Month Archives: May 2014

Humanist “Chaplain”? — Not all Worldviews are Religions

by Travis Weber

May 30, 2014

We were heartened to see today that the Navy decided to adopt the common sense position of refusing to commission a humanist “chaplain.” Besides the failure of the chaplain under review to meet the requirements of current Department of Defense regulations, the whole notion of filling a limited number of Navy billets for individuals to counsel service members on their relationship with God with individuals who instead explicitly deny the existence of a God should strike anyone with a head on their shoulders as downright silly. As Travis mentioned in an interview on the subject, the Navy charted the proper course here, and avoided implementing an oxymoronic policy of giving a self-professed non-religious officer a religious commission.

The Navy confirmed that the humanist chaplain candidate was not offered a commission but was not able to elaborate due to privacy concerns. However, we hope the Navy simply recognized that a humanist could not by definition meet the religious and ecclesiastical qualifications for service as a military chaplain as established in DOD regulations including DOD Instruction 1304.28. When attempts were made last year in the House of Representatives to change DOD policy to allow for the service of atheist chaplains, Members of Congress rejected such proposals by a wide, bi-partisan margin, recognizing that individuals who do not believe in a God cannot fulfill the core spiritual and pastoral role of a military chaplain. Both the House and the Senate this year included report language accompanying their respective versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act praising the role that the military chaplaincy has played since its creation under General Washington in providing spiritual comfort to our Armed Forces and counsel to commanders on how to provide for the free exercise of religion. The Navy’s decision today ensures that the core mission of the chaplaincy will not be undermined.

Lest the perennial grumblers start to complain again about preferring one religion over another, it should be pointed out that we are absolutely for freedom of religion for all, and fully support chaplains from diverse religions. But the key word in all of this is “religion.” Religion — defining man’s relationship to God — cannot be maintained by removing God from the equation. What remains is not a religion, but only a worldview. And no one here is seeking to suppress any worldview or prevent discussion about any and all philosophical outlooks within the military ranks. But not all worldviews are automatically entitled to be deemed to meet the requirements of a military position created with an explicitly religious focus.

Electronic Connectedness, Eternal Change

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 30, 2014

A recent report by Pew Research on the “Internet of Things” suggests that by 2025:

  • Many people will wear devices that let them connect to the Internet and will give them feedback on their activities, health and fitness. They will also monitor others (their children or employees, for instance) who are also wearing sensors, or moving in and out of places that have sensors.”
  • People will be able to control nearly everything remotely, from how their residences are heated and cooled to how often their gardens are watered. Homes will also have sensors that warn about everything from prowlers to broken water pipes.”
  • Embedded devices and smartphone apps will enable more efficient transportation and give readouts on pollution levels. “Smart systems” might deliver electricity and water more efficiently and warn about infrastructure problems.”

Wow. Connections will be immediate, comprehensive, and international. We will be virtually ubiquitous, and lots of people will know a lot about us, instantly and without our knowledge. Privacy as we have known it — a thing of the past?

Basically, every part of our life will be quantifiable, and eternal, and we will answer to the community for our decisions,” writes Laurel Papworth, who FORBES magazine has called one of the “Top 50 Social Media Influencers Globally.” “For example, skipping the gym will have your gym shoes auto tweet (equivalent) to the peer-to-peer health insurance network that will decide to degrade your premiums. There is already a machine that can read brain activity, including desire, in front of advertising by near/proximity. I have no doubt that will be placed into the Big Data databases when evaluating hand gestures, body language, and pace for presenting social objects for discussion/purchase/voting.”

Yikes.

One thing that can never be tracked are the thoughts and intentions of the heart. However, the Word of God, like a sword, can discern them; the analogy is of a surgeon’s knife exposing what’s hidden beneath the flesh (Hebrews 4:12).

The benefits, costs, and dangers of the kind of electronic connectedness envisioned in the Pew report are pronounced and worth great debate and discussion. The implications for all of our lives are difficult to grasp. Yet one thing is sure: The heart of man, “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), can only be transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No “wearable and scannable devices” can ever change that.

