FRC Blog

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

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Is the roof falling in?

by Pat Fagan

August 13, 2014

Last Saturday in the Wall Street Journal I read about the dilemma of the European welfare state: its low fertility cannot sustain the welfare state and its anemic economy cannot offer jobs to young millennials. Yesterday, I read Fred Andrews’s New York Times review of Carbone and Cahn’s “Marriage Markets,” an unhappy recounting of the unappealing economics of marriage for all but the upper class. Last night, I started reading Mitch Perlstein’s wonderfully written book, “From Family Collapse to America’s Decline.” This morning I read Mark Regnerus’s latest analysis from his massively expanded survey, on the significant splitting in the nation regarding what is seen good and acceptable in sexual and family matters. Every author each in his own way sees the drift tending in the wrong direction away from marriage.

Regnerus has a wonderfully enlightening interpretation in his video graphic on the economics of sex. The price of sex has lowered. Before the pill it used to cost a guy his life, now just a date or two. By and large he (and she) can get away with it as never before but the price is being exacted in declining education, productivity and employability and stagnant near-poverty for more and more. This sets the next generation up for still further decline.

Charles Murray says we are Coming Apart and recently retired professor of political philosophy, Fr. James Schall of Georgetown, says we, as a polity, already are that nasty mix described by Aristotle: the classical combination of tyranny and democracy.

All this could be pretty depressing especially when the bottom line is that our civilization is clearly in deep trouble. Though Christianity gave us the traditional family based on monogamous fidelity of spouses and their dedication to their children as more and more Christians give up on their own moral code (see Regnerus analysis) nothing else is left — for no else has a better template.

However a ray of hope exists within recent writings: increasingly more and more see that how the sexual is negotiated is at the center of this decline. Even economists (some of them at least) are gradually beginning to see the connection between marriage and the economy.

The solution lies in the regrowth from within the collapse that is underway — among those who hold to “the template that works.” Though Christians in the Middle East may die of martyrdom Christians in the US will have their own heavy price to pay, first in the natural price of good family life and then in the extra costs, not least the extra taxes, to pay for the dysfunctions of a broken America. Though the price is high, the options are clear: live a life of meaning and love or live a life in pursuit of pleasure and things, but devoid of people. For those who reflect on it, it is a “no-brainer”.

Why do it: for the love that it all will take. For it is only love will conquer the tyranny built on the sexual gone wrong. Every wronged spouse knows that. Every former porn addict knows that. America will learn it all over again … but only from those who love. Though we will always need our brave military soldiers, a new type of soldier is emerging: the one pledged to chaste love. How medieval. Maybe history is about to repeat itself.

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Crunching Common Core’s Numbers

by Sarah Perry

August 8, 2014

It’s now an easy to thing to say the much-publicized Common Core State Standards Initiative lacks educational exactingness. Once upon a time, Americans were led to believe that the standards were deeper, more rigorous, and internationally benchmarked. But if the implementation of the Common Core — its concrete use with actual students, in actual classrooms, actually subjected to the standards — has demonstrated anything, it’s that the failings of the Standards are myriad.

As the reality of the initiative reaches its zenith, school districts nationwide are watching their scores plummet. In my home county in Maryland — the highest performing in the state — a year of implementation resulted in the lowest math scores in seven years. And maybe that’s just how it was designed: as an effort to prove that we parents are “misguided” as to how much our children know, and that they have to fail against these (mediocre) standards before actual learning can take place, thereby promoting the U.S. to the level of global competitiveness that will ensure the salvation of our flagging economy.

We know the English standards promote informational and technical texts over the study of literary classics — up to a 70% preference by grade 12. We know there is more of a stress on writing, and not reading. There is no list of literary movements, no standards on British literature (aside from Shakespeare), and no standard on authors from the ancient world. We know handwriting is lost in the English standards, and that the standards themselves are unclear and poorly written.

But math standards are their own hornet’s nest of awful. It seems lost on the Common Core’s proponents that Jason Zimba, one of the leading drafters of the Math Standards, openly avowed before the Massachusetts State Board of Education that the standards do not prepare students for STEM careers, nor do they prepare children to attend the kinds of colleges that “most parents aspire to.” Because that, it would seem, is reason enough to re-visit the standards.

Not even Stanford University’s Dr. James Milgram and his passionate criticism of the standards he was retained to validate (and could not), not even his remarks that Common Core math is a “huge and risky experiment” on K-12 students has proven the definitive conclusion to the debate.

Now, some of the most credentialed mathematicians in the nation are witnessing the failings of the Core’s math as it comes home to roost. Marina Ratner, professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California Berkeley and recipient of both the international Ostrowski Prize and the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, is the latest to view the Core’s math standards for what they really are: sub-par.

