Month Archives: March 2020

Off-Label Use of Drugs Are Fine for Gender Transitions, but Not for Coronavirus, Say Liberals

by Peter Sprigg

March 31, 2020

Liberals and the media have been criticizing President Trump for touting the possibility of using some anti-malarial drugs to fight the coronavirus. Chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, or a “drug cocktail” combining one of those with the antibiotic azithromycin have been proposed as possible drugs to prevent and/or treat the coronavirus, and what the Washington Post referred to as “tantalizing early results” of research showed that they might have promise.  

However, although these drugs have been around and used safely against malaria for decades, they have not yet been tested and proven safe and effective for use against the coronavirus. This has led to shock and outrage on the part of some. The Post’s headline read, “Trump keeps touting an unproven coronavirus treatment,” and their article reported:

The effort has raised concerns among health experts about safety risks — including the danger of fatal heart arrhythmia and vision loss associated with the drugs — and of raising false hopes in the American public.

In fact, the Post was alarmed enough to print an editorial on the subject as well, explaining:

Widespread testing for drug safety and efficacy is essential … Normally in the United States, a set of controlled clinical trials would be required before a drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration . . .

A Bloomberg headline read, “Trump Pushes an Unproven Coronavirus Drug,” and the article opens with this:

A tiny trial of a malaria drug may or may not have helped several patients in France fight off their coronavirus infections. The FDA has said it needs more study. Some expert doctors are skeptical. President Donald Trump is all for it.

Slate downplayed the drugs’ potential, saying, “Trump cited a report in a scientific journal that only studied 20 patients and was not a controlled clinical trial.” And the left-wing magazine Mother Jones headlined, “Trump Keeps Promoting Unproven Drugs: The cocktail carries significant risks and may not fight the coronavirus.”

It is true that the “off-label” use of a drug means that it has not been scientifically proven to be safe and effective for that particular condition. Such use is not illegal, however—and is fairly common. It has been estimated that one in five prescriptions written in America is for an off-label use.

And liberals have been far more enthusiastic about “off-label” use of some drugs—if they support one of their ideological pet projects.

The Off-Label Use of Drugs for Gender Transition

Take gender transition medical procedures, for example. Pre-teens who experience “gender dysphoria” (distress regarding their biological sex) are increasingly being treated with a regimen featuring puberty-blocking drugs (such as Lupron), followed by cross-sex hormones (testosterone or estrogen) followed by gender reassignment surgery.

These interventions are touted with terms like “evidence-based” and “standard of care”—so it might surprise some people (including the patients subjected to them) that all of these are “off-label” uses of such drugs. Puberty blockers, for example, are intended (in children) to treat a medical condition called “central precocious puberty,” in which the child begins to show the biological signs of puberty prematurely, at an age far younger than would normally be expected. The drugs stop the physical progression of puberty until they are removed at a more normal age for such development. The effect of their use to stop normal puberty, followed by their withdrawal at an older age or when beginning to take cross-sex hormones, has not been well-studied.

Sex hormones like estrogen are officially used to treat symptoms of menopause or certain cancers. However, an article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported, “Long-term effects and side effects of cross-sex hormone treatment in transsexual persons are not well known.”

Gender reassignment surgery (while not subject to the same testing as medications) has also not been proven safe and effective. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2016 found that “there is not enough high quality evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes,” in part because patients in the best studies “did not demonstrate clinically significant changes” after surgery.

Indeed, if you look closely, advocates of gender transition medical procedures do not even try to deny this. Fenway Health, which serves the LGBT community in Boston, writes that “no medications or other treatments are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the purposes of gender alteration and affirmation.” A 2018 article in the journal Transgender Health reiterated that “there are no medications or other treatments that are FDA-approved for the purpose of gender affirmation.” And the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health reported that “steroidal hormones,” “GnRH analogs” (puberty blockers) and “antiandrogens” are all used “off-label” for “gender re-affirming therapy”—because their use “lacks scientific evidence.”

Trusting Ideology Over Science

The “off-label” use of a drug—any drug—may sometimes be justified, but should always be pursued with caution. However, there is one big difference between the drugs President Trump has shown enthusiasm for and the drugs that social liberals so eagerly tout. The coronavirus causes very real physical disease, which is killing more and more Americans every day. Expediting the experimental “off-label” use of malaria drugs may be justified because of the massive scope of the public health problem we face.

The off-label use of drugs for “gender transition” is quite different. Not only is there no comparable public health crisis—there is not even a physical illness that is being treated. Neither puberty nor being biologically male or female is a “disease.”

Liberals should be careful showing self-righteousness about putting “our trust in the scientists.” Their hypocrisy is showing when it comes to the transgender movement.

Prayer Point #6: Pray for Honest Reporting

by David Closson

March 31, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

For most Americans, life looks very different today than it did two weeks ago. As the coronavirus has spread, tens of millions are now working from home, watching online worship services, and following CDC social distancing guidelines. According to a recent Fox News poll, 92 percent of Americans are now concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. This concern is reflected by the millions who watch President Trump’s daily press briefings. In fact, 57 percent of Americans report an increase in their television intake. Given this heightened media consumption, honest reporting is more crucial than ever. Thus, Christians should pray for the members of the media who are reporting on the coronavirus. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that reporters and journalists would accurately report updates about the virus. Pray that they would not seek to peddle conspiracy theories or politicize the threat. This year is an election year, and unfortunately, many in the media see everything, including the coronavirus, through a partisan political lens. In some instances, conservative media personalities have been too quick to dismiss missteps from Republican leaders, while liberal reporters have been too quick to criticize President Trump and his team. We must pray that everyone in the media—conservative, mainstream, and liberal—would put aside their political agendas and commit themselves to reporting the facts relevant to public health and safety.

