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There is a movement of Christians putting actions to their pro-life words through adoption. Adoptive families will find their search for faith-based adoption agencies increasingly difficult, however. Faith-based agencies (FBAs) have been under attack for practicing their religious freedom, despite their impactful work in placing children in loving homes.Courtney Lott works with such organizations. As part of Family Research Council’s Speaker Series and to recognize National Adoption Month 2018, she shared her experience as Co-Executive Director of Faithful Adoption Consultants (FAC) and mother of eight children—both biological and adopted. FAC walks alongside adoptive families to assist in all aspects of the adoption process. From matching families with children to encouraging the birth mothers to adopt instead of abort, the pro-life message is clear.Lott summarized FAC’s mission: “Our heart is to build relationships, educate families, and put actions to our pro-life words.”Private adoption agencies share similar goals. Child welfare services began in the private sector, but it wasn’t until the 1990s—after the public child welfare system was created—that private adoption agencies set cost and quality standards. Faith-based agencies are particularly beneficial because they utilize faith networks to recruit foster and adoptive families. The CALL and Focus on the Family, like FAC, encourage and equip families in the Christian community to consider foster care and adoption.The impact of these FBAs is significant. In 2016, Catholic Charities agencies around the country served over 10,000 children through foster care and adoption services. That same year, 45 percent of Catholic Charities’ adoptions were of children with special needs. Children who have a historically hard time of being placed in homes due to age, background, or need are valued throughout the process—beginning with their “first family.”FAC recognizes that the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families. The process of fostering and adoption gives FBAs and consultants an opportunity to love the child’s first family and encourage them to pursue a situation in which they could better parent their child.Another fundamental aspect of the fostering and adoption process is educating families. As Courtney Lott pointed out, closed adoptions were common throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This means adoptees don’t know until later in life that they’re adopted, and mothers often didn’t get to meet their child or the child’s adoptive family. Now, there is an increasing trend of semi-open adoptions, where mothers know the first name of the adoptive family, as well as wide open adoptions, where the adoptee has unrestricted contact with and access to all knowledge of their first family while still being loved and cared for by their adoptive family.FAC and FBAs clearly demonstrate how they value all life, from the pregnant mother to the child to the adoptive family. Their work is valuable in maintaining the institution of the family, and the protection of their work is necessary in maintaining religious freedom.A myriad of FBAs joined the national fight for religious freedom when court-created same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015. Despite the variety of child welfare agencies already serving same-sex couples, and the thousands of families helped by FBAs, anti-faith policies have pushed out adoption agencies that decline to place children in households that do not comply with the biblical definition of marriage. This needlessly deprives children of having a better chance of finding a loving adoptive home.FBAs in Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco were forced to shut their doors because of their convictions. In 2011, Catholic Charities organizations in Illinois closed their contracts with the state and consequently closed their doors to thousands of children. Congress has since urged President Trump to protect faith-based adoption agencies, and five states passed laws in 2017 prohibiting discrimination against faith-based adoption providers.The nationwide decline in the value of life is apparent. In addition to the abortion industry’s attacks on life inside the womb, attacks on FBAs compromise children outside the womb. Thus, adoption is becoming recognized as a pro-life issue, and it should be defended as such.To put action to pro-life words, we must be willing to answer the call of caring for children and parents through adoption or foster care. Whether driven by infertility or a mission-based calling, caring for children and parents can take many forms, include bringing a child home, financial support, mentorship, and transportation assistance to foster families. In the mid-2000s, the evangelical church began to answer this call by educating about and engaging in the “uniquely Christian calling,” as termed by Rick Warren and Focus on the Family. While only two percent of Americans have adopted, more than twice as many practicing Christians fulfill this calling. As Courtney Lott pointed out, for Christians, it is the number one place we can make a huge impact for the gospel.With the opioid crisis contributing to the adoption crisis, the problem is large enough for both faith-based and public agencies to work together for the sake of children and families. By standing for pro-life values in accordance with these faith-based organizations, we help to maintain religious freedom and ensure that ALL life has a chance to be heard.To hear how Courtney Lott’s Faithful Adoption Consultants is answering the pro-life call, view the full event here.Madison Ferguson is an intern at Family Research Council.
Dear Friends,In this age marked by cultural brokenness and political division, it can be easy for Christians to shake our heads in resignation to this seemingly discouraging predicament and say, “God’s Kingdom is obviously not here right now.”Or is it? In the Gospel of Luke, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come. He said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21).What does this mean? When Christ said these words in first century Judea, they would have caused great confusion amongst the Jews since it was clear from the Roman occupation of their ancestral land that there was certainly no “Kingdom” currently present. But Christ wasn’t speaking of the potential reign of an earthly king. He was asking those who were listening to realize that God’s Kingdom was right in front of them—in Christ’s own witness of love, mercy, and healing. He was asking them, and therefore all of us, to look into our hearts and see that whenever we act with love, compassion, and sacrifice, God’s Kingdom is literally “among” us.It should give us great encouragement to know that whenever we show Christ’s love to others, we are an ambassador for Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Keep in mind that showing love can take the form of seemingly small acts, such as simply giving encouragement to someone we encounter in our daily lives who seems like they are in need of a boost. Whenever we do any act of love, whether great of small, we bring God’s Kingdom in our midst.Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.Sincerely,Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council FRC ArticlesEvangelicals Power Republicans to Senate Victories – David ClossonVoters Say ‘Full Steam Ahead’ On Judges – Travis Weber and Alexandra McPheeAmerica Deserves Better Than the Broward County Disaster – Ken BlackwellSchool Board Says Boys and Girls Have Different Brains — Except in the Bathroom – Cathy RusePost-Midterm optimism for religious freedom – Alexandra McPheeIs the Republican Senate Ready to Advance Pro-Life Policy? – Patrina MosleyThe Supreme Court can fix Establishment Clause jurisprudence with the Peace Cross case – Alexandra McPheeSpeaker Series: The Reality of Faith-Based Adoption ServicesTruth Obscured by Hollywood Take on Sexual Orientation Therapy – Peter SpriggMust the State Recognize All Identities? – Dan HartThe Times En-“genders” Controversy with Ignorance of “Sex” – Peter SpriggNotre Dame Students Take a Stand Against Porn – Patrina Mosley Religious LibertyReligious Liberty in the Public SquareSupreme Court's latest church-state conundrum: Must a 'peace cross' memorial to World War I vets come down? – Richard Wolf, USA TodayMuslims, the Bladensburg Cross, and the Preservation of Order – Ismail Royer, Public DiscourseProfessor Sues after University Requires He Use Student’s Preferred Pronoun – Jack Crowe, National ReviewTrump Administration Updates Conscience Exemptions for Contraceptive Mandate – National Catholic RegisterThe State of Hate – David Montgomery, The Washington PostChristian student senator at UC Berkeley harassed for abstaining from pro-LGBTQ vote – Caleb Parke, Fox NewsFordham University Political Science Department Mandates Use of Students’ ‘Preferred Pronouns’ – Alana Mastrangelo, BreitbartInternational Religious FreedomWhat you should know about the persecution of Kachin Christians – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission78 Kidnapped Cameroonian Students from Christian School Freed – Aliya Kuykendall, The StreamChristians Dragged Out of Cars and Beaten, Haunted With Fear as Asia Bibi Case Tears Pakistan Apart – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian PostChristians, pray for your brothers and sisters in North Korea – Christopher Summers, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionAsia Bibi Leaves Pakistani Prison–Open Doors Calls for Urgent Prayer – Lindy Lowry, Open Doors USA LifeAbortionThe Point of Gosnell – Charlotte Allen, First Things6 claims of Planned Parenthood’s new president debunked – Kristi Burton Brown, Live ActionNew Planned Parenthood CEO: “I Plan to Expand” Abortions. We Have a “Moral Imperative” to Kill Babies – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNewsPro-life ballot measures win passage in two of three states – Valerie Richardson, The Washington TimesAdoptionPhiladelphia foster families continue fight for Catholic Social Services – Perry West, CAN3 ways your church can participate in orphan care and prevention – Brittany Salmon, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionBioethicsCanadian Doctors Get Ready for Child Euthanasia – Wesley J. Smith, National Review FamilyMarriageHow Expectations Affect One's Happiness in Marriage – Dianne Grande, Psychology TodayWhen the Military Takes a Toll on Your Marriage: Reflections on 'Indivisible' – Gary Chapman, Military.comMen and Women: Should We Just Call the Whole Thing Off? – Rachel Lu, The American ConservativeOne Couple's Fight to Honor God With Their Bakery – Benjamin Hawkins, Focus on the Family37.8 Percent in Generation That Starts Turning 21 Next Year Was Born to Unwed Moms – Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS NewsParentingHow to Respond When Your Kids Are Bullied – Jonathan McKee, Focus on the FamilyMothers Against Macron – Joy Pullmann, First ThingsI’m Raising an Old Soul And It’s Such a Gift – Heidi Hamm, HerViewFromHomeMaking of a Mom: How Motherhood Helped my Anxiety Disorder – Casey McCorry, VerilyNew Findings Add Twist to Screen Time Limit Debate – Jean Twenge, Family StudiesPodcast: Your Teenager Needs Discipleship – Jen Wilkin and Melissa Kruger, The Gospel CoalitionVideo: How is spiritual warfare involved in parenting? – Phillip Bethancourt, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionHow to Be a Kindness Role Model for Your Kids – Dale V. Atkins and Amanda R. Salzhauer, Greater Good MagazinePostpartum Depression and the Christian – Kathryn Butler, The Gospel CoalitionEconomics/Education9 Years Into Common Core, Test Scores Are Down, Indoctrination Up – Joy Pullmann, The FederalistThe Wealth of Nations Begins at Home – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family StudiesYour Family, Your Choice – Oren Cass, Family StudiesFaith/Character/Culture10 ways your unsatisfied life is a blessing – Amy Simpson, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionHonoring the ‘Invisible Work Force’ of Family Caregivers – Amy Ziettlow, Family StudiesHow to Love People You Don’t Like – Greg Morse, Desiring GodCultural winsomeness will not be enough for Christians – Andrew T. Walker, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionIn An America This Ignorant, It’s No Wonder We Struggle To Stay Free – Stella Morabito, The FederalistI Cremated My Unborn Son – Tish Harrison Warren, Christianity Today8 Signs Your Christianity Is Too Comfortable – Brett McCracken, The Gospel CoalitionA Fresh Perspective on Joy – Liberty McArtor, The Stream'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates – James Gallagher, BBC NewsHuman SexualityWhere to Find Hope and Help amid the Sexual Revolution – Sam Allberry, The Gospel CoalitionKissing Purity Culture Goodbye – Abigail Rine Favale, First ThingsWhat ‘The New York Times’ Gets Wrong on the ‘Transgender Memo’ – Andrew T. Walker, The Gospel CoalitionJesus Befriended Prostitutes. So This Victorian-Era Woman Did Too. – Kimi Harris, Christianity Today‘Boy Erased’ Suggests Sexual Desire Can’t Change, So Religion Must – Brett McCracken, The Gospel CoalitionWhere Angels Fear to Tread: The Fraud of Transgenderism – Babette Francis and John Ballantyne, Public DiscoursePornographyThe Problems of Pornography: Sexual Dysfunction and Beyond – Freda Bush, Focus on the Family
LGBT activists are pushing for an end to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)—the various forms of voluntary religious or secular counseling or therapy (referred to by critics and the media as “conversion therapy”) intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome those feelings or not act upon them. That campaign suffered a setback in August 2018 when an extreme version of a SOCE therapy ban, AB 2943, was withdrawn by its sponsor after strong resistance, especially from the religious community.However, critics of SOCE are now hoping for a boost from the release of a new movie, Boy Erased, intended to dramatize the problems they associate with “conversion therapy.” The movie, starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the parents of the college student sent to counseling, premiered in limited release on November 1, and is gradually being rolled out around the country.The movie is based on a 2016 memoir with the same title by Garrard Conley. Conley was a 19-year-old Arkansas college student in 2004, when he attended one-on-one counseling and then an intensive two-week group program offered by Love in Action (LIA), a Memphis ex-gay ministry run by John Smid, a man who had testified to his own transformation from gay to ex-gay.In anticipation of the movie’s release, I recently read the book on which it is based. On November 8, the first day the film was screened in the D.C. area, I went to see it. The first screening in downtown Washington was sold out, but I was able to catch a later screening in a nearly empty theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. What follows will address both the book and the movie, but I will focus primarily on the book.Conley and Love in ActionI will say one thing in the book’s favor—it does not appear to be a complete fabrication. That is more than I can say for some testimony given in favor of state therapy bans—accounts which have either been proven false or are highly suspect. Love in Action was a real organization, and the approach Conley describes in the book is roughly consistent with group therapy used by some (not all) such ministries. According to Conley, his personal memories were augmented by LIA’s 274-page handbook—which he still has.This means that in Conley’s account, there is no electric shock therapy; no application of heat or ice to create an aversion to homosexual stimuli; no deliberate exposure to heterosexual or homosexual pornography; in short, none of the horror stories one usually hears about outdated treatments that were abandoned 40 or 50 years ago. Although often raised in critiques of SOCE, no one has been able to prove that any of these methods have been used in this century.Another common charge is that minors are coerced into therapy by their parents. Therefore, it’s important to note that Conley was not a minor when he went to LIA, and he states explicitly, “I was here by my own choice.” Despite its short term of two weeks, Conley’s program was not even a residential one—he spent evenings