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Since March, churches all over America have suspended in person worship services to comply with social distancing guidelines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For nearly three months, churches have adapted to alternatives including online services and drive-in services. Surprisingly, a few state and local governments punished those participating in drive-in services by handing out tickets. Despite the challenges, the vast majority of worshippers have abided by social distancing restrictions, longing for the days when they can worship together again.The same cannot be said of many of the protestors in recent days. After the unjust death of George Floyd in Minnesota, many protestors flooded the streets demanding justice. However, these large gatherings of protestors were in direct violation of CDC guidelines. At the height of the protests, Minnesota’s Department of Health was still officially encouraging its citizens to go out only to “buy food, medicine, and other needed items.”Since the mass protests, there has been a spike in new coronavirus cases in Minnesota. Violence has greatly increased. A number of businesses in Minnesota have been destroyed and one of their police stations was torched. Around the country, several policemen—both black and white— were assaulted and some even murdered while attempting to maintain order. Despite the public health risks of large protests, government officials throughout the country have allowed the protests to continue (and in some cases participated themselves). And while it is important to underscore the justifiable outrage over George Floyd’s death, the acquiescence of authorities to these protests while churches remain shuttered raises the question of a double standard.In short, if governors allow thousands of protestors to march in cities around the country, when can churches have in-person services? The CDC has cleared churches to hold services in their buildings. The issue seems to be with some state governments who are explicitly discriminating against churches. One example is in Nevada where Governor Sisolak is restricting church gatherings to 50 or fewer people while permitting casinos and restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity; in some of the larger casinos this means allowing hundreds of people to gather at one time. According to these government mandates, church gatherings must abide by restrictions while secular businesses can serve many guests. Clearly, these decisions violate the religious freedom of worshippers.Freedom of speech is a cherished principle that must include even unpopular views and opinions. If protestors are permitted to chant, “I can’t breathe,” churchgoers should be allowed to sing, “Amazing Grace.” Protestors should be free to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and churchgoers should be treated no differently. Any worshipper will readily admit that church in recent weeks has felt a little different. Church members do not wish to break the law or endanger anyone. They simply wish to worship together. Some outside the church may marvel or be confused about why Christians are so adamant about meeting for corporate worship. The reason is that for followers of Christ, gathering for worship is not a preference, but a command that Christians must obey. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Though the church is commanded to gather together, government restrictions in many places continue to prevent this from happening. So long as government restrictions are applied equally to all sectors of society, these orders should be followed. After all, Romans 13 teaches that government has been ordained by God. However, it is clear now that the government’s orders are not being applied equally as protestors have been permitted to voice their grievances and stage large gatherings without CDC health guidelines being enforced. Let us meet in the middle: allow protesters to voice their opinion while at the same time permitting church goers to worship together in person.Finally, churches who dare to open are bending over backwards to abide by and even exceed government guidelines. Pastors are commissioned by God to care for those in their church. State governors should be assured that pastors will take care of their members just as well as a restaurant owner will take care of their guests. To help pastors care for their churches, FRC released a resource titled “Guidelines for Reopening Your Church.” If we are going to protect the right to freedom of speech for protestors, let us safeguard the freedom of religion for those who want to gather for public worship. Only when both free speech and freedom of religion are protected for all will we have a functioning and whole society.Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Washington Update: “Like a Tweet, Lose a Lease”For Birmingham Pastor Chris Hodges, a handful of "likes" were all it took to make the biggest church in Alabama homeless.2. Washington Update: “From Riots to Repentance”On Sunday, some demonstrations in Washington, D.C., took a different turn. Riots turned into rallies for reflection and repentance as hundreds of evangelicals in the D.C. area led a march. Together, different generations and races called for the church to rise up and help heal our nation.3. Washington Update: “The George Floyd Culprit No One's Talking about”Derek Chauvin was no saint. That much was known long before his knee crushed the life out of George Floyd. After racking up 17 complaints in 19 years, the question most people have is -- what was he still doing on the police force anyway?4. Blog: “Governments Are Allowing Unrestricted Protests. So Why Are Churches Still Restricted?”Since March, churches all over America have suspended in person worship services to comply with social distancing guidelines. The same cannot be said of many of the protestors in recent days.5. Blog: “Prayerfully Responding to Civil Unrest”As our nation faces brokenness and rioting, we must turn to the Lord and his word. Here are some ways we can prayerfully respond to the current civil unrest in our nation.6. Washington Watch: Dr. Albert Mohler talks about the ironic timing of his new book, The Gathering StormDr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, joined Tony Perkins to discuss his new book, The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church.7. Washington Watch: Joe diGenova argues that defunding the police is an experiment in communismJoe diGenova, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, joined Sarah Perry to discuss the Left’s efforts to defund the police.For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!
American pastor Bryan Nerren was finally allowed to return home at the end of May after being detained in India for over seven months on a minor charge. “I am back with family and friends at home,” the Tennessee pastor told Morning Star News. “It is a wonderful time.” While his release is worth celebrating, the fact that the Indian government detained him for so long on such a minor charge signifies deeper religious freedom problems in the world’s largest democracy.Authorities interrupted Pastor Nerren’s two-week trip to India and Nepal in October 2019, arresting him as he got off his flight in Bagdogra. Officials questioned him about failing to pay duty on $40,000—meant to fund two ministry conferences—that he brought with him when he arrived in New Delhi. But Pastor Nerren had done nothing wrong. He maintains he was never told to pay a duty. And he was not carrying enough money to be charged for evading tax duty anyways.The real issue was his Christian mission. According to his lawyers, Indian officials “specifically asked if he was a Christian and if the funds would be used to support Christian causes.” After spending six days in jail, Pastor Nerren was required to pay a $4,000 fine. He was released but was banned from leaving the country.The targeted interrogation about Pastor Nerren’s faith reflects a growing problem in India—the Indian government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Since the 2014 election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rose to power with the BJP, things have been going from bad to worse for religious minorities.Hindu nationalism advances the harmful narrative that “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” This belief implies that faiths other than Hinduism erode national unity.Because they do not want Indians to convert to Christianity, Hindu nationalist leaders feel threatened by Christian missionaries and have, at times, been openly hostile to them. One former BJP politician called Christian missionaries “a threat to the unity of the country.”In 2017, the Indian government cracked down on Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian aid group. Compassion International once provided food and medical assistance to around 145,000 Indian children. Yet, because the government was afraid it encouraged conversions to Christianity, the organization was forced to leave the country. The government’s hostility to Christianity had practical implications for impoverished children of all faiths. Just last week, India turned down a request for travel visas by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which has wanted to review India’s religious freedom conditions. USCIRF, a federal commission tasked with advising the government on international religious freedom policies has been critical of India’s deteriorating religious freedom. In April, USCIRF’s annual report recommended that the U.S. officially designate India a “Country of Particular Concern” on religious freedom, clearly for good reason.India is the world’s largest democracy, and the Indian government’s growing intolerance toward Christianity should be a concern that the rest of the world takes seriously. Facing discrimination from the government and mob violence from fellow citizens, Christians in India, many of whom are poor and marginalized, lack power to speak up for themselves. It falls to the rest of the world—including the United States, a strategic partner for India—to speak up on their behalf.
The Guardian put out a piece attempting to criticize Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The piece only succeeded in highlighting the author’s fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a judge. It is not the role of a judge to weigh into what the law should be, but rather the judge interprets what the law is, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. Many of President Trump’s judicial nominees are originalist and textualist. While these may be considered “conservative” judicial philosophies, the result is not always conservative policy goals. If the judge is interpreting a “liberal” law, the text will lead to a result that is liberal. The basic goal of originalism and textualism is that the people, not unelected judges, say what the law ought to be. The judge’s role is to say what the law is, or what the people enacted through their elected officials. Therefore, the Guardian’s fearmongering piece claiming that the judges appointed by President Trump have any role in abortion law is false. It isn’t Trump-appointed judges, it’s the people that have the role of saying what abortion laws should prevail in their states. Judge Duncan is no exception to this rule.The piece quotes the legal director at Alliance for Justice saying, “For the overwhelming number of cases, the constitutional rights of the people in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi will be made by Kyle Duncan and the other ultra-conservatives on the fifth circuit.” This is false. The rights of the people will be made by the people—not the judges on the fifth circuit.While a lawyer in private practice, Judge Duncan advocated for Louisiana’s law that is currently before the Supreme Court: June Medical v. Russo. This law requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It’s a commonsense law that demands abortion facilities abide by the same rules as all other outpatient surgical centers. When Judge Duncan was in private practice, he defended this law on behalf of the state of Louisiana until he became a judge. The Fifth Circuit, where Judge Duncan now sits, upheld this law. Judge Duncan followed proper judicial protocol and recused himself from the case because he had advocated for Louisiana when he was in private practice. He has clearly conducted himself in an ethical manner on the Fifth Circuit.The Guardian piece is yet another example of a judge being attacked for their faith, as the piece specifically points out Judge Duncan’s Catholic faith. In America, one’s religion does not prevent them from being selected for a job. Judge Duncan’s history advocating for religious liberty is another aspect of him that the piece viewed as problematic. A judge that recognizes our first freedom, our freedom of religion, is not problematic. Judge Duncan understands just how important religious liberty is to our Constitution.The Constitution makes it clear that the role of a judge is to say what the law is and not what the law ought to be. The people of the United States are the ones charged with saying what the laws that dictate their lives should be. Judge Duncan knows his role as a judge and has done a wonderful job. We need more judges like Judge Duncan.
