FRC Blog

Iran Heightens Its Crackdown On Christians

by Daniel Hart

August 8, 2017

The Wilberforce Initiative is reporting that Iran is targeting Christians, re-sentencing them to lengthier jail times despite having already served their sentences. According to the report, Ebrahim Firouzi, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, was re-sentenced to five additional years for trumped-up charges of “forming a group for disrupting national security” based on “the same evidence used in the previous court case for which he had already served his prison sentence.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has reported an uptick in arrests and imprisonments in the last four years of those who are a part of religious minorities in Iran. In the last month alone, “12 Christians have been sentenced to lengthy prison confinement for 10 years or more because of their faith,” according to World Watch Monitor.

Iran is a country of some 80 million predominantly Muslim inhabitants, of which only one percent are religious minorities. This includes about 300,000 Christians, some of whom are Armenian Christians who are considered to be born Christian and are generally not bothered by the Iranian regime. In a country that is over 99 percent Muslim, it is considered a crime to convert from Islam to Christianity, which can carry a death sentence.

With President Trump considering his options on how to pull out of the rashly devised Obama-era nuclear deal, it is also highly important for him to consider the tragic plight of Christians and other persecuted minorities who are languishing in Iranian prisons simply because of exercising their God-given right to freely follow their consciences.

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Attention Millennials: True Religious Freedom May Make You Feel Uncomfortable

by Mary Beasley

August 4, 2017

Millennials have been lauded for being one of the most open-minded of generations, accepting and tolerant of a variety of perspectives. Millennials pride themselves on being an exceptionally diverse generation—racially, ethnically, sexually, politically, culturally… the list goes on. The linchpin for diversity is acceptance. More than ever, millennials pride themselves on being particularly tolerant and accepting.

However, the real-world consequence to this much-heralded virtue of tolerance is, ironically, intolerance. Tolerance without limits becomes moral destruction. Tolerance with limits… can that be called “tolerance” at all?

Tolerance” can only be taken so far, until one is forced to become intolerant to intolerance itself. So, millennials have a problem. Tolerance seems to be an impossible standard to uphold, unless one is advocating for complete political and cultural anarchy. Tolerance, to its end, upholds no standards.

A recent survey found that millennials do believe religious freedom is important—remember, tolerance is the name of the game. However, it seems that millennials tend to draw a boundary between society and the self. Many millennials see religious freedom as an “individual” priority, not as a social priority. And over half of millennials agree that religion is only personal and should not play a role in society.

So, millennials appear to be “tolerant.” Religious freedom seems like a decent idea to them. In practice, however, tolerance of religious freedom can only go so far. As it turns out, many millennials are confused and apprehensive about something called the “free exercise clause.” The Constitution does not simply establish the freedom to hold religious belief as a certain inalienable right, it upholds the exercise of religion as an inalienable right.

Apparently, the free exercise clause has made the millennial generation uncomfortable, who see religious freedom as an individual value becoming a societal problem when it is put into actual exercise.

For millennials, it seems, the values of the self are prioritized over the values of society, a line defined by political correctness. When religious freedom is strictly a right of the individual, it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable nuisance—unless it is defined as a societal right. If this were the case (and it is, as defined by the Constitution), then the rights of society would impinge on the rights of the individual. This becomes a real problem if individual rights are prioritized. This kind of thinking views authentic religious freedom in society as a problem, because it could make the individual feel uncomfortable.

In order to keep the individual prioritized, political correctness has become essential. Political correctness defines the standards for keeping all individuals in a comfortable, trigger-free zone.

But what is true religious freedom, and what does it require in practice?

The Founding Fathers knew that the idea of religious freedom cannot be understood merely at the level of a belief. Religion is a belief, but belief itself necessitates action. The “free exercise” clause is therefore essential not only for the individual, but for the proper understanding of what religious belief requires.

Giving people the “right” to religious freedom does not bestow true freedom unless there is also a freedom to act. Any person who associates themselves with a religion or a belief system knows that true devotion requires action. What is the point of believing that killing another human being is immoral unless it is put into daily practice? The decision to believe is not enough. True devotion is carried out in daily life, requiring the commitment and sacrifice of the individual.

This is the cost of commitment to faith. Jesus Christ radically defines this commitment as a sacrifice of the individual. He was honest with his disciples about the cost when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (from The Cost of Discipleship). True commitment to faith is radical. It is completely selfless, requiring man to die to himself. This commitment goes far beyond a mere intellectual exercise; it requires the full sacrifice of an individual’s life—every piece and part.

Thus, it is not only unlawful to argue that individuals should revoke their right to exercise freedom of religion, it is also illogical. To assume that religious people can “contain” this commitment as a purely intellectual pursuit inside the four walls of a church is to misunderstand the nature of religious belief. Societies are formed by individuals, many of whom infuse religious practices into their daily lives. They naturally affect, influence, and inspire those around them. Therefore, religion cannot be displaced from the actions of the individual just as the individual cannot be displaced from society. Therefore, religion cannot be contained from society.

One of the millennial generation’s biggest misconceptions is that the individual is above society. In reality, individuals are pieces of a larger community. Ironically, it would seem, the millennial generation’s insistence on “tolerance” ends up suppressing individuals who are deemed “intolerant.” The individual, however, cannot be contained. The individual is called to be a part of something greater. Could it be that the essence of the individual is sacrifice? The individual’s sacrifice is directed to a greater purpose: society itself. The exercise of religious freedom is not solely for the good of the individual, but for the good of society. This will be an uncomfortable but vital lesson for millennials to learn as they renew our society.

