Will Arizona Let the Money Do the Talking?

Governor Jan Brewer

The money men have lined up in what appears to be a concerted effort to make sure that gay couples can force every baker in the state of Arizona to provide them with wedding cakes.

This burning wedding cake issue, which has been likened to the Jim Crow segregation and lynchings that once plagued African Americans, has brought corporate interests from coast to coast into the argument. They are speaking with one voice, and that voice is demanding a veto of the religious freedom bill recently passed by the Arizona legislature.

Two Republican senators who voted for the bill have seen the dollar sign and are now asking Governor Brewer to veto the bill.

I have not read this legislation. I’ve been busy with legislation on which I am going to actually have to vote. But I can tell you from experience that the various chambers of commerce and money people tend to talk to Republican legislators who step out of line like they were dogs who fetched when they should have sicced. I don’t doubt for a minute that this is what changed the senators’ hearts and minds on this issue.

Even Newt Gingrich has chimed in, calling for the governor to veto the bill.

The power of money on the legislative process can be breathtaking.

Governor Brewer has until Friday to make a decision.

From Bloomberg Business Week:

Companies from Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) to American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL:US)called on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto a bill allowing businesses to refuse service on religious grounds, a measure that opponents say is meant to allow discrimination against gays.

The measure passed last week prompted tourists to cancel reservations and companies to say they would locate elsewhere if it became law. The bill threatens to reverse an economic recovery in a state among those hardest hit by the housing crash, opponents said, and to cement a reputation fostered by a 2010 anti-immigration law and a fight in the 1990s over celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday.

After residents and businesses protested the bill over the weekend, three Republican senators who voted for the measure changed their minds and asked Brewer to veto it. NBC News reported today that three people close to the governor said she is likely to do that. Brewer wasn’t immediately available for comment.

“There is genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far,” Doug Parker, chief executive officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based American, wrote in a letter to Brewer yesterday. He said that it has the potential to reduce the desire of companies to relocate in the state and to repel convention business.

Arizona Passes Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service Based on Their Religious Beliefs

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Arizona’s state legislature has passed a bill aimed at curbing lawsuits against business owners who refuse services based on their religious beliefs.

According to a news story by azcentral.com, the bill is a response to the court decision in New Mexico forcing a baker to provide a cake for a gay wedding.

I haven’t read the bill, and don’t have an opinion about its specific language. I do, however support the concept of conscience rights. I think we’re going to see more of this type of legislation. Based on recent court rulings and the spate of lawsuits filed against mom and pop businesses, a legislative solution is needed.

However, I don’t think such solutions as these will work long-term, or even short-term. The entire issue has become court-based, and the courts seem willing to override the will of the people with very little consideration for the gravity involved in taking that action. The DOMA decision is the Roe of gay marriage, and it will end up having similar results.

If the court had allowed DOMA to stand, that would have pushed the debate back to a legislative level. If courts had refused to overturn votes of the people in the domino fashion which they are doing, I think the entire issue would have been settled in a long series of legislative battles at the state level. This would have taken more time, but it ultimately would have saved America what is going to be an ugly, on-going battle that will polarize and damage our country even further.

I think the resistance to gay marriage will end up in a fight to amend the Constitution, and that will become a protracted and painful battle involving increasing public disenchantment with what we have wrought, much like the fight about abortion.

If you follow this link, you’ll be able to watch a news video about the vote. You can see how difficult this vote was for everyone involved. As one legislator to another, my heart goes out to all of them, on both sides of the question. From azcentral.com:

The Arizona Legislature has passed a controversial religion bill that is again thrusting Arizona into the national spotlight in a debate over discrimination.

House Bill 2153, written by the conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit.

The bill, which was introduced last month and has been described by opponents as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, has drawn national media coverage. Discussion of the bill went viral on social media during the House floor debate Thursday.

Opponents have dubbed it the “right to discriminate” bill and say it could prompt an economic backlash against the state, similar to what they say occurred when the state passed the controversial immigration law Senate Bill 1070 in 2010.

Proponents argue that the bill is simply a tweak to existing state religious-freedom laws to ensure individuals and businesses are not forced to do something that goes against their beliefs.

The bill will be sent to Gov. Jan Brewer, who has five days to sign it into law, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law.

Denmark Bans Religious Slaughter of Animals. Minister Says “Animal Rights Come Before Religion.”

Animalrights

Denmark’s government has banned the religious killing of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat.

The move has been labeled “a clear interference in religious freedom,” by the non-profit group Halal, while Jewish leaders are calling it “anti-Semitism.”