This piece was originally published at NRB.org.Churches and other charitable organizations have been on the front lines of the coronavirus response. A few examples are Samaritan’s Purse building a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park and churches hosting food drives and conducting coronavirus testing. One Alabama church tested 1,000 people in two days! Despite the active role these nonprofits have taken in meeting the health and economic needs of our country, they still rely on donations—at a time when many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. Thankfully, some leaders on Capitol Hill are championing the important role churches and charitable organizations play in helping local communities.One way the tax code helps charitable organizations is through the charitable deduction. However when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000, it caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. Realizing this problem in the tax code, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which allows charitable contributions up to $300 to be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy is a great first step in promoting charitable giving during the pandemic. But congressional leaders believe there is much more to be done.Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been the most vocal voice advocating for direct changes to the tax law to support both families and nonprofits. He summed this need up perfectly in a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. “We have three safety nets in America. The family is the first safety net. Nonprofits are our second safety net and government is our third…The first two are essential and if the family collapses, nonprofits struggle to keep up and governments struggle to keep up.”In May, Senator Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) co-authored a letter to Senate leaders, advocating for nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in any future coronavirus relief bills. One of the specific proposals Lankford and King offered is raising the $300 charitable deduction limit in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction. This would equate to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has taken a similar approach in the House of Representatives. His bill, the Coronavirus Help and Response Initiative Through the Year 2022 (CHARITY) Act, would expand the charitable deduction to one-third of the standard deduction until 2022.Families and churches are the foundation of our society. They are, therefore, the societal institutions best-equipped to provide stability when America faces many health and safety challenges. When families and churches struggle, so does the rest of America. That is why the government needs to recognize and support these institutions and charitable organizations. As Sen. Lankford said, “it’s beneficial for us in our official policy and what we choose to do in the tax code to be able to create a tax code that is encouraging to families and that is encouraging to nonprofits.”
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court re-wrote Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by holding that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the statute. The majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, claims to be using a textualist approach, yet its analysis and holding prove otherwise.Justice Samuel Alito concisely opened his dissent with the summary: “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.” Justice Alito aptly compared this opinion to a pirate ship sailing under a textualist flag.He went on to state, “Many will applaud today’s decision because they agree on policy grounds…. But the question in these cases is not whether discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity should be outlawed. The question is whether Congress did that in 1964. It indisputably did not” (emphasis in the original).Indeed, Justice Kavanaugh’s dissent seems to show sympathy for the policy outcome, yet he agreed that it is not within the Court’s constitutional boundaries to make this change.Despite its improper analysis of other scenarios, the majority opinion properly makes reference to “an employer who fires a female employee for tardiness or incompetence or simply supporting the wrong sports team. Assuming the employer would not have tolerated the same trait in a man, Title VII stands silent.” Yet it does not carry this analysis through in the cases at hand. The proper analysis is whether or not an employer would fire a female employee for homosexuality or identification as the opposite sex, but would not fire a male employee for homosexuality or identification as the opposite sex.This wrong legal analysis leaves many questions unanswered. In seeming acknowledgement of the policy Pandora’s box it has opened, the majority opinion acknowledges the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Ministerial Exception, but only to say that how either would be impacted by the decision is not currently before the court—thus inviting litigation. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is under attack in Congress, and the scope of the Ministerial Exception is currently under consideration before the Court, so these legal protections for religious freedom provide little solace.Justice Alito rightly points out that Congress has repeatedly refused to include sexual orientation or gender identity in Title VII or other federal civil rights statutes. Language to do so is included in the Equality Act and other bills which are introduced year after year without success. Yet, with its decision, the Court has essentially enacted the employment provisions of the Equality Act.Sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination laws are unjustified in principle, because these characteristics are not inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous, or in the U.S. Constitution—unlike race and sex. In many situations, such laws pose a threat to religious liberty, which is protected by the Constitution. Not only that, but these laws pose a threat to women and, even those who identify as homosexual or transgender.Justice Alito acknowledges numerous areas where the majority opinion could have serious implications:Religious employers could face litigation and be compelled to “employ individuals whose conduct flouts the tenets of the organization’s faith [which] forces the group to communicate an objectionable message.”Transgender identified individuals could be entitled to use the bathroom, locker room, etc. of their choice.Women athletes could be forced to compete against athletes who are biologically male in both scholastic and professional sports.Schools could be prevented from having sex-separated dormitories and housing.Employers could be forced to cover treatments and surgeries that are not deemed medically necessary and, for religious employers, are in opposition to their faith tenets.Freedom of speech, as it relates to both pronoun usage and employees’ ability to express their beliefs about marriage, family, and human sexuality, is now called into question.The standard of review by which courts judge claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination could be upgraded to a stricter standard of review, like that used for sex discrimination.Sadly, the Court has yet again usurped congressional power to achieve a desired policy goal which Congress has repeatedly refused to implement, and which is detrimental to society. With the Court’s invitation for litigation, the American Civil Liberties Union expects hundreds of cases to be filed.Now, we wait to see how this will play out in future litigation and how Congress will respond to this judicial assault upon its constitutional prerogatives.Mary Beth Waddell is Senior Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council. Peter Sprigg is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council.
According to Scripture, Christians have a responsibility to share the hope of the gospel (Mat. 5:14-16). Jesus made this clear in the Great Commission when He commissioned His disciples to spread His message to the ends of the world. Today, Americans are experiencing trying times. Amidst a virus that is frightening people and tearing apart economies, church celebrations that remain suspended, and riots that put vengeance as the answer to cases of unjust police violence, it can be hard to see God working. However, through the darkest points in history, God has raised up people of strong faith. Right now, God is calling upon the church to lead His people, and to not be silent. The church can give answers to today’s questions of how to proceed.As controversial as it may be today, Christians are called to bear witness to the truth. This is not easy, but it is important to allow oneself to be guided by what is right and not by fear. Prayer is greatly needed for leaders and for the community. Even when it seems God is not immediately answering our prayers, we are still called to pray (1 Tim. 2:2). Leaders of the church must not be silent and must continue to speak bold messages of hope and support during these times.As we’ve seen throughout the last three months, Christians should continue to serve those in their communities by offering them encouragement. Serving one’s community can be as simple as making a call or writing a letter, or something practical such as running an errand or safely praying with them. The best way to be a light of God is to be a light to others in His name. For a list of resources including ideas to serve your community, check out FRC’s church resource page at frc.org/church.Christians must also not be silent during these times, especially as churches are still closed. When the church cannot worship together, the whole Christian community and beyond is affected by a lack of sharing the gospel. Christ’s command to “proclaim the good news to the whole creation” is greatly hindered if Christians cannot come together to worship (Mark 16:15). Many have fallen and will fall into a spiritual slump due to months of being unable to gather for public worship. Peace and joy have been fading as violence and hate settles in among people. The world needs the church now more than ever as it is greatly feeling the lack of messages of hope and guidance previously brought by open churches. Christians must be able to again partake in the communal worship of God in order to best be a light for this world.Christians can help America get through the violent riots and the ensuing destruction. This is accomplished specifically by supporting the good in people. Peaceful protests represent the proper use of American freedom. However, when violent riots ensue (which do not honor the memory of George Floyd and others unjustly killed), it becomes an abuse of freedom.As Christians, speaking out with love in the face of anger will change the response to violence. An example of such Christian leadership can be found in the words of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) during a recent Congressional hearing on police brutality, where he stated that everyone is made in the image of God, despite skin color. He called for a defense of the people upholding truth and justice, while not condoning those who obstruct those values. Elsewhere, many people have reached out to communities struck by violent riots, cleaning up the mess as best they can. For example, according to CNN, a truck driver in Houston, Texas named Brian Irving spent hours cleaning up after a riot destroyed parts of the city. Such examples of Christians living out the principles of their faith are shining beacons in these dark times, and they ought to be emulated. The church has a unique opportunity to bring these moments of good to light, and show the world there are indeed good people.When the church is at work during a time of crisis, God does not fail to turn that work into something beautiful. Setting an example of prayer and peace in a time of pandemonium will help bring stability. Christians must rise together and bring the truth of Christ to a world that is searching for truth. God is calling the church to be that beacon of light for the world.Samantha Stahl is Policy/Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.
On June 15, in a set of three cases consolidated under the name Bostock v. Clayton County, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” is a form of discrimination “because of . . . sex”—which was prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh both wrote powerful dissents (Alito’s being joined by Justice Clarence Thomas) pointing out that the Court was effectively rewriting legislation (properly the role of Congress), not merely interpreting it, as the Court is supposed to do.Some members of Congress have responded to the Bostock decision by calling it “the law of the land.” For example Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat, issued a statement saying, “No American should face discrimination by an employer because of who they are or who they love, and I applaud the Court for . . . making that the law of the land.”Even more troubling was a statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to an article in Politico, he responded to the Court’s rewriting of the Civil Rights Act by saying, “It’s the law of the land. And it probably makes uniform what a lot of states have already done. And probably negates Congress’s necessity for acting.”But is this true? Is Justice Neil Gorsuch’s opinion for the Court in Bostock now “the law of the land?”The phrase “the law of the land” has ancient roots in the history of law. But in the United States, the term is explicitly defined by the U.S. Constitution. Article VI, Clause 2, states:This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States . . . ; and all Treaties made . . . under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land . . .That’s it. The Constitution, the “Laws of the United States,” and treaties constitute the “Law of the Land”—not Supreme Court decisions. While Supreme Court decisions may serve as binding precedent for the interpretation of the law for as long as those precedents stand, defenders of our system of government should always remember that only the written words of the Constitution, the laws, and treaties themselves are the actual “Law of the Land.”Nevertheless, when the Supreme Court issues a ruling on constitutional grounds, it is sometimes referred to colloquially (but still inaccurately) as “the law of the land.” The reason is the relative difficulty of overturning such a decision. Generally speaking, the Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of the Constitution can only be overturned by a constitutional amendment or by a new decision of the Supreme Court. This is a difficult task, requiring the approval of two thirds of both Houses of Congress and three quarters of the states.Many historic Supreme Court decisions, such as the 2015 Obergefell decision redefining marriage and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision permitting abortion, were based on a reading (however strained) of the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s recent ruling in Bostock was different—it involved only the interpretation of a statute passed by Congress (the Civil Rights Act).This is an important distinction. When a court—even the Supreme Court—misinterprets a statute, as it did here, not only is it not “the law of the land,” but it is fully within the power of Congress to correct the Court’s error by enacting a new law. In fact, Congress has done so on several occasions.Sen. Grassley was wrong to say Bostock is now “the law of the land” —Congress writes our laws, not the Supreme Court. He was also wrong to say that “it probably makes uniform what a lot of states have already done.” Only a minority of states had made “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” protected categories in their state civil rights laws, and Congress had consistently refused to do so at the federal level, despite dozens of attempts.In saying the decision “probably negates Congress’s necessity for acting,” Grassley may have been referring to the Equality Act—an LGBT rights bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House last year. Instead, Democrats are only accelerating their efforts to pass this sweeping bill, which goes well beyond the Supreme Court’s decision. Indeed, just yesterday, Senate Democrats were giving impassioned floor speeches about the need to foist the anti-freedom Equality Act on America—in their words, to override the “religious excuses” of the faithful.The real “necessity for acting” that still lies with Congress is to correct the Supreme Court’s erroneous interpretation of the law, and preserve the power of Congress, not the Court, to write the “Laws of the United States.”