Planned Parenthood Uses God to Boost Abortion Sales

by Family Research Council

May 30, 2014

All of my public relations classes have taught me the key to reaching a specific market: know your target audience. Strike a chord that resonates in their spirit. When you’ve built that credibility with them, make your sales pitch.

In attempts to reach their target audience and boost sales, Planned Parenthood has introduced a new emotional sales ploy. This time, they’ve used God’s Name in that appeal.

Recent news reports reveal a “pastoral letter” written by Planned Parenthood’s far-left clergy which used God as a new sales prop to reach their clients. The letter was drafted for Planned Parenthood clients and future clients who are religiously inclined, proclaiming the message that Scripture does not say anything for or against abortion and that many clergy believe abortion to be permissible.

The letter states: “Many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion. The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.”

The Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board is composed of fifteen members, including one Muslim-affiliated member. The board does not include any Catholic priests.

Their letter states: “God loves you and is with you no matter what you decide.”

Planned Parenthood’s letter ignores Scripture that equates the killing of an unborn child with murder (Exodus 22:21). And it belittles the name and character of God. God does love people. Liberation comes from the truth that God loves all people, regardless of age or size. He loves that innocent child that He wonderfully created in His image (Psalm 139:14).

Planned Parenthood may think that this letter will help mask the devastation of abortion but in reality its overreaching and deceptive sales pitch doesn’t make abortion any less immoral nor does it help the many suffering post-abortive women who have experienced the destructive effects of abortion.

True relief is found in resting in the promise that God is a very present help in time of need. He is the One who grants the peace that surpasses all understanding and He promises to be with and to save all who call upon His name. Christ’s target audience includes all people, regardless of size. Do not be deceived He came that His all-inclusive audience might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).

FREEDOM TO PROGRESSION vs. Freedom of Religion

by Travis Weber

May 29, 2014

Recently, two UVA undergrads — Gregory Lewis and Stephanie Montenegro — sent a letter to one of the most esteemed UVA law professors telling him he doesn’t realize how his opinions on religion and marriage are impacting the real world (read: hurting their cause).They also submitted a FOIA request seeking “university-funded travel expenses and cellphone records for the past two-and-a-half years,” among other things. You see, they desperately needed “a full, transparent accounting of the resources used by Professor Laycock which may be going towards halting the progress of the LGBT community and to erode the reproductive rights of women across the country.”

Apparently, differences of opinion are fine when they don’t impact anything, but once opinions impact life, we can no longer have differences in opinion. Yet the students went too far, and their agenda is rather obvious. Their actions, reminiscent of Soviet-era government control, have drawn opposition from across political, legal, and cultural isles.

Brian Leiter, an influential law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, says:

[S]tudents requesting [Laycock’s] e-mails are engaged in harassment and intimidation that infringe upon his academic freedom. Cut it out, kids! No good will come of this kind of mischief. (You also won’t succeed in stifling Prof. Laycock, so you’re also wasting your time. Try talking to him! He’s not that scary.)”

Professor Stephen Bainbridge of the UCLA School of Law notes:

You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests. This is a blatant effort at deterring public participation by anyone who does not hew 100% to the most radical version of the gay rights movement.”

Walter Olson chimes in:

It’s simply a matter of trying to arm-twist a tenured, well-recognized scholar who takes a position that the Forces of Unanimity consider wrong.”

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate points out: “[W]e should be careful about throwing around disingenuous terms like “dialogue” and “transparency” and “conversation” when we are really attempting to lecture and embarrass and chill.”

What unites this opposition is a recognition the civil liberties are important. People are (and should be) upset with the UVA students for abusing a respected public university system in their attempt to move public life in the United States one step closer to a totalitarian system, in which dissent is not permitted and disagreement is not authorized.

