Month Archives: October 2020

Please Pray With Us for Persecuted Christians Around the World

by Arielle Del Turco , Lela Gilbert

October 30, 2020

This Sunday, November 1, 2020 is this year’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. For decades, Christian churches, organizations, and individual believers have observed this annual summons to prayer and intercession on the first Sunday of November.

It is well known today that those who believe in Jesus Christ comprise the most persecuted religious community in the world. Their suffering continues world-wide, and of course we should pray for our beleaguered brothers and sisters wherever they may be.

But at Family Research Council, we want to remind you of countries on which we’ve focused special attention in recent months. These are exceptionally troubled places, where our fellow believers are very much in need of special prayers and will be grateful for them—on this Sunday and beyond.

Please pray with us for suffering believers in the following persecution hot spots:

Nigeria

Since the dawn of the 21st century, verified reports of murders, rapes, mutilations, and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have persistently increased. Such attacks are frequently accompanied by the torching of homes, churches, villages, and agricultural fields.

On July 15, headlines reported that 1,202 Nigerian Christians had been killed in the first six months of 2020. This was is in addition to 11,000 Christians who had lost their lives since June 2015. Such violence has now reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a “slow-motion war” specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation. Nearly every week we hear reports about murders, kidnappings, stolen property, torched churches, and massacres in Nigeria.

North Korea

In North Korea, any expression of faith might get someone sent to a labor camp, often for the rest of their life, and their family is often sent with them. It is believed that approximately 50,000 Christians are held in political prison labor camps, where detainees endure starvation, torture, and even execution.

Even for Christians who don’t get caught, practicing their faith is a deeply isolated experience. Christians in North Korea cannot gather in large groups with other believers. The government recruits many citizens to spy on their neighbors, creating a culture of fear and privacy among Christians and any dissenters to the North Korean government.  

Nagorno-Karabakh

Since September 27, a fierce war has been blazing between Azerbaijan’s heavily armed military forces and Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed enclave comprised of Armenian Christian civilians. Azerbaijan’s assaults have been intensified by Syrian jihadi mercenaries, paid for and sent into the fray by Turkey’s Islamist President Tayyip Erdogan. A number of churches have been damaged or destroyed and residential areas continued to be bombed and shelled, with residents fleeing for their lives.

Today’s Armenian Christians are the surviving sons and daughters of the Armenian Genocide, which took place in the early 20th century. During that bloodbath, the Ottoman Empire’s Turkish Muslims slaughtered some 1.5 million Armenians. At that genocide’s beginning, on November 13, 1914, a call to jihad—a holy war against Christian “infidels”—was officially announced by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V Resad.  The carnage began just days later.

Disturbingly, Azerbaijan’s present invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh is perceived by most Armenian Christians as the continuation of that historic Islamist jihad against Armenia’s Christians. More than half the enclave’s population has either fled or are hiding in cellars and basements, praying for their lives and the lives of their children.

China

People of faith in China are under enormous pressure under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Xi has initiated a campaign to “Sinicize” religion to make it more compatible with the teachings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Churches must join government-approved church associations or face harassment, intimidation, and the possibility of getting shut down by the government.

Since the Chinese government cannot eradicate Christianity altogether, it is attempting to reshape it according to the values of the Communist Party. The Chinese government is now attempting to re-write a version of the Bible which promotes socialist values. Those believers that refuse to go to state-sanctioned churches and choose house churches free of government interference are burdened with the fear of what punishment may come their way. As we saw with the imprisonment of well-known Pastor Wang Yi, the Chinese government is willing to impose harsh punishments on prominent people of faith who speak up for religious freedom.

Pakistan

Pakistani Christians are plagued by a society and legal system that discriminates against them. Christians and others are often accused of violating blasphemy laws by neighbors looking to settle an unrelated argument. Those convicted can spend years in prison, or even end up on death row.

Predators take advantage of Pakistan’s discrimination in the judicial system to prey upon young girls from religious minority communities because they know they will not be held accountable by authorities. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace, a Pakistani human rights organization, estimates that at least 1,000 Hindu and Christian women and girls are kidnapped and forced to marry Muslim men and convert to Islam every year. The latest such case is unfolding in Pakistani courts this month.

Iran

Notorious for its outrageous cruelties, the Islamic Republic of Iran remains one of the world’s worst persecutors of religious minorities. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended in its 2020 report that the United States should “Redesignate Iran as a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

At the same time, Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List places Iran among the top 10 persecutors of Christians in the world. The Islamic Republic sometimes arrests Christians from traditional and “legal” churches. But it unleashes most of its vitriol on Christian converts from Islam, whom it views as apostates, and often designates them as “Christian Zionists.” Yet despite the dangers, many of Iran’s mostly young converts continue to be zealous and outspoken.

The annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is an important reminder to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. May it start a habit of praying for the persecuted every day.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of October 25)

by Family Research Council

October 30, 2020

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

1. Blog: Judging Amy: The Left’s Proclivity for Believing and Empowering Women Is Limited To Their Own

Believe women.” The slogan, born out of the #MeToo movement, was a common refrain during the Senate Judiciary hearings in September 2018. But, during the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary—as well as members of the media—refused to take the judge at her word.

2. Blog: Nagorno-Karabakh: Where Armenian Christians Are Fighting for Their Lives

On October 1, 2020, a violent and dangerous war erupted in a tiny Christian enclave—a spot on the globe few Americans can probably find: Nagorno-Karabakh. In his pursuit to further Islamize the region, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has financed Syrian jihadi mercenaries—reportedly thousands of them—to increase attacks on this Armenian territory.

3. FREE Voter Guide: Text your zip code to 53445 for your FREE Voter Guide

Wouldn’t you like to know if someone on your ballot supports partial-birth abortion BEFORE you vote? What about a candidate that supports restricting gun rights or is endorsed by Bernie Sanders? FRC Action has the quickest voter education tool ever created. Simply Text your zip code to 53445 right now and you’ll get FRC Action’s FREE voter guide for the candidates on your ballot.

4. Washington WatchKen Blackwell argues most rioters in Philly weren’t seeking justice, they were seeking new Nikes

Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the riots in Philadelphia.

5. Washington WatchAndrew Bostom says that ‘absolutely’ the media is stoking virus panic for political purposes

Dr. Andrew Bostom, Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Brown University, joined Tony Perkins to share how the media has politicized COVID-19.

6. Washington Watch: James Lee agrees major polling houses are skewing the results to suppress the GOP vote

James Lee, CEO and Founder of Susquehanna Polling & Research, Inc, joined Tony Perkins to discuss how the media polls may be overstating Democratic strength in order to dampen Republican turnout.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Time to Choose

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed David Benham, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. James Lankford, and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin to discuss how we, by the Lord’s strength, can help our nation.

After Election Day Is Over, Christians Must Continue Engaging the Culture

by Claire Gatzke

October 29, 2020

As political campaigns get more combative and election seasons last longer, election fatigue can come early for many people. With election day now less than a week away, I’m sure many Americans are thrilled that another presidential election cycle will have come and gone so that they can check out for a couple of years before the next one starts up.

While I am empathetic to this sentiment, this is not the right mindset for Christians to have. No matter what happens on November 3 (or whenever the results of this election are called), Christians cannot “check out” and take a vacation from political engagement.

As Christians, we must have a long-term perspective. Our engagement in the public square does not start and stop based on election cycles. Since our political engagement is based on God’s commandments and biblical imperatives, we must keep following these commands and imperatives even when an election is not fast-approaching. How are Christians to continue to engage when there is no voting opportunity any time soon?

For one, Christians must continue to pray for elected officials and government leaders. Obviously, we should pray that leaders that fear God and govern according to biblical principles are put in positions of authority. However, once the election has happened, we should be praying for whoever ends up in positions of power, whether they are God-fearers or not. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul “urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

As soon as the election is over, Christians must diligently and continually pray for our elected officials, whether we ourselves voted for them or not. No matter who is elected, we must pray that God would speak to them, that they would surrender to God, and that they would govern justly. We must pray this not only for our own benefit so that we can live peaceful lives as Paul said, but we must do so out of our desire for justice and out of love for our neighbor, knowing that God’s way is the best and most conducive way for all humans to flourish.

Not only must we be diligent in our prayers for government leaders, Christians also must be committed to talking about political issues with their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The novelty of voting is that everyone gets to do it (if they’re eligible). However, voting won’t help our culture flourish if people are voting contrary to biblical principles and values. The only way to really sway the political and cultural environment is by changing people’s minds so that when they vote, they vote biblically.

For example, even if Trump is elected and the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, decisions on the legality of abortion will be left up to each individual state. The only difference is that abortion will not be legalized at the federal level; it could still very well be legal in many states.

We are absolutely obligated to restrain evil by voting; however, this is not sufficient. To successfully stop abortion and other evils, Christians must engage with individuals in their spheres of influence conversationally to change hearts and minds. If public opinion on abortion is swayed, then people will not elect officials at the local, state, or federal level who advocate for the moral acceptability of abortion. Also, a cultural shift toward valuing unborn life will have a positive impact on women with unplanned pregnancies to move away from seeing abortion as their only option, which will in turn lead to fewer women seeking underground abortions should abortion be made illegal.