in a motel room with his mother. This was no “conversion therapy camp” as they are sometimes depicted.What the book, and at least the first part of the movie, feature instead is lots of talking and lots of writing. This makes the book and first half of the movie, frankly, rather boring.Smid (depicted in the film as “Victor Sykes”) and LIA approached homosexuality using an addiction model, and many of their techniques were borrowed directly from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Different programs and different therapists use different methodologies—what unites SOCE is only the goal, not any particular technique. While AA and other twelve-step programs have their critics, as far as I know no one has ever tried to outlaw them.For example, one exercise drawn directly from AA was the “Moral Inventory”—an effort to account in writing for as many past sins as the participant could recall. Another exercise was drawing a “genogram”—essentially a family tree noting patterns of sinful behavior by various forebears and relatives. These techniques may be questioned by some—but hardly constitute “torture,” or even stirring drama.The Real TraumaThat’s not to say there are no traumatic events in Boy Erased—it’s just that most of them predate or are unrelated to the LIA program. In the book, Conley admits that in early puberty, he was so addicted to video games he would urinate on his bedroom carpet, rather than walk to the bathroom. (Later, in college, he would urinate in empty water bottles in his dorm, putting them under his bed to be discovered later.) In high school, he would “crouch on the toilet seat to hide from overcrowded lunch tables.” Conley, a runner, admits that in the summer before he started college, “my weight loss took an angry, masochistic turn that verged on anorexic”—something even a gay-friendly family doctor would call him on. Conley also admits several times to having suicidal thoughts. Note that almost all of these things happened before he went to LIA—and all were omitted from the movie.If Conley had chosen to re-frame his story, it could have put an important male twist on the #MeToo movement. The worst thing that happened to Conley, and to the lead character in the film (renamed “Jared”), was that he was raped by a fellow male college student in a dorm room. (The under-a-blanket rape scene, as well as some strong language, are the main reasons for the film’s R rating.) The rapist then confessed to having done the same thing to a younger teen in the youth group at his church.Conley told a pastor at his Presbyterian college about the latter crime—and was told “to stay quiet” because “there was nothing to be done.” However, he told no one—not the pastor, his parents, nor Love in Action counselors—about the assault he had suffered. He remained silent on this point even after the rapist was the one who “outed” him as “gay” to his parents. One is left to wonder whether his counseling might have had a different outcome if he had been more honest with the people who wanted to help him.Family DynamicsFamily dynamics play an important role in Boy Erased—but this is one of several areas in which Conley appears to have misunderstood the theory behind some SOCE. It is true that many counselors have identified a pattern which is common (but not universal) among men with same-sex attractions, in which these men had strained relations with their fathers and male peers and unusually close relationships with their mothers.This is the exact pattern evident in Conley’s description of his own life. With his father, a Christian car dealer who experienced a mid-life call to pastoral ministry, Conley had “moments of misunderstanding” that were “often damaging.” Sports is a common way for a boy to bond with his father or peers, but Conley admits, “It’s true that I was never any good at sports. . . I never liked to toss the ball with my father in the front yard.” (The film, however, makes “Jared” a high school basketball player.) With his mother, a glamorous Southern belle who married “in her sixteenth year,” he would go “to Memphis for weekends of shopping and movie binging.” In fact, when client Conley tells a counselor, “Yes, my mother and I were too close,” author Conley calls it his “first ex-gay utterance.”The climax of both the book and the movie—and the incident that led to Conley walking out of LIA before the program was over—was an exercise called “the Lie Chair” (the name is puzzling, since it involves telling the truth). Conley was instructed to sit across from an empty chair “and imagine your father sitting across from you and you saying everything you’ve always wanted to tell him but couldn’t.” Conley says, “I tried working myself up into an angry fit,” but finally declared, “I’m not angry”—and walked out, never to return.Conley seems convinced that the family dynamics theory did not apply to him, because his parents were not actually abusive—just once, “my father had raised his fist to strike me,” but thought better of it—and because he loves them. He does not seem to understand that there can be a deficit in meeting the developmental need for warm, non-sexual affection from the same-sex parent, even in the absence of any overt abuse.Distorted TheologyConley also seems to have a distorted view of Christian theology. For one thing, he (like many LGBT activists) seems obsessed with “Hell”—far more than any Christians I know, or any pastors I’ve ever heard preach. Even after having his horizons broadened by going to college, Conley declares, “I still believed that I would feel its fire licking my skin for all eternity if I continued on this path.” As an evangelical Christian myself, I also believe in hell (capitalizing the word, as Conley does, is unnecessary). Yet I’ve never believed—and know no one who teaches—that merely being (or becoming) straight is the key to avoiding it.Critics of SOCE, including Conley, are also obsessed with “shame,” and a belief that such counseling operates by instilling a sense of shame over the client’s homosexuality. Yet every sexual reorientation therapist I have met has said the exact opposite—that one of the primary goals of such therapy is to overcome the shame that clients already feel when they begin therapy.In fact, despite Conley repeatedly associating LIA and its teachings with terms like “self-loathing” and even “self-annihilation,” the actual quotations from LIA’s handbook and other materials express the opposite:“I believed many lies that I was worthless, hopeless, and had no future.”“I’ve learned that I am loved and accepted even though I have been involved in sexual addiction.”“I have worth. I am intelligent, funny, caring and strong.”Film FabricationsBecause “moral inventories” and “genograms” don’t exactly make for compelling cinema, the filmmakers spiced up the last half of the film—by adding scenes that didn’t actually happen. The most dramatic—and most outrageous for its absurdity—is one in which an uncooperative LIA client is literally, physically beaten with a Bible (by family members including, apparently, his own little sister). Perhaps this is meant to be a metaphor for spiritual abuse, but some gullible viewers are likely to take it literally.The character Jared’s “escape” from LIA is exaggerated in the film. Apart from having to ask a second time before his cell phone was returned, the book recounts no effort to physically prevent him from leaving or his mother from reaching him, the way the movie does. And the film’s biggest emotional gut punch is when we learn that the fictional victim of the fictional “Bible-beating” has committed suicide. (In his book, Conley reports no such event, but writes, “Various bloggers” have estimated that “twenty to thirty” suicides resulted from LIA, “though figures like these are impossible to pin down.” That’s probably because they are made up.)One thing the film does somewhat better than the book is address the character Jared’s nuanced relationship with his parents after he left Love in Action. However, we have no way of knowing if the portrayal is a truthful one reflecting Conley’s actual experience, or merely a dramatic one serving Hollywood’s purposes. In the book, Conley addresses the decade after his LIA experience only cryptically, and somewhat confusingly. His father never followed through, apparently, on a threat to withdraw funding for his college education. Yet describing visits to his parents’ home, he declares, “I will refuse to even look at my father.” He concludes the Acknowledgments, though, by saying, “Thank you, most of all, to my mother and father, whose love has made all the difference.”Love in Action—The Rest of the StoryIn 2005, a year after Conley left Love in Action, the ministry was subjected to a storm of controversy after a teenager named Zach Stark complained on social media that his parents had sent him to LIA’s residential program for adolescents, called “Refuge.” (The Boy Erased film conflates this program with the adult-focused one, “The Source,” that Conley attended—a staffer in the film says, “Welcome to Refuge,” but the notebooks say “Source” on the cover.) This sparked a round of protests by LGBT activists, and investigations by Tennessee state officials.State officials said LIA required a license because they were providing mental health treatment; LIA insisted it offered discipleship programs, which are exempt from state regulation. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a federal lawsuit to protect LIA, and ultimately prevailed, with the state dropping its efforts to regulate the LIA ministry.The controversy about the short-lived Refuge program seems to be the source of the mythology that there is a network of “conversion therapy camps” across the country holding teens against their will. The trailer on the film’s official website ends with the dramatic and absurd declaration, “77,000 people are currently being held in conversion therapy across America.” Yet the Refuge program—then already defunct—was the only such program identified in a 2009 American Psychological Association report on sexual orientation change efforts. Indeed, a 2015 Ph.D. dissertation agreed that “it is likely the media frenzy surrounding the story of 16-year-old Stark being forced into a conversion therapy residential program by his parents in 2005 led to these bans” on such therapy for minors.The controversy took a toll on Smid, however, and on the ministry. In 2008, Smid resigned; he has since returned to living as a homosexual and married a man in 2014. Smid now has a gay-affirming ministry called Grace Rivers, and has apologized for the work he did with Love in Action. (LIA, under new leadership and with a completely new ministry model, changed its name to “Restoration Path” in 2012.)ConclusionThe therapy bans enacted in fourteen states so far apply only to licensed mental health providers and only to clients who are minors. Since Garrard Conley was not a minor and Love in Action was not licensed by the state, his experience would not have been affected by such a law, even if one had been in place in Tennessee. Ironically, the passage of such laws, cutting off access to care consistent with their values from licensed providers, might only have the effect of driving desperate parents and clients into the hands of unlicensed religious programs such as Love in Action. For SOCE skeptics who see this as undesirable, therefore, such laws may actually be counter-productive.California’s AB 2943, on the other hand, would have applied to any SOCE provider or program that charges a fee, even religious and unlicensed ones. This type of approach, however, raises constitutional questions even beyond those raised by the license restrictions.Regardless of what one thinks of Conley’s story, its fictionalized film version, John Smid’s story, or the techniques of Love in Action, they all represent only anecdotes about a particular instance of sexual orientation change efforts. They cannot be taken as representative of all SOCE. The claim that SOCE in general has been shown to be ineffective and harmful is not supported by the scientific research.Boy Erased is not particularly entertaining; and not at all informative for making policy regarding sexual orientation change efforts.
A man in the Netherlands named Emile Ratelband is 69 years old, but he feels like he is 49. His feeling isn’t a particularly remarkable one—I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t “feel” our ages depending on the day. But the problem is, Mr. Ratelband (pictured above) has filed a court claim seeking to have the Dutch government officially recognize his feelings of being young by changing his birth certificate to reflect the age that he feels himself to be.“Because nowadays, in Europe and in the United States, we are free people,” Ratelband said in an interview. “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”Mr. Ratelband’s demand is the latest example of a remarkable trend that has taken hold in Western countries over the last decade. It is the insistence that the state give legal recognition to all lifestyle choices, a movement that I will call the “identity rights” movement. This modern movement arguably began in earnest around 2003 when homosexual activists demanded that the state give them marriage rights (which was legalized in Massachusetts that year), even though there was no prohibition against two people of the same sex living together in a domestic partnership if they wished. This movement culminated in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must recognize same-sex marriage.The transgender movement steamrolled into the public consciousness soon after, with activists demanding that those who identify as the opposite sex from their biological sex at birth be given access to opposite sex public restrooms, changed birth certificates, and participation in opposite sex sports.Also in 2015, a woman named Rachel Dolezal gained national attention when it was discovered that she had been posing as a black woman for years, even serving as the president of her local NAACP chapter, but in reality did not have any African ancestry. Even though her cause was not widely supported by the identity rights movement, Dolezal was simply following the same logic: if people can get state recognition to be the opposite sex from what they actually are, why can’t they also choose their ethnicity? Even U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) seems to think along these lines.In an identity-obsessed world, Emile Ratelband’s demand for the state to publicly lie about his actual age doesn’t seem that unreasonable, which is why no one should be surprised if the Dutch court agrees to grant his request. But it raises the question: how far can this go? Where will society draw the line? Currently, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to foresee a day when people will be able to legally declare themselves to be taller than they actually are, or to be whatever animal they want to be. To follow this line of legal logic to its inevitable end is to grant people any conceivable identity that they can conjure up.But what the identity rights movement doesn’t acknowledge is that when the state grants legal recognition to a person’s chosen identity, it affects the rights of others. Ask Jack Phillips, or Barronelle Stutzman, or Pascha Thomas. The list goes on and on.At its root, the identity rights movement is a cry for the deepest human need: to be loved. When people publicly identify themselves as something they are not, they are crying out for what is tragically lacking in their lives through no fault of their own. As human beings, lovingly created in God’s image, it is our divine calling to love each other as best we possibly can, starting first and foremost with our own families. It is impossible for this kind of authentic love to be bestowed by the state. This is why the identity movement’s demand for state recognition of all identities is an ultimately futile endeavor—it’s never going to give them the affirmation that they are truly searching for.In this age of an ascendant identity movement and the domination of identity politics, it is crucial for all believers to witness to this timeless truth: that God does not make mistakes. The way that we are created tells us something about who we are. We never have to seek the approval of others to know how much we matter. We have all been loved into being by the Creator of the universe—that is the only identity that truly matters.