Second, pray for wisdom in reporting. Admittedly, there is a lot of information to track related to the coronavirus. In addition to the president’s daily press conferences, governors and mayors are also giving daily remarks about how their respective states and cities are combatting the spread of the virus and protecting their people. Each day, the World Health Organization, CDC, and other governmental agencies put out information. There is a deluge of virus-related information released each day, and some of it is more accurate and helpful than others. Pray that news organizations and reporters would have the wisdom to know what they ought to report.  

Third, pray that reporters would employ an appropriate tone when conveying the latest news. We are living in uncertain times, and many people are anxious and fearful. Of course, certain updates and stories require a more impassioned tone. However, the public is not well-served when media personalities sensationalize aspects of certain stories to boost ratings or make a political statement. Pray that reporters, journalists, and producers would maintain a measured, thoughtful, and analytical approach as they convey the latest news to the public. Pray that no one would stoke fear where it is unwarranted.

And fourth, pray for the health of those in the media. Many reporters must leave their homes and venture into public spaces to report updates or cover the latest press conference. Others who work in media such as producers, audio engineers, camera operators, writers, make-up artists, and others must still come into work. Pray that none of these people come into contact with or spread the virus. Finally, pray for the families and loved ones of those working in media; pray for their health and safety as well.

Women’s History Month: Deborah and Jael - No Man’s Victory

by Laura Grossberndt

March 30, 2020

March is Women’s History Month (WHM), so it’s a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of women to American history. The most influential book in the United States—even the world—is the Bible; it not only shapes the way we Christians live, it also helped set the foundations for the way our nation is governed. Thus, women featured in the Bible, despite never having lived in America, have contributed greatly to the spiritual heritage of our nation. Periodically throughout the month, we will be sharing their inspiring stories.

Be sure to also read our previous Women’s History Month posts on Shiphrah and PuahEsther, and Jehosheba.

Time and time again, throughout the Old and New Testaments, God chose unlikely individuals (by worldly standards) to join Him in completing His sovereign plans and purposes. As the apostle Paul explained to the church in Corinth:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

In the Old Testament, most of the celebrated political and military leaders were men. But not all these men were natural leaders by worldly standards. (Consider Moses, who had a speech impediment, or David, who was a shepherd.) Nor does it mean that God exclusively worked through men to do His sovereign will. For one example, in the book of Judges, God used two women to defeat an enemy that had left even the bravest men of Israel cowering in their homes for over two decades. These women were named Deborah and Jael.

Deborah was an Israelite, a prophet, and a judge. She was married to a man named Lappidoth and may have belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, either by birth, marriage, or both. She lived “between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim” (Judg. 4:5). In Judges 5, Deborah describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (v.7). Biblical scholars are not sure if she was literally the mother of natural children or if she was speaking figuratively of her position as a judge. Nevertheless, this description shows us that Deborah embraced the role of a mother figure, biological children or not.

Deborah is one of only five women the Old Testament refers to as prophets. The other four are Miriam (Exod. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), and “the prophetess” (Isa. 8:3). In addition to being a prophet, Deborah was also a judge—a rare combination. Judges were leaders that God raised up to lead Israel after they entered the Promised Land. These rulers judged Israel until Saul was anointed Israel’s first king (circa 1050 BC). Not every Israelite judge was also recognized as a prophet.

Unlike some of the other judges, such as Gideon, Deborah did not lead the Israelite armies into battle. Instead, when Barak had received a military directive from God—and was dragging his feet—Deborah summoned Barak. She reminded him of the Lord’s command to lead 10,000 men of the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes into battle against Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army (Judg. 4:6-7).

Barak was reluctant to trust in God’s promise of victory, however, and refused to go into battle unless Deborah accompanied him! “If you go with me, I will go” (Judg. 4:8). Deborah agrees to go with Barak, but because of his lack of faith in God’s promise, she informs Barak that he will not be the hero: “the road on which you are going will not lead to glory.” Instead, God would choose His own hero from an unexpected place: “God will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judg. 4:9). Mighty Sisera, commander of 900 iron chariots, who had oppressed Israel for 20 years, would be defeated not by male soldiers, not by the strength of arms, but by the arm of a woman who God would providentially set in Sisera’s path: Jael.

Jael was the wife of Heber, a Kenite (Judg. 4:17). The Kenites were a nomadic people living in Canaan, who emanated from Midian, Edom, and the Arabah. Moses’ father-in-law had been a Kenite. However, while they were generally on good terms with the Israelites, they were not Israelites. In fact, Heber was on peaceful terms with the Hazorites, oppressors of the Israelites. So, when Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army, fled from the battlefield (after Barak’s army decisively defeated them) and sought shelter in Heber’s wife’s tent, it made sense tactically; Sisera believed he was hiding in an ally’s tent. He was wrong.