No matter who wins this election, there is still a lot of work to be done in redeeming the culture and influencing the public square. People’s eternal destiny, as well as the soul of our nation, are at stake. As we continue our engagement post-election, we must keep an eternal perspective. Every political loss and win is temporary because this earth is “passing away” (1 John 2:17). While we must engage passionately, we cannot put our hope or faith in any political candidate or party, only in Christ our Savior and King. Regardless of who is in the White House and whether that person is friendly or hostile to orthodox Christianity, Christians have orders from God and must be faithful to Him alone; we cannot disengage, give up, or get comfortable.

Key Trump Administration Officials Show How Religious Freedom Is Being Defended at Home and Abroad

by Ruth Moreno

October 28, 2020

On October 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held an insightful virtual panel event on the importance of protecting religious liberty both domestically and internationally. The event, titled “Religious Freedom in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond,” addressed how the current pandemic has affected the national and international dialogue on religious liberty.

The Freedom of Religion Is “Essential”

Much has been said about the threats to religious liberty posed by overbearing officials here in the United States. Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the HHS, emphasized during Tuesday’s panel that as the COVID-19 pandemic claims more and more lives, we must be prepared to ask the question: what do people live for?

For many people, Severino said, “it is their belief in God and religious community.” This means we may need to rethink what we mean when we talk about what counts as an “essential” service.

We really tread on dangerous waters when we’re picking and choosing what counts as essential versus not, when part of human nature is to seek the transcendent and express it according to your best lights,” Severino said.

He also spoke more broadly about how the federal government has been working hard to uphold religious liberty and freedom of conscience, saying it “should not be up for debate. It should be beyond dispute just like every other civil right.”

Claire Murray, who serves as an Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ), reminded panelists that “There’s no pandemic exception to the Constitution” regarding religious freedom. Within the DOJ, Murray has worked to make sure religious organizations are not singled out by state and local leaders. Since the beginning of the government-enforced lockdowns, the DOJ has filed six amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

Murray also addressed the continuing controversy over the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order which was exempted from certain parts of the Affordable Care Act and associated mandates which would have forced them to violate their religious beliefs about contraception and abortion. Murray said that President Trump’s 2017 Executive Order on the protection of religious liberty has helped guide the federal government as it continues dealing with challenges and settlements in lower federal courts.

Progress in Protecting the Rights of Believers Around the World

Yet domestic religious freedom policy work is only part of the story; many more good efforts are being undertaken overseas. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback and Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, the United States’ Permanent Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, both spoke at length about the United States’ mission to protect religious liberty internationally, which Brownback called “a centerpiece of policy.”

Ambassador Brownback also remarked on some unexpected religious freedom developments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several countries have released prisoners of conscience for fear that they will contract the virus, which Brownback applauded as “good news.” However, Brownback also warned against the scapegoating of religious minorities who have spread the virus within their communities and said that he has been “pushing back against that aggressively.”

Brownback concluded that the overall trendline has been positive, while Bremberg noted he is still “deeply concerned about governments around the world” using COVID to suppress religious freedom, and reminded panelists that the current focus on the pandemic has allowed the world’s worst human rights abusers to get away with their atrocities. Ambassador Bremberg spoke specifically about religious persecution in Russia, Nigeria, and especially in China.

Although the United Nations (UN) has an office dedicated to religious liberty, Bremberg regrets the silence which has come over many in the international community regarding the persecution of Uyghur Muslim minorities in China. Still, though, the United States has pressed ahead in promoting religious liberty, and Bremberg hopes other countries will look to us, and not to China, as a model.

Brownback agreed, saying “You’ve got a fundamental choice between the Chinese model and the U.S. model on religious freedom … The U.S. says, ‘you are free to do what you want with your soul. It’s a God-given right. No government has the right to interfere with it.’”

The United States’ tradition of religious liberty is inspired by our Declaration of Independence, but Ambassador Bremberg emphasized that the United States should not have to fight alone. The UN lists religious liberty as a fundamental right in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and though there is much work to be done, the international community has made some progress in protecting this right for all people.

Today, many countries still have apostasy and blasphemy laws so strict that changing one’s faith or otherwise violating these laws is enough to give one the death penalty. Under the Trump administration, the United States has formed an International Religious Freedom Alliance with 30 other countries and several more which may join. The Alliance has worked to protect religious rights in conflict zones and do away with these atrocious apostasy and blasphemy laws.

Ambassador Bremberg closed the panel with a further call to action: “Will we choose to protect, defend, [and] fight for, fundamental human rights established over 70 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the right for religious freedom? Or will we not fight for them?”

All Americans Should Stand for Religious Liberty

Fighting for religious liberty, both at home and abroad, takes a lot of time and effort. The rise of secularism and the devaluing of the religious voice, as Severino said, have threatened people’s rights to exercise their faith as they see fit. It is the duty of all Americans, of all faiths, to stand up and fight for religious liberty alongside Severino, Murray, Brownback, Bremberg, and other members of the Trump administration who have worked so hard to protect this most fundamental right.

