by FRC Media Office
September 11, 2015
FRC President Tony Perkins appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss the role of religious freedom in Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s case.
FRC President Tony Perkins appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss the role of religious freedom in Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s case.
Today marks the 14th anniversary since the attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001.
The attacks of that painful day marked the greatest single loss of life of rescue personnel in American history. It also was the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil.
This past summer I had the chance to visit for the first time the original site of the Twin Towers. According to its website, the Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood.
Bronze panels inscribed with the names of every single person lost in the attacks are a somber testament surrounding the reflecting pools.
I also had the privilege of visiting the 9/11 Museum. It is both awe-inspiring and graphic. On that day, strangers became friends, helping those who were suffering. On that day rescue workers climbed to their deaths helping occupants of the buildings descend to the hope of life below.
Many displays are very emotional, but one that really struck me was the display of the cross erected at Ground Zero. As the world watched how America would react in this time of unspeakable grief, we bonded together with each other. Literally at the foot of the Cross, which was formed miraculously out of the steel beams of the collapsed buildings. It remains as it was then, a symbol of hope and a reminder of Him who sacrificed for all for us. And it reminds us of those brave men and women who gave their lives on 9/11 so others might live.
The rubbish took a total of eight months to clear, after which the rebuilding process began.
In 2014, the One World Trade Center was completed, becoming the tallest building in the United States with more than 100 stories.
Today, we remember those whose lives were taken on that fateful day 14 years ago. We will never forget.
My colleagues at FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) have spent years documenting, copiously and irrefutably, that religious practice benefits families and children. As MARRI argues, “the intact married family that worships weekly is the greatest generator of human and social positive outcomes and thus it is the core strength of the United States and of all other countries where the data are available.”
Strong, two-parent families mean higher educational attainment and emotional health for children, greater income, less crime, and a host of other benefits. Those families that do best are the ones that attend a religious service together at least once a week. But essential to such worship and, thus, to the benefits that correlate with it, is another factor.
That would be religious liberty. Not just the right to attend a religious service at a given building unimpeded by the law. Not just private devotions in the four walls of one’s home. Not just “freedom of religion” in the sense that people can believe, in their minds, what they choose as long as they are silent about it.
Religious liberty in its fullness means not only the ability to believe what one chooses but the right to live out one’s convictions at work, in the neighborhood, and in all facets of one’s life.
Religious liberty is grounded in the belief that God is the Author of our rights, and that government is merely their protector. This is what the Declaration of Independence asserts and is the very foundation of our philosophy of government and entire way of life. Unless God has granted us our rights, they are the arbitrary bestowals of a government which can diminish or even remove those rights at will.
The threats to religious liberty in our country are real. There are steady efforts to encroach upon it, attempts to chip-away at the right to live out one’s faith such that gradually, religious liberty itself will crumble from incremental erosion (see FRC’s “Free to Believe” webpage for myriad examples of this).
Participation in religious worship and related activities makes a tremendous difference in family life and, thereby, the well-being of our culture. But if religious liberty in its truest sense is lost, will the incentive for participation in formal religious services remain as strong as it is now? Although many Americans will continue such participation if the practice of their faith is hemmed-in by anti-religious laws and rules, repression of religious liberty will render their lives less whole, less happy, and less American.
In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has just been released from jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of Mrs. Davis’s case. Various Christian writers have argued that she is embarrassing Evangelical faith, that she simply should resign, that Christian leaders’ rhetoric defending Mrs. Davis is overheated, etc.
What they are failing to consider are two essential concepts that underlie the Davis case. They are these:
Accommodation. Does not Mrs. Davis deserve some kind of accommodation? We accommodate so many other religious beliefs in both government and private-sector workplaces. Can we not find one for Mrs. Davis and others like her who, out of the integrity of their consciences, cannot do something that abrades the very core of their religious convictions?
That’s why FRC is asking Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call “for a special legislative session and establishing statutory accommodations for clerks like Kim Davis.” As noted by legal scholars Craig Bertschi (Kilpatrick Townsend law firm) and Nathan S. Chapman (University of Georgia School of Law) in their brief on behalf of Hobby Lobby, “the Free Exercise Clause requires some religious accommodations;” in point of fact, some 2,000 such accommodations now exist. As they write in the conclusion of their brief, “When Congress provides religious accommodations consistent with the government’s compelling interests, including its interests in protecting third parties, it supplements, rather than contradicts, the Religion Clauses’ protection of religious liberty.”
The federal government has a “compelling interest” to honor the freedom of religion. As the Founders argued, duty to God precedes duty to the state. This precept is essential to the very heart of our system of government. The same can be said of state governments as well.
Burden. The same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses have many other venues from which to obtain them. There are other, simple, only marginally inconvenient ways for them to obtain them.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed by the U.S. Senate 97-3 and signed by President Clinton in a major public ceremony, makes this clear.
At the signing ceremony, the President said, “This event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.” Note his choice of word – both “profess” and “express.” Faith that is merely emotional or intellectual but whose public expression is stultified is not the kind of active faith to which religious devotion calls its followers.
Additionally, Kentucky has a RFRA which similarly requires the state government to offer an accommodation to people like Mrs. Davis unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest to advance and is doing so in the least restrictive way possible.
Writing in The Public Discourse, Kim Colby, Director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, says RFRA “incentivizes government officials to find mutually beneficial ways to accomplish a governmental interest while respecting citizens’ religious exercise—a win-win solution for all.”
