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According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). They are counter to and often inhibited by the vices of envy, vainglory (pride), sloth, avarice (greed), anger (wrath), gluttony, and lust.Virtues and vices are not personality traits; instead, they are the result of our habits. These habits transform us from the inside out, one decision and action at a time. Thankfully, habits can be changed, but they are not changed through passivity. Change requires a willingness that is intentional, tenacious, and consistent. By familiarizing ourselves with the seven virtues—and their opposing vices—we can develop new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.The first virtue we will consider in this seven-part series is kindness.Put simply, kindness is the disposition of being considerate, service-minded, and concerned for others’ well-being, without desiring or expecting anything in return. This virtue is discussed and commended throughout Scripture. Paul talks about kindness in almost all of his letters to the early church. He commands them, “Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). In addition, Paul says that we should, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).In the 2015 film adaptation of Cinderella, Cinderella’s mother charges her daughter to “Have courage and be kind.” This simple piece of advice is very insightful. Kindness requires courage because it goes against the current of a self-centered world. And the best examples of courage require kindness because they involve being considerate and aware of the needs of others.Cultivating the virtue of kindness is challenging precisely because it immediately confronts our human desire to be seen and noticed. Our culture is a conditional one—we give so that we can take. But kindness requires us to give with no expectation of getting anything in return. It requires denial of self for the benefit and building up of others.Kindness is often inhibited by the vice of envy. In her book Glittering Vices, Rebecca DeYoung makes the distinction between covetousness (jealousy) and envy, noting:The covetous person delights in acquiring the thing itself, while the envier delights in the way redistribution of goods affects her and her rival’s respective positions. Thus, it gives the envier satisfaction to see her rival’s good taken away, even if she herself does not acquire it as a result.Envy is a result of the habit of not loving one’s neighbor. To love is to will the good of another, but to envy is to delight in another’s demise. Proverbs 14:30 warns, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” Envy destroys one’s own soul.In today’s society, envy is encouraged through the proliferation of social media and a culture of comparison. As we become more self-centered and desire recognition and praise, we begin to idolize our success at the expense of another individual or group’s failure. Kindness refutes these impulses by pursuing peace and healing with one’s neighbor. Moreover, kindness recognizes that retribution will not heal or satisfy any past pain, but by serving and considering one another, we will restore unity.The first step to cultivating the virtue of kindness and overcoming the vice of envy is, as W. H. Auden wrote in his poem Many Happy Returns, to “love without desiring all that you are not.” Scripture consistently praises the virtue of kindness. When we implement habits into our lives that encourage this virtue, we will be transformed more into the image of Christ.
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Update: CDC: Why Mask? Don’t AskNew CDC guidance is directing vaccinated persons to wear masks indoors and is urging everyone in K-12 schools to wear masks in the fall. The guidance reversed the rules the CDC issued earlier this year, which recognized that people vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks because they are immune, at least to its most harmful effects. So why are they being asked to wear masks?2. Update: CRT Shape-shifting in EducationConservatives are trying to keep parents from falling for the White House’s line that it’s backing away from critical race theory in the classroom. That’s the impression Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was going for when he said that the department made an “error” promoting a radical group’s CRT theories. Some people cheered, thinking the White House had finally seen the light. Don’t buy it.3. Blog: What Christians Need to Know About the Case that Could Overturn Roe and CaseyMost Americans are familiar with Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Many Americans, however, have not yet heard of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, an upcoming Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe and likely return jurisdiction over abortion legislation to the states.4. Blog: How Should Christians Think About “Wokeness”?Since its beginnings in the first century, the church has faced varied resistance from the surrounding culture and challenges to the gospel. Recently, a new challenge has emerged: “wokeness.” On the surface, wokeness might sound good. But, it embraces theories and ideologies inconsistent with, or even hostile to, the Bible. And many well-intentioned Christians are adopting this ideology.5. Washington Watch: Chip Roy, Matthew Spalding, Bob Gibson, Meg KilgannonTony was joined by Chip Roy, U.S. Representative for Texas, who called out Dr. Fauci for spreading misinformation. Matthew Spalding, associate vice president and dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government for Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C., talked about new advancements in history education, including Hillsdale College’s new 1776 curriculum. Bob Gibson, Russell County School Board member, shared his school board unanimously rejected Virginia’s transgender school policy. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s senior fellow for education studies, discussed the possible return of mask mandates in schools.6. Washington Watch: Roger Marshall, Kristina Wong, August Pfluger, Mark GreenTony was joined by Roger Marshall, U.S. Senator for Kansas, who shared why it would be disastrous to close down the economy or impose vaccine and mask mandates. Kristina Wong, reporter for Breitbart News, detailed what happened during the first hearing of the January 6th House Select Committee. August Pfluger, U.S. Representative for Texas, questioned why President Biden is rejecting Cuban refugees while leaving the southern border wide open. And, Mark Green, U.S. Representative for Tennessee, critiqued the National Defense Authorization Act provision that forces women to register for the draft.7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Saving HydeOn this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rep. Lisa McClain, Rep. Andy Harris, Chuck Donovan, and Ryan Bomberger to pray for the Hyde Amendment to be saved—and for the bloodshed that’s robbed this nation of millions of innocent lives to end.
On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.Most Americans are familiar with Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Many Americans, however, have not yet heard of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, an upcoming Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe and likely return jurisdiction over abortion legislation to the states.What should Americans, and especially Christians, know about Dobbs? Is it possible that Roe v. Wade could be overturned? These and other questions are important to consider as the Supreme Court prepares to reconsider its abortion jurisprudence.ContextSince the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, there have been an estimated 62 million abortions in the United States. The Roe decision created abortion rights on the basis of a supposed right to privacy provided by the Fourteenth Amendment. Under Roe, the Court initially established a trimester system and prevented states from restricting abortion in the first trimester. An accompanying case, Doe v. Bolton, made it almost impossible to restrict abortion in the later trimesters as well.In 1992, the Supreme Court revisited Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It replaced the trimester system with the standard that states cannot impose an “undue burden” on pre-viability abortion. Although infants were once thought to reach viability at 28 weeks, modern medicine has determined that children can survive outside of the womb beginning around 22 weeks, thus moving the point of viability to earlier in gestation than it had been understood to be at the time of Roe.Mississippi’s LawIn 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act (known as HB 1510), which prohibits elective abortions post-15 weeks gestation. The law points out that America is out-of-step with international norms regarding abortion:The United States is one (1) of only seven (7) nations in the world that permits nontherapeutic or elective abortion-on-demand after the twentieth week of gestation. In fact, fully seventy-five percent (75%) of all nations do not permit abortion after twelve (12) weeks’ gestation, except (in most instances) to save the life and to preserve the physical health of the mother.On the same day that the Gestational Age Act was signed into law, Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis filed suit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion facility in Mississippi.A district court evaluated the Gestational Age Act and declared it to be unconstitutional on the basis that the point of a baby’s viability outside the womb was the earliest point at which the state could implement a legislative ban to protect fetal life. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, Mississippi appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.Mississippi’s law directly challenges the abortion jurisprudence of Roe and Casey, and its brief in the case calls upon the Court to overturn these two decisions, stating, “…[N]othing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”If Roe and Casey were overturned, the question of abortion’s legality would likely fall to the states. Twenty-one states currently have laws that would immediately come into effect and restrict abortion in some manner if Roe and Casey were overturned. Ten of those states have “trigger laws” that would immediately ban all or nearly all abortions.Christian ReflectionsThe Bible teaches that all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). It also affirms the personhood of the unborn. Consequently, abortion is morally incompatible with these truths.Probably the most well-known articulation of the Bible’s affirmation of the unborn is found in Psalm 139, where David refers to his unborn self as being fully individual, not an impersonal fetus with no moral value:For you [God] formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Ps. 139:13-16)The prophet Jeremiah provides a high view of human life in the womb:Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:4-5)Notably, the prophet is “consecrated” and “appointed” to his vocation while in utero. God explains to Jeremiah that He “formed” and “knew” him prior to this birth. The passage reveals that God had a personal relationship with the unborn prophet, similar to how He relates to him as an adult.Other pro-life passages include Isaiah 49:1b, Luke 1:39-45, Psalm 51:5-6, Job 3:3, Judges 13:3-5, and Genesis 25:22-23.Christians should care about the Dobbs case because it poses a serious legal challenge to a deadly practice that is incompatible with Christian ethics—abortion. We urge you to follow activity related to the Dobbs case and join us in praying that the U.S. Supreme Court would act to defend life.For a more in-depth survey of what the Bible has to say about abortion and the personhood of the unborn, we invite you to read FRC’s helpful resource Biblical Principles for Pro-Life Engagement. For more information on what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned, we invite you to read our explainer on this consequential case.
Imagine a world where basic historical facts are contested daily, individuals who challenge the status quo are erased or “canceled” from society, and challenging viewpoints are crimes punishable by death. In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Winston Smith’s world of Oceania is a bleak, totalitarian dystopia demanding uniformity of thought, societal conformity, and most of all, allegiance and love for Big Brother. Every day, Winston clocks into his job at the Ministry of Truth in the Records Department and sets about his one task—to rewrite history to fit the narrative of the day.Reality, it seems, is often stranger than fiction. The term “Orwellian” has become a commonly used cliché, and yet the themes in 1984 are hitting increasingly close to home. In 2021, massive tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon have become bullies that can promote, campaign for, rewrite the facts, or silence whomever they please. In the name of curbing “misinformation,” Silicon Valley has exercised unchecked power over a social media-steeped society, assuming a position of authority for which Americans never cast their ballots in favor of.1984’s Big Brother and 2021’s Big Tech have a lot in common—silencing dissenting voices and viewpoints through censorship. Orwell’s dystopian government implemented principles such as doublethink (rewriting facts, even if contradictory) and crimestop (halting dissenting views in their tracks) to curb those who questioned Big Brother’s authority. Notably, Big Tech monopolies have been on a run recently of suppressing conservative voices and ideas as their executive leadership, philanthropy records, and policies conveniently favor the mainstream, progressive narrative. Increasingly, viewpoints deemed not politically correct are purged from social media platforms and dissenting opinions are removed—or given a glaring “Fact-checkers deem this information ‘false’” tag.Since the start of 2020, Big Tech’s efforts to control political and cultural narratives have been startlingly dystopian. “Non-partisan” fact checkers label posts about COVID-19, elections, debates, speeches, and vaccines as “false,” “partially false,” or simply “misinformation,” despite the fact that many of these issues are currently under debate and discussion from a variety of angles and between experts. For example, in the most publicized story, several social media platforms ousted the sitting president of the United States from his accounts for content they disagreed with. Amazon intercepted the marketing of Irreversible Damage, a book by investigative reporter Abigail Shrier that criticized the transgender movement. They even went so far as to entirely remove a similarly critical book by Ryan T. Anderson, When Harry Became Sally. Conservative pundits and outlets such as Live Action, The Babylon Bee, and LifeSiteNews have seen their accounts, viewership, and content suspended or attacked by the fact-checking bots. These represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attacks on free speech.In tandem with Big Tech’s influence and moderation power, social media users have watched a destructive trend emerge as angry internet mobs target and cancel individuals for expressing ideas that push against progressivism and political correctness. Armed with pitchforks in hand and ready for a witch hunt, “cancel culture” has led to many unpersons (to use 1984 Newspeak lingo referring to erasing a deviant individual’s existence) finding themselves on the receiving end of collective internet hatred in the form of doxing, threats, and reports for removal by the Tech platforms. In Orwell’s novel, Winston and his colleagues participated in a daily Two Minutes Hate, a short propaganda video intended to rile up the audience against their political opponents and their ideologies, with the purpose of solidifying their love and allegiance to Big Brother. The destructive power of cancel culture has been in its ability to maliciously turn people against one another and create fear of public dialogue or debate, stirring hatred against politically and ideologically deviant “friends,” “followers,” and “public figures.”Over the last two years, the actions of Big Tech have generated a lot of controversy—controversy that is sure to escalate as censorship affects more and more Americans. Thankfully, there are members of Congress, governors of states, and other leaders who are willing to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech. Conservatives must ensure that government protects our fundamental right to free speech, and that society cultivates our ability to dialogue, disagree, and hold varying opinions. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their mind free of government coercion, regardless of which side of the aisle they fall on. This freedom is worth protecting.As modern-day Orwellian doublethink and crimestop threaten our basic freedoms, we must take a stand. Unlike the grim totalitarian world of Oceania and Big Brother, Americans ought to be able to express a diversity of opinions, thoughts, and stances, political or otherwise, without fear of erasure by Big Tech.Marjorie Jackson is the Digital Media Specialist at Family Research Council.