Israel’s deputy minister of religious services, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan said, “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colors.” The Danish group Halal, said it was a “clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark.”

The predictable blog posts labeling Jewish and Muslim opposition to the move as “much ado about nothing much” and just more religious overreaction have already started.

It’s seems ironic to me that Denmark euthanizes people and, lately, giraffes.

From The Independent:

Denmark’s government has brought in a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat, after years of campaigning from welfare activists.

 The change to the law, announced last week and effective as of yesterday, has been called “anti-Semitism” by Jewish leaders and “a clear interference in religious freedom” by the non-profit group Danish Halal.

European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds. For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.

Yet defending his government’s decision to remove this exemption, the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”.

 

Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?

Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

Is It Possible to Have Individual Freedom of Conscience and Gay Marriage?

The debate is boiling down to a wall-punching, head-butting disaster. 

On the one side, there are gay marriage advocates who decry religious freedom and personal conscience exemptions to participation in gay marriage except for the most isolated cases, and even that quickly comes into question as discussions proceed.

On the other side, are gay marriage opponents who decry the loss of personal freedom of expression and religious liberty. They quickly move to a position of banning gay marriage to preserve their freedoms. 

Those who advocate each position have worked themselves into such a froth that they are incapable of civil discussion, much less actual compromise. I have been a victim of this myself. I lost a friend who I thought of as my brother, a friendship spanning decades of our lives and which had given both of us a great deal of love, loyalty, fun and support. He ended this friendship with the finality of an amputation because I could not support gay marriage. 

That is the level of acrimony and nastiness this issue raises. 

But in truth, the argument itself is based on considerations which have ample precedence in American life and jurisprudence to allow any and all of us to live together in harmony. America has a historic tradition of honoring freedom of conscience as it pertains to religious faith. The most poignant example of this is the exemptions we allow for those whose religious faith demands that they not participate in combat. 

We even extend this to people who are not members of a faith which demands it.

I know because a friend of mine obtained conscientious objector status after he was in the military during the Viet Nam war. He made this request based on his personal conviction that killing anyone was murder. It was not based on his faith, since he was a member of a church that did not teach this. 

The United States Army granted him conscientious objector status. I have also known Mennonite men who were granted conscientious objector status because of their faith. 

So why can’t we work out something for gay marriage? I am not talking about exemptions for established churches, even though that is absolutely necessary if America is going to be America. I am talking about preserving the conscience rights and right to religious freedom of all American citizens. 

Gay marriage zealots can be single-minded, intolerant and destructive in how they approach their cause. They resort far too often to labeling everyone who disagrees with them as bigots or some such and then excoriating and slandering these people and institutions in a concerted way that can only be described as character assassination. 

My own friend, who I would have trusted with my life, has gone on the internet and written things about me to hurt me. None of these things he’s said advance the cause of gay marriage. They are simple expressions of hatred because we disagree over this issue. 

I’m not sure what causes this level of ugliness. People who fought the great Civil Rights battles of the mid twentieth century did not engage in it, and the level of oppression and suffering they were battling makes any complaints that homosexuals have pale by comparison. 

Perhaps the difference is that Martin Luther King Jr led from a Gospel standpoint. He based his cause in the inalienable human rights found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. People sang hymns, prayed and talked about how they were saving the soul of America before they left to face the firehoses that were turned on them in Civil Rights marchers. 

Their bravery and their powerful witness to their own humanity not only won the day, it did indeed, ennoble the soul of this nation. 

No cause can do that if it stoops to the level that some of the gay rights advocates have chosen in their work for gay marriage. There is no nobility in slander, name-calling and bald-faced bullying. There is certainly nothing of a higher calling in attempts to advance your desires by attacking and limiting the basic human rights of other people. 

That, at root, is what freedom religion and freedom of personal conscience are: Basic human rights. The freedom to believe in God and to follow your own faith is second only to the basic right to life and freedom from violence in the hierarchy of human rights. It is what separates us from the animals. 

Alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that we are going to die. Also alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that there is right and wrong and dignity to every human soul.

Can there be human rights for gay people and freedom of religion for everyone?

Certainly.

Is gay marriage a human right for gay people? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I think that gay marriage, if it is regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman, is a delusion. Two men or two women are not the same as a man and a woman. There are basic legal rights that gay couples should have, simply because the laws of America have to be for everyone. But marriage between two men or two women is simply not possible. We can all pretend and call it marriage. But that won’t make it so. 

The next question is, should gay people have the same civil rights as other Americans?

Of course.

Should every American, gay or straight, have the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

Absolutely. That’s not only imperative, it’s easily done if people of good will try to do it. 