When I was a college student in the New York metropolitan area, I subscribed to the New York Times. For a while, I even set the goal of reading every article that appeared on the front page, no matter what it was about. I thought if it was important enough to be on the front page of the New York Times, it was important enough for me to read it. It was known, after all, as “the paper of record.”Oh, how the mighty have fallen. On October 22, the Times published—on the front page—one of the worst-written, worst-edited newspaper articles I have ever read.The article begins, “The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth . . .”The fake news begins with the eighth word of the article—“gender.” It is simply untrue that the Trump administration is re-examining the definition of “gender.”What is actually under consideration is the definition of the word “sex”—particularly where it appears in a law or policy that forbids discrimination on the basis of “sex.”This is evident in the parts of the article that quote or directly cite a draft memo leaked to the Times from the Department of Health and Human Services, such as these (emphasis added):“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo . . .“The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”For the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services has privately argued that the term “sex” was never meant to include gender identity . . .Despite this evidence from their own reporting, the Times reporters continued throughout the article to use the word “gender” instead. For example (emphasis added):The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender . . .The agencies would consider the comments before issuing final rules with the force of law — both of which could include the new gender definition.The department would have to decide what documentation schools would be required to collect to determine or codify gender.What’s wrong with this? Well, the very people who were stirred to outrage against the Trump administration by the Times article—transgender activists and their allies—are the ones who have been telling us for years that “gender is not the same as sex!” Yet the New York Times breezily assumes that the two words are synonymous. This mistake would not be tolerated in the average undergraduate term paper—yet somehow it slipped by the editors of the New York Times.Unless it didn’t slip by at all.In reality, there is little dispute that the word “sex” refers to biology. The American Psychiatric Association, for example—hardly a bastion of conservatism—defines “sex” as “Biological indication of male and female (understood in the context of reproductive capacity) . . .” Nor is there any dispute (even among conservatives) that the phrase “gender identity” commonly refers to a subjective, psychological state of, as the APA puts it, “an individual’s identification as male, female or, occasionally, some category other than male or female.”The word “gender” standing alone, however, is ambiguous and contested ground. It has come to be used as a reference to someone’s essential “maleness” or “femaleness.” The cultural and social debate is about whether that is determined by a person’s objective “sex” (biology) or their subjective “gender identity” (psychology).However, this debate is largely irrelevant in interpreting and applying current federal law—which is what the Times article was ostensibly about. Few federal laws or regulations even use the word “gender.” The key ones mentioned in the article—non-discrimination provisions in statutes regarding education (Title IX, 1972), employment (Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act), and health care (the Obamacare law)—all use the word “sex,” not “gender.”If the Times’ unjustified conflation of the words “sex” and “gender” did not arise from incomprehensible ignorance, it can only have arisen from inexcusable bias. Acting as though the clear-cut term “sex” is the same as the ambiguous term “gender” seriously tilts the playing field in favor of the Left’s preference for psychological rather than biological definitions. It assumes the very point that is in dispute.This is bad logic—as well as bad journalism.
Recent studies have shown that young adults aged 18-24 are the most frequent porn users—almost six in 10 young adults seek out porn either daily, weekly, or monthly. It’s no wonder why students at the University of Notre Dome are calling for pornography filters on their campus Wi-Fi as part of a “White Ribbon Against Pornography Week” campaign created by NCOSE. The original request came from the male students in a letter emphasizing that “pornography is an affront to human rights and catastrophic to individuals and relationships. We are calling for this action in order to stand up for the dignity of all people, especially women.”We applaud these men for showing concern for the well-being of their female peers and their own sexual health.Women and PornographyWhat is unique about this story is that after the males issued their letter, the female students stood in solidarity by issuing their own response letter acknowledging that pornography consumption correlates to sexual assault and that women themselves struggle with pornography addiction:We want a filter because we want to eliminate sexual assault and sexual abuse on our campus. We want a filter because we care deeply about Notre Dame students — including women — who struggle with pornography addictions.To some, it may be shocking to see that pornography can no longer be labeled as just a man’s issue. With 76 percent of 18 to 30-year-old women reporting that they watch porn at least once a month, and with the term “porn for women” seeing a 359 percent growth among female users in just one year, pornography can no longer be siloed to one sex.By and large, men prefer images and graphic sex sites; women prefer erotic stories and romance sites. The connection between erotic materials and women seeking online porn makes sense when the erotica genre generated $1.37 billion in sales, making it the “the single largest share of the fiction market,” with over 90 percent of the consumers being women. Female-targeted erotica novel series like Fifty Shades of Grey are being turned into movies (the film grossed over $1.3 billion). In a recent Marie Claire survey of 3,000 women who sought out internet porn, 40 percent said they sought erotic stories. Erotica has proven to be a gateway to more “hardcore” content, which has led to a rise in women consuming this type of pornography.And when it comes to curbing sexual assault and harassment, these ladies are right for wanting to curtail the consumption of pornography.A recent review found 50 peer-reviewed studies directly linking porn use to sexual violence. Pornography also has been shown to play a role in shaping how women think they should be treated, leading to an increased likelihood that they will become victims of sexual assault by physical coercion or other abusive behavior. When you have nearly 80 percent of adult males consuming pornography, of which 88 percent of pornographic scenes are sexually violent against women, how do you think this will affect sexual behavior? In the era of #MeToo, we must look seriously at how pornography is shaping our cultural beliefs about what is acceptable behavior. Moral Ambiguity is DissolvingThe latest Barna research shows that just one in 20 young adults report talking with their friends about porn in a disapproving way.But the evidence of its harmful effects are being brought to light. Much of the Notre Dame students’ letter cites the studies that acknowledge that pornography consumption is “associated with a host of issues: addiction, child sexual abuse, divorce, male fertility problems, sexual assault and the acceptance, normalization and sexualization of cruelty towards women. It contributes to prostitution, human trafficking and the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases.” I encourage you to read the full letter.Yet many do not want to debate the morality of pornography. They would rather ignore the fact that this generation has been the primary subject of what has been dubbed “The Largest Unregulated Social Experiment In History.” Recognizing among their own personal relationships that pornography harms both the individual and society, buyer’s remorse on porn is slowly growing. Its devastating effects are being studied and recognized.A Public Health CrisisPornography has been officially declared a public health crisis in five states, and the U.K. Parliament has been called upon to address pornography usage like other public health hazards in order to tackle sexual harassment of girls and women.Society now warns potential users of the addictive harms of nicotine. Hopefully one day we will see pornography in the same way.
In a peculiar turn of events, secularist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has argued before a federal appeals court that an atheist has the right to pray on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.Dan Barker, co-founder of FFRF, desired to serve as Rep. Mark Pocan’s (D-Wis.) guest in leading the opening prayer for the following legislative session. Barker is an atheist. His request was denied because it was determined that he did not meet the chaplain-policy requirements to give an invocation on the House floor. His lawsuit argues that the policy unconstitutionally discriminates against nonbelievers under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.It is ironic and hypocritical that the group that routinely seeks to box out religion from the public square is now invoking the principles of religious freedom in order to make a secular invocation in our national legislature.This anomaly notwithstanding, the greater issue is that the current judicial precedent surrounding the Establishment Clause is so malleable (one federal circuit court judge called it “a hot mess” and “a wreck”) that even something as unobtrusive as prayer is no longer guaranteed protection in the public square. Coach Joe Kennedy of Washington is one example, and there are many more like him across the nation.As the late Justice Antonin Scalia observed, 1970s-era Establishment Clause doctrine has created a “geometry of crooked lines and wavering shapes” in this area of constitutional law. So what should we expect out of the judges responsible for interpreting constitutional law at our nation’s highest court and in lower courts across the country?To establish sound Establishment Clause (or any constitutional) doctrine, the most intellectually honest and sustainable approach is to look to the understanding of the Founders at the time they penned and ratified the U.S. Constitution. This means looking at history. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said, “The line we must draw between the permissible and the impermissible is one which accords with history and faithfully reflects the understanding of the Founding Fathers.” This idea of looking at the understanding of the drafters of any law is as true for the latest entry of the U.S. Code as it is for the First Amendment.Barker’s case involves legislative prayer, which is specially recognized for its undeniable historical precedent. In fact, legislative prayer, or “divine service,” has taken place as early as the 1700s. Largely because of its deep roots in history, legislative prayer is considered constitutional. It is an instructive example of how the courts have used and should use legal history to determine the constitutionality of religion in the public square. Unfortunately, the same is not true for judicial precedent surrounding religiously inspired monuments or certain tax exemptions, which some argue should fail constitutional muster under the Establishment Clause.Fortunately, scholars have observed a resurgence in the role of legal history in modern judicial decision-making at the Supreme Court. What’s more, President Donald Trump’s laser-like focus on the appointment of judges has resulted in “appointees [that] are showing themselves to be strong spokespeople for what is generally described as the conservative viewpoint.” As such, law professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh said, “[n]ew blood reopens old issues.” And even though this use of legal history, or “originalism,” has become associated with “the conservative viewpoint,” the fact is that it is “ideologically neutral. On various stormy issues, both the conservative and liberal factions . . . have found safe harbor in historical reasoning.” What all this means is stable judicial precedent—not the confusion that exists today.As with the doctrine of legislative prayer, we need to return to our legal historical roots and use what we find there as our guiding principles for understanding the constitutionality of religion in the public square.Moreover, with mid-term elections on the horizon, it is critical that we vote in U.S. Senators who will help appoint judges that protect our constitutional rights. Our Republican-controlled Senate has faithfully stewarded its advice-and-consent powers by helping appoint judges who value historical reasoning. We ought to vote for candidates who will continue this trend.Public prayer in schools and the government workplace, for instance, is more constitutional than it’s given credit for. You can feel assured in this by looking no further than Article III of the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787, in which the Founding-era Congress stated, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”As for Barker and his legislative prayer case—we’ll have to see whether the judges in his case conclude that history is on his side.
Dear Friends,As our country grapples with yet another senseless, brutal, and evil act of violence, this time perpetrated against Jews worshipping in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the media is predictably churning out an avalanche of breathless accounts of who is to blame. Our collective energy as a nation would be much more valuably spent in reflection and prayer.In the aftermath of such horrendous violence being perpetrated by one human being against fellow human beings, many rightly ask: how could someone do this? Only God knows the full answer to this question, but we can be certain of one thing: the attacker lacked empathy for his fellow man. Therefore, it is critical that our society spend more time pondering the concept of empathy, and increasingly put it into practice in our daily lives.Empathy is the mental practice of putting oneself in the shoes of another in order to better understand what life must be like for that person. This practice seems relatively straightforward, but for most of us, it is difficult to do, because we human beings have a fallen natural tendency for selfishness and snap judgments. Just like everything else in life that is difficult yet worthwhile, we must work at practicing empathy. When we witness behavior from a person that we consider offensive, we must refrain from stereotyping the person based on their outward appearance. Similarly, we must refrain from making rash generalizations about groups of people based on ethnicity, religion, political views, etc. Instead, we must seek to better understand other people and avoid instant judgments of character.When thinking about the actions and motivations of others, we must take into account a whole host of information before we can come to any fair conclusions. For the person in question, we must ask ourselves: What is the broader culture like where this person came from and how were they influenced by it? How was this person raised by their parents? Were they mistreated or abused as a child? What beliefs were taught to them growing up? And on and on. Obviously, we can’t know the answers to many of these questions without either research or first-hand knowledge. But we must make the effort so that we can better understand the reasons behind particular actions or words, and thereby have a better capacity for true empathy.Jesus displayed empathy all over Scripture. When coming open Matthew, a tax collector who was widely reviled, Jesus did not judge him by his place in society or apparent misdeeds of extortion. He saw the goodness in Matthew and his need for salvation, and invited him to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9). Similarly, rather than condemning the woman caught in adultery, Jesus rebuked those who were condemning her and invited her to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). All over Scripture, Jesus is said to have spent time in the company of sinners, which the Pharisees reviled Him for. Jesus displays a crucial trait here: His first instinct is mercy rather than condemnation, which shows that He empathizes with those He meets and responds to them with love.We are called to do likewise. The more we make empathy our first reaction, the better chance we have of making it a habit rather than falling into the bad habit of snap judgments. When we fail to empathize with others, and instead burrow down the rabbit hole of stereotypes and prejudice based on outward appearances, the more we are prone to hate and dehumanize other people. The more we see others with empathetic eyes, as Christ did, the more we will grow in love and the more our world will flourish in peace and unity.Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.Sincerely,Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council FRC ArticlesWe Must Turn to God to Find Healing, Unity and Restoration – Tony PerkinsHHS should put a stop to ObamaCare's hidden abortion surcharge – Marjorie Dannenfelser and Tony PerkinsTrump transgender policy is simple and scientific: 'Sex' means biological sex – Peter SpriggWhy Evangelicals Will Vote (It's Not What You Think) – Tony PerkinsThe Attack on Faith-Based Adoption Agencies – David ClossonPastor Brunson's Release: A View From the Courtroom – Travis WeberPastor Andrew Brunson's release illustrates power and potential of Trump's foreign policy – Tony PerkinsPray Tell: Atheist Sues to Lead Legislative Prayer – Alexandra McPheeAla. Supreme Court Justice: Roe Cuts Off the Unborn’s Full Right to Life – Alexandra McPheeThe Gosnell Story: America Deserves to Know – Alyssa GrasinskiHow Shall We Engage Politically? A Response to Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung – David ClossonChristianity’s Blessings to Society – Travis WeberPro-Life Law Upheld By Another Federal Court: Dare We Say “Momentum”? – Cathy RuseOur Moralized Social Tyranny and What Conservatives Can Do About It – Caleb SutherlinOur Gifts Received through Child Loss – Katy DowneyAtlanta’s Kelvin Cochran Settles the Score – Alexandra McPhee Religious LibertyReligious Liberty in the Public SquareSchool Bans Christmas Songs That Mention Jesus – ToddStarnes.com'Gosnell' Filmmakers: Theaters Dropping Movie, Preventing People From Buying Tickets – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian PostBakers Fined $135K Over Wedding Cake Appeal to Supreme Court – Kelsey Harkness, The Daily SignalJack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop Asks Court to Halt New Civil Rights Prosecution – Kevin Daley, The Daily CallerABC, NBC, CBS Ignore GOP Candidates Allegedly Assaulted by Left-Wing ‘Protesters’ – Kristine Marsh, NewsBustersAtheists Put an End to Police Prayer Vigils, but Fail to Stop 'Pastors on Patrol' – Samuel Smith, The Christian PostSchool Bans Christian Athletes From Meeting on Campus – Jeremiah Poff, ToddStarnes.comFaith-Based Adoption Agencies Are Under Siege in the US – Emily Jones, CBN NewsLawsuit challenges tax perks available to America's pastors – Kelsey Dallas, Deseret NewsPensacola cross: Does Kavanaugh’s rise change the stakes? – Alabama.comInternational Religious FreedomChina Must End Its Campaign of Religious Persecution – Sen. Chuck Grassley, PoliticoThe Secret and Surprising Ways Christians Worship in North Korea – Lindy Lowry, Open Doors USAAsia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row – BBC NewsOxford Students Vote to Ban Christian Group Over LGBT Claims of 'Threat to Physical, Mental Safety' – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian PostTurkey Arrests Another Pastor Just Days after Pastor Brunson is Released – Kayla Koslosky, ChristianHeadlines.comBig Victory for Medical Conscience in Norway – Wesley J. Smith, National ReviewImprisoned Iranian Pastor Got Help From Unlikely Source to Spread Gospel – Mark Ellis, The Christian PostAmerican missionary shot and killed in ‘targeted’ attack weeks after moving family to Cameroon – Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox NewsOver 20 Chinese Christians Arrested for Sharing Gospel, Holding Public Worship Service – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post LifeAbortionAlabama top court judge urges Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – Gualberto Garcia Jones, LifeSiteNewsNearly 60% of Millennials consider abortion a sin: new poll – James Risdon, LifeSiteNewsAbortion has been decriminalised in Queensland – SBS NewsNIH Spends $13.5 Million on Aborted Baby Parts to Transplant Their Brain Tissue Into Mice – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNewsIs It Possible to Be an Anti-Abortion Democrat? One Woman Tried to Find Out – Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times65-year-old pro-lifer in hospital after being punched outside Florida Planned Parenthood – Calvin Freiburger, LifeNewsAbortion pills now available by mail in US -- but FDA is investigating – Jessica Ravitz, CNNWatching ‘Gosnell’ Shattered My Agnosticism On Abortion – Adam Mill, The FederalistAdoptionAfter two generations of adoption, family finds incredible way to give back – Anna Reynolds, Live ActionWhy adoption isn’t Plan A or B – Jenn Hesse, Ethics & Religious Liberty CommissionParents told they cannot do foster care due to Christian beliefs – The BridgeheadBioethicsThe Dangerous Effects of Surrogacy: A Review of A Transnational Feminist View of Surrogacy Biomarkets in India – K. Blaine, Public Discourse FamilyMarriageLove Has A Source – Fr. Billy Swan, Word on FireHow All Relationships Prepare Us For Marriage – Verily Premarital Cohabitation Is Still Associated With Greater Odds of Divorce – Scott Stanley, Family StudiesDear Husband, Having Kids Together Has Only Made Me Love You More – Celeste, HerViewFromHomeWhy Does Graduate School Kill So Many Marriages? – Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel, The Chronicle of Higher EducationDoes Sexual History Affect Marital Happiness? – Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Family StudiesParentingYour Kids Are Not Projects or Burdens. They Are Gifts. – Cameron Cole, The Gospel CoalitionGetting Your Kids to Really Listen – Justin Coulson, Family StudiesWhy it’s important to teach modern kids to “mind their manners” – Calah Alexander, AleteiaHelping Low-Income Fathers Form Loving Relationships With Their Children – Natasha J. Cabrera, Family StudiesSilicon Valley Execs Get Your Kids Hooked On Their Gadgets, But Not Their Kids – Jessica Burke, The FederalistEconomics/EducationThe Family Geography of the American Dream: New Neighborhood Data on Single Parenthood, Prisons, and Poverty – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family StudiesFrom the Great Recession to the Great Divide: Business and Economics in the Last Decade – Kelly Hanlon, Public DiscourseTax-Cut Repeal Could Cost Americans $27K in Pay Over 10 Years, Study Says – Rachel del Guidice, The Daily SignalWhy America desperately needs another baby boom – Steven W. Mosher, New York PostHow Public Schools Indoctrinate Kids Without Almost Anyone Noticing – Auguste Meyrat, The FederalistFaith/Character/CultureThe Joy We Know Only in Suffering – Marshall Segal, Desiring GodWhere Is God? The Problem of Divine Hiddenness – Matt Nelson, Word on FireWhat Makes a Woman Strong – Kathleen Nielson, Desiring GodRage Makes You Stupid – Kevin D. Williamson, National ReviewHuman Dignity Is Not a Political Platform – Tina Boesch, The Gospel CoalitionAre Siblings More Important Than Parents? – Ben Healy, The AtlanticHuman SexualityThe Future of American Sexuality and Family: Five Key Trends – Mark Regnerus, Public DiscourseSatisfied in the Arms of Another – Christopher Asmus, Desiring GodVideo: Understanding Sexual Exploitation – What Drives Our Objectification Culture? – Lisa L. Thompson, National Center on Sexual ExploitationTransing California Foster Children & Why Doctors Like Us Opposed It – Andre Van Mol, Public DiscourseThe new taboo: More people regret sex change and want to ‘detransition’, surgeon says – Joe Shute, The TelegraphDid Transgenderism End Political Correctness? – Jacob Airey, The Daily WireOn Sex, the Trump Administration Returns to Reality and the Law – Ben Shapiro, National ReviewTeacher Faces Punishment Over Objections to Girls Taking Showers With Boys – ToddStarnes.comTrump’s Proposed Rollback of Transgender Policy Is Good News for Many Who Are Suffering – Walt Heyer, The Daily SignalPornographyHow Pornography Prevents Intimacy in Your Marriage – Jonathan Daugherty, Focus on the FamilyPorn problem is so serious that British MPs want to address it with public health campaign – James Risdon, LifeSiteNewsBeating the Odds: 10 indicators your marriage will survive porn addiction – Rob Jackson, Focus on the FamilyNepal Bans Pornography to Stem High Rate of Sexual Assault – National Catholic Register
In a concurring opinion, Justice Tom Parker of the Supreme Court of Alabama called on the nation’s highest court to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and remove the last major obstacle to the states’ right to enact protections for the unborn.Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed that Jesse Livell Phillips will face the jury-recommended death penalty for the murder of his young wife and their unborn child. Prosecutors used Alabama’s Brody Act, one of several laws in Alabama that legally recognize the personhood of the unborn.Justice Parker agreed with the outcome and wrote separately to denounce what he calls the “Roe exception.” Because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Roe, he writes, “the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion.” The “unborn child’s fundamental, inalienable, God-given right to life is the only right the states are prohibited from ensuring . . . .”His proffer comes at a time when advocates on both sides of the life debate are keeping a close watch on the new makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and how it might rule in a case that allows it to revisit the holding in Roe. But for years Justice Parker has urged that the decision in Roe is outmoded, that the holding in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) meant to address the decision in Roe only created more issues, and that the unborn are “entitled to the full protection of law at every stage of development.”Many (though not all) state legislatures agree. Americans United for Life comprehensively documents the “legal recognition of the unborn and newly born” available in every state. Another article covers the numerous state laws governing crime, tort, health care, property, and guardianship that recognize the personhood of the unborn.But Justice Parker points out that “in spite of voluminous state laws recognizing that the lives of unborn children are increasingly entitled to full legal protection, the isolated Roe exception stubbornly endures.”At least two courts have ruled on the side of life in cases about statutes requiring abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. But a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit may present the opportunity to strike at the heart of the matter and revisit the aberrational decision in Roe. If the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court take up the case on this ground, we hope they heed Justice Parker’s call for the restoration of the power of the states to protect the lives of the unborn in all areas of the law.
A perennial question for the church is the issue of political engagement. From broader questions such as the Bible’s teaching on the role and purpose of government to specific issues such as abortion, marriage, and racial equality, theologians have grappled with these questions and offered various models for faithful witness in the public square.Without doubt, we live in a time of acute political polarization. As evidenced recently in the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, civil discourse has reached a disheartening low. For Christians frustrated by the overall negative tone of politics and extreme partisanship, walking away from politics might be tempting.However, for Christians called to be salt and light in the world, abdicating their political responsibilities is not an option consistent with Scripture. The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians should engage the political process and how we should think about our two-party system and voting.So, what are the principles Christian ought to consider as they seek to live out their allegiance to Christ alongside their civic duties? Some Suggestions Recently, the question of how Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians should exercise their political responsibilities has been raised by well-known pastors including Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung. In thought-provoking articles, both lay out their concerns with the current divisive and coarse nature of American politics and offer guidance for how believers ought to approach their engagement. Whereas Keller mainly considers how Christians fit into the two-party system, DeYoung offers practical suggestions for engaging in the political process.Much of their advice is helpful. For example, in his article, Keller rightfully argues “to not be political is to be political.” By this he means that those who avoid political discussions tacitly endorse the status quo. Keller’s example of 19th century churches who were silent on slavery is a sobering illustration. By refraining from becoming “too political” these churches were in fact supporting a sinister institution. Likewise, DeYoung encourages pastors to engage in the political process by praying for leaders and preaching to controversial issues as they arise in the course of expositional preaching. DeYoung incisively echoes James Davidson Hunter by reminding Christians that faithful presence within the culture should be the overarching goal of cultural engagement and that electoral politics is just one of many ways to express neighborly love.However, despite Keller and DeYoung’s contributions to the question of Christian civic responsibility, the utility and real-world application of their advice is limited due to an underlying political theology that hasn’t fully accounted for the realities of the political system within which we have to work. Although their warning to not equate the church’s mission with the platform of a political party represents faithful Christian convictions, they don’t follow through with a remedy for our current situation. Christians are left asking: Well, then, how should I engage politically?Following ThroughAnswering this question requires an understanding of government’s God-ordained authority, the structure of a representative democracy, and a theologically informed view of voting.In his article, DeYoung expresses discomfort with hosting voter drives and providing voter guides because it communicates that participation in the political process is “what Christians should do.” Although DeYoung agrees that “voting is a good thing” he does not think it is the church’s role to go beyond praying for candidates or preaching on issues. This is rooted in an admirable desire to preserve the church’s mission. However, despite these noble intentions, does this approach fall short in what full-orbed Christian discipleship requires?In representative democracies like the United States, the locus of power is the citizenry; government derives its authority from the people. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist Paper 22, the consent of the people is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” This principle is foundational and provides American citizens with an incredible privilege and responsibility. Unlike billions of people around the world, Americans control their political future.For Christian citizens, the implications of America’s form of government are even more significant when considered alongside Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 about the purpose of government. According to Paul, government is ordained by God to promote good and restrain evil. To this effect, government wields the sword to punish wrongdoers. Thus, the administration of justice is the state’s responsibility; the government, not individual citizens, is tasked with the actual exercise of the sword.From these considerations a truth with massive implications for Christian political engagement emerges: suffrage as an exercise in delegating God-ordained authority. Because power resides with the people in a representative democracy, when Christians vote, they are handing their sword to someone else to wield. That’s what voting essentially is; the delegation of authority. Seen from this perspective, voting assumes enormous responsibility and implies that failure to vote is failure to exercise God-given authority.Voting Is Part of ItThus, returning to DeYoung’s article, it is simply not enough for pastors to hope their congregations are informed about candidates and issues. If the act of voting is the act of delegating the exercise of the sword, pastors should communicate to their members “This is what Christians should do.” Given the unavoidable role of politics and the real-world impact that the state’s decisions have on people’s lives, downplaying the role of voting amounts to a failure in Christian discipleship and a neglect to offer neighborly love.On this issue of neighbor love, DeYoung writes, “Political engagement is only one way of loving our neighbor and trying to be a faithful presence in the culture.” Although true, DeYoung minimizes the significance of government and politics. Obviously, neighborly love must be embodied in all aspects of life. However, can Christians really care for their neighbors without substantively engaging the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Further, given the United States’ outsized influence in the world, how can American Christians love the people of the nations without having a vested interest in how their own government approaches the issue of religious liberty and human rights? Through the power of the vote, American Christians can determine who will represent their country abroad and what values will be exported around the world: whether abortion education programs funded by American taxpayers or values congruent with the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of human life. Will America’s ambassadors be stalwart defenders of those engaged in religious expression (such as overseas missionaries) and vigorously advocate for their rights, or will they abandon them? Again, American Christians through the exercise of the franchise have a direct say in all of these issues. Because of these considerations, pastors would do well to educate and equip their members to think biblically about political issues, candidates, and party platforms. It is not enough to espouse concern for human dignity but not support policies and candidates who will fight to overturn profound moral wrongs. In a Genesis 3 world plagued by sin, Christians are called to drive back the corroding effects of the fall wherever they exist. This must include the realms of law and politics.Back to the BibleThus, in the quest for Christian faithfulness in political engagement, a robust understanding of the nature of government and the act of voting must be applied to the current reality of the two-party system. Addressing this issue is the primary goal of Keller’s New York Times article where he contends that Christians must participate in the political process without identifying the church with a specific political party. Because political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them without embracing all of their approved positions, Keller says Christians are pushed toward two equally unacceptable positions: withdrawal from the political process or full assimilation with a party.When it comes to specific issues, Keller writes, “Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family.” He concludes, “the historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.” Keller implies that because both major parties hold some views that are faithful with Scripture alongside others that are not, Christians have liberty when it comes to choosing a political party.This idea that historic Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments grounds the outworking of Keller’s political theology. Although not explicitly stated, he suggests that while Republicans may hold a more biblical view on issues related to abortion and marriage, Democrats are more faithful in their approach to racial justice and the poor. Implied in this analysis is that these issues carry similar moral freight and that consequently Christians should be leery of adopting either party’s “whole package.”Although Keller is right in cautioning against blind allegiance to a political party, his analysis of the issues and where the respective parties stand is inaccurate. Without doubt, the issues of abortion, marriage, racial equality, and poverty are crucial, and the Bible has implications for how Christians should evaluate them. Regarding abortion, the Bible is straightforward—life begins at conception and abortion is murder (Ps. 139:13-16, 22:10, Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15, Ex. 21:22). Likewise, on marriage; the Bible is clear and presents marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Mark 10:6-9, Eph. 5:22-23). Moreover, Scripture is unambiguous regarding the moral status of homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Tim. 1:10-11, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Gen. 19:1-5). On these issues the Bible is unmistakable; there is a clear “Thus saith the Lord.”As Keller acknowledges, in terms of biblical clarity and priority Christians have rightly seen abortion and marriage as first tier moral concerns; when it comes to voting, a candidate’s stance on them matters greatly. But what does the Bible teach about the other issues Keller