Commentators have debated why Sisera chose to hide in a woman’s tent (did he think it was the least likely place to be searched?); why Jael, the wife of a Kenite, decided to kill the Israelite enemy (had he offended her in some way?). Whatever the reasons, when Sisera walked into Jael’s tent, he walked unwittingly to his demise at the hand of an unlikely person. While Sisera was sleeping, Jael took a tent peg and hammered it into his head (Judg. 4:21-22). Thus, the mighty oppressor of Israel died at the hands of a Kenite woman.

The author of Judges concludes the story by attributing the victory to the Lord: “So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel” (Judg. 4:23). Indeed, this victory was God’s doing and not man’s. Afterward, the land was at rest for 40 years (Judg. 5:31).

Deborah exemplifies God’s authority and faithfulness to His promises. Jael exemplifies God’s use of weakness to defeat strength. While God used 10,000 Israelite men to rout the Canaanite army—a remarkable achievement and sign of God’s blessing—God’s glory shone most brightly in the slaying of the mighty general by a housewife, as predicted by a female prophet and judge.

Coronavirus and the Underground Church in Iran: An Interview with Iranian Christians

by Family Research Council

March 30, 2020

Iran is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. The Iranian regime has struggled to contain the outbreak, leading to tens of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths. Meanwhile, Iran’s religious minorities continue to face persecution during the coronavirus crisis. Christians in Iran are regularly subject to harassment by authorities or arbitrary imprisonment. Even though Iran has released many prisoners due to the spread of the coronavirus and the unsanitary conditions of the prisons, some Christians remain imprisoned, being put in danger by the virus.

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh converted to Christianity in Iran and experienced persecution at the hands of the Iranian regime. They both spent nine months in prison on charges of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-government activity because they left the state religion of Islam. Today, they live in the United States and advocate for religious freedom in Iran.

To learn more about what is happening on the ground in Iran, we asked Maryam and Marziyeh what Iranian Christians are facing during the coronavirus crisis.

FRC: What impact, if any, has the outbreak of coronavirus had on the underground church in Iran? 

Maryam and Marziyeh: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, and especially when the general population became aware of its danger and how fast it can spread, people became concerned and some started the practice of social distancing. We heard underground churches in Iran have cancelled their in-person meetings and instead they meet online either through Skype or other social media apps such as Telegram. They all join online and have their worship, teachings, and fellowship by all members participating and sharing their thoughts. 

FRC: What actions has the government taken to respond to the coronavirus crisis and what is the reaction of Iranian Christians to how the government has handled the outbreak?

Maryam and Marziyeh: Since the start of coronavirus outbreak in China the Iranian government was aware of the danger and spread of the virus but didn’t stop the flights from and to China and allowed the virus to spread all across Iran. They invited Chinese Muslims to the city of Qom and for a long time the Iranian government hid the spread of coronavirus in the country, especially at the time of parliamentary election, when they needed people to participate in voting. In some cases, regime hardliners who support the supreme leader reacted to the closure of holy places, opened the doors, and encouraged people to enter and participate in religious rituals in those places for healing. Instead of supporting doctors and nurses who have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the outbreak, the government encouraged and allowed Mullas who would spread their superstitions based on Islamic ideas—call it Islamic medicine—to visit hospitals and patients.  

The regime has handled the situation very poorly and adopted no measures to contain the spread of the virus—instead they tried to find another way to put pressure on people. For example, according to Farsi media, those who hide their symptoms would receive a one-year prison sentence. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has hoarded masks and other necessary supplies and sells them with a much higher price. Unfortunately, even the financial and medical help from the international community will not get to the Iranian people; the regime has control over all those supplies and uses them for their benefit. This week, the regime has encouraged and even forced a lot of people to participate in the funeral of Hossein Assadollahi, one of the former commanders of IRGC, at the time that most governments’ leaders encourage social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. Many Iranians, including Christians, have been very frustrated by how the regime has handled the situation. 

FRC: How are Iranian Christians feeling during the outbreak? What are they most concerned about?

Maryam and Marziyeh: Christians like other Iranians are concerned about how fast the virus is spreading across Iran and the poor handling of this situation by the regime. Christians are particularly concerned for their loved ones who are still in prisons; some of them are not known and no one knows anything about their conditions. We heard the coronavirus has spread among prisoners and there is a lot of concern that political and religious prisoners will be at higher risk if they remain in prisons. According to some news, only about seven Christians who were in prisons got released temporarily. Still, there are many more who are in prisons and at risk of getting sick.

FRC: How can the American church be praying for Iranian Christians—and all Iranians—right now?

Maryam and Marziyeh: A majority of Iranians believe that the Iranian regime is a bigger threat to the safety and security of millions of Iranians than the coronavirus. The terrible handling and poor management of the regime in this situation has led to thousands of deaths already. The regime has always been dishonest and put the regime’s supporters’ safety and security above all other Iranians. Iranians become happy these days to hear that some regime agents and Ayatollahs have died because of the virus. Millions of Iranians want to see the end of the regime that doesn’t care at all for their safety, security, and economic well-being.

The American church can unite with Iranians and pray that the Iranian regime will be overthrown and real freedom can come to Iran in the near future, because while this regime is in power, we will hear about a new crisis every day. Whether it is the regime’s mismanagement of flooding or earthquakes, shooting down a passenger airplane, killing thousands of protestors, or mismanagement of coronavirus, the Iranian people are suffering every day. Please pray for Iranians’ strength to be able to handle these difficult times. Also, please pray that the Lord will strengthen the Iranian Christians’ faith and give them courage and wisdom to share the Gospel with Iranians who need to hear the message of salvation these days. 