Mississippi’s brief in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health abortion case is the latest example of a recently emboldened pro-life movement. All eyes were on Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch last week, waiting to see how she would defend her state’s 15-week abortion ban. Would Fitch be bold and mention that Roe and Casey should be overturned? Or would she try to convince the Court that the 15-week ban could be upheld under Casey?Fitch and Scott Stewart, Mississippi’s solicitor general, exceeded all expectations when they boldly and brilliantly led the fight against Roe and Casey. Their brief convincingly explained the damage the Court’s two most deadly decisions have inflicted on our nation and demanded that the Court overturn them. “Nowhere else in the law does a right of privacy or right to make personal decisions provide a right to destroy a human life.” Mississippi’s brief called out Roe for what it is: wrong. No matter how strong of an interest women have in their own privacy, this does not extend to a right to end the life of an innocent child.The brief’s introduction made it clear that Mississippi would be bold and aggressive in its defense of the unborn. “…[N]othing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.” The brief went on to discuss the damage inflicted on our country as a result of the judicial activism of the seven male justices who decided Roe. Mississippi did not shy away from humanizing the child in the womb:The Court could hold that the State’s interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health, and the medical profession’s integrity are, at a minimum, compelling at 15 weeks’ gestation—when risks to women have increased considerably; when the child’s basic physiological functions are all present, his or her vital organs are functioning, and he or she can open and close fingers, make sucking motions, and sense stimuli from outside the womb; and thus when a doctor would be extinguishing a life that has clearly taken on the human form.Mississippi reminded the Court that states are willing and should be able to protect the most vulnerable among us. Some pressured Mississippi to take a more timid approach and not ask for much, but Mississippi did the right thing by being bold. No other fight for basic human rights, such as the civil rights movement, was shy in their requests for equal rights. Thurgood Marshall was bold in his requests before the Court in Brown v. Board of Education, and now Mississippi stands boldly before the Court in its request for the state’s ability to protect the most basic right—the right to life—for the unborn. The Court did the right thing in Brown, and it should do the right thing in Dobbs.The conclusion of the brief summarizes the harm done by judicial activism in creating a right to abortion:“The goal of constitutional adjudication is to hold true the balance between that which the Constitution puts beyond the reach of the democratic process and that which it does not.” Webster, 492 U.S. at 521 (opinion of Rehnquist, C.J.). Roe and Casey—and a viability rule—do not meet that goal. And they never can. Retaining them harms the Constitution, the country, and this Court. This Court should… overrule Roe and Casey.Mississippi did the right thing. Now it’s the U.S. Supreme Court’s turn to do the right thing. No justice will be able to feign ignorance regarding Mississippi’s glaring request. No justice can claim that Mississippi didn’t ask for Roe to be overturned. It is time for Americans to see the true colors of every justice sitting on the Court. Dobbs is the case that should overturn Roe. If it isn’t overturned, it won’t be because Mississippi didn’t do the best job it could. There is no excuse for Roe not to be overturned now.
As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers. When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter. Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat. For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.” Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them. Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified . . . There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable . . . In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue. Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria. Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.The credible and available evidence indicates:There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.
In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision allowing for virtually unlimited access to abortion through nine months of pregnancy. The Court justified this decision by sidestepping the matter of whether children in the womb are alive. As Justice White explained in his Roe dissent, “The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries.”The Roe decision to prioritize mothers seeking elective abortions rests on the outdated scientific opinions available to the Court in 1973. The Court fallaciously appealed to ignorance by permitting abortion based on a lack of knowledge about when life begins. In the opinion of the Court, Justice Blackmun wrote, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. […] The judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”There can be no doubt, however, that the human understanding of the world has shifted immeasurably in the past 48 years.In 1973, the disposable camera was 13 years away from being invented, and the rings of Neptune would not be discovered for another decade. The Walkman would not hit the market until 1979. Doctors still operated on infants without anesthesia because they were not yet aware that babies could feel pain.In terms of science and technological advancements, the practices of 1973 ought not govern the modern world. As lessons are learned and further information is gained, it is senseless to maintain outdated practices. When DNA fingerprinting was discovered in 1984, forensic teams did not insist on maintaining their current practices for the next 50 years; rather, the technology solved its first murder case two years later.In 2021, the science is clearer than ever that infants in the womb are alive from the point of conception. A modern understanding of DNA reveals that human zygotes have completely unique genetic compositions, determining traits from eye color to aspects of personality, from the very point that they are fertilized. A 2019 study emphasizes that light is visible to children in the womb even as their eyes are closed.The contemporary practices of prenatal health care have greatly adapted as well. Though the point of viability was thought to be at 28 weeks in 1973, it is now known to be at 22 weeks. The most premature infant to survive was born in 1987 at just 21 weeks gestation. Fetal surgery performed on children in the womb has successfully treated a host of developmental conditions, including spina bifida. Based on the Roe decision, which refused to consider whether infants in the womb were alive, children of the same age to be born or receive operations can just as easily be electively aborted at the mother’s discretion.The case for reevaluating the substance of Roe is clear. Just as textbooks are updated when new facts become available to ensure that children learn the most recent information, the modern Court’s rulings must be based on current knowledge rather than the claim to ignorance of the Court in 1973. Legal precedent must not triumph over the necessity to acknowledge modern science.As the Supreme Court will soon consider a direct challenge to Roe in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they face a pivotal decision: abide by the outdated excuses of 1973, or recognize the evidence presented by modern science and act accordingly. Americans, particularly the unborn ones, deserve to live by the best modern practices of human knowledge, which unequivocally affirms that babies in the womb are alive.For more information on why Roe should be overturned, see FRC’s issue analysis.Joy Zavalick is an intern with the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.
Since its beginnings in the first century, the church has faced varied resistance from the surrounding culture and challenges to the gospel. Recently, a new challenge has emerged: “wokeness,” or the state of being “woke.” Merriam-Webster identifies “woke” as a slang term meaning being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” On the surface, wokeness might sound like seeking justice and showing concern for the weak and oppressed—things the Bible urges us to do (Isa. 1:17, Micah 6:8). However, wokeness often embraces theories and ideologies inconsistent with or even hostile to the Bible. Many well-intentioned Christians—out of a desire to be compassionate, accepting, and loving—are succumbing to cultural pressure to conform to woke ideology, likely unaware of its unbiblical tendencies.To help Christians think biblically about wokeness, Owen Strachan, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview, has written a new book, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel. In the book, Strachan walks through the history of woke ideology and examines its consequences in American culture and the church. He also consults Scripture to give Christians advice for responding to the woke movement.Wokeness in the Culture and the ChurchThe first two chapters of Christianity and Wokeness examine how woke ideology is entering the culture and, more consequentially, the church. According to Strachan, “wokeness” means to be “awake” and in tune with the prevailing zeitgeist. Critical Race Theory (CRT), which sees society as an intentional system of power structures meant to oppress others based on their skin color, is currently the most well-known example of woke ideology. CRT purports that “White Privilege” is at the root of social justice issues and must be eradicated. The 21st century American church has been both passively and actively incorporating woke ideology into their institutions and practices. Strachan observes that some Christians have started apologizing for and repenting of their “whiteness.” Often these actions are prefaced with the proposal that we should change the gospel to fit with woke ideology so that brothers and sisters of color will be more comfortable in the church. While true racial reconciliation is an important outworking of the gospel (Eph. 2), wokeness changes the gospel by teaching that white people are never able to fully repent for their actions because they are inherently racist by nature of being white. But the gospel says all have sinned, and everyone can be fully redeemed through the work of Christ. With its different view of sin and redemption, wokeness undermines the gospel. This is why Strachan argues, “[W]okeness is not a prism by which we discover truths we couldn’t see in a Christian worldview. Wokeness is a different system entirely than Christianity. It is, in fact, ‘a different gospel.’ But it is not just that. In the final evaluation, wokeness is not just not the Gospel. Wokeness is anti-Gospel.”Why is Wokeness an Ungodly System?In chapters three and four, Strachan outlines his concern with the theological and cultural implications of CRT and woke ideology. First, he encourages believers to guard their hearts and minds, noting the apostle Paul’s admonition not to be taken captive by false philosophies (Col. 2:8). Strachan argues that wokeness represents a man-centered gospel that takes others captive through legalism rather than setting them free in the grace of Christ. In other words, wokeness says that only your works can save you—but you can never actually accumulate enough works to satisfy its requirements. Ultimately, this philosophy promises so much, only to abandon its followers in the end.Furthermore, Strachan provides guidance for responding to unbiblical ideologies. According to Strachan, wokeness calls into question the sovereignty of God and contradicts Scripture by saying that the root of all evil is “whiteness.” But, as Strachan explains, “[in] biblical terms, ‘white’ skin is not our biggest problem. Sin is.” He goes on to say, “If you have been convicted and demeaned for your skin color or heritage (whatever each may be), you have been wronged.” Woke ideology turns humans against one another, and results in individuals being judged by the color of their skin and status in society rather than the content of their character or their status in the eyes of God.The Bible and EthnicityBecause questions of race and ethnicity are so closely tied to woke ideology and CRT, chapter five and six provide an in-depth study of what the Old and New Testament have to say about our identity as human beings. Strachan explains how Genesis teaches that all humans are equally part of one human race. Although we may have different skin tones, languages, or ethnicities that distinguish us, we are all human beings who are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).Further, the doctrine of the fall—not CRT—explains the fractured relationships present in humanity. It is not the differences between our skin colors that make us misunderstand, betray, and abuse one another but the sin that infects us all. One tragic consequence of the fall is the sin of racism, which is one way that humans wrongly show partiality. God is not elitist and shows no partiality to anyone, as the apostle Paul frequently discusses in his letters (Rom. 2:11, 10:12; Gal. 2:6, Eph. 6:9). The New Testament also demonstrates how everyone can be united and reconciled in Christ through the gospel message (Eph. 2:14-18, 2 Cor. 5:16-21). God desires that, ultimately, every tribe, tongue, and language be untied in Christ to form the household of God (Eph. 2:19; Rev. 5:9-10, 7:9, 21:3). As Strachan explains, “Distinctiveness is no bad thing and is, in truth, a gift and blessing of God—but unity will be our song in all the ages to come.”The Response to WokenessThe final chapter of Strachan’s book considers the reality of American history, specifically slavery and the civil rights movement. He concludes with recommendations for how Christians can respond to woke ideology in a biblical way, reminding his readers: “We cannot fall silent. We cannot stand by as people around us are taken captive by wokeness or any ungodly ideology.”Although Christians ought to recognize racism’s sinfulness and the necessity of repentance for racist thoughts, actions, and attitudes, they should also recognize that certain groups of people are not inherently racist simply because of the color of their skin. Strachan concludes, “Wokeness is advancing far too quickly to treat this matter lightly, or to assume that these issues will simply ‘go away.’” He reminds his readers, “No—they will not go away. As we have argued throughout the book, strongholds and false ideologies must be destroyed, not ignored or treated with a softshoe approach.”May we all heed this timely warning and put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) to stand firm against all unbiblical ideologies in our day and proclaim the gospel of truth.Owen Strachan’s recent interview about his new book on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins can be viewed here.
