Month Archives: October 2019

Death Comes to Northeast Syria: The Human Cost of Trump’s Withdrawal of Forces

by Travis Weber , Arielle Del Turco

October 9, 2019

Smoke is billowing from a small town in northeast Syria hit by Turkish airstrikes today, and hundreds of civilians are fleeing, unsure of where they’re headed.

The worst fears of those living under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria are becoming a reality after President Trump made the decision on Sunday to remove U.S. troops from the area. This decision followed a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan and paved the way for an unfolding Turkish military operation into Northeast Syria, which is controlled by the Kurds, who have been faithful U.S. allies.

Why is FRC, focused on our mission to advance faith, family, and freedom, weighing in on this situation far from home?

Because at risk is not just the massacre of our Kurdish allies, the potential resurgence of ISIS, the reputation of the United States, and another major conflict in the Middle East. Also at risk is the destruction of the one place in the Middle East (outside of Israel) where Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis live in peace and religious freedom thrives. Under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, religious minorities in Northeast Syria found protection and equal political rights—an anomaly in the Middle East.

Out of the midst of the Syrian civil war, hope sprang in the form of a federal government system that represents and protects segments of society which are often neglected and abused in the Middle East, including women and the Christian minority.

In addition to other religious minorities, Syriac Christians have found safety under the Kurdish-led administration. This is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, and they are trying to maintain a presence in the Middle East, the birthplace of the Christian faith. Syriac Christians still speak a dialect of Aramaic today, and Syriac Christian culture is experiencing a renaissance. As Turkish forces move into Northeast Syria, we shouldn’t expect that they will take care of this community. Even in the past few years, Turkey has allied itself with jihadist groups responsible for killing Christians elsewhere in Syria. With the present Turkish incursion, Christians in Northeast Syria face the potential of attack or displacement. It would be tragic to these Christians subjected to abuse or death as a result of Turkish actions, and it would also be tragic to see the loss of a historic Christian presence in this region.

The Kurdish forces that Turkey is attacking have been reliable allies to the Untied States. When the U.S. couldn’t find anyone else willing to fight ISIS, the SDF rose to the occasion, and lost approximately 11,000 fighters in the process. The Kurds feel betrayed by the U.S., and that feeling is understandable. They have been consistent allies, and we abandoned them overnight without warning. This won’t bode well for the next time the U.S. tries to recruit allies in the Middle East.

The successful religious freedom and pluralism found in Northeast Syria is something that we hope to see more of across the Middle East. To watch that newly-flourishing area ransacked by a Turkish authoritarian leader is disheartening. If the United States wants to see the prime example of religious freedom in the Middle East continue, it should continue to support our Kurdish allies.

It is difficult to watch these events unfold today. There have already been reports of civilian casualties, including Christians who were killed by the Turkish strikes.

As this situation develops, we need to be praying for the protection of the people of Northeast Syria, and that any attempted oppression or slaughter would be thwarted. We must also pray that God would give President Trump the wisdom to make the right decisions, and that he would ensure security for Syria’s Northeast.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Tampa Therapy Ban

by Peter Sprigg

October 8, 2019

In a major victory for the personal freedom of young people with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek professional help to achieve their goals, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida has struck down a local ordinance in Tampa, Florida that outlawed sexual orientation change efforts (so-called “conversion therapy or reparative therapy”) for minors when conducted by licensed professionals.

In Vazzo v. Tampa, U.S. District Court Judge William F. Jung, a 61-year-old Trump appointee who has been on the bench for a year, struck down the law and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement. Plaintiff Robert Vazzo, a licensed marriage and family therapist, was represented in the case by Liberty Counsel.

Judge Jung chose not to directly address federal constitutional issues of free speech under the First Amendment, which has been the focus of other court challenges to therapy bans. Instead, he ruled that local governments in Florida had no authority to legislate on this issue because of an “implied preemption doctrine,” declaring, “The City Ordinance is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.”

Judge Jung wrote that “substantive regulation of psychotherapy is a State, not a municipal concern,” and pointed out that “Tampa has never regulated healthcare substantively in any other way before” this ordinance was adopted in 2017.