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Social Conservative Review - August 1, 2017

by Daniel Hart

August 1, 2017

Dear Friends,

In an age when assisted suicide has been deemed acceptable public policy, it becomes necessary for Christians to unapologetically stand up for the dignity and worth of every human being, no matter what stage of life they are in or what occupation they have.

In the professional world, it’s easy to view jobs through the prism of worldly prestige and monetary worth—a film actor in Hollywood is seen as a much more important person than the cashier behind the counter at a grocery store. As Christians, however, we see these two jobs as equal in dignity and value, because God makes no distinction in worth between them. The actor is called to use his or her skills to further truth, goodness, and beauty through the art form of their acting abilities, thereby imparting new and cathartic insights about the mysteries of existence to the public. In a different but no less valuable way, the grocery store cashier is called to further truth, goodness, and beauty by being knowledgeable, kind, and helpful to his or her customers, thereby creating a life-giving and positive experience to every individual they serve.

Analogously, all people, no matter how old or young, have a role to play in furthering the kingdom of God on earth. As Chris Hazell has written, we discover our role primarily by living in community with others. One of the great tragedies of modern times is the increased isolation that many in our society live in. What we often fail to understand is that instead of taking away our freedom and autonomy, living in community with others actually strengthens our sense of self. God created us for communion, declaring that “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). In the above referenced article, Hazel relates a beautiful quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen: “That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well. In the house of God there are many mansions. There is a place for everyone - a unique, special place.”

Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.

Sincerely,

Dan Hart
Managing Editor for Publications
Family Research Council

 

FRC Articles

Trump’s right: Transgender patriotism isn’t the issue — military readiness isTony Perkins

Why We Were Right to Pray for President TrumpTony Perkins

6 Ways Governor Brownback Can Prioritize International Religious FreedomTravis Weber

11 Reasons Why Assisted Suicide Must EndDan Hart

Backpage.com and Human Trafficking: What is Christian America’s Response?Mary Beasley

No, Rev. Barber, Prayer for a President Is Not “Heresy”Travis Weber

 

Religious Liberty

Free to Believe”

Bible verse plaque displayed at Tennessee police department to be movedFox News

Police officer disciplined for refusing to call a ‘transgender’ man a womanFr. Mark Hodges, LifeSiteNews

Lesbian mom asks Christian judge to recuse himself from her divorce case citing his stance against homosexualityMegan Cerullo, NY Daily News

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

FRC Speaker Series: Four Objections to Religious Liberty… and some Possible Answers! with Michael Stokes Paulsen

A Demagogic Bully – Mark Pulliam, City Journal

Indiana school district kowtows to atheist group, promises to end graduation prayersTré Goins-Phillips, TheBlaze

Ultra-Rich Gay Activist On Targeting Christians: It’s Time To ‘Punish The Wicked’Bre Payton, The Federalist

Students sue school for hushing pro-life speechBonnie Pritchett, WORLD

Conservative Students More Afraid to Speak Up on Campus Than Liberals, Study FindsMichael Gryboski, The Christian Post

Christie Signs Bill Requiring NJ Schools Use Preferred Pronouns for Transgender KidsRob Shimshock, The Daily Signal

State Directs Schools To ‘Segregate’ Students Uncomfortable With Transgender BathroomsAmanda Prestigiacomo, The Daily Wire

Millennials approve of religious freedom as a choice, but don’t know what it meansScott Taylor, Deseret News

International Religious Freedom

8 Churches Close in Baghdad Amid Shrinking Iraqi Christian Population – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

China’s Censorship Powers Are Bigger And More Dangerous Than You Know – Helen Raleigh, The Federalist

Spanish Cathedral Targeted for Reversing the ReconquistaMatthew E. Bunson, National Catholic Register

Pakistani Christians Fear Rise in Persecution After Ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz SharifAnugrah Kumar, The Christian Post

Google’s New Hate Speech Algorithm Has a Problem With JewsLiel Leibovitz, Tablet

4 Surprising Facts About ISISJoshua Pease, Open Doors

Military Religious Freedom

Why Trump Keeping Trans People From The Military Is A Good Decision – Walt Heyer, The Federalist

 

Life

Abortion

Hawaii pro-life centers sue over abortion promotion lawSamantha Gobba, WORLD

An Effective Weapon to Reach Pro-Abortion AdvocatesPatti Armstrong, National Catholic Register

Melinda Gates Commits $375 Million to Global Family Planning to Counter Trump’s Pro-Life PolicyDr. Susan Berry, Breitbart

Why ‘Sidewalk Counselors’ Are Crucial to the Pro-Life MovementPatty Knap, National Catholic Register

I was told abortion would make my life more complete. But it left the biggest hole in my heart…Bettina di Fiore, LifeSiteNews

Pregnancy Center Saves LA Babies from AbortionJim Graves, National Catholic Register

Dem campaign chief vows no litmus test on abortionBen Kamisar and Reid Wilson, The Hill

Kentucky Could Be The First Abortion Free-State By 2018Jeremiah Keenan, The Federalist

Adoption

Adoption: The good and hard lessonsMicah and Tracy Fries, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Why Christians Are Abandoning the OrphanageSarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

How you can learn to love your birth momAshton Morgan, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Bioethics

Republicans in Congress attempt to repeal D.C. assisted suicide lawEmma Kinery, USA Today

How Much Longer Do We Have? Living by Faith While Our Son Is DyingAllison Muedder, Desiring God

Charlie Gard Dies After Life Support is Switched Off: Mother Says “Our Beautiful Boy is Gone” – Steven Ertelt, LifeNews

