Month Archives: March 2021

Yet Another Christian Teenager in Pakistan is Trapped in a Forced Marriage. It’s Time to Act.

by Arielle Del Turco

March 24, 2021

When 13-year-old Shakaina Masih’s mother arrived to take her home from the job at which she helped with housework, she was informed that her daughter had already left. When Shakaina never showed up, concern soon became alarm as her parents urgently filed a missing person report. After initially delaying to respond, police informed Shakaina’s parents that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man last month.

Devastated to learn that their teenage daughter was supposedly married to a man whose name they had never even heard, Shakaina’s parents believe she was abducted. “Shakaina is just a kid,” Shakaina’s father, Johnson Masih told Morning Star News. “She was kidnapped and taken to Okara, where they forcibly converted her and conducted the fake marriage to give it a religious cover.” Many Christian parents in Pakistan fear exactly this occurrence—and it is all too common.

Hundreds of girls from Christian and Hindu backgrounds are kidnapped each year and forcibly converted before being raped and often forced to live as their abductor’s wives. Widespread discrimination and the government’s failure to protect religious freedom creates an environment that enables this horrific practice to thrive. Islamic clerics who solemnize underage marriages, magistrates who make the marriages legal, and corrupt authorities who refuse to investigate all contribute to the problem.

Huma Younus, a Christian girl kidnapped at 14 years old, also remains trapped. In October 2019, three men waited until Huma’s parents left their home before barging in and taking Huma by force. A few days later, the kidnappers sent Huma’s parents copies of a marriage certificate and documents alleging her willing conversion to Islam. 

Now 15 years old, reports indicate Huma is confined to one room in her abductor’s house and is now pregnant from repeated rape. Though a judicial magistrate in East Karachi issued a warrant for the arrest of her kidnapper last September, police have reportedly delayed acting upon the warrant.

Intense social hostility to religious minority groups can make doing the right thing dangerous for judges and officials. Nothing makes this reality more clear than the situation surrounding the country’s blasphemy laws.

Conviction on a blasphemy charge in Pakistan can mean life imprisonment or a death sentence. Even if the court acquits someone, violent mobs may form to take the punishment into their own hands. In 2020, an Ahmadi Muslim man who was accused of blasphemy was dramatically shot and killed in the courtroom.

Pressure from Islamists to punish non-Muslims is intense. Just this month, one Pakistani Christian’s sentence was made harsher following an appeal filed by the Islamist legal group Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Forum (KNF) who were seeking the death penalty over the Christian’s blasphemy charge. When Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, publicly defended Asia Bibi in 2011, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, he was assassinated at a public market.

The social hostility surrounding court cases that involve non-Muslims make it more difficult for religious minorities to receive justice—even when the victims are vulnerable young girls. In response, the Pakistani govnerment should be taking steps to secure the rule of law and protect its Christian and other minority citizens.

The scope of the issue and the heinous nature of the crimes make forced marriage in Pakistan an issue that deserves to be addressed by the international community. A new publication by Family Research Council offers several recommendations for how U.S. officials can combat the practice of forced marriages in Pakistan.

First, State Department officials should prioritize the issue of forced conversions and marriages in diplomatic relations. This issue should also factor into considerations of whether Pakistan should be designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) on religious freedom by the State Department.

Second, Congress should pass a resolution urging that forced marriage and forced conversion of religious minorities in Pakistan be addressed by both the U.S. govnerment and Pakistani government. Resolutions do not carry the force of law, but they communicate issues about which Congress is especially concerned.

Third, the United States should apply targeted sanctions on Pakistani officials responsible for committing or tolerating human rights abuses. This is an effective way to let corrupt officials know that their complicity in human rights abuses will have international consequences.

Raising the issue of forced marriages of minority girls in Pakistan is especially important because these communities are marginalized and ill-equipped to publicly defend themselves. By advocating on their behalf, the United States can uphold its role as a leader on human rights and raise awareness on a grave problem that receives scant attention.

Biden’s Cabinet (Part 6): Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh’s Fixation on the LGBT Agenda

by Joseph Norris

March 23, 2021

This is Part 6 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read previous posts on Antony BlinkenXavier BecerraJennifer GranholmMarcia Fudge, and Shalanda Young.

Confirmed by the Senate 68-29, Marty Walsh, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), will have to choose between advancing the LGBT agenda and protecting religious liberty. Given the policies of past Democratic administrations and Walsh’s own track record, it is safe to assume that he will advocate for policies that favor the LGBT agenda to the detriment of religious liberty.

Walsh served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives before serving two terms as the mayor of Boston. During his confirmation hearing on February 4, Walsh highlighted his status as a labor union member and advocate. A closer analysis of his background reveals a long track record of prioritizing the LGBT agenda. As a Massachusetts state representative, Walsh argued in favor of same-sex marriage bills. As Boston’s mayor, he intentionally hired several LGBT employees as a political statement, not based solely on their merits for the job, and made the bathrooms in City Hall gender-neutral. Walsh also sought to ensure that city employees had access to “transition-related healthcare services.” Walsh seems set to continue his LGBT activism at the DOL.

