Month Archives: April 2020

In a Fallen World, Easter Reminds Us of the True Victory in the Battle to End Abortion

by Adelaide Holmes

April 9, 2020

While shelter in place and stay at home orders caused by the coronavirus have limited some forms of pro-life work, Christians should use this time to reflect on a needed change in their mindset to end abortion. We should continue to aim to eradicate abortion by making it illegal and unthinkable. But as Easter approaches, we should be especially reminded that we live in a sinful world and our work to end injustice may never be completed until Jesus comes again. If we believe that we can purge our world of sin, we buy into the lie that our world can be made perfect, and we will get burned out in our efforts to love our littlest neighbors and seek justice on their behalf.

We live in a fallen, Genesis 3 world which means there can be no return to a sinless Eden. Unfortunately, this means that abortion may continue to exist in some form until Jesus returns. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament affirm that everyone is sinful. In Romans 3, Paul references Psalm 14 by saying, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” He more explicitly says in Romans 3:23 that, “all have sinned.” With this perspective, Christians engaged in the pro-life movement should recognize that our work to end the sin of legalized abortion may continue for the rest of our lives.

Biblically, Christians understand that abortion is condemned in God’s command explicitly prohibiting murder. Therefore, violation of this command is sin. That is why from the very beginning of the church Christians have opposed abortion and infanticide. In fact, it was the pro-life ethic of the early church that motivated them to oppose infanticide in the Roman Empire. Because of their efforts, infanticide was eventually made illegal. Early Christians were also responsible for making adoption a mainstream practice.

Although the early church did much to reinstate a culture of life in Rome, tragically, it seems that the culture in America has returned to the old pagan practice of child-sacrifice on the altar of choice. In 2018 alone, Planned Parenthood murdered 345,672 babies through abortion. To a Christian, this shouldn’t surprise us. A sinful world will continue to sin until Christ returns.

This raises an important question: how should the reality of sin influence our perspective on ending abortion in America?

First, we should not believe the lie that our efforts are futile and thus quit fighting for justice (or for some, refuse to start). If pro-life advocacy failed to save even one unborn baby, it would still be imperative that we follow God’s command to do justice and advocate for the lives of the unborn. But having a proper understanding of sin requires that we refuse another subconscious lie that tells us our world can be made perfect. Romans 8:22 reminds us that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth.” Only after the judgement day when God has gathered all believers into His kingdom will He “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4).

Our job as Christians isn’t to make the world perfect. Our job is to honor God. By obeying His commands to share the gospel, love our neighbors, and act justly towards every person, we are honoring God, showing our love for Him, and preserving His image in our world as reflected by His people. Because of these commands, Christians have a duty to advocate for the life of our littlest and most vulnerable neighbors. The best way we can seek to love our unborn neighbor as ourselves is to advocate for their life as if it were our own.

Second, Christians need to be committed to fighting the injustice of abortion. This means we aim to eradicate abortion, take whatever victories we can get, all while being aware that this fight may last us our lifetime or beyond. But we should not lose heart. We cannot quit. There is life-saving work being done across the country by local pregnancy resource centers and state legislatures. Earlier this year, President Trump became the first sitting president to address the March for Life. The pro-life movement is seeing progress! But while we are seeing progress, we know the abortion lobby and the culture of death will not bow out without a fight. Thus, having a biblically informed perspective on fighting this injustice will help prevent us from getting burned out. While we should pray and fight for a day when abortion is illegal and rare, we must realize that God has already ordained that day when He judges the world, and sin as we know it is no more.

In this Easter season, Christians remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For those of us engaged in the pro-life movement, Easter reminds us that our ultimate hope is the victory that Christ won on the cross. But we also remember that as we live in “the time between the times,” between Jesus’ first and second comings, there is gospel work for us to do. So, as we share the message of His death and resurrection, of His forgiveness and His desire to see the world reconciled to Him, we also commit ourselves to obeying His commandments, which include loving our unborn neighbor and seeking their justice, knowing that at the end of time, He will make it so that “death shall be no more.”

Adelaide Holmes is an intern for Life, Culture, and Women’s Advocacy at Family Research Council.

Ways to Read the Bible (Part 1): Devotional Bible Reading

by Patrina Mosley

April 8, 2020

Recently, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell announced at the White House that his company would repurpose their production facilities to make 50,000 face masks a day for health care workers combatting the pandemic. You would think there would be united praise for his patriotism. But left-wing, anti-God critics have ostracized him for simply encouraging Americans to use this extra time at home to read their Bible and connect with God.

He is right.

As many of us are doing our part to #StaySafeStayHome in the midst of the coronavirus, some of us have more time and fewer excuses to do the things we’ve been putting off for a while. Perhaps one of those things is reading the Bible more. There is no better way to get to know God than by spending time in his word. And there is no better time than now.

When it comes to studying the Bible, there are a lot of options. There are different methods, Bible translations, commentaries, podcasts, and sermons. Even within the Bible there are different genres (epistle, historical narrative, poetry, etc.) that can seem confusing if you are unfamiliar with how to interpret the particular genre. The goal of every Christian should be to rightly interpret the Bible.

My hope and prayer is that this blog series will help you learn to read the Bible and have it become a habitual part of your life. More tools will also be mentioned for going deeper in your journey to learning God’s word. It is a journey—not a destination.

So, let’s get started!

The first thing we should always do before reading God’s word is to pray.

Prayer: Starting with sincere prayer humbles us and focuses our heart to hear from God. When we are engaging his word, we are engaging God himself. Praying first helps eliminate distractions by pouring out our heart to God (Psalm 62:8) and laying our burdens down at his feet (Psalm 55:22). After praying, you will often find that God speaks to you through his word about the very things you prayed about. Knowing that he hears you will encourage your faith.

