Month Archives: June 2020

Supreme Court Abandons Human Dignity in Russo but Upholds It in Open Society

by Katherine Beck Johnson , Kaitlyn Shepherd

June 30, 2020

The disappointing decision in June Medical v. Russo dominated the airwaves yesterday. However, there was a win for human dignity in another Supreme Court case. In Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., the Court held that the Leadership Act’s Policy Requirement—which requires organizations receiving federal funds to combat HIV/AIDS to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking—is constitutional as applied to domestic organizations’ foreign affiliates. We applaud the Court’s decision. The Leadership Act’s Policy Requirement is a common-sense measure that promotes the human dignity of all people and especially women, who are most frequently the victims of prostitution and sex trafficking.

In 2003, congressional findings indicated that HIV/AIDS had “assumed pandemic proportions.” Data showed that, since the 1980s, the disease had killed more than 25 million people, infected an additional 40 million people, and orphaned an estimated 14 million children worldwide. In response, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (the Leadership Act) “outlined a comprehensive strategy to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS around the world.” As part of this strategy, the Act prescribed efforts “to address the social and behavioral causes of the problem” and authorized the president to allocate funds to organizations that combat HIV/AIDS overseas. With a few exceptions, only organizations that adopted “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking” were eligible to receive funds.

In 2005, a group of United States-based organizations challenged the Policy Requirement. They argued that “adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may alienate certain host governments, and may diminish the effectiveness of some of their programs by making it more difficult to work with prostitutes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Some organizations on the left, joined by some libertarians, advocate for the legalization of prostitution (which they call “sex work”), ostensibly to allow government regulation of health and safety. They argue that a distinction can be made between “sex work” and “sex trafficking” and believe that legalization would help to empower “sex workers.” Prostitution is inherently degrading to women, and there is no evidence that its legalization makes this practice less exploitative. When it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS, discouraging a “profession” that inherently involves the high-risk behavior of sexual relations with multiple partners should be part of our national strategy. Congress held this view, and insisted that U.S. aid recipients overseas do the same.

In 2013, the Supreme Court held that the Policy Requirement was unconstitutional as applied to American organizations operating overseas because it compelled these organizations to adopt the government’s stance on prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving the funds.

In 2015, the organizations renewed their challenge to the Policy Requirement. They opposed the government’s continued application of the Policy Requirement to their “closely aligned” foreign affiliates, organizations that shared the same “name, logo, brand, and mission” but were legally separate entities incorporated under the laws of other nations. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Policy.

In its decision yesterday, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Second Circuit. Writing for the majority, Justice Kavanaugh noted that long-standing principles of American law compel the conclusion that “[a]s foreign organizations operating abroad, plaintiff’s foreign affiliates possess no rights under the First Amendment.” President Trump’s other appointee, Justice Gorsuch, also joined the majority. The Court was unpersuaded by the organizations’ argument that the speech of their foreign affiliates would be misattributed to them because the organizations were not compelled by the government to affiliate with these foreign organizations or to espouse their message. Any misattribution would be a result of their own actions, not those of the government.

The Court’s decision has important implications for human dignity. The Bible teaches that both men and women are created in the image of God and that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” This means all people possess inherent dignity, worth, and value. By objectifying women, the sex trafficking industry fails to acknowledge the human dignity of women. Congress itself recognized this, stating that “[p]rostitution and other sexual victimization are degrading to women and children and it should be the policy of the United States to eradicate such practices.” The Court’s decision yesterday should be celebrated because requiring organizations to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking promotes the dignity of all people around the world. 

Katherine Beck Johnson is Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.

Kaitlyn Shepherd is a legal intern with Policy & Government Affairs at Family Research Council.

For the Fourth Time, HHS Defends the Elderly and Disabled

by David Closson , Laura Lee Caum

June 29, 2020

After weeks of significant societal upheaval, there is finally some good news out of Washington D.C. On June 26, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it had resolved a complaint against Tennessee after the state updated its medical triage plans to ensure that the elderly and disabled are not discriminated against in the event of scarcity or high demand for medical resources.

This is OCR’s fourth resolution with a state regarding disability discrimination since their March 28 bulletin reminding states of their responsibility to abide by civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in the provision of health care services during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OCR resolved similar cases with Alabama, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Commenting on the resolution, Roger Severino, OCR’s Director, said, “We commend Tennessee for updating its policies to ensure that hospitals do not deny life-saving care during a crisis based on stereotypes about disabilities or other impermissible factors. Our civil rights laws reflect the principle that we are all created with equal dignity and worth.”