In their letter, Lewis and Montenegro write: “As leaders on the UVA campus, we strongly believe in engaging in dialogue … .” Baloney. Professor Laycock said he would welcome such a dialogue. Yet there was no dialogue, only an “open letter” and a FOIA request. Who sends a “letter” instead of walking across campus to express one’s concerns to Professor Laycock? People without the fortitude to have their beliefs challenged, or people who know their ideas would lose on intellectual and constitutional merit, and would rather force others to adopt them through naming and shaming.

The students continue: “It is vitally important to balance the collective work of our academic community with the collective impact of that work in communities across the country.” Whatever that means, it doesn’t sound like anything much in support of individual civil liberties.

Contrast the students’ drivel with Professor Laycock’s view: “My position is civil liberties applies to both sides. It applies to all Americans.” Apparently not, according to his opponents.

The student’s “letter” barely tries to hide its political ends, which all but dispose of constitutional rights as legal protections for the civil liberties of all Americans. The students write: “Your recent legal theories around religious liberty have occasionally placed you on the same side as progressives in terms of free speech and public prayer. But your work has also been cited, by you and by others, in attempts to erode progress for LGBT Americans and to erode protections for women. These efforts to roll back progress and protections for LGBT folks and women has drastic, real-life consequences.” (emphasis added). So much for Professor Laycock’s “free speech” when it “occasionally place[s]” him “on the [other] side” of “progressives.”

Lewis comments: “The strategy of the FOIA request is to put everything on the table,” he said. “We don’t think he’s doing anything wrong; it’s just looking at whether he knows how it’s being used.” Yeah, I’m sure Professor Laycock needs to be reminded of who he’s called on his phone over the past two and a half years, and once such information is “on the table,” he’ll realize the error of his ways and completely repent. I’m less sure whether idiocy or arrogance is more prevalent in the students’ comments.

Now, on to the rather obvious point regarding FOIAs, which has already been pointed out: “The purpose of the [FOIA] requests is to allow citizens and taxpayers to keep track of what their public servants are doing, not to hassle public servants whose opinions you don’t like.”

As Professor Laycock says, “There’s a whole range of positions here, there is no anti-gay rights position in any of them.” What Laycock means is he is for religious liberty and for gay rights. This statement lies at the crux of the matter, for the gay rights advocates opposing Laycock here see his pro-religious liberty positions as “anti-gay rights.” Whether the country chooses to believe this falsehood, and adopt the view that required compliance with pro-gay rights policies trumps all free speech and free exercise, and all other rights protected by the Constitution, will ultimately affect the larger ordering of our society around civil liberties and tolerance and will determine nothing less than the fate of our civilization.

Obama Milks Homosexual Support

by Peter Sprigg

May 27, 2014

The White House announced that on May 22, 2014, it would unveil a new postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk — the openly homosexual San Francisco Supervisor who was assassinated in 1978.

Milk is an icon to the homosexual political movement. When Obama, in his first year in office, granted Milk a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, I researched his life. I’ve linked to that research here, as published by WorldNetDaily:

A presidential medal based on a sex life

When President Obama today awards a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk, it may mark the first time in history that the nation’s highest civilian award has been granted primarily on the basis of someone’s sex life.

As the White House announcement explained, “Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.” Yet Milk served in that office for less than a year, so that hardly qualifies him for the Medal of Freedom. Milk was also assassinated in November of 1978. But that cannot qualify him for this award, either – San Francisco Mayor George Moscone was killed by the same assassin the same day, but he will receive no Medal of Freedom. At least lesbian Billie Jean King, who will also be honored by Obama, was a genuine tennis star.

But Milk is famous only for winning one election, being murdered – and having sex with men. In his “gay rights” stump speech, Milk once said, “Like every other group, we must be judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay.” What can we conclude about the homosexual movement in America based on the life of Harvey Milk? I recently decided to find out by reading “gay journalist” Randy Shilts’ 1982 biography of Milk, “The Mayor of Castro Street.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Former Chinese Dissident: ‘Escalating Crackdown’ on Churches in China”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 23, 2014

According to Bob Fu, founder and president of the China Aid ministry and perhaps the world’s leading advocate for religious liberty in his homeland of China, multiple churches are being demolished across the country. The growth of Christianity is causing Chinese political leaders no end of heartburn; in an internal document obtained by Pastor Fu, government officials were told:

You should … correct the phenomenon that religion has grown too fast, there are too many religious sites and there are too many activities, and promote the healthy, orderly, standardized and reasonable growth of the religions in our province… Cadres in charge of ethnic and religious affairs at various levels should see clearly the political issues behind the Cross.