While the United States is occupied with news of the coronavirus at home, this health crisis is also affecting persecuted believers around the world, making their already tenuous situation more sensitive. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, we must continue to pray and advocate for religious freedom in Iran and around the world.

How the Coronavirus Relief Bills Benefit Churches and Other Nonprofits

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M. , Connor Semelsberger, MPP

March 27, 2020

There has been much discussion recently about the “Phase 3” coronavirus relief bill, H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) Act. Passed by the Senate on March 25, passed by the House on March 27, and signed into law by President Trump on the same day, the CARES Act is designed to provide broad-based economic relief and funding in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. While some of the headline-grabbing sections of this bill address health care supplies and financial assistance for large corporations, several key provisions directly assist nonprofit organizations, including churches.

Direct Loans to Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Churches

One of the major sections of the CARES Act is the $350 billion Payment Protection Program, which creates federally-guaranteed loans (operated by the Small Business Administration (or “SBA”)) to small businesses and other entities (including nonprofit organizations) to cover eight weeks of necessary expenses. To be eligible for these loans, the entity must have fewer than 500 employees, or the number designated as “standard” for its specific field—whatever is greater. Including entities in this manner will result in many small businesses and nonprofits being covered by these loan provisions.

For purposes of these loans, the CARES Act defines an eligible nonprofit organization as “an organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code.” Under IRS guidance, this generally includes churches—even if they have not registered with the IRS—as long as they meet 501(c)(3) requirements that:

  • They are organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other charitable purposes;
  • Net earnings do not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder;
  • No substantial part of their activity may be attempting to influence legislation; and they do not intervene in political campaigns; and
  • Their purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

Under the CARES Act, limitations that the SBA places on loans to religious entities (including a requirement that religious entities show they are not principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling, or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs) are waived. As long as the church or nonprofit was operational and paying salaries and payroll taxes on February 15th, 2020, it is eligible for these loans.

Ian Speir, an attorney whose clients at Nussbaum Speir Gleason PLLC include numerous churches and nonprofits, agrees, telling us it would be constitutionally problematic to exclude churches in light of recent Supreme Court decisions, which clarify that generally available public benefits can’t exclude religious organizations who are otherwise eligible. Speir also noted his agreement that churches are included within the CARES Act’s definition of “nonprofit organizations.”

Under the CARES Act, the maximum loan an organization can receive is based on a calculation that will come out to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll, or $10 million, whichever amount is less.

If an organization uses the loan to cover payroll costs, health care benefits and premiums, employee salaries, mortgage or rent payments, or any other interest payments, the loan will be forgiven. There are also provisions for waiving borrower fees and other collateral and credit requirements, as well as automatic deferrals of any payments for six months.

There are also incentives for organizations to keep employees on the payroll. The total amount forgiven will be reduced if the employer lays off any employees or reduces employee pay more than 25 percent during the loan term. The program also encourages organizations to rehire any employee already laid off by not adding any penalties for those employees brought back onto the payroll. So, if the organization certifies with the lender that it used the loan for the appropriate expenses, the loan will act as a federal grant with no need to pay any amount back. If the organization does not use the loan for appropriate expenses, it must pay back outstanding funds with an interest rate of 4 percent.

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, local and state authorities are restricting large gatherings, causing many churches and religious organizations not to meet in person, which can cause financial setbacks for them. We are also aware that churches and nonprofits are suffering operationally through no fault of their own, creating significant financial strain. If that is the case with your organization, you may benefit from this new loan program meant to help cover payroll and other essential costs for the next eight weeks.

We recognize not every entity may seek to avail themselves of these loans, but they are there for those who wish to do so. The goal is not increased dependence on the government, but rather temporary assistance that can serve as a lifeboat through unexpected shock. In all this, we want to ensure that churches and religious organizations are not discriminated against, but rather are treated fairly and allowed access to any programs that nonreligious organizations can participate in. The coronavirus has affected all of us—religious and nonreligious alike.

The SBA should soon be adding more helpful information to their website on how to access this relief, but in the meantime, Senator Rubio has a good FAQ sheet with information on how to apply for these loans, available here.

Incentivizing Giving to Churches and Nonprofits

Now more than ever, churches and other charitable organizations need donations in order to meet immediate needs related to the coronavirus outbreak. But simultaneously, many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. By creating additional tax incentives for charitable contributions, the Phase 3 coronavirus relief package seeks to encourage Americans to continue giving throughout the crisis.

Under the CARES Act, charitable contributions up to $300 can be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy will help offset the negative impact on charitable giving precipitated by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000. This change caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. During negotiations on the CARES Act, the FRC team worked alongside allied organizations to increase the total amount of tax-deductible donations. While the $300 amount was not raised, this new level may apply to tax years 2020 and beyond, leading to more incentive for charitable giving going forward.

Finally, reducing charitable giving limits for those who itemize deductions on their tax return is another positive incentive put in place by the CARES Act. The cap limiting charitable contribution deductions to 50 percent of a person’s income has been lifted for the 2020 taxable year. This policy also raises the limit on corporate deductions from 10 percent of taxable income to 25 percent and raises limits on food inventory donations from 15 percent to 25 percent.

Unemployment Insurance Assistance for Those Working for Nonprofits

In addition to the $1,200 one-time rebate checks for many Americans, the CARES Act expands unemployment insurance to help those who are without work because of the coronavirus outbreak. This bill creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Program that will run through the end of the year. The program provides unemployment benefits for those who do not usually qualify, including religious workers, the self-employed, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. It also covers the first week of lost wages in states that do not cover the first week a person is unemployed.