Prior to this decision, concerns were raised about Tennessee’s emergency health care guidance, specifically that those with advanced neuromuscular disease, metastatic cancer, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and other disabilities could be excluded from use of a ventilator in times of scarcity. The HHS determined this was in violation of numerous health laws, including Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The June 26 resolution between HHS and Tennessee should be applauded for its recognition of the human dignity of the elderly and disabled. All Americans, but especially Christians, should be grateful for this announcement because it affirms one of the most basic tenets of the biblical worldview which is that all people are made in God’s image and possess inherent value and dignity. Laws or health care plans that allocate resources based on a perceived quality of life devalue one’s fundamental right to life and ought to be rejected.

This bold action by the Office for Civil Rights continues a pattern of respecting and protecting life by the Trump administration. Since his inauguration, President Trump and his administration has consistently defended human rights at home and abroad. This is especially seen in the administration’s defense of the rights of the unborn. For example, The Office of Civil Rights at HHS alone has already enforced conscience protection laws in California to ensure that health care plans are not required to provide abortion coverage, and in Vermont to protect the conscience rights of a nurse who was forced to participate in performing abortions. In 2019, the administration ensured that Title X family planning funds do not include abortion providers. Then in 2020 President Trump spoke at the March for Life rally, becoming the first sitting president to ever do so.

The decision on June 26 by HHS is the latest example of the administration’s commitment to protecting all Americans, regardless of age, disability, or other subjective factors. All Americans should be grateful for this resolution, and hope it sends a clear message to the other states that when it comes to human dignity, cutting corners is not an option.

David Closson is FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview.

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of June 21)

by Family Research Council

June 26, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Washington Update: “Virginia Is for Snoopers”

Governor Ralph Northam is urging people to file a complaint against anyone they see who isn’t following social distance guidelines, the mask mandate, or overcrowding their establishments.

2. Washington Update: “This Equality’s All an Act”

The Left is pushing for the passage of the Equality Act, saying their motivation is to end discrimination. We all want that, but not when “ending discrimination” means a drag queen in every library, a man in every girls’ restroom, or an atheist teacher in every Christian school.

3. Publication: “Leadership and Love: A Tale of Two Fathers”

There has never been a greater need for godly men and fathers than the age in which we live. This resource provides an understanding of what children need from their fathers to become emotionally healthy and spiritually strong. 

4. Blog: “Why Bostock Will Never Have the Final Word On Human Sexuality”

Christians continue to face mounting pressure to compromise on the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. However, we cannot compromise our beliefs because we are committed to Scripture.

5. Blog: “The Threat of Genocide Darkens the Future for Nigeria’s Christians”

Today, a dangerous darkness—radical Islamism and its genocidal intentions—is sweeping across the African continent. And it is particularly lethal in Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation.

6. Washington WatchWalt Heyer says the truth about transgenderism is what drives platforms like YouTube to censor him

Walt Heyer, public speaker, author, and publisher of SexChangeRegret.com and his blog, WaltHeyer.com, joined Tony Perkins to discuss YouTube censoring his story that shared his regrets about living a transgender life.

7. Washington WatchDavid Closson offers a biblical perspective on the purging of certain U.S. historical figures

David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, joined Tony Perkins to discuss a biblical response to the radical movement to erase American history with the destruction of statues and renaming of important landmarks.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook pageTwitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

China Is About to Clamp Down on Hong Kong

by Arielle Del Turco

June 26, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on June 26 that the U.S. will impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials “responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms.” This is a good step for the people of Hong Kong desperately looking for a lifeline as they watch their freedoms get trampled by the Chinese government.

Last year’s pro-democracy protests, which captured global attention, initially targeted a proposed extradition law that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China and subjected to its corrupt judicial system. Yet, this year’s threat to Hong Kong’s freedom is much worse. China’s National People’s Congress is expected to ratify a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong next week. Newly released details indicate the law will damage many of the freedoms Hong Kongers have long enjoyed, including religious freedom.

According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, Hong Kong is meant to enjoy a high degree of autonomy for 50 years following the city’s return to China in 1997. With the new security law, Hong Kong’s autonomy—and the “one country, two systems” principle that has guided its government—is all but destroyed. The new law will allow Beijing to override Hong Kong law, establish a national security office in Hong Kong to investigate crimes, and enable Beijing to suppress protests or public opposition.

China is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights and religious freedom. So, what does Beijing’s encroachment into the legal system in Hong Kong mean for its religious communities?

Firstly, Christian pastors and clergy members who participated in Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protests may be punished for their participation. Christians and Christian leaders played a pivotal role in pro-democracy demonstrations last year. The hymn “Hallelujah to the Lord” became an anthem for protestors. Meanwhile, Chinese officials insinuated that demonstrators were terrorists.