On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.If you are married, there’s a good chance you did some premarital counseling that included conversations about what to expect in marriage. These conversations hopefully encompassed much more than who is going to mow the lawn and manage the money. Ideally, these conversations fostered an understanding of what “in good times and bad” actually means. In marriage, as in all relationships, disappointment often results when our expectations don’t match reality.The Christian life isn’t all that different. Many people turn to God because of problems they hope He can fix. Some of us are like the so-called “foxhole Christian” who promises to “live for God” if He will spare our lives and help us survive the battle. Of course, God can meet us in our moments of biggest need, but if we surrender to God because of what He might do for us (instead of what He has already done for us) we run the risk of our expectations not matching reality.If we expect that serving God will make our lives easier, what happens when serving God makes life harder? Could this help explain why some Christians are walking away from their faith? Here is some research I detailed in a recent publication:America is becoming less religious and has been for a while. In just the last decade, the number of people claiming to be Christian has declined 12 percent—from 77 percent to 65 percent. Not only is America less Christian as a percentage, the total number of professing Christians has declined from 176 million in 2009 to 167 million in 2019, even as the population increased by 23 million.Further:The fastest growing religious category in America is the “nones”—those who claim to have no religion at all. Over the last decade, the number of Protestants declined 15 percent and the number of Catholics declined 12 percent, while the “nones” grew 70 percent—from 12 percent of the population to 17 percent in 2019. That’s an additional 30 million people who now claim no religious faith. Of those, 78 percent grew up in the church. The church is losing its own kids.Cultural shifts never have just one cause, but it’s worth considering whether people leave the church because, as with many marriages, their expectations didn’t match reality.When we become Christians, we take sides in a spiritual war that has been raging on this planet since Adam and Eve first sinned. Taking sides in a war—particularly a spiritual one—has consequences. Although this might seem obvious, it is often not highlighted when the gospel is presented.Of course, submitting our lives to Christ does fix our biggest problem: our sin. But many people are unaware of what their biggest problem is, and in many cases, people are more interested in solving their financial, social, or marital problems than their damnation problem. It’s easy to be more interested in the gifts than the Giver, but from God’s perspective, He is the prize: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).The Christian life is filled with joy (Ps. 16:11), but the joy of the Christian life is counterintuitive to the world’s ideas about joy. Even our suffering can be a source of joy: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2, NKJV). In fact, we are blessed at the moments when life might seem most challenging, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake and the gospel” (Mat. 5:11). Being misunderstood and mistreated can not only be a source of joy but evidence that we are doing exactly what Jesus wants us to do: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12).If we come to Jesus because the Lamb is worthy of His reward, we will never be disappointed. If we come to Jesus because we were hoping He could fix a few things, it could be unsettling if our lives become temporarily more difficult.The reward of the Christian life is not the absence of pain. In fact, becoming a Christian may introduce even more pain and persecution into your life. But one of the rewards of following Jesus is seeing that our pain—even our deepest hurt and suffering—is temporary and that what awaits us on the other side of the pain is more than worth it. This was the apostle Paul’s point when he said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Moreover, as Christians, we gain the perspective that God is at work in our sufferings and uses them to conform us into the people He wants us to be.Many Christians did not sign up expecting a war. For many, once being a Christian became more of a liability rather than an asset (culturally speaking), they sought a discharge from the service. If we come to Jesus more focused on this life than the next, it’s possible we’ll be disappointed. Based on the numbers, many people are.
Below is the transcript of an interview with Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, during the July 16, 2021 edition of Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.***TONY PERKINS: Welcome back to Washington Watch. I'm Tony Perkins, your host, along with Meg Kilgannon, our co-host today. On Monday, Parental Rights Foundation and Children's Health Defense filed a lawsuit against Washington, D.C., arguing that a 2020 law permitting minors to obtain vaccinations without parental consent is unconstitutional. The D.C. Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 allows minors eleven years and up to consent to vaccines, including the COVID shot without parental knowledge or consent, if the health care provider believes the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard. Wow. Well, joining us to talk about this is Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children's Health Defense. She is also the co-author and co-editor of the books Vaccine Epidemic and the HPV Vaccine on Trial: Seeking Justice for a Generation Betrayed. Mary, welcome to Washington Watch.MARY HOLLAND: Thank you so much for having me.MEG KILGANNON: Mary, can you tell us about what prompted you to file the lawsuit?HOLLAND: So this is a very dangerous law that the Washington, D.C. City Council passed and Congress did not override it. We were sort of watching this process. This is potentially precedent setting. The pharmaceutical industry had tried this in many states, but they have bicameral legislatures and they did not succeed because both parents opposed it. But in D.C., with only a unicameral legislature, they were able to get this through. This is dangerous for children because parents won't know what vaccines their children get. It goes beyond just the parents don't know. This is active concealment required by this law that the parents who filed a religious exemption will not know that their children got vaccines. Whether it's the human papilloma virus vaccine or whether it's the COVID shot or whether it's a meningitis shot, the kids allegedly can consent to any federally recommended vaccine on their own and the parents won't even find out about it from their health insurer. It will be concealed from the parents who will have access to information and the health care practitioner. But the health care practitioner and the school are disabled from giving that information to the parent. This is unconstitutional. It also violates the federal statute that put in place the vaccine program that we have today. So we strongly oppose it. We believe that we will prevail on this. We have four parents on behalf of their children who are enrolled in the D.C. public school system. And we think that, we feel that, this is an incredibly important law to challenge because it is so potentially precedent setting. Let me just add that four cities have already sort of declared this mature minor act. And so Seattle and New York City and in Philadelphia, they have been inviting children without their parents’ knowledge to come and get COVID shots. This is tremendously concerning.PERKINS: This would appear to me, as you've described it, Mary, intentionally designed to deceive parents. And with this being concealed, I mean, I have to think about, you know, there could be complications. You know, when you get this, let’s just take the COVID, there’s others that this would open the door to. So it's not limited to the COVID shot. But let's say they get the COVID shot. And we already know that there have been some health complications for some who have gotten these shots and a parent doesn't know and all of a sudden their child could be deathly ill and they don't know why.HOLLAND: Tony, there have been others, over nine thousand reported deaths. There have been over four hundred thousand reported injuries. The covid shots in particular are very serious medical intervention. But every vaccine, like every drug carries potential benefits and potential risks. That's why parents have to play a role in these decisions. These are minors. It is inconceivable to me that an 11-year-old can adequately research and understand the potential benefits risks of a COVID shot. This is nonsense. This is the pharmaceutical industry coming in and exploiting children, at the children's expense and trying to cut parents out of the picture. That's just unacceptable. It's un-American, it's unconstitutional, and it violates federal law.KILGANNON: We're really grateful that you filed this lawsuit. I think it's incredible to me that a governing body, in which in this case is the school board, right and the city council, that would they would think that eleven year olds could know their medical history sufficiently to actually form intelligent consent to any medical procedure. Never mind a vaccine.HOLLAND: That's it, Meg. This is dangerous. Children can potentially die from this law. That's what parents have to understand. Your child could die from getting fuor COVID shots through a school. And the kid doesn't know what the shot was. They said, “Oh, yeah, give me the shot so our class can get the pizza party.” And then the mom or the dad take the kid to get to the COVID shot. We don't know what that would do. It might be within a short period of time. I just can't bring across enough how dangerous it is and how exploitative this is.PERKINS: Well, and I would add that to add insult to injury here is that they're going to bill the parents’ health insurer without them even knowing what the service provided was. I mean, this is incredible.HOLLAND: That's the point, Tony. It's incredible. We could not believe this as this passed through the city council. And then it sat on the mayor's desk and we tried to get people to call in to the mayor, and there were there were hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls, but that didn't move anything. And then it went to Congress and there's a waiting period in Congress and that didn't do anything. So, surely, we have had no choice. And another organization has also filed a lawsuit. This one is where we absolutely have to take a stand. It is. And of course, this is specifically going against parents with religious exemptions or conscientious objections to the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. So it's parents who already filed their religious exemptions to great extent that they're trying to go around. So this is, of course, also violating constitutional rights to free exercise. It’s just a terrible law. In a word, it's a just terrible law and that we're proud to be standing together with the plaintiff and parental rights advocates.PERKINS: Well, Mary, we appreciate you joining us. And we're going to watch this very closely. And we'll be getting updates from you, hopefully, so we can keep our listeners informed. This is a direct attack, Meg, on parental rights.KILGANNON: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. They want to leave the parents out. They're going deliberately around them.The video of the interview can be viewed here.