While most churches are not subject to unemployment insurance, some nonprofits should be aware of this new policy in case they need to lay off or have already laid off employees who may claim unemployment insurance. Fortunately, there is language in this bill to help nonprofits cover some of these costs. H.R. 748 provides payments to states to reimburse nonprofits that are not a part of their state’s unemployment system, reimbursing for half of the costs the nonprofits incur to pay unemployment benefits. Unlike other employers, nonprofits have the option to pay state unemployment insurance taxes or reimburse the state only for the benefits paid to former employees who collect unemployment insurance. The U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Unemployment Insurance and individual states provide more detailed information on how unemployment insurance programs operate.

Paid Medical and Sick Leave Requirements that May Implicate Nonprofits and Churches

In addition to the Phase 3 bill being discussed here, President Donald Trump signed the Phase 2 coronavirus relief bill, H.R. 6201, on March 18th, 2020. While this bill included new paid medical and sick leave requirements designed to benefit employees but which may place requirements on nonprofits, the Phase 3 bill provides for some ways to cover these expenses. The Labor Department recently released initial guidelines for these paid medical and sick leave mandates, and will provide further regulations in April 2020.

First, H.R. 6201 expands the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) by including increased leave protection for employees who are unable to work or telework because they need to care for a child whose school or childcare facility was closed due to the coronavirus. Under this expansion, employers are not required to pay the employee during the first 10 days of leave, but the employer has to pay for remaining leave time up to $200 per day.

Separate from the FMLA change described above, the Phase 2 relief bill establishes an emergency paid sick leave program that requires employers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave for employees that cannot work or telework because of the coronavirus. Employees are only entitled to this mandatory sick leave if they are: having coronavirus symptoms, have been advised to self-quarantine, subject to a government quarantine, or caring for someone with coronavirus symptoms. The total amount of paid leave is equal to two-thirds the employee’s regular wages, whether salary or hourly work, and is capped at $511 a day. Both leave requirements will expire at the end of the year.

Providing paid leave during an uncertain financial situation can be difficult for some churches and nonprofits. The cost for the above two policy changes fall on employers, but there are ways for employers to alleviate the financial burden, as described below:

  • These mandates apply only to employers with fewer than 500 employees. H.R. 6201 also provides the Secretary of Labor with the ability to exclude organizations with fewer than 50 employees if providing the paid leave would jeopardize the viability of the organization.
  • If an organization has more than 50 employees or is not excluded from the Department of Labor’s waiver for other reasons, the Phase 3 coronavirus relief bill creates advanceable credits to help cover paid leave. These credits are a dollar for dollar reimbursement for all wages paid under these new requirements. The tax credits also apply to costs incurred to maintain health insurance coverage.
  • An organization can also apply for the Payment Protection Program loans previously mentioned that are designed to help nonprofits cover payroll costs, health care benefits during periods of paid medical and sick leave, and employee salaries.

Encouraging and Aiding the Church’s Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak

The CARES Act also recognizes how important churches and local community organizations are to providing food and other needs during this crisis. To increase state grants for these types of services, this bill provides an additional $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). This grant is given to the states so they can partner with local community organizations to lower poverty, address homelessness, and provide services addressing unemployment, education, nutrition, and health. This is a grant program that churches and religious organizations can access, as the law explicitly states religious organizations must be treated the same as other nongovernmental organizations when applying for these grants. Churches in several states have partnered with community organizations or received these grants themselves to operate food banks and other key services.

Churches and other nonprofit organizations have played a critical role in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of Americans affected by the coronavirus. During Senate negotiations over how best to respond to the economic hardships our country is facing, the FRC team worked to ensure that churches and other religious groups were not left behind and were instead recognized as organizations vital to the coronavirus relief effort—and we will continue to do so going forward.

Valuing Life, Economic Productivity, and Human Flourishing in the Age of Coronavirus

by Quena Gonzalez

March 27, 2020

At this writing, every governor has issued an emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus and almost all are recommending or requiring that non-essential businesses be temporarily closed. This is, predictably, wrecking havoc on the economy; weekly jobless claims have shot up to a record 3.3 million. For policymakers committed to protecting human life and promoting human flourishing, this raises a dilemma: How do we balance protecting human life (by slowing the spread of the virus) with promoting human flourishing (by avoiding unnecessarily crippling those same people economically)?

The concern for human life is real: The current data suggests that the novel coronavirus is much more contagious than, say, the seasonal flu, which the CDC estimates caused nearly half a million hospitalizations and more than 34,000 deaths in the 2018-2019 flu season. We’ve all seen the government warnings about the coronavirus, that the most at-risk populations include people aged 65 years or older and people with underlying medical conditions.

But the concern about human flourishing is real, too: We are called to work, and we are commanded to provide for our families, to care for the poor, and to contribute financially to the work of the church. Forbidding wide swaths of the workforce from working has spiritual as well as economic implications. Furthermore, the current government-mandated economic shutdown disproportionately impacts the poor, many of whom either work for hourly wages or in the service sector; often, those least able to afford loss of income have born the economic brunt of “shelter in place” policies.