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Washington Update: “Supreme Court Rewrites Civil Rights Act”The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the Civil Rights Act that poses a dangerous threat to religious liberty.2. Washington Update: “Planned Parenthood's Black Lies Matter Too”It’s okay to protest a black man's death. But, why aren’t there Black Lives Matter protestors outside of the city's abortion clinics, where more African-American babies are aborted than born?3. Blog: “The Supreme Court Goes Rogue on Sex Discrimination”Sadly, the Supreme Court has yet again overstepped its power to achieve a desired policy goal which Congress has repeatedly refused to implement, and which is harmful to society.4. Blog: “What is the Role of the Church Amidst Troubling Times?”Christians are called to bear witness to the truth. This is not easy, but it is important to allow oneself to be guided by what is right and not by fear.5. Washington Watch: Dave Brat blames the lack of moral foundation and education for the collapse of cities like SeattleDr. Dave Brat, Dean of the School of Business at Liberty University, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the ideology driving the creation of the Seattle “autonomous zone” and those calling for the elimination of police departments.6. Washington Watch: Jeff Sessions says the dividing line between liberals and Middle America is the disrespect for truthJeff Sessions, former U.S. Senator from Alabama, joined Tony Perkins to discuss how the effort to eliminate police departments promotes lawlessness.7. Washington Watch: Sen. Josh Hawley blasts SCOTUS for taking the legislative mantle from Congress on sexJosh Hawley, U.S. Senator from Missouri, joined Tony Perkins to discuss yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling redefining sex in federal law.For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!
Our rapidly changing moral landscape presents a daunting challenge for Christians committed to biblical sexual ethics. The LGBT movement continues to challenge centuries of norms concerning the family, marriage, and human sexuality. And a recent Supreme Court decision means legal definitions and understanding regarding human sexuality are changing, too.Secular progressives often criticize conservative Christians for their alleged obsession with sexual ethics. But secular and progressive elites are increasingly forcing the issue, insisting everyone embrace their worldview and the full spectrum of LGBT policy positions or face social ostracizing, public shaming, loss of jobs, or other increasingly dire consequences. Those in positions of cultural and political influence are willing to use the coercive power of government to accomplish their political objectives. This was evident this week in the U.S. Senate as Democrats argued for the immediate passage of the Equality Act, legislation that represents one of the greatest threats to religious liberty ever introduced in Congress. It would gut our nation’s flagship religious liberty law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed nearly unanimously by Democrats and Republicans alike.Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The majority ruled that employment discrimination “on the basis of sex”— prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be understood to include actions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By reinterpreting the statue in this way, the Court essentially rewrote civil rights law.Many conservatives were surprised by the decision and considered Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion to be a betrayal of the originalist and textualist approach he had previously insisted guided his judicial philosophy. As both Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh pointed out in their respective dissents, the majority opinion authored by Gorsuch imposed a meaning that would have been foreign to those who authored the Civil Rights Act and ignored the plain meaning of the statute.The consequences of the Bostock decision will play out for many years. In the immediate future, there are significant questions about how the ruling will affect religious liberty. Can religious institutions such as colleges and seminaries continue to have have sex-separated dormitories and housing? Are sex separated private spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities now discriminatory? Will women athletes be forced to compete against biological males in both scholastic and professional sports? Will employers be forced to cover treatments and surgeries that are not medically necessary and that are in opposition to their religious beliefs on human embodiment? Originalism and textualism are methods of interpreting the law. But as theologically conservative Christians, we hold to a form of originalism and textualism when reading and interpreting Scripture—the historical grammatical method. In other words, we believe God’s Word is authoritative, infallible, and inerrant. Because the Bible is “breathed out” by God, followers of Christ are called to obey and align their lives with it (2 Tim. 3:16). In order to obey and align our lives with the Bible, we must read and interpret it.The historical grammatical method of interpretation means we take seriously the grammar and syntax of the words and phrases that appear in the Bible because we want to know what the text says and what it means. We also want to place the text in its historical context. The Bible was written in a culture that is very different than our own. To understand many of the stories, we need some understanding of the ancient world in which it took place. Although this process of reading the Bible takes effort, there is no other faithful way to read Scripture.As theologically conservative Christians, we know our views on marriage and sexuality are increasingly unfashionable and go against the cultural zeitgeist. But we hold to these views anyway, because we believe the Bible’s teachings about marriage and human sexuality are clear.Transgender activists posit a distinction between the biological reality of sex and the subjective, internal feeling of gender identity. The biblical worldview, however, affirms the goodness of the material creation and the human body. In fact, the doctrines of creation, incarnation, and bodily resurrection provide strong theological affirmation of our physical bodies. Genesis 1:31 says that everything God created, including the human body, is “very good.” In other words, our bodies (including our maleness or femaleness) are essential, integral components of who we are.In a world disordered by the fall, the goodness of the body may be difficult for many to affirm, and the church should show grace to those who struggle with accepting their bodies. But Christians must also speak the truth in love and stand on our convictions, which biology and anatomy support.Christians cannot and should not compromise their Bible-informed beliefs about human sexuality. Why? Because we believe in the authority of God’s Word. And because we believe the Bible’s teachings are what is best for society and individual flourishing.The real reason theologically conservative Christians disapprove of the LGBT movement has nothing to do with wanting to deny people rights or oppressing a group of people. Our convictions come from our compassion for them and our concern about the consequences of certain chosen behaviors. Both the Old and New Testaments prohibit homosexual conduct, and since God created us “male and female” (Gen. 1:27), we have no right to recreate ourselves any more than the clay has the right to tell the potter what to do (Is. 45:9).As evidenced by the muted outcry to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday—even among many conservative groups—conservative Christians are increasingly on the periphery when it comes to our convictions on human sexuality. Christians, especially pastors, will continue to face mounting pressure to compromise—or at least downplay—the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. However, we cannot compromise our beliefs because we are committed to Scripture. While the Court’s decision is deeply discouraging, we do not give up. We know that we are advocating and fighting for timeless truths revealed to us in Scripture.So, let us continue to articulate a biblically robust, theologically informed perspective on how Christians think about the major issues facing our nation in order to promote the true flourishing of individuals and of society.
Turkish aggression has been reported in at least five countries in June 2020. Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made power moves in Israel, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Greece.And it is well known that whenever Turkey moves in, religious freedom moves out. Only Turkey’s Islamist practices are respected by Erdogan’s henchmen.Israel: The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) reported in June that “Turkey is working diligently to deepen its involvement and influence on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem, and in east Jerusalem neighborhoods.” In these locations, there is evidence that the activists involved are ideologically linked to the Muslim Brotherhood movement in east Jerusalem.Israelis know very well what the Muslim Brotherhood and its cohorts think about Jews and Judaism—on the Temple Mount and elsewhere. And it is worth noting that Erdogan is a loyal supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.Libya: On June 20, The Jerusalem Post reported that Egypt and Turkey might come to blows over Libya’s civil war. Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, along with others, back General Khalifa Haftar in the conflict. Turkey and Qatar back the Government of the National Accord (GNA), and Turkey has been aggressively involved, providing aircraft, militias and arms. Notably, GNA is also rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood movement.Iraq: Turkey has recently bombed Sinjar Mountain, where countless Yazidi refugees have taken shelter. On FRC’s Washington Watch broadcast, Michael Rubin, a scholar and expert on the Middle East, explained that Erdogan’s primary goal is his continued ethnic cleansing of Kurdish groups. Rubin went on to say that many Yazidis have returned to live on Sinjar Mountain, “…the refugees, the women, the girls who have been returning from Syria, liberated from ISIS. They’re trying to get their life together.”He went on: “And it’s not clear why the Turks are insisting on bombarding them… it raises questions about whether Turkey is waging counter-terrorism, and it’s clear they’re not—or whether they’re pursuing a religious agenda—an intolerant religious agenda.”The Jerusalem Post also reported on Monday, June 22, that Turkish attacks have also put Christian villages in jeopardy in the same area.Syria: The Washington Kurdish Institute reported, “During the first days of June 2020, around 20 different human rights organizations signed a¿petition¿to raise awareness on crimes carried on by the many Turkish-backed militias in Afrin, Syria and asked for international intervention….”It is well known and widely reported that Afrin’s religious minorities have been violently abused by the Turks and their militias. Thousands of Christians fled the invasion of Afrin; few remain. And today, Christian and other minority communities in the Rojava region, where many fled Afrin, are again living in fear because of ongoing Turkish threats, attacks on resources, and occasional shelling. Greece: Arab News reported on June 14, “In an escalating war of nerves between Athens and Ankara, bilateral relations have deteriorated, sparking fears of a military confrontation between the two NATO allies. Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos recently highlighted the country’s ‘readiness for military conflict with Turkey.’” Even rumors of an impending Turkish invasion of Greece have been reported, although unverified.As for Greece, a historic perspective reveals widespread Turkish killings of Greek and Assyrian Christians in the early 20th century, with more than a million dead. And even today, Greek Orthodox properties in Turkey are confiscated and desecrated. Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq—Syriac, Protestant, and Orthodox alike—who fled to Turkey from ISIS have been deprived of their ability to support themselves and dare not practice their faith. Kidnappings and murders have been reported.In its 2020 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religion Freedom recommended that the U.S. government “Include Turkey on the U.S. Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).”Erdogan’s reckless, ruthless intrusion into country after country is believed by some observers to reflect his vision of a glorious, Neo-Ottoman Empire. Other scholars are more inclined to view his motivation as strictly religious, demanding pan-Islamist conquest. Certainly the two intentions are not mutually exclusive.Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been exceedingly, even excessively tolerant of Erdogan’s widespread human rights abuses. Perhaps the time has come for reevaluation and restoration of an uncompromised U.S. policy toward Turkey. It needs to reflect indiscriminatory justice and equality—including uncompromising demands for religious freedom for all.