A few days ago, Dr. Ratner wrote in the Wall Street Journal that she discovered the Common Core standards were several years behind California’s old standards, and that they are clearly not internationally benchmarked. She stated that “Common Core’s ‘deeper’ and ‘more rigorous’ standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper — while the actual content taught [is] primitive.” She went on to write that the Common Core standards “are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.”

Her critique makes perfect sense. Even curriculum directors and Common Core cheerleaders are admitting the standards’ failings (whether wittingly or unwittingly). Just take the comments of Amanda August, Grayslake, Illinois D46 Curriculum Director explaining the focus of Common Core Math:

But even under the new common core if even if they [the students] said 3 x 4 was 11, if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer … Really in words and oral explanation and they showed it in a picture but they just got the final answer wrong, we’re more focused on the how and the why.”

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The Government’s Judgment of Religion

by James Wheeler

August 6, 2014

Others have written about the threats posed to religious liberty by the President’s Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of so-called “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” and by the White House’s refusal to provide a more robust religious liberty exception. However, the administration’s interpretation of the effect of the executive order is even more troubling. In fact, the administration’s interpretation could very well turn religious liberty on its head.

In a statement, the administration insisted that religious organizations can decide to hire only members of the same religion, but cannot refuse to hire someone “who is of [their] faith who happens to be LGBT.” What about those religions that would hold that a willfully practicing, unrepentant homosexual could not be a member of that religion? If such an individual claims to share the religion of a potential employer, must the employer hire the individual? The administration’s statement sure seems to suggest that. What’s more, Travis Weber, Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, asked the administration to clarify this important matter in an online Q & A session over a week ago and the administration has so far refused to do so — the White House instead responded to softball questions and platitudes about what a great job the administration is doing on a variety of topics, many irrelevant to the actual Executive Order.

The administration’s interpretation would upend one of the most fundamental principles in religious liberty law: The government cannot decide which religious doctrines are valid and which are not. But that is what the government would do if it forced a religious organization to employ a practicing homosexual in violation of the religious beliefs of the organization simply because the practicing homosexual “is of [its] faith.” The administration is telling millions of Americans that believe that homosexual behavior is a sin and that willful, unrepentant sins necessitate removing an individual from fellowship that those beliefs are unimportant. They are telling us that the government, and not we, will decide whether an individual who violates the tenants of our faith is still a member of our religion. That has been the very antithesis of religious liberty jurisprudence for decades, if not centuries. For the government to single out some beliefs for approbation and others for reprobation is to make government the arbiter of religious belief, something completely forbidden by the Constitution.

Because of these implications of the administration’s interpretation of the executive order, virtually every court that has ever considered religious exemptions in other non-discrimination laws has concluded that they must reach to employment decisions that are religiously motivated without considering whether the employer and employee share the same faith, even when the language of the exception appears limited to only decisions based on whether the employee belongs to the employer’s religion. These courts have recognized that to examine whether an individual shares the religion of an employer would require a court to examine the relative importance of beliefs within a religion (i.e. which beliefs about conduct, if violated, are enough to kick a person out) and would necessarily entangle courts in deciding questions of religious doctrine. Unfortunately, the administration is unwilling to acknowledge this problem; instead insisting that while it is permissible to not consider an individual a member of your religion for a multitude of reasons, if your reason is that individual’s unrepentant, willful homosexual practice, then your reason isn’t really religious enough to be protected. That turns religious liberty on its head, and was wisely forbidden in the Constitution.

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Which Empowers The Most?

by Pat Fagan

August 5, 2014

At MARRI we are preparing a major synthesis paper on the effects of contraception, which has caused much discussion and  has also led to thinking a lot about natural family planning (NFP). Most folk don’t realize that both methods of birth spacing stem from the same science, the biochemistry of how the body works.   But there the similarities end.  The differences between the two are multiple but the most telling is the effect they have on the communication patterns between the spouses.

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Is There a Federal Constitutional “Right” to Same-Sex “Marriage?” The Supreme Court Answered that Question Already — in 1972

by Peter Sprigg

August 5, 2014

Have you ever heard of the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case called Baker v. Nelson?

If so, you are probably a lawyer, or (like me) a person who regularly reads briefs and court decisions on the issue of redefining “marriage” to include homosexual couples.

If you have never heard of this case, you can be forgiven — even if you regularly read news stories about the movement for the same-sex redefinition of marriage.