Faced with the threat of a tsunami of sick patients overwhelming our health care system, our initial national response has tended to err on the side of protecting human life. (As a committed pro-life activist and the parent of a young, at-risk child, that makes a lot of sense to me.) But I’ve noticed an emerging debate between people who are beginning to question the wisdom of an ongoing total economic shutdown and those who continue to argue that we must protect human life, almost at any cost. The debate is exceedingly difficult because of the asymmetric nature of the threats: the immediate or near-term loss of life to hundreds of thousands on one side, vs. the medium-term loss of livelihood to potentially tens of millions on the other. Unsurprisingly, the debate seems to be escalating rapidly along partisan and ideological lines, with both sides talking past each other.

What is a pro-life policymaker to make of this?

Yuval Levin (former executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics and special advisor for domestic policy to President George W. Bush) brings a welcome, calm evaluation in The Atlantic of where we are, and suggests a broad direction for next steps (emphasis added):

America has mobilized against the coronavirus in some impressive ways. Although we have faced problems and failures—the botched testing rollout, the immense challenges now confronting the health system—we have also seen an extraordinary transformation of our way of life in short order. People have largely accepted the necessity of social distancing and the burdens of shutting down huge swaths of the economy. We have seen real models of leadership, particularly at the state level. And even members of Congress have been working together and negotiating.

But so far, that mobilization has lacked a strategic framework—a clear medium-term purpose toward which our efforts are aimed and against which they are judged. Policy makers need to think about our response to the virus in terms of two steps: a hard pause, followed by a soft start. The pause is absolutely necessary, but so is the careful and gradual return to normalcy….

It is not yet possible to move from the hard pause we have taken to the soft and gradual resumption of normalcy. But it is essential that such a resumption be the goal of that pause. We all need to do our part to let the health system make it through the hardest, most intense period of critical cases. But the aim of public policy should be to have this period last weeks, not months; to let people keep their place while we go through it; and to enable a gradual, soft, uneasy return to work, school, commerce, and culture.

Some of what policy makers have already done has helped advance this cause, and some of it has been confused about its purpose. A clearer, well-articulated strategic framework for policy could help decision makers tell the difference, assess their options, make hard choices, and lead the way.

The whole piece is to be commended.

6 Encouraging Points as We Face Coronavirus Together

by Patrina Mosley

March 27, 2020

We are facing something we’ve never faced before, that’s for sure—but we are all going through this together. I recently came across an encouraging message by Pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point ministries. Here are the six points of encouragement from the scriptures Dr. Jeremiah offered that encouraged me and that I hope encourage you too.

1. Concentrate on Prayer

The first thing we should do when we face insurmountable challenges is to cry out to God. When King Jehoshaphat heard his enemies were coming to invade the kingdom of Judah, the first thing he did was “inquire of the Lord” and proclaimed a fast for all the people. We can pray the same prayer he prayed in 2 Chronicles 20:6-9; 12:

Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you… ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

2. Control Our Minds

I loved this quote from Dr. Jeremiah’s sermon: “How many of you know the human imagination is a powerful force? It can create a beautiful vision of a desirable future or it can conjure up the worst-case scenario. These dark products of the imagination can put us in the grip of fear—a place God would never have us go.”

There’s a great a principle to apply from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We need to learn to control our thoughts within the environment of the facts we have instead of letting our minds wander to all the terrible “what if’s” out there. This destroys our peace. What banishes fear is a sound mind—taking every thought under control. As a well-known saying goes, “Imagining the future without Christ is what it means to be anxious.”

3. Count Your Blessings

Counting our blessings may seem counterintuitive at this time, but it’s not. In the midst of uncertainty, we need to maintain a spirit of gratitude for all the blessings we have in our life. We can’t become ungrateful people. Pause for a moment and say thank you for what you have—often it’s things we took for granted during times of plenty. We can rest knowing that every blessing we have comes from God and the most important blessings are the spiritual ones. How has God worked in your life?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

- Ephesians 1:3

4. Claim Your Promises

The Bible is filled with promises from God. We look to God for the strength that we need, and when everything around us doesn’t make sense, God still makes sense. Find a promise, take a time-out, and meditate on those verses.

Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. Therefore, we may boldly say,

The Lord is my helper;

I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?

- Hebrews 13:5-6

5. Consider Your Responsibility

While we are distancing ourselves socially, we can still get closer to one another spiritually. When you pray for someone, you actually draw closer to them at the throne of grace. If God puts someone on your heart, just pick up the phone or send a text and pray with them. Use this time to become spiritually close. Give yourself this goal: to spend five minutes each day praying with or for someone.

6. Continue Your Work

We are all adjusting our normal routines at the moment. Perhaps you’re a schoolteacher and your school is closed. Your routine is different, but you can still do a lot. Keep doing whatever you were doing the best you can, to bless others. Just keep doing the next thing! Keep going in the peace that God provides.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.

 - John 14:27

The Plight of Uyghurs in the Coronavirus Crisis: An Interview With Rushan Abbas

by Family Research Council

March 26, 2020

The Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs, a small religious minority in China, is now one of the world’s most well-documented human rights crises. Though the coronavirus has taken its toll on China, the government’s assault on religious minorities hasn’t stopped. As a part of a larger campaign against all religions, the Chinese government has targeted Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim community, because of their religion and culture. The unique and brutal policies enacted by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, the region where most Uyghurs live (sometimes referred to by Uyghurs as East Turkistan), have placed particular hardships on residents during the coronavirus—something FRC has covered here.