Today, a dangerous darkness—radical Islamism and its genocidal intentions—is sweeping across the African continent. And it is particularly lethal in Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation.In short, there is a bloodbath in Nigeria. And those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution are alarmed, because it seems increasingly clear that another genocide is already taking place. We know what happened in Rwanda. We saw what ISIS did in Iraq. And in recent decades, tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered. Yet their stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports, while virtually nothing is being done to stop the violence.Two factions of Islamist jihadis are primarily responsible for the carnage.One is the notorious terrorist group, Boko Haram—one faction of which has now aligned itself with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Today, Boko Haram continues to hold Leah Sharibu, an enslaved Christian teenager who has refused to deny her faith.On June 22, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) denounced recent attacks by the Boko Haram faction ISWAP against innocent civilians in northern Nigeria.“Recent ISWAP attacks on innocent civilians are reprehensible,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava. “Hundreds have died in recent weeks as ISWAP continues to inflict terror and target civilians based on their beliefs. We condemn this deplorable violence.”The report goes on to say, “Earlier this month, suspected ISWAP fighters killed 81 people when they attacked Foduma Kolomaiya village in northeast Nigeria. ISWAP then claimed responsibility for twin attacks that killed 20 soldiers and more than 40 civilians in Borno State on June 13.”Another brutal Nigerian faction is often identified by the innocent-sounding name, “Fulani Herdsmen.” Initially, their violence was attributed to attempts to confiscate grazing land for their animals. However, because of ever-increasing evidence of carnage, outrageous brutality, and shouts of allah hu akbar, the Fulanis’ jihadi intentions have been clearly exposed.Earlier this month, a report from Nigeria by the Christian Post was accompanied by a photo of a Nigerian Christian pastor who was gunned down, along with his wife, while working on their farm in the Taraba State of Nigeria. The couple left eight children orphaned, ages 1 to 19.Just days before, CNN reported, “Uwaila Vera Omozuwa was attacked as she studied in church, according to Nigerian police. The 22-year-old died on May 30, just days after the brutal assault inside the church of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, or RCCG, in Benin city… Omozuwa was a member of the choir who had studied privately at the church since lockdown measures due to the coronavirus pandemic were put in place in Nigeria in March.”Week after week such stories appear, primarily in Christian publications. Usually the killers are identified but not always. And unfortunately, no one really knows the precise numbers of Nigeria’s victims either, thanks to mass graves, torched villages, chaotic aftermaths, and disappearances. Still, the numbers we’ve seen are horrifying.To make matters even more disturbing, there is mounting evidence that the present government of Nigeria is somehow complicit in the Islamist groups’ assaults. While tens of thousands of Nigeria’s Christians have been killed in recent decades, countless more have been mercilessly raped, maimed, disfigured, and disabled. And the displaced are innumerable.In 2018, President Donald Trump raised this issue with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. “We’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria,” Trump told reporters, with Buhari seated next to him. “We’re going to be... working on that problem very, very hard because we can’t allow that to happen.”The remark seems to have fallen on deaf ears.However, religious freedom researchers and activists continue to pursue accurate fact-finding mechanisms, consistent documentation, and an official U.S. envoy to specifically address this travesty. More and more concerned voices—including USCIRF—are demanding accountability from Nigeria’s leadership and are seeking an effective response from the U.S. government.But meanwhile, as we watch and wait, we also need to fervently pray for spiritual intervention. Because the more time that passes, the deeper the darkness grows, and it threatens to decimate Nigeria’s Christian believers.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has rocked the legal world in a set of three cases consolidated under the name of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia by declaring that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.Gorsuch accepted the argument that the law’s prohibition of discrimination “because of . . . sex” demands this result, because “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex.”However, Justice Alito pointed out in dissent, “‘Sex,’ ‘sexual orientation,’ and ‘gender identity’ are different concepts.” When the Civil Rights Act was adopted, Alito said, “[I]t was as clear as clear could be” that discrimination because of sex “meant discrimination because of the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”Virtually all the critics of the Bostock decision have cited this problem—that Justice Gorsuch erred in his interpretation of the word “sex” in the Civil Rights Act (or of the entire phrase, “discriminate because of sex.”)I would go even further. I would argue that Justice Gorsuch fails to understand “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as well.Let’s look at the concluding, summary sentence of his opinion:An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.My question is not just, “What does ‘sex’ mean?” but, “What does ‘being gay or transgender’ mean?”The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. As I have been pointing out for years in my writings on human sexuality, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are unitary concepts. Both, depending on the context, may refer to a person’s feelings, a person’s behavior, a person’s self-identification, or some combination thereof.In the case of sexual orientation, a person may express romantic or sexual attractions toward persons of the same sex (feelings); a person may engage in sexual acts or sexual relationships with a person or persons of the same sex (behavior); or a person may either think or say publicly, “I’m gay” (self-identification).While many may assume that all three elements of sexual orientation go hand in hand, it’s abundantly clear from social science research that they are not always consistent with each other in one person. A person with same-sex attractions may choose not to engage in homosexual conduct and may not identify publicly as “gay.” Is it meaningful—or respectful—to insist that such a person really “is” gay? A person may both experience same-sex attractions and engage in homosexual conduct, but may still choose not to identify as “gay.” Or a person might experience same-sex attractions and self-identify as gay, but choose to remain sexually abstinent. It’s also well-known that in unique social contexts—such as prisons—some individuals may engage in homosexual conduct even though they are neither attracted to the same sex nor “gay”-identified.How many of the three elements must be present to say that someone “is” gay? All three? Two of the three?In Justice Gorsuch’s opinion, he seems to lean toward attractions (feelings) as the defining characteristic—he speaks of a man who is “attracted to men” being discriminated against “for being homosexual.” (LGBT activists do something similar when say, as shorthand, that people should not be discriminated against for “who they love.”) Ironically, however, the discrimination alleged by the two plaintiffs in the sexual orientation cases reportedly occurred when they publicly identified themselves as gay. Gerald Bostock did so implicitly by joining a gay softball league; and Donald Zarda doing so explicitly in a comment about his sexual orientation to a customer.Yet, as I have also often pointed out, when people (such as socially conservative Christians) express disapproval of homosexuality, it is virtually always homosexual behavior which is considered most problematic. “Discrimination” because of a person’s feelings alone would be hard to pull off, given that feelings are invisible. It is only when they are manifested overtly in sexual behavior—or in public self-identification which is taken as an indicator of sexual behavior—that “discrimination” is even possible. (I notice that Justice Gorsuch did not hypothesize about disparate treatment of a male employee and a female employee, “both of whom have sex with men.” Perhaps he would have considered it unseemly.)LGBT activists would argue that discrimination based on any of these grounds—homosexual attractions, behaviors, or self-identification—should be illegal. But remember, the case was about the meaning of discrimination “because of sex” in a 1964 law—not about what LGBT activists wish was the law.The fact that “sexual orientation” is defined by a shifting and uncertain mix of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification is one more proof that not only is it not the same characteristic as sex, it is not even the same type of characteristic as sex. “Sex” is not defined by feelings, behaviors, or self-identification. It is defined by biology—as Justice Alito said, by “the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”The Civil Rights Act simply does not apply.
In a lively debate on June 15, Elizabeth Bartholet and Kerry McDonald discussed homeschooling, parental rights, and the state’s responsibility in education. Bartholet serves as a professor at Harvard University, and McDonald is a homeschooling mother who also serves as an adjunct professor and has dedicated her life to protecting the rights of homeschooling families. Milton Gaither joined the discussion as a professor from Messiah College. Neal McCluskey, the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, moderated the debate, presenting the questions sent in and directing the overall conversation.The primary question posed in the debate was whether the state should intervene in the homes of homeschooling families to ensure that the rights of children are protected. While parents are usually the primary care givers of their children, who is ultimately responsible for a child’s education, the parents or the state? This is a fundamental question with far-reaching implications. How one answers it is ultimately determined by one’s convictions on the role of the state and family.As was revealed in the debate, Bartholet believes that parents should not be trusted with the final responsibility for educating their children. She is suspicious of parents, and believes children need to be exposed to ideas that compete with their parent’s worldview from an early age. However, in Ephesians 6:4, Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bartholet disagrees and says that the state should bring up children in the way they should go.In her opening statement, Bartholet argued, “Children should have rights that are equivalent to adults because children are not able to protect themselves like adults are.” Because of the cases of child abuse involving homeschooling families, she concludes that the state should have higher regulations imposed upon homeschoolers in order to prevent abuse or neglect of children. She proposed state home visits and “a balance” between state intervention and parental control when it comes to rearing children.Bartholet is concerned about three main issues: the academic, physical, and ideological wellbeing of all children. “My problem is not with homeschooling per se,” she said, “but with the lack of regulations on homeschooling.” Bartholet says that parents cannot be trusted to take good care of their children because they are not “certified,” and therefore, there needs to be state intervention in order to ensure that all children have a chance to make it in life.Academically, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students cannot meet the requirements set out by standardization in the school system. She claimed homeschoolers only do “pretty well” academically. McDonald responded by asking, “Whose standard? Where two out of three of public school students can’t read? The public schools’ standards?” Homeschooling families recognize that the standard for academic excellence in the public schools is not the standard they desire for their children. Homeschooling is “another form of private education,” says McDonald, “and parents ought to be allowed to escape the situation.”In terms of the physical wellbeing of children, McDonald responded to Bartholet’s concerns by calling attention to the fact that government schools are highly regulated and yet, “One in 10 students who attend public government schools will be sexually mistreated by a staff member by the time they graduate high school.” Nationally, McDonald explained, “That’s five million kids!” Moreover, she noted that at least half of all students grades four to 12 are bullied at least once a month. In other words, children who attend school are not necessarily more physically safe than homeschooled children.Unfortunately, there have been cases of allegedly abusive parents removing their children from the public school system and beginning to “homeschool” them in order to avoid further inquiry. The public schools are aware of these children, and yet child services do nothing. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “Legally homeschooled students are 40% less likely to die of child abuse or neglect than the average student nationally.”Finally, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students are ideologically isolated from the world and are not getting exposed to other ideas. She argued, “Children have a right to exposure to some other people and ideas about how one might live their life. So that when they become adults, they have some meaningful opportunity to choose something other than the views, the values, the culture that their own parents have chosen.” McDonald responded by noting, “You cannot mandate exposure to other positions.” Ironically, it is also noted in the debate that while Bartholet wants to regulate the exposure of homeschool students to other ideas, the public school system is not mandated to require exposure to specific religious ideologies.So, why do I care about this debate? Because I was homeschooled throughout grade school, and just last month, I graduated from university. Looking back on my education experience, I believe my parents advocated for me by personalizing my education, encouraging a love of learning, teaching critical thinking skills, and making me feel safe at home. Homeschooling gave me an opportunity to learn more than just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic and how to take the SAT. It provided me with opportunities to see the world and learn firsthand about other cultures and history. In other words, homeschooling prepared me for life. My parents were well-suited to advocate for me because they know and love me. The state is simply not capable of advocating for me in this way; they do not love or know me as my parents do. Child advocacy starts at home, and what better way than through homeschooling?Christian parents have a biblical responsibility to oversee their children’s education. While homeschooling may not be the right option for everyone, all parents have a role to play and must be actively involved. Moreover, Christian parents have a special responsibility to disciple their children in the faith. A child’s spiritual formation cannot be delegated to the church, a youth group, or a Christian school. Discipleship begins and ends in the home. While the church should complement the spiritual education that takes place in the home, it can never replace the role that parents play in cultivating their child’s walk with God. In fact, in the Old Testament, Jewish parents were charged specifically with the responsibility to teach God’s law to their children. In Deuteronomy 6:7, Moses said, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Teaching our children to walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord is an ongoing way of life that never ends. Thus, while homeschooling may not be for everyone, Christian parents must steward the time God has given them with their children well and do everything in their ability to raise children who love, follow, and obey God. Bartholet is right to be concerned about a child academically, physically, and ideologically. She is correct in saying that we should protect children from harmful situations, but she is misguided in suggesting that parents and the home are harmful to a child’s well-being. Christian parents have the opportunity, through homeschooling, to advocate for their children by teaching them academically from a biblical worldview, by playing with them and physically being present in their daily lives, and by helping them to foster a relationship and love for the Lord. Child advocacy starts at home, not necessarily because the state is incapable, but because of the God-given responsibility of parents to raise the next generation to love and fear Him.Molly Carman is a policy intern at Family Research Council.