identifies?Concerning racial equality, the Bible is clear that all are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Additionally, the good news of the gospel is for everyone; Christ died for all people, and in him believers from every tongue, nation, and tribe are reconciled to God and each other in “one new man” (Eph. 2:14-16). In terms of access to God, the Bible is unmistakable: distinctions based on gender and race are abolished in the new covenant (Gal. 3:28-29, Col. 3:11). Consequently, racism is sinful and must be repudiated by the church.Finally, God’s concern for the poor is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. Exhortations to care for the poor abound (Prov. 3:27-28, 22:22-23, 31:8-9, Isa. 1:17, 10:1-3, Zech. 7:8-10) and Jesus himself displayed remarkable concern and compassion for the poor in his healing and teaching ministry (Mat. 11:4-6, 25:45, Luke 6:20-21, 14:14). Famously, Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote that “pure and undefiled religion” includes care for orphans and widows (James 1:27).Consequently, the Bible speaks to the issues identified by Keller; committed Christians, therefore, must care about all of them. Faithfulness to God’s Word requires nothing less. However, the tension arises when it comes to application—when biblical imperative intersects with the realities of today’s politics. Therefore, the first step in Christian political engagement—identifying the issues that the Bible explicitly or implicitly speaks to—is the easy part. The challenging part of application requires discernment, prayer, and wisdom. No One Ever Said It Wasn’t MessyAt this point it should be stated clearly: neither political party is a Christian party in the sense that everything they advocate for lines up perfectly with the Bible. Evangelical Christians do not think everything the Republican party does is Christian—at least they shouldn’t. In fact, there are numerous policy issues the Bible does not clearly speak on. On tertiary issues like these Christians should debate charitably and extend liberty toward one another on points where they disagree.However, it is also true in recent years the two major U.S. political parties have clearly adopted positions on first tier moral issues on which the Bible does speak. “First tier” moral issues include questions where the Bible’s teaching is clear and where specific, positive action is prescribed. Concerning marriage, the Bible commends the union of man and woman as representative of the relationship between Christ and the church and prohibits encroachment by any means. Regarding life, every human being is an image bearer of God and possesses inherent dignity. Thus, the responsibility to preserve life is supreme. Therefore, life and human sexuality are first tier issues because of their biblical clarity and priority. Concerning these first tier moral issues of life and human sexuality, one of the major parties has embraced positions manifestly at odds with biblical morality. The result has been increased moral confusion in the culture and the undermining of human dignity.Thus, although neither political party perfectly represents evangelical Christians, party platforms do allow us to make considered judgments for who to support at election time. Political scientists have shown that politicians increasingly vote in line with their party’s platform—80 percent of the time over the last thirty years. Consequently, a party’s platform is a good indicator for how politicians from that party will vote. Thus, for Christians, in so far as a platform recommends policies informed by biblical morality it is easier to support that party.So, while it is clear Republicans have adopted positions more aligned with Scripture’s teaching on abortion and marriage, is it obvious (as Keller implies) that Democrats have the moral high ground on the other issues he raises? In short, no. In fact, neither party expressly takes an anti-biblical position on issues related to race and the poor—it is the remedies for these issues that are debated.Though it is popular to conceive of the Republican party as “anti-poor” and opposed to minorities, these conceptions are not as neatly supported as many in the media would have us believe. Earlier this year Republican lawmakers voted almost unanimously to advance legislation designed to reduce recidivism through vocational training and education courses. House Republicans (262 of them) joined 134 Democrats in advancing this legislation. According to the NAACP, African-Americans and Hispanics make up 32 percent of the general population but 56 percent of those incarcerated. Thus, efforts to reform the criminal justice system represent positive steps forward in addressing problems that disproportionately affect minority communities. Further, not only is the current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent the lowest since 1969, the African American unemployment rate hit an all-time low of 5.9 percent in May 2018; in September, black teen unemployment fell to 19.3 percent, another all-time low. While the factors contributing to this picture are many, the fact remains that under Republican national leadership, more minorities are getting jobs.On the issue of poverty, no doubt many individual Republicans and Democrats care for the poor (though many others might use the issue to their own political gain). It is simply misleading to conflate the parties’ different economic philosophies with moral indifference—a conflation which widely contributes to popular conceptions of all Republicans as “against the poor.” The fact that conservatives believe in the efficacy of limited government and free markets in addressing poverty does not indicate apathy toward marginalized communities. On the contrary, conservatives believe that the best conditions for economic flourishing are created when the government’s authority is decentralized. The Bible does not endorse a specific economic system—though it does favor some while disfavoring others; the commandment against stealing shows respect for private property as does the Old Testament’s regard for inheritances. At any rate, there is room for disagreement on how to address such issues biblically.Thus, by unfairly characterizing Republican views on racial justice and poverty, Keller creates a false dichotomy between the two parties. Whereas the Republican party platform is clearly on the side of biblical morality on abortion and marriage (in contrast to the Democrat platform), it is not at all clear that Democrat policy positions on racial justice or poverty are “more biblical” than those held by conservatives. At a minimum, they can be debated.Tying Up Loose Ends Further, while all of these issues are important, Christians should employ a form of moral triage as they consider their political engagement. As Andrew Walker points out, with abortion there is a “greater moral urgency to repeal morally unjust and codified laws than there is the priority to ameliorate social evils that exist because of social wickedness and criminal behavior.” In other words, the existence of a positive right to terminate the life of unborn children calls for immediate action. Christians concerned about the unborn—the most vulnerable class of people in our country—must leverage their influence, resources, and time to correct this wrong as soon as possible. As part of a holistic effort to create a culture of life, Christians must engage the political process to pass laws that protect life. Mapped out onto the political realities of a two-party system, the outworking of this moral calculus is clear.In short, if theologically conservative Christians appear aligned with the Republican Party, it is only because Democrats have forced them there by taking positions on moral issues that oppose the Bible’s explicit teaching. Thus, while Keller is right that Christians should not feel perfectly at home in either political party, is it fair to suggest that they should feel equally comfortable in both?In 2018 the answer would seem to be “no.”It should also be noted that the challenges facing American Christians regarding politics is not unique; brothers and sisters in other nations face the same tensions. This is because there is no “Christian” political party; no party aligns perfectly with the Bible. This is true even in countries where dozens of political parties participate in any one election. This means that there is never a perfect choice when it comes to political engagement; on this side of the Parousia, faithful Christians will always be choosing from less than ideal options. This is why wisdom, prayer, and counsel are indispensable when it comes to Christian political engagement.ConclusionFor the sake of Christian faithfulness, we need an informed Christian citizenry. It is not enough for pastors to acknowledge that various policy positions are profoundly evil yet withhold the requisite tools that empower concrete action. It is not enough to pray for candidates and speak on a handful of issues without equipping believers with everything they need to honor God in the voting booth.Over the last few years, many Christian leaders have lamented the current state of American politics. They have reiterated that Christians have no home in either major political party (a state of affairs to which we might ask whether Christian indifference and distaste for politics has contributed to in the first place) and that in secondary and tertiary issues Christian liberty should abound. While these calls are helpful, people in the pews are yearning for more direction. Of course, it would be pastoral malpractice to pronounce a “Thus saith the Lord” when there is no biblical warrant. However, in areas where pastors and Christian leaders can say more, they should. These areas include grappling with the reality of our two-party system and following our political theology to its logical end by voting.If political engagement is an aspect of Christian faithfulness, it is also a matter of discipleship. Thus, church members must be equipped to honor God in the political arena in a way that goes beyond merely describing current challenges. Applying a faithful political theology in our context requires a thorough understanding of biblical morality and an awareness of the positions of the political parties and candidates. As this dual knowledge is acquired, Christians will better understand the times and increasingly know what they ought to do in politics.David Closson serves as the Research Fellow for Religious Freedom and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. He is also a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics (Public Policy) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, based on The New York Times best-selling book, is a film dramatization of the true story of the investigation and trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, which debuted on October 12 and rose to the top 10 at the box office on its opening weekend. It grossed $1,162,988 in the first three days of its release.The movie tells the story of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist convicted of three counts of first-degree murder as well as involuntary manslaughter. Gosnell’s abortion facility was raided in 2010 by the FBI, detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and others. There had been reports of illegal prescription drug activity, but what they found instead was a house of horrors, with blood on the floor, urine on the walls, a cat in the facility, cat feces on the stairs and in rooms, and much worse: “…semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.”The grand jury report details some of the most shocking and horrifying actions that occurred in Gosnell’s abortion facility.Gosnell often punctured women’s uteruses, bowels, and cervixes and left limbs and other body parts of partially aborted fetuses in women.Unsanitary and reused instruments were utilized to tend to patients.White women were treated in a superior manner to women of color, receiving privileges like placement in a cleaner room and administration of drugs by the doctor rather than a staff member. The staff at the facility were not properly licensed or trained and unlawfully practiced medicine unsupervised.Fetal remains were found in various containers, some refrigerated and others frozen, including “bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and cat food containers.”Investigators found the remains of 45 fetuses during the raid.Among the fetal remains were rows of jars containing severed feet of aborted fetuses.The practice Gosnell ran was largely fraudulent and money-centric.For one woman who changed her mind about going through with the abortion, Gosnell refused to reimburse her the $1,300 she had paid. He fraudulently and illegally documented the age of unborn children for late term abortions as 24.5 weeks; he and his staff would manipulate ultrasounds to hide the real age. The patient who died at Gosnell’s abortion facility was named Karnamaya Mongar.Mongar died due to repeated injections of narcotics administered by unlicensed staff.Gosnell and his employees did not sufficiently attempt to save her life.By the time she got to the Intensive Care Unit, she had no signs of neurological function and was pronounced dead. Gosnell had no regard for legal restrictions on abortions past 24 weeks. Gosnell was known for his willingness to perform extremely late term abortions.When babies were born alive, their spinal cords were cut with scissors and their skulls were often crushed and suctioned. The staff members would administer large amounts of medication to the women, inducing them to deliver their babies without the presence of a doctor; babies “dropped out on lounge chairs, on the floor, and often in the toilet.”Gosnell commented on the size of one of the babies born alive, saying the baby was “big enough to . . . walk me to the bus stop.”A staff member played with one of the babies born alive before slitting its neck.We all deserve better than Gosnell and abortion. Gosnell was held accountable for his crimes and is serving multiple life sentences in prison. Now that a few years have passed, we are still left asking why there are not better standards for women. For example, in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt opinion, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer referred to Gosnell’s behavior as “terribly wrong,” but denied that any further regulation, specifically admitting privileges (which allow a doctor the ability to admit patients to a particular hospital for services or care) would have made any difference in the outcome. Justice Alito, on the other hand, argued that if Pennsylvania had required “abortion clinics to comply with the same regulations as Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs),” which was recommended by the Philadelphia grand jury that investigated the case, “the Gosnell facility might have been shut down before his crimes” took place.Even so, Gosnell was already violating countless basic regulations that were already in place and if the state had enforced the regulations that were in place and imposed further restrictions, perhaps Karnamaya Mongar would be alive today. Because of bureaucratic entities turning a blind eye to the practices of Gosnell for over 30 years, we will never know the true totality of his devastation on humanity.Racism is inherent to the abortion industry.The idea that white women would be treated more favorably and separately from women of color in a modern-day practice or business of any kind is absurd. However, one of the abortion industry’s best-kept secrets is that the black community is by far the most affected by abortion than any other race. In 2014, black women were 3.5 times more likely to abort a pregnancy than white women; 28 percent of all abortions were performed on black women. Abortion disproportionately affects the black community and perpetuates the negative treatment, and ultimately, discrimination of black women in comparison to women of other races. More abortion will not remedy this controversy.Indiana and Arizona have addressed this issue by enacting laws that prohibit abortion on the basis of race and other characteristics. Arizona’s 2011 law prohibited abortion based on sex and race; the ACLU of Arizona filed suit challenging the law after its enactment, but the case was dismissed because of lack of standing. Indiana passed HEA 1337 in 2016, which prohibited abortion based on sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed a lawsuit and the law has since been enjoined from enforcement.Abortion facilities should be held to the same standard as hospitals.In addition to legislation focused on the preborn child, state legislatures have recognized the urgency and need for introducing and enacting statutes aimed at holding abortion facilities to higher standards, especially in a post-Gosnell reality.For example, a 2013 Wisconsin statute, Wis. Stat. § 253.095(2), prohibited a doctor from performing an abortion without holding admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the abortion facility. In response to a challenge of the statute, the court affirmed the district court’s opinion granting the permanent injunction of the law, citing as one of the reasons the “rarity of complications of abortion that require hospitalization.” (Planned Parenthood of Wis., Inc. v. Schimel, 806 F.3d 908 (7th Cir. 2015)). Similarly, the state of Texas enacted a law in 2013 requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The law was challenged but was upheld as constitutional (Planned Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 748 F.3d 583 (5th Cir. 2014)).Women continue to suffer from abortion facility malpractice.Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of moving on from Gosnell and believing that the horrors he perpetrated are strictly in the past. Similar atrocities are still occurring today. A Planned Parenthood in Chicago has been the source from which “at least six known women have been hospitalized from botched abortions since November 2017.” Multiple abortion patients have experienced heavy and uncontrolled bleeding that required ambulances to be called. Another woman required hospitalization for seizures after an abortion. The reality is that there are still abortion facilities that offer sub-par services and treatment that lead to injured women. Whether you believe the practice of abortion is unethical and should be ended entirely or that it should be available to women as a “standard medical procedure,” everyone should at least agree that women deserve proper care and that standards should be put in place to ensure that this happens.The Gosnell movie has performed quite well at the box office, which is a demonstration of the movie’s quality and importance. You can purchase tickets and find local theater listings here. Watching this film is a must in order to further understand what can happen when regulations are not placed on abortion facilities, and how bureaucratic entities are more committed to political ideology than the safety and protection of women. Let us hope that this film will serve as a stirring reminder to us all that women deserve better.Alyssa Grasinski is an intern at Family Research Council.