The only “political issue” behind the Cross is that Christians affirm a truth that terrifies oppressive rulers: No one — no government, no leader, no state — is Lord; only Jesus is.

Of course, faithful believers make the finest citizens in the world. But that’s not good enough for tyrants for whom retention of absolute political allegiance is of supreme importance.

As Pastor Fu notes, at the February National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama said he would make international religious liberty a priority for his Administration. Yet the President has left the State Department’s top position on the issue, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, open for about nine months. As Liberty University’s Johnnie Moore writes, “Up to this point, it seems questionable whether the Obama administration really cares about these issues at all. Despite statements like the one made during the National Prayer Breakfast, it appears there has been little concerted effort to make religious freedom a priority.”

Christians are being persecuted, sometimes murdered, tortured horribly or held in ghastly prison camps, in places as diverse as Nigeria and North Korea. When America defends religious liberty abroad, it stands not only with people of faith but advances her vital interests. When we take rank with those persecuted for their religious convictions, we gain swaths of friends in troubled regions and bolster the credibility we desperately need with our adversaries and friends alike.

President Obama needs to appoint a vigorous, brave, and experienced Ambassador to fight for those oppressed due to their faith. That he has not done so for so long raises serious doubts about his earnestness in protecting those who live under the Cross which so frightens the Chinese leadership and whose message is transforming lives from the smallest village in the most impoverished country to those in the highest levels of government, academia, and business in the world’s capitals.

Pastor Fu shared his own testimony of imprisonment and persecution when he was still in China when he spoke at FRC last year. Listen to his moving remarks and call for American Christians to remember with their brothers and sisters in Christ suffering for their faith — remember them in prayer, in giving, and in calling on the federal government to live up to its commitments to work for their liberty.

Asking the Questions of Youth

by Family Research Council

May 22, 2014

Have you ever been around when a child was awkwardly honest? You know, when they say things like, “I need to go potty” in the middle of a church service, or when they ask why someone else’s child in the checkout line is “acting naughty?” Children are really good at stating the obvious.

For me, recently teaching a class of students ages 11-14 was an informative experience. I was reminded of the black-and-white way in which children ask questions. We were having a discussion about rights and a student began talking about the right to keep and bear arms. I asked the class a question that my college-aged interns and graduate students almost always fail to answer: What is the most important question when talking about gun rights and the Second Amendment?

One bright young lady piped up within seconds and asked, “What is a right?” I was impressed. She had asked the correct question.

In the many classes I have taught on public policy, almost no one can figure out the most basic questions. When I ask the question, “what is a right,” very few can answer. I am sometimes surprised at how often we talk about something we can’t define. The term “rights” is ubiquitous in American culture yet few can define what a right is. I have a simple one sentence definition of a right that I believe clearly explains it but I will save that for another time. Of greater concern to me is that we don’t bother to ask questions.

We have a culture that accepts and advocates for things it does not understand. If we are not trained in careful thinking we are prone to accept anything that comes along and sounds nice. When it comes to marriage too many have used the term “equality” not understanding what it means. When it comes to life to many have used the term “choice” not realizing what the choice is. When it comes to economics too many have shouted for “fairness” without ever defining the term. All of these terms require definition to have a discussion, yet try to ask anyone to define them and you will be filibustered or ignored in most cases. It would do us good to look to our youth and unashamedly ask the questions that we work so hard to avoid.

The Social Conservative Review: May 22, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

May 22, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends:

Revealed truth is not adaptable to the preferences of culture or the demands of the elites.

God has revealed what He has chosen about Himself, His plan, and His standards. He is not looking for human approval or a favorable editorial in a secular publication.