In the weeks since George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25, our nation has experienced a national reckoning on issues related to race. From Minnesota to California to Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of Americans have rallied in solidarity with the victims of discrimination, demanding equal justice under the law. Many Christians see this crisis and believe in the necessity of elevating the simple yet profound theological truth that all people are made in God’s image and possess dignity and value.George Floyd’s on-camera death has prompted many conversations on race, policing, incarceration, and civil rights. Much of this is focused on the city street. However, our streets aren’t the only places Americans, especially minorities, remain vulnerable.Every day, women enter abortion facilities believing them to be their only hope for help and answers. Often, they have been told that giving birth to their babies will ruin their lives, or that any children they have will grow up to be criminals. As if this were not tragic enough, abortion providers specifically target and prey upon low-income, minority communities. Seventy-nine percent of abortion clinics in the United States are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods.The placement of these clinics in minority communities is not an accident. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated for eugenics, especially through the use of birth control. Sanger’s racist beliefs are well documented. For example, in a letter to Clarence Gamble, she once explained, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”Today, abortions of black babies make up 38 percent of all abortions, even though African Americans only make up 13 percent of the population. In 2016 alone, the lives of 137,510 black babies were ended under the “right to privacy” called abortion. Dr. La Verne Tolbert, former Planned Parenthood board member turned pro-life advocate, commented on this alarmingly high rate of black abortions: “Planned Parenthood targets minorities for abortion with the specific goal of keeping down (or lowering) the birthrate of Black babies…. Over twenty million African American babies have been aborted.”In Genesis 1:27, God set the precedent for human dignity with the words, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Each and every human is a unique individual made in the image of God. Our accomplishments do not increase or decrease the value of our lives. This inherent value is known as “human dignity.” Even those who do not normally accept a Judeo-Christian value system agree with the inherent dignity of humans. The evidence is found in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The phrase, “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” despite having no inherent reference to Scripture or Judeo-Christian values, clearly affirms the concept of human dignity. Human dignity drives the outrage at even one person’s death, especially an unjust death. As mentioned earlier, human dignity is a universal concept that applies to all people, regardless of circumstance. This applies equally to those we can see and those we cannot yet see. The unborn children of the world are humans too and therefore are inherently valuable. Yet, abortion providers would have you believe otherwise.Every day, young mothers—especially black and brown—are told that the babies they carry are not unique human beings full of unlimited potential, but “problems” that will destroy their dreams and burden society. But the truth is, what is inside any mother’s womb is not just a clump of cells, nor is it part of her body. It is another human just waiting for the opportunity to live in the world. Of course, all people will face trials and difficult circumstances, much like the trying times our nation faces today, but that is not all there is to life. There are so many thousands of blessings, large and small, that help us appreciate life, and when it comes down to it, we would not give them for the world. Things like a mother’s hug, a hot cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, the birth of a child, and so much more. Yet, hundreds of thousands of innocent babies will never get to experience these wonders every year. What is worse is that a disproportionately large number of those are black babies who will never get to make a difference and influence the culture for positive change.George Floyd’s death serves as a clarion call for justice—not only for those we can physically see but also for those we cannot yet see. Unlike a death on the street captured on video, abortion is hidden away and sterilized under mountains of lies, paperwork, and medical waste bins stashed in the back alleys of abortion facilities. We rightly mourn the emptiness left by George Floyd’s death, yet abortion is responsible for an immense vacuum left by the millions of black Americans who never even got their chance to be born. Can America ever be a truly just nation if we continue to throw away millions of lives simply because someone says they aren’t worth living? Dean Nelson is FRC’s Senior Fellow for African American Affairs and the Executive Director of Human Coalition Action.Quinn Roberts is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.
Though God has appointed unique purposes for each of his children, as Christians, we all share a common purpose, and that is to make disciples and make the gospel known to all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). When we make the life-altering decision to lay down our lives and follow Christ, we can expect hardship, we can expect persecution, and we can expect for the enemy to wage war against us to keep us from spreading the Good News.Sharing the gospel rarely makes the news. But one woman by the name of Gail Blair caught the media’s attention recently when she was banned from a public park in Rhode Island for two years for sharing the gospel with a passersby. Blair suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a medical condition that has made her blind. This has never stopped her from boldly sharing her faith, offering people a copy of the Gospel of John, or striking up conversations with people about Jesus. What did stop her, however, was a clear bias against Christians from exercising their First Amendment rights and freely practicing their faith.The reality is that we are fighting against principalities, power, and darkness (Ephesians 6:12). As the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just revised to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” it seems as though Christians with sincerely held biblical beliefs about sexuality will now face even more discrimination in public settings. In Blair’s case, local authorities told her that she was “trespassing” on public property. But it is clear that the only “crime” Blair is guilty of is witnessing to beliefs that are being suppressed under the pretext of “trespassing.”Not only was Blair’s right to freedom of speech violated, her freedom of religion was abridged as well. Blair, a former nurse, believes sharing the gospel is a way she can still care for people despite her physical impairment. When the Police Department dug deeper for evidence of violating guidelines expected by park goers, it was found that there was no reasonable cause for Blair to be banned by The Memorial and Library Association. Threatening to arrest her if she enters the park again is nothing less than a clear violation of her First Amendment rights.If anyone knows persecution, it is Jesus, who was mocked, beaten, stoned, and killed on a Roman cross. Of course, what we face as Christians today does not compare to the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion. However, as his image bearers and followers, we are called to follow him, even to the point of death if required (Matthew 16:24). In fact, Christians in closed countries around the world regularly face intimidation, threats, and physical persecution because of their faith. In the United States we are blessed with religious liberty, and we should never take this right for granted.However, it is also important to recognize that the religious freedom we have in this country is under assault. Christians should not sit idly by while the world attempts to strip us of these rights which help us carry out the Great Commission. We must put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), equip ourselves by reading and applying God’s Word to our lives, allow Scripture to be the cornerstone on which we live and breathe, and be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15). Just as God is our defender, we are also his defendants during our time on earth. He deserves all the glory and praise as our Creator for giving us mouths to speak, ears to listen, eyes to see, and hearts to connect.Blair is not backing down from her beliefs and her rights, and neither should we. Sharing the gospel can be a daunting, exhilarating, nerve-wracking experience. We are bound to face rejection, just like Blair. But it is through rejection, ridicule, and through looking different that we will grow and become more and more like Jesus. Our fear of man should weigh much less than our fear of the Lord. Easier said than done, yes. But, when we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, we can conquer great things in the Lord’s name.Is it upsetting that one of our own sisters in Christ has been banned from visiting her nearby public park for simply sharing the Good News? Absolutely. So, what is our defense? Jesus and prayer. We follow a God that is just, a God that sees all things on earth. We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Therefore, we should link arms with Blair in prayer for her and for this country. This world is in desperate need of our Savior. It is our responsibility to be the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), to reflect God’s heart by speaking his truth accompanied by love to those we encounter.As believers, we must stand united to defend our religious freedom and to share the heart-transforming gospel with people. Only through the power of God can we make a difference for his Kingdom. Equip yourselves with his word, step out of the boat in full faith (Matthew 14:22-23), invite a friend or coworker to church this weekend, and be a discipler.Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.