For several years now, key Trump administration officials like those at this HHS event have been attempting to diligently implement the administration’s religious freedom policies, often in the face of much opposition. They and many others within the executive branch have been fighting for our rights day-in and day-out, often with little credit. As we approach a presidential election, it’s appropriate to take note of the many positive religious liberty developments that have actually occurred under the Trump administration.

To find out more about what the administration has been doing to protect religious freedom, both at home and abroad, please see the full list of the Trump administration’s accomplishments at PrayVoteStand.org

In Somalia: Christian Prisoners and Courageous Witnesses

by Lela Gilbert

October 27, 2020

The East African country of Somalia is best known to most Americans for three unsettling reasons. First of all, many learned about Somalia thanks to the tragic “Black Hawk Down” battle—the event, the book, and the film. The country is also infamous for attacks by Somali pirates on international shipping routes. And, today, the ruthless terrorist group al-Shabaab continues to torment its Somali homeland as well as the surrounding African nations.

Is Somalia a place for intrepid American tourists to visit? On October 5, 2020, the State Department scored it as a “Category 4” risk with a concise comment: “Do not travel to Somalia due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping, and piracy.”

And what about being a tempting site for Christian missionaries eager to reach out to Muslims? Sharia law prevails in most of the country, and where it is not officially enforced, the fierce implementation of apostasy and blasphemy laws (whether official or unofficial) is handled by locals, and particularly by those who support the anti-Christian goals of al-Shabaab—whether officially affiliated with the terror group or not.

The U.S. State Department 2020 report explained:

Al-Shabaab continued to impose its own interpretation of Islamic practices and sharia on other Muslims and non-Muslims, including executions as a penalty for alleged apostasy in areas under its control, according to media and UN sources. According to the BBC, by October this year (2019) was one of the deadliest on record for fatalities from al-Shabaab attacks, with numbers already more than 1,200.

With all that in mind, I was shocked to hear from an alarmed representative of New Covenant Missions about a Christian family that had recently been arrested in Hargeisa on September 21. The Somaliland Police accused the couple of abandoning Islam, and even more dangerously, of evangelizing the people of Somaliland. According to a report about the incident from Somali Bible Society, “The spokesperson’s speech was peppered with threats against local Christians.”

The report went on to say that the arrested man had been tortured; his wife had delivered a baby by C-section just weeks before the arrest and required urgent medical attention, and the baby was in need of maternal care and breastfeeding.

I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn that Christians were attacked in Somalia. More amazing to me was that after so many war-torn years and violent incidents, any Christians remained there at all. And not only do they remain, but according to reports, there are hundreds of new believers who continue to worship in secret underground churches—small gatherings comprised entirely of brave and faithful local converts from Islam.

But what about that imprisoned family? What can any of us do in the face of such a tragic report? Of course, to begin with, let’s agree to pray for this couple and their baby. For reasons of security we should simply call the parents “Mohammed” and “Nebiyat.” And let’s also thank God for the holy light of Christian lives shining in such a dark place. What amazing courage these new believers have!

And finally, let’s not fail to pray for the brave outreach groups from the United States and elsewhere—groups like New Covenant Missions. They are operating in one of the most dangerous and chaotic places on earth. Let’s pray for all concerned—prisoners and ministers alike—and for their safety, encouragement, and inspiration to carry on their heroic ministries.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of October 18)

by Family Research Council

October 23, 2020

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

1. Blog: A Christian Girl’s Response To a Christian Guy’s Struggle With Pornography

Studies continue to find that well over 70 percent of young men these days view pornography on a weekly basis. Porn teaches men that women are less than human and provides a false sense of intimacy. As Christians, we must honestly address the harm porn causes while also striving to understand this struggle and seek how to helpfully respond.

2. Blog: Christian Voting Myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

Do the majority of Americans actually decide who wins elections? In part 4 of our 4-part series dedicated to debunking common Christian voting myths, we unpack the myth: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

3. FREE Voter Guide: Text your zip code to 53445 for your FREE Voter Guide

Wouldn’t you like to know if someone on your ballot supports partial-birth abortion BEFORE you vote? What about a candidate that supports restricting gun rights or is endorsed by Bernie Sanders? FRC Action has the quickest voter education tool ever created. Simply Text your zip code to 53445 right now and you’ll get FRC Action’s FREE voter guide for the candidates on your ballot.

4. Washington Watch: Sen. Roy Blunt believes Barrett’s hearing helped highlight the sharp contrast between the parties

Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator from Missouri, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the fourth day of the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings.

5. Washington WatchAndy McCarthy insists there’s a lot more to the Hunter Biden cover-up that includes China & Russia

Andy McCarthy, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Senior Fellow at the National Review Institute, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the significance of the Hunter Biden emails.