Not only are local governments not authorized by Florida law to regulate the provision of mental health care services, but they are hardly competent to enforce such regulations. Judge Jung noted this in the following passage (emphasis added; citations omitted):

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Enhancement (formerly Code Enforcement) enforces the Ordinance. Although this is the City Department that usually enforces code violations like overgrown weeds and unpermitted contracting, the City’s Neighborhood Enhancement director testified that he would take any suspected violation of the SOCE Ordinance to the City Attorney before issuing a notice of violation. The Assistant City Attorney tasked as representative on this matter has been a lawyer for four years but has no training in counseling, therapy, or medicine; and stated that the City would consult Webster’s Dictionary to understand the terms in the Ordinance. If contested, the City would employ a “special magistrate” to adjudicate the alleged violation as a code enforcement proceeding. The City’s special magistrates are unpaid volunteers appointed by the mayor. The City has no plan in connection with the Ordinance to appoint someone who is a licensed mental health provider.

Not only would the enforcers of such a law be incompetent to do so, but the enactors of it did so in ignorance:

The main sponsor of the Ordinance on the council was unaware of the difference between talk therapy and aversive practices, and testified that council and participating staff are untrained in the mental health field.

Judge Jung’s reliance on “preemption doctrine” may help fuel other efforts to overturn (or lobby against) other local therapy bans across the country. Although 18 states have passed state-wide therapy bans, passing such local ordinances in more liberal urban areas is a tactic therapy opponents have employed in conservative states that have refused to adopt state-wide legislation.

However, Judge Jung’s opinion in the case is not so narrowly written as to be applicable only to local ordinances. For example, he ruled that the ordinance encroached upon at least five principles of state law in Florida which would apply to any proposed state therapy ban there (and possibly in other states) as well:

  • Florida’s Broad Right of Privacy” (“The Florida Constitution’s privacy amendment suggest that government should stay out of the therapy room.”)
  • Parental Choice in Healthcare” (“… [W]ith very few exceptions, parents are responsible for selecting the manner of medical treatment received by their children … until age 18.”)
  • Florida’s Patient’s Bill of Rights” (“A patient has the right to access any mode of treatment that is, in his or her own judgment and the judgment of his or her health care practitioner, in the best interests of the patient, including complementary or alternative health care treatments . . .”)
  • Florida’s Endorsement of Alternative Healthcare Options” (“It is the intent of the Legislature that citizens be able to make informed choices for any type of health care they deem to be an effective option … including … treatments designed to complement or substitute for the prevailing or conventional treatment methods.”)
  • Florida’s Well-Established Doctrine of Informed Consent” (“When the patient is denied the ability to exercise or even consider informed consent, the patient’s personal liberty suffers.”)

The judge’s decision also cited abundant evidence in the record of the case demonstrating scientifically how weak the case for any such therapy bans is (source citations omitted):

• Minors can be gender fluid and may change or revert gender identity.

• Gender dysphoria during childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood.

• Formal epidemiologic studies on gender dysphoria in children, adolescents, and adults are lacking.

• One Tampa expert testified there is not a consensus regarding the best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children.

• A second Tampa expert testified consensus does not exist regarding best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children, but a trend toward a consensus exists.

• Emphasizing to parents the importance of allowing their child the freedom to return to a gender identity that aligns with sex assigned at birth or another gender identity at any point cannot be overstated.

• One cannot quantify or put a percentage on the increased risk from conversion therapy, as compared to other therapy.

• Scientific estimates of the efficacy of conversion therapy are essentially nonexistent because of the difficulties of obtaining samples following individuals after they exit therapy, defining success, and obtaining objective reassessment.

• Based on a comprehensive review of this work, the American Psychological Association 2009 SOCE Task Force concluded that no study to date has demonstrated adequate scientific rigor to provide a clear picture of the prevalence or frequency of either beneficial or harmful SOCE outcomes. More recent studies claiming benefits and/or harm have done little to ameliorate this concern.

• No known study to date [looking at 2014 article] has drawn from a representative sample of sufficient size to draw conclusions about the experience of those who have attempted SOCE.

• No known study [looking at same 2014 article] has provided a comprehensive assessment of basic demographic information, psychosocial wellbeing, and religiosity, which would be required to understand the effectiveness, benefits and/or harm caused by SOCE.

• Although research on adult populations has documented harmful effects of SOCE, no scientific research studies have examined SOCE among adolescents.

• With extraordinarily well-trained counseling “in a hypothetically perfect world” it may be an appropriate course of action for a counselor to aid a gender-dysphoric child who wants to return to biological gender of birth.

• There is a lack of published research on efforts to change gender identity among childhood and adolescents.

