human rights is a positively radical idea in the secular vision of current political thought.

It was also a radical notion in the 18th century, but for completely different reasons. In 1776 accepted political wisdom spoke of the divine right of kings to govern their subjects. But the Declaration speaks of the Creator endowing “the people” with rights that could not be granted, compromised or taken by a king or by any embodiment of the state. Further, it speaks of governments deriving their just powers from the “consent of the governed.” Radical notions! Revolutionary ideas! A war got started over these ideas. These are ideas that changed the world.

These are ideas the nation has been celebrating for over two centuries. And they are continued cause for celebration even into the second decade of our current century. These ideas are the heart of American exceptionalism, a much misunderstood concept that has been bandied about in our current political debate. American exceptionalism does not mean that we believe we are the greatest, best, brightest or strongest people or country on the earth. Rather, America has been an exception in the history of nations, an outlier from the rule of kings and despots. At the heart of our historical uniqueness are twin notions. First, that the state is answerable to the people; i.e. governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Second, that the people are endowed by their Creator with rights that cannot be compromised or abrogated. So there is an authority of justice higher than the state and higher than the whims of the majority.

John Adams wrote presciently to his wife, Abigail, about the day of the signing of the Declaration:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations (i.e fireworks), from one end of this continent to the other, form this time forward and forevermore.

John Adams got it right. He knew that what happened that July day in Philadelphia would change the world in ways that were worthy of annual celebration.

We ought every day to thank men and women in uniform for their service to our nation. But Independence Day is not a military holiday. It is a celebration of our ideals, of revolutionary ideas that secure the liberty and equality for all our citizens. If we have failed to always live up to these ideals—and we have—that is no reason to forsake the celebration. These ideals will continue to inform our vision and fuel our aspirations as long as we embrace them, own them, pursue them. So let us not forget them! Fire off an illumination—and remind yourself about the light for life, liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness this great nation has been!

What Will He Owe Betty?

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Jonathan Pelto, an “education activist,” has announced that “he will have the signatures necessary to earn a spot on the ballot” for governor as a petitioning third party candidate. This will be bad news to Betty Gallo, who bills herself as “a lobbyist who specializes in social justice issues.” Just a few days ago Betty had an op-ed in the Sunday Courant urging her fellow “progressives” not to sign Pelto’s petition granting him ballot access because it would hurt Gov. Malloy who, she says, has “never wavered from his progressive principles.”

It’s a curious op-ed.

Betty claims Pelto “worked against workers” who “take care of people with disabilities.” But Betty does not mention that she herself worked against people with disabilities in her ongoing effort to legalize assisted suicide, a cause vigorously opposed by grassroots disability rights activists as well as the State Office of Advocacy and Protection for People With Disabilities and the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities. Betty references Gov. Malloy’s support for same-sex marriage twice but does not mention that the Connecticut Supreme Court imposed it years before Gov. Malloy was elected. She uses decades-old quotes about the earned income tax credit to give the impression that President Reagan praised Gov. Malloy’s passage of it, even though Reagan was long dead when it passed.

But Betty’s most glaring omission when it comes to assessing Gov. Malloy is the one on assisted suicide. As it happens, Gov. Malloy actually did take the prudent, progressive approach of giving greater choice to patients at the end of life by passing a pilot program for MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) that can be improved upon as its effects are studied. But he did it by resisting the ableists who pay Betty Gallo to lobby in favor of assisted suicide.

On assisted suicide, it was Betty who “wavered” from her “progressive principles” and Gov. Malloy who rightly recognized and followed the truly progressive advice of the heads of his own agencies, the Office of Protection and Advocacy for People With Disabilities and the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities.

But if Gov. Malloy is re-elected this Fall, what will he owe Betty Gallo for this gushing op-ed?

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The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that pro-life Americans do not lose their First Amendment right to religious liberty when they open a family business. Though it will take some time to digest everything in the decision–which does not address similar issues facing religious nonprofits–this ruling is a big win for religious liberty.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate was forcing religious organizations and believers to provide and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations in violation of their faith. Unless the courts stopped it, the rule permitting this outrageous attack on our First Amendment right to religious liberty was going into effect.

Educating the public about the danger posed by the HHS Mandate was the single biggest project undertaken by FIC in 2012: four rallies, almost forty speeches in dozens of churches, op-eds, media appearances and more. Never before or since has FIC given this much attention to a federal issue, an issue we continued to address in subsequent years.

(See photos of the 3/23/12 Stand up for Religious Freedom Rally at the Abraham Ribicoff federal building in Hartford here and photos of the 6/8/12 Rally on the New Haven Green here.)