Like many other Christians around the world, I am realizing more and more that we are in strange and trying times, and it can be difficult to consider how to react to various situations. Whether it is the coronavirus, unrest about race relations, or recent Supreme Court decisions, there are so many issues that demand our attention and require us to think deeply about how Christians should respond.In every season of violence, disease, death, and civil unrest, one passage of Scripture remains particularly relevant. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” Throughout history, believers have faced the violence of war, the scourge of disease, and civil and political unrest. We are not the first and we will not be the last.In order to respond appropriately to the various situations we find ourselves in, we must seek wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge that is rightly applied to daily life. Wisdom is essential to honoring God with our lives and teaches us how to respond during the ever-changing times. The apostle Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians) gives us this encouragement: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” But how do we discern what is wise? How do we evaluate our lives to identify where wisdom is needed?Because wisdom is so essential to our daily lives and growth as Christians, there are several means by which we may grow in wisdom. First, God has given us His Word to teach us and guide us in the ways we should go. Second, we can ask the Father for wisdom directly through prayer. Third, we grow in wisdom by cultivating a humble spirit and learning to discern God’s voice.ScriptureWhen it comes to growing in wisdom, God’s Word is our greatest resource. Through it we learn about God’s character, attributes, and works. We also learn about ourselves, our sinful nature that separates us from a holy God, and how we can be reconciled to Him. In particular, the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that can help us order our lives. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” A primary way that we show a healthy fear of the Lord is by reading and applying His Word to our lives. This year, Family Research Council began a two-year Bible reading plan called Stand on the Word. This is an opportunity to be held accountable to being in the word daily. It is easy to think that we can read one verse of Scripture a day and be spiritually full; however, wisdom calls us to spend time in God’s Word through meditation and memorization. Reading Scripture takes time because learning wisdom takes time and cannot be rushed.PrayerGod in His grace desires to have a personal relationship with all His children, and He invites us into this relationship through prayer. Prayer is a personal conversation with God that all believers are called to. We are called to praise God with thanksgiving in our hearts (Psalm 109:30), to confess and repent of our sins (I John 1:9), and to go to God with our needs and desires (Matthew 21:22). As we spend more time in God’s Word, we will also grow in our prayer life. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given.” The prime example of this promise being fulfilled is in the life of King Solomon. Solomon prayed for wisdom and he was deemed the wisest man in his day (see I Kings 3).Listen and LearnWhile anyone can read the wisdom of the Bible, or pray to God for wisdom, the challenge comes in having a teachable spirit that not only seeks wisdom but applies it to their lives. Therefore, wisdom is applied knowledge. It can be easy to learn things, but we are called to listen carefully to God’s Word, be faithful in prayer, and courageously live out the knowledge that we have learned. In order to apply the work of wisdom in our lives, we must humble ourselves. This means being quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). When we are students of the Word and faithful servants in prayer, we are better prepared to apply God’s wisdom during the trials and opposition that we face.One practical way to actively grow in wisdom by incorporating all three of these principles is to join and become active in a local church. Unfortunately, many believers think they can grow spiritually by themselves; however, the Christian life is not meant to be walked alone. We need each other. The Apostle Paul teaches this throughout his writings, particularly in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Thus, we should seek to live in community with other believers who are also seeking to grow in wisdom.Therefore, when we are faced with the difficult decisions or situations before us—like COVID-19, protests, and a bitter election season—and we do not know what to say, what to choose, or how to act, we must seek wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Rather than spending our days worrying about all of the problems in the world that are beyond our control, let us seek Christ, who is wisdom incarnate, and allow Him to guide our steps. Molly Carman is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Washington Update: “Virginia Is for Snoopers”Governor Ralph Northam is urging people to file a complaint against anyone they see who isn't following social distance guidelines, the mask mandate, or overcrowding their establishments.2. Washington Update: “This Equality's All an Act”The Left is pushing for the passage of the Equality Act, saying their motivation is to end discrimination. We all want that, but not when "ending discrimination" means a drag queen in every library, a man in every girls' restroom, or an atheist teacher in every Christian school.3. Publication: "Leadership and Love: A Tale of Two Fathers"There has never been a greater need for godly men and fathers than the age in which we live. This resource provides an understanding of what children need from their fathers to become emotionally healthy and spiritually strong. 4. Blog: “Why Bostock Will Never Have the Final Word On Human Sexuality”Christians continue to face mounting pressure to compromise on the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. However, we cannot compromise our beliefs because we are committed to Scripture.5. Blog: “The Threat of Genocide Darkens the Future for Nigeria’s Christians”Today, a dangerous darkness—radical Islamism and its genocidal intentions—is sweeping across the African continent. And it is particularly lethal in Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation.6. Washington Watch: Walt Heyer says the truth about transgenderism is what drives platforms like YouTube to censor himWalt Heyer, public speaker, author, and publisher of SexChangeRegret.com and his blog, WaltHeyer.com, joined Tony Perkins to discuss YouTube censoring his story that shared his regrets about living a transgender life.7. Washington Watch: David Closson offers a biblical perspective on the purging of certain U.S. historical figuresDavid Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, joined Tony Perkins to discuss a biblical response to the radical movement to erase American history with the destruction of statues and renaming of important landmarks.For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on June 26 that the U.S. will impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials “responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms.” This is a good step for the people of Hong Kong desperately looking for a lifeline as they watch their freedoms get trampled by the Chinese government.Last year’s pro-democracy protests, which captured global attention, initially targeted a proposed extradition law that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China and subjected to its corrupt judicial system. Yet, this year’s threat to Hong Kong’s freedom is much worse. China’s National People’s Congress is expected to ratify a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong next week. Newly released details indicate the law will damage many of the freedoms Hong Kongers have long enjoyed, including religious freedom.According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, Hong Kong is meant to enjoy a high degree of autonomy for 50 years following the city’s return to China in 1997. With the new security law, Hong Kong’s autonomy—and the “one country, two systems” principle that has guided its government—is all but destroyed. The new law will allow Beijing to override Hong Kong law, establish a national security office in Hong Kong to investigate crimes, and enable Beijing to suppress protests or public opposition.China is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights and religious freedom. So, what does Beijing’s encroachment into the legal system in Hong Kong mean for its religious communities?Firstly, Christian pastors and clergy members who participated in Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protests may be punished for their participation. Christians and Christian leaders played a pivotal role in pro-democracy demonstrations last year. The hymn “Hallelujah to the Lord” became an anthem for protestors. Meanwhile, Chinese officials insinuated that demonstrators were terrorists.No dissent is tolerated in mainland China, and Hong Kong’s religious leaders who are vocal against Beijing may be extradited and tried under the new law. Christian NGOs are now expressing concern for outspoken religious leaders such as Cardinal Joseph Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who supported the pro-democracy movement.Secondly, the new law might pave the way for Hong Kong’s Christian leaders to be silenced. According to an outline of the law released by Chinese officials, the national security concerns Beijing claims the right to address include secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.China’s broad accusation of “subversion of state power” may sound familiar. At the end of 2019, well-known house church pastor Wang Yi, who led one of China’s largest unregistered churches, was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting to subvert state power.” Beijing uses this phrase, among others, as an excuse to lock away anyone who publicly objects to the government’s practices. Should Hong Kong’s pastors expect to be next?Thirdly, in addition to harming believers in Hong Kong, this new law is likely to have negative effects on faith in mainland China. Christianity is a legally recognized religion. However, Christian churches that register with the Chinese government are pressured to adapt their religious beliefs to Chinese Communist Party values, including socialism. To avoid government interference, many unregistered house churches operate outside of regulation but lack resources and pastoral training as they try to practice authentic Christianity. For a long time, house churches on the Chinese mainland have found support from Hong Kong’s Christians.Churches and pastors in Hong Kong provide Bibles, training, and financial support to house churches on the mainland. One study from 2014 found that over 60 percent of Hong Kong’s churches “engage in work on the mainland, illicit or otherwise, including preaching and theological training.” If Hong Kong Christians are subjected to the same so-called “national security” laws that put Pastor Wang Yi in prison for subversion of state power, this may cut off the support and resources Hong Kong pastors feel they can safely offer. For the mainland’s increasingly oppressed churches, support from Hong Kong is a lifeline they can’t afford to lose.On June 25, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution introduced by Senator Josh Hawley which condemned Beijing’s national security law and called on free countries to stand against Beijing’s effort to destroy basic liberties and human rights in Hong Kong. The Senate also passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act which would impose sanctions on individuals, entities, and banks that aid Beijing’s campaign to control Hong Kong and destroy its autonomy. The U.S. House of Representatives should follow suit and swiftly pass the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and send it to the president’s desk.When the National People's Congress announced its proposed national security law, Beijing broke its agreement to allow Hong Kong autonomy. For Hong Kong residents who cherish their political and religious freedom, the effects will be widespread and devastating. As they fear for their future, U.S. officials must do everything within their power to support the people of Hong Kong. This city has long been a beacon of freedom and prosperity in contrast with Chinese authoritarianism. Chinese encroachment into Hong Kong is a tragedy for the free world, and it is one that the United States must not watch unfold silently.