We can work it out. We can even work it out if we change the definition of marriage. 

But will we?

I don’t know the answer to that. 

We have the means and the power. The last question is simply, do we have the will?

Will Illinois’ Proposed Gay Marriage Law Violate Religious Freedom?

If you don t like gay marriage

Will Illinois create discrimination in the name of ending discrimination?

Illinois’ bill redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriages,” is on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

Proponents of the bill say that ti will end discrimination against homosexuals. Others are concerned that a lack of exemptions for individuals and small business owners, including one-owner businesses, will allow coercion and a violation of these citizen’s basic right to religious freedom.

One thing that is commonly (and I think, deliberately) overlooked in discussions of this issue is that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights.

From The Chicago Tribune:

Illinois’ gay marriage bill that awaits the governor’s signature doesn’t force religious clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings or compel churches to open their doors for ceremonies. But similar safeguards aren’t spelled out for pastry chefs, florists, photographers and other vendors who, based on religious convictions, might not want to share a gay couple’s wedding day.

The lack of broader exceptions worries some who fear an erosion of religious freedoms, even as supporters of the law say it will eliminate discrimination.

“We’re going to have to wait for lawsuits to arrive,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a socially conservative legal group.

“If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Then Don’t Get Gay Married”

Dont like too bad

If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married. 

That’s how the slogan goes. 

But … who really believed they meant it?

Not, evidently, the Church of Scotland. The Kirk, as it’s called, is considering a move to discontinue performing marriage services “rather than face a slew of lawsuits from homosexual couples demanding to be wed.” 

Read about it here

Ding! Ding! Ding! And We Have a Winner!

 

The Christian Bashers Defense team has pretty much taken over the comboxes on my recent post Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee. 

They are as predictable as mosquitoes. Just say something really true about their behavior, and they show up, armed to buzz bomb you until you go inside and close the door.

In this instance, I asked the simple question: Do Constitutional rights apply to Christians the same as everybody else?

The answer should seem obvious. But of course it’s not. The reason it’s not is the bullies who want to limit other people’s rights always get mad and deny what they are doing when someone calls them on it. They do it every single time.

We’re all supposed to join them in their pretense that there’s nothing discriminatory or offensive in their attempts to drive Christians from the public square. No one is supposed to challenge their idiotic pretense that using government controls to limit the free exercise of religion in this country is actually a push for freedom, instead of the tyranny that it is. 

If we can’t be agree with them, they want us to sit down and be quiet and stop contradicting them. If we don’t, well then, they’ll scream and shout until everybody gives up and lets them have the day.

It has always been thus. People who do things like this always deny it, and they always get mean when someone calls them on their facile denials.

That’s why this particular post ended up being dive-bombed by a whole troupe of angry combox mosquitoes. Even though the readership of this blog is heavily — and I mean heavily – Christian, the Christian defenders were outnumbered. In fact, only three stalwart souls tried to stand up for Christ in these arguments. In the end, it got down mostly to one stubborn Christian, who is hanging in there to this very moment.

For all that, this lone fellow managed to push the whole mosquito assault into a slow unwinding of their lies until, one of them just came out with it.

And I quote:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

And then the commenter goes on, blah, blah, blahing with a lot of stats (which may or may not be accurate. I haven’t checked.) about the Church’s holdings.

How about that? Not, mind you, that forcing the largest denomination in the country to “sell its hospitals, school, universities and charity organizations” if it won’t violate its 2,000 year-old religious teachings due to government demands that it do so might be …  ummm …. a slight violation of the principles of that fictional “wall of separation between church and state” of which militant atheist are so proud. Also, not that it might be an outright dismissal and abrogation of religious freedom as defined in the Bill of Rights. Nor that it might be just a wee bit of outright tyranny.

Nope.

It’s just deserts for those who have the temerity to think that their individual rights as free Americans amount to a hill of beans to the post Christian, militant secularist demands for moral conformity (with moral being defined by them and them alone) that must govern us all.

I want to remind you that this is about birth control and abortifacients. Nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to free birth control and free abortifacients. Also, nowhere that I know of is there a Constitutional right to force other people to pay for your birth control and abortifacients, even, or in this case, especially if it violates their religious beliefs to do so.

There is, however, a pretty strong Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Not even President Obama is debating that. What he’s trying to do is re-define this Constitutional Right to the free exercise of religion along the lines of how it is defined in Communist dictatorships. He wants to say that freedom of religion is actually just freedom of worship and that only in governmentally prescribed “houses of worship.” And, oh yes, behind the closed doors of your own house.

