FRC Blog

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit: Upholding marriage and democracy

by Travis Weber

November 7, 2014

On November 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, held that the marriage laws of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee do not violate the federal Constitution.

The opinion is a model of judicial restraint. Judge Sutton declared that states may see fit to legalize same-sex marriage, as multiple states already have, but that decision is to be left to the people of the states; the Constitution does not permit a “poll” of federal judges about “whether gay marriage is a good idea.”

A number of arguments were raised by the challengers of the marriage laws. Judge Sutton confronted all of them, and methodically explained why they are each insufficient to entitle the challengers to relief.

The 6th Circuit is simply following precedent, which it is required to do

The Court first explained that its position as an intermediate court requires it to follow on-point precedent, which is readily available in the case of Baker v. Nelson. Even in light of Loving v. Virginia (which had been decided four years previous to Baker), the Minnesota Supreme Court in Baker held that there was no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage, for “‘in commonsense and in a constitutional sense … there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.’” The losing party appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Court dismissed the constitutional same-sex marriage claim, thus establishing Supreme Court precedent binding the 6th Circuit in this case.

Neither does United States v. Windsor change the calculus, for Windsor and Baker dealt with different issues. As for the argument that Windsor and other cases constitute a “doctrinal development,” Judge Sutton relies on the explicit instruction of the Supreme Court in other cases to conclude, quite reasonably, that Supreme Court precedents (which include Baker) must be followed until the Supreme Court makes clear otherwise. Unless the Supreme Court expressly overrules Baker by name, or by outcome, the 6th Circuit is bound by it. In addition, Judge Sutton clearly repudiated the notion that Windsor controls the present question somehow – noting that Windsor did not decide whether there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

This type of solid logic is great to see; and shows that judges who have ruled otherwise have recklessly picked their favorite cases and twisted them to fit a favorable narrative. These other rulings finding a federal right to same-sex “marriage” have torn logic from its moorings; this is all the more apparent when contrasted with Judge Sutton’s solid logic here.

Baker independently provides grounds to conclude there is no constitutional rights claim to same-sex marriage, but Judge Sutton continues to address the remainder of challengers’ arguments nevertheless.

The original meaning of the Constitution does not offer support for same-sex marriage

Considering that the Constitution is an agreement between the people of the United States and the political leaders entrusted to govern them, Judge Sutton noted, its terms can only be changed with the consent of the people. For this reason also, clarity in interpretation and understanding are all the more important. There is no clear provision or understanding of the Constitution’s terms conferring a right to same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court also clearly looks to long-established historical track records of how constitutional provisions are to be interpreted – as revealed by precedent on a number of different constitutional provisions. Therefore, with this understanding, states are permitted, but not required, to legally allow marriage between members of the same-sex. If lawyers still invoke the original meaning of the Magna Carta, is it too much to ask that the original meaning of the Constitution (which, as Judge Sutton noted, no party to the case has suggested permits same-sex marriage) be respected? Indeed, it is not. Judge Sutton concluded that the original meaning of the Constitution and the historical record of what it permits does not reveal any constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

The state marriage laws meet rational basis review

Judge Sutton next concluded that the state marriage laws at issue meet rational basis review, which is satisfied as long as there is “any plausible reason” for the laws. Indeed, “[a] dose of humility makes” the Court “hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.”

The Court noted it is clearly rational for the state to want to regulate the effects of sexual activity – which raises very important questions such as who is responsible for children produced by sexual activity, how many mates a person may have, and who is responsible for children which one or more of the partners helped to produce. The fact “[t]hat we rarely think about these questions nowadays shows only how far we have come and how relatively stable our society is, not that States have no explanation for creating such rules in the first place.” This alone is evidence of the rational basis of such laws. Moreover, “rational basis review does not permit courts to invalidate laws every time a new and allegedly better way of addressing a policy emerges,” Judge Sutton concluded. “By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. That does not convict the States of irrationality.”

It is also clearly rational for the states to want to wait and see what happens as a result of the legalization of same-sex marriage before changing their own laws on a norm which has existed for centuries. Developments in the United States on this issue have been rapid-fire, and yet at the same time, many states have simply left in place the norms to which they have always held. This is certainly rational, for “[a] Burkean sense of caution does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Either of these two grounds would independently satisfy rational basis review. Yet even the challengers’ own “love-and-commitment” definition of marriage would fail under their view of rational basis review. For no state requires couples, whether gay or straight, to be in love. Yet on the other hand, their definition fails to account for plural marriages, for there is “no reason to think that three or four adults, whether gay, bisexual, or straight, lack the capacity to share love, affection, and commitment, or for that matter lack the capacity to be capable (and more plentiful) parents to boot.” The Court proclaimed, “[i]f it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage.” Judge Sutton noted that the challengers “have no answer” on this point. Yet “[w]hat they might say they cannot: They might say that tradition or community mores provide a rational basis for States to stand by the monogamy definition of marriage, but they cannot say that because that is exactly what they claim is illegitimate about the States’ male-female definition of marriage.