Rushan Abbas, founder of Campaign for Uyghurs, is familiar with the devastating policies of the Chinese Communist Party against Uyghurs. Her own sister, Gulshan Abbas, disappeared in September 2018, and is believed to be among the more than 1.8 million Uyghurs forcibly detained in what the Chinese government calls “Vocational Education and Training Centers” intended to “re-educate” detainees. The facts expose China’s excuses—Rushan’s sister was a medical doctor at a state hospital before she retired for health reasons and was not in need of “re-education.” The coronavirus crisis has only caused more international concern for the conditions of Uyghurs living in China, including Rushan’s sister.

We asked Rushan for her take on the unfolding situation in Xinjiang during the coronavirus pandemic.

FRC: How has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responded to the coronavirus outbreak in the Uyghur region?

Rushan: CCP’s response towards the coronavirus outbreak in the Uyghur region was and is inhumane. The CCP should have closed the camps and released all the innocent detainees including my sister. China continues to lie and claim the detainees have “graduated.” To where? To forced labor camps. Where they continue to face the same oppression, heavy surveillance, and poor living conditions. The majority of Uyghurs in diaspora still have no information on the whereabouts of their loved ones, including my husband and myself. 

According to the former detainees, the camps are filthy, unhygienic, overcrowded, and the detainees are facing malnutrition, repeated physical and mental abuse, and are therefore malnourished and have a compromised immune system. If the virus gets into the camps, the outcome would be rampant illness and an eventual death sentence. China can hardly handle their own infected population; they definitely won’t be providing medical attention to people they are trying to exterminate, and who they placed in concentration camps.

In reality, we do not know if it has gotten into the camps or not. No one knows. But it’s very likely. The CCP spews disinformation—it misleads the public, the media, and the international community. It is well known that Beijing tightly controls the information that comes in and out of the country. So, we cannot know for sure.

China’s coronavirus has spread all over the world. Most countries fighting the coronavirus are urging their citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing. In some parts of the world, countries are enforcing lockdowns of entire cities and regions. However, simultaneously, the Chinese government is relocating large numbers of Uyghur youth from East Turkistan to mainland China, where the coronavirus is spreading. Their survival is at stake. The likelihood of contracting the virus increases dramatically by the move to more infected regions of China. The CCP is giving this youth a death sentence in their effort to enslave them into forced labor facilities.

FRC: What additional hardships has the coronavirus lockdown placed on Uyghurs? 

Rushan: Not only did the Chinese government fail to release Uyghurs detained in the camps, but they left many to starve while in lockdown in their homes. Many couldn’t afford to purchase food, and some couldn’t go outside to get food. While China struggled to contain the virus in Wuhan and cancelled all the flights out of the city, the only flights that continued to fly as normal were flights to the Uyghur region. China took absolutely no precautions to protect the East Turkistan region, let alone the people they placed in concentration camps and forced labor facilities. Not only that, but they provide no medical help or attention to Uyghurs who would have contracted the virus.

FRC: What does the CCP’s response to the coronavirus say about their attitude towards religious minorities?

Rushan: I think it’s clear. There is absolutely zero tolerance to anybody not Han Chinese. The farther you are from Islam and the Uyghur culture, the more “normal” you are viewed. Islam and the Uyghur culture are viewed as a disease which the CCP attempts to “cure.” That probably best describes their attitude toward religious minorities; they are viewed as an illness.

There are over half a million Uyghur children placed in government-run orphanages. Their parents are very much alive, and they are not orphans. This is CCP’s effort at reengineering the youth. They’re a target because their minds are still pliable and can be pumped full of Chinese propaganda and brainwashing.

China’s authoritarian reaction is what created this global pandemic. China has taken steps to deny, keep quiet, misinform, punish whistle blowers, and take a security crackdown approach. Their lack of transparency about the truth of the virus is what let it spread so rapidly and so vastly across the globe. This goes beyond their intolerance to religious minorities—it just shows blatant disregard to human life, regardless of who you are.

FRC: Some Uyghur activists have expressed fear that the mass detention of Uyghurs in “re-education” camps poses a unique risk to those detained in light of the highly contagious coronavirus. Do you share those concerns?

Rushan: I definitely share the same deep concern for the Uyghurs placed in the camps. More so now with the virus than before. Previously, the issues were the horrid conditions, the abuse, the rape, the organ harvesting, the absolute lack of information about your loved ones. Now, it’s a fight not only against the Chinese government, but this virus. A virus for which there is no cure. A virus for which we know those in the camps aren’t going to be getting medical attention for.

The dire situation that Uyghurs in China continue to face demonstrates that crises can often be used to further oppress religious minorities, even when society should be more united than ever before. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, we must continue to pray and advocate for religious freedom in China and around the world.

Prayer Point #5: Pray for Health Care Workers and First Responders

by David Closson

March 26, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As the nation continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus, governors around the country have issued stay-at-home orders, telling citizens to avoid non-essential work and errands. Tens of millions of Americans are teleworking, and people are intentionally avoiding public places. But as the majority of our fellow citizens quarantine and practice social-distancing, American health care workers and first responders are on the front lines, providing essential care to those directly affected by the virus. There are five specific ways Christians can pray for these workers.

First, pray that doctors and nurses will have wisdom as they care for patients. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus, and medical professionals and scientists are still learning about it. Therefore, doctors need discernment when deciding how to treat each patient, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Pray that they will have wisdom and empathy when conversing with the patients’ family and loved ones.