No dissent is tolerated in mainland China, and Hong Kong’s religious leaders who are vocal against Beijing may be extradited and tried under the new law. Christian NGOs are now expressing concern for outspoken religious leaders such as Cardinal Joseph Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who supported the pro-democracy movement.

Secondly, the new law might pave the way for Hong Kong’s Christian leaders to be silenced. According to an outline of the law released by Chinese officials, the national security concerns Beijing claims the right to address include secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.

China’s broad accusation of “subversion of state power” may sound familiar. At the end of 2019, well-known house church pastor Wang Yi, who led one of China’s largest unregistered churches, was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting to subvert state power.” Beijing uses this phrase, among others, as an excuse to lock away anyone who publicly objects to the government’s practices. Should Hong Kong’s pastors expect to be next?

Thirdly, in addition to harming believers in Hong Kong, this new law is likely to have negative effects on faith in mainland China. Christianity is a legally recognized religion. However, Christian churches that register with the Chinese government are pressured to adapt their religious beliefs to Chinese Communist Party values, including socialism. To avoid government interference, many unregistered house churches operate outside of regulation but lack resources and pastoral training as they try to practice authentic Christianity. For a long time, house churches on the Chinese mainland have found support from Hong Kong’s Christians.

Churches and pastors in Hong Kong provide Bibles, training, and financial support to house churches on the mainland. One study from 2014 found that over 60 percent of Hong Kong’s churches “engage in work on the mainland, illicit or otherwise, including preaching and theological training.” If Hong Kong Christians are subjected to the same so-called “national security” laws that put Pastor Wang Yi in prison for subversion of state power, this may cut off the support and resources Hong Kong pastors feel they can safely offer. For the mainland’s increasingly oppressed churches, support from Hong Kong is a lifeline they can’t afford to lose.

On June 25, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution introduced by Senator Josh Hawley which condemned Beijing’s national security law and called on free countries to stand against Beijing’s effort to destroy basic liberties and human rights in Hong Kong. The Senate also passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act which would impose sanctions on individuals, entities, and banks that aid Beijing’s campaign to control Hong Kong and destroy its autonomy. The U.S. House of Representatives should follow suit and swiftly pass the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and send it to the president’s desk.

When the National People’s Congress announced its proposed national security law, Beijing broke its agreement to allow Hong Kong autonomy. For Hong Kong residents who cherish their political and religious freedom, the effects will be widespread and devastating. As they fear for their future, U.S. officials must do everything within their power to support the people of Hong Kong. This city has long been a beacon of freedom and prosperity in contrast with Chinese authoritarianism. Chinese encroachment into Hong Kong is a tragedy for the free world, and it is one that the United States must not watch unfold silently.

7 Things You Should Know About D.C. Statehood

by Laura Grossberndt

June 26, 2020

The effort to make the District of Columbia a state is in the news again. D.C. statehood is often cited as a solution to residents’ “taxation without [congressional] representation” problem. But is D.C. statehood constitutional? Here are some things you should know about our capital city and the current campaign for D.C. statehood.

1. The seat of government of the United States cannot be part of a state.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the seat of the federal government (the “District”) to be contained within a state. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 states that the District was to be comprised of ceded land. This means the state(s) providing the land for the creation of the District gave up all claims of ownership and authority over said land. Soon after the ratification of the Constitution, Maryland and Virginia each ceded land that would comprise the District. (Although the land ceded by Virginia was later ceded back.)

2. Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the District. This means Congress has the authority to govern the District’s laws, including its budget. Without this authority, the federal government could be endangered or rendered ineffective in its duty of serving the entire nation.

In Federalist Paper No. 43, James Madison declared Congress’ complete authority at the seat of government an “indispensable necessity.” He and his fellow constitutional theorists knew from personal experience the dangers of the federal government being in any way dependent on a single state. At the time of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Congress was situated in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). When a mob surrounded the State House and demanded payment for the military service they had rendered during the American War for Independence, the Pennsylvania state government refused Congress’ requests for protection. This led to Congress fleeing Philadelphia and eventually choosing a locale for the national capital that would not be contained within a state or surrounded by one state.

3. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in Congress.

Because the District is not a state, nor a part of a state, it does not have voting members of Congress; it only has non-voting delegates. This means the District’s approximately 500,000 registered voters do not have voting representation in Congress. This has generated many policy proposals that seek to create voting representation. D.C. statehood is one of these proposals.

