May 12, 2016
Before same-sex marriage was constitutionally enshrined, we heard about how it would not affect anyone’s religious freedom. It was just about access to the marriage license, we were told.
Anyone who thinks opponents of Christian morality are not interested in forcing everyone to conform to their views need only glance at a motion filed in federal court in Mississippi reacting to a law which provides, of all things, exemptions on conscience grounds.
In their motion, this group of opponents asks the court to make sure that anyone “recusing himself or herself under Section 3(8) of HB 1523” be forced to “desist from issuing any marriage licenses to any other couples, including opposite-sex couples.”
Why make this request if access is the only issue? No access to any licenses has been impeded. But we know it is not about that. These opponents are requesting clerks not issue any licenses because they just can’t stand the idea that someone would not agree with their same-sex marriage.
The opponents proceed to read into motives and offer blanket generalizations:
“Thus, although the most recent efforts by the State of Mississippi to disregard the constitutional rights of LGBT Mississippians through HB 1523 may be somewhat more subtle than the “steel-hard, inflexible, undeviating official policy” of the past, see United States v. City of Jackson, Miss., 318 F.2d 1, 5 (5th Cir. 1963) (ordering end of racial segregation in bus and railway terminals), the underlying impulse is exactly the same.” (emphasis mine)
But calling all genuine Christians everywhere complete racists isn’t enough.
They also mischaracterize the law as “exhorting state residents to discriminate against their gay, lesbian and transgender neighbors in a wide variety of circumstances.” Where is this behavior “exhorted?”
They also want the state to be forced to “post all recusal notices to a prominent place” on a government website. Shaming, anyone?
The real motive is obvious. It’s to force those who now disagree to eventually agree. Nothing more (for now), and nothing less.
May 12, 2016
Writing last year in The Public Discourse, attorney Jeff Ventrella of the Alliance Defending Freedom described what he termed “the prevailing orthodoxy that bans dissent from or disapproval of total sexual autonomy.”
We are witnessing that essentially fascistic approach to law and policy — the banning of dissent — in our time, even this week, as the Obama Administration seeks to crush the government of North Carolina’s efforts to preserve privacy and security in public bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers.
FRC is standing with Governor Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, and the leaders of North Carolina’s legislature as they refuse to surrender to President Obama’s vision of a redefined human sexuality. As FRC President Tony Perkins has said, “If the White House can dictate the bathroom policies of America, what could possibly be beyond their reach?”
The federal government is a servant, not a master. Americans are citizens, not subjects. The Tenth Amendment, reserving to the states those things not specifically assigned by the Constitution to the federal government, remains in force.
Those are the principles upon which conscientious men and women have always stood in our country. To abandon them is to abandon liberty. And to abandon liberty is to abandon America.
May God give us the grace and strength never to accede to such a sordid, tragic betrayal of our historic commitment to and movement toward liberty and justice for all.
Family Research Council
P.S. This is an “FRC-only” version of the SoCon Review. Watch for the next full edition the week of May 23rd.
May 9, 2016
With every passing day, it seems, Christian values are increasingly being pushed out of the public square and out of public policy. What can ordinary Christian citizens do to make their voices heard in their day to day lives and in Washington? FRC is here to help. Every Monday starting today here on the FRC Blog, we will publish a Question of the Week that we receive, along with our answer.
Feel free to send us a question you may have about how you can better live out your faith beyond the four walls of your church, or about any specific value that FRC continues to stand for, whether it be life, marriage and family, or religious liberty. Go to frc.org/contact-frc and enter “Question of the Week” in the Subject line. Thank you for standing with us!
Question: FRC seems to be good at getting information out. This is great, but I feel helpless in the grand scheme of things. There is so much discussion and it does not seem to get us anywhere. How can we stand up for ourselves together as a Christian family, in a respectable Christian manner? It’s the first time in my life that I am sometimes afraid to wear my cross. I do it anyway, because I am very strong in my faith and I love Jesus, but I do feel a bit uneasy at times. Thank you for your time.