Karl Marx’s ideas continue to be popular, despite the fact that a 100 million body count and an unmatched catalogue of misery follows them like a funeral procession wherever they go. Like the NFL coach who has only failed wherever he’s gone yet somehow keeps getting jobs, Marx’s ideas never work but remain perennially popular for the young and the naive. This is sadly true today; we can clearly identify how a Marxist framework is influencing our society, and decidedly for the worse. As I do in greater depth in my brand-new book, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel—and the Way to Stop It, I want to show in this short piece how neo-Marxist ideas are harming us all. Here are five key neo-Marxist formulations that are influencing us today.1. “You are an oppressor if you are white.”Marx structured all of society in terms of two groups: “every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes,” he and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto. He applied this theory economically, but today, his paradigm has been appropriated by some sociologists in their attempts to explain racial conflict. According to Critical Race Theory (CRT), white people are structurally oppressors of people of color. Having white skin means you’re automatically part of a movement of oppression. This vision of “white” people, racial Marxism, means neo-Marxism is truly neo-racism.2. “You are oppressed if you are a person of color.”According to CRT, people of color are fundamentally oppressed by white people. People of color do not live in a fair and prosperous order; they live in an environment framed by “white supremacy.” Robin DiAngelo defines such a culture as one “that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal.” According to woke voices, this condition terrorizes people of color, leaving them without agency, without justice, and without hope. Instead of teaching people that their freedom and destiny are in the hands of “white” oppressors, we do better to teach them to reject such a view, and take agency in their own life. Can “white” people wrong others? Absolutely. Is every “white” person a “white supremacist”? Absolutely not. 3. “The way forward is revolution.”Marxism talks a big game about lifting people out of squalor. But none of its tenets actually dignify the individual. Instead, Marxism denies the uniqueness of the individual, making them a mere pawn in a broader societal battle, one that ultimately causes only more suffering for the people it supposedly strengthens. The brutal forms of societal change that Marxism specializes in were on vital display last summer, when under the banner of social justice, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and many swept-up citizens destroyed businesses, ruined neighborhoods, and caused numerous deaths. No gentle new order, this. But what else would we expect of a Marx-influenced movement?4. “I know who you are without knowing you.”Marxism trains people to think they know others without knowing them. If you see a white person, you know who they are, according to wokeness. You know they’re privileged; you know they’re guilty of “white fragility”; you know they’re an oppressor, even though they may well try to deny it. Racial Marxism is just like economic Marxism: it tells us we know people without knowing them. But this is baseless. In order to know someone, you need to learn about them as an individual and figure out what makes them tick. You can’t run a stereotype scan on them. You need to treat them like an actual human being, which the humane system of redemptive Christianity not only allows for but encourages.5. “We can achieve utopia in this life.”This is truly the primary reason why Marxism continues to recur despite its abysmal track record. People are suckers for a utopian vision. As I make clear in Christianity and Wokeness, we all feel pulled to one in some sense, even though Christians should know that this world is not going to become perfect outside of divine agency. Nonetheless, Marx’s ideals, like leftist “progressivism” more broadly, hook fresh generations of catch all the same. People in the West continually believe, in fresh cycles, that Marx’s ideas will surely work this time around. That mythic boost never happens, however. Violence and bloodshed invariably explode, and yet this formulation continues to get traction in each generation. It is a repeat performance as comedic as it is tragic.In sum, Marx’s vision looks so promising to so many. But it is far better to realize that Marx’s utopia is not possible. It would be a much better idea to accept a world in which one must make and accept “tradeoffs” rather than casting about for a perfect cure-all to every problem that ails us. If we could get people off the drug of paradisical statism, we would help them tremendously, queueing them up to appreciate the free market, free speech, free governments, and a free church. In yet simpler terms, we would liberate them—at least for now—from the clutches of history’s most persistent bad idea: Marxism. Owen Strachan’s recent interview about his new book on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins can be viewed here.Owen Strachan is a Senior Fellow for FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview. A graduate of Bowdoin College, Dr. Strachan is the author of Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel—and the Way to Stop It, Provost of Grace Bible Theological Seminary, and host of The Antithesis podcast.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service. . . based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.While many states have enacted pro-life laws in recent years, the abortion industry has been searching for ways to circumvent such laws. The best way to do this, it has determined, is through risky, do-it-yourself chemical abortions, which leave mothers to endure the trauma of abortion alone in their bathrooms, with no support or medical follow-up.Twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone (Mifeprex®; also known as RU-486 or simply “the abortion pill”) to chemically induce abortions. Since then, the abortion industry has latched on to the abortion pill as a lower-cost alternative to surgical abortions—and one that can be carried out virtually anywhere. As a result, abortion pill usage has surged even as the overall number of abortions in the United States is in decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of early “medical abortions” (a euphemistic term for chemical abortions) increased 114 percent from 2006 to 2015. And according to statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, 39 percent of abortions in 2017 were chemical, a 25 percent increase since 2014.Chemical abortion is praised by pro-abortion activists for expanding abortion availability, particularly for women who don’t live near an abortion business since they push mothers to self-administer the drugs at home. These activists choose to overlook chemical abortion’s higher rate of risk compared to surgical abortion and push for the removal of the FDA’s safety standards, arguing they are unnecessary and unduly limit “abortion access.” The abortion industry seems willing to gamble with women’s lives and health.The good news is that many states are not. Since 2011, 74 bills to ban or place regulations on chemical abortion have been introduced in 29 states. Of these bills, 21 have been enacted in 14 states. These bills vary in approach. Some seek to ban chemical abortion outright, while others seek to regulate chemical abortions in an effort to mitigate its health-damaging and life-threatening risks to mothers. Bills typically include some combination of the following key provisions:Require that the pre-abortion exam be performed, and the abortion pills be administered, in-person by a licensed physician. (These laws are often referred to as “Skype abortion” bans, since without them abortionists can abuse telehealth to dispense chemical abortion drugs without ever physically examining the mother.)Require that physicians meet certain certification and qualification standards, including:Being certified by an “Abortion Inducing Drug Certification Program” at the state board of pharmacy.Being capable of performing an in-person exam to confirm the pregnancy, the absence of an ectopic pregnancy and determine the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child, as well as document said information in the patient’s medical chart.Require follow-up appointments (minimum of two).Require patients to be informed of the “final printed label” (FPL) of each drug.Require informed consent for mothers.Require reporting of Adverse Event Complications and reporting to the state board of pharmacy.Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion providers who violate the law can be sued).In 2021 so far, a record-high 22 bills have been introduced and seven enacted in six states. Here is a rundown of the seven bills enacted so far this year:Alabama HB 377 banned chemical abortions completely and imposed a criminal penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, it prohibits any person or entity from manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring the abortion pill or any substantially similar generic or non-generic abortifacient drug in the state. This is the strongest measure to be enacted this year.Oklahoma SB 778 also requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician, establishes informed consent and reporting requirements (i.e., number of chemical abortions), codifies criminal, professional, and civil penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother, father, and maternal grandparents of the unborn child if these rules are not adhered to. This bill also prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs in schools or on other state grounds.Oklahoma SB 779 additionally requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician but adds that this physician must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This bill also establishes the Oklahoma Abortion-Inducing Drug Certification Program, which requires manufacturers, distributors, and physicians to be certified to manufacture, distribute, or provide abortifacient drugs, and establishes requirements for certification. This bill also requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, establishes informed consent requirements, creates a reporting system, establishes criminal penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother of the unborn child. This bill, together with SB 778, puts strong regulations in place, ensuring proper safety precautions are taken and enforced.Montana HB 171 requires that abortifacients be administered in-person by a “qualified medical practitioner” and prohibits the drug from being provided through a courier, delivery, or mail service, which targets the “mail-order abortion” model that the abortion industry is moving toward. It also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the drug to verify that a pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type (since being Rh negative could cause complications), and establish the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child. This bill also provides informed consent requirements, reporting requirements, civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, a civil cause of action, and requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment. In addition, the bill also prohibits anyone from providing an abortifacient drug at a school or on school grounds.Arkansas HB 1402 requires persons administering abortifacients to be licensed physicians, credentialed to manage abortion complications, or have an agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle abortion complications. The bill also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the abortion pill in order to verify that an intrauterine pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type, and establish the gestational age of the child. This bill additionally requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment (making all reasonable efforts to ensure that the mother returns) and prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs via a courier, delivery, or mail service. It did not establish any new penalties.Ohio SB 260 requires physicians to be physically present when abortifacients are administered and requires the physician to perform an in-person exam prior to administering the drug. It also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the administration of abortifacients and imposes criminal penalties for noncompliance.Arizona SB 1457 places leaner regulations on chemical abortion. It requires that abortifacient drugs only be provided by a qualified physician (elsewhere defined in law) and prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing an abortifacient drug via a courier, delivery, or mail service. This bill doesn’t establish regulations as robust as the others, above. However, to the bill’s credit, it establishes strong abortion regulations in other areas not related to chemical abortion, such as prohibiting an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality of the unborn child.No other year has seen so many bills to regulate or ban chemical abortion introduced, let alone enacted. State legislators are seeing the lack of restraint and regulation of chemical abortions and taking action to establish necessary safeguards. All Americans should agree that the abortion industry should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the health and safety of mothers. States are sending a clear message that they will not stand idly by and allow abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to profit from the cheaper but riskier abortion pill regimen. Given the dramatic increase of chemical abortions over the past few years, more states are sure to respond with their own legislative efforts to reign in this growing sector of the abortion industry.For more information on chemical abortions and why safety restrictions are necessary for the sake of women’s health, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Update: The Boy Scouts: A Case Study in CompromiseAfter 100 years of teaching future presidents, explorers, and civil rights leaders to follow their moral compass, it’s been sobering to watch the Boy Scouts lose their own bearings. And yet, the unhappy ending for one of America’s proudest traditions was easy to predict once the organization started chasing the approval of critics it could never win.2. Update: ‘I’m from the Government, and I'm Here to Vaccinate’Most people were shocked when the president wanted to go door-to-door with his vaccine campaign—but that’s only the half of it. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the White House is also planning to go barracks to barracks—requiring the men and women of our voluntary military to surrender their freedom and take an unproven shot some of them don’t want.3. Blog: How to Respond to Your Friend Who Is Leaving the FaithMany Christians are taught how to share the gospel with non-Christians, but what’s often not taught is how to respond when those who were raised within the church, have heard the truth, and even perhaps once believed in the gospel walk away from the faith. How can Christians respond to our friends’ situations and choices with grace, humility, and compassion?4. Blog: How California’s New Sex Ed Program Will Harm KidsProverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As Christians, we are called to raise our children with biblical truths and morals. However, the public education system is implementing curricula that teach children beliefs that go directly against biblical truths and create long lasting psychological problems for children.5. Washington Watch: Craig Parshall, Mo Brooks, Meg KilgannonTony was joined by Craig L. Parshall, attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, to discuss President Biden’s executive order on Big Tech. Mo Brooks, U.S. Representative for Alabama, talked about the implications of a mandatory COVID vaccine for the U.S. military. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s senior fellow for education studies, gave an update on Chicago Public Schools’ new sex education policy.6. Washington Watch: Andy Harris, David Curry, Grace Chao, Andrew BrunsonTony was joined by Andy Harris, U.S. Representative for Maryland, to discuss the situation in Cuba among other topics. David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, shared Open Doors’ recent report on religious liberty in India. Grace Gao, Daughter of Gao Zhisheng, shared her story of the Chinese government targeting her father, who has been missing for the past four years. And, Andrew Brunson, FRC’s Special Advisor for International Religious Freedom, gave highlights from this week’s IRF Summit 2021.7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: America’s Crime WaveOn this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rep. Mary Miller, Wiley Thompson, and Pastor Phil Hotsenpiller to discuss and pray about the rise in crime around the country and what we, the church, can do.