Judicial deference to the people is a serious issue under rational basis review. Indeed, as Judge Sutton noted, the Supreme Court has held that a “State’s interest in maintaining close ties among those who steer ships in its ports justifies denying pilotage licenses to anyone who isn’t a friend or relative of an incumbent pilot. Can we honestly say that traditional marriage laws involve more irrationality than nepotism?”

Ultimately, rational basis review is clearly satisfied here because either the regulation of sexual activity or a decision to proceed with caution on marriage laws would satisfy the constitutional standard. Thus the Court could dispose of the case at this point. But Judge Sutton continues to address the many arguments raised by the challengers – who no doubt are hoping that one of them would stick.

The voters in the states cannot be painted with the broad brush of “animus”

Judge Sutton next dismissed the idea that the state marriage laws are driven by animus, noting that the laws (which there are plenty of legitimate reasons to support) merely hold in place norms which have been around for the entire history of civilization. As the Court noted, “if there was one concern animating the initiatives, it was the fear that the courts would seize control over an issue that people of good faith care deeply about. If that is animus, the term has no useful meaning.” How could the voters be blamed for feeling this way, when judges around the country were starting to strike down these laws out of the blue? It was at this time that voters decided to codify these long-held traditions in law – an act which the Supreme Court itself affirmed to be their prerogative to decide sensitive public policy issue in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. Painting the voters of the states with the broad brush of animus is “no less unfair” than portraying all supporters of same-sex marriage as intent on destroying American families to the core. Thus the idea that animus has driven state marriage laws, and that this serves as a reason to find them unconstitutional, fails entirely.

There is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution

The Court next tackled the question of whether there was a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, beginning by noting that it does not appear explicitly in the Constitution, and next by finding it is not historically “deeply rooted” as necessary to “ordered liberty.” Loving does not support the idea that this right historically existed. Loving did not use the term “opposite-sex” marriage, but that would have been redundant. For in Loving the Court proclaimed that marriage was “fundamental to our very existence and survival” – referring to the procreative aspect of marriage. Judge Sutton reasoned:

Had a gay African-American male and a gay Caucasian male been denied a marriage license in Virginia in 1968, would the Supreme Court have held that Virginia had violated the Fourteenth Amendment? No one to our knowledge thinks so, and no Justice to our knowledge has ever said so. The denial of the license would have turned not on the races of the applicants but on a request to change the definition of marriage. Had Loving meant something more when it pronounced marriage a fundamental right, how could the Court hold in Baker five years later that gay marriage does not even raise a substantial federal question? Loving addressed, and rightly corrected, an unconstitutional eligibility requirement for marriage; it did not create a new definition of marriage.”

Neither do Zablocki v. Redhail or Turner v. Safley supporter the challengers’ claim here, for “[i]t strains credulity to believe that a year after each decision a gay indigent father could have required the State to grant him a marriage license for his partnership or that a gay prisoner could have required the State to permit him to marry a gay partner. When Loving and its progeny used the word marriage, they did not redefine the term but accepted its traditional meaning.”

Judge Sutton also noted that the Supreme Court has chosen not to subject laws regulating other aspects of marriage – such as divorce laws, polygamy laws, and laws regulating the age and familial status of those entering marriage – to strict scrutiny. As is the case with same-sex relationships, there are other areas of action intersecting with marriage laws which do not implicate fundamental rights subject to strict scrutiny.

In conclusion, there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage – it is not mentioned in the Constitution, and cannot be recognized under the applicable legal standard.

Sexual orientation is not a “discrete and insular class without political power”

As the Court noted, rational basis review applies to sexual orientation classifications. The Supreme Court has never held that heightened review applies, and has not recognized a new suspect class in over four decades. Windsor does not support any contrary conclusion; rather, Windsor overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that marriage law and policy is to be left in the hands of the states. If it wasn’t clear enough, Judge Sutton emphasized the point again: Windsor does not support a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage – any other reading “would require us to subtract key passages from the opinion and add an inverted holding.” Thus there is no heightened review applied in this case.