However, Baker v. Nelson is an important precedent on this issue. It was the very first case in which anyone ever asserted that the Constitution of the United States protects the right to legally “marry” a person of the same sex. In Baker, a male couple sued a county clerk in Minnesota for denying them a marriage license in May 1970. The case made its way to the Supreme Court of Minnesota — which, on October 15, 1971, issued a ruling declaring that the state’s marriage law did not permit a same-sex couple to “marry,” and that it “does not offend … the United States Constitution.”

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The Fourth Circuit Gets It Fundamentally Wrong on Marriage

by Chris Gacek

August 1, 2014

On Monday a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond upheld a federal district court’s decision from February 2014 declaring Virginia’s male-female marriage definition to be unconstitutional. In Bostic v. Schaeffer, the Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia’s “Marriage Laws,” including its electorally-enacted constitutional provision defining marriage, “warrant strict scrutiny due to their infringement of the fundamental right to marry.” Upon further analysis the court’s majority opinion, written by Judge Henry Floyd and joined by Judge Roger Gregory, concluded that these marital provisions were not supported by a sufficiently strong rationale to withstand heightened constitutional scrutiny.

The key fighting ground between the court’s majority and the dissenter, Judge Paul Niemeyer, lay in how to analyze the question of whether Virginia’s Marriage Laws infringed on a fundamental constitutional right held by same-sex couples. This is not a new type of question for federal courts to consider. When assessing whether a claimed right is fundamental under the Due Process Clause, the Supreme Court looks to a two-part test promulgated in its landmark 1997 ruling, Washington v. Glucksberg.

First, the court should asses a “careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty interest.” The claimed right must be described precisely. Second, such rights must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Furthermore, the right must be “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” It is at this point that the majority made a disastrous error.

The critical step lies in how one defines the right, and the majority defined it incorrectly. The majority did “not dispute” that “states have refused to permit same-sex marriages for most of our country’s history.” Yet, this fact was deemed “irrelevant” here “because Glucksberg’s analysis applies only when courts consider whether to recognize new fundamental rights.” The Bostic court somewhat dishonestly side-stepped the strictures of Glucksberg by concluding that “the fundamental right to marry encompasses the right to same-sex marriage.” (p.41) The right to marry is well recognized as a fundamental right, but the majority interpreted the Supreme Court’s precedents in this area to “speak of a broad right to marry that is not circumscribed based on the characteristics of the individuals seeking to exercise the right.”

As the dissenting judge, Paul Niemeyer, pointed out, this must be false:

At bottom, in holding that same-sex marriage is encompassed by the traditional right to marry, the majority avoids the necessary constitutional analysis, concluding simply and broadly that the fundamental “right to marry”—by everyone and to anyone—may not be infringed. And it does not anticipate or address the problems that this approach causes, failing to explain, for example, why this broad right to marry, as the majority defines it, does not also encompass the “right” of a father to marry his daughter or the “right” of any person to marry multiple partners. (pp. 67-8)

Analyzed properly, the claimed right is not the right to marry with marriage defined all-inclusively, but rather, the right to marry a person of the same-sex. Of course, as the court conceded (above), states had not begun to recognize same-sex marriages until recent times. In actuality, such marriages have been allowed only since 2004 in a nation dating back to 1789. Same-sex marriage, as an institution recognized anywhere in the United States, is younger than Google and Facebook.

Enough said. Applying Glucksberg, there is clearly no fundamental constitutional right to enter into a same-sex marriage.

In closing, one offensive aspect of the majority opinion needs to be commented upon: its last sentence. In concluding its opinion, the court observed, “Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.” (p. 63) Using “segregation” here advances the calumny that opposition to same-sex marriage is akin to supporting racial segregation. That slur doesn’t even make sense.

The opposite sex composition of the marital relationship is the essential feature of what “marriage” is because true marriage allows for the union of one male human being and one female human being in a complementary sexual relationship that has the potential to produce children. It is the joining of embodied maleness and femaleness in a relationship that can sustain the nurture of children should they be produced.

No same-sex relationship has either capacity. Defining marriage as reality reveals allows for liberation to enter a great design. Segregation it is not.

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The Ongoing Struggle vs. The End Game

by Rachel del Guidice

July 31, 2014

Several years ago I read this letter on the Priests for Life website. It gives readers a chilling look at what the future might hold, Frighteningly, the contents of this letter are becoming reality more and more each day.

The letter is from a young woman to her mother, wanting to share some difficult news in a tactful manner. While trying to soften the blow of her news, she mentions her busy life and her husband’s much-needed job promotion before sharing her true reason for writing: telling her mom that she will be euthanatizing her son. It’s not that he’s a bad kid. It’s just that his life is an unfair burden. When reading this warning, I hoped that that was a future scenario never to come.  It is eerie to see how this letter foreshadowed exactly what is happening today in Europe.