On June 28, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that California will add five more states to its travel ban. State-funded travel will no longer be permitted to states on this list because they passed bills that California considers “discriminatory.”The number of states on California’s anti-travel list has been growing over the years and has now reached a total of 17, with this new addition of Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The ban will have an impact on public school trips, universities, teacher conferences, and any other business that public employees of the state of California may need to attend around the country.Bonta justified the additions to the travel ban by claiming the moral high ground. “The states [banned] are a part of a recent, dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills signed into law in states across the country that directly work to ban transgender youth from playing sports, block access to life-saving care, or otherwise limit the rights of members of the LGBTQ community,” Bonta’s office explained in a press release. However, these laws are necessary to (1) preserve fair competition in women’s sports by requiring that athletes who identify as transgender participate in sports according to their biological sex, and (2) to prevent youth from making drastic, permanent life-altering decisions (like taking puberty blocking drugs) until they reach adulthood, such as Arkansas’ SAFE Act.The first travel ban from California was introduced in 2017. Then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra signed into law Assembly Bill 1887, which prohibited a state agency, department, board, or commission from requiring any state employees, officers, or members to travel to a state that has so-called “discriminatory” laws against gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation. The first state it applied to was Oklahoma.Oklahoma had signed into law Senate Bill 1140, which allowed private foster care/adoption agencies to use their own discretion when placing children into homes. For religious organizations, it meant that they could continue to place children only into families with a mother and a father. Neither adoption nor foster care by those identifying as LGBTQ is banned in Oklahoma; the bill simply upholds that private organizations are allowed to operate in accordance with their beliefs. However, according to advocates of the LGBTQ cause, SB 1140 discriminated against those identifying as LGBTQ. Allie Shin, the External Affairs Director of ACLU Oklahoma, stated that “Rather than stand up to religious fanaticism, the Governor has chosen to reinforce the delusions of those who confuse discrimination with liberty.” Shortly after, California enacted AB1887.However, Becerra didn’t stop at just Oklahoma. Over the course of the next several years, he signed laws prohibiting state-funded travel to Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. All of these states have passed laws similar to Oklahoma’s or that fall under the category of LGBTQ issues.Blocking state-funded travel to a third of the country comes with consequential economic impacts. Lisa Hermes, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in McKinney, Texas, said that “the state could lose out on as much as $1 billion dollars of economic impact if the NCAA canceled its events currently slated to take place in Texas — such as the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship game set for Houston and the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas.” In Louisville, Kentucky, the city lost over $2 million in revenue after two companies canceled events they were going to hold there. Even Nashville, which is a left-leaning city, was impacted after the American Counseling Association canceled a meeting they had scheduled, which would have brought 3,000 visitors to the state (and business to hotels and restaurants to boot) and would have brought in $4 million worth of tax revenue.While these new bans by California are obviously more harmful than helpful, they are also a dangerous example of the level that the Left will stoop to in order to make a large statement. It’s hard to argue against the fact that by shutting down state-funded travel to 17 states, California’s stances on issues like transgenderism are getting lots of attention. This travel ban is one of many ways that the Left is forcing culture to align with their agenda. There’s also issues like the MLB moving its All-Star Game out of Georgia because of pressure from the Left.With all of this happening in the culture around us, what is our role as Christians and conservatives? The Left is following through on what they say they’re going to do, and it’s having an economic impact. How should we respond? We need to follow through on our beliefs as well and use God’s word as the basis for our decisions and actions. As Christians, we need to firmly take a stand not just with our words, but with our actions by using our hard-earned money to make an economic impact for biblical values just as the Left is making an economic impact with their policies. As believers, we can do this by supporting companies and organizations that align with our biblical values.Gabby Wiggins is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.Damon Sidur is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.Modern medical technology can detect genetic characteristics and diagnose many disabilities in the womb. Unfortunately, these scientific advancements have increased the potential for abortions that are motivated by bias against an unborn child’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, and/or disability.Babies who are prenatally diagnosed with a disability may be the most common victims of discriminatory abortions. An international study found that 63 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida and 83 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted. Another study revealed that an estimated 67 percent of women in the United States who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose abortion. In Denmark, more than 95 percent of mothers who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort their child, and in 2019, 15 years after screening became universally available, only 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in the whole country.State legislators across the country are becoming increasingly aware of this problem and are introducing prenatal nondiscrimination acts (PRENDAs) to protect children from discriminatory abortions. In 2019, they were emboldened when Justice Thomas penned a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential.Much like other pro-life bills, support for PRENDAs has been growing over the past few years. From 2013 to 2020, an average of 10 state-level PRENDAs were introduced each year. In 2021, a record-high 31 were introduced. So far, two have been enacted, in Arizona (SB 1457) and South Dakota (HB 1110). Fourteen other states have enacted some version of these protections. In fact, the past three years have seen more PRENDAs enacted (seven) than in all the preceding years combined.These bills typically have four key provisions:Prohibit anyone from knowingly aborting the unborn child of a woman who sought the abortion solely on the basis of an inherent characteristic (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity, national origin) or disability of the child.Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).Indemnify the mother (i.e., absolve the mother of legal liability).Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion businesses who violate the law can be sued).In addition, some bills may mandate information be provided to the mother about perinatal palliative care if the unborn child has a life-threatening illness or abnormality. This year, four out of the 31 bills introduced do this (all four are from Texas).Of the PRENDAs introduced this year, 16 protect unborn children from abortion on the basis of sex, 11 on the basis of race, 22 on the basis of a disability or genetic abnormality diagnosis, six on the basis of ethnicity, and one on the basis of national origin.So far, Arizona’s SB 1457 and South Dakota’s HB 1110 have been enacted this year. Arizona’s law builds on existing PRENDA law, adding “genetic abnormality” to the list of characteristics protected against discriminatory abortions (in addition to sex and race). This bill weakens the penalty from a class three felony to a class six felony. Existing law in Arizona indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action. South Dakota’s bill is strong, prohibiting abortions sought on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis and imposing the criminal penalty of a class six felony for noncompliance. Additionally, this bill indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action.Texas introduced four strong PRENDAs (HB 3218, SB 1647, HB 3760, SB 1173) that include each of the key provisions listed above as well as provisions for mothers to learn more about perinatal palliative care. Seven states—Pennsylvania (HB 1500), Massachusetts (H 2409), Michigan (HB 4737), Texas (HB 4339), South Dakota (HB 1110), Washington (SB 5416), and Arkansas (SB 468)—also introduced strong bills that include each key provision. Each of these bills prohibits abortions sought because of one or more of the following characteristics of the unborn child: diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome, diagnosis of a disability, genetic abnormality, race, ethnicity, or sex.Four states—Florida (CS/HB 1221, SB 1664), Texas (HB 1432), South Carolina (HB 3512), and Washington (HB 1008)—introduced moderate bills, missing one or two of the key provisions (a civil cause of action and/or indemnification of the mother). Florida, Washington, and South Carolina’s bills prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of a disability or genetic abnormality of the unborn child (Washington’s is specific to Down syndrome). Texas’ bill prohibits abortions based on the ethnicity or national origin of the unborn child, and South Carolina’s bill additionally prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.Seven states—North Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia, and Oregon—introduced relatively weak or limited PRENDAs missing more than two of the key provisions. Some of these bills included other limitations that made them especially weak. North Carolina’s bill (H 453) adds to an existing ban on sex-selective abortions by also prohibiting abortions on the basis of the unborn child’s race or Down syndrome. This bill contains no other provisions. Arizona’s bill (SB 1381) adds to existing PRENDA statutes by adding “disability” as a protected trait for which a child may not be aborted. This bill is weakened by the fact that “disability” is not defined. Arkansas’ bill (SB 519) amends a section of law prohibiting sex-selective abortions and requires the physician carrying out the abortion to attempt to obtain the woman’s medical records to determine if she has previously undergone an abortion due to the child’s sex. This bill does not contain any other provisions. However, to Arkansas’ credit, the state already does prohibit sex-selective abortions. Illinois’ bills (HB 3047, HB 1893, HB 3043, HB 3053, and HB 3046) prohibit abortions sought solely based on the sex of the unborn child. Besides containing no other PRENDA provisions, these bills include a weakening statement that allows abortions sought because of a genetic disorder linked to the child’s sex. This goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws, to protect unborn children from being aborted due to an immutable trait. Maryland and West Virginia’s bills (MD HB 846 and WV HB 3024) prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome but include no other provisions. Oregon’s bill (SB 654) prohibits sex-selective abortions but limits this protection to the third trimester. This too goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws since the sex of babies can be determined as early as 14 weeks. In effect, this would prohibit few, if any, discriminatory abortions.Discriminatory abortions are a grim reality in the United States and around the world, but they are not going unchallenged. Thus far, state legislators have introduced PRENDAs in over 35 states and successfully enacted them in 16. If the surge of state-level PRENDA bills in 2021 is any indication, these numbers are sure to rise in the coming years. There is cause for optimism that states’ laws will one day reflect American’s rightful opposition to discriminatory abortions, and eventually to the eugenic roots of abortion itself.For more information on why PRENDAs are essential, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.