• As of October 2015 no research demonstrating the harms of conversion therapy with gender minority youth has been published. In 2018 an article was published on youth but causal claims could not be made from that 2018 report.

The Tampa ruling comes on the heels of New York City’s recent decision to repeal its adult therapy ban for fear of a negative precedent from a court case challenging it. Together, these two events have given welcome evidence that the days of such freedom-denying therapy bans may now be numbered.

Life-Affirming Title X Recipients Will Now Receive Even More Funding Thanks in Part to Planned Parenthood

by Connor Semelsberger

October 1, 2019

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Protect Life Rule, which separates abortion activities from federally-funded family planning clinics, is currently in effect, as further court proceedings play out in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In response to this rule, Planned Parenthood and several pro-abortion states decided that performing abortions is more important than providing family planning services to underserved women when they voluntarily withdrew from the Title X Program on August 19th.

This week, HHS announced that $33.6 million of the funding forfeited by pro-abortion grantees will now be awarded to 50 current Title X grantees that do not promote abortion as a method of family planning.

This supplemental funding will enable current grantees to better meet the family planning needs of underserved women across America. Contrary to what opponents of the Protect Life Rule claim, Title X patient coverage will not suffer. Clinics like Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs), which do not promote or perform abortions, will now be able to provide high-quality and affordable family planning services to even more women and families in need than they did before.

Here is the list of Planned Parenthood entities and pro-abortion states that chose to reject millions of dollars in federal funding rather than stop referring patients for abortion:

Grantees Voluntarily Terminated

  • AK     Planned Parenthood of Great Northwest & Hawaiian Islands
  • CT     Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
  • ID     Planned Parenthood of Great Northwest & Hawaiian Islands
  • IL     Illinois Department of Health
  • IL     Planned Parenthood of Illinois
  • MA     Health Imperatives Inc.
  • MA     Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • MD     Maryland Department of Health
  • ME     Family Planning Association of Maine Inc.
  • MN     Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota
  • NH     Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
  • NY     Public Health Solutions
  • NY     New York Department of Health
  • OH     Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio
  • OR     Oregon Health Authority
  • UT     Planned Parenthood Association of Utah
  • VT     Vermont Agency of Human Services
  • WA     Washington State Department of Health

Grantees Receiving Supplemental Award

  • AL     Alabama Department of Public Health
  • AR     Arkansas Department of Health
  • AZ     Arizona Family Health Partnership
  • CO     Colorado Department of Public Health
  • CT     Cornell Scott-Hill Health Corporation
  • DC     Unity Health Care Inc.
  • DE     Delaware State Department of Health
  • FL     Primary Care Medical Services of Poinciana Inc.
  • FL     Community Health Centers of Pinellas Inc.
  • GA     Neighborhood Improvement Project Inc.
  • GA     Family Health Centers of Georgia Inc.
  • IA     Family Planning Council of Iowa
  • ID     Idaho Department of Health & Welfare
  • IL     Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness Inc.
  • IN     Indiana Family Health Council Inc.
  • KS     Kansas Department of Health & Environment
  • KY     Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services
  • MA     Action for Boston Community Development Inc.
  • MD     The Community Clinic Inc.
  • MS     Mississippi State Department of Health
  • MN     Ramsey County
  • MT     Montana Department of Public Health
  • ND     North Dakota Department of Health
  • NE     Family Planning Council of Nebraska
  • NM     New Mexico Department of Health
  • NV     Nevada Primary Care Association
  • NV     City of Carson City
  • NV     Washoe County
  • NV     Southern Nevada Health District
  • NY     The Floating Hospital Inc.
  • OH     Ohio Department of Health
  • OK     Community Health Connection Inc.
  • OK     Oklahoma Department of Health
  • PA     AccessMatters
  • PA     Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania Inc.
  • PA     Maternal and Family Health Services Inc.
  • PA     Adagio Health Inc.
  • RI     Rhode Island Department of Health
  • SC     South Carolina State Department of Health
  • SD     South Dakota Department of Health
  • TN     Tennessee Department of Health
  • TR     FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs
  • TR     Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
  • TR     Family Planning Association of Puerto Rico
  • TR     American Samoa Medical Center Authority
  • TX     Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas
  • TX     City of El Paso
  • WI     Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • WV     West Virginia Department of HHS
  • WY     Wyoming Health Council

You may find more information about the Title X program here.

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