In February, Belgium voted to legalize child euthanasia for children of all ages. It doesn’t matter if little Jenny is 5 or 15. Parents now have the right to kill their own children. While the law does state that minors must “be in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term,” if we are honest with ourselves, we know that this “stipulation” is elastic to the point that it willbe bent and stretched over time

It’s not only little ones who continue to be targeted by the Culture of Death. Rimante Šalaševiciute, the new prime minister of Lithuania, feels that euthanasia should be a viable option for the poor. Recently, she told local media that “euthanasia might be an option for people who did not want to torment relatives with the spectacle of their suffering.” This new attack on life, as ludicrous as it sounds, should not take us by surprise. First we were told that life within the womb really isn’t life at all. Then we are told that young life, be it sick or troubled, is worthy of death. Now we are told that caring for loved ones less privileged than ourselves is “torment.”

I think we have learned by now that the battling the Culture of Death is an ongoing struggle. It is a Culture led by “a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  However, unlike most battles in life, we know the end of the story. The Author of Life is on our side, and because of that, Death will never win.


When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

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Genocide in Iraq

by Travis Weber

July 31, 2014

It is hard to ignore the disturbing reports emerging from Iraq which contribute to mounting evidence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) extermination of Christians and anything reflecting the Christian religion. Congressman Frank Wolf and others have spoken persuasively and forcefully on this tragedy. Yet judging by the actions (or lack thereof) of our president and the other leaders of the free world, one wouldn’t think much was going on in Iraq. However, the available evidence shows that ISIS’s extermination of Christians is one of the clearest cases of genocide since World War II.

What little President Obama has said about preventing atrocities in foreign lands has centered on the Responsibility to Protect – a relatively recent doctrine which is not clearly established or grounded in international law. While its validity can be debated, there exist clearer grounds on which to address the plight of Iraq’s Christians  – the obligation to prevent genocide contained in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

After the horror of the Nazi ideology and ensuing Holocaust was fully realized, the nations of the world gathered together, formed the United Nations, and affirmed they would never let such horrors happen again. The Genocide Convention laid down into international law a binding treaty arrangement in which contracting nations agreed to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. As part of this obligation, parties could “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action … as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Some argue that the “obligation to prevent” is not a clear, independent requirement of the treaty, but that argument is overcome by the clear language and purpose of the treaty, and a decision of the International Court of Justice holding that the treaty contains a clear, independent obligation to prevent genocide. Indeed, the whole point of the treaty was to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from happening again.

According to the Convention, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” –

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

While only one of these acts is required to have genocide, ISIS clearly appears to have engaged in at least the first three acts listed above. It appears to have undertaken them with the “intent to destroy” Christians and Christian heritage in Iraq “in whole,” and at least “in part.” Christians are a “religious group.” If the elements of this crime are not met in this case, I’m not sure when they are.

The responsibility to prevent genocide contained in the Genocide Convention requires that the United States and other parties to the treaty act to prevent genocide when they recognize it is occurring. It is difficult to deny that genocide of Iraq’s Christians is currently underway. In other instances, nations have refrained from calling genocide “genocide” (such as in the Darfur region of Sudan several years ago, or in Rwanda in the early 1990s) out of fear of triggering their legal obligation to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. Is this the effect the treaty was intended to have? It is inconceivable that a mechanism designed to prevent future atrocities would be used as a reason to avoid denouncing those atrocities. Yet there is reason to believe nations have and will continue to operate this way.

While governments may try to craft arguments against their obligation if they do not want to address the issue, that will become more difficult as more facts come to light. The evidence from Iraq is clear – ISIS’ stated intent is to target Christians, which is a classification based on religion, one of the requirements for genocide. No nation which is a party to the Genocide Convention should be able to escape its requirement to act to prevent what ISIS is now doing to Iraq’s Christians.

Over twenty years ago, President Clinton hesitated to take decisive action to stop genocide in Rwanda. He avoided calling it genocide precisely because of the concerns expressed here – the United States would be obligated to do something if genocide was recognized. As a result, over a million lives were lost. Several years later, President Clinton went to Rwanda and admitted his error.

 

Yet this is precisely the point of the binding legal “obligation to prevent” contained in the Genocide Convention – it should not be able to be manipulated according to the shifting winds of foreign policy. It was always understood that binding obligations were necessary to prevent nations from wavering in the future when memories of the Holocaust started to fade.

The Genocide Convention was designed to prevent future horrors. Yet the nations of the world now stand by as genocide of Christians occurs before their very eyes in Iraq. All the elements of this crime are met, and we have an obligation to prevent it. What are we waiting for? That same question, which was asked of Nazi appeasers in the 1930s and President Clinton in the 1990s, will someday be asked of us about Iraq.

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