The notion of “evolving meaning” cannot support the legalization of same-sex marriage

Even if changing mores are examined for whether they can support new judicial decision-making, they do not support the idea that laws upholding natural marriage must be struck down. Such considerations are dependent on society’s values (not judges’ values), and thirty-one states would continue to permit only natural marriage if given the choice. If the “pacing” of the change of this issue in society is to be considered, and the challengers desire is to examine judicial decisions as part of this trend, what about the “pacing” of state legislatures’ decisions and the deference due to their interest in caution?

Moreover, even if international legal regimes are examined on this point, Judge Sutton observed that the great majority of countries have retained natural marriage. The European Court of Human Rights even held that European human rights laws do not guarantee a right of same-sex marriage. The Court makes a good point: “What neutral principle of constitutional interpretation allows us to ignore the European Court’s same-sex marriage decisions when deciding this case? If the point is relevant in the one setting, it is relevant in the other, especially in a case designed to treat like matters alike.”

In concluding this section of his opinion, Judge Sutton noted “[i]t is dangerous and demeaning to the citizenry to assume that we, and only we, can fairly understand the arguments for and against gay marriage.” Indeed, even if evolving mores are considered, they do not support a wholesale forced acceptance of same-sex marriage.

For all these reasons, the marriage laws at issue in this case are perfectly constitutional.

The challengers had also argued, however, that state laws banning recognition of out-of-state marriages violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The Constitution does not require inter-state recognition of same-sex marriages

The Court stated that (as explained above) because states may constitutionally define marriage between men and women as they see fit within their borders, they may also constitutionally define how they will recognize out of state marriages. States have always decided how and when they will recognize other states’ laws based on choice of law doctrines. This situation is no different. Indeed, states already for a long time have refused to recognize invalid out of state marriages in other contexts – like incestuous or polygamous marriages, or others opposed to state law. States may decide what marriages to recognize as a matter of policy in those contexts, and this one is no different. If there is no constitutional right forcing a state to modify its own marriage laws, there is no constitutional right forcing a state to modify its laws regarding recognition of marriages performed in other states.

The challengers also argued that such bans violate the constitutional right to travel – which protects the right to leave and enter states, be welcomed, and, if a permanent resident, be treated like a citizen of the state. Yet, as the Court noted, state laws banning recognition of out of state marriage violate none of these rules. People can still move freely across boundaries, and are treated just like those inside the state who would violate the marriage laws. Thus, the right to travel does not require invalidation of state marriage laws on this point.

Conclusion

For all these reasons (explained above and summarized below), the Court held that state laws upholding natural marriage are fully legal and constitutional:

  • Baker requires that this Court dismiss the constitutional rights claims here.
  • Even if not dismissed, these laws meet rational basis review. There is no animus or suspect classification which would require any greater review.
  • There is also no fundamental right here – explicitly protected or deserving to be recognized.
  • There is no original meaning or “evolving meaning” support for a same-sex marriage right which would change any of the above analyses.
  • Additionally, no legal principle changes the constitutional calculus regarding laws pertaining to recognition of out-of-state marriages.

Judge Sutton reiterated one final time that such sensitive issues, especially when considering the abrupt timeline of change and legalization of same-sex marriage, should be left to the voters to decide. Only then can voters on both sides of the issue makes their voices heard in a manner befitting them as ultimate arbiters in a self-governing democracy, as opposed to making judges the “heroes” (or villains) they were never meant to be.

Dissent

Dissenting Judge Daughtrey repeats all the same arguments advanced by the challengers – arguments which have been repeated elsewhere by rogue judges striking down marriage laws. She accuses the majority of setting up a “false premise” of “who should decide” this issue – the voters or judges. Perhaps she is grasping at straws, for this is not a false premise at all, but a legitimate question that is actually before the court – whether there actually is a right to same-sex marriage at all – which, if absent, indeed permits the voters to decide. For much of her opinion, she spends time on items not even central to the legal issues – she discusses the various factual scenarios of the challengers’ lives, then takes shots at the expert testimony offered by the defending states (without equally scrutinizing plaintiffs’ experts), and finally simply recounts other recent circuit court rulings (which themselves have been crafted out of thin air in the past year with specious reasoning).

She fails to confront the precedential hurdles she faces in Baker (which have been discussed by the majority). She also fails to even examine the proper standard for rational basis review – whether there is “any plausible reason” for traditional marriage. Instead, she just skips the question, choosing instead to complain about the majority’s arguments without engaging them, and without applying the appropriate legal standard. For instance, at one point, she focuses on the level of difficulty of amending a state constitution – a question entirely irrelevant to the legal standard she is supposed to be considering.