4. H.R. 51 would dramatically reduce the size of the District.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) currently being debated is one measure designed to try to make D.C. a state. It would carve out a smaller federal District, consisting of and limited to the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, and federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall. By dramatically reducing the size of the District in this way, H.R. 51 seeks to circumnavigate the need for a constitutional amendment by only admitting part of D.C. as a state, leaving behind a District that would theoretically still be independent of a state.

However, shrinking the federal District in this way would render congressional authority over the seat of government (in the truest sense) impossible. In such a scenario, the tiny federal District would be entirely surrounded by a “state of D.C.,” and Congress would not even have authority over the streets, necessary public services, and other elements on which it is dependent. The Constitution gives Congress authority to govern the federal District’s laws, including its budget. If the majority of Washington, D.C. were to become a state, it would no longer be subject to this congressional authority. The federal government and foreign embassies would be directly affected by the new state’s budgetary decisions and dependent upon the state for public services. The state of D.C. could grow inordinately powerful and might impose an “awe or influence” over the federal government that Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 43, called “equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”

5. A constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.

Even with H.R. 51’s reinterpretation of “seat of government,” a constitutional amendment would still be necessary before admitting D.C. as a state. The 23rd Amendment (which grants the District electoral college votes) would need to be repealed—or it would simply be rendered nonsensical (if D.C. were to become a state and the federal District reduced in size, the District’s only residents, the first family, would be the only individuals represented through all three electoral college votes).

6. D.C. statehood would have legislative implications for the entire country.

Knowing what we know from past budgets and laws proposed by the D.C. City Council, a “state of D.C.” would almost certainly support policies that undermine the sanctity of human life and are detrimental to the American family. A state of D.C. would most likely contribute two more votes for such policies in the U.S. Senate (as well as a yet undetermined number of votes in the House), directly impacting millions of Americans nationwide.

7. Statehood isn’t the only possible solution for D.C. voting rights.

Proponents of D.C. statehood like to claim that statehood’s opponents are opposed to D.C. residents’ voting rights. But this is simply not the case. By supporting H.R. 51, House leadership is rejecting other possible paths to securing congressional voting representation for D.C.—ones that would honor the Founders’ intent to keep the federal seat of government non-dependent on a single state. Instead, the backers of H.R. 51 favor a statehood campaign that threatens the federal government’s indispensable authority over its seat of governance while benefitting their own progressive political ends. H.R. 51 is not a solution the Constitution permits.

Be Not Wise in Your Own Eyes

by Molly Carman

June 26, 2020

Like many other Christians around the world, I am realizing more and more that we are in strange and trying times, and it can be difficult to consider how to react to various situations. Whether it is the coronavirus, unrest about race relations, or recent Supreme Court decisions, there are so many issues that demand our attention and require us to think deeply about how Christians should respond.

In every season of violence, disease, death, and civil unrest, one passage of Scripture remains particularly relevant. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” Throughout history, believers have faced the violence of war, the scourge of disease, and civil and political unrest. We are not the first and we will not be the last.

In order to respond appropriately to the various situations we find ourselves in, we must seek wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge that is rightly applied to daily life. Wisdom is essential to honoring God with our lives and teaches us how to respond during the ever-changing times. The apostle Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians) gives us this encouragement: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” But how do we discern what is wise? How do we evaluate our lives to identify where wisdom is needed?

Because wisdom is so essential to our daily lives and growth as Christians, there are several means by which we may grow in wisdom. First, God has given us His Word to teach us and guide us in the ways we should go. Second, we can ask the Father for wisdom directly through prayer. Third, we grow in wisdom by cultivating a humble spirit and learning to discern God’s voice.

Scripture

When it comes to growing in wisdom, God’s Word is our greatest resource. Through it we learn about God’s character, attributes, and works. We also learn about ourselves, our sinful nature that separates us from a holy God, and how we can be reconciled to Him. In particular, the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that can help us order our lives. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” A primary way that we show a healthy fear of the Lord is by reading and applying His Word to our lives. This year, Family Research Council began a two-year Bible reading plan called Stand on the Word. This is an opportunity to be held accountable to being in the word daily. It is easy to think that we can read one verse of Scripture a day and be spiritually full; however, wisdom calls us to spend time in God’s Word through meditation and memorization. Reading Scripture takes time because learning wisdom takes time and cannot be rushed.

Prayer

God in His grace desires to have a personal relationship with all His children, and He invites us into this relationship through prayer. Prayer is a personal conversation with God that all believers are called to. We are called to praise God with thanksgiving in our hearts (Psalm 109:30), to confess and repent of our sins (I John 1:9), and to go to God with our needs and desires (Matthew 21:22). As we spend more time in God’s Word, we will also grow in our prayer life. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given.” The prime example of this promise being fulfilled is in the life of King Solomon. Solomon prayed for wisdom and he was deemed the wisest man in his day (see I Kings 3).