Charlie Gard’s Case Delivers Déjà Vu Of Twentieth-Century EugenicsCaroline D’Agati, The Federalist

Scientists Kill Unborn Children in Human Genetic Engineering ExperimentsWesley Smith, LifeNews

Mother says adult, disabled daughter traumatized by doctor’s suggestion of assisted suicideJohn Burger, Aleteia

What Charlie Gard Has Taught UsMichael Brown, Townhall

Obamacare

41-Year-Old Father: ‘Obamacare Won’t Pay For My Back Surgery, But It Will Pay For Opioids’ – John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

Congress Needs to Go Right Back to Work on Health Care Reform – Robert Moffit, The Daily Signal

Bipartisan Group: We Need To Break The Law To Make Obamacare Too Big To FailChristopher Jacobs, The Federalist

 

Family

Economics/Education

Why Melinda Gates Is Wrong About Contraception – John Clark, National Catholic Register

Capitalism and the Quest for Community – Brian Jones, Public Discourse

The American Dream Is in CrisisJ.D. Vance, The Daily Signal

Dodd-Frank Has Held Down the US Economy for Too Long – Rep. Jeb Hensarling, The Daily Signal

Our Cultural Waterloo – Carl R. Trueman, First Things

Conservatives are increasingly hostile to higher ed. Who can blame them? – Noah Rothman, USA Today

This Is the Way the College ‘Bubble’ Ends – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Marriage

Long marriage, beautiful lifeCaryn Rivadeneira, Aleteia

Establishing the facts about family breakdown transforming the debate about marriageHarry Benson, Marriage Foundation

Paper, silver and gold: How marriage shapes usTom Hoopes, Aleteia

The Children of Divorce Speak OutRachel Lu, Crisis

Staying Married Is Not About Staying in LoveJohn Piper, Desiring God

Young men giving up on marriage: ‘Women aren’t women anymore’Hilary White, LifeSiteNews

Marriage MattersW. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

Faith/Character/Culture

FRC Speaker Series: Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth with Dr. Everett Piper

Game Of Thrones’ Is The Ugliest Show On Television. That’s Why We Love ItTitus Techera, The Federalist

Children are Never a BurdenMattias A. Caro, Ethika Politika

Limping Along the Way of Truth – Word On Fire

The Democrats’ Anthropological Field Trip to Study AmericansKyle Smith, National Review

Podcast: Race and human flourishing; Embracing diversity for the good of all peopleGlenn Packiam, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Crude Language, Coarse Culture: We Need to Do BetterRob Schwarzwalder, The Stream

Human Sexuality

Why Premarital Sex Is Wrong – Nathan Smith, Public Discourse

Sen. Patty Murray Calls For Resignation of Trump Official Over Accurate Campus Rape CommentsJoy Pullmann, The Federalist

I felt really humiliated:’ Teen blasts school district’s transgender bathroom policyMatt Miller, PennLive

Activist Mommy Starts ‘Operation Pull Teen Vogue’ After Mag Peddles Sexual Perversion to MinorsCharlene Aaron, CBN News

Trump Cuts Wildly Ineffective Teen Pregnancy Program, Media Flip OutMollie Hemingway, The Federalist

Sex Robots Are (Almost) Here. How Will We Respond?Jay Richards, The Stream

How Embedding Women With Contraception May Keep Them In PovertyElizabeth Bauer, The Federalist

Human Trafficking

FRC Speaker Series: The Battle for Humanity: How Conservatives Can Fight Human Trafficking with Rep. Ann Wagner

Pornography

Twelve Days of Action: Half-Way Through This Year’s Dirty Dozen List – Ben Forsgren, National Center On Sexual Exploitation

You’d Be Surprised to Hear What Porn Is Doing to Sex – Gail Dines and Liz Walker, Verily

After 10 Years, My Partner Won His Struggle With Porn Addiction – Fight The New Drug

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6 Ways Governor Brownback Can Prioritize International Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber

July 27, 2017

Yesterday, President Trump nominated Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. This is a great pick for an important job, and the administration is to be commended for this selection.

The Ambassador-at-Large post was created by legislation back in 1998 with the purpose of addressing religious freedom problems around the world, but it has seen limited success in being able to shape foreign policy in a comprehensive manner. The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, signed into law just last December, made changes which will result in the job reporting directly to the Secretary of State. This change and others required by the law should make whoever is in the role more effective. When it is someone of Governor Brownback’s stature, we will have a real opportunity to see religious freedom significantly shape foreign policy.

Religious freedom is a fundamental, inherent, and international human right. It is not merely an American right—though religious freedom was foundational to the very existence of the United States. United States foreign policy should prioritize this fundamental international human right and give it the attention it deserves. Once Governor Brownback is in his new role, here are six ways the Trump administration can make this happen:

1. Integrate and prioritize religious freedom protections in foreign policy. All U.S. agencies engaged abroad should integrate and prioritize the promotion of religious freedom in their work. They should also conduct international religious freedom training for their employees (including how to gather information about mass atrocities against religious groups such as genocide).

2. Fully implement the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act throughout the U.S. government.

3. Protect refugees and asylum seekers with proper attention given to persecution on the basis of religion. The United States has not properly addressed the religious dynamics of the refugee situation arising from Iraq and Syria. Where certain religious groups are being persecuted on account of their religion, their religion can be used as a factor in assessing their asylum claims and refugee status. The Departments of State and Homeland Security should enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers of all religions have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum. In addition, the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security should ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of refugees and asylum seekers who need such protection because of their religion, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the Federal Government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.