On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.As the nation emerges from the set of political, health, and economic crises it has wrestled with over the past year, and as children head back to school in the fall, a battle is heating up: the fight for America’s schools.Recognizing the growing battles within education, the Associated Press published an article last Friday titled “Tears, politics, and money: School boards become battle zones.” The article highlights debates in school board meetings across the country over new curriculum, how racism and American history will be taught, mask mandates, and transgender issues. How some of these fiercely debated questions are resolved will affect the trajectory of our schools and, ultimately, our nation.Christian parents face questions even more fundamental than any of these. Namely, what is their responsibility when it comes to their children’s education? And does it matter if said education reflects a biblical worldview?A quality education is a good thing to desire for one’s children. Desiring good things for one’s children is not a uniquely Christian trait; it is a human one—a reflection of the heavenly Father earthly parents are meant to resemble. Jesus was addressing a large crowd when he said:Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat. 7:9-11, ESV)Desiring a quality education for one’s children is not a uniquely Christian trait, but Christian parents ought to combine this excellent desire with another one—that their children would learn to embrace a biblical worldview.The process of building a biblical worldview begins in the home. However, this process is also either helped or hurt by what happens in the classroom. A person’s worldview is not merely shaped by how they spend their Sundays or whether they learn good habits and spiritual disciplines. It is also shaped when they are being taught history, science, literature, and math. Therefore, Christian parents should care deeply about what their children are being taught and who is teaching their children. Children’s worldviews are constantly being shaped, and not necessarily by a biblical one.Let’s briefly consider the state of worldview in America. According to George Barna’s America’s Worldview Inventory, a person’s worldview (the lens through which they see and understand the world) is solidified by age 13. Although someone’s worldview may change or adjust throughout their life, the overwhelming majority of Americans have their worldview in place before high school, with little to no change afterward. Barna’s research shows that today only six percent of American adults hold a biblical worldview. Even more troubling is the finding that only 21 percent of those who regularly attend evangelical churches have a biblical worldview (despite 81 percent thinking they do).Christian parents must consider these numbers. Simply put, most Americans—including those who attend church—do not have a biblical worldview. This means that most of our children’s educators are not teaching from a perspective informed by biblical truth. Even those with good intentions will not be able to help our children see how Scripture answers the most fundamental questions we face.God has clearly outlined parents’ responsibility for their children. When Moses was passing down the law of God to the people of Israel at Mount Siani, God commanded parents:And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. (Deut. 6:6-7)By issuing these commands to parents, God made them ultimately responsible for educating and instilling a biblical worldview in their children. For a variety of reasons, parents may choose to delegate some of this responsibility. If and when they do, they should be careful to do so wisely.For some parents, ensuring their children are taught a biblical worldview might mean homeschooling them. For other parents, it might mean finding a Christian school that instructs its students from a biblical worldview and enrolling their children there. And for others, it could mean being intentionally involved in the local public school system. This involvement might look like discussing and supplementing the public school curriculum at home with your children, attending school board meetings and speaking up when appropriate, running for and serving on the school board, or even working as a teacher or principal. Regardless of what form it takes, Christian parents should be intentionally involved in their children’s education.Active parental involvement in the education of their children is a theme found throughout Scripture. For example, parents are advised to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). The apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Furthermore, the apostle John embodied the attitude all Christian parents and teachers ought to have when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).Whether parents choose to homeschool their children, enroll them in private school, or send them to public school, they have a responsibility to raise their children in the Lord and will be held accountable for how they steward the blessing of children (Jesus gives a sobering warning in Matthew 18:5-6). What are our children learning? More importantly, what kind of people are they becoming because of their education? What virtues are they learning to cherish and embody? These considerations are at the heart of discipling our children because what happens in the classroom does not stay in the classroom—it shapes hearts and minds. Christian parents must be active participants in their children’s education as an act of obedience to God and out of love for both God and their children.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As Christians, we are called to raise our children with biblical truths and morals. However, the public education system is challenging this mission by implementing curricula that teach children beliefs that go directly against biblical truths. Not only is public education introducing lessons that go against what Christians believe, it is also creating long lasting psychological problems for children.Sex education is nothing new to the public school system, though how it is being taught has changed immensely. Federally funded sex education began with good intentions by focusing on adults. After World War I, the government began an education program out of concern over so many soldiers returning home with STDs. However, a century later, the approach and depth of what is being taught to children is unrecognizable to how it began and has become quite disturbing.There is a direct link to children being introduced or shown sexual content and increased mental health problems. According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Dr. Eileen L. Zurbriggen, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.” Research done by the APA also reveals that when girls are introduced to sexualized images at such a young age, it can result in self-image problems, eating disorders, and shame when it comes to their own body, and it affects boys as well. Exposure to sexual content for adolescents can lead to attitude changes about sex and gender, sexual activity progressively beginning at a younger age, and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents. According to American Academy of Pediatrics:More than 100 studies have revealed links between young people’s exposure to objectifying content and their objectification of women or self-objectification. Those exposed to objectifying portrayals are more tolerant of or in agreement with sexual harassment, adversarial sexual beliefs, rape myths, child sex abuse myths, and interpersonal violence than participants without this exposure and experience greater body dissatisfaction, appearance anxiety, and disordered eating beliefs.One of the most egregious examples of harmful sex education being implemented happened recently in California. In the fall of 2015, the California Healthy Youth Act – AB 329 was passed in the state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. This bill was proposed with the intention to “strengthen” sex education in California. According to the ACLU, it will “update and strengthen existing requirements for HIV prevention education and sexual health education to ensure that students receive education that is accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive.” However, this positive description is far from accurate.There are five main goals to AB 329 that the California Department of Education lists. These goals include encouraging children to see sexuality as a normal part of human development, discussing gender identity and sexual orientation, and providing educators with clear tools and guidance. At first glance, these goals do not seem overtly harmful, yet they do not show the true nature of the curriculum that is provided and demanded to be taught.The sex ed curriculum promoted by AB 329 welcomes and encourages sexual activity for minors (p. 6), teaches children how to obtain birth control (p. 17), and gives instructions on how to get an abortion without consent from a parent (p. 18). The curriculum also provides external resources to indecent websites for students to “explore” even more sexual content on their own. AB 329 also includes lessons on how people can explore different sexual orientations and includes instruction about gender expression and identity.This new sex education recommended curriculum is going to expose children to photographs, videos, and lessons that are way too explicit for their age. Students will be shown and taught a curriculum that normalizes sexual activity by minors and takes away their innocence. It will also interrupt how a parent chooses to teach their child about sex without regard to their religious or moral beliefs. What AB 329 has implemented in K-12 public education directly challenges and goes against religious and moral beliefs that a family may hold.AB 329 became law in January of 2016, though the State Board of Education did not adopt the framework until 2019. The new sex education was going to be implemented into schools in 2020, but due to school closures because of COVID-19, the curriculum was put on a pause until students return in person this year. It will not be long until we see the negative effects this curriculum will have on society, specifically the innocence of children.It is time for parents to become informed and fight for the innocence of their children as AB 329 takes effect. Now that California has taken on this new sexual education curriculum, it will not be long before other states follow. As Christians, it is important now more than ever that we pray for the education system, get involved, and fight for our children.Sophia Lorey is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.
In its annual American Worldview Inventory report, the Cultural Research Center announced the results of a nationwide survey that revealed, among other things, that only six percent of American adults hold a biblical worldview—an all-time low. For some, this statistic might be just another number. But for others, this statistic is deeply discouraging because it is indicative of their friends and family leaving the Christian faith.Many Christians are taught how to share the gospel with non-Christians, but what’s often not taught is how to respond when those who were raised within the church, have heard the truth, and even perhaps once believed in the gospel walk away from the faith. Individuals may choose to leave Christianity for a variety of reasons, perhaps because of a painful experience (e.g., a church split or being a victim of abuse), doubts left unanswered (or feeling rejected when their doubts are voiced), or a sin they want to participate in. No matter the reason, Christians need to respond to our friends’ situations and choices with grace, humility, and compassion.Here are four steps you can take when responding to a friend who has announced they are leaving the faith.1. Listen and LearnListen to what your friend has to say. James wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). If your friend is willing to share their reasoning for leaving the faith, it is best to hear them out rather than berating them or getting defensive. Choosing to leave the Christian faith is no small decision, one your friend has most likely wrestled with in private. Your friend’s heart will likely grow harder towards Christianity if you respond to their decision with hostility and rebuke.Listening will also provide you with an opportunity to learn any areas in which your discipleship of them or fellowship with them as believers may have fallen short. Do not assume that you already know why your friend is making this choice. If they are willing to confide in you, be fully present and listen to their story.2. Ask QuestionsAfter your friend has confided in you, you can ask questions. Some of the best questions to start with are:What has led to this decision?What has been hard?What has been good?Tell me more about that.What do you need right now?By asking thoughtful questions, you can learn how your friend has been processing, thinking, and reasoning through this choice. Your job in these conversations is not to be right, win a debate, or convince your friend to change their mind. Instead, your job is to seek to understand how they came to their conclusions. Leaving the faith is a serious choice, and we must take our friends seriously and choose our words judiciously: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Prov. 21:23).3. Offer EncouragementOffer encouragement to your friend. That is to say, do not encourage them to leave the faith. Instead, encourage them by letting them know that they are not alone in struggling with their faith.Being a Christian comes at a price. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He also said that the world would hate and despise those who love and follow Him (John 18:15-25). Being a Christian also does not mean never struggling with sin or having doubts. In Romans 7, Paul describes the struggle with sin that Christians will continue to have.We should reassure those who are thinking of leaving the faith that it is okay to have doubts, falter, struggle with sin, or be weary or afraid. Be careful not to puff yourself up (1 Cor. 8:1). Instead, show your friend empathy, remembering that you are a human as well. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ask God for the words to say to encourage your friend.4. PrayFinally, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Only God can change your friend’s heart and mind. It is God who turns the heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26). Pray to have the self-control to listen, the wisdom to ask good questions and seek understanding, and the love and courage necessary to uplift your friend and speak life into their situation if invited. Do not give unsolicited advice but keep that door open and pray that the words of your mouth would be pleasing to God (Ps. 19:14). Pray for your friend’s healing and renewed trust. Pray that God would reveal Himself to your friend and that they would respond and not reject the truth. Also, invite other Christians to pray with you for those you know who are leaving the faith.Our hearts should break for those who are discouraged, scared, or disillusioned and are considering leaving the faith. We must continuously build one another up in Christ:Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)
In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, church doors were closed—most voluntarily in response to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation—for the sake of public health and the unknown. Unfortunately, in retrospect, we are learning that closing churches for extended periods hurt public health in some ways, even as it protected it in others. Studies by the CDC now show that depression and suicide rose dramatically for teens and young adults, an age demographic considered to be at lower risk from COVID-19.As the pandemic progressed, churches that had closed their doors voluntarily remained closed by state and local government mandates, with the aim of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully saving lives. Although most pastors willingly cooperated at first, it was not long until they began to see the negative repercussions of a prolonged closure, and many decided to reopen in spite of government mandates.As the media pushed their round-the-clock coverage of COVID-19 deaths, they failed to address another health crisis facing the United States: death by suicide. Due to isolation, loss of jobs, fear, and other factors, depression, anxiety, and suicide rates skyrocketed in 2020, especially in teens and young adults. CDC Director Robert Redfield discussed in a Buck Institute webinar that suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19 among high school students. However, it was not just high school students that were being affected. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that:substance use and suicidal ideation are particularly pronounced for young adults, with 25% reporting they started or increased substance use during the pandemic (compared to 13% of all adults), and 26% reporting serious thoughts of suicide (compared to 11% of all adults).In May of 2019, 11 percent of adults 18 and over suffered from symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder, according to the CDC. In May of 2020, this number tripled as the CDC reported 34.52 percent of adults 18 and over suffered from symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic created a secondary crisis that the church could do little to help resolve while being shut down.In a world full of hopelessness, the Bible offers genuine hope. Churches across America provide this hope by preaching the Word of God while also providing peace, community, encouragement, and so much more. Yet, their doors were closed during the pandemic, hampering their ability to fellowship and to serve. Theologically speaking, this is why Hebrews 10:25 commands us to gather for corporate worship: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” As the pandemic and the mandatory closures stretched on, there was a need for churches to be open, and many pastors saw this and began to take a stand.Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills addressed the increasing mental health issues as the church doors remained closed. On May 5, 2020, in a message directed towards all pastors in California, Hibbs observed that although churches can reach an immense amount of people online, “our local community has been spiritually starving.” He also underscored how the church needs to be a community again and be together now more than ever to provide prayer and hope for all those struggling. Opening his church in May of 2020 was difficult for Hibbs, as he defied California Governor Gavin Newsom’s restrictions, which were unjustly singling out churches and burdening them more extensively than their secular counterparts.However, the response to the reopening of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills was overwhelming. His congregation grew quickly by the thousands, drawing people desperate for hope and Christ during the nationwide shutdown. While reaching people online was possible and important, our souls yearn for an in-person community. It is now clear that forcing churches to close for so long has had unintended consequences.Thankfully, in February 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the complaints of California churches like Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena that claimed they were being unjustly discriminated against, lifting the state government’s ban on indoor worship.While the world focused on the physical health crisis created by COVID-19, many overlooked the mental and spiritual health crisis it also created. In God’s gracious provision to His followers, He gave us the church. If the pandemic has taught us anything, surely it is that gathering for corporate worship and fellowship with other believers is essential—and a privilege we should never take for granted.Damon Sidur is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.Sophia Lorey is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.
Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:1. Update: Celebrating America's BirthdayWhen was America born? Was it when Jamestown was settled in 1607? When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620? When the 13 colonies won the War of Independence from Great Britain in 1781? Today, revisionist historians and new progressive models claim that America was born when African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.2. Update: Squad Dems: A Fourth to Be Reckoned WithRep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) recently used the anniversary of America's Independence to push the 1619 Project’s false narrative of American history, claiming America is racist. But, with an elected a black president in 2008, vice president in 2020, and many members of Congress, including Cori Bush herself, can one really believe that claim?3. Blog: This Independence Day, Let’s Recommit to Embracing VirtueIndependence Day is a time to reflect on our Founding Fathers—brave men who boldly set out to form a great nation committed to the truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though our Founding Fathers were not all Christians, they all understood the essential need for virtue.4. Blog: Britney Spears and Uyghur Women Share a Terrible BurdenA recent special hearing regarding the Britney Spears conservatorship revealed shocking details about how the famous pop star has endured forced contraception. No one should be subjected to forced sterilization, even a temporary kind via an IUD. Sadly, Britney isn’t the only person suffering this fate today. The Chinese government is forcing this upon Uyghur Muslim women.5. Washington Watch: Lisa McClain, Kristen Waggoner, John Bursch, Meg KilgannonTony was joined by Lisa McClain, U.S. Representative for Michigan, who called out President Biden for refusing to take responsibility after he pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner lamented the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the court decision against floral artist Barronelle Stutzman. Also with ADF, John Bursch joined to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of protecting the privacy of donors to nonprofits. And, FRC’s Meg Kilgannon discussed over 5,000 teachers pledging to push Critical Race Theory (CRT) in their classrooms.6. Washington Watch: Greg Steube, Sam Brownback, Lea Patterson, Dan BishopTony was joined by Greg Steube, U.S. Representative for Florida, to discuss attempts to hold Big Tech accountable. Sam Brownback, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, previewed next week’s International Religious Freedom Summit. First Liberty Institute’s Lea Patterson applauded the IRS for reversing its decision to deny a religious organization tax-exempt status for their “Bible teachings.” And, Dan Bishop, U.S. Representative for North Carolina, urged parents to fight back against critical race theory in school curriculum.7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Hope for the PersecutedAround the globe, it’s never been more dangerous to be open about one’s faith. Ambassador Sam Brownback, Congressman Frank Wolf, and Pastor Steve Berger join Pray Vote Stand for a special look at what believers around the world are facing, and ways you can help those far away from wherever you stand.
In the lead-up to this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, participating nations are holding tryouts to determine who will represent them at the 32nd Olympiad. Some of these tryouts have generated controversy, such as when American hammer-thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag during the anthem. However, the most controversial story to emerge from the tryouts so far is New Zealand’s decision to include Laurel Hubbard on the women’s weightlifting team. Hubbard, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, will compete against female athletes at the Olympics.The Olympics are not the only sporting event where female athletes are having to compete against biological males. For example, for the past few years, high school girls in Connecticut have competed against (and lost to) biological males in track and field. Even though a handful of states have passed legislation to preserve women and girls’ sports, most Americans remain unaware of the threat gender identity ideology poses to the future of women’s athletics.How should Christians think about and respond to storylines relating to transgenderism and the Olympic Games (and sports in general)?First, we must recognize that the underlying issue is a rejection of reality and a denial of truth. Allowing biologically male athletes to compete in women’s sports denies important truths for the sake of supporting personal experiences and beliefs that are not grounded in reality.Truth aligns with reality. We can know that truth exists because the evidence is all around us. Take for example the simple mathematical equation 2+2=4. Not only is there an answer to the equation, but it is knowable—we can comprehend the answer because it logically follows. Furthermore, the answer is objective—it doesn’t matter if you want 2+2 to equal something different, the correct answer will only ever be 4. The answer is also absolute—it will not change through time or space, 2+2 will always equal 4. Finally, truth is exclusive—all other answers are wrong, no matter what.Although we may not always know the answer, that doesn’t mean that the answer does not exist or that we should make up our own answer. Declaring 2+2=5 is wrong, regardless of how much we wish it to be true or how sincere we are in making the declaration. It is wrong for athletics to accommodate a person’s declaration that they are female when they are biologically male, even if the declarer is sincere. Research demonstrates that biological males have a significant, physical advantage over biological women, even if they have taken hormones to suppress their testosterone.Second, we must remember that Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Our culture has told us that love accommodates, applauds, and supports individual desires over objective reality. Despite what our culture says, the Bible tells us love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). It is through graciously speaking the truth that we best love our neighbor. As Creator, God is the ultimate standard of truth (John 8:26, 17:17) and He defines what is good (Psalm 25:8, Luke 18:19). God desires Shalom for the world, where things are the way they ought to be.Tragically, things are not how they ought to be. The world is broken due to sin (Gen. 3). Because of this brokenness, our subjective personal experiences or desires can conflict with the truth. Without a standard of truth, our experiences can deceive and mislead us. When Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was showing us that He is the objective standard of truth around which we should order our lives.Truth can be controversial and unpopular at times, but that does not make it any less true. Because we live in a broken world, we will face challenging and heartbreaking situations. As Christians, we can take comfort that our experiences do not have the final word, our pain is never wasted, and our struggles have a purpose (Rom. 8:18-30). Without knowledge of the truth, we will not know how to respond to our experiences or process them well. So, let us live in truth and exhort those around us to abide in Christ’s word, for then we will “know the truth” and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
I remember when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2017. People hoping to witness the oral arguments had been camped outside the Court for days. That morning, crowds of people waited to hear how the justices would rule on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who had declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.In May 2021, Phillips published his account of what happened in The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. The book describes his split-second decision to not bake the cake, explains the ensuing years of legal challenges, and recounts the lessons he learned from the experience. His story is an encouraging testimony of God’s faithfulness to sustain His children throughout life’s difficulties.As Legal Battles Mounted, Phillips’ Faith Only GrewPhillips begins by recalling a life-changing conversation he had with two men, David and Charlie, who came into Masterpiece Cakeshop to ask him to create a custom wedding cake for their wedding. Phillips politely declined, stating that he could not create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding but that he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop. The conversation was brief, and David and Charlie refused to give Phillips a chance to explain his rationale further.Phillips recalls his desire to extend the conversation so he could explain that although he will gladly serve anyone, he cannot express every message “because of the content of the message that the imagery or words on the cake might convey” (3). Since opening Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993, Phillips had adhered to this simple rule and had previously declined to make cakes featuring a variety of messages, such as obscene language, hateful rhetoric, and statements or images that “mocked or contradicted [his] faith” or celebrated events such as divorce or Halloween (61, 71).The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Phillips and held that compelling him to express messages he disagreed with did not violate his First Amendment rights. After the case worked its way through the lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case. In June 2018, the Court sided with Phillips and held that the Commission’s actions violated Phillips’ right to freely exercise his religion. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the record showed the Commission’s “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs, and he explained how the Commission treated Phillips differently than other bakers, who declined to create custom cakes that expressed messages opposing same-sex marriage.Less than a month after this victory, Phillips faced another legal challenge. On the same day that the Supreme Court granted cert in Phillips’ case, one would-be customer, Autumn Scardina, had requested a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside to celebrate a gender transition. Phillips declined to create the cake because of its intended message. In response to charges brought against him by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Phillips and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission. In March 2019, the state’s attorneys offered to settle the case after evidence showing the Commission’s continuing hostility to Phillips’ religious beliefs surfaced. After this second victory, Phillips hoped to continue his business in peace.That peace, however, was remarkably short-lived. In June 2019, Scardina, seeking over $100,000 in fines and damages, filed another lawsuit against Phillips in state court. On June 15, 2021, the court ruled against Phillips. The court found that Phillips’ refusal to bake the cake was based on Scardina’s transgender status, not on the cake’s intended message, and that forcing Phillips to bake the cake would not violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.Phillips concludes the book by describing the lessons he learned during the many years of legal challenges. He states that although some may have intended their attacks to destroy his faith, his faith is now stronger than ever. He expresses gratitude for having been given a platform to speak the truth. Phillips has also grown in humility and patience and has learned to be a better listener. He has gained a greater appreciation for the wise system of government instituted by the Founders. Most importantly, though, Phillips experienced God’s goodness:[C]oming through oppressive days, enduring the death threats, the hate mail, the obscene phone calls and public demonstrations, seeing the tears of my wife and the worries of my children, hearing people call me a bigot and a Nazi, listening while elected officials openly mocked the deepest convictions of my soul—let me assure you, this is when God’s mercies abound. This is when He comforts us in the deep places of the soul that only He can reach. (188–89)Peaceful, Unshakeable Faith in God’s ProvisionPhillips’ compelling testimony is a must-read for any believer. First, Phillips’ account provides a thorough and accessible description of one of the most influential religious freedom cases of the past decade. He clearly describes the timeline of events and explains why the case was so momentous, not only for him but for all people of faith (98). Although the case concerned Colorado’s attempts to compel Phillips to speak messages that violated his conscience and to force him to choose between his religious beliefs and his business, the case has broader implications for the rights of all Americans “who share[] his biblical views on human sexuality and marriage” (194).Second, Phillips’ story will encourage believers who may feel disheartened. Although losing 40 percent of his business, facing hateful emails and death threats, and having his reputation attacked by public officials could have caused Phillips to waver in his faith, his testimony overflows with a sense of peace and an unshakeable belief in God’s character and provision. As Phillips recalled while waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict:You might think the long wait was especially stressful—an exercise in impatient endurance, where we gritted our teeth to get through the endless days. But it wasn’t like that at all. I genuinely felt an immense peace after our arguments. I was content in knowing we’d done everything we could do. That we’d been as faithful as possible and the outcome really was always totally in God’s reliable hands. (143)Phillips’ faith is a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power to encourage believers throughout life’s challenges.Finally, Phillips’ account can inspire believers to stand firm in their faith. Although his experiences could have made him retreat from his faith, Phillips viewed them as an opportunity:What’s the point of suddenly being on so many people’s radars if you can’t use those moments to share with them your deepest beliefs? That, for