She then claims the voters could be exhibiting “animus” if they have a “general, ephemeral distrust of, of discomfort with, a particular group.” Under that standard, we might as well be forced to legitimize virtually every behavior for which we currently incarcerate people.

It goes without saying further that the dissent is poorly constructed and lacks objectivity. That alone would be sufficient reason to criticize it; the cheap shots which she takes at the judges in the majority (and to some extent the voters) further discredit the dissent.

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A President Who Shrugs

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 6, 2014

I’ve written elsewhere of Barack Obama’s growing disinterest in being President of the United States. This observation has been made by many others, too.

But his boredom seems perhaps to have descended into contempt for politics generally. Here are some headlines regarding his response to Tuesday’s election that make this point. Of note is that these are stories in mainstream, certainly non-conservative publications like TIME, the New York Times and National Journal.

Republicans just won the election. President Obama doesn’t much care.”

Obama: Midterms? What midterms?

Obama Isn’t Listening to Voters He Claims to Hear

Obama, Chastened But Uncompromising”

Allies Right to Worry About Passive Obama”

His Party Is at a Low Point, and Obama Seems Passive”

Obama Resists Course Change After Election Rebuke”

President Obama is Not a Happy Warrior”

As an exasperated Dana Milbank wrote in today’s Washington Post, the President “seems numb to this latest ‘sheallacking’ of the Democrats:”

“I hear you,” President Obama said to the voters who gave Democrats an electoral drubbing in Tuesday’s midterm elections. But their message went in one presidential ear and out the other … It’s true that voters are disgusted with both parties, but they were particularly unhappy with Obama. In exit polls, 33 percent said their votes were to show disapproval of him.

Milbank says that although Mr. Obama “had called Democrats’ 2010 losses a ‘shellacking,’ he declined even to label Tuesday’s results.” Later in his piece, Milbank concludes that Mr. Obama’s “solution was to defer responsibility.”

No President has the luxury of petulance, disdain or disengagement. Christians should pray that, for the good of our country, Mr. Obama not only would make wise decisions and turn from wrong views and failed policies, but that he’d get his head in a game with stakes far, far too high to let languish.

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ISIS: and the New Damascus Road

by Nathan Oppman

November 6, 2014

The New Testament book of Acts tells us that Saul’s persecutions scattered the church throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul later converted to Christianity, on his way to Damascus to eradicate Christians, and began planting churches throughout the Mediterranean region

Today a new scattering in the Middle East has begun and a new group of persecutors on the road to Damascus has risen up. The new so-called caliphate, ISIS, which has emerged in the Middle East is seeking to remove from its borders all those who claim allegiance to the Jesus Christ. The slaughter of Christians has been one of the most troubling aspects of the rise of ISIS among many horrific stories coming out of Iraq and Syria.

While persecution is not new to Christians in the Middle East, many communities which have existed for millennia are in danger of being eradicated. You can read some of the troubling news in a recent article published by the Gatestone Institute.

Christians can pray for the persecuted by asking for God’s protection of them and for their boldness in sharing the Gospel. We should also pray that the Lord would change the hearts of the persecutors like He changed the heart of Paul and in so doing stop their evil rampage. May God turn this wave of persecution into one that turns the heart of a great persecutor into the heart of a great missionary, and one that uses the scattering of the faithful to spread new hope in Christ wherever they are driven.

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Washington Post asks: “What went wrong for President Obama?”

by Robert Morrison

November 4, 2014

We are all waiting for today’s critical election returns and for the post-mortems that will inevitably follow. But our hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, is not waiting for the ballots to be reported tonight (and maybe some to be cast in Louisiana on December 6th with, perhaps, some even to be brought in by dogsled in Alaska!)

No, the Post is doing a pre-mortem. They printed this headline an amazing headline in this morning’s edition. This reliably liberal house organ is jumping the gun with analysis of the President’s failure and the “many crises [in his second term] and less faith in his [Mr. Obama’s] ability to respond.”

Finally, the liberal editors are asking themselves a question I can answer for them.

Here’s what went wrong for President Obama:

  1. He allowed himself to become the willing accomplice of Planned Parenthood. He told Speaker Boehner he would veto any Continuing Resolution of Congress that takes away even one dollar from this evil enterprise that dismembers a thousand unborn American children every day.
  1. His Obamacare legislation will force millions of Americans to pay for the killing of unborn children. This will be the greatest expansion of abortion since the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling.
  1. He has “evolved” into the nation’s most powerful marriagender. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a law we could have passed through Congress without a single Republican vote. Just 18 years ago, Democrats joined Republicans in supporting marriage. As recently as 2008, Barack told voters he believed “marriage is between a man and a woman and God is in the mix.” [emphasis added.]