Second, pray for the physical health and well-being of these workers. Health care workers, especially those working in hospitals, are working 12-hour shifts, 3-4 times a week. Many of these workers are physically exhausted, and the virus consumes their thoughts. Pray they have endurance and strength in the days and weeks ahead. Pray their immune systems remain strong and that they will not contract the virus.

Third, pray for their mental fortitude and encouragement. Nurses and doctors are tired, and they are interacting daily with those who have the virus. With no foreseeable end to the crisis, and with all indications pointing to a major influx of positive tests, it is easy to become discouraged. Pray that those on the front lines would fight discouragement and find joy amidst their work.

Fourth, hospitals in states hit particularly hard by the outbreak are reporting a shortage of medical equipment such as masks and ventilators. Pray that local, state, and federal authorities, working together with medical equipment providers, will be able to meet these needs. Pray that any shortages will quickly be met and that hospitals and clinics will have the life-saving equipment they need to meet increased demand.

Finally, pray for the families of our health care workers. Many health care workers are self-quarantining at home, afraid they might become a carrier to their families. Pray for the spouses and children whose routines have been upended by the outbreak. They, too, are making tremendous sacrifices during these challenging times.

Even During a National Medical Emergency, the Abortion Industry Still Thinks It’s “Essential”

by Patrina Mosley

March 25, 2020

As part of their COVID-19 response, the U.K. initially approved new measures to allow women to take the complete abortion pill regimen at home. Now, it appears that this measure has been reversed. The reasoning given was, “This was published in error. There will be no changes to abortion regulations.”

The abortion pill is a two-drug regimen that is basically a do-it-yourself method anyways, but normally, the woman would have some type of interaction with a physician by taking the first pill (mifepristone) under their supervision at the clinic and then going home to take the second drug (misoprostol) 24-48 hours later.

Because the U.K. considers abortion an “essential service” amid the pandemic, their response was to completely place the burden of abortion on women. These women would have been popping both pills at home with no physician oversight.

But this is what the abortion industry all over the world has been calling for even before the current pandemic—for abortions to be unrestricted, unregulated, and do-it-yourself. Gone are the days when they were calling for “safe, legal, and rare” to protect against desperate women performing their own “back-alley” abortions. Now abortion pills are the new back-alley method, credentialed by the world’s most prestigious medical institutions.

Because the U.S. has FDA restrictions (REMs) on the abortion pill (U.S. brand “Mifeprex”), it cannot be a “complete” DIY method, but either way, restrictions or no restrictions, the abortion pill method is set up to be an at-home, multi-day, traumatic process that comes with the risk of serious complications.

Chemical abortions carry four times the rate of complications compared to surgical abortions. The two side effects observed to be more prevalent during chemical abortions than surgical abortions were hemorrhage and incomplete abortion. An incomplete abortion means there needed to be surgical intervention to extract any remaining parts of the unborn child from the woman’s uterus. Prolonged hemorrhage requiring blood transfusion can occur. It’s already been reported to the FDA that over 500 blood transfusions, over a thousand hospitalizations, and 24 deaths took place as result of Mifeprex. And that is just what’s been reported.

Fortunately right now, the U.S. has strong pro-life leadership from the top down, so at a national level it’s unlikely that we will see abortion be declared an “essential service” at a time like this. However, that will not stop the abortion industry from demanding that it should be. Some states have already deemed abortion “essential.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and their allies have already put out a statement complaining that abortions are being left out of essential health care services that need to remain open at this time. Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio is at war with the state Attorney General and Health Department as they continue to perform abortions even though they have been directly ordered not to.

Planned Parenthood claims they can still achieve the goal of conserving medical resources for essential health care personnel combatting COVID-19 by remaining open. How would they do this? They didn’t explain.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to deduce that the abortion industry is likely dispensing abortion pills to pregnant women who are past the FDA-approved gestational age limit of 10 weeks. The abortion industry has already been experimenting with performing abortions past 13 weeks on vulnerable women in Burkina Faso, Columbia, and Mexico.

Even the once abortion-neutral humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders (DWB), with the approval of the World Health Organization, has instructional guidelines on how women can perform their own drug-based abortion up to 22 weeks!

Although they claim these instructional videos are for training their medical workers, they acknowledge that they expect women to go to the site in order to learn how to induce their own abortions.

The fact that chemical abortions already carry significant complications and that the rate of those complications only increase as the gestational age of the pregnancy increases shows that Doctors Without Borders are bordering on medical malpractice.

The complications that can arise from taking the abortion pill place women in life-threatening situations that may require follow-up visits to the abortion clinic and the emergency room. We are now likely to see scenarios where women who have taken the abortion pill regimen will need blood transfusions, treatment for infections, and possible follow-up surgery to complete the abortion, which means they will need to go to the emergency room and wait for treatment next to possible victims of the coronavirus pandemic. How is this conserving medical resources? How is this protecting the safety and health of women?

Thankfully, there are still some reputable medical leaders, such as AAPLOG, who refuse to put women in this type of danger by categorizing abortion as an “essential service.”

Killing innocent children in the womb should never be considered any type of “service,” in the midst of a pandemic or not. By encouraging women to self-manage an abortion up to 22 weeks and calling do-it-yourself abortion a “paid” service, the abortion industry has been and is currently showing us that they have no regard for human dignity whatsoever—for the child or the mother.

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