6. Washington Watch: Luke Rosiak exposes the shocking realities of what public schools are teaching in his new report

Luke Rosiak, investigative reporter for WhatAreTheyLearning.com, joined Tony Perkins to discuss what his investigative reporting has uncovered about what children are learning in public schools.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Gender Reassignment

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Pastor Amado Huizar, journalist Abigail Shrier, Dr. Michelle Cretella and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) to discuss whether minors have the capacity to make life-altering decisions to change their gender.

 

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.com, 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.

Family Research Council’s vision is a prevailing culture in which all human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives. Join us to learn about FRC’s work and see how you can help advance faith, family, and freedom.

Despite Roe Polling, a Majority of Americans Support Stronger Abortion Restrictions

by Laura Grossberndt , Katherine Beck Johnson , Ruth Moreno

October 23, 2020

Opinion polls reveal some cognitive dissonance in Americans’ minds concerning abortion laws. Although most Americans say they support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, most also favor significant abortion restrictions. Why the seeming inconsistency?

First, some background. In Roe, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is protected under the U.S. Constitution. This decision struck down many state laws that had restricted abortion. It also severely limited the extent to which states could write their own abortion laws. The Court correlated the permissibility of different kinds of abortions to the three trimesters of pregnancy:

  • First trimester: States cannot restrict abortion.
  • Second trimester: Regulations designed to protect a pregnant woman’s health, but not to further a state’s interest in potential life, are permitted.
  • Third trimester: States can completely outlaw abortion, except when “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Under Roe, no restrictions on abortion in the second or third trimesters are mandated and are forbidden in the first trimester. Therefore, abortion through all nine months of pregnancy is the default unless Congress or the individual states pass laws restricting it.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey did away with Roe’s trimester framework and created a new rule: a state cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s attempt to obtain an abortion pre-viability.

National polls indicate strong support for Roe. Sixty percent (Gallup) and 66 percent (NBC News) of Americans support it, while only 29 percent of Americans favor overturning it (NBC News). Roe, then, appears to be a settled court case in the minds of the American people.

However, polls indicate a greater variation in Americans’ opinions when it comes to abortion itself. Only 27 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal “in all cases” (ABC News by Langer Research Associates), and seven in 10 Americans would like to see abortion limited to the first three months of pregnancy at most (Knights of Columbus and Marist). The latter poll found that 52 percent of Americans think women should be required to see an ultrasound of her unborn child prior to receiving an abortion. Furthermore, the poll found that 80 percent of Americans think laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child.

A mere 18 percent of Americans support the legalization of abortion up until birth (NPR and Marist), and 54 percent want to see more restrictions on abortion than there currently are (CBS). Sixty-five percent of Americans support a required 24-hour waiting period for an abortion (The Kaiser Family Foundation). Like the Knights of Columbus and Marist poll, the Kaiser poll found that 52 percent support a mandatory ultrasound viewing by mothers.

Why this seeming inconsistency between the American public’s opinions on Roe and abortion itself? Tim Carney of the American Enterprise Institute posits an answer: a poll’s outcome depends on how the survey questions are asked. Many Americans are unaware of what Roe actually says about abortion, mistakenly believing that it only protects abortion through the first few months of pregnancy. When asked whether they would like to see Roe overturned, most Americans say no, because most Americans are neither entirely pro-life nor pro-choice. Instead, most Americans favor abortion laws that restrict most abortions but provide exceptions for early-term abortions, abortions in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s health or life is in grave danger.

Roe v. Wade permits abortion in far more circumstances than these. If survey respondents knew that Roe essentially allows abortion in all cases at any stage in pregnancy up to the moment of birth, support for the court decision would probably plummet among Americans with more moderate views. Americans’ ignorance serves the pro-choice lobby and is likely why polls indicate public support for Roe.

As long as the largely pro-choice mainstream media can convince moderates that Roe v. Wade aligns with their beliefs, the Supreme Court will feel pressured into upholding its 1973 decision despite the fact that it goes against the will of the American people.

To see where your state stacks up on permitting later-term abortion under Roe, see our state-by-state pro-life map.

What Is “Originalism”?

by Mary Beth Waddell, J.D.

October 22, 2020

Following last week’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously voted her nomination favorably to the floor—with no Democrats even bothering to show up. As Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed out, they were continuing their theater from the hearing.

At the hearing, some senators rightly noted that those watching were probably confused by what they saw and heard. The Democrats spent much of their allotted time making speeches in opposition to President Donald Trump and his policies, rather than questioning Judge Barrett and evaluating her qualifications. This gave the false impression that she would have policymaking ability if confirmed as a justice. When Democrats did question Judge Barrett, there was significant focus on her judicial philosophy of originalism. While questions about judicial philosophy are entirely appropriate, some Democrats mischaracterized originalism—leading to more confusion and further elevating the false narrative that she would be a judicial activist.

So, what is originalism?