The effort to make the District of Columbia a state is in the news again. D.C. statehood is often cited as a solution to residents’ “taxation without [congressional] representation” problem. But is D.C. statehood constitutional? Here are some things you should know about our capital city and the current campaign for D.C. statehood.1. The seat of government of the United States cannot be part of a state.The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the seat of the federal government (the “District”) to be contained within a state. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 states that the District was to be comprised of ceded land. This means the state(s) providing the land for the creation of the District gave up all claims of ownership and authority over said land. Soon after the ratification of the Constitution, Maryland and Virginia each ceded land that would comprise the District. (Although the land ceded by Virginia was later ceded back.)2. Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District.Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the District. This means Congress has the authority to govern the District’s laws, including its budget. Without this authority, the federal government could be endangered or rendered ineffective in its duty of serving the entire nation.In Federalist Paper No. 43, James Madison declared Congress’ complete authority at the seat of government an “indispensable necessity.” He and his fellow constitutional theorists knew from personal experience the dangers of the federal government being in any way dependent on a single state. At the time of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Congress was situated in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). When a mob surrounded the State House and demanded payment for the military service they had rendered during the American War for Independence, the Pennsylvania state government refused Congress’ requests for protection. This led to Congress fleeing Philadelphia and eventually choosing a locale for the national capital that would not be contained within a state or surrounded by one state.3. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in Congress.Because the District is not a state, nor a part of a state, it does not have voting members of Congress; it only has non-voting delegates. This means the District’s approximately 500,000 registered voters do not have voting representation in Congress. This has generated many policy proposals that seek to create voting representation. D.C. statehood is one of these proposals.4. H.R. 51 would dramatically reduce the size of the District.The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) currently being debated is one measure designed to try to make D.C. a state. It would carve out a smaller federal District, consisting of and limited to the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, and federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall. By dramatically reducing the size of the District in this way, H.R. 51 seeks to circumnavigate the need for a constitutional amendment by only admitting part of D.C. as a state, leaving behind a District that would theoretically still be independent of a state.However, shrinking the federal District in this way would render congressional authority over the seat of government (in the truest sense) impossible. In such a scenario, the tiny federal District would be entirely surrounded by a “state of D.C.,” and Congress would not even have authority over the streets, necessary public services, and other elements on which it is dependent. The Constitution gives Congress authority to govern the federal District’s laws, including its budget. If the majority of Washington, D.C. were to become a state, it would no longer be subject to this congressional authority. The federal government and foreign embassies would be directly affected by the new state’s budgetary decisions and dependent upon the state for public services. The state of D.C. could grow inordinately powerful and might impose an “awe or influence” over the federal government that Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 43, called “equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”5. A constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.Even with H.R. 51’s reinterpretation of “seat of government,” a constitutional amendment would still be necessary before admitting D.C. as a state. The 23rd Amendment (which grants the District electoral college votes) would need to be repealed—or it would simply be rendered nonsensical (if D.C. were to become a state and the federal District reduced in size, the District’s only residents, the first family, would be the only individuals represented through all three electoral college votes).6. D.C. statehood would have legislative implications for the entire country.Knowing what we know from past budgets and laws proposed by the D.C. City Council, a “state of D.C.” would almost certainly support policies that undermine the sanctity of human life and are detrimental to the American family. A state of D.C. would most likely contribute two more votes for such policies in the U.S. Senate (as well as a yet undetermined number of votes in the House), directly impacting millions of Americans nationwide.7. Statehood isn’t the only possible solution for D.C. voting rights.Proponents of D.C. statehood like to claim that statehood’s opponents are opposed to D.C. residents’ voting rights. But this is simply not the case. By supporting H.R. 51, House leadership is rejecting other possible paths to securing congressional voting representation for D.C.—ones that would honor the Founders’ intent to keep the federal seat of government non-dependent on a single state. Instead, the backers of H.R. 51 favor a statehood campaign that threatens the federal government’s indispensable authority over its seat of governance while benefitting their own progressive political ends. H.R. 51 is not a solution the Constitution permits.
After weeks of significant societal upheaval, there is finally some good news out of Washington D.C. On June 26, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it had resolved a complaint against Tennessee after the state updated its medical triage plans to ensure that the elderly and disabled are not discriminated against in the event of scarcity or high demand for medical resources.This is OCR’s fourth resolution with a state regarding disability discrimination since their March 28 bulletin reminding states of their responsibility to abide by civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in the provision of health care services during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OCR resolved similar cases with Alabama, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.Commenting on the resolution, Roger Severino, OCR’s Director, said, “We commend Tennessee for updating its policies to ensure that hospitals do not deny life-saving care during a crisis based on stereotypes about disabilities or other impermissible factors. Our civil rights laws reflect the principle that we are all created with equal dignity and worth.”Prior to this decision, concerns were raised about Tennessee’s emergency health care guidance, specifically that those with advanced neuromuscular disease, metastatic cancer, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and other disabilities could be excluded from use of a ventilator in times of scarcity. The HHS determined this was in violation of numerous health laws, including Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.The June 26 resolution between HHS and Tennessee should be applauded for its recognition of the human dignity of the elderly and disabled. All Americans, but especially Christians, should be grateful for this announcement because it affirms one of the most basic tenets of the biblical worldview which is that all people are made in God’s image and possess inherent value and dignity. Laws or health care plans that allocate resources based on a perceived quality of life devalue one’s fundamental right to life and ought to be rejected.This bold action by the Office for Civil Rights continues a pattern of respecting and protecting life by the Trump administration. Since his inauguration, President Trump and his administration has consistently defended human rights at home and abroad. This is especially seen in the administration’s defense of the rights of the unborn. For example, The Office of Civil Rights at HHS alone has already enforced conscience protection laws in California to ensure that health care plans are not required to provide abortion coverage, and in Vermont to protect the conscience rights of a nurse who was forced to participate in performing abortions. In 2019, the administration ensured that Title X family planning funds do not include abortion providers. Then in 2020 President Trump spoke at the March for Life rally, becoming the first sitting president to ever do so.The decision on June 26 by HHS is the latest example of the administration’s commitment to protecting all Americans, regardless of age, disability, or other subjective factors. All Americans should be grateful for this resolution, and hope it sends a clear message to the other states that when it comes to human dignity, cutting corners is not an option.David Closson is FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview.Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.
The disappointing decision in June Medical v. Russo dominated the airwaves yesterday. However, there was a win for human dignity in another Supreme Court case. In Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., the Court held that the Leadership Act’s Policy Requirement—which requires organizations receiving federal funds to combat HIV/AIDS to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking—is constitutional as applied to domestic organizations’ foreign affiliates. We applaud the Court’s decision. The Leadership Act’s Policy Requirement is a common-sense measure that promotes the human dignity of all people and especially women, who are most frequently the victims of prostitution and sex trafficking.In 2003, congressional findings indicated that HIV/AIDS had “assumed pandemic proportions.” Data showed that, since the 1980s, the disease had killed more than 25 million people, infected an additional 40 million people, and orphaned an estimated 14 million children worldwide. In response, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (the Leadership Act) “outlined a comprehensive strategy to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS around the world.” As part of this strategy, the Act prescribed efforts “to address the social and behavioral causes of the problem” and authorized the president to allocate funds to organizations that combat HIV/AIDS overseas. With a few exceptions, only organizations that adopted “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking” were eligible to receive funds.In 2005, a group of United States-based organizations challenged the Policy Requirement. They argued that “adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may alienate certain host governments, and may diminish the effectiveness of some of their programs by making it more difficult to work with prostitutes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Some organizations on the left, joined by some libertarians, advocate for the legalization of prostitution (which they call “sex work”), ostensibly to allow government regulation of health and safety. They argue that a distinction can be made between “sex work” and “sex trafficking” and believe that legalization would help to empower “sex workers.” Prostitution is inherently degrading to women, and there is no evidence that its legalization makes this practice less exploitative. When it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS, discouraging a “profession” that inherently involves the high-risk behavior of sexual relations with multiple partners should be part of our national strategy. Congress held this view, and insisted that U.S. aid recipients overseas do the same.In 2013, the Supreme Court held that the Policy Requirement was unconstitutional as applied to American organizations operating overseas because it compelled these organizations to adopt the government’s stance on prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving the funds.In 2015, the organizations renewed their challenge to the Policy Requirement. They opposed the government’s continued application of the Policy Requirement to their “closely aligned” foreign affiliates, organizations that shared the same “name, logo, brand, and mission” but were legally separate entities incorporated under the laws of other nations. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Policy.In its decision yesterday, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Second Circuit. Writing for the majority, Justice Kavanaugh noted that long-standing principles of American law compel the conclusion that “[a]s foreign organizations operating abroad, plaintiff’s foreign affiliates possess no rights under the First Amendment.” President Trump’s other appointee, Justice Gorsuch, also joined the majority. The Court was unpersuaded by the organizations’ argument that the speech of their foreign affiliates would be misattributed to them because the organizations were not compelled by the government to affiliate with these foreign organizations or to espouse their message. Any misattribution would be a result of their own actions, not those of the government.The Court’s decision has important implications for human dignity. The Bible teaches that both men and women are created in the image of God and that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” This means all people possess inherent dignity, worth, and value. By objectifying women, the sex trafficking industry fails to acknowledge the human dignity of women. Congress itself recognized this, stating that “[p]rostitution and other sexual victimization are degrading to women and children and it should be the policy of the United States to eradicate such practices.” The Court’s decision yesterday should be celebrated because requiring organizations to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking promotes the dignity of all people around the world. Katherine Beck Johnson is Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.Kaitlyn Shepherd is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.