Listen and Learn

While anyone can read the wisdom of the Bible, or pray to God for wisdom, the challenge comes in having a teachable spirit that not only seeks wisdom but applies it to their lives. Therefore, wisdom is applied knowledge. It can be easy to learn things, but we are called to listen carefully to God’s Word, be faithful in prayer, and courageously live out the knowledge that we have learned. In order to apply the work of wisdom in our lives, we must humble ourselves. This means being quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). When we are students of the Word and faithful servants in prayer, we are better prepared to apply God’s wisdom during the trials and opposition that we face.

One practical way to actively grow in wisdom by incorporating all three of these principles is to join and become active in a local church. Unfortunately, many believers think they can grow spiritually by themselves; however, the Christian life is not meant to be walked alone. We need each other. The Apostle Paul teaches this throughout his writings, particularly in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Thus, we should seek to live in community with other believers who are also seeking to grow in wisdom.

Therefore, when we are faced with the difficult decisions or situations before us—like COVID-19, protests, and a bitter election season—and we do not know what to say, what to choose, or how to act, we must seek wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Rather than spending our days worrying about all of the problems in the world that are beyond our control, let us seek Christ, who is wisdom incarnate, and allow Him to guide our steps. 

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

Be a Discipler

by Brooke Brown

June 25, 2020

Though God has appointed unique purposes for each of his children, as Christians, we all share a common purpose, and that is to make disciples and make the gospel known to all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). When we make the life-altering decision to lay down our lives and follow Christ, we can expect hardship, we can expect persecution, and we can expect for the enemy to wage war against us to keep us from spreading the Good News.

Sharing the gospel rarely makes the news. But one woman by the name of Gail Blair caught the media’s attention recently when she was banned from a public park in Rhode Island for two years for sharing the gospel with a passersby. Blair suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a medical condition that has made her blind. This has never stopped her from boldly sharing her faith, offering people a copy of the Gospel of John, or striking up conversations with people about Jesus. What did stop her, however, was a clear bias against Christians from exercising their First Amendment rights and freely practicing their faith.

The reality is that we are fighting against principalities, power, and darkness (Ephesians 6:12). As the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just revised to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” it seems as though Christians with sincerely held biblical beliefs about sexuality will now face even more discrimination in public settings. In Blair’s case, local authorities told her that she was “trespassing” on public property. But it is clear that the only “crime” Blair is guilty of is witnessing to beliefs that are being suppressed under the pretext of “trespassing.”

Not only was Blair’s right to freedom of speech violated, her freedom of religion was abridged as well. Blair, a former nurse, believes sharing the gospel is a way she can still care for people despite her physical impairment. When the Police Department dug deeper for evidence of violating guidelines expected by park goers, it was found that there was no reasonable cause for Blair to be banned by The Memorial and Library Association. Threatening to arrest her if she enters the park again is nothing less than a clear violation of her First Amendment rights.

If anyone knows persecution, it is Jesus, who was mocked, beaten, stoned, and killed on a Roman cross. Of course, what we face as Christians today does not compare to the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion. However, as his image bearers and followers, we are called to follow him, even to the point of death if required (Matthew 16:24). In fact, Christians in closed countries around the world regularly face intimidation, threats, and physical persecution because of their faith. In the United States we are blessed with religious liberty, and we should never take this right for granted.

However, it is also important to recognize that the religious freedom we have in this country is under assault. Christians should not sit idly by while the world attempts to strip us of these rights which help us carry out the Great Commission. We must put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), equip ourselves by reading and applying God’s Word to our lives, allow Scripture to be the cornerstone on which we live and breathe, and be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15). Just as God is our defender, we are also his defendants during our time on earth. He deserves all the glory and praise as our Creator for giving us mouths to speak, ears to listen, eyes to see, and hearts to connect.

Blair is not backing down from her beliefs and her rights, and neither should we. Sharing the gospel can be a daunting, exhilarating, nerve-wracking experience. We are bound to face rejection, just like Blair. But it is through rejection, ridicule, and through looking different that we will grow and become more and more like Jesus. Our fear of man should weigh much less than our fear of the Lord. Easier said than done, yes. But, when we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, we can conquer great things in the Lord’s name.