While there are several strains of this judicial philosophy, we should look to Judge Barrett’s own explanation of the doctrine during her confirmation hearing, especially since it is her perspective that will matter here:

I interpret the Constitution as a law … I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time [the] people ratified it. So, that meaning doesn’t change over time, and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.

She later said:

It’s original public meaning, not the subjective intent of any particular drafter, that matters. We are not controlled by how James Madison [the father of the Constitution] perceived any particular problem, but rather the people at that time.

Of course, Barrett isn’t the only one who holds to this judicial philosophy. Even some with a more liberal leaning, like Professor Akhil Amar of Yale Law School, are originalists.

For guidance on the Constitution’s “plain meaning,” it is important to have some historical context. The Federalist Papers are a series of essays that were written to gain the public’s support for the ratification of the Constitution, so they are a great source of information on the subject. Alexander Hamilton, the principal author of The Federalist Papers, focused on the Judiciary in Federalist 78 through 83 and wrote that the courts should base their decisions on “the fundamental law,” and when a statute is unconstitutional, it is their duty to adhere to the Constitution and strike the statute down.

Some of the Founders feared that the Judiciary, the branch least controlled by the people, could ultimately become the most powerful of the three. Hamilton noted that the Judiciary could not significantly hinder liberty in and of itself, but it would be dangerous if it was ever combined with one of the other branches.

The Federalist Papers are very clear that the Judiciary was expected to be the weakest of the three branches of the federal government. Therefore, Hamilton pointed out that “the supposed danger of judiciary encroachments on the legislative authority” was “in reality a phantom” because its power was bounded by its weakness, constitutional construction, and the legislature having impeachment power if necessary.

With this historical context, it becomes clear that originalism is a judicial philosophy that acts as a brake on runaway judicial power. Looking to the Constitution as our reference point, originalism acknowledges that the Judiciary would be a threat to freedom if it began legislating instead of just upholding the Constitution. Originalism is all about keeping the will of the people central and not imposing the Supreme Court justices’ own beliefs.

It’s important to note that the historical restraint of originalism doesn’t necessitate race discrimination, as was unfortunately the practice in 1791. Democrats implied this as a reason why they generally oppose originalism as a judicial philosophy. As for Judge Barrett, she stated that “Brown [the Supreme Court case that ended school segregation] was correct as an original matter.”

Originalism also doesn’t mean that the Constitution can’t be applied to modern times. Responding to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) during her confirmation hearing on how originalism still applies to current issues, Judge Barrett said:

The Constitution—one reason why it is the longest-lasting written constitution in the world is because it is written at a level of generality that is specific enough to protect rights but general enough to be lasting.

When discussing Fourth Amendment issues of today with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Judge Barrett further said:

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It doesn’t mean that it protects only the kinds of searches and seizures that those who lived at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights could have anticipated. Surely, they could not have anticipated the internet or cell phones or airplanes, for that matter. One can reason from the kinds of privacy protections that were in place in 1791 when the Fourth Amendment was ratified to see if the search of modern technology now is analogous to it.

In her exchange with Judge Barrett, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), the highest-ranking Democrat on the Committee, peppered Judge Barrett with questions on policy and said her vote depended on the answers.  Yet this shows that Democrats want the Judiciary to act as a quasi-legislative body—the very thing the Framers feared. As an originalist, Judge Barrett will constrain herself to the law and not impose her own will on the people. She repeatedly let this be known throughout the hearing.

Having originalist judges on the Supreme Court prevents judicial activism and helps keep the one branch of government designed to be most removed from politics apolitical. The politicization and activism we have seen from the Court in recent decades make it more vital now than ever to ensure we have originalist justices on the Court.

The full Senate will begin consideration of Judge Barrett’s nomination on October 23. Debate and procedural votes will occur over the course of a few days, and the final floor vote is scheduled for October 26.

Let us hope and pray that we will have a new justice on the Supreme Court before October’s end!

Nagorno-Karabakh: Where Armenian Christians Are Fighting for Their Lives

by Lela Gilbert

October 22, 2020

On October 1, 2020, a violent and dangerous war erupted in a tiny Christian enclave—a spot on the globe few Americans can probably find. And it bears a name that even fewer know how to pronounce: Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh).

On October 21, the New York Times reported, “The three-week-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over a disputed territory in the Caucasus Mountains, where Europe meets Asia, has settled into a brutal war of attrition, soldiers and civilians said in interviews here on the ground in recent days. Azerbaijan is sacrificing columns of fighters, Armenians say, to eke out small territorial gains in the treacherous terrain of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave that is part of Azerbaijan under international law…” The Times continues:

Azerbaijan, an oil and gas hub on the Caspian Sea, has deployed superior firepower, using advanced drones and artillery systems … But three weeks into the conflict, Azerbaijan has failed to convert that advantage into broad territorial gains, indicating that a long and punishing war looms. It could morph into a wider crisis …

Turkey’s involvement in this war, led by its ruthless president, is highly controversial. As I wrote for the Jerusalem Post a few months ago:

Turkish aggression in at least five countries has been headlined in international news reports just this month, June 2020. These accounts focus on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest intrusions into Israel, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Greece.