Before Bible study, pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you and help you understand God’s word. John 16:13-15 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals truth to us. Pray that he makes your time in Scripture fruitful.

You can pray the Scriptures as well. What better way to pray for God’s will in your life and others than by praying his word! For example, you can pray, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalms 119:18).

Devotional vs. Inductive Bible Study

Two components essential to getting closer to God and having our lives transformed are devotional Bible reading and inductive Bible study. What’s the difference?   

Simply put, inductive Bible study (which will be covered in the third part of this series), is where you are spending time looking into the Bible to see what it says about itself, God, and humanity. Devotional Bible reading is time spent looking into your own heart to see where God’s truth needs to be applied to your current circumstances.

Let’s start with devotional reading.

Devotional: This is where we spend time meditating on God’s word to be encouraged and directed by God’s truth. Devotional reading can be done by reading a Bible-based devotional book, a passage of scripture, or both. During devotional time you are looking into your own heart and asking God to illuminate his truth and apply it to your present circumstances. Knowing and thinking (meditating) about God’s word is how we can learn to follow God more closely. Some good questions to ask while meditating on God’s word are:

  • What does this passage say about God? What does it say about me? My sin? My struggles?
  • What is the lesson I need to learn? What example is given that I need to follow?
  • What is the command I need to obey?
  • What fruit or character development needs to take place in my life?
  • What is blocking God’s work in me? What sins do I need to avoid? Consider how you are spending your time, your thought life, your motivations, and relationships.
  • What promise does God have for me to receive? How am I encouraged and strengthened?
  • What is God asking me to surrender or submit to him?

Write it Down: This is where I would encourage you to write down your reflections, pray, and ask God how you can implement his truths in your life. Writing down reflections and truths God reveals to us helps to focus our minds and disentangle our thoughts. By having this record, we can look back and remember what God has said to us. Psalm 1:1-3 tells us that meditating on God’s word day and night brings much fruitfulness in our lives. Beginning and ending our day by thinking about what we have read will bring us into closer fellowship with God and help us to become more like him.

Helpful Tool: The YouVersion Bible app is a free resource that is jam-packed with a variety of Bible reading plans that include devotionals; some even include videos. Take some time to scroll through the app and choose something that speaks to you.

Bible Translations: Remember that when you read the Bible you are reading a translation (the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament; a few portions were written in Aramaic) and Greek (New Testament). Here is a short list of some easy-to-read English translations of the Bible: English Standard Version (ESV), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), New International Version (NIV), and New Living Translation (NLT). These Bible translations strike a good balance between literal word-for-word translation and contemporary phraseology.

Tip: There are study Bibles that provides helpful commentary and notes. You can choose a book or a passage from the Bible and read the accompanying notes as part of your daily devotional reading or study time!

Read Part 2

Prayer Point #7: Pray for a Spirit of Generosity

by David Closson

April 8, 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.

Over the last few weeks, churches have responded to the coronavirus in heroic and creative ways. Across the country, churches have hosted “Drive-In” worship services, purchased meals for nurses and doctors, provided groceries for needy families, and ministered to their hurting neighbors. In this dark hour, God’s people have sacrificially served one another and their communities and demonstrated remarkable faith. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our normal rhythms of life, opportunities for the church to meet practical needs are increasing. While the government is providing support to churches in the form of forgivable loans (for more information about these loans, see our full analysis), churches are beginning to feel the pinch as charitable giving and tithing declines. Therefore, especially over the next few weeks, Christians need to pray for a spirit of generosity. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that Christians will be faithful to give to their local churches. According to a recent poll from LifeWay Christian Resources, 52 percent of pastors have already reported a decrease in giving due to their church’s limited ability to gather. Of those who have seen a giving decline, 60 percent say it has dropped by at least 25 percent. This decline is significant because, according to a recent LifeWay study, 26 percent of churches only have enough operating reserves to cover seven or fewer weeks. For many churches, a sharp decline in giving represents an enormous challenge. Therefore, during these trying times, Christians should commit to praying for and financially supporting their churches.

Second, pray for ministry opportunities. Many people have fallen on hard times: unemployment claims are up, workers are being let go or furloughed, and there is a pervading uncertainty in many communities. As tens of millions of Americans comply with stay-at-home orders and practice social distancing, many are finding themselves lonely, afraid, and uncertain about the future. Amid this social context, the church has an opportunity to serve people and share with them the hope of the gospel. We should pray for Christians to think of creative, outside-the-box ways to generously meet the physical and spiritual needs of their friends and neighbors.

Incredibly, in many places, people are coming to faith as the result of church members thinking outside the box. For example, Trinity Church in Temple, Texas, has seen people put their trust in Christ after a member of the congregation suggested setting up a “prayer tent” in the church parking lot. Over the last two weeks, members of the community have pulled into the parking lot for prayer and counsel. As Senior Pastor Ed Dowell recently told me, “People have given their life to Christ” as a result of the prayer tent ministry.

Third, believers should remember what the Bible says about generosity. In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi spoke for God when he said, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Mal. 3:10). A similar promise is found in Proverbs 11:25: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” In the New Testament, Jesus tells His followers, “[G]ive, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Of course, Christians should reject the empty promises of the “prosperity gospel,” which falsely guarantees financial blessing in exchange for sowing a seed in a particular ministry. However, Scripture is clear that God honors the generosity of His people. Although some churches and ministries have tragically misunderstood, abused, and exploited these promises, we should not blunt the message of Scripture, which is that God honors and blesses those who are generous. As Christians are able, we should strive to give to our churches and other ministries engaged in gospel work.