The reason is that losing this battle would mean losing the First Amendment as we have known it. If our First Amendment right to free exercise of our religion means anything, it means the federal government cannot coerce us to pay for and provide abortion-inducing drugs in violation of our consciences.

Another reason we took on this fight is FIC’s storied history in protecting religious liberty in the State of Connecticut. In 2009, FIC helped turn back an outrageous attack by our state government against the freedom of the Catholic Church to manage its own affairs. FIC played a key role in utilizing the backlash from that outrage to pass into law the strongest religious liberty exemptions to same-sex “marriage” in the entire nation.

We were not alone in those fights. Then-Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori learned much about secularist hatred of religious liberty during those battles in Connecticut, insights he now applies to the federal fight against the HHS Mandate as the Archbishop of Baltimore. In 2012, FIC awarded Archbishop Lori the Charles Stetson Award for Pro-Family Courage because of his fortitude in leading the fight for religious liberty on the national stage.

These are just some of the Connecticut connections between recent fights for religious liberty in our home state and the federal fight to save our First Amendment liberties that are threatened by the HHS Mandate. As with the Connecticut attack on the Catholic Church, the HHS Mandate seems to target one particular denomination in a way that is a threat to the religious liberties of all of us, no matter what our beliefs.

That is why today’s ruling for religious liberty was especially applauded by the Family Institute of Connecticut. We will hold a religious liberty victory rally at the state Capitol tonight at 6 pm to celebrate.

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut is “whining up a storm on Twitter” over the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Massachusetts’ buffer zone law, as FIC’s Nicole Stacy has reported. But the state’s pro-abortion lobby is revising its own history when it comes to buffer zones in Connecticut.

The facts were accurately reported at the time in this 2010 Hartford Courant item. NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut responded to that year’s successful 40 Days for Life campaign–13 babies saved outside Hartford’s abortion clinic!–by saying they would

be working to secure a buffer zone in the coming year and we’ll keep you [NARAL's members] posted on our progress.

FIC took NARAL’s threat seriously…and so did The Courant. Anticipating a 2011 battle over buffer zones, Connecticut’s paper of record declared “This state isn’t known as a battleground on social issues but a fault line is emerging over abortion.” FIC’s political action committee asked candidates about their position on buffer zones for years afterward because of NARAL’s threat.

And yet, NARAL never did make good on their threat, which is why their Connecticut head played this sleight of hand in the New Haven Register today:

Wolfgang said at the time that it NARAL’s goal to introduce a “buffer zone” law to impinge on FIC’s free speech rights.

Christian Miron, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, said the organization explores new policies all the time in order to keep providers and women free from harassment as they access this legal service.

“We have never introduced legislation related to buffer zones. I’m not sure what he is claiming victory over,” Miron said, referring to Wolfgang.

FIC did not invent NARAL’s desire to pass buffer zones in Connecticut. It came from their own December 6, 2010 email blast. And NARAL’s email was a bit more than “exploratory.” It was a stated commitment. Here’s the screen shot:

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It is possible that FIC’s strong response–and the immediate media attention it generated–caused NARAL to back off. Regardless, that NARAL was never able to carry out it’s threat to pass buffer zones in Connecticut–and now they can’t–is what FIC is “claiming victory over.”

That NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut wants to pretend this never happened is no surprise to FIC. Reminding them of the history they would like to forget makes victories like this one even sweeter.

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Pro-lifers around the country have reason to celebrate today…and NARAL and Planned Parenthood are taking it on the chin. The Hartford Courant, by way of the Chicago Tribune, has the breaking story:

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone of 35 feet that includes sidewalks and public walkways outside abortion clinics violates the free speech rights of sidewalk counselors

(Naturally, the Tribune found a picture of the three pro-buffer zone protesters in attendance. I guess they weren’t part of the media entourage seen in the photo above, from Faith and Action on Twitter.)

Check out NARAL Pro-Choice CT’s pout party as they lie about the nature and intentions of vigil participants:

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From my experience as a participant in 40 Days for Life, I can attest — as many have — that I have never seen any act of violence, intimidation, or harassment on our part. I have, on the other hand, seen 40 Daysers offer a folding chair (accepted) and water (declined) to a woman who looked dreadfully pale and began leaning against a pole while waiting for her ride by herself on the sidewalk after exiting the clinic, abandoned by the security escort. That’s the kind of person who frequents 40 Days for Life in Hartford. We don’t bite.

Back in 2010, FIC quoted a NARAL Pro-Choice CT e-mail blast indicating that NARAL had plans to press for a buffer zone law in Connecticut. In their own words,

It is just this sort of protection that clients in Hartford could use to ensure access to Hartford GYN and their legal right to obtain an abortion. We will be working to secure a buffer zone in the coming year and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.