FRC: We’re encouraged by your desire to glorify God in the public square. As God’s stewards on earth whose entire purpose for living is to give all glory, honor, and praise to Him in every sphere of life, God has called many of us to work for Him in the public square—some of us in Washington, D.C., others at the state level, and still others at the local level. Thank you for realizing the importance of Christians being active members of society who are willing to promote biblical family values to our government officials. First, do your civic duty by voting according to your Christian conscience. In addition, you can write emails or make calls to public officials at the local, state, and federal levels, and encourage neighbors, friends, and co-workers to do the same. (You can do this by signing up for our Alerts here.) For more information on how you can get involved in the public square, please go to the volunteer page on our website at frc.org/volunteer. Please also ask your pastor if he would like to join our pastors network at watchmenpastors.org, and consider creating a Culture Impact Team at your church: cultureimpact.org. Please continue to pray for our nation and its leaders. This is the most influential action we can take: may God’s will be done. God’s Word is a source of great comfort and hope. Proverbs 21:30-31 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Thanks again for your desire to help us transform our culture for God’s glory. May He bless you.
April 27, 2016
Modern culture is overloaded with news, social media, electronic images, technological advances, advertisements and so forth. The limits of our time and attention are pressed to new boundaries every day by the flood of external data hitting us from every angle.
There is so much happening in our society and our world that keeping up with it all is impossible. So, with respect to issues of concern to social conservatives and Christians who care deeply about the future of our country, the dignity of all people, and the persecuted around the world, FRC brings you The Social Conservative Review. It’s a unique, one-stop-shop for news and commentary about the critical moral and cultural issues of our time.
This is a content-heavy edition of SoCon. That’s because there’s much to report in the key areas where FRC works to advance religious liberty, human dignity, the health of the family, and the sanctity of life. But that’s also why we send out these editions every two weeks, to give you a chance to read the best of the Web on the issues you care about.
Thanks for your heart for the good things for which FRC stands. Pray we’ll keep standing, and moving forward, with the grace and truth Jesus embodied.
Family Research Council
“Free to Believe”
April 27, 2016
After oral argument this morning in United States v. Sterling before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, there is reason to remain hopeful that the court will see the clear Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim in this case and that the appellant will prevail on that claim. The case, concerning a Marine lance corporal’s posting of verses of scripture at her desk, and subsequent court martial for refusing to remove them, has significant implications for religious freedom in the military.
As Paul Clement, arguing for the appellant, pointed out: the RFRA analysis is straightforward in this case. RFRA protects “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” Clearly, posting Bible verses are an exercise of religion. And this exercise was substantially burdened in this case by the special court martial conviction imposed after the lance corporal refused to compromise her religious exercise by taking down the verses. The Supreme Court has found a substantial burden on much less punishment from the government. While not diminishing the unique needs of the military to maintain good order and discipline, Clement highlighted the clear religious freedom violation in this case.
The government tried to dispute the presence of a substantial burden, but the cases on this point are not helpful to the government. Its attorney tried to argue that a hypothetical religious belief requiring adherents to write in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the White House would not be allowed and is therefore not substantially burdened, but this is a flat-out misunderstanding of RFRA! Such a belief may in fact be substantially burdened, but would not be permitted because the government has a compelling interest in the security of that property.
The government also wanted to focus on the need of the lance corporal to obtain some sort of “accommodation,” claiming the way it was handled here showed the “lack of a substantial burden.” But this is a mere attempt to distract from the plain text of RFRA.
Upon questioning from the judges, the government expressly admitted the quite obvious fact that RFRA applies to the military. (One judge seemed to grasp that the government was in a tough spot because RFRA applies to the “government as a whole,” which includes the military.) The government also admitted it didn’t know this was a RFRA case in the trial below, which (if believable)—while not letting it off the hook—further highlights sloppy handling of the claim below. (The lance corporal invoked DODI 1300.17, which contains the same standard as RFRA, and other evidence clearly indicates she was bringing a religious exercise claim). While the government tried to shift attention away from RFRA because a straightforward RFRA analysis is harmful to its case, it is clear that the military knew religious exercise was at play here, and substantially burdened this exercise by court martialing the service member engaged in it.
The government wanted to argue that because the lance corporal (who did not have the helpful assistance of an attorney in the courts below, which the chief judge noted required granting her actions more deference) did not literally say “RFRA” or “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” she has now waived the religious exercise claim. This is just silly. The government clearly was on notice that her claim was religious.
Paul Clement pointed this out in his closing argument, noting there is no “magic words” test in applying RFRA. In addition, the trial court clearly recognized the religious nature of the postings, he said. Finally, the “accommodation” issue does not decide the substantial burden question! (The government seemed to need help understanding this.) In summary, the lower court falsely applied a far too restrictive understanding of RFRA, and must be reversed, Clement argued.