Put simply, Mrs. Davis is being burdened in a manner wholly unfamiliar to those advocates of religious liberty who drafted and enacted RFRA only 22 years ago. The burden imposed on her is an unfair one for a simple reason: There are other recourses for those same-sex couples seeking legal legitimation of their unions.
For example, as Newsweek reports, Mrs. Davis’s attorneys have argued there are options “other than mandating the clerk’s name on all marriage licenses. They (range) from having the county judge executive issue the licenses to allowing a deputy clerk to issue them devoid of Davis’s name or authority as Rowan County Clerk.” Indeed, as reported in today’s Washington Post, “The licenses issued Friday (September 4) were altered to remove Davis’s name. They now say they are issued in the office of ‘Rowan County, Rowan County County Clerk’.”
In other words, there are ways in which same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses that respect Mrs. Davis’s religious conscience and that do not unduly burden those couples in their pursuit of marriage licenses. And clearly, Kentucky has not met its state RFRA’s requirement that the government advance any interest in the least restrictive way possible.
This situation casts into large and vivid relief the kinds of issues the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling redefining marriage has placed before the country. Religious liberty in its fullest sense is at stake.
Surely, for Kim Davis and myriad Americans like her, accommodations can be found and unnecessary burdens lifted.
Kim Davis is the Kentucky county clerk who was recently jailed by a federal judge for her refusing to violate her Christian conscience by issuing marriage licenses under her name and by her authority for same-sex unions. One of the chief arguments made against her conduct is that public officials cannot refuse to do the duties of their job.
So as I was researching this story, I found this excerpt, from an Associated Press article shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling ordering recognition of same-sex marriage in June, rather interesting:
It began in March 2014 when Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway — a former U.S. Senate candidate who is now running for governor — decided not to appeal the initial federal court decision that overturned Kentucky’s same sex marriage ban. During an emotional news conference at the Capitol, he said that to appeal would be to defend discrimination.
However, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear later overruled Conway and hired private attorneys to defend the state’s ban in federal court.
“His job as governor was to take the emotion out of it and say, ‘What’s the rule of law going to be?” said Colmon Elridge, Beshear’s longtime aide. “And the only way to do that was to get a final ruling from the Supreme Court.”
. . .
Conway, meanwhile, has faced critics who suggest he ignored his duties as attorney general. While Republican nominee for governor Matt Bevin criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, he especially targeted Conway, who he said “abandoned his oath of office.” Bevin said Conway’s “failure to do his job … disqualifies him from being elected to the office of governor.”
“How can voters trust him not to break his oath again?” Bevin said.
Whitney Westerfield, the Republican nominee for attorney general, also blasted Conway in his reaction to the court’s decision.
“Unlike Attorney General Jack Conway, who failed in his responsibility to fight for the laws of this commonwealth, as Attorney General I will act to uphold the law even as it runs counter to my personal beliefs,” Westerfield said in a news release.
Did anyone try to put Attorney General Conway in jail for refusing to do his job?
The Daily Signal recently published my piece on why women don’t need Planned Parenthood and how they are actually better off if the $528 million in federal and state funds that is currently going to Planned Parenthood, is made available to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs). These clinics offer more comprehensive women’s health care than Planned Parenthood ever has. In fact, there is not one unique service that Planned Parenthood offers that women can’t get elsewhere.
For those interested in a more in-depth look at the specific services offered by FQHCs and RHCs, here are the findings. The primary health services that FQHCs and RHCs are listed and defined in the Public Health Service Act including general, preventive, diagnostic, emergency and pharmaceutical health services:
(i) basic health services which, for purposes of this section, shall consist of-
(I) health services related to family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, or gynecology that are furnished by physicians and where appropriate, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives;
(II) diagnostic laboratory and radiologic services;
(III) preventive health services, including-
(aa) prenatal and perinatal services
(bb) appropriate cancer screening;
(cc) well-child services;
(dd) immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases;
(ee) screenings for elevated blood lead levels, communicable diseases, and cholesterol;
(ff) pediatric eye, ear, and dental screenings to determine the need for vision and hearing correction and dental care;
(gg) voluntary family planning services; and
(hh) preventive dental services;
(IV) emergency medical services; and
(V) pharmaceutical services as may be appropriate for particular centers;
(ii) referrals to providers of medical services
(iii) patient case management services
(iv) services that enable individuals to use the services of the health center
(v) education of patients and the general population served by the health center regarding the availability and proper use of health services.
In addition, the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual for FQHCs and RHCs lists the following covered services under Medicare for qualifying individuals. RHC services listed in section 50.1 include:
RHC services covered by Medicare also include certain preventive services such as:
FQHC services listed in section 50.2 include all of the above services listed in section 50.1 above, and specifically:
Another Health and Human Services (HHS) flyer on preventive primary health services shows that the following services are covered when furnished by FQHCs to a Medicare patient:
For women only:
Planned Parenthood on the other hand, lists in its most recent report only the following categories for services it offers: STI/STD testing and treatment, contraception, cancer screening and prevention, other women’s health services, abortion and other services.
Its services are quite limited—services which are already being offered by FQHCs and RHCs, excepting abortion.
Congress and states must defund Planned Parenthood and the money be made available to these other health clinics which are much more comprehensive in their health care offerings than Planned Parenthood. Women, families and children deserve better health care than what Planned Parenthood offers.