Finally, in his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses the issue of generosity and financial giving. He says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

As the country grapples with the realities of the coronavirus, Christians have opportunities to serve their neighbors and communities. In many of these communities, churches are on the front lines of meeting practical needs. Let’s pray for a spirit of generosity among God’s people, so the courageous, creative, and winsome witness of the church may continue to go forth during these uncertain times.

Coronavirus Crisis Crowns New Heroes: “The Forgotten Americans”

by Cathy Ruse

April 7, 2020

The great Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation considers “the forgotten American” in a recent column originally published by Fox News.

In times of crisis such as we face now with the coronavirus pandemic, presidents often speak movingly of the ‘forgotten Americans’,” he writes.  

Lee Edwards is not only a scholar of the modern American conservative movement but a participant present at every stage since founding Young America’s Foundation in 1960 and working on the Goldwater campaign in 1964.

In his essay, Edwards speaks of how different presidents have hailed the importance of a forgotten segment of the American people. From FDR’s “forgotten man” in bread lines to Goldwater’s “forgotten Americans” driving big rigs and sitting in churches to Nixon’s “silent majority” concerned about crime and busing to Ronald Reagan and the “five little words that can be found in every Middle American’s dictionary: family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom.”

President Donald Trump has his own vision of the “Forgotten American,” reflects Edwards.

Trump’s forgotten Americans, writes Edwards, are those middle-income families whose wealth “has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

Trump wanted to reverse FDR’s course,” he writes. In his Inaugural speech, President Trump spoke of “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.”  

He promised that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

During this crisis, every day I am grateful for the “forgotten men and women” who have become my new heroes.

Of course, I am speaking of the doctors and nurses and hospital administrators who put their lives on the line every day to serve others. I used to see their professions as one of service, but now I understand it is also one of sacrifice.

But there are many other Americans who have become my heroes. Truly “forgotten Americans” like those who stock the shelves at my grocery store, those who run the gas stations, those who deliver packages to our doorsteps, and those who literally place food at the door of my homebound mother!

None of those deliveries are possible without Americans in the freight industry, who drive those semi-trailer trucks. We drive to St. Louis a few times each year to visit family, and it can be a trial to endure all the trucks that clog the highways, drive too fast, or swerve too close.

But I am so grateful for them today.

Think about those who have worked out the supply chain of our food system. Have I ever had to think about this, even once? I believe it was Napolean who said an army marches on its stomach. This means an army marches on its supply chain. Break the supply chain and a great army can be defeated. And so can we, but here we are. Putting aside a few hiccups—toilet paper and that flour we are still waiting for—our supply chain has been amazing. And so are those who make it happen.

The next time a trucker comes roaring up to my back bumper on Highway 66 or 81 or 64 or 70, along America’s magnificent highway system, I will try to remember this moment of gratitude.

Thank you, truckers! God bless you! And keep on truckin’!

Coronavirus Relief: What Churches and Nonprofits Need to Know About Accessing SBA Loans

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

April 4, 2020

On April 3rd, lenders began processing Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) relief loans around the country. As authorized by the “Phase 3” coronavirus relief legislation known as the CARES Act, the $349 billion PPP program will grant forgivable Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loans to small businesses and nonprofits for hardship they have suffered under the coronavirus-inflicted economic shutdown. These loans will cover eight weeks of necessary expenses during the coronavirus crisis.

In conjunction with the launch of the program, the SBA published an interim final rule, effective immediately, with further guidelines for lenders and borrowers—including guidance on religious freedom. SBA also issued an interim final rule on affiliation clarifying that faith-based organizations are exempt from SBA affiliation rules if those rules burden religious exercise. Finally, the SBA published a list of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) regarding the ability of faith-based organizations to access these loans—and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDL”). These FAQs bring significant clarity to many of the issues discussed below.

What follows are some key considerations for churches to understand and think through when applying for these loans.

Church Eligibility

The final text of the CARES Act and subsequent guidance make clear that a tax-exempt nonprofit organization—described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)—is eligible to apply for relief. Under IRS guidance, the 501(c)(3) definition generally includes churches—even if they have not registered with the IRS—as long as they meet 501(c)(3) requirements. Members of Congress wanted to ensure the program included all churches and houses of worship, even those unregistered churches without a letter of determination from the IRS. To make this clear, a bipartisan group of members headed by Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) sent a letter to key agencies to clarify that these churches are included within the program. Based on the most recent guidance, we can now say they are included.

Some questions have come up about church eligibility for different types of loans under the CARES Act. The PPP created a new SBA loan program based on existing Section 7(a) small business loans, which changed eligibility to include all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including churches, which previously were not eligible for these small business loans. It had appeared that EIDL loans, which provide working capital for organizations during a time of declared disaster, were only available for small businesses and private nonprofits, which does not include public charities like churches.

However, the FAQs make clear that faith-based entities can receive both EIDL and PPP loans, and do not need a determination letter from the IRS to do so.

The bottom line: All churches, even unregistered ones, can qualify for both EIDL and PPP loans.

Religious Liberty Concerns for Churches and Religious Nonprofits

Based on the most recent guidance in the interim final rules and FAQs, virtually all religious liberty issues in this loan program have been addressed.

One of the concerns had been requirements reflected on the SBA loan application: “All businesses receiving SBA financial assistance must agree not to discriminate in any business practice, including employment practices and services to the public on the basis of categories cited in 13 C.F.R., Parts 112, 113, and 117 of SBA Regulations. All borrowers must display the ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Poster’ prescribed by SBA.” Certain of these religious and sex nondiscrimination provisions in the SBA code, based on the way courts have interpreted such provisions, could run counter to church statements of faith and hiring practices and violate their faith.