Is it upsetting that one of our own sisters in Christ has been banned from visiting her nearby public park for simply sharing the Good News? Absolutely. So, what is our defense? Jesus and prayer. We follow a God that is just, a God that sees all things on earth. We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Therefore, we should link arms with Blair in prayer for her and for this country. This world is in desperate need of our Savior. It is our responsibility to be the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), to reflect God’s heart by speaking his truth accompanied by love to those we encounter.

As believers, we must stand united to defend our religious freedom and to share the heart-transforming gospel with people. Only through the power of God can we make a difference for his Kingdom. Equip yourselves with his word, step out of the boat in full faith (Matthew 14:22-23), invite a friend or coworker to church this weekend, and be a discipler.

Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

Hidden in Plain Sight: How Abortion Erases Black Lives

by Quinn Roberts , Dean Nelson

June 25, 2020

In the weeks since George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25, our nation has experienced a national reckoning on issues related to race. From Minnesota to California to Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of Americans have rallied in solidarity with the victims of discrimination, demanding equal justice under the law. Many Christians see this crisis and believe in the necessity of elevating the simple yet profound theological truth that all people are made in God’s image and possess dignity and value.

George Floyd’s on-camera death has prompted many conversations on race, policing, incarceration, and civil rights. Much of this is focused on the city street. However, our streets aren’t the only places Americans, especially minorities, remain vulnerable.

Every day, women enter abortion facilities believing them to be their only hope for help and answers. Often, they have been told that giving birth to their babies will ruin their lives, or that any children they have will grow up to be criminals. As if this were not tragic enough, abortion providers specifically target and prey upon low-income, minority communities. Seventy-nine percent of abortion clinics in the United States are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods.

The placement of these clinics in minority communities is not an accident. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated for eugenics, especially through the use of birth control. Sanger’s racist beliefs are well documented. For example, in a letter to Clarence Gamble, she once explained, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Today, abortions of black babies make up 38 percent of all abortions, even though African Americans only make up 13 percent of the population. In 2016 alone, the lives of 137,510 black babies were ended under the “right to privacy” called abortion. Dr. La Verne Tolbert, former Planned Parenthood board member turned pro-life advocate, commented on this alarmingly high rate of black abortions: “Planned Parenthood targets minorities for abortion with the specific goal of keeping down (or lowering) the birthrate of Black babies…. Over twenty million African American babies have been aborted.”

In Genesis 1:27, God set the precedent for human dignity with the words, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Each and every human is a unique individual made in the image of God. Our accomplishments do not increase or decrease the value of our lives. This inherent value is known as “human dignity.” Even those who do not normally accept a Judeo-Christian value system agree with the inherent dignity of humans. The evidence is found in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The phrase, “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” despite having no inherent reference to Scripture or Judeo-Christian values, clearly affirms the concept of human dignity. 

Human dignity drives the outrage at even one person’s death, especially an unjust death. As mentioned earlier, human dignity is a universal concept that applies to all people, regardless of circumstance. This applies equally to those we can see and those we cannot yet see. The unborn children of the world are humans too and therefore are inherently valuable. Yet, abortion providers would have you believe otherwise.

Every day, young mothers—especially black and brown—are told that the babies they carry are not unique human beings full of unlimited potential, but “problems” that will destroy their dreams and burden society. But the truth is, what is inside any mother’s womb is not just a clump of cells, nor is it part of her body. It is another human just waiting for the opportunity to live in the world. Of course, all people will face trials and difficult circumstances, much like the trying times our nation faces today, but that is not all there is to life. There are so many thousands of blessings, large and small, that help us appreciate life, and when it comes down to it, we would not give them for the world. Things like a mother’s hug, a hot cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, the birth of a child, and so much more. Yet, hundreds of thousands of innocent babies will never get to experience these wonders every year. What is worse is that a disproportionately large number of those are black babies who will never get to make a difference and influence the culture for positive change.

George Floyd’s death serves as a clarion call for justice—not only for those we can physically see but also for those we cannot yet see. Unlike a death on the street captured on video, abortion is hidden away and sterilized under mountains of lies, paperwork, and medical waste bins stashed in the back alleys of abortion facilities. We rightly mourn the emptiness left by George Floyd’s death, yet abortion is responsible for an immense vacuum left by the millions of black Americans who never even got their chance to be born. Can America ever be a truly just nation if we continue to throw away millions of lives simply because someone says they aren’t worth living?  

Dean Nelson is FRC’s Senior Fellow for African American Affairs and the Executive Director of Human Coalition Action.