4. Provide foreign assistance to protect the human right of religious freedom. Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development should enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human right of religious freedom.

5. Ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to the suppression of religious freedom abroad. The Department of State should lead a standing group, with appropriate interagency representation, to help ensure the Federal Government’s swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the status of religious freedom abroad. The Department of State should be particularly attentive to responding to complaints of religious persecution, whether in the granting of visas or in other areas. Those representing the United States abroad in an official capacity should not work with, or aid and abet, any foreign actors discriminating against persons based on their religion.

6. Engage international organizations in defending religious freedom. Multilateral fora and international organizations are key vehicles to promote respect for the human right of religious freedom and to bring global attention to this issue. Along with the Department of State, agencies engaged abroad should strengthen the work they have begun and initiate additional efforts in these multilateral fora and organizations to (1) broaden the number of countries willing to support and defend religious freedom, (2) strengthen the role of civil society advocates on behalf of religious freedom within and through multilateral fora, and (3) strengthen the policies and programming of multilateral institutions on religious freedom.

If it takes these steps, the Trump administration can follow up on Governor Brownback’s appointment and distinguish itself by vigorously protecting human rights and religious freedom.

Against this backdrop, we must not neglect our efforts to protect Christians, Yezidis, and others from the horrific violence in the Middle East. The U.S. government has already recognized that a genocide is taking place there, and now amid recent reports that State Department lawyers are removing that term from official descriptions of the situation, it is necessary to give even more attention to the situation—such as what was outlined in Congressman Chris Smith’s bill, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017—to ensure the victims of genocide get the protection they need and deserve.

Religious freedom is not to be segmented off in compartments in our lives, and it is not confined to the four walls of our places of worship. The United States used to hold to this robust vision of religious freedom, both at home and abroad. This vision used to be a part of how the United States led from a position of strength in promoting human rights globally. With Governor Brownback’s appointment, the Trump administration has an opportunity to once again start doing just that.

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11 Reasons Why Assisted Suicide Must End

by Daniel Hart

July 26, 2017

A measure legalizing assisted suicide in Washington, D.C., which was recently passed by the city council and signed by the mayor, has now officially taken effect as of July 17. Thankfully, the federal government has jurisdiction over the District’s laws, and the House Appropriations Committee has advanced a measure that would repeal the assisted suicide law. Republican congressman are currently working to include this measure in an upcoming must-pass omnibus bill that will ultimately need House and Senate approval and a signature by President Trump before D.C. can once again return to sanity on this issue.

D.C. now joins six states (California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) that have legalized assisted suicide. In a culture increasingly awash in the narcotic of moral relativism, let’s review why assisted suicide is such a grievous blow to our shared humanity and to common sense in general.

1. New cures and treatments for diseases are constantly discovered. Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) made this point while proposing the amendment to repeal the D.C. assisted suicide measure: “New, stunning cures in medicine occur each and every day. Encouraging patients to commit suicide deprives them of the opportunity to potentially be cured by new treatments that could ameliorate their condition and even add years to their lives, if not cure them completely.”

2. Taking lethal drugs is cheap and easy. Committing assisted suicide is a much cheaper alternative (about $300 on average) to often highly expensive (and sometimes experimental) medical treatments and procedures that can potentially extend the lives of (or cure) those who are gravely ill. It should go without saying that money should be no object to extending or saving someone’s life. But apparently it is, according to health insurance companies in states where assisted suicide is legal, who would rather cover cheap lethal drugs than more expensive medical treatments that could potentially extend or save lives.

3. Doctors are often wrong about predicting how long a patient has to live. As with assisted suicide measures in other states, the D.C. law stipulates that only those with six months or less to live can get a lethal medication prescription. But doctors admit that it is very difficult to precisely determine how long a patient has left to live, and they are often surprised by how long patients outlive their diagnoses, or in some cases recover completely. It is also important to note that there are numerous types of cancer that will immediately mean that a patient has “six months to live” if the cancer is left untreated. In other words, many patients with six-month diagnoses could just as easily be cured from their cancer after treatment, meaning that assisted suicide policies create a whole patient subset who do not have a terminal illness that can still legally commit suicide.

4. It corrupts the patient-doctor relationship and the Hippocratic Oath. Every patient deserves to have trust in their doctor that they will do what’s best for their health. When a doctor recommends suicide, it is an inhuman violation of the implicit trust that a patient should have in their caretaker. In the Hippocratic Oath commonly taken by doctors, the primary rule is to “do no harm.” Recommending assisted suicide is the most grievous breach of this oath.

5. Assisted suicide limits patients’ access to high quality care. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Oh.), a doctor, related the story of one Oregon resident with prostate cancer who applied for an expensive form of chemotherapy through the state-run healthcare system that his doctor had recommended. He was denied the treatment; he instead received a letter from the state of Oregon offering to pay for his assisted suicide.

6. It preys upon the weak and vulnerable. Those who are terminally ill are understandably in a very fragile mental state. This makes them more vulnerable to give in to the “compassionate” advice of family members and doctors to end their lives, convincing them that they are creating a monetary and psychological “burden” on their families. Assisted suicide also gives those people who value money over the lives of their family members a convenient way to kill them off.

7. It is a violation of equality before the law. As Ryan Anderson has written, “Classifying a subgroup of people as legally eligible to be killed violates our nation’s commitment to equality before the law—showing profound disrespect for and callousness to those who will be judged to have lives no longer ‘worth living,’ not least the frail elderly, the demented, and the disabled.”