The interim final rule addresses these concerns in part by reiterating religious liberty protections, stating that “all loans guaranteed by the SBA pursuant to the CARES Act will be made consistent with constitutional, statutory, and regulatory protections for religious liberty, including the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The rule also provides for the application of 13 C.F.R. 113.3-1h, an SBA regulation which states that “[n]othing in [SBA nondiscrimination regulations] shall apply to a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society with respect to the membership or the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution or society of its religious activities.”

The problem was that while 113.3-1h is helpful, it does not cover all relevant religious liberty concerns. As attorney Ian Speir, whose practice at Nussbaum Speir Gleason PLLC specializes in churches and religious nonprofits, points out: 13 C.F.R. 113.3-1h mirrors the Section 702 exemption in Title VII. That exemption has largely been interpreted to permit religious preferences in hiring, but not tolerate practices deemed to be other forms of “discrimination.” And “sex discrimination” may include firing an employee for out-of-wedlock pregnancy or for sex-related lifestyle choices contrary to the employer’s faith. Further, if a ministry has fewer than 15 employees, it’s not currently subject to Title VII; but if it takes SBA funds, it will be subject to the SBA’s regulations—so this ministry may find itself subject to new mandates as a result of accepting aid.

In the final analysis, however, any such outstanding concerns remain minimal.

The FAQs make expressly clear that:

  • Faith-based organizations can receive the loans regardless of whether they provide “secular social services.” (As the FAQs say, “no otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization.”);
  • The religious instruction limitation referenced in 13 CFR 120.110 will not be applied, and will thus not inhibit religious organizations in how they use these loans;
  • Faith-based organizations can use the loans for anything that a secular organization can (no “additional restrictions on how faith-based organizations may use the loan proceeds”);
  • Churches are “not required to apply to the IRS to receive tax-exempt status” in order to access the loans; and
  • Faith-based organizations will not be required to sacrifice their “independence, autonomy, right of expression, religious character, and authority over [their] governance” in order to access these loans.

The FAQs also make clear that religious liberty protections are to be comprehensively applied throughout the loan program:

Consistent with certain federal nondiscrimination laws, SBA regulations provide that the recipient may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, age, or national origin with regard to goods, services, or accommodations offered. 13 C.F.R.§113.3(a). But SBA regulations also make clear that these nondiscrimination requirements do not limit a faith-based entity’s autonomy with respect to membership or employment decisions connected to its religious exercise. 13 CFR §113.3-1(h). And as discussed in Question 4, SBA recognizes the various protections for religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution and federal law that are not altered or waived by receipt of Federal financial assistance. SBA therefore clarifies that its regulations apply with respect to goods, services, or accommodations offered generally to the public by recipients of these loans, but not to a faith-based organization’s ministry activities within its own faith community. For example, SBA’s regulations will require a faith-based organization that operates a restaurant or thrift store open to the public to serve the public without regard to the protected traits listed above. But SBA’s regulations do not apply to limit a faith-based organization’s ability to distribute food or clothing exclusively to its own members or co-religionists. Indeed, SBA will not apply its nondiscrimination regulations in a way that imposes substantial burdens on the religious exercise of faith-based loan recipients, such as by applying those regulations to the performance of church ordinances, sacraments, or religious practices, unless such application is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.”

A few remaining concerns: It should be noted that these loans do constitute “federal financial assistance” and thus obligate the borrower to comply with any attendant requirements. However, as explained above, the religious liberty concerns regarding those requirements are almost all addressed, and the FAQs make clear that such requirements do not extend beyond the life of the loan in any event.

However, churches may be obligated by state and local nondiscrimination requirements due to taking these loans, a point also observed by attorney Ian Speir. This is likely something that churches will have to consider based on consultations with their attorney or other professionals familiar with the legal landscape in their state.

The bottom line: While a few, smaller concerns remain, churches and other faith-based entities can be generally confident their religious freedom will be protected in this loan program.

What to Know When Applying for These Loans

After weighing all these considerations, churches and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees (or those who qualify under the interim final rule on affiliation) that want to apply for PPP loans can find information on the SBA website. To begin, interested organizations must find a local bank or credit union that is eligible to administer these loans. The SBA is working on adding many new lenders to expand the reach of the program. To apply with the lender, the organization must fill out this application form and provide payroll documentation. If approved, the lender will work to administer the funds promptly, with the goal of them being available the same day.

This program is administered as a loan, but if the funds are used on essential payroll expenses, it will essentially act as a grant, and the loan amount will be forgiven in full. Churches considering applying for the PPP loan should keep these key facts in mind:

In order to get forgiveness, the organization must use the loan for:

  • Payroll costs, including benefits;
  • Interest on mortgage obligations, incurred before February 15, 2020;
  • Rent, under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020; and
  • Utilities, for which service began before February 15, 2020.

Payroll costs include:

  • Salary, wages, commissions, or tips (capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee);
  • Employee benefits including costs for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payments required for the provisions of group health care benefits including insurance premiums; and payment of any retirement benefit;
  • State and local taxes assessed on compensation.

Requests for loan forgiveness will be submitted to the lender. They will include documents that verify the number of full-time equivalent employees and pay rates, as well as the payments on eligible mortgage, lease, and utility obligations. An organization will owe money on the loan if it is used for anything other than payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments over the eight weeks after getting the loan. No more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs.

There are also requirements to maintain payroll and staff:

  • Number of Staff: Loan forgiveness will be reduced if the number of full-time employees is reduced.
  • Level of Payroll: Loan forgiveness will be reduced if salaries and wages are reduced by more than 25 percent for any employee that made less than $100,000 annualized in 2019.
  • Re-Hiring: Employers have until June 30, 2020, to restore full-time employees and salary levels for any changes made between February 15, 2020, and April 26, 2020.