Quinn Roberts is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

Child Advocacy Starts at Home

by Molly Carman

June 24, 2020

In a lively debate on June 15, Elizabeth Bartholet and Kerry McDonald discussed homeschooling, parental rights, and the state’s responsibility in education. Bartholet serves as a professor at Harvard University, and McDonald is a homeschooling mother who also serves as an adjunct professor and has dedicated her life to protecting the rights of homeschooling families. Milton Gaither joined the discussion as a professor from Messiah College. Neal McCluskey, the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, moderated the debate, presenting the questions sent in and directing the overall conversation.

The primary question posed in the debate was whether the state should intervene in the homes of homeschooling families to ensure that the rights of children are protected. While parents are usually the primary care givers of their children, who is ultimately responsible for a child’s education, the parents or the state? This is a fundamental question with far-reaching implications. How one answers it is ultimately determined by one’s convictions on the role of the state and family.

As was revealed in the debate, Bartholet believes that parents should not be trusted with the final responsibility for educating their children. She is suspicious of parents, and believes children need to be exposed to ideas that compete with their parent’s worldview from an early age. However, in Ephesians 6:4, Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bartholet disagrees and says that the state should bring up children in the way they should go.

In her opening statement, Bartholet argued, “Children should have rights that are equivalent to adults because children are not able to protect themselves like adults are.” Because of the cases of child abuse involving homeschooling families, she concludes that the state should have higher regulations imposed upon homeschoolers in order to prevent abuse or neglect of children. She proposed state home visits and “a balance” between state intervention and parental control when it comes to rearing children.

Bartholet is concerned about three main issues: the academic, physical, and ideological wellbeing of all children. “My problem is not with homeschooling per se,” she said, “but with the lack of regulations on homeschooling.” Bartholet says that parents cannot be trusted to take good care of their children because they are not “certified,” and therefore, there needs to be state intervention in order to ensure that all children have a chance to make it in life.

Academically, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students cannot meet the requirements set out by standardization in the school system. She claimed homeschoolers only do “pretty well” academically. McDonald responded by asking, “Whose standard? Where two out of three of public school students can’t read? The public schools’ standards?” Homeschooling families recognize that the standard for academic excellence in the public schools is not the standard they desire for their children. Homeschooling is “another form of private education,” says McDonald, “and parents ought to be allowed to escape the situation.”

In terms of the physical wellbeing of children, McDonald responded to Bartholet’s concerns by calling attention to the fact that government schools are highly regulated and yet, “One in 10 students who attend public government schools will be sexually mistreated by a staff member by the time they graduate high school.” Nationally, McDonald explained, “That’s five million kids!” Moreover, she noted that at least half of all students grades four to 12 are bullied at least once a month. In other words, children who attend school are not necessarily more physically safe than homeschooled children.

Unfortunately, there have been cases of allegedly abusive parents removing their children from the public school system and beginning to “homeschool” them in order to avoid further inquiry. The public schools are aware of these children, and yet child services do nothing. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, “Legally homeschooled students are 40% less likely to die of child abuse or neglect than the average student nationally.”

Finally, Bartholet is concerned that homeschool students are ideologically isolated from the world and are not getting exposed to other ideas. She argued, “Children have a right to exposure to some other people and ideas about how one might live their life. So that when they become adults, they have some meaningful opportunity to choose something other than the views, the values, the culture that their own parents have chosen.” McDonald responded by noting, “You cannot mandate exposure to other positions.” Ironically, it is also noted in the debate that while Bartholet wants to regulate the exposure of homeschool students to other ideas, the public school system is not mandated to require exposure to specific religious ideologies.

So, why do I care about this debate? Because I was homeschooled throughout grade school, and just last month, I graduated from university. Looking back on my education experience, I believe my parents advocated for me by personalizing my education, encouraging a love of learning, teaching critical thinking skills, and making me feel safe at home. Homeschooling gave me an opportunity to learn more than just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic and how to take the SAT. It provided me with opportunities to see the world and learn firsthand about other cultures and history. In other words, homeschooling prepared me for life. My parents were well-suited to advocate for me because they know and love me. The state is simply not capable of advocating for me in this way; they do not love or know me as my parents do. Child advocacy starts at home, and what better way than through homeschooling?

Christian parents have a biblical responsibility to oversee their children’s education. While homeschooling may not be the right option for everyone, all parents have a role to play and must be actively involved. Moreover, Christian parents have a special responsibility to disciple their children in the faith. A child’s spiritual formation cannot be delegated to the church, a youth group, or a Christian school. Discipleship begins and ends in the home. While the church should complement the spiritual education that takes place in the home, it can never replace the role that parents play in cultivating their child’s walk with God. In fact, in the Old Testament, Jewish parents were charged specifically with the responsibility to teach God’s law to their children. In Deuteronomy 6:7, Moses said, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Teaching our children to walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord is an ongoing way of life that never ends. Thus, while homeschooling may not be for everyone, Christian parents must steward the time God has given them with their children well and do everything in their ability to raise children who love, follow, and obey God. 