Apparently, if you like your God you can keep Him. But President Obama has moved on on marriage. He has suddenly become aware that the Constitution all along has required every state to recognize counterfeit marriages. For a man who proudly tells us he taught Constitutional Law, this is an amazing, if tardy, discovery.

  1. He presides over the most anti-Christian administration in U.S. history. Never before have so many churches, pastors, priests and Christian citizens found their religious freedom so gravely endangered. Liberal reporters think this is rightwing hysteria and respond: “What about those Bible riots in Philadelphia in the 1840s?” Gotcha, they say. NO. Those Bible riots—deplorable as they were—were never instigated by the President and backed by the full power of the federal government. Today, Catholic bishops, Lutheran church body leaders, Evangelical pastors, Mormon officials, and rabbinical association spokespersons are united as never before in our nation’s history to push back against President Obama’s threats to religious freedom.
  1. His is the first administration in our history openly hostile to Israel. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, favored the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt met with the Saudi king in 1945 in an effort to persuade him to accept a Jewish State. Harry Truman boldly recognized Israel 11 minutes after it declared its independence in 1948. But President Obama is pressuring Israel to permit the creation of a PLO Terroristan on the West Bank of the Jordan River. President Obama refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but he went to reunited Berlin to bask in the adulation of German crowds.

For these and a host of other, lesser, reasons, this president has lost what the Chinese call “the Mandate of Heaven.”

Barbara Walters spoke to this world-weary sense that liberals have about the Obama Presidency when she sighed: “We thought he was going to be the Messiah.”

And Newsweek editor Evan Thomas cooed early in this administration that President Obama at Normandy “hovered over the nations like a sort of god.”

Can Mr. Thomas tell us what his god said at Normandy? Can President Obama remember what he said there? In 2009? In 2014?

Our God speaks. And through His Word, we learn of his tender concern for children, even those in the womb. We learn that He created marriage because it is not good for man to be alone. And we learn that when it comes to speaking His Word, we are to obey God and not men.

Our Founding Fathers believed that religious freedom was essential for political liberty. That’s why they guaranteed it in the Constitution they gave us. Socialist governments have always been hostile to three institutions—the family, the church, and free enterprise.

So we should not be surprised that President Obama is having mounting difficulty. It is a sign of a healthy body politic that the immune system is starting to reject his ruling philosophy.

Candidate Obama shocked Clinton Democrats when he said, “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

Barack Obama was promising liberals he would be their Ronald Reagan. But Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers’ wisdom more than any of his four predecessors and more than any of his four successors.

Perhaps that is why, respecting this country’s foundation and not seeking to “fundamentally transform this nation,” as Mr. Obama has, that Ronald Reagan was a success and this president is not.

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FRC Files Amicus Brief in Fifth Circuit Marriage Appeal

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Today, the Family Research Council filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell, an appeal of a marriage definition case arising out of Louisiana. On September 3rd, Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a decision upholding the constitutionality of Louisiana’s male-female definition of marriage. Subsequently, the plaintiffs, seven same-sex couples, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (“Fifth Circuit”) in New Orleans. It was with the Fifth Circuit that FRC filed its amicus brief today. Paul Linton, a constitutional appellate lawyer from Illinois, wrote the brief. Mr. Linton has worked with FRC previously in numerous marriage-definition cases.

The FRC amicus brief focuses on two main arguments. First, the brief demonstrates that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not contravene the fundamental right to marry that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision a number of federal courts have attempted to claim that there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. As an institution, same-sex marriage is younger than Google and Facebook. It cannot satisfy the requirement the Court laid down in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), that such rights must be firmly rooted in “the Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices.”

Second, the brief makes clear that Louisiana’s marriage definition does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender because males and females cannot marry members of the same sex. On the contrary, every male and every female may marry. The requirement, however, is that one’s marriage partner be a member of the opposite sex. There is no “facial” discrimination in Louisiana’s marriage definition that targets either males or females for worse treatment than member of the opposite sex.

Male-female marriage is the bedrock of social life and civilization. It is the institution by which the complementary sexual attractions of males and females are yoked together in an enduring, supportive relationship that has the potential to produce children. Same-sex unions can reproduce neither the relational nor the procreative capacity. As such, the union of one man and one woman for life in marriage is rationally related to these dual purposes.