8. Comforting those who are dying is actually life-affirming. Numerous accounts of families drawing closer together around the bedside of a dying family member abound. Here is just one that I found particularly moving. Here is another one from a woman who worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, illustrating the fact that standing up against assisted suicide does not have to be a partisan issue.

9. “Until the day we take our last breath, we have something to offer.” Rep. Wenstrup learned this lesson when he examined an AIDS patient in 1985, who died the next day. “He taught me something for a lifetime on his last day,” he said. The man told Wenstrup that he was the first person to fully examine him, because everybody else was too afraid to because of his mysterious disease (at that time). Wenstrup learned a valuable lesson about the dignity of every human life from this man, and what it must feel like to be cast aside and rejected by your fellow man.

10. Human life is cheapened in the minds of everyone. When we declare a certain category of people as not worthy of life, we as human beings begin to doubt the value of human life in general. This phenomenon has been verified statistically in a study in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, where assisted suicide is legal. After these laws were passed, the suicide rate amongst the general population went up in all three states.

11. Everyone is needed. In the words of Rep. Wenstrup (who gave a superb policy lecture about assisted suicide at FRC headquarters): “With laws like this [assisted suicide laws], we promote the idea that you just aren’t needed here, and I think that’s hurting America across the board … As we go forward, we have to continue to discuss how important every life is, and the positive effects that you can have even in your struggles, not only for yourself, but for those around you. Life brings us together, and so does death; and I believe that until you take that last breath, you continue to give. And then who you were continues to give, forever—that will never perish. We need to take a long hard look at who we are as a society and what we want to be, where we want to go, what’s important to us. I imagine everyone that’s listening today hopefully feels that they have some value. You do have value. You need to feel necessary. We need to talk to each other, and tell each other how necessary each one of us is.”

In concluding his lecture, Rep. Wenstrup related a true story he read in which the author was offered a sandwich by a homeless man while he was hitchhiking. “[The author] didn’t know what to say. He accepted it … What that [homeless] gentleman was doing was making himself needed. Everyone is needed. Everyone plays a part in our lives, and we need to respect that, and hopefully [on the issue of assisted suicide] we can drive that home, because we’re all better served if we value human life and emphasize its importance each and every day.”

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Backpage.com and Human Trafficking: What is Christian America’s Response?

by Mary Beasley

July 24, 2017

Recently, a large amount of evidence was uncovered revealing that Backpage.com has been facilitating prostitution and child sex trafficking through the promotion of ads posted on its website. For years, Backpage has absorbed and dissolved accusations of these crimes by various non-profits and congressmen. They have dodged several lawsuits, many involving murders of young women who were victimized and trafficked through ads placed on their website. Similar to Craigslist, Backpage allows its users to post ads and sell various items, including sex ads.

Backpage hosts ads through its “Dating” section showing scantily clad women and underage teenagers in explicit images, offering, for example, to “Let a young babe show you the way” or “Little angel seeks daddy.” This has been a huge source of controversy. In years past, Backpage has cited the Communications Decency Act in its defense, which protects websites that display ads posted by a third-party, whether by another website or person.

Backpage hired an ad agency from the Philippines that specifically searches for advertisements concerning sex. This website looks for these ads on various websites and offers advertisers the opportunity to re-post on Backpage for free.

However, recent evidence suggests that Backpage has edited these advertisements to use less-suggestive or explicit words. Since Backpage has interfered with the advertisement process, the immunity previously provided by the Communications Decency Act could be null.

A mother whose daughter was trafficked on Backpage at the age of 15 was among some of the women who have lost lawsuits against Backpage for trafficking and prostitution charges. Her daughter was trafficked on Backpage for nearly 3 months. “I find it morally disgusting,” she said. “Not only are they exploiting young women that are clearly vulnerable, but they’re furthering their exploitation by putting them on another website. It just shows the lack of morality of this company, how little they care about the victims. Which child is going to be enough to make this end?”

In recent years the subject of human trafficking has gained more traction. Yet, many Americans have little understanding of where and how trafficking begins. The stereotype is that trafficking is mainly a problem in third-world countries, yet many do not consider how American people are involved in and even continue the cycle of trafficking.

Last summer, I spent some time working with a small ministry that cares for victims of sex trafficking in the heart of inner-city Akron, a city in Ohio of less than 200,000 people but with one of the highest drug overdose rates in the country and a hub for human trafficking. When I heard these statistics, I was shocked. I grew up near Akron and had no idea that human trafficking was happening anywhere close to where I grew up or was even an issue in America at all.

The ministry is stashed away in the same area where women are picked up off the streets, prostituted, and trafficked. This involves a deep, dark cycle between the victim and a pimp, who oftentimes forces drug-use and uses fear-tactics to falsely create an attachment in the relationship. The victim submits to the control of the pimp again and again, until it is all she knows and the only way she understands how to survive.

The women involved in this ministry harbored horror stories. Some women come to the ministry simply for free health and hygienic supplies. Some women would return simply for a gentle hug and smiling face.

Written on their faces is the pain of violence and shame of what they have had to suffer. One woman returned again and again to a Bible study we hosted, sometimes with black eyes which were often bloodshot and glazed over. Some women suffered broken ribs.

Not only does forced prostitution take an obvious toll on the body physically, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual effects are widespread. Victims of trafficking often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by harrowing experiences that often include violence, forced captivity, control, and fear. Mental symptoms of PTSD are manifestations of deep emotional wounds that are difficult to heal. How does a woman who has been victimized by sex trafficking learn how to view herself as a free and independent woman after such a traumatizing experience? It is not simply knowing she is free, but changing thought patterns which have been embedded in her mind, telling her that her worst fears are true: she is insignificant, she is invaluable, she is unforgivable, she is unchangeable, she is unlovable.