FIC’s e-mail response to NARAL’s email became the subject of a post at Capitol Watch where one commenter going by the pen name ‘Reading Comprehension’ claimed we ought to “put in a call to the Supreme Court” because “they have repeatedly settled the issue.” Four years later, we can’t help but ask Mr. or Ms. Reading Comprehension: is your phone ringing? It just might be SCOTUS!

Stay with us as we monitor the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases; we have now been told to expect a decision Monday morning.

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FIC has enthusiastically supported the Fortnight for Freedom every year since the federal government decided it would force people of faith to subsidize abortifacient drugs through their businesses. This year we face the prospect of an imminent Supreme Court ruling, the first one on this issue. I know the suspense grows with every passing day that we receive no word (via Alliance Defending Freedom on Facebook, it will be tomorrow or Friday); meanwhile, Colorado Christian University emerged victorious from U.S. District Court in Denver, and EWTN plans to appeal its loss in Atlanta. Don’t bite your nails down to nubbins — put those fingers to work on Twitter! Use the tag #ReligiousFreedom to show your support for Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and the many others whose livelihood rides on a favorable decision. Sign up for our e-mail list to stay informed about a possible rally here in Connecticut. And, of course, join us in prayer — the single most important action any of us can take.

We also encourage FIC members to attend local Fortnight for Freedom events. Our own Peter Wolfgang will be keynoting the Fortnight event at St. Paul’s Church in Glastonbury on Wednesday, July 2nd at 7:00 pm. And My Father’s House, the charismatic retreat center in Moodus, will hold several Fortnight events over the holiday weekend.

Under-Construction

It’s long overdue. We know. But it’s coming.

FIC’s website will be overhauled before the end of this, our 25th anniversary, year.

The present website is, in internet terms, ancient. It was last upgraded in 2006 and much of what is on it is still from that era.

The new website will be simpler, easier to use…and fitted particularly to today’s battles. And so will the new blog.

FIC Blog made quite a splash in its 2006 debut, thanks to Brian Brown’s decision to include an “Opponents” list of blog links. Our frenemies loved/hated it and did their part to drive up our traffic. Unfortunately, they also trolled the comboxes and drove away those FIC members for whom we hoped to create a local, online community of pro-family citizens.

A lot has happened since then. Social media has largely replaced blogging and FIC’s day-to-day activities are now more likely to appear on our Facebook or Twitter feeds than in this space.

But blogs still have their uses. You can see it here with the addition of new voices such as FIC policy assistant Nicole Stacy’s posts. Nicole and other FIC writers have things to say, things that can be linked to on Facebook or Twitter but should not originate there.

That is why a new FIC Blog will be part of the website overhaul.

This blog itself is a successor to Connecticut in the Crosshairs, the first FIC blog, which posted its first item ten years ago this October. Between Crosshairs and FIC Blog, we have maintained one of the longest-running blogs in Connecticut. But just as this present blog replaced Crosshairs, a new blog will replace this one in the long-awaited overhaul of our homepage.

The present content will all be archived, just as it was for Crosshairs. And we will continue to post at this site until the new one is up and running. In fact, we just updated FIC Blog’s links.

The defunct blogs Pray Connecticut, Marriage Debate and Rick Green’s CT Confidential have all been removed, as well as the semi-defunct blog of Judy Aron who, like Green, has moved out of state. Reflecting FIC’s prioritizing of the fight against assisted suicide, we have added the pro-true dignity blogs of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Wesley Smith’s Human Exceptionalism. We have also added The Courant’s sleepy religion blog Beliefs: Faith in Connecticut (Psst, Bernie Davidow, wake up. Post something.)

With the new blog, we will return to the original idea of creating an online forum for Connecticut’s pro-family citizens to interact. In the meantime, we invite you back to make the most of the present FIC Blog.

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In early 2004 I was afire with election fever. There was an excitement in the air for Republicans that I have not experienced since, even in 2010. It was my freshman year of college, and partisan politics divided roommate against roommate — though usually in a spirit of sportsmanship and good humor, such as when two of my friends drew a line down the middle of their door and let their stickers, articles, and posters face off.

I made phone calls and carpooled with friends to see the President; I attended College Republicans tailgates and bake sales. When the weather grew warm I took to my feet and led a flyering campaign around campus. Because I was equal parts zeal and naïveté, I sometimes said, did, and thought things that 2014 Nicole would find cringe-worthy. One politically naïve move I don’t regret, though, is a poster I created that read “Support the Muslim Women of France.”

At that time, the French parliament was poised to ban religious identification from public places. It is worth noting that, although the law was widely believed to target the hijab (the headscarf worn by some Muslim women), it was broad enough to include a yarmulke or an “excessive” cross. In government and in culture, France reached an extreme secularism long before we ourselves began to hear calls for faith to be shoved into a dark corner where it won’t perturb anyone else. It’s not entirely difficult to understand, given the divergent history and outcomes of two revolutions. Nevertheless, under the old lie that one can’t be both a patriot and a Godly person, France was prepared to expunge outward symbols of faith that Americans generally tolerate.