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Does the Sexual Predation of Children Have to be Tolerated and Ignored?

by Chris Gacek

November 3, 2014

Police authorities in Rotherham, U.K.(near Sheffield), allowed at least 1,400 children to be sexually exploited and trafficked by members of the local Pakistani community in a period from 1997 to 2013. The authorities did not properly investigate or stop the crimes for fear of being called racist or Islamophobic. A stunning independent report on the crimes and governmental inaction was released in August 2014.

On October 30th, Helen Pidd, the northern editor of The Guardian (U.K.), noted last week in a powerful article that widespread sexual exploitation is taking place in another major English city:

Sexual exploitation of vulnerable children has become the social norm in some parts of Greater Manchester, fuelled by explicit music videos and quasi-pornographic selfies, an MP has warned.
The systematic grooming of boys and girls remains a “real and ongoing problem”, a year after Greater Manchester police (GMP) was forced to admit it had failed abuse victims in Rochdale, said Ann Coffey, a former social worker who is now the Labour MP for Stockport. “My observations will make painful reading for those who hoped that Rochdale was an isolated case,” she writes in a significant report.

In a related article, Ms. Pidd, quotes the senior Crown prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, for the region as saying:

The Muslim community must accept and address the fact that Asian and Pakistani men are disproportionately involved in “localised, street grooming” of vulnerable girls, one of the UK’s most senior prosecutors has said.

Sheffield-Rotherham are not located in the Greater Manchester area. They are different municipalities with similarly horrifying patterns of criminal sexual behavior. (For more on Rotterham, go to this article from the blog, Legal Insurrection.)

My colleague, Cathy Ruse, pulled a few quotes from the executive summary of the August 2014 Rotherham report:

No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.
Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day.

Please don’t think that this is not also happening in the United States. Sex trafficking experts tell FRC that activities of this type occur all across America too.

If you don’t believe that the American law enforcement institutions may have little interest or sympathy in sex trafficking, I refer you back a few years to the keelhauling of a young US attorney, Rachel Paulose, in Minneapolis back in 2007. Even an article in a left-wing periodical had to note that Paulose had accomplishments that were typically worthy of praise. The Salon article related an interesting point made by Professor Donna Hughes, one of the leading experts on sex trafficking in America:

But Paulose did have her defenders. For example, there’s Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, who suggested that Paulose was being attacked because of her prosecution of human trafficking cases.
Asked whether she had any direct evidence that Paulose was targeted because of her office’s efforts against trafficking, Hughes responded, “Rachel Paulose was the leading prosecutor of sex trafficking cases in the U.S. She took over an office where there had previously been no trafficking prosecutions and turned it into the leading one. Therefore, our coalition has serious concerns when a problem erupts that results in her leaving office.”

Let’s all hope that in five to ten years we won’t have to witness the release of a Rotterham-type report on massive, widespread sex-trafficking in the Twin Cities.

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Voting from the Bering Sea

by Robert Morrison

November 3, 2014

I’ve never missed voting. I’ve had to fight for it at times, but I have voted in every election since I was old enough. The closest I ever came to not voting was when I was serving in the military.

I was stationed on a Coast Guard Cutter and we were steaming in the Bering Sea. We were patrolling that imaginary line in the sea between the old USSR and the United States. It is the only place on earth where the two nations share a common border. And yes—Gov. Palin was right—you can see Russia from Alaska.

I knew I was going to require an absentee ballot because the Cutter Boutwell* was not scheduled to return from her Alaska Patrol until after Election Day. So I dutifully filled out my request and mailed it in to the King County (Seattle) Election Board.

Well into October I still hadn’t received my absentee ballot. I was the ship’s Communications Officer, so I handled all the incoming mail. Every time we got mail, I was thrilled to get a letter for each day from my fiancée. But no absentee ballot.

I contacted Seattle via teletype: “Where’s my absentee ballot?” I sent several follow-up messages with no response. I was becoming concerned.

One evening, after dinner and a movie, I heard a sharp rap on the door of my stateroom. It was our Executive Officer. He never visited any of us. We were always summoned to his stateroom. This might not be pleasant.

What’s this [same word as a White House official describing an Israeli Prime Minister] about your sending teletype messages back to Seattle?”

Oh, that, ” I said, relieved it was nothing more serious. “Well, Commander,” I responded cheerily, “I have applied for my absentee ballot and have not received it. I need to fill it out and make sure I get it in the outgoing mail so it can arrive at the King County Election Board in time to be counted. We have less than two weeks until Election Day, Sir.”

The XO’s face darkened. He was not soothed by my breezy explanation.