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy to those of us who focus on international religious freedom that whenever Turkey moves in, religious freedom moves out. There can be no lasting freedom of worship for any faith unless it conforms with Turkey’s Islamic practices.

Today we can add Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the list of Erdogan’s desired conquests. His hostile grasping into other lands, his transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Chora Church into mosques, and his militant outbursts underscore an intense desire to Islamize the region under the auspices of a renewed Ottoman Empire.

Azerbaijan is more than happy to have Turkey’s support—some say instigation—to continue cleansing Nagorno-Karabakh of Armenians. That would enable the Azeris, supported by their Turkish allies, to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh’s disputed cities, towns, and villages for itself. And Turkey’s firepower is formidable.

But besides placing Turkish soldiers in harm’s way alongside the Azeris, Erdogan has also financed Syrian jihadi mercenaries—reportedly thousands of them—to augment the attack on the Armenian enclave. Foreign Policy headlined one story, “Syrians Make Up Turkey’s Proxy Army in Nagorno-Karabakh: After fighting Turkey’s battles in Libya, the Syrian National Army is caught in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan—and dozens are dying.”

In 1994, the first serious round of this conflict took place and some 30,000 died. At the time of this writing, although precise numbers are unclear, it appears that thousands more Azeris, Turks, Syrian mercenaries, and Armenians have lost their lives in the present fighting.

Most of Nagorno-Karabakh’s residents are Armenian Christians. And Armenia is, of course, well known, primarily because of the Armenian Genocide, which took place in the early 20th century. During that bloodbath, the Ottoman Empire’s Turkish Muslims slaughtered some 1.5 million Armenians, along with thousands more Pontic Greek and Assyrian Christians. 

Turkey has long denied those horrifying massacres, which the rest of the world has recognized and mourned. In fact, the Armenian Genocide is far too well documented by photos, personal accounts, and governmental reports to be plausibly refuted. 

It is noteworthy that at the genocide’s beginning, on November 13, 1914, a call to jihad—a holy war against Christian “infidels”—was officially announced by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V Resad. The carnage began just days later. And, as I recently learned in a conversation with a friend in Yerevan, Azerbaijan’s present invasion is perceived by most Armenian Christians as the continuation of that same Islamist jihad against Armenia’s Christians.

Armenia was the first country in the world to convert to Christianity—in 301 AD. Its Armenian Orthodox Church is rooted in the earliest Christian history. In fact, the biblical record of Armenia’s land stretches back to the book of Genesis, when Noah’s ark came to rest after the Great Flood on what came to be known as Mt. Ararat. To this day, the deep faith of the Armenian people is evident. The historic role of the Christian faith in this land is undisputed.

Some years after the 1994 conflict, I traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia with Baroness Cox, Lifetime Peer in the U.K.’s House of Lords. It was during that trip I first learned that this conflict is not simply an “ethnic dispute.” It holds deep religious significance for combatants and civilians alike. Meanwhile, I was struck by Caroline Cox’s heart for the local Christians, their churches, and their charities.

With regard to the present fighting, a few days ago Baroness Cox sent me some of her present insights. Unsurprisingly, she strongly “condemns Turkey’s provocative actions and demands the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish armed forces, including the air force and jihadi terrorist mercenaries from the conflict zone.”

She continued: “The direct involvement of Turkey and the scale and ferocity of this offensive raises the genuine fear of an attempt at the genocide of the Armenian people which Turkey’s highest leadership has declared in so many ways … The revival of Ottoman rhetoric by the Turkish government reinforces the possibility/danger of realization of this evil intent.”

Baroness Cox concluded: 

In the previous attempt by Turkey to achieve the genocide of the Armenians in 1915, the UK stood firmly against it. The historic and recent acts of ethnic cleansing committed by Turkey and Azerbaijan mean that for the Armenians, the preservation of Artsakh is a question of survival for their people and for their spiritual, cultural, and political heritage.

In Fulton, the Religious Liberty of Foster Care Providers Hangs in the Balance

by Kaitlyn Shepherd

October 21, 2020

During its last term, the Supreme Court garnered considerable attention by wading into the culture wars over polarizing social issues such as abortion and sexuality. Decisions to strike down a common-sense law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges and to redefine “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity were mourned by conservatives and applauded by liberals.

While secular activists lamented, conservatives celebrated decisions upholding the rights of religious families and schools to participate in neutral tuition assistance programs and requiring foreign organizations to adopt policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking to receive federal funds to combat HIV/AIDS. The Court will likely remain in the public eye during its current term, when it will hear arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that will have significant implications for the future of religious liberty and foster care in America. The justices will hear oral arguments in the case on November 4.