Bartholet is right to be concerned about a child academically, physically, and ideologically. She is correct in saying that we should protect children from harmful situations, but she is misguided in suggesting that parents and the home are harmful to a child’s well-being. Christian parents have the opportunity, through homeschooling, to advocate for their children by teaching them academically from a biblical worldview, by playing with them and physically being present in their daily lives, and by helping them to foster a relationship and love for the Lord. Child advocacy starts at home, not necessarily because the state is incapable, but because of the God-given responsibility of parents to raise the next generation to love and fear Him.

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

Gorsuch Misses Meaning of Sex and Sexual Orientation

by Peter Sprigg

June 24, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has rocked the legal world in a set of three cases consolidated under the name of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia by declaring that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gorsuch accepted the argument that the law’s prohibition of discrimination “because of … sex” demands this result, because “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex.”

However, Justice Alito pointed out in dissent, “‘Sex,’ ‘sexual orientation,’ and ‘gender identity’ are different concepts.” When the Civil Rights Act was adopted, Alito said, “[I]t was as clear as clear could be” that discrimination because of sex “meant discrimination because of the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”

Virtually all the critics of the Bostock decision have cited this problem—that Justice Gorsuch erred in his interpretation of the word “sex” in the Civil Rights Act (or of the entire phrase, “discriminate because of sex.”)

I would go even further. I would argue that Justice Gorsuch fails to understand “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as well.

Let’s look at the concluding, summary sentence of his opinion:

An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.

My question is not just, “What does ‘sex’ mean?” but, “What does ‘being gay or transgender’ mean?”

The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. As I have been pointing out for years in my writings on human sexuality, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are unitary concepts. Both, depending on the context, may refer to a person’s feelings, a person’s behavior, a person’s self-identification, or some combination thereof.

In the case of sexual orientation, a person may express romantic or sexual attractions toward persons of the same sex (feelings); a person may engage in sexual acts or sexual relationships with a person or persons of the same sex (behavior); or a person may either think or say publicly, “I’m gay” (self-identification).

While many may assume that all three elements of sexual orientation go hand in hand, it’s abundantly clear from social science research that they are not always consistent with each other in one person. A person with same-sex attractions may choose not to engage in homosexual conduct and may not identify publicly as “gay.” Is it meaningful—or respectful—to insist that such a person really “is” gay? A person may both experience same-sex attractions and engage in homosexual conduct, but may still choose not to identify as “gay.” Or a person might experience same-sex attractions and self-identify as gay, but choose to remain sexually abstinent. It’s also well-known that in unique social contexts—such as prisons—some individuals may engage in homosexual conduct even though they are neither attracted to the same sex nor “gay”-identified.

How many of the three elements must be present to say that someone “is” gay? All three? Two of the three?

In Justice Gorsuch’s opinion, he seems to lean toward attractions (feelings) as the defining characteristic—he speaks of a man who is “attracted to men” being discriminated against “for being homosexual.” (LGBT activists do something similar when say, as shorthand, that people should not be discriminated against for “who they love.”) Ironically, however, the discrimination alleged by the two plaintiffs in the sexual orientation cases reportedly occurred when they publicly identified themselves as gay. Gerald Bostock did so implicitly by joining a gay softball league; and Donald Zarda doing so explicitly in a comment about his sexual orientation to a customer.

Yet, as I have also often pointed out, when people (such as socially conservative Christians) express disapproval of homosexuality, it is virtually always homosexual behavior which is considered most problematic. “Discrimination” because of a person’s feelings alone would be hard to pull off, given that feelings are invisible. It is only when they are manifested overtly in sexual behavior—or in public self-identification which is taken as an indicator of sexual behavior—that “discrimination” is even possible. (I notice that Justice Gorsuch did not hypothesize about disparate treatment of a male employee and a female employee, “both of whom have sex with men.” Perhaps he would have considered it unseemly.)

LGBT activists would argue that discrimination based on any of these grounds—homosexual attractions, behaviors, or self-identification—should be illegal. But remember, the case was about the meaning of discrimination “because of sex” in a 1964 law—not about what LGBT activists wish was the law.

The fact that “sexual orientation” is defined by a shifting and uncertain mix of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification is one more proof that not only is it not the same characteristic as sex, it is not even the same type of characteristic as sex. “Sex” is not defined by feelings, behaviors, or self-identification. It is defined by biology—as Justice Alito said, by “the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”

The Civil Rights Act simply does not apply.

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