We don’t have time for such things. And I don’t want you sending any more teletype messages to Seattle about voting. Besides, it’s only an off-year election. It’s not that important.”

Sir, respectfully, I have to vote. It’s why we are out here.” He was not happy with my answer and he left the stateroom, slamming the heavy metal door behind him.

Happily, I received my absentee ballot in the next batch of incoming mail. And with it a fistful of letters from my beloved. I quickly filled out the ballot and slipped it—as inconspicuously as I could—in the next day’s outgoing mail.

My Executive Officer was a dedicated career Coast Guardsman with many responsibilities. I didn’t want to make his burden greater. But I was determined to keep my perfect record of never having missed voting.

Every day that autumn, I was part of the boarding inspection team that boarded those Soviet trawlers. Everybody in the old USSR voted, too, and their votes meant nothing. “What counts is not who votes,” said the cynical old Communist dictator of the USSR, Josef Stalin. “What matters is who counts the votes.” That was as true under Stalin as it is under Putin.

It was no exaggeration to say what I said to the XO. We were on patrol checking on fisheries, to be sure, but the reason the U.S. Coast Guard policed those waters at all was so that American freedom would be preserved. And we served on the frontier of freedom.

Pollsters tell us that only 39% of Americans look forward to voting next Tuesday. I am happy a higher percentage—49% of Evangelical Christians—tell pollsters they are very eager to vote next Tuesday. I only winh 100% of us would exercise this precious right. It was indeed bought for us by the blood of patriots, many of them our fellow Christians.

I pray that all of us who have not yet taken part in early voting or sent in our absentee ballots will make it a point to show up at the polls. Some of my friends tell me they’re not enthusiastic about going to the polls. It may be the case that some candidates in some places have not made their best arguments to earn the support of Values Voters.

My answer to these friends is another lesson I learned in the service: Damage Control. We may not be thrilled with where our ship is headed at the moment, but we have a much better chance of a course correction if the ship hasn’t sunk. Next Tuesday, we can all go out and vote for Damage Control.

And then we can all work to steer a better course.

*Recently, the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell seized some $480 million worth of cocaine. This was the largest seizure in history. And it was achieved by a ship first launched in 1967.

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Beachheads of God’s Kingdom

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 3, 2014

So, things can look pretty bleak, at home and abroad. But in addition to the fact that we have the legal right and moral duty to try to restrain evil and advance good, Christians can celebrate some very good things that are happening concurrent with the gloom that sometimes seems to surround us.

Here is some news to encourage believers who sometimes feel at sea without a rudder in the waves of our culture. Some stories deal with specific events, others with broader trends. All should help keep us steadfast as we work for life, family, and liberty.

  • The adoption movement is bringing thousands of little ones, at home and abroad, into loving Christian homes).
  • Although a recent survey says that most Americans see religion’s influence in culture waning, the survey also shows “most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing”. This presents a real opportunity for Christians to talk about how God’s standards for society actually work – and use them to share the good news about Jesus, too.
  • Believers in the U.S. are growing more and more aware of their suffering brethren across the globe; for example, FRC played a key role in the release of Christian Mariam Ibrahim from Sudanese captivity earlier this year. Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors are among those leading in this area.

Is this list comprehensive? No. Does it diminish the grim news about abortion, violations of religious liberty, erosions of the family and our culture and other bad things we hear about so often? No.

But God is doing wonderful things despite the fallenness and corruption that is in the world. Let’s rejoice in that truth and from it gather continued strength to keep fighting the wrongs of our time.

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Though Devils all the World Should Fill

by Robert Morrison

October 31, 2014

For the world, which is to say, for Google, today is a day about witches and ghosts, and not much more. Witchy Wanda is stirring her kettle on today’s webpage. That’s the way the world sees things.

With the headlines this fall, though, the world does seem to be full of devils. ISIS, Ebola, Russian submarines lurking menacingly under Swedish home waters. Obamacare forcing us all to pay for the slaughter of innocents. It’s all enough to give one a real scare.

I recall the story of a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther in the early Sixteenth Century. He was being urged not to go to that high-level conference chaired by the Emperor. All the leading Electors, princes, and nobility of Germany and the higher clergy would be in attendance. It was called the Diet of Worms.

(When they used to teach world history, we kids in ninth grade got quite a chuckle out of that “Diet of Worms.” I recall one of my classmates saying it would at least be better than what we get in the school cafeteria!)

Young Luther was being summoned before the Holy Roman Emperor to recant his writings. They had been found heretical by church authorities. Luther was warned by his friends not to go to the City of Worms.