Even three years after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists, it never occurred to me not to support the public expression of faith. Sadly, a vast majority of the French populace apparently favored the law.

Why do I bring this up now? The results of two UConn studies show that indicating a religious affiliation on a résumé can kill job prospects. Once again, this is true across a broad range of denominations, but is particularly true for Muslims.

If only liberal New England had been examined, I could easily put this down to the usual “villain” of the story — secular intolerance — and move on. The part of the article that raises my eyebrows has to do with how the results of the same experiment played out in the Bible Belt. There, I am compelled to follow the data where it appears to lead.

As I have railed against the federal mandate forcing my fellow conscientious-objectors to subsidize abortifacients, I’ve been painfully aware of the mockery and condescending assumptions directed at Catholic women: a minority of a minority…brainwashed by the domineering patriarchy, no doubt. If I added that some of my friends wear chapel veils, all you-know-what would surely break loose among the feministas. Now we stand at the cusp of a potential Supreme Court vindication, and I wonder, do we still need the oppressive government to defend us from one another? That would be a hollow victory indeed.

The Family Institute has defended Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, and Jews against outrageous, unwarranted attacks on their faith and freedom. Why not Muslims too? Throughout the HHS Mandate battle, the refrain has been “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Now, I would not be a Christian today if I did not believe Christianity is true. In accord with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), I also reject a complete, senseless lack of restrictions, because there are certain human rights concerns I share. However, I just cannot conceive of passing over an eminently qualified job applicant because of her faith. I sure hope I’m in a clear majority there.

As Franklin, with his typical wit, so eloquently put it: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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Father’s Day is here again, and once again we are prompted to reflect on the mysteries and glories of the inseverable bond between a father and his child. This past week or so, the web has been full of tributes that are difficult to top, such as Buzzfeed’s moving pictorial of dads meeting their newborn babies. You can tell it’s love at first sight, and it just might make you cry a little.

Not to brag, but I have an awesome dad. What keeps me utterly humbled and grateful is the awareness that it didn’t have to be this way. This July will mark my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary–a Rock of Gibraltar in this shifting cultural milieu.

A tribute to fathers is necessarily an implied tribute to mothers, and perhaps more so than the other way around. We ought to keep this in mind in light of hype surrounding a recent study that documented changes in men’s brain activity from active parenting, a study that included homosexual couples. Some outlets managed to report on the facts without irresponsible conjecture, but others took the facts on a joyride to serve a shameless advocacy ‘journalism’ suggesting–in a bizarre but not wholly unpredictable inversion of the single-motherhood-by-choice phenomenon–that Mom is an expendable party. Certainly, humans are adept at compensating when they must. That compensation is needed at all puts the lie to the idea that another man is just as good as Mom.

My mom and I are two peas in a pod in many ways. From her side of the family I get my petite stature, my Catholic faith, and probably my ability to gently but firmly stick to my guns. I’d also be lying if I said we haven’t had opportunities to bond over…ahem…occasional male incomprehensibility, as it appears to women. That said, there have always been things that my dad and I shared pretty much exclusively: our penchant for hard core roller coaster riding (while Mom says “See you back on the ground”), or our appreciation of slapstick and ridiculous comedy. A mere word or gesture can launch us, giggling, into a lengthy, memorized routine.

Dad showed me that there can be fun and levity in politics, and Dad’s example has strongly impressed upon me the value of honesty even when it’s really inconvenient. There are also unanticipated ways in which I have apparently changed my dad’s life. He once credited me, on national TV no less, with getting him to listen to classical music, which according to him would garner him a healthy razzing from his college rock buddies.

I’ve tried, now and then, to imagine life without Dad. My brain short-circuits before I get anywhere; it’s just not something I have much stomach to contemplate.

Some people, in this lovely but broken world of ours, have to imagine life with Dad. HuffPo, one of the loudest voices in the above-mentioned advocacy journalism category, just the other day published this bittersweet piece whose author can finally stop imagining and embrace her dad in the flesh (why, one wonders, can’t HuffPo put two and two together?). Others, like Alana Stewart–conceived via sperm donation, which she speaks from the heart about in this must-read NPR interview–are still searching.

Biology alone doesn’t make a good dad. Even so, the adage “blood is thicker than water” rings true.

This Father’s Day I pray to the Father of us all that we who are close to our dads will never take it for granted, and that those who aren’t will find reconciliation, joy, consolation, and peace.

From all of us at Family Institute of Connecticut, Happy Father’s Day.

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