If the organization must pay back any loan amount, it will be paid back with 1 percent interest. All payments are deferred for six months; however, interest will continue to accrue over this period. The loan will be due in two years.

EIDL loans are another option for nonprofit organizations to consider if they have been met with financial hardship. This program provides eligible organizations with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide necessary economic support. Eligible organizations that need immediate help replacing lost revenues, can receive an advance of up to $10,000 that will not have to be repaid. Those interested in applying for EIDL loans can do so here.

It can be challenging to determine whether it is in your organization’s best interest to apply for federal financial programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. The coronavirus crisis has brought the American economy to a standstill, and many nonprofit organizations are struggling with financial instability. However, government aid programs that may help organizations financially may also come with some unintended consequences. Fortunately, Congress has intended to make the PPP open to religious organizations in the same way small businesses are—without additional government stipulations that dramatically change how religious organizations operate. The FRC team will continue to work alongside allied organizations to ensure that the congressional intent of the CARES Act (to not discriminate against religious organizations for financial aid) is carried out when implementing programs like the PPP.

To help the church navigate these and other challenges we are confronted with due to the coronavirus, we have created a resource page at FRC.org/church. Please visit us there and let us know how else we can be of help.

How Parents Can Create Loving Homes in a Time of Crisis

by Nicolas Reynolds

April 4, 2020

Worship leader Sean Feucht recently tweeted:

Our kids won’t remember much about the effects of this virus (social, economic, political, etc) but they will remember how HOME FELT while the world freaks out. Little eyes are watching how we handle this crisis. Let’s step it up and ¿#ProtectOurPeace

Feucht’s words could not be any more poignant during the COVID-19 crisis.

Now That You’re All Home

This is a time when the whole world is being affected by a phenomenon, comparable to the First and Second World Wars. And yet, our crisis is still different. We are not fighting a seen enemy but an invisible one—the coronavirus. But where is the commoner’s front line? Where can he or she make a difference? In the home.

With most schools closing their doors, and with most jobs either worked from home or suspended, families have been provided a rare opportunity. Families are home, together, indefinitely. Being together under the same roof, for days on end, is brand new to many families. There is plenty that can tempt us to become annoyed by during this time of national crisis. But family togetherness should not be one of those things. This is a blessing. This is an opportunity.

It’s About What You Have, Not What You Don’t

You’re unable to eat out, or spend time at the movies, or even buy the freshest produce at the grocery store. But it’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about what you do have—each other—your sons and daughters. When the absence of every-day luxuries you are used to leaves you frustrated, remember what you have, remember the precious individuals you have the privilege of raising. Unstructured time—what you usually have very little of—you probably have much more of now. You now have the ability to spend extra time with the little ones that you work hard to care for, provide for, and protect.

When your children grow up, they’re not going to remember the instability of the Dow Jones during the COVID-19 crisis. They’ll remember when you asked them to help you cook dinner, when you did puzzles with them, when you made cards to send to loved ones in light of not being able to see them face to face. Though the logistics of this crisis can be very concerning, don’t let it weigh on your children. Let them remember the joy-filled activities that replaced the normal cycle of their school buses and your 9 to 5.

You’re Always Teaching Your Children, Chalkboard or No Chalkboard

Most associate “homeschooling” with pencils, chalkboards, and curriculum. That is one form of it, yet whether or not you realize it, you are always homeschooling your children. They are home, and you are teaching—teaching them what learning, responsibility, and flexibility look like. You’re not at the front of their classroom, but you are now at the center of their focus, providing them an example of what it looks like to lead and to love. This was also the case prior to the virus, but now you’re on the clock 24 hours a day.

Your children have a front-row seat to your leadership. When you’re inconvenienced because Walmart grocery-pickup is out of your favorite brand of cereal, your children see how you respond, how you cope with inconvenience, and what you value. Children grow up to be adults that either want to follow in their parents’ footsteps or steer clear of their example. Take the opportunity to patiently endure the inconveniences and pressures of this crisis and be an honorable example that your children will want to follow.

The Outside World and Your Children’s World

The world certainly does not feel safe. This crisis has caused most to doubt their security and stability. Yet the world of your children, particularly when they are very young, is not the 50 states nor the seven continents—it’s you, their parents. Fear may permeate the outside world, but it doesn’t have to penetrate the world of your children.

Take this prime opportunity and raise your children with a cognitive understanding of where your home’s hope comes from. As Romans 15:13 reads, “Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Put this current crisis into perspective, pointing the eyes of your household toward the perfect example of a father—our supreme, perfect, loving, and gracious Heavenly Father (2 Corinthians 4:17).

The coronavirus presents the world with complications and worry, but we have also been blessed with opportunities that we may never have again. Little eyes are watching; little hearts are learning. Seize the opportunity—cherish, lead, and love your children with the time the Lord has given you.

Nicolas Reynolds is a former intern at Family Research Council.

Schooling at Home: Educational Resources for Parents

by Meg Kilgannon

April 3, 2020

With much of the nation under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” advisories, most school buildings have closed, some for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. There is a wide disparity among school districts in terms of how individual schools will help parents facilitate learning. American parents find themselves in an unprecedented situation: working from home (if they are so fortunate) while simultaneously serving as school teacher, administrator, and child wrangler.

Like many of you, many of us here at FRC are working from home during this crisis. Like you, we are managing family needs and school while working to protect and promote family values in our nation’s capital and across the country.