They won’t keep their word. They won’t give you protection. Now that they’ve branded your writings heretical, they’ll excommunicate you. Then they’ll hand you over to the temporal rulers and you will be burned at the stake—just as Jan Hus was burned at the stake in Bohemia. That was in 1415.

But Martin Luther would not be deterred. He told his friends he was going to appear before the Emperor Charles V and all the assembled movers and shakers in Germany.

I would go if there were a devil on every roof tile,” the young scholar said.

We don’t often associate scholars with such courage. To be sure, today there are all too many scholars unwilling to take risks. But that bold stand of a Bible teacher inspired me thirty years ago. And it inspires me now. Luther had a Doctorate in Theology when such academic degrees were rarer than Nobel Peace Prizes are today (and more justly awarded, too.)

We continue to debate and wrestle over the doctrines of the Reformation that began this day in 1517. Dr. Timothy George has summarized some of the best thinking on this day in his First Things column here.

Today, I especially want to pay tribute to young Dr. Luther’s courage. And in the spirit of ecumenism, let me also salute my good friend, Hadley Arkes. Hadley is a great academic who has never hesitated to speak out on the most controversial topics of the day, on human life, on same-sex rituals, on the real meaning of our Constitution.

But when he was asked by a Catholic priest why he had not converted to Catholicism yet, Hadley did not respond with a learned citation from the early Church Fathers, or from Wise Rabbis of old. Instead, Hadley quoted the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz.

 

C-c-c-courage!

It’s what puts the Ape in Apricot

It’s what I haven’t got.

Obviously, Hadley did summon the courage to follow his conscience and enter into communion in the Roman Catholic Church.

It may seem odd to describe the conversion of a Jew to Catholicism in the same column with today’s observance of the Reformation. But in both instances, what was required was the courage of conviction.

Another friend has been bidding me to join him in his Catholic faith. I am happy to attend Mass with this friend when we meet. But the last time we went to his church together, the hymn we sang on this day was Luther’s own most famous song: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

And this powerful verse from that five hundred year-old Reformation hymn is a fitting one for today:

Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us.

We tremble not, we fear no ill,

They shall not overpower us.

This world’s prince may still

Scowl fierce as he will,

He can harm us none,

He’s judged; the deed is done;

One little word can fell him.

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7 Points of Reflection: Responding to the Houston Mayor’s Press Conference Announcing the Withdrawal of the Subpoenas Targeting the Five Houston Pastors

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014
  1. The mayor says the subpoenas were “legal, valid, and appropriate,” but is withdrawing them anyway.

No, they are not legal, valid, and appropriate. They requested irrelevant and privileged material, and had the purpose of harassing the pastors – these very qualities make them quite inappropriate.

  1. She says it is “extremely important” to protect her special rights ordinance.

What about free speech rights so essential to open democracy and religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment? She didn’t mention it was important to protect these.

  1. She claims the pastors she met with (who were not the subject of the subpoenas nor authorized to speak on behalf of those who were) didn’t plan a “rally” to “attack me” or the city.

While she tries to paint herself as above the political fray, she’s the one who invalidated the signatures. At its heart, this entire situation is a political matter. She tries to separate her subpoena withdrawal from the politics here, but she ultimately can’t do this. It comes down to this – if the pastors had been speaking for the bathroom bill instead of against it, she’d be fine with that. This IS about political intimidation – no matter how much she says it isn’t.

  1. She cares about “broader concerns” implicated here so she dropped the subpoenas.

What about the “concern” of Houston citizens being able to democratically repeal a law they don’t like? That seems pretty “broad” to me.

 

  1. She says she had a good conversation about “rendering unto Caesar” with the pastors she met with (who, again, are not even the pastors who were targeted by the mayor’s office).

This isn’t a determination for her to make. Ultimately, this entire situation arose because the Houston 5 have not rendered unto the City what the City would like for them to – their views on sexuality.

  1. She believes she has “removed that discussion about freedom of religion from the local arena.”

No, she hasn’t. She’d prefer that “religion” have nothing to say about the versions of sexuality protected by HERO – the very thing which is driving the lawsuit – which she has vowed to defend. Thus her logic defeats itself.

  1. She also became defensive when asked why she wouldn’t just allow the citizens to vote on repealing HERO. She was asked a question expressing concern that the Houston 5 may still feel intimidated.

She attempted an answer, but did so unsatisfactorily. If the mayor wants to clear up the intimidation issue, she can allow the citizens she was elected to represent to actually vote on whether to repeal the ordinance – it’s that simple.

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