The new life of a believer in Christ motivates him or her to be a good citizen—to seek the well-being of the city or place in which they live. The latest example of this principle comes not from the United States, but from Nigeria.A recent profile in The Economist, of all places, discusses the development of the “church-city” and the benefits it has brought with it.Begun as a church, the plot of land north of Lagos, Nigeria now houses 12,000 people and covers more than 6,000 acres. That population will likely double by 2036.As The Economist notes, “[m]ost African cities are messy, especially around the edges. Suburban roads are invariably crooked, unpaved and unsigned. Houses are plonked down wherever people can acquire land. Many homes are half-built . . .”Yet in Redemption City, “[e]verything tends to work. Whereas Lagos hums with diesel generators, Redemption City has a steady electricity supply from a small gas-fired power station. It also has its own water supply. ‘We make life easy,’ says Pastor Fola Sanusi, the man in charge of Redemption City’s growth. The city also makes rules, of the kind that could never be enforced in the hurly-burly of Lagos. ‘No parking, no waiting, no trading, no hawking,’ reads one sign.”“‘If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,’” says Olaitan Olubiyi, one of the pastors. “So [Redemption City] relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems.” The Guardian reports that the government sometimes sends its own municipal experts to learn from Redemption City’s.Though the properties are supposed to be kept within the community of Christians inhabiting the city, they seem to be making their way into the broader real estate market, being listed on some agencies’ websites.Other churches in the surrounding area are currently building communities of their own. The Economist concludes: “Pentecostal Christianity has already remade many Africans’ spiritual lives. Now it is remaking their cities.”While the concept is a bit unusual, this story reminds us that what one believes has direct consequences for society and the conditions in which we live. Our faith leads us to care for our surroundings, and religious organizations often have a widescale impact on the common good. While we are all imperfect, the Christian is (and should be) driven by principles which flow from a faith that seeks the good of our neighbor—and our cities.
The Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges was recently upheld by the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, a similar Missouri law was also upheld.This feels like momentum. This column contains a good description of where the legal fight stands on requiring abortionists to obtain admitting privileges.Good, but confusing, because the Supreme Court has confused things so much. Here’s my attempt at a shorter description:Prior to the devastating 2016 Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt ruling striking down Texas’ abortion safety regulations, the Supreme Court had long used the “undue burden” standard from Casey (1992) to measure the constitutionality of state abortion regulations: A law could stand if (1) the state had a legitimate reason for the law, and (2) the law did not impose an “undue burden” on obtaining an abortion (meaning it did not place a “substantial obstacle in the path” to obtaining an abortion).But the Hellerstedt majority did not follow this legitimate reason + no undue burden formula. Instead, it asked whether the burdens from the law outweigh the benefits from the law. This is a new balancing test, and there is a lot of room for judicial shenanigans in balancing tests.As the majority in Hellerstedt saw it, many Texas clinics threatened to close, so that showed a large burden, and since abortion was already safe in Texas (the court’s conclusion), additional safety requirements would provide little benefit.Importantly, the court disregarded the legislators’ position that hospital admission privileges do provide a health benefit for women. But the recent 5th Circuit’s application of the balancing test came out differently.In Louisiana, only one of the five clinics threatened to close. On the benefit side, the court gave deference to legislative position that admitting privileges provide “a real, and previously unaddressed, credentialing function that promotes the wellbeing of women.”The really gratifying part of the 5th Circuit opinion is when they call out these abortionists for not even really trying to get admitting privileges—for “sitting on their hands.” One abortionist apparently threatened to close if his was the only abortion clinic left, but then when he learned that another clinic would be remaining open, he changed his position and threatened to close if his was one of only two clinics left. This shows bad faith, and the 5th Circuit wasn’t going to be played for fools. It would be best, of course, if the Supreme Court got rid of the Hellerstedt balancing test altogether. Perhaps that will happen now that there are a majority of justices who aren’t keen to make up fancy new standards to get the results they want. But in the meantime, pro-life laws are winning, even under a bad standard.
As October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I was asked by a dear friend to share my experience with miscarriage. I ultimately decided to write this because I feel I am through the dark, heavy, suffocating fog of infertility and child loss. If I am able to share any words with anyone to make them feel less hopeless or less alone, the past four years of suffering have been worth it. My husband and I together have been blessed enough to discover the gifts and beauty of infertility and child loss. This is a journey that so many of us walk, but it can still feel overwhelmingly lonely.I married my best friend on an excessively rainy day, but we didn’t notice because we were smiling and laughing the entire time. All our friends and family joked about God’s blessings raining down on us and how this meant we’d have lots of babies. As a naïve, blushing couple, we secretly wished it would be true. We had so many hopes and dreams about growing our family. We planned out our whole path over a bottle of champagne on a beach in Antigua. But as usual, God had a much better plan.When I reflect on our time of infertility and miscarriages, I think about how my husband and I suffered together, but we very much had to traverse our own journeys of faith and suffering separately as well. The first gift of losing a child is suffering, which counter to popular culture, is indeed a gift. Two quotes often come to mind when considering suffering and they still bring tears to my eyes. The first is from St. Faustina with whom I found so much comfort: “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering, love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Child loss made me profoundly feel how pure God’s love for His children truly is and how much He loves me. It shed new light on my ability to feel how our Lord and Savior feels when we offend Him, how deeply He must suffer when we hurt those He loves. It also taught me to offer up my suffering for others; crying feels more productive when you know someone else who is suffering is benefiting from it. I would often offer up my suffering for women who could have children easily, but who were not in a loving marriage and felt trapped by their pregnancies.The second quote I hold dear is from St. Josemaría Escrivá which says, “God in His providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.” This quote definitely made me ugly cry, but it helped me realize that the second gift is time. Time is one of the most precious gifts on earth, and child loss gave us time with our Lord, time with each other, time to travel the world, and time to help others. I was able to use my gift of time for and with others to share my talents or help others let their talents shine.The third gift is one that has strengthened my trust. I had no option but to fully throw my whole soul into trusting God. All the earthly things I had put my trust into—doctors, medication, fertility charts, vitamins, and procedures—had let me down time and time again. I also had to fully trust my husband. We had to have the talk about how he didn’t marry me for my reproductive abilities, but because he loves me, all of me, even if it means we can’t have a child together. As much as we love each other, I never imagined how the solid foundation we built together could grow our love even deeper in the most amazing way.The fourth gift all of this has brought us is a change in heart. Once our priest told us we may be praying for the wrong thing and to pray for God to change our hearts, we were able to discern that our calling was different than we imagined for so long. We, as humans, can become so blinded by our own wants and perceived needs that we forget we have no control. In our case, it was a loud and abiding call to adoption. We are now traveling down a new path that is still quite narrow and difficult at times to navigate. I also recognize, however, that this new path is indeed glorious as it is filled with light, beauty, and joy because of the gifts we have received along the way.I urge you to find your gifts along your own difficult journey. They may be the same as ours and they may be unique to you. But remember, there are many gifts, and you are most certainly not alone. We pray for you every night and walk beside you in spirit. May God grant you peace and the ability to find your gifts along the way.Katy Downey and her husband live in Cheverly, Md. She is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington.
If one party managed to accumulate 90 percent of our nation’s capital and used it to favor a political agenda, we would all be worried. But today, we see something similar in the social capital accumulated by the Left. On October 12, Justin Pinkerman joined Family Research Council’s Speaker Series to shed light on the institutions of social capital controlled by the Left. Central to his research is the idea espoused by Antonio Gramsci that one cannot just look at the political sphere when looking at a nation; also critical is the cultural sphere. Pinkerman conducted a thoughtful look at our moral and intellectual authority in civil society. The cultural sphere or civil society includes areas of “consent, persuasion, the church, morality, freedom and self-discipline.”Moral and intellectual authority comes from civil society. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French philosopher that studied the American political system, believed that you really needed to study America’s customs to be able to explain our democracy. Tocqueville used many institutions in his research, including religion, the legal field (respect for law), and the press. At the time in 1831, religion largely controlled the education system. Similarly, the press represented American literature. Clearly, this is no longer the case.Highlighted by Pinkerman are several facets of civil society that shape the cultural sphere of our present moment. These include journalism, the universities, the tech industry, Hollywood, the legal profession, and religion. Because people “do not have the time to research every single topic, we are reliant on other intellectual and moral sources.” In other words, many in our culture today rely on others to form their moral opinions. American journalism has a tendency to lean Left. All journalists are not alike, but it indicates the state of journalism to look at the strength of that lean. Between The Washington Post and The New York Times, 25 endorsements for presidential candidates were made since 1960—none have been for Republican candidates. Pinkerman pointed out that you would have to go back to 1956 to find the last time either one supported a Republican for president. Furthermore, only seven percent of journalists identify as Republican. Democrats outnumber Republicans 20 to one among journalists. This is very concerning, since intentional self-questioning is critical in order to prevent bias from filtering the news.Colleges and universities are another sector in which a pronounced majority of faculty identify as being on the Left. In the field of social psychology, professors that favor the Left are 314 to one, though they self-identify as 36 liberal for every one conservative. There are similar breakdowns where a profession will skew greatly to one political party. Even the localities where top schools are located lean left. A person is likely to move left in their political ideology simply because of the environment that has been created in and around the top schools.With so many people receiving their information from online sources, the tech sector is highly influential on American culture. Though companies like Google or Apple are not producing the majority of content, they do control what is seen. When looking at Google’s employees, 97 percent voted for Obama, while 91 percent of Apple’s employees did the same. Tech giants function as gatekeepers, the ones who decide what content is inappropriate or will even come up. Search algorithms of these companies have been called into question in recent years for the way they filter content.Though difficult to find empirical evidence, Hollywood too leans left. Pinkerman cites a study that shows that for every dollar donated to Republicans, 115 were given to the Democratic presidential candidate. The elites shaping the entertainment industry and thus our thought use are clearly using their political voices to promote liberal views. One would simply need to watch some of the television and film awards shows during the 2016 election cycle to see these views on full display.In the legal profession, around 80 percent of law school faculty members are liberal. The disparity among practicing attorneys is not quite as pronounced, with 35 percent having conservative views. This is important because the people that shape our understanding of the law, and thereby of justice, have a strong influence.Going off of what Tocqueville studied, the only aspect that has not veered to the left is religion. Culturally and politically, religion remains diverse. Catholic clergy tend to be about 50-50, with Protestants leaning slightly left and Evangelicals to the right. There is much diversity of ideas in the religious field. However, when looking at religious studies in academia, faculty members on the left are about 70 to one.Politically speaking, we have great protections and freedoms from the government in our current time. Our freedom seems secure from tyranny. But when looking at social tyranny, the outlook is not so reassuring. Social tyranny can easily devolve into factionalism, with one section of society needing protection from another section. James Madison warned against factionalism because it had historically led to the downfall of democracies. In his time, the expanding country made any singular ideology unlikely to take over.Today, however, when we look at all of the main areas of our cultural establishment, there is one political sphere that is entrenched. Distressingly, many conservative voices are being squelched. College campuses are a perfect case study for this phenomenon. From speakers being disinvited to protestors disrupting events to student activists accosting conservatives on campus, there is a blatant lack of diversity of thought. The danger of one political ideology controlling so many spheres of public influence is that this ideology can be imposed in a way that looks normalized. Voices of opposition can easily be silenced. This can lead to a spiral of silence in which the voices of opposition become fewer and fewer over time. It will take a concentrated effort from within these industries to prevent that from happening. All Americans should keep a close eye on these industries to see if they are telling the whole story, just as we ourselves should be fair and balanced in our own judgments. Most importantly, we should call out the lack of conservative voices in every major cultural establishment and use our own voices to call for an increase in diversity of thought. Be sure to view Justin Pinkerman’s full discussion of this important topic.