Some of our staff has always homeschooled. These families are challenged by canceled co-ops, classes, therapies, sports, and playgroups—just like traditional school families. Others on staff have children in Christian schools or public schools. And with all schools closed, these parents are navigating a variety of situations. Some schools have moved seamlessly to online studies; others are still figuring things out. But all of us are struggling with the same less-than-ideal situation and are challenged to make the best of it for ourselves, our families, and our country.

In this post, we will share some resources we have found useful, and would love to hear from you about what you are doing to manage your children’s education during this time. This is a very real way we can support each other and do our part to help keep America safe and healthy.

The U.S. Department of Education’s coronavirus page is jam packed with information for both schools and parents. Scroll down for the “At Home Activities” section which includes links to federal agencies with worksheets and virtual tours that can keep children both entertained and informed about our beautiful country’s natural resources, wildlife, space programs, geography, and the arts. There are also reminders and links about staying healthy and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of our favorite general advice has come from parents who are also leaders or educational advocates.

The videos on this website are fun, informative, and reassuring. Just a few minutes on this website will convince you that you really can do it—you really can work and school your children at home during this crisis (and maybe even anytime). The enthusiasm of these Texas moms is contagious and just what we need.

If your school district is on hold or you are taking the rest of the year off from school, these activities will keep children and teens busy while parents are working from home. As FRC is unable to vet each item on every website, we encourage you to trust your judgement in finding materials that are appropriate for your family and reflect your values.

Resources for Parents Who Find Themselves Schooling at Home, by Subject

In Virginia, for example, parents in some districts are still waiting for resources and lessons from schools. Other districts and states have moved nimbly to online learning. In case you’re waiting for school resources, want to supplement lessons provided, or just need additional help, we offer the following list of resources. FRC believes in the primacy of parental rights, and works to protect parents’ role as the primary educators of their children. We expect that parents will maintain vigilance in reviewing materials for use by children who are schooling at home.

For Math:

These websites have everything from math fact worksheets to projects and lectures that support higher level mathematics.

For Language Arts:

Take this time to read. Perhaps have a read aloud book for the whole family. Encourage each family member to keep a journal during this time. It will be a record of an important period in American and world history—the Pandemic of 2019-2020. Write letters to friends and loved ones who may feel isolated during this time.

If your school, library, or any organization recommends a reading list, carefully monitor those recommendations. As our friends at Parent and Child Loudoun can attest, there is problematic and even pornographic content lurking in children’s and young adult literature these days.

For Autistic/Sensory Integration Issue Children:

This resource from the UK is interesting and helpful for autism and sensory issues.

The University of Virginia has helps for parents of children on the autism spectrum, including webinars, zoom conferences, and scheduling ideas, just to name a few. Their most recent newsletter has helps and links.

Science and Nature:

Easy science projects can involve cooking and baking. What makes bread rise? What happens when you prepare a recipe but leave out an ingredient? Spring is a great time to start a small herb garden or take on a bigger project. Victory Gardens are back in style, which link American history to natural science and conservation. Take pictures of plants and trees on your walks and identify them from books or online resources. Teach children practical skills, like figuring out ordinal directions through clues from nature.

From the founders of ABCmouse is Adventure Academy, a resource suitable for 8 to 12-year-olds. While not free, it offers animated and interactive games, projects, and lessons geared toward elementary-aged students.

As with all subjects, science topics can be overly politicized or include concepts like Darwinism and “mindfulness.” Math word problems can include scenarios which subtly undermine Christian teaching on marriage, such as a same-sex couple planning a wedding, or reference to a student’s two dads or two moms. We remind you to be on guard for these types of messages in your children’s assignments.

Physical Education:

Getting fresh air and sunshine is important for everyone’s physical and mental health. Please maintain social distancing while on walks or runs. Jumping rope (sanitized ropes only please), skipping races, and scavenger hunts are all options for getting your heart rate up and burning off some energy. Here are a few links we liked:

Art Therapy:

How about coloring pages and connect-the-dots using characters from the Bible?

History:

Suitable for high school students and more advanced middle school students, WallBuilders—an organization dedicated to the accurate teaching and representation of American history—offers helpful links and resources on everything from Creationism, to Black History, to the Founding Fathers. While this site is recommended for older students, it does include links to YouTube, so parental supervision is recommended.

Virtual Tours – These websites host their own tours, making it a little safer than YouTube tours which also can come with objectionable advertising, suggested content you might not prefer, or an automatic continuation to a site you don’t approve. You can find tours of museums in Washington, D.C., Buckingham Palace, Musee D’Orsay in Paris, churches from around the world, and many more. But we remind parents to monitor children’s activities anytime they are online.

More Resources

Finally, with the disclaimer that we have not reviewed each and every item here, these links include resources for every school subject with multiple links for each. This is for parents to review themselves and decide if individual links are helpful to your family. For example, PBS has some problematic content, but that doesn’t mean everything on the website is dangerous. It’s important for parents to select materials from this list and direct children to your approved resources, not just let kids log on and click around.

Share Your Resources and Ideas With Us!

Please share your resources and ideas with us by going to the Contact FRC page and entering “Schooling at Home Resources” in the subject line, and we will post a follow-up blog with what everybody shared. We’d love to hear from you! We are all in this together, working, praying, and staying healthy. Americans will do what we must to defeat this virus and keep our families strong, safe, and free for generations to come.

Meg Kilgannon is an Education Research Associate at Family Research Council.

Pennsylvania Governor Exploits Coronavirus Crisis to Push Telemedicine Abortions

by Samuel Lillemo

April 2, 2020

On Saturday, March 28, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) announced a massive expansion of telemedicine in response to the coronavirus. By not explicitly excluding chemical abortions in the announcement, he is attempting to hijack this legitimate coronavirus telemedicine response in order to strip away safety-nets around chemical abortions that continue to cause the deaths of pregnant women. Telemedicine expands civilians’ access to timely health care in crisis situations, but it should never be used for non-emergency procedures that can potentially put a patient’s life at risk without a doctor present.