A win for the appellant in this case is a win for both religious exercise and the readiness of our military as a whole, for our armed forces can only be strengthened as their individual members draw upon faith to face hardship and danger in battle.
What should happen here? As Clement noted, there should be an obvious application of the text of RFRA. When this analysis is conducted, the lance corporal wins. Let us hope the court sees this as clearly as it decides this case in the coming months.
April 21, 2016
Ideas have consequences, Richard Weaver reminded us years ago. What someone believes will affect his behavior. What society endorses will consummate in certain results.
We are living in a time when blurry is the new normal. As Christian rocker Randy Stonehill wrote years ago:
Right is wrong and wrong is right
White is black and black is white
I think I just lost my appetite
Stop the world I wanna get off
Well, his last plea cannot be fulfilled (and where would we go if it could?), but his larger point—moral confusion is one of the gods of the age—is more valid by the day. Here are some scenarios that are wholly possible at a time when gender is seen as “fluid,” petulant insistencies are seen as “rights,” and petty (and often fabricated) emotional duress is seen as “micro-aggressive.”
Transgender use of restrooms and showers: A man, clothed in attire traditionally identified as masculine and short, crisply-parted hair, walks into a women’s locker room at a gym. The women there are upset and demand he leave. His response: “I am a transgendered man who prefers wearing men’s clothing and cutting my hair in a manner consistent with accepted norms for professional male hairstyles. But I identify as a woman and have every right to be here.”
Marriage: Three men and two women insist upon the right to marry. They argue that the definition of marriage as the union of only two people is arbitrary and culturally-based. They assert that their affection for and commitment to one another, and their free volitional choice to unite in matrimony, entitle them to legal marriage. They cite Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s statement in his Obergefell opinion that “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” If two people become something greater than once they were, how much greater will five? Who is anyone to say that the five of them don’t mutually fill one another’s needs uniquely?
Legal accountability: “A Connecticut judge declined on (April 14) to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the maker of the assault-style rifle that a gunman used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School to fatally shoot 26 people before killing himself,” reported the New York Times earlier this month.
How about this: A woman is hit by a drunk driver and experiences physical trauma. She sues the manufacturer of the vehicle’s tires for enabling the guy behind the wheel to automate his car and, in his drunken state, hit her.
Hate speech and coercive silence: Is it hateful to quote a Bible verse, express a controversial opinion, or hold an unpopular view? Fascism was supposed to have been America’s enemy in the Second World War; is it now our accepted modus vivendi?
“The University of California, Los Angeles Graduate Student Association approved a resolution Wednesday calling those who do not support a pro-Palestine agenda ‘Islamophobic’,” according to reporter Peter Fricke. This is but one example of hundreds, even thousands, of how the Left is seeking to compel uniform cultural allegiance to its agenda and the silencing of those who resist it.
Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and an Obama appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes it very clear that religious liberty is subordinate to the special privileges of people who identify as lesbian or gay:
For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed-and-breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making that decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.
What’s next? How about these:
- Teaching the eternal destruction of those who refuse to trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord is made illegal as it is “hateful.”
- Telling one’s daughter she must dress as a girl is deemed “oppressive” and “genderist.”
- Preventing people from eating certain foods because they are deemed inherently unhealthy, or in some way tracking the eating habits of ordinary citizens so as to restrict their intake of various kinds of foods.
- The Supreme Court voiding all laws against full legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages.
April 15, 2016
In yet the latest example of cognitive hypocrisy by the Left, Sen. Barbara Boxer berated a Catholic priest during a hearing on Wednesday for not explicitly agreeing with Pope Francis’s views on the causes of climate change.
It’s at once a maddening yet unsurprising phenomenon: to trumpet the Pope’s stature as a moral authority whenever it is most convenient by belittling those who disagree with him on a scientific issue like climate change, while at the same time remaining entirely silent and apparently having complete disregard for anything he says about matters of faith and morals, like abortion, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, etc.
As the priest pointed out during the hearing, Pope Francis does not and would never claim to be “infallible” or even have any sort of professional expertise in matters of science. It is only “when he speaks on moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and the like, then he speaks on magisterial authority.”
In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) released on April 8, Pope Francis wrote these eloquent words in regard to the weakening of marriage and the family:
No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?