The policies of the Obama-era DOL severely limited the religious liberty of faith adherents that sought to contract with DOL. As a result, religious individuals and non-profit organizations were less likely to seek government contracts or utilize government services. Seeking to reverse this trend, the Trump administration’s DOL finalized a rule encouraging “the full and equal participation of religious organizations as federal contractors.” Family Research Council had submitted comments in support of this rule change, which ensured that people would “be free to believe as they engage with the government and in the public square.” This rule change is one of the policies that is likely in danger with Walsh at the helm of the DOL.

As FRC’s David Closson has noted, there is a growing perception in America that religious liberty is merely an excuse for bigotry. We must tactfully and graciously contradict this misconception, explaining that religious liberty—freedom of belief—is good for everyone, not just people of faith. Christians should also pray that Walsh and the DOL will seek the good of all American workers while still respecting the religious freedom protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Elected Leaders Are Moving to Protect Children and Religious Freedom

by Chantel Hoyt

March 22, 2021

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would allow faith-based child welfare agencies to operate in line with their convictions and protect their religious freedom. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) while Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the House. Speaking about the bill, Scott said, “At a time where religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [CWPIA] is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions.”

Several states have also recognized the need for such legislation. In recent weeks, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Kentucky have all introduced legislation that aims to provide the same protections to faith-based child welfare agencies. Specifically, this includes the freedom to place children in homes consistent with their beliefs on biblical family life and sexuality.

While it is the first time this type of legislation has been introduced in these three states, their introduction, as well as the introduction of the federal CWPIA, signals broader concern around the country about the Biden administration’s focus on LGBT issues and how it will impact religious liberty. With President Biden’s support for the Equality Act—a bill that would negatively impact these faith-based agencies (and many other groups)—the future of faith-based child welfare agencies is uncertain. But those committed to preserving religious freedom aren’t likely to go down without a fight.

Legislatures in eight different states have felt the need to pass legislation to protect foster and adoption care agencies, beginning in 2012 (Virginia) and most recently in 2020 (Tennessee). Such legislation allows these agencies to operate in a way consistent with their religious beliefs, without suffering from license revocation, contract termination, or other adverse action from the state. This growing threat has already been seen in Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. In many of these instances, faith-based foster and adoption care agencies have been forced to forego their religious beliefs, serve in a severely limited capacity, and even close their doors because they were not willing to compromise on their principles regarding marriage and sexuality.

Although such discriminatory actions harm the children these agencies serve, opponents of faith-based organizations tend to only focus on LGBT couples who are ‘turned away,’ supposedly limiting the pool of parents willing to help children in need. However, this logic makes two false assumptions.

The first is that faith-based child welfare agencies are LGBT couples’ only option to become parents. This is simply not the case. The majority of agencies in the country are more than willing to work with same-sex couples. Only about 25 percent of agencies are faith-based and have narrow criteria potential parents must meet. For example, in Philadelphia in 2018, only two out of the nearly 30 child welfare agencies were faith-based. The city terminated these agencies’ contracts anyway. The lawsuit filed against the city by foster parents who worked with Catholic Social Services has shown that the agency had not denied service or turned away anyone because of their LGBT status. Further, it showed that should they be unable to partner with a couple that approaches them, they would help that couple connect with one of the other 29 agencies in the city. This is not enough for the activists. Clearly, they were sued because of their religious belief. The picture of a same-sex couple being turned away from a faith-based agency and having nowhere else to turn is simply inaccurate.  

The second false assumption is that more children will receive homes and much needed care if faith-based agencies are forced to make the choice between their beliefs and continuing to help those in need. The reality, though, is that fewer children will receive the care they need because some of the highest performing and longest serving agencies will be shut down or sidelined simply because they’re faith-based. Illinois’ foster and adoption system, for example, seems to still be suffering after the closure of Catholic Charities in 2011. Sadly, Illinois has seen a 14 percent decrease in the number of non-relative foster care beds or homes from 2012 to 2017, and the state lost 1,547 foster homes during that same time period—homes that could have been available to serve foster children in need. It should go without saying that this will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems.

Protecting the ability of faith-based child welfare agencies to continue operating in accordance with their religious beliefs is good for everyone. It helps more children receive care by increasing the number of agencies able to serve them. Allowing religious organizations of any kind to operate alongside non-religious ones is crucial to preserve freedom of religion in our society and to ensure that we are able to serve as many children in need as possible.

We are thankful for the many states and those in Congress who are taking steps to protect this crucial area of religious freedom.

FRC On the Hill (March 15-19): A Radical HHS Secretary, So-Called “Women’s Rights” Bills, and the Equality Act

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joseph Norris

March 19, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.

The Senate Confirms Biden’s Radical HHS Nominee

This week, the Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Xavier Becerra as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra lacks any significant experience in public health; what he does have is an extensive track record of advocating for pro-abortion policies. The FRC team worked diligently over the past few months to inform senators about Becerra’s troubling history.