FireSale

It takes a combox firebrand to just come out and say what all this truly means and where it leads. It is leading to stripping the Church of all its “hospitals, schools, universities, and charity organizations” in what would certainly amount to a fire sale. It means driving the Church out of public life, totally and absolutely.

There’s nothing dishonest about what this person said. In fact what’s powerful about it is that it is the truth of where we are heading. It is exactly where we are going if this tyrannical abuse of the freedoms of Christians as citizens of the United States is allowed to continue.

If the Obama administration succeeds in redefining religious freedom in these terms, it will  have destroyed the First Freedom of the American people.

And all this so that it could bend this country over and bow it down to the little g gods of abortion and death.

I want to thank the strong-hearted Christians who have hung in there during this debate. I encourage some of the rest of you to get in the game along with them. Standing up for Jesus is not a spectator sport. We all need to do it.

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Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

YouTube Preview Image

USCCB: Tomorrow is a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Marriage and Religious Liberty

Tumblr mgmjltaSyG1s3tphho1 500

Bride and groom, praying before their wedding.

I think we’ve exhausted the emotional discussion about Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.

Now is a good time to turn to prayer. Propitiously, it is still the Fortnight for Freedom and tomorrow is Friday. The American bishops have called us all to a day of prayer and fasting tomorrow for the intention of marriage and religious liberty. For you Protestants out there, “intention,” when it’s used in this context simply means that what you are fasting and praying for is marriage and religious liberty.

Fasting does not mean that you go without food and water. It means that you abstain from eating meat. You can eat fish. You can eat cheese, eggs and other sources of protein. The whole purpose is to exercise a bodily discipline as a form of prayer and penitence.

That word “penitence” brings me to something I think we should all consider, and that is how we have failed personally in our fidelity to Christ. I am going to concentrate to my failings in terms of marriage and religious freedom. I haven’t divorced anyone, and since my religious conversion I have moved ever steadily toward a Jesus orientation on these things. The Catholic Church and its teachings have been both a guide and a source of strength in this regard.

However, I did a lot of things back in my anti-religion period that contributed to the mess we are in now. I’ve repented, gone to confession, been forgiven. But the knowledge that I did them has given me a slightly more generous take on those who are making the same mistakes now that I did then. I know that if God can convert me, he can convert anyone. I also understand that you can’t know what motivates another person to do the things they do.

All you can do is pray for them. That, based on the reaction to a post I wrote earlier this week, is something I think we should all try to do more of. We cannot change the world for Christ by destroying those who do things we see as sinful. We have to convert them. The only way to do that is to remember, always, that they are people in need of God’s love and that the only Jesus some of them may ever see is one of us.

I am asking each of you to join the bishops tomorrow in a day of prayer and fasting for marriage and religious freedom. You might also consider asking God to use you in the battle that lies ahead. But remember: He can not and will not do that unless you yield it all to Him, including your pride and anger. This kind of yielding is not a once for all thing. You have to go back and do it again over and over almost every day you live.

We’ve got work ahead of us, people. It’s not a matter of changing laws so much as it is winning hearts. The best way to do that is to begin by letting God change our own hearts.

Friday Fast for Life, Marriage
& Religious Liberty 
June 28, 2013
St. Irenaeus
Greetings!

Thank you for participating in the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty! 

 

This week was a big one for marriage. Today’s reflection is on St. John the Baptist, a witness to marriage – to the death.

We’re still in the Fortnight for Freedom, coming into the second week. Remember to visitwww.fortnight4freedom.org for latest news!

  Gray

Intention

For the courage to keep witnessing to the truth and beauty of marriage, the lifelong, fruitful union of one man and one woman.

Reflection

  

St. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrated on Monday June 24, was a martyr for truth and justice, particularly the truth about marriage. He was put in jail, and ultimately executed, because he rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias (see Mt 14:3-12 and Mk 6:17-29). St. John the Baptist’s defense of marriage cost him his head.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, June 23, Pope Francis said of the saint, “He died for the sake of the truth, when he denounced the adultery of King Herod and Herodias. How many people pay dearly for their commitment to truth!”

Today, standing up for the counter-cultural truth of marriage as the lifelong, fruitful union of a man and a woman can be difficult and lonely. But Christ is always with us and asks us to be witnesses of His loving truth, which is worth defending, no matter what the cost. As our Holy Father exhorted the crowd, “Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so.”

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

Did you know?

On Wednesday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8. In a statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called Wednesday “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.” They said, “Now is the time to redouble our efforts” in witnessing to the truth of marriage.

Learn more about Proposition 8 and DOMA from this backgrounder.

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