Though former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran lost the position he worked his whole life to achieve, a $1.2 million settlement on October 15 in his favor is closure to his multi-year saga defending his faith.In January 2015, the decorated former chief and Obama-appointee was fired for authoring a religious book for men, which focused on biblical principles of marriage and sexuality. Mayor Kasim Reed had placed him on suspension and required sensitivity training before his ultimate termination.The city gave several superficially objective reasons for giving this public servant the pink slip. But a later investigation concluded that there was no evidence that Cochran’s beliefs compromised his leadership. Cochran pursued litigation to defend his right to express his faith in his private capacity.What it comes down to is that Cochran was fired for his articulation of long-held beliefs on marriage and sexuality. As one city council member tellingly said in response to the book, “when you’re a city and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.” As it turns out, the city council member would have to check his own opinions at the door in the face of the $1.2 million city-council-approved payout issued with a vote of 11-3.Last year, a federal district court ruled that the city “can’t force its employees to get its permission” to engage in free speech.The court acknowledged Cochran’s reputation as “an excellent Fire Chief” and his mission to “assemble a group of firefighters . . who represented diverse backgrounds, characteristics, and beliefs,” including at least two employees who identified as LGBT under his leadership.Not all of Cochran’s constitutional arguments were accepted by the court. But Cochran’s large settlement is a signal that the city knows that it has the losing side of the argument.The government is here for the people, not the other way around. No American should be punished simply for holding beliefs that are different from the government. As Cochran’s case demonstrates, making such a mistake can come at a price.
Dear Friends,By now, you have no doubt heard the wonderful news about the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who was wrongly imprisoned in Turkey while spreading the Gospel to the Turkish people. During an interview on Good Morning America, Pastor Brunson related a wonderful insight on how God increases the work of His servants’ hands in unexpected ways: “We’re not known people. We’re not very important people. We’ve been working in Turkey in obscurity for a number of years. But then, around the world, I think millions of people in many countries were praying for us. Even though [being imprisoned] caused us a lot of hurt, I think that God is using this, was planning to use this to bring blessing to Turkey. Now there are millions of people who have prayed for Turkey.”This is an important lesson for all of us who are striving to live out our faith as Christians. As I know I have experienced, there are days (or maybe even weeks or months) during our faith journey when we feel like we are living in obscurity, seemingly unable to accomplish anything of importance and feeling like we don’t matter. I’m sure there were times during Pastor Brunson’s 23 years in Turkey when he perhaps felt discouraged in this way. But day in and day out for 23 years, Pastor Brunson kept the faith and ministered to the Turkish people in “obscurity.” And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was thrust into the spotlight and into a situation he never could have imagined or asked for. And as Pastor Brunson has pointed out, God used his physically and mentally anguishing experience of imprisonment for a greater good that only He could have imagined.Following Pastor Brunson’s courageous example, we too are called to live out our faith, day in and day out, even when we feel like we are living in obscurity. When we do this, we are preparing ourselves for the day when God will call us forth to perform a mighty work for His glory.Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.Sincerely,Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council FRC ArticlesThe Kavanaugh Circus Shows The Supreme Court’s Political Power Is Out of Control – Travis WeberMan Steals Gold Medal From Top Woman in World Cycling Race – Cathy RuseAllied for Truth and Freedom Regarding Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions – Peter SpriggHacksaw Ridge and the Value of Conscientious Objectors – Alexandra McPheeWe’re In a Spiritual Battle of Good vs. Evil. Gosnell Proves It. – Patrina MosleyChristians Should Be Fearless in Living Out Their Faith. Even Supreme Courts Agree. – James SelveyPakistani Christian Woman’s Fate Hangs in the Balance – Travis WeberMillennials and the Future of Marriage – Caleb SutherlinReversing Roe—Or Ignoring Her? – Alexandra McPheeThe Unity of Body and Soul: Why It Matters – Caleb SutherlinAmericans Can “Afford to Not Care” About Voting. Yet We Should Still Care. – Travis Weber Religious LibertyReligious Liberty in the Public SquareDefining The Thing – Dan Hitchens, First ThingsTrump Signs Bill Expanding Criminal Code on Church Vandalism to Protect Religious Nonprofits – Samuel Smith, The Christian PostSenior Google Search Engineer Advocates for Censorship of ‘Terrorist’ Marsha Blackburn – Allum Bokhari, BreitbartComplaint prompts Utah’s Dixie State University to remove Bible, Book of Mormon from hotel rooms – Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake TribuneChurch Ordered to Pay $13,000 in Property Taxes Heads to Court – Emily Jones, CBN NewsSwastikas painted on Northern Virginia JCC – Jared Foretek, Washington Jewish WeekAmericans By a 2-1 Margin Say Media Coverage Was Biased Against Kavanaugh – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNewsVICTORY! Atlanta Pays Ex-Fire Chief $1.2 Million in Religious Liberty Lawsuit – ToddStarnes.comInternational Religious FreedomPastor Freed by Turkey Kisses American Flag, Prays for Trump – Chuck Ross, The Daily SignalChina Trying to 'Rewrite the Bible,' Force Churches to Sing Communist Anthems – Samuel Smith, The Christian PostHindu Attacks Against Christians on the Rise in Southern India – Steve Warren, CBN NewsHundreds of Chinese Christian Schoolchildren Forced to Declare They Follow ‘No Religion’ – Will Maule, CBN NewsPakistan’s Supreme Court Reserves Judgment in Asia Bibi’s Final Appeal – Persecution.orgIran: Two Christian converts receive prison sentences – Middle East ConcernUK High Court Rules That Declining to Bake ‘Gay Cake’ Isn’t Discrimination – Troy Worden, The Daily Signal LifeAbortionWhen the abortion industry fights regulations, it proves it isn’t pro-woman – Cassy Fiano-Chesser, Live ActionFact Check: Tweet Shows Exponential Growth in Planned Parenthood Campaign Contributions From 2014 to 2018 – Emily Larsen, CheckYourFactAGAIN? Another pro-abortion activist violently attacks pro-lifers in Canada – Cassy Fiano-Chesser, Live ActionChicago Planned Parenthood botches at least six abortions in under a year – Nancy Flanders, Live ActionBioethics15 Celebrities who are showing us how to welcome people with special needs – Cerith Gardiner, AleteiaThe Expansion of Assisted Suicide North of the Border – John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera, BreakPoint FamilyMarriageThe Best Marriage Ever – Nancy Guthrie, CrosswayEvery marriage has its rocky patches. And given good sense, survives – Harry Benson, The Conservative WomanHow Moving In Together Makes It Harder to Know If He’s the One – Galena Rhoades, Family StudiesParentingLord, Teach Us—and Our Kids—to Pray – Megan Kennedy and Jared Kennedy, The Gospel CoalitionIn light of Brett Kavanaugh, an indepth look at how and when character is formed in kids – Jennifer Graham, Deseret NewsRegaining the Joy of Family Life: A Review of How to Be A Happier Parent – Naomi Schaefer Riley, Family StudiesThe Kanye-Trump Bromance Highlights Our Culture’s Yearning For Fathers – Melissa Langsom Braunstein, The Federalist6 Ways to Ruin Your Children – Jeff Robinson, The Gospel CoalitionEconomics/EducationHigher Rent, Fewer Babies? Housing Costs and Fertility Decline – Lyman Stone, Family StudiesFaith/Character/CultureRejecting Second-Wave Feminism: A Review of Mona Charen’s Sex Matters – Ashley McGuire, Family StudiesFormer Nightclub Owner Addicted to Drugs, Porn, Gambling Now Brings Life-Saving Water to 8 Million – Michael Gryboski, The Christian PostObey God with Your Creativity – John Piper, Desiring GodOn Moments – Tod Worner, Word on FireA Morning with Big Brother – Joseph Pearce, Intellectual TakeoutWhy Christians Don’t Go to Church (and Why They Must) – Joe Carter, The Gospel CoalitionHuman SexualitySchool District Changes Its Restroom Policy – Then Ignores the Sexual Assault of a Five-Year-Old Girl – Sarah Kramer, Alliance Defending FreedomHow can we discuss sex ed without talking about marriage? – Andrea Mrozek, Hamilton SpectatorBiological Male Wins World Championship Event in Women’s Cycling – Peter Hasson, The Daily SignalHuman Trafficking123 missing children found in Michigan during sex trafficking operation – Emily Jacobs, New York PostAmnesty International Expels Member for Standing Against Prostitution – Ben Miller, National Center on Sexual ExploitationPornographyThe Shame-Free System This All-Guys’ College House Has To Fight Porn Is Brilliant – Fight the New Drug
We don’t watch a lot of television in our household, but every July you can find us, adults and children alike, watching stage after stage of the Tour de France. Once, my daughter asked, “Has a woman ever won the Tour?” No, we told her. Women and men are different, and it wouldn’t be fair to make them compete against each other.Transgender crusaders don’t care about fair.On Sunday, a biological male won the women’s UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship in Los Angeles in the 35-39 age category, taking the gold from the second-place finisher who is actually a woman (image below).Rachel McKinnon, a biological man who identifies as a woman, has responded to critics of his win on Twitter, calling them “transphobic bigots.”In January, McKinnon told USA Today that his crusade is “bigger than sports.”“It’s about human rights,” McKinnon said. “I bet a lot of white people were pissed off when we desegregated sports racially and allowed black people. But they had to deal with it.”No, Rachel, you’re not fighting for human rights. What you’re doing is rigging the game. You’re rigging the game so that no girl will ever win a sports competition in school. No woman will want to devote her life to the pursuit of excellence in a competitive sport, knowing even before the competition begins that being the quickest/strongest/toughest woman may still not make you the winner. You’re killing sports for half of the human race.But I agree with McKinnon: this is bigger than sports. I stand with the radical feminists who call it the very “erasure of women.” If a 40-year-old man can claim to be a woman, then being a woman has no meaning.
Some of the most compassionate and courageous—and least politically correct—people in the country are mental health providers who assist clients with unwanted same-sex attractions. I had the privilege of spending time with some of them on October 5 and 6 in Orlando, at the annual conference of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (“The Alliance,” formerly known as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or “NARTH”).Although LGBT activists have been critical of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for decades, the threat to such therapy has become an existential one only in the last six years, as several states have enacted laws prohibiting licensed mental health providers from engaging in SOCE (often referred to by critics and the media with an outdated term, “conversion therapy”) with minors. However, this year’s Alliance conference came in the wake of an unexpected win, when an even more extreme therapy ban proposal in California was withdrawn by its sponsor, Assemblyman Evan Low, on August 31 (the last day of the legislative session).The conference featured a variety of presentations and workshops touching on medical, clinical, and cultural issues, as well as research. Attorney Geoff Heath gave an overview of the therapy bans—including several different arguments as to why they should be found unconstitutional. He touched on ways in which they infringe freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion, in addition to noting the more technical legal principle that they may be “void for vagueness.”It is ironic that attacks upon such therapies have grown ever more extreme, even as the therapists themselves are becoming ever more scrupulous about following “best practices” that avoid the kind of behaviors (such as “coercion” of clients or “guarantees” of complete transformation) of which they are regularly accused. Christopher Rosik, Ph.D., introduced an updated set of Guidelines for the Practice of Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy (or “SAFE-T,” an acronym coined by the Alliance to better describe the actual focus of such therapy). This carefully reasoned and thoroughly documented 62-page document (not yet available on the Alliance website, at last check—an older version is here) features 13 specific guidelines to ensure that client goals are respected, fully informed consent is obtained, and any potential harm is avoided.Several sessions addressed research questions. Philip Sutton, Ph.D., gave an introductory presentation with the explanatory title, “Are Same-Sex Attractions and Behaviors (SSA) REALLY Innate, Inconsequential, and Immutable? What Research and Demonstrable Clinical Experience Does and Does Not Show.” Key research findings he explained show that:SSA is not innate.SSA is consequential (that is, it does have many significant negative consequences and co-occurring difficulties—undermining claims that it is a “normal, positive variant of human sexuality”).SSA is mutable (that is, it can change).Some intended and beneficial changes in SSA (often along a continuum) occur through professional and pastoral assistance.Therapeutically assisted change is not invariably harmful.One of the conference keynote speakers, the Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., discussed several research questions. He described existing research showing that the genetic influence on the development of homosexuality is relatively small, while showing that the influence of being a victim of child sexual abuse on developing a later same-sex orientation is significant—both of which undermine the theory that people are “born gay.” He discussed follow-up research he has done (but not yet published) concerning children in same-sex or opposite-sex parent households. He also discussed findings regarding the crisis involving sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. (Dr. Sullins is a Catholic priest himself, albeit an unusual one—he is married, having been a married Episcopal priest before converting to Roman Catholicism.)Carolyn Pela, Ph.D., provided useful training on how to evaluate published research studies. She noted the existence of several different types of studies—exploratory, observational, quasi-experimental, and experimental. Exploratory studies are just that—they simply explore a topic, often through anecdotal accounts, but are incapable of arriving at conclusions that can be generalized to a larger population. Ironically, an often-cited 2002 article on the potential harms of change therapies by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder was, by its own account, merely an exploratory study, and thus offered no conclusions about the actual prevalence or likelihood of such harm.Observational studies can demonstrate correlations between variables (“A is often accompanied by B”), but cannot definitively prove causation (“A causes B”). However, correlational studies can still be highly important—the conclusion that smoking is associated with lung cancer was based on correlational studies, for example. Only an experimental design can scientifically prove a causal relationship, but that requires the existence of a control group and random assignment to the study group or control group (this is how studies of new drugs are conducted, for instance). But for some research questions, a truly experimental design is either not practical or not ethical—studies of parenting outcomes, for example, would require that children be randomly assigned at birth to parents! Pela also reviewed questionable research practices that can be found in the areas of recruiting, research procedures, and reporting of results.One of the clinical presentations was offered by Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., Ph.D. His father, one of the founders of the Alliance, died suddenly in 2017. Dr. Nicolosi, Jr. is carrying on his father’s work, but re-branding it—quite literally, in that he has trademarked the term “reintegrative therapy” to describe his approach (and to distinguish it from the ill-defined term “conversion therapy”). His father had coined the term “reparative therapy” in the 1990’s, but this was often (mistakenly) taken as implying a view that homosexuals were broken and needed to be “repaired.” Nicolosi, Jr. introduced an approach he calls the “reintegrative protocol,” which he insisted is not premised on any particular view of sexual orientation and can be used by therapists of any ideological persuasion. Its goal, he said, is not to change sexual orientation, but to heal trauma and sexual addiction—but a change in same-sex attractions may sometimes result when the protocol is followed. Two films were also screened at the conference. One, Voices of the Silenced, is an international effort produced by British expert Michael Davidson. It features personal testimonies from clients as well as from experts about the potential for sexual orientation change, while also placing the issue in a larger cultural and historical context, noting how the sexual revolution represents an effort to undo the advances made by Judeo-Christian culture and return to the pagan worldview of ancient Greece and Rome. The other, Free to Love (a 38-minute documentary that can be viewed free online), presents an overview of the debate over SOCE in the American context, and includes interviews with four ex-gay men as well as the views of attendees at a Gay Pride event.Although geared largely for therapists, the Alliance conference is an important event every year for public education and networking as well. With the freedom to seek change ever more under attack, the Alliance is a vital ally in promoting the truth and protecting clients’ rights to self-determination.