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” Thus, the Constitution protects religious liberty in two separate but related provisions. The Establishment Clause prevents Congress from favoring any religious denomination at the national level, while the Free Exercise Clause guarantees Americans the right to believe and act according to their religious convictions. Both Clauses also constrain the actions of the states. Prior to 1963, the right to freely exercise one’s religion was somewhat limited. While an individual’s religious beliefs were absolutely protected, his or her freedom to act on those beliefs could be fairly easily regulated.  

In 1963 and 1972, the Supreme Court decided two landmark religious liberty cases, Sherbert v. Verner and Wisconsin v. Yoder. These cases established the strict scrutiny standard, which means that when the government implements a law or policy that burdens someone’s right to free exercise, it must show (1) that it has a compelling state interest that justifies its burden on religious exercise and (2) that its law or policy is the least restrictive means of accomplishing this compelling interest. Because of their robust protection of religious liberty, Sherbert and Yoder ushered in a Golden Age of religious freedom in America.

In 1990, the Court issued an unexpected decision that dramatically changed religious liberty protections. In Employment Division v. Smith, the Court abandoned the strict scrutiny standard and held that the government only needs to show that its law or policy is neutral and generally applicable in order to overcome a free exercise challenge. This “neutral law of general applicability” standard waters down protections for religious liberty by giving the government a lower bar to overcome. The government only needs to demonstrate that the law treats religious and secular groups equally and was not enacted to target religion. Under this standard, religious individuals are rarely successful in court and must prove that they were actively targeted for their religious beliefs to prevail.

In its upcoming term, the Court will consider Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The decision will impact the rights of religious foster care agencies to speak and act consistently with their sincerely held religious beliefs. One of the plaintiffs in the case, Catholic Social Services (CSS), is a faith-based foster care agency that operates in Philadelphia. When a child enters Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City refers them to one of several foster care agencies. These agencies then evaluate prospective foster parents to certify that they meet state standards. Because of its sincerely held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, CSS considers same-sex couples to be unmarried and is unable to certify them as foster parents. However, if an LGBT-identified couple were ever to approach them (which has never happened), CSS would refer them to another agency that would be a better fit. Nevertheless, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has stopped referring children to CSS.

In the lower courts, CSS argued that the City’s actions were neither neutral nor generally applicable and targeted CSS because of its religious beliefs. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that there was no First Amendment violation and that Philadelphia did not treat CSS differently because of its religious beliefs. Rather, the court found that Philadelphia was merely engaged in a good-faith effort to enforce its nondiscrimination policy, which “prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations.”  

In Fulton, one of the major issues that the Supreme Court will consider is whether it should revisit its decision in Employment Division v. Smith. If the Court revisits and overrules Smith, it will be a major victory for religious liberty that could restore the favorable strict scrutiny standard. However, if the Court declines to revisit Smith, or revisits and upholds Smith, its damaging precedent will become further entrenched in American law, dealing a major blow to religious liberty. The Court’s decision could be influenced by its recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which, as Justice Alito predicted in his dissent, could affect the speech of those who desire to “express[] disapproval of same-sex relationships …”

Allowing religious discrimination against faith-based foster care agencies would not just be a blow to the constitutionally-protected right of religious liberty. It would also be detrimental to the already overburdened foster care system. In states and localities that have forced religious agencies to close, children suffer. For example, after Illinois passed a statute that forced all foster care and adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, nearly 3,000 children were displaced from religious agencies that were forced to close, and over 5,000 foster homes were lost. In Philadelphia, the home of a “Foster Parent of the Year” award winner who had been serving needy youth for decades was forcibly closed to foster youth, as were others. After the City ended its contract with CSS, siblings of children who had already been placed by the agency faced the daunting prospective of being forced into separate homes.  

Pennsylvania is not the only state to witness the targeting of religious foster care agencies. In Michigan, an activist couple targeted St. Vincent Catholic Charities, passing four other agencies they could have worked with as they traveled from their home to St. Vincent. Here, referrals had been made. Children in St. Vincent’s care had been transferred to other agencies working with LGBT-identified couples who were interested in adopting children in St. Vincent’s care. And in New York, New Hope Family Services, which has been serving needy children for over 50 years, was informed by the state that it must either change its policy of referring LGBT-identified couples to other agencies or cease its adoption services. A New York District Court judge recently issued an injunction on behalf of the church, preventing the state “from revoking New Hope Family Services’ authorization to place children for adoption.”

In Fulton, the Court stands poised to issue a decision that will have a lasting impact on the religious liberty of foster care agencies and perhaps that of all Americans. While we watch and wait for the Court’s decision, we should pray that God would give the justices wisdom to make the right decision.

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

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