me, is the best news in the whole world: the love of Jesus Christ. (11)Unfortunately, hostility toward Christianity and toward those who adhere to a biblical worldview is only increasing. Like Phillips, may we all have faith to stand firm and to be willing to serve as God’s instrument whatever the cost.Kaitlyn Shepherd is Research Assistant for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.Most Americans would support passing laws that seek to protect minors from harm. However, the question of exactly how we should go about protecting minors and what we should be protecting them from is a bit more contentious.This year, 21 states have introduced bills seeking to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or what its detractors call “conversion therapy.” In actuality, what these bills ban is patient-directed counseling and talk therapy. Specifically, they prohibit licensed mental health care professionals from counseling individuals to help them cope with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues. Although eight states have introduced legislation to protect patients’ right to access the therapy of their choice, more needs to be done to stop the spread of counseling bans in the United States and protect the freedoms of counselors and their patients.Counseling bans have almost always applied only to minors and typically define SOCE or “conversion therapy” as “any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. . .” Most often, they incur professional penalties for mental health care professionals who fail to comply. Some may contain exceptions for pastors or other religious clergy, but these exceptions do not extend to licensed professionals who are also pastors or people of faith. Some of these bills also prohibit expending public funds for “conversion therapy.”The media’s portrayal of “conversion therapy” often evokes images of electroshock or other pain-inducing methods. However, there is no evidence that a single practitioner of SOCE is using these methods today. Counseling bans rarely, if ever, mention such methods but instead use expansive language that sweeps up mere talk therapy. (Indeed, the SOCE ban in Washington state was held up for years because Democrats there refused to agree to language outlawing these specific practices.)Virtually every counseling ban today applies to both sexual orientation and gender identity. A counseling ban that includes gender identity is especially harmful, as it mandates that mental health care professionals use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients. This makes it unlawful for a therapist or psychiatrist to do anything other than affirm a minor’s gender identity, even if said identity does not align with the minor’s biological sex, and even if that’s the kind of counseling the patient wants.These bills are harmful for three reasons:They place content and viewpoint-based restrictions on constitutionally protected speech,They undermine the autonomy of individuals and their parents to choose the therapy that is right for them, andThey harm minors who are struggling with these issues by making the counseling they need unavailable.Since 2011, 265 counseling ban bills have been introduced in 43 states. Twenty-four of these bills have been enacted in 18 states.Currently, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place. Counseling bans have been prevented from taking effect in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida due to court injunctions. Based on U.S. census data on the populations of these 20 states, it is estimated that about 41 percent of minors living in the United States today live in a state with a counseling ban in place.From 2011 to 2019, the number of counseling bans introduced each year rose steadily, peaking in 2019 at 57. This number dropped to 28 in 2020 but has since risen again in 2021 (43 in 21 states). Fortunately, none have been enacted yet. Thirteen of the bills introduced this year applied not only to minors, but also to adults. Two bills introduced in North Carolina extended counseling bans to adults with disabilities, while Minnesota and Alaska introduced bills that applied to minors and “vulnerable adults.” Bills introduced in Kentucky and Texas apply the ban to individuals of all ages. This is somewhat of a recent development, as in years past, few of these bills applied to adults.Six bills this year also prohibit advertising for “conversion therapy” (again, this is really talk therapy) or related goods and services. Florida’s bills even impose a criminal penalty (a felony of the third degree) for violating such prohibitions. Such dangerous penalties have become more prevalent in the past two or three years. This raises questions about what constitutes an “advertisement” and how this could affect churches and other faith-based institutions. If anything, counseling bans have gotten even more expansive this year, with more bills applying to more individuals and imposing new penalties.Apart from simply opposing counseling bans and stopping them in their tracks, some states have taken a more proactive approach by introducing legislation to protect counseling. These bills vary widely in terms of specifics, but many include two key provisions:Prohibit the state from restricting the rights of mental health professionals to counsel patients with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, as well as the right of patients or their parents to choose such counseling.Provide that individuals may give or receive counsel in accordance with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.In addition to these two provisions, some bills may create a civil cause of action for practitioners or patients who feel that their freedom of speech was unjustly violated.About half of the 21 Counseling Protection Acts introduced since 2015 take the general form described above. However, the following states have taken a different approach:Massachusetts introduced a bill in 2021 that would amend a section of law banning SOGI “change efforts,” adding a section specifying that SOGI change efforts do not include practices that “utilize discussion alone.”Wisconsin introduced two bills in 2021 that would prohibit state regulatory boards from promulgating rules that establish that employing or promoting a treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unprofessional conduct.North Dakota (2021), South Dakota (2020), and Kansas (2019) each introduced bills that would preempt the state government from endorsing or enforcing certain policies, including policies banning “conversion therapy,” on the novel theory that to do so would be to establish a state religion. (None of these bills has passed, so this reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause has not been tested.)Virginia introduced two bills (one in 2019, one in 2020) that would have given state regulatory boards the right to ban electroshock therapy or “similar non-speech therapy” but specifically prohibited such entities from violating an individual’s “fundamental right” to engage in the talk therapy of their choice, including counsel to assist in “reducing or eliminating unwanted attractions or concerns about gender identity.”Tennessee introduced two bills in 2016, both of which would have protected licensed counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral to another professional willing to provide such counseling.Oklahoma introduced a bill in 2015 that would have prohibited the government from restricting SOCE but specified that this protection would not extend to “aversion therapy” (electroshock, electroconvulsive therapy, vomit-induction therapy, etc.).Since 2015, at least 20 Counseling Protection Acts have been introduced in at least 12 different states. 2021 has been the biggest year for these types of bills, with a total of eight being introduced. So far, only one Counseling Protection Act has been enacted in Tennessee in 2016. This bill protected counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist willing to provide the counseling or therapy. This bill also provided that a refusal to provide the counseling/therapy described will not be the basis for a civil cause of action, criminal prosecution, or any other action by the state to penalize or withhold benefits.This year, some states have recognized the importance of standing against counseling bans. But more still needs to be done. Twenty states currently have counseling bans in place for minors, meaning children and teens in those states cannot legally access therapy to address unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, even if they want to. Some states are trying to take this right away from consenting adults as well. More states need to step up and protect access to such counseling.
A Pakistani court has sent 13-year-old Nayab Gill back into the custody of a Muslim man who her parents claim kidnapped her. Ignoring documents that prove Nayab was underage, the court’s decision broke the hearts of the Roman Catholic parents. Her distraught father, Shahid Gill, say “My child then left the courtroom in front of our eyes, and we could do nothing.”On May 20, Nayab went missing. An alleged Islamic marriage certificate was produced to the court baring the same date. Several problems are apparent in how the case was handled, and the decision to allow a minor to marry goes against Pakistani law. Unfortunately, instances of kidnapping of Christian girls, forced conversion to Islam, and forced marriage is not as uncommon as it should be in Pakistan.The Continued Persecution of Pakistani ChristiansNayab is a Christian in a country where Christians make up a small minority—just 1.27 percent of the population. They are a marginalized group. Many are illiterate and undereducated. These social factors make the Christian community particularly vulnerable to exploitation.The forced conversion and forced marriage of Christian girls by Muslim men is an unfortunately common problem. Many estimates suggest that around 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls and young women are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and forced to marry their abductors each year.While many Pakistanis are disgusted by this practice—just like many were grieved by the reports about Sunita Masih—Islamist mobs and a failure by Pakistan’s government to secure the rule of law enable this problem to continue. When extremist mobs form outside courthouses and threaten judges who might rule in favor of a Christian or Hindu victim, judges often relent and send the victims back to live with their abductors. This capitulation does an immense disservice to Pakistani minorities who seek justice.When an investigation or court case involves a religious minority victim and a Muslim perpetrator, Pakistani radicals often view the cases as a challenge to Islam, rather than a question of criminality. Due to this dynamic, perpetrators may target Christians or Hindus as victims to hide their crimes behind religious tensions.Attacks on Pakistani Christians are brutal. In April, seven houses belonging to Christian families were set on fire by Muslim extremists trying to take their land, according to International Christian Concern. In May, reports surfaced that a mob of over 200 Muslim men had attacked a Christian community in a small village, harming Christians and destroying property. The incident was reportedly sparked by a disagreement between teenage Christian workers and a Muslim man.Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most recent report from the Pakistani government indicates that the Christian population has declined over the last two decades. Christian leaders say that intense discrimination has sent Pakistani Christians to seek better lives in other countries across Asia.Economic Pressure Provides a Ray of Hope for the PersecutedPromoting religious freedom in Pakistan is extraordinarily challenging. Yet, a major recent victory indicates that international pressure can make all the difference for religious minorities.In June, the Lahore High Court acquitted Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who had been on death row since 2014 for supposedly sending a blasphemous text message. The couple is illiterate and claim the text came from a SIM card registered by someone using a copy of Shagufta’s national identity card. Imprisoned since 2013, the couple were separated from their four children and lived in fear of attacks from fellow prisoners.After years of delays, the court’s decision to acquit the couple finally came just weeks after the European Parliament highlighted their case in a recent resolution against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. But the resolution did not just condemn blasphemy laws. It also called for a review of Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in light of current events. This is a tariff preference that benefits developing countries, and losing it would have a significant economic impact.Maybe it is a coincidence that this couple was acquitted following the European Parliament’s resolution calling for their release, but after appealing the decision for years, the timing is hard to ignore. And the threat of economic pressure has proven to be effective at moving governments to change tack on their human rights violations in the past.Most notably, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was freed from his imprisonment in Turkey after the U.S. Treasury Department issued Global Magnitsky sanctions on Turkish leaders. These successes should encourage Western countries to utilize the economic leverage they have to uphold internationally recognized human rights standards.Pakistan is a young democracy, and to secure a peaceful and prosperous future, it is essential that the government work to eliminate religious persecution and discrimination. The international community must also do its part to hold Pakistan to a higher standard of human rights.We live in a time where hatred directed at religious believers is flaring across the globe, often with violent consequences. International religious freedom is not a feel-good issue that can be relegated to the sidelines of foreign policy. The promotion of religious freedom across the globe is critical to peace, security, rule of law, and development. For the sake of innocent victims like Nayab, American leaders must take it seriously.

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