In the midst of a national reckoning with the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Wolf, a former Planned Parenthood volunteer, is trying to capitalize on the emergency situation to promote the use of chemical abortions through manipulating an upcoming telemedicine bill. He has vowed to veto SB 857, a bill to expand the use of telemedicine as a response to the coronavirus, unless language requiring a doctor to administer the chemical abortion pill in person is removed.

Politicians like Governor Wolf argue it’s ethically responsible to give these chemical abortion pills to women without the supervision of a trained physician and in the middle of a global pandemic already stretching hospital resources. What’s the harm in allowing women in remote areas or without access to a trained physician to take the abortion pill on their own?

Few legal drugs wreak havoc on the human body like the chemical abortion pill. If a doctor doesn’t thoroughly examine the pregnant woman seeking the abortion pill for complicating conditions, the patient is at an incredible risk of the extreme bleeding that has become the pill’s life-threatening signature. One condition of special concern is ectopic pregnancy.

Statistically speaking, two mothers out of every 100 women who become pregnant in North America will have an ectopic pregnancy, meaning the baby develops not in the vaginal canal where it’s supposed to, but in one of the fallopian tubes. Considered one of the chief causes of maternal mortality in the first trimester, ectopic pregnancy becomes exponentially more lethal for the mother when paired with the chemical abortion pill taken at home, because it is one of the conditions that must be screened for by a trained physician.

The FDA has also released a report documenting adverse results from the use of the more potent drug in the abortion pill regimen Mifeprex’s chemical cocktail, Mifepristone. The report estimates that 3.7 million women in the United States used the abortion pill between September 28, 2000, and December 31, 2018. Over that 18-year span, 1,042 women were hospitalized by the drug, 599 bled so extensively that blood transfusions were required to save their lives, 412 developed infections (69 of which were considered severe), and 12 women died from conditions likely induced by the chemical abortion.

The FDA’s own report shows that Mifeprex endangers women’s lives even with available emergency medical care. Complications arising from this pill, like internal hemorrhaging and extreme bleeding, require intensive blood transfusions and professional medical care to overcome, and despite modern medical advances, women continue to die from it.

As American hospitals are quickly becoming overwhelmed, this drug becomes exponentially more dangerous by leaving women at the mercy of life-threatening complications that their health care system may not be able to intercept. With COVID-19 response taking top priority among medical professionals, government leaders have an ethical obligation to protect their constituents from additional medical harm, especially vulnerable pregnant women, during a time of crisis.

Samuel Lillemo is a Policy/Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

The Rich History of American Prayer in Times of Calamity

by Zachary Rogers

April 2, 2020

O God, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” - A Prayer in Time of Calamity

The United States faces a rapidly developing coronavirus crisis that is testing our form of government, the social and health infrastructure we have built, and the solidarity of individuals at the local level. It is in times such as these that the true mettle and spirit of a people is revealed. It is a time for prayer. Thankfully, the United States has a long history of appealing to Heaven in times of crisis, calamity, and now COVID-19.

President Trump recognized this and the necessity of our times. Therefore, on March 13th he tweeted:

It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15th as a National Day of Prayer. We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these…

This action is not an aberration in U.S. history but a reflection of the blessings of God upon America, which many previous presidents have done. The prominent influence of prayer is clear throughout U.S. history.

On 16 March, 1776, the Continental Congress issued a fast proclamation. Mr. William Livingston brought forward a resolution for a fast, asserting that in times of impending calamity men must recognize the sovereignty of God, confess their sins, and request His blessing. Colonials were called to a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” Congress agreed to this resolution.

George Washington also recognized the role of Providence in the birth of the nation, as well as the important role of religion and morality in American life. During the American War of Independence, when he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, he concurred with the call of Congress for another day of prayer and fasting. To encourage and allow his men to do so, he forbade all unnecessary labor and recreation.

This understanding of God and the universe can clearly be seen in the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation when Washington in his duties as president recognized Thursday, November 26, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. His proclamation in part reads:

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.

Here, we see a call to all Americans, commissioning them to eagerly ask the Lord to enable everyone, civil servant or citizen, to perform our duties to each other, to our states, and to the nation. We can do no more. We should do no less.

One of the best examples of a national day of prayer in the history of the nation came from President Lincoln, who signed “A Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day” on March 30, 1863. This proclamation recognized the sovereignty of God, the necessity of repentance, and the need to ask for forgiveness.

In 1952 President Harry S. Truman signed into law a joint resolution of Congress establishing an annual day of prayer for the “people to turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

We should remember that God governs in the affairs of men, from the time of the Israelites, when He answered many prayers for the tribes of Israel, to the American Revolution when our Forefathers fought the mightiest empire known to man and, despite losing many battles, won the war. When we thank God, we should also thank Him for a free country in which we can have a day of prayer. It is important to remember the constitutional point that a National Day of Prayer neither establishes a state religion nor impedes religious practice.