Becerra was confirmed with the support of two moderate senators who have voted for pro-life measures in the past, Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Collins (R-Maine). They unfortunately overlooked Becerra’s record and voted to confirm the most pro-abortion HHS secretary in history. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lead the Republican efforts to defeat Becerra’s nomination and spoke eloquently on the Senate floor. Cotton highlighted Becerra’s history of attacking pro-life groups while serving as California’s attorney general.

It is no fluke that Becerra’s nomination and confirmation coincide with ongoing aggressive lobbying from the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood has called for the removal of all regulations governing chemical abortions. Last month, the Guttmacher Institute released a long list of policy demands for the Biden administration. Now that Becerra is confirmed, FRC will work to expose Becerra’s efforts to implement President Biden’s radical anti-life, anti-family agenda.

See FRC’s resources for more information on Becerra:

House Votes on Women’s Rights Legislation Without Protecting Women

To mark Women’s History Month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on two measures advertised as advancing women’s rights. In reality, both measures contain language that poses great harm to biological women. Leading up to the votes, FRC informed members of Congress of the true nature of these bills and their harmful effects on women.

The first measure was a resolution to retroactively eliminate the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that failed to acquire support from the necessary number of states in the 1970s. The ERA has been touted as a legal cure for all unjust discrimination against women. However, the ERA would do little to advance women in society. Instead, it would mandate abortion funding and eliminate existing legal protections that celebrate the biological realities of women. The measure to remove the ratification deadline passed 244-204. However, the ERA garnered the lowest amount of support it has ever received in the past 50 years, with only four Republicans supporting it.

FRC’s Director of the Center for Human Dignity, Mary Szoch, shared her story of playing women’s basketball at Notre Dame and explained how the ERA would limit the dreams of countless women if it were ratified.

The second House measure was a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a historically bipartisan bill originally passed in 1994 in an effort to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and increase the availability of victims’ services. Unfortunately, this reauthorization bill perpetuates and adds language that prevents it from achieving these goals, making the bill about expanding a radical sexuality ideology, not protecting abuse victims. The bill passed 244-172, with many Republicans opposing it due to the provisions that promote abortion and the LGBT agenda. Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) highlighted how the bill did nothing to protect women from being coerced into an abortion from their partners. Sadly, Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) thoughtful amendment to ban sex-selection abortions was defeated by the pro-abortion majority.

The FRC team will continue to inform lawmakers on how these bills could be modified to achieve the goal of helping women.

See FRC’s resource for more information:

Debate Continues Around the Equality Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act, a bill that would massively overhaul our federal civil rights framework in order to mandate special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), expand abortion access, and gut religious liberty. If the Equality Act were to become law, it would leave many victims in its wake, including women, children, medical professionals, parents, teachers, students, families (including small business owners), the unborn, churches, religious organizations and schools, people of faith, and even those members of the LGBT community it claims to protect. FRC was instrumental in preparing senators to cut through the rhetoric and explain just how bad the Equality Act would be for our country.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), the Chairman of the Senate Values Action Team, put it best: “We don’t oppose equality, but we do oppose legislation when you take the rights of one and dismiss the rights of others.”

Alarmingly, President Biden has already said he would sign the bill if it does pass through Congress. FRC will continue to monitor the Equality Act as it moves through the Senate.

See FRC’s resource for more information:

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked This Week:

  • The Senate Health Committee voted 13-9 to advance Rachel Levine’s nomination to be HHS assistant secretary. Levine, a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman, has a history of advancing anti-family policies as the secretary of health in Pennsylvania.
  • The House Veteran’s Affairs Committee held a hearing on improving health care for America’s women veterans. Representatives Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) used this hearing to strongly push the VA to fund abortions. 
  • The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on forced labor. Several senators, including John Thune (R-S.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), raised concerns over the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in China.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 14)

by Family Research Council

March 19, 2021

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

1. Update: Biden Pentagon Deploys Weaponized PR

America’s biggest threat isn’t China or North Korea. It isn’t even Iran. According to this commander-in-chief, it’s a 51-year-old talk show host who isn’t afraid to call out this administration’s absurd military priorities. Tucker Carlson probably had no idea how powerful he was until last week, when the Defense Department dropped everything it was doing to turn its rhetorical guns on the Fox News commentator.

2. Update: Biden’s Fireside Splat

Joe Biden avoided talking to the American people longer than any president in the last 100 years. And when he finally did, it wasn’t exactly worth waiting for. After more than 50 days of silence, all Joe Biden proved by coming out of the White House basement is that he’s a sore and ungracious winner, who isn’t above taking credit for the vaccine successes he inherited.

3. Blog: Fanny Crosby: One of History’s Most Prolific Poets and Songwriters

For Women’s History Month it is important to look at the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Francis “Fanny” Jane Crosby is one of those women. She was one of the most accomplished, well known, and sung poets and songwriters in history, who was blinded as a baby and had no easy childhood, but trusted the Lord’s goodness and had a determination to live life to the fullest.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Love

The Vatican recently made headlines when it released a statement that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex relationships because God “does not and cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s announcement received backlash from many who equate love with tolerance. God does not conflate love and tolerance, so what is a biblical perspective on love?

5. Washington Watch: Rep. Jim Banks Worries About the Consequences of a Woke Pentagon Focused on