“Who am I to judge?” For many years, this has been the common response from well-meaning Christians in the Gen Z generation when it comes to conversations regarding the moral status of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This response should not be surprising, as it comes from those who were raised in a pluralist society heavily influenced by postmodernism and secularism.While members of the Baby Boomer generation are generally surprised by aspects of the LGBT movement, the majority of Americans in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are quite comfortable with the moral changes happening in the country. This is in large part due to the timing of the movement. By the time those of us in the Gen Z generation were graduating high school, significant changes in law and policy had already been enacted. For example,“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been repealed, many states had already legalized same-sex partnerships/marriages, and the Senate had voted to allow those who identify as homosexual to serve openly in the military. Furthermore, Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, was decided when many of us were just beginning to pay attention to the political and public policy debates happening in our country.In light of the overwhelming support among the younger generation for same-sex marriage, how should younger Christians respond? How should we engage on this sensitive moral issue that we believe the Bible speaks clearly to? These are important questions that younger Christians committed to the authority of God’s Word must consider and speak clearly to. What follows are my thoughts on how Christians in the Gen Z generation can provide a thoughtful yet faithful response.First, it is important to realize that many supporters of the LGBT movement are not strangers to the church. In fact, many of them sat under biblical preaching for years. One could then raise the question: why would faithful churchgoers readily neglect the truths of the Bible? While each situation is unique, allow me to suggest two reasons.First, they may have watched media coverage of a number of spiritual leaders march with hateful signs or yell hateful things at those who identify as LGBT. Those few spiritual leaders who take such action twist Scripture to their own liking. Thinking they are advocating for morality, these spiritual leaders are actually failing to act with love toward those who identify as LGBT. This failure can lead to the hearts of many LGBT supporters to degrade into resentment, creating a separation between themselves and the church.On the other side of the spectrum, the second reason faithful churchgoers are now readily neglecting the truths of the Bible is that some spiritual leaders have taken a “love everyone” approach. This approach is radically different from the “fire and brimstone” style but has the same damaging affect. The blanket statement of “love everyone” neglects the justice and truth that Jesus taught. It instead teaches the young member that their only role is to “love” their friends who identify as LGBT. The young member then concludes that they can love without the guidance of the church, and their place in the pew eventually sits empty. What then should the church do to retain these members and speak the whole message of the gospel?The most compelling example of combining love and justice is found in John 8. For those unfamiliar with this story, this passage tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders of the day bring her before Jesus and proudly proclaim, “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Those who preach a fire and brimstone message would applaud this dedication to the law. The religious leaders then ask Jesus his opinion on what should be done with the woman. Obeying the Proverb to be slow to answer, Jesus eventually replies, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”If the story ended here, spiritual leaders who preach a “love everyone” message would be ecstatic. But the story doesn’t end here. As the religious leaders slowly walk away, Jesus asks her if there is anyone left to condemn her. No one is left. In a brilliant moment of combining the truth of God and the grace he offers, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” That is the approach spiritual leaders should take. God is both just and merciful, and both must be preached. A sermon that follows this guideline condemns homosexuality for what it is, which is a distortion of the good gift of sexuality. This same sermon, however, should encourage a peaceful and loving attitude towards those in the LGBT movement.To Christians who are tempted to sacrifice morality on the altar of supporting the LGBT movement, take a moment and reevaluate what love actually is. Though our culture has tried to combine the two, love and lust are radically different. One is selfless and live-giving while the other is selfish and destructive. Truly loving someone means instructing them in the way of truth. Jesus prevented the woman in John 8 from being stoned, but also instructed her to leave her life of sin. That is love. Love is not changing your social media profile picture to a rainbow flag, or marching during “Pride Month.” Examine the love that Jesus expressed, and do the same.Pride Month forces Christians to examine themselves. Are we actually preaching the gospel, which combines truth and love? Ask yourself: Am I reaching out to those who struggle with homosexuality and loving them as Jesus does? How will I advocate for legislation that defends natural marriage and the family? We must answer these questions. We must act. Love requires that of us. Christians have no excuse to passively sit back and say, “Who am I to judge?”Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo, the first major abortion case the Court has taken up since President Trump appointed Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The Court’s ruling struck down Louisiana’s law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. While Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were both in the dissent, Justice Roberts proved to be the disappointing fifth vote that struck down the common-sense law.Louisiana’s admitting privileges law was in the best interest of women. If something were to go awry during an abortion, the abortionist would be able to get the woman admitted to the hospital and explain to her doctors precisely what had occurred. If the abortionist does not have admitting privileges, the woman might be forced to call an ambulance and explain what had happened herself—a heavy burden to place on the woman, and quite impossible if she is unconscious. Requiring admitting privileges is a common-sense regulation that applies to every other outpatient surgical center in Louisiana. Nevertheless, liberal justices and Justice Roberts were unwilling to uphold the requirement when applied to abortion clinics.In a previously decided case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Texas’s admitting privileges law and a few other abortion regulations had been at issue. The Court held that Texas’ law created an undue burden. Justice Kennedy provided the decisive fifth vote that struck down the pro-life and pro-woman law. Justice Roberts dissented. Whole Woman’s was a poorly decided case that needed to be overturned. The Court had the chance to overturn it in June Medical with Justice Kennedy off the Court and two new Republican-appointed justices. Instead, once again, the Court struck down a law aimed at saving unborn lives and protecting women’s health. Justice Roberts dissented in Whole Woman’s, yet he voted with the liberal justices in June Medical to strike down Louisiana’s admitting privileges law. Interestingly, in his concurrence, Justice Roberts said that he still agrees that Whole Woman’s Health was wrongly decided, yet said he is bound by stare decisis to uphold the law. Stare decisis is a legal principle that means you decide a case bound by precedent, regardless of whether the precedent is correct. Roberts claims that “for precedent to mean anything, the doctrine must give way only to a rationale that goes beyond whether the case was decided correctly.” Yet, Roberts has not felt bound by stare decisis in plenty of his other opinions, including Citizens United v. FEC. When it comes to abortion, however, Justice Roberts suddenly feels his hands are tied. Regardless, if a legal precedent is wrong, he and the Supreme Court should do the right thing and overturn it. With women and children’s lives on the line, Justice Roberts chose to adhere to a precedent he acknowledges is wrong.Justice Roberts’ adherence to stare decisis is problematic for the future of abortion law at the Supreme Court. If Justice Roberts thought adhering to a five-year-old precedent of knocking down hospital admitting privileges is so embedded in our country’s jurisprudence to deserve stare decisis, he almost certainly views Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood as deserving of stare decisis, even if he disagrees with the opinions. This indicates that while judicial nominees are extremely important, they can be unreliable. It is no longer enough for the pro-life movement to depend on Republican-appointed justices and hope they will do the right thing on abortion.Women and children lost at the Supreme Court on Monday. The abortion industry won. Once again, abortionists proved that rules don’t apply to them; they are exempt from laws. Despite this disappointing loss, the pro-life movement should not lose hope or remain discouraged. The fight for civil rights will continue—with or without Justice Roberts on our side.
In a recent blog post, I noted that virtually all critics of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County identified his misinterpretation of the word “sex.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination “because of sex,” and Justice Gorsuch interpreted “sex” to incorporate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as well.I went further and noted that not only is “sexual orientation” not the same as “sex” or merely a part of it, but it is a different type of personal characteristic. Sex is an objective characteristic determined by biology, while “sexual orientation” is a somewhat vague concept that includes a fluid combination of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification.The same can be said of “gender identity”—it, too, involves a mix of feelings (“gender incongruity” or “gender dysphoria”), behaviors (“gender expression” in the form of clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc.), and self-identification (being “transgender,” “non-binary,” or “gender fluid,” for example).However, the “gender identity” portion of Justice Gorsuch’s decision is even more muddled, and has even more radical implications, than the sexual orientation portion.Bathrooms, Locker Rooms, and Dress CodesFor example, Justice Gorsuch dismisses concerns about “sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes,” saying those were not at issue in the Bostock case. Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent, however, declares, “The Court’s brusque refusal to consider the consequences of its reasoning is irresponsible.”Although the majority opinion is 33 pages long, the heart of its reasoning is found in this simple hypothetical:Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague. Put differently, the employer intentionally singles out an employee to fire based in part on the employee’s sex, and the affected employee’s sex is a . . . cause of his discharge.(The flaw in this, as Alito and others point out, is that the fired employee in this hypothetical situation differs from the retained employee not in only one characteristic, but in two—both his sex and his sexual orientation are different.)But let’s look at how the exact same analogy would apply to showers and locker rooms—perhaps made available as part of a fitness center provided by a company as a fringe benefit to its employees. Here is Gorsuch’s logic (with only the italicized portion changed from his opinion):Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom seek to use a locker room and showers in which the employee may see female employees in the nude and may appear nude in front of female employees. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he looks at female employees nude in the locker room and shower and exposes his own nude body to female employees, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague. Put differently, the employer intentionally singles out an employee to fire based in part on the employee’s sex, and the affected employee’s sex is a . . . cause of his discharge.This is not some generalized slippery slope argument—this is the precise (indeed, irresistible) logic of Gorsuch’s opinion.But note something important: this outcome is not dependent on the employee’s “gender identity.” Under the Gorsuch logic, any male employee has the right to observe his female colleagues nude, and to expose his own nude body to them, in the locker room or shower. To limit this privilege only to males who identify as female would be, ironically, to “discriminate” on the basis of “gender identity.”Lying About SexWhile this is the inescapable logic of Gorsuch’s opinion, he shies away from it in his actual discussion of “gender identity.” Here is the hypothetical he presents with respect to that issue:Or take an employer who fires a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth but who now identifies as a female. If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth. Again, the individual employee’s sex plays an unmistakable and impermissible role in the discharge decision.His previous hypothetical involving sexual orientation was (somewhat) more straightforward—because a “man” (a “male employee”) is treated differently from (what Gorsuch considers to be) a similarly situated “woman” (a “female colleague”), there is (Gorsuch argues) discrimination “because of sex.”But in the gender identity hypothetical, there is no “man” or “woman,” no “male” or “female” employee at all—only a person “identified as male at birth” and one “identified as female at birth,” each of whom “now identifies as female.”Earlier in the opinion, Justice Gorsuch had said that “we proceed on the assumption that [the word] “sex” [in 1964] signified . . . biological distinctions between male and female.” To be consistent with that “assumption,” the first employee in the hypothetical should have been described as “a transgender person who is male but who now identifies as a female.” That language, however, would have been offensive to transgender activists, who insist that self-identification defines what a person really “is.”If Justice Gorsuch had been consistent (and honest)—referring to “a transgender person who is male but who now identifies as a female”—it would have cast the “discrimination” at issue in a different light. When an employer (such as Harris Funeral Homes, in this case) parts ways with an employee such as Anthony Stephens (because he wanted to identify as female and be known as “Aimee”), it is not because of the employee’s sex, but because the employee is lying about his sex.#SexNotGenderJustice Gorsuch scrupulously avoided any mention of the LGBT movement and its philosophical assumptions in his opinion, insisting that he was merely applying literally the language of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, the inconsistency of his two hypotheticals shows that it is impossible to discuss “gender identity” without addressing fundamental concepts of what is true and what is real.Outside the Supreme Court on the day of oral arguments, supporters of Harris Funeral Homes in the gender identity case (which included radical feminists from the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF) carried signs with the hashtag “#SexNotGender.” This carried two layers of meaning. The most basic relates to the court’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act—discrimination because of “sex” refers to biological sex, and it does not extend to “gender” (identity). At a more philosophical level, “Sex Not Gender” implies support for the view that the objective, physical reality of one’s biological sex is a more reliable indicator of whether one is “male” or “female” than the subjective, psychological construct of “gender identity.”Which is more important—“sex” or “gender identity?” This is a genuine debate, and Americans have a right to hold and argue for whichever opinion they believe in. The problem is, it is impossible to be neutral on this point—anyone who uses the categories of “male” or “female” at all must make a choice how to define them. The Bostock opinion chooses “gender identity,” and forces that choice on private employers, even though Congress plainly did not do so.The Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for an employer to discriminate “because of sex.” The Bostock decision goes much further—essentially making it unlawful for an employer to act on the belief that “sex” is real. A law that was intended to protect the male and female sex is being interpreted to abolish (biological) sex altogether.

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