America has a strong Judeo-Christian heritage, and this is reflected in our history of appealing to God in times of strife and calamity. Let us do so now while not neglecting to do all the good we can. The time is now and it is our duty to do so. Here is “A Prayer for Congress”:

Most gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for the people of these United States in general, so especially for their Senate and Representatives in Congress assembled; that thou wouldest be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations, to the advancement of thy glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of they people; that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These and all other necessaries, for them, for us, and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and mediation of Jesus Christ, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Zachary Rogers is a graduate of Hillsdale College and is a former intern of FRC, the Kirby Center, and the Claremont Institute. He is currently working in education in Northern Virginia.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 3)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

April 1, 2020

Read Part 1 and Part 2

Despite many speedbumps, and several self-inflicted roadblocks—including House Democrat attempts to pass their ideological wish list—members of Congress from both sides of the aisle eventually came together to pass the most recent coronavirus relief bill. On Friday, March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is the third phase of coronavirus response legislation. This $2 trillion law is the largest relief package ever passed by Congress, demonstrating the powerful forces unleashed by the coronavirus and drastic congressional response—including from some typically fiscally conservative members. Indeed, we are facing a public health and economic emergency of the likes most of us have never seen. Here is a look at how this legislation will impact you and your family.

Direct Payments

The signature policy in the CARES Act, first proposed by the Trump administration, is a tax rebate that will be sent directly to families to help cover essential costs during this crisis. As a result of this bill, all Americans with an annual income of $75,000 or less will receive a direct payment of $1,200. For married couples with an income of $150,000 or less, this payment will double to $2,400. Families with dependent children will also receive an additional $500 per child. This policy was also adapted from a previous draft, to provide the full $1,200 rebate to those with little or no income. If you are someone who makes over the $75,000 threshold, you will still be eligible for a partial rebate. This rebate will be reduced by $5 for every $100 over the cap and will be completely phased out at incomes of $99,000 and above.

The great news is, if you have filed a previous tax return, there is no action required to receive the rebate. For Americans who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will rely on those returns to determine eligibility. If you have not filed for 2019, they will use 2018 returns. Even though the president signed the bill on Friday, the earliest families can expect to see these rebates is in three or four weeks, according to some estimates. The rebate will be sent via direct deposit if the IRS has that information from a tax return. If the IRS does not have direct deposit information, it will mail a physical check, which may take a few weeks longer to arrive.

Sending tax rebates directly to Americans is not something unique to the current situation. During the 2008 recession, President George W. Bush issued tax rebates of $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples to help stimulate the economy. The tax rebates in the CARES Act are not only higher than in 2008 but will be sent out much sooner due to the IRS’s ability to work through logistics faster. This policy cements and incentivizes family structure, as there is no penalty on married couples, giving them double the individual amounts. It also functions as an additional child tax credit, giving more money for each child a family has. For the average family of four, this tax rebate will equate to a $3,400 check providing immediate financial help.

For those with a greater financial strain, who may need to draw from their retirement funds, there is additional help. As done in previous emergencies, if someone withdraws no more than $100,000 from their retirement account for coronavirus-related reasons, the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is waived. The taxes that would otherwise be collected on that withdrawal can be paid out over the next three years.

Unemployment Insurance

In addition to the rebate checks, the CARES Act provides $250 billion to expand 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. This program will provide extended financial assistance, enabling those without work to make monthly payments for food, rent, and other necessities. 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 and provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment for those who remain unemployed beyond the weeks provided by the state.

Another valuable expansion is that all recipients of unemployment insurance will get an additional $600 a week beginning in April and lasting for the next four months. This addition was not without controversy, as several Senate Republicans objected to this addition because of the potential for a perverse incentive for those who might make more on unemployment insurance than they would by working. Ultimately, given the negotiating dynamics and tight timeline, this provision was not fixed. Looking to pass this bill quickly, the Trump administration was willing to accept this provision, and the bill passed the Senate with unanimous support.

To view your state’s unemployment policy and apply for unemployment insurance, go to this helpful database provided by the Department of Labor.

Housing Assurance

In a public health crisis that requires families to remain quarantined in their homes, it is critical that current housing situations remain secure. For families who own a home and make mortgage payments, the CARES Act prohibits foreclosures on any federally-backed mortgages for 60 days. It allows borrowers affected by the coronavirus to push off any missed payments to the end of their mortgage with no added penalties or interest. To help families who make rent payments, it halts evictions for those renting from properties with federally-backed mortgages for 120 days. The Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance for how homeowners and renters can respond to financial hardships.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will coordinate these federal housing policies. He has been a vocal leader throughout the coronavirus outbreak, promoting faith and families. On March 20, Secretary Carson joined President Trump and Vice President Pence on an FRC conference call to pray with 800 pastors. On the call, Secretary Carson reminded the pastors that despite the uncertainty facing our country, God’s hand is guiding us.

Education Policies

The coronavirus outbreak has affected education across the country in many ways. Many schools have been directed to close their doors, replacing in-person classes with at home and online learning. Because of these changing dynamics, the CARES Act waives the federal testing requirements that students take in a typical school year. It also provides additional funding for K-12 schools to adapt to at home-learning and gives increased flexibility for how grants can be used for technology and other actions needed to adapt to the coronavirus situation. Private schools can also access these additional funds.

Many parents today also face the challenge of balancing student loan payments with other essential payments like rent and food expenses. To ease the financial burden of making student loan payments, the CARES Act suspends federal student loan payments for the next six months, and no interest will accrue on federal loans during these six months. The Department of Education has more information on which federal loans qualify and how these policies will be implemented.

The coronavirus’s impact on the public health and the economic stability of or country is something not seen for nearly a century. President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force have taken strong actions to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health of many. However, the crisis has resulted in unintended financial burdens on many families across the country. Members of Congress and the Trump administration worked together to negotiate a strong economic response that truly puts families first—a welcome sight in the typically-rancorous partisan political environment on Capitol Hill. The FRC team continues to engage members of Congress and the administration to ensure that faith, family, and freedom will remain protected even as our country responds to the coronavirus.

For more on how the coronavirus relief legislation specifically benefits churches and nonprofits, see our blog here.

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