Seventy-three years ago today, on October 12, 1945, President Harry S. Truman awarded Private First Class (then-Corporal) Desmond T. Doss the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts during his service in the Pacific theater of World War II. He was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist. When he entered the military as a conscientious objector, he did so with the convictions that his faith required that he take a sabbath and that, under the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” he must never touch a weapon to kill another man, even in war.The deeply-rooted, American value of religious liberty protected Doss’s beliefs. Rights of conscience have been considered a component of religious freedom since the origins of this nation. Indeed, from the time of the Colonies, the government has exempted conscientious objectors from service or from the bearing of arms.When Doss entered the service during World War II, the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 protected those “subject to combatant training and service . . . who, by reason of religious training and belief, [were] conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.”The Act thus enabled Doss to participate in the war to the extent he believed his faith permitted. As his biography states, “He believed his duty was to obey God and serve his country. But it had to be in that order.”While serving as a medic, Doss continually carried the wounded to safety during battle in the Philippines, Guam, and Japan, all without using any weapons. In Okinawa, Japan, Doss saved the lives of 75 men over the course of a single day. American soldiers had faced an unexpected counterattack by the Japanese and were ordered to retreat. Only one-third of the soldiers were able to escape from the counterattack. Despite the order to retreat, Doss remained, and he took each of the 75 men, one by one, off of the battlefield to safety.Doss’s feats in Okinawa were detailed in his Medal of Honor Citation and were the subject of the award-winning 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge, which Doss’s son said represents his father faithfully.Thomas W. Bennett and Joseph G. LaPointe Jr. were also conscientious objectors, and they posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their acts of valor in the Vietnam War.These men are proof that we do not accomplish freedom by boxing conscientious objectors or religious expression out of military service or the public square.As Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone once said, “liberty of conscience” is “vital . . to the integrity of man’s moral and spiritual nature,” and “nothing short of the self-preservation of the state should warrant its violation.” Even then, “it may well be questioned whether the state which preserves its life by a settled policy of violation of the conscience of the individual will not in fact ultimately lose it by the process.”By defending the rights of conscience, we enable individuals like Doss, Bennett, and LaPointe to contribute, in accordance with their beliefs, towards the common good and the preservation of our country.
What if I told you that for over 30 years, a man was murdering babies that were born alive, collecting their remains in bags, jars, and milk cartons, committing medical malpractice on women to the point of death, illegally distributing drugs to addicts, and breaking several other state and federal laws. Do you think it would get the media’s attention? No. Why? Because this man, Kermit Gosnell, was an abortionist. Even those who find themselves mostly on the left found it appalling that this case received little to no attention.Well, that’s about to change. In the new movie, Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, tells the story of how a routine drug bust turned into an investigation of a house of horrors. The script for the movie was largely based on the courtroom transcripts of the Gosnell case to ensure accuracy.At our Values Voter Summit, the star of Gosnell, Dean Cain, described how the scenes, taken straight from the case, were not sensationalized:We were shooting this, I even turned to our director Nick—are we going a little overboard here? I mean this is a little much... I don’t want to give away too much... the stuff that was going on there... this can’t be real. Then he showed me the actual footage from the actual [police] raid and it looked almost identical. It’s so horrific that if you decided to make something horrific you’re not even scratching the surface. It’s where truth is much more strange than fiction. It was shocking, it was horrifying, and the moment you see that I don’t think there’s anything you could do but go for a homicide conviction.This PG-13 movie does a tasteful but truthful job of allowing us to see what really happened on the road to getting justice for the atrocities committed at the sinister hands of Gosnell and the bureaucratic coverups that enabled him. The movie is neither “pro-life” nor “pro-abortion”—it’s a truthful telling of a story that should have gotten way more attention than it did.In Gosnell, you will see that we are in a true spiritual battle of light versus darkness, good versus evil. Nothing displays that more than this movie.The movie is opening on October12th, and it’s important that we support this film. Check here to find one of the 600 theaters showing the movie near you, and take your friends, your small groups, and your church.
For Christian bakery owners Amy and Daniel McArthur, one chapter of their fight for religious freedom has come to a close. The owners of the Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland received a unanimous ruling from the UK’s highest court that they were entitled to decline baking a cake that spoke a message of support for same-sex marriage.In 2014, Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, approached the Belfast branch of the bakery with a request for a cake that would include a slogan that read “Support gay marriage” along with the Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert. While the bakery had initially taken the request, it later canceled the order and refunded Lee’s money. Immediately, the Northern Irish Equality Commission stepped in, inciting that Lee had been discriminated against based on his sexuality. The bakery stated it didn’t want to make a cake that displayed a message that was against their Christian beliefs. Originally, a Belfast court had ruled favorably for Lee, but the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, where all five justices ruled in favor of the McArthurs. One of the judges, Brenda Hale, wrote in her decision: “In a nutshell, the objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons.” The general manager of Ashers, Daniel McArthur, said “I want to start by thanking God … he has been with us during the challenges of the last four years."This case comes only a few months after Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood Colorado, won his U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As with Jack Phillips, the McArthurs have no issue with serving Mr. Lee, as they have said, “We didn’t say no because of the customer; we’d served him before, we’d serve him again. It was because of the message. But some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree.” It isn’t an objection to Mr. Lee’s character or sexual orientation, but rather the context of the message of his order. The McArthurs are implementing their business by living out the values they conscientiously believe in. They are free to run their business as a Christian business, and there should be no one who can tell them to work differently.The Bible says in James 1:23-25 that “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” The McArthurs are laboring to use their liberty and religious rights to serve Christ in all capacities of their lives, not just in private. Let us pray that they will continue to be strong in obedience to God in what He is calling them to do, as it is highly probable that the McArthurs have not heard the last of this case.We’re all called as Christians to live in the world, but not to live like it. We all have a commitment to God to live as He is calling us to live. In a time where many schools and businesses are curtailing the freedom to live out one’s beliefs, this calling will become more of a challenge. But when we stay committed to following Jesus Christ and trust that He is the Savior, we see the fulfillment it brings to our lives and further confirms the truth of God’s laws. President Ronald Reagan said it best: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” May we fight for these freedoms in each of our unique callings for our children and future generations.James Selvey is an intern at FRC Action.
Millennials are bringing down the divorce rate in America. Research by University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen indicates that the divorce rate has fallen by eight percent from 2008 to 2016. According to Cohen, “the overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women.” While older generations are still getting remarried and divorced, millennials are staying together longer.But there’s a downside. Few millennials are actually getting married—about 59 percent are unmarried/never married. This is significantly higher than the historical averages for the same age group. Citing the U.S. Census Bureau, Gallup found that at the same age, about “36% of Generation Xers, 48% of baby boomers and 65% of traditionalists were married when they were the age that millennials are now.”Cohen suggests one reason for this is that millennials are being more selective about who they marry and when. Many are waiting to marry until after they have a stable career and have completed their education. These are good indicators of marriages that will last. For now, divorce rates are likely to continue to fall.Despite these hopeful signs, we are living in an era marked by a drastic decrease in marriages. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research has found that “the peak marriage rate of 92.3, observed in 1920, is nearly three times the rate in 2016.” The institution of marriage is now a leaning pillar in our society.With so many unmarried young adults (myself included), the number of single parent households is also rising. Socially, being a single parent or having children out of wedlock is now widely accepted: “The rates of acceptance currently stand at 68 percent amongst millennials.” Having compassion and understanding for single parents is vital, but we must at the same time acknowledge and have compassion for the children who are born out of wedlock and who must bear the consequences of their parents’ choices.What could this mean for the future? What kind of lives are we encouraging for our children? Let’s look at the numbers. Children from single parent households are more likely to struggle with poverty, have an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, are twice as likely to commit suicide, are less likely to finish school, are more likely to commit crimes, and are more likely to become pregnant as a teen than their traditional family counterparts. The fact remains that families do best when they have a married father and mother. Again, saying this is not to denigrate single parents who are doing their utmost to provide for their kids. But there are profound societal consequences as the normalcy of single parenthood increases.Most importantly, these statistics show a distressing outlook for the future. Millennials no longer find comfort in marriage that has been a staple in generations past. As single parent households rise, the future is foreboding.Pew Research has found that “Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.” This shift in culture is compounded by the fact that “34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.”As less marriages take place, there will be fewer examples of healthy marriages for children to emulate. Fortunately, we have the example from the Bible. We know that husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). This kind of love requires dying to one’s self for the sake of the other—a lesson that is of the utmost importance in today’s society.Trends and statistics can give us an idea of what is to come, but the future is never set in stone. The importance of marriage is not and should never be a partisan issue. Everyone should stand to protect and promote the family for the betterment of society.Caleb Sutherlin is an intern at Family Research Council.
Earlier today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard the final appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of the crime of “blasphemy” after being accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad—a claim which arose out of an argument with several Muslim women who grew angry at her for drinking water from the same bowl as them, which they believed made the water ceremonially unclean.Subsequently, in the first and most high-profile case under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, Mrs. Bibi was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death.Now, today, there appears to be a glimmer of hope that she could be acquitted by the high court and set free, with sources currently reporting the justices are set to reverse her conviction.Yet the opposition to this within Pakistani society is great. Over the course of this ten-year long prosecution, multiple Pakistani politicians who have stood up for Mrs. Bibi have been assassinated, including Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the cabinet’s only Christian, and Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was killed by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri—who was later convicted and executed by the Pakistani government—has been lionized as a hero by Islamists, including the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which rallies around punishing blasphemy and which is currently warning against any “concession or softness” for Mrs. Bibi, claiming that “[i]f there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences.”This sad saga reminds us of the clear threat posed to religious freedom by the abuse of blasphemy laws. These laws—which infringe on a proper conception of religious freedom—would be bad enough on their face. Yet quite often, they aren’t even used for their ostensible purpose, but become vehicles to settle personal disagreements and even political scores.Mrs. Bibi’s case also reminds us that we need religious freedom at the cultural level in addition to the governmental level. Pakistan may have government leaders willing to defend her, but when the worldview prevailing in Pakistani culture is closer to that of the TLP party than Mr. Taseer’s, the road toward religious freedom will remain beset with almost insurmountable obstacles. Let us pray for Mrs. Bibi’s release and safety in the coming weeks. Let us also pray for freedom and flourishing in Pakistan—desiring blessing for all in that land, Mrs. Bibi’s friend and foe alike.
This past weekend, I microwaved some popcorn, took to Netflix, and streamed Reversing Roe, a documentary on “the state of abortion and women’s rights in America.”The film aims to track the historical movement of the abortion debate into the political sphere, and it does so with a pro-abortion slant. It at least tries to give voice to leaders in the pro-life movement, however, with speakers that include our own Tony Perkins.Among the documentary’s slew of pro-abortion advocates is Sarah Weddington, the attorney who argued Roe v. Wade. Remarkably, it makes no mention of the story of perhaps her most well-known client, Norma McCorvey (pictured). McCorvey is the eponymous “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade. What you don’t learn is that McCorvey eventually gave birth to the child she sought to abort and later became a pro-life advocate because of her Christian faith. It’s a disappointing omission in a documentary that otherwise makes an effort to fairly represent the pro-life stance. (Even if it fails to fully represent the idea that pro-lifers are advocating for the unborn—not government control over women’s bodies or back-alley abortions. Or the idea that demographics other than old, white men can be pro-life.)Arguably, the film doesn’t have the time to explore the integrity of or the moral basis for the views of all the major players in the abortion debate. But it does find screen time for a Protestant minister who supports legal abortion, a doctor who believes that his abortion practice is an act of compassion, and shrewd politicos who used Roe v. Wade to channel the passion of conservative evangelicals into votes for Ronald Reagan. What about the young woman who wanted an abortion and then changed her mind?As a result, the absence of McCorvey and her story paints an incomplete picture of key figures in the abortion debate, the role of faith, and advocates for the sanctity of life. In a documentary with her assumed name in the title, Norma McCorvey and her story could have and should have been given a voice.

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