Many ministries which try to help solve issues with trafficking focus on the mental and emotional healing process, helping women recover from trauma and PTSD. However, a woman is not only defined by her physical or even emotional or mental health.

Jesus teaches us that the root of a person lies on a spiritual level. When asked how to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered, saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27). Jesus desires that we love Him with our whole person: with our heart’s desires, our soul’s reliance, our physical strength, and our mental capacity. All of these components are involved in the development of our relationship, commitment, and fellowship with Jesus. It is where our love for Him blossoms and strengthens. Commitment to Him is not simply spiritual, it is holistic: divine intervention within our humanness. God created us with a beautiful multiplicity and a unique capacity for love. The multiple facets of our human condition are unified in our worship and submission to His will.

The trafficking of children and adults is a direct attack on this holistic concept of personhood that is rooted in Jesus’ love. The victim’s personhood is undermined at every level—physically, mentally, emotionally, and, ultimately, spiritually. Therefore, the battle against human trafficking is ultimately a spiritual one. In Luke, right after Jesus commands us to love Him with our whole person, He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Unfortunately, human trafficking is not only present in third world countries—it is right at our doorsteps here in America. Loving our neighbors means establishing, renewing, and refreshing their concept of personhood—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—in the love exhibited by Jesus’ teachings and, ultimately, His work on the cross. The controversy involved with Backpage is not simply a matter of the law, it is a matter of people’s personhoods being taken advantage of and being broken down and dehumanized into a purely sexualized image, exacerbated by a culture immersed in pornography.

Regardless of what Backpage did or did not do, they’re dabbling in a dark field through the dissemination of sex ads. These ads perpetuate the cycle of prostitution and trafficking. It is our responsibility as Christians to respond and to battle back against this scourge. The cycle of trafficking can be broken. These victims can be reached, healed, and reestablished as whole people through a holistic and complete concept of personhood through Jesus Christ.

Mary Beasley is an intern at Family Research Council.

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No, Rev. Barber, Prayer for a President Is Not “Heresy”

by Travis Weber

July 20, 2017

The Reverend William Barber from North Carolina made news this week by claiming in an interview on prayer for President Trump that it “borders on heresy when you can p-r-a-y for a president” while they are “preying” on others. This, in his view, is “violating the most sacred principles of religion.”

Assuming Reverend Barber looks to the Bible as his spiritual authority, I would suggest that the “principles of religion” demand the exact opposite—they actually require the Christian to pray for all leaders. Indeed, if this borders on heresy, a portion of the New Testament may be heretical.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 says: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior” (emphasis mine).

This command is non-negotiable for every Christian; it doesn’t matter if we agree with the leader or not—as several ministers recently pointed out in rebuttal to Barber. Not all may have voted for President Trump, but he now is the president, and we all should hope and pray that he brings blessing to our nation. Similarly, not all may have voted for President Obama—I was in the camp who did not. But once he became president, it became a requirement of me and every other Christian who did not vote for him to nevertheless pray for the president to do well in God’s sight.

Christians should always speak truth to power. Yet we can do this while we also pray for God to bless the nation through the leaders he has appointed over us.

Reverend Barber and I do see eye to eye on one overarching point—that faith should inform the public life of our nation. We agree that it is proper for a minister, pastor, or theologian to offer their views in the public square. Reverend Barber is doing this, and so do I. In that sense, he is a religious liberty advocate just like myself.

While Christians may differ on the application of that faith, we still agree that it should speak to our society—as opposed to those who think religion has no role in the public square at all. Rev. Barber and I would both say they are completely wrong. Let both his and my supporters unify on this point, for Christianity has much with which to benefit and bless our nation. Regardless of our differences on how it is applied, we should rally together to defend its place in the public life of our nation.

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Social Conservative Review - July 17, 2017

by Daniel Hart

July 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

In last week’s message, I discussed the growing problem of hostility to Christianity that many Americans have faced over the last 15 years and continue to face now, despite living in a free democracy.

It’s important to remember that this problem is by no means limited to the U.S.—other freedom-loving countries are also showing disturbing anti-Christian trends. In a recent survey conducted in the U.K., it was revealed that an astonishing 93 percent of Christians “believe that their faith is being marginalized in British society today.” The results were published by Premier Christian Communications, after 12,000 “ordinary Christians” took part in the survey. Commenting on the survey results, Premier CEO Peter Kerridge said that “it is ‘clear’ that the U.K. does not have the ‘liberal accepting society’ that it believes it does ‘if we don’t tolerate and accept everyone, including Christians.’” In just the past year in the U.K., a Christian nurse was fired for speaking about her faith and praying for patients, two Christians were convicted of disorderly conduct and fined for preaching on the streets, and numerous Christian schools were given downgraded statuses by the leading education watchdog group for their teachings on homosexuality and other religions.

FRC will continue to fight for the freedoms of all believers to live out their faith freely in the public square, with the hope that Christians of all nationalities will also fight for their rights. Christ’s words will forever be our guide: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.