Quite the contrary: Of the nations of the earth, David writes, “But You, O Lord, laugh at them; You hold all the nations in derision” (Psalm 58:8).

Here is what Isaiah says God thinks of human endorsement of Who He is and What He declares:

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,

And are accounted as the dust on the scales;

Behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust …

All the nations are as nothing before Him,

They are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness …

(He) brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. (Isaiah 40:15, 17, 23)

This truth is not “adaptable.” It does not conform itself to the spirit of the age and the expressions of that spirit in opinion polls or the arguments of the self-anointed.

None of the Bible’s truths are malleable. We accept and submit to them or find ourselves under God’s judgment.

Sound harsh? Take it up with Jesus: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). He loves us immeasurably, which is why He became “sin for us” on the cross, taking the eternal punishment we deserve on our behalf (II Corinthians 5:21). He also is imponderably holy, and His standards of right and wrong are not defined by democratic consensus.

When the Left calls on Christians to accommodate to evil, whether related to human sexuality, marriage, the destruction of unborn human life, the commodification of women, conscience-violating federal law or whatever else, faithful believers will graciously but firmly say “no.” For this immovable stand, we invariably will face difficult if not painful consequences.

Jesus did. He told His disciples that “no servant is greater than His master” (John 13:16), and He was crucified. The path of discipleship is the way of the cross, whether that means the loss of social position, professional attainment, family approval, or physical persecution, even death. In the power of God’s Spirit, Christians need to get ready.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Do chastity and marriage still matter? Be sure to read the latest from Dr. Pat Fagan, head of FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute, on “Chastity, Monogamy, and Later Divorce.”


Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Abortion

Euthanasia/End of Life Issues

Stem Cells and Biotechnology

Marriage & Family
Common Core

Family Life

Human Sexuality

Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage”

Pornography

Human trafficking

Religious Liberty

Religion in Public Life

International Religious Liberty

Other important articles

Book Reviews

Annual Defense Authorization Bill Passes the House with Religious Liberty Provision

by Leanna Baumer

May 22, 2014

Despite two years of Congressional efforts to affirm a service member’s freedom to practice and express their faith in the military, confusion over the scope of that freedom persists, particularly in the Air Force. Noting that confusion’s detrimental effect on troop morale, Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) introduced an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act which calls upon the Department of Defense and the Air Force to issue clearer regulations regarding religious expression. Last night, the House unanimously approved that amendment and today the House passed the overall Defense authorization bill (H.R. 4435) by a bipartisan vote of 325 to 98.

Policy vagueness on something as fundamental as an Airman’s ability to exercise his First Amendment rights ultimately restricts rights and hurts service members. That’s a reality Congressman Lamborn has witnessed firsthand in his own Congressional District at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Earlier this spring, national headlines drew attention to the fact that the simple posting of a Bible verse on a personal white board was deemed offensive enough to start an Academy investigation and prompt command pressure to remove the quote. Such a harsh response to a minor and non-confrontational reference to one’s personal beliefs reveals the topsy-turvy approach towards religious expression in the Air Force at present. Whereas most reasonable people expect to encounter opinions in life with which they don’t agree, the country’s elite future war fighters are being schooled to think that a potential personal objection to another’s opinions are justifiable grounds for viewpoint censorship.

Of course, cultivating true leadership traits means cultivating the ability to listen to those with whom you may not agree — a skill undermined when future officers are instructed repeatedly to claim offense at another individual’s exercise of their freedom of religion. Indeed, several scholars with the U.S. Army War College recently drew attention to this point, noting that even the mere perception of hostility towards faith in the military has a detrimental impact on morale and the cultivation of virtue in the ranks.

Congressman Lamborn’s amendment recognizes that current policy needs to be revised in order to better reflect the law, provide clarity to commanders, and furnish certainty for men and women of faith in our military. Though the Air Force has indicated in recent weeks that it may review its policies, House passage of H.R. 4435 today ensures that they take that mandate seriously.

April 2014 «

» June 2014

Archives