“Some societies still maintain the practice of polygamy; in other places, arranged marriages are an enduring practice… In many places, not only in the West, the practice of living together before marriage is widespread, as well as a type of cohabitation which totally excludes any intention to marry.” In various countries, legislation facilitates a growing variety of alternatives to marriage, with the result that marriage, with its characteristics of exclusivity, indissolubility and openness to life, comes to appear as an old-fashioned and outdated option. Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal. The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family’s problems, it can always grow, beginning with love.”
On the one hand, it’s great that the Left is so eager to revere the Pope’s words (Sen. Boxer emphasized several times in the hearing that she wasn’t just citing anyone, but “the Pope”). Maybe someday they will find the time to actually engage and wrestle in their souls with what Francis says in the area of faith and morals, not just in the cherry-picked topics that happen to align with their agenda.
April 15, 2016
News about the persecution of Christians around the world has become more frequent and more vivid. We are jarred by the growing stream of photos showing bloodied corpses and crying children, by reports of gruesome slaughter and indiscriminate massacres. In many places, professing faith in Jesus is requiring the ultimate sacrifice.
FRC is calling on Christians throughout America to “Stand with the Persecuted” this coming Sunday, April 17th. With our friends at Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, In Defense of Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, International Christian Concern, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, we’re issuing a call for churches nationwide to show a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body,” we read in Hebrews 13:3 (ESV). This coming Sunday, let’s do just that.
Family Research Council
April 11, 2016
With Governor Bryant’s signature on HB 1523, Mississippi joins other states taking steps to protect the freedom to believe in the post-Obergefell world. It is the first state to pass comprehensive legislation aligning with the federal First Amendment Defense Act to protect private citizens from the heavy hand of government that may seek to penalize them for supporting natural marriage after last year’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
HB 1523 is simple: it prevents the government from telling individuals and entities they are excluded from working with the government and can’t receive the same treatment everyone else receives simply because they still believe marriage is between a man and a woman. In essence, it prevents government discrimination against private citizens.
Most people get that such discrimination should not be permitted. One recent poll shows nearly two-thirds of Mississippi voters want to protect pastors, churches, schools, and businesses from government discrimination. Another poll last year found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses.”
Now that Mississippi has passed such needed protections, the way is open for other states and the federal government to do the same.
April 5, 2016
In a serious, probing article in Christianity Today, political scientist David Koyzis argues that American Christians are facing an increasingly hostile culture, one which may drive them to a position of respectful but undeniable defiance to a usurping state.
As FRC has documented, there are far too many examples of believers in our country whose convictions concerning the Savior’s truth outweigh their willingness to accede to government’s demands. Will this become more widespread? Undoubtedly, if we refuse to use the political tools we possess to defend our God-given liberties.
Koyzis’s piece is cautious and thorough. Not every reader of this blog will agree with all of his conclusions, but his efforts to be faithful to Scripture’s demands are admirable and there is much truth to be gleaned from his observations. As we might be coming to a time when, as the Body of Christ, we will need to “obey God, rather than man,” as Peter put it (Acts 5:29), honest followers of Jesus should contemplate what might be required of them.
Below, I excerpt a few passages from the article I found particularly bracing.
Among (American) believers, complaining about Caesar’s heavy yoke can look like an affront to victims of genuine persecution—the violent kind meted out by ISIS fighters. It all adds up to a strong presumption that unless there’s a clear family resemblance to the civil rights movement, civil disobedience is simply beyond the pale.
But given the trend lines of our culture, it’s time to rethink this presumption. Christians face intensifying pressure to compromise their convictions and conform to secular ideologies. Calculated lawbreaking won’t be the right response to every government provocation, and it should never be undertaken lightly—especially in democratic societies where offensive laws can be debated, protested, and changed. But no one who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord can meekly submit to the proposition that man-made laws are sacred and inviolable. We need to restore a bold willingness to treat principled resistance as a live possibility, rather than a relic of a bygone era … (Emphasis mine)
Where we can change laws and constitutions, let’s make every effort to do so. But it’s no secret that Christian convictions run seriously afoul of the spirit of the age. Caesar’s edicts may create situations where living them out puts us on the wrong side of the law.
Civil disobedience is our very last resort, to be contemplated only with fear and trembling. But by no means can faithful believers rule it out of bounds.