Sincerely,

Dan Hart
Managing Editor for Publications
Family Research Council

 

FRC Articles

It’s Time to Clean Up Our Elections – Ken Blackwell

Doctors Across The World Are Fighting To Treat Charlie Gard. Will The UK Let Them? – Arina Grossu

Where Are The Decent Liberals?Ken Blackwell

The Serpents are SurfacingKen Blackwell

Movie Review: “Alison’s Choice”Lauren Hand

Those with Gender Dysphoria Can Find Healing Peter Sprigg

No Fear: Coach Kennedy’s Steadfast FaithEmma Gibney

Release Charlie GardArina Grossu

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way? – Ben Schreckinger, Politico Magazine

Cakes and Consciences: The Case of Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop – Nathanael Blake, Public Discourse

The Urgency of Restoring the Biblical Values of America’s Founders – Arthur Goldberg, Public Discourse

Passion for Equality – Mark Movsesian, First Things

The Pelvic Left Attacks an Innocent WomanAustin Ruse, Crisis

The Media’s Use of This ‘Hate Group’ Label Puts Conservatives’ Safety at Risk – Katrina Trinko, The Daily Signal

Religious Freedom Advocates Fire Back After ‘Hate Group’ Smear Over Jeff Sessions Speech – Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal

International Religious Freedom

93 Percent of UK Christians Feel Their Faith Is Marginalized, Survey Says – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Orthodox Jewish girls school faces closure for refusing to teach children about homosexualityBrandon Morse, TheBlaze

The New Totalitarian Laws of CanadaJohn Paul Meenan, Crisis

Chinese Nobel Prize winner dies in prison, first since the Nazi regimeChinaAid

Military Religious Freedom

US Army Tells Female Soldiers to ‘Accept’ Having Naked Men in Their ShowersSamuel Smith, The Christian Post

Work Hard, Pray Hard’: Retired General Reveals the True Path to Inner PeaceErik Rosales, CBN News

 

Life

Abortion

Video: Stephanie Gray: “Abortion: From Controversy to Civility”Talks at Google

Stunning images from inside the womb show that human life begins at fertilization – Becky Yeh, Live Action News

Oregon poised to make abortion freeSamantha Gobba, WORLD

Abortion Fanatics Don’t Want Choice, They Want Fewer BabiesMollie Hemingway, The Federalist

Bioethics

Parental and Governmental Authority in Medical Decisions: The Tragic Case of Charlie GardMelissa Moschella, Public Discourse

Je Suis Charlie, Once MoreR.R. Reno, First Things

Basic Bioethics: How to illuminate the Christian perspectiveJoe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Obamacare

Needed pro-life protections in potential healthcare legislation – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Obamacare Is Causing Insurers To Delay Surgeries Patients Need – Richard Menger, The Federalist

Bringing Senate Conservatives and Moderates Together on Health-Care Reform – Michael F. Cannon, National Review

 

Family

Economics/Education

How to Find Hope in the Humanless Economy – Kevin Brown and Steven McMullen, Christianity Today

Here’s How Anti-Conservative Academic Discrimination Works – David French, National Review

Jobs Report Stronger Than Expected, but More Must Be Done to Boost the Economy – Timothy Doescher, The Daily Signal

Here’s Why So Many Republicans View America’s Colleges And Universities Negatively – Gracy Olmstead, The Federalist

Is California anti-family? – Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register

Think Tank: Reconsider Caring For Your Kids Because Money Matters Most – Gracy Olmstead, The Federalist

Marriage

5 Long-Time Married Couples Share Their Secrets to a Happy MarriageJenna Jonaitis, Verily

Married People Have More SexNathan Yau, Flowingdata

Premarital counseling can decrease divorce rates, psychologist saysLaren Hanson, The Daily Universe

Michigan couple, both 99, celebrates 80th wedding anniversaryEliza Murphy, Good Morning America

The 4 Crises Every Marriage Must Make It ThroughPaul Carter, The Gospel Coalition

The Adult Children of Divorce Find Their VoiceLeila Miller, Family Studies

Faith/Character/Culture

Why Is God So Hidden?J. Warner Wallace, BreakPoint

Can Ethnicity Become a Straitjacket?Mike Tong, Desiring God

Don’t be Uncle Rico: A moral snatched from Napoleon DynamiteTod Worner, Aleteia

Hospitality Is Not Just for HomeBethany Jenkins, The Gospel Coalition

What Makes Humans So Special?Matt Nelson, Word On Fire

Want to Lead a Happier Life? Be More Generous, Study SaysBrandon Showalter, The Christian Post

Human Sexuality

Symptoms, Causes and Loving Those with Same-Sex AttractionCarrie Gress, National Catholic Register

Doctors Admit They Don’t Know Which Kids Should Gender Transition But Do It To Them AnywayWalt Heyer, The Federalist

Husband, Lift Up Your EyesJohn Piper, Desiring God

Pediatrician: ‘Transgender’ ideology has created widespread child abuseMichelle A. Cretella, LifeSiteNews

Increase in extramarital sex leading to new STD epidemicFr. Mark Hodges, LifeSiteNews

Most Teens Aren’t Having Sex, and They Deserve More Support for That ChoiceAlysse ElHage, Family Studies

Oral sex spreading unstoppable bacteria – James Gallagher, BBC News

At issue: The push for gender inclusivity in toys – Chris Woodward, OneNewsNow

Human Trafficking

3 things to know about the human trafficking reportTravis Wussow, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Backpage has always claimed it doesn’t control sex-related ads. New documents show otherwise.Tom Jackman and Jonathan O’Connell, The Washington Post

Pornography

What Porn Did To Their Lives – Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Seven Promises to Pray Against PornJ.A. Medders, Desiring God

Kay Warren: ‘I Struggled With Porn Fascination’ – Nancy Flory, The Stream

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Movie Review: “Alison’s Choice”

by Lauren Hand

July 13, 2017

The film  “Alison’s Choice” dramatizes a two-hour waiting period of a pregnant high school student while she awaits her abortion appointment. As Alison sits in the waiting room, she encounters God as a janitor, two other patients at the abortion facility, three medical staff, and a counselor. Alison speaks with God as He pleads with her to save her child, while revealing different reasons behind the problems in the world. As God converses with Alison, He also speaks with each one of the women in the waiting room in an effort to save them and their children. Alison asks God various questions about why He allows certain problems in the world to continue and why He is impeding on what she thinks is the “freedom” of her and the other girls at the facility to “simply live their lives.” God shows Alison her baby growing inside her womb and lets her know of His loving plan for them both.

Alison’s boyfriend Ricky, the father of the baby, is absent while she waits for her abortion appointment, and the time makes Alison reflect on their relationship. Ricky told her “to just get rid of it,” upon discovering that she was pregnant after pressuring her to have sex with him in the first place. God reveals He was present at each moment preceding Alison’s abortion appointment, and He recounts asking Ricky to “be a man” and to take care of Alison and their unborn daughter.

The medical staff at the center suspects that Alison is unsure about her abortion procedure, so they attempt to coax her. Alison first meets a counselor on staff at the center who encourages her to have the abortion because it “makes sense.” She then meets a married woman who has two children and believes she and her family are not prepared for a third, so she chose to have an abortion rather than telling her husband or her two other children she is pregnant. Alison then journeys beyond the waiting room to speak with an abortionist on staff as well as a nurse. The abortionist tells Alison that there is a “growing lump of tissue” inside of her, and it will inconvenience her and not allow her to go on with life.  The nurse is a single woman who is “celebrating” her 5,000th “termination” in her time in the abortion industry. She is delighted to not have a man or child to “serve” but instead carries three pictures of her cats around her neck who are her companions. The film then travels through various thoughts in Alison’s mind as she grapples with the life and death decision about her preborn daughter.  

The movie ends with Alison’s decision revealed. The film invites the audience to contemplate the realities that women and men face with an unplanned pregnancy. The rational moral consequences that can stem from the ordeal of abortion are made evident in the film through relatable characters. Despite some stereotypical moments, “Alison’s Choice” has a very plausible storyline and leaves the audience with an accurate representation of both the abortion industry and the difficult and often frightening reality of making decisions surrounding an unplanned pregnancy.   

Lauren Hand is an intern at Family Research Council.

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Those with Gender Dysphoria Can Find Healing

by Peter Sprigg

July 12, 2017

Last month, it was my privilege to attend the annual conference of the Restored Hope Network (RHN) in San Diego. The Restored Hope Network is the nation’s largest umbrella organization for Christian organizations engaged in “transformational ministry” with those who suffer from unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA). (It is often seen as a successor to Exodus International, an organization that shut down in 2013 after its leadership abandoned its original message that change is possible for those with unwanted SSA.)

LGBT activists in the San Diego area organized protests against the conference (although they did not turn out anything close to the 1,000 protesters they promised). Ironically, the protests had some positive effect—at least one person struggling with unwanted SSA who attended the conference said he would never have known about it if not for the publicity about the protests.

I was struck, however, by the sharp disconnect between what the protesters assumed was actually happening in the conference and what was actually happening there. As just one example, critics of “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE)—which they (not its practitioners) refer to as “conversion therapy”—often charge that such programs damage participants by instilling “shame” in them. The truth is the exact opposite—participants come into SOCE with shame, and a key goal of the counselling is to overcome and remove that sense of shame.

One thing striking about this year’s conference was the increased emphasis on issues of gender identity as well as sexual orientation—a clear reflection of the growing prominence of the transgender issue just in the two years since I last attended an RHN conference. Since RHN is an explicitly Christian organization, the twin issues of homosexuality and gender dysphoria (dissatisfaction with one’s biological sex) were both addressed by several speakers in the theological context of the “image of God,” as expressed in Genesis 1:27:

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.

In other words, our maleness or femaleness, and the complementarity of the two, is part of the “image of God” with which each of us is created by God. Linda Seiler, who struggled with gender identity issues growing up, said this means that “gender is sacred” and that “rejecting one’s God-given sex is rebelling against the Creator.” Speaker Nate Oyloe applied the concept to marriage, saying, “Divorce is the image of God, masculine and feminine, being torn apart.” Another speaker, who formerly lived a lesbian lifestyle and is now living a life of chastity, gave a personal testimony in which she declared, “I was born with a sinful and rebellious nature, but I was reborn in the imago dei (image of God).”

The highlight of the conference for me was seeing the world premiere of a new documentary film called TranZformed: Finding Peace with Your God-Given Gender. While the movement that believes sexual orientation change is possible has been around for decades, and numerous testimonies of those who have experienced change have long been available, until now only a few people have publicly come out as “ex-transgender” (the most prominent being Walt Heyer—see his website).

TranZformed, however, features the dramatic testimonies of 15 ex-transgender individuals who “bear witness to what Jesus Christ can do for those who struggle with gender dysphoria.” The film, which is over an hour long, was very professionally produced by Pure Passion Media, a ministry dedicated to “equipping the church to redemptively minister to those who are trapped in sexual sin and brokenness” (a focus which definitely includes heterosexual sin and brokenness, such as pornography addiction). In fact, two of the testimonies included in TranZformed are available on the Pure Passion website.

However, the DVD of the entire documentary is available for order at the TranZformed website. I highly recommend it for the dramatic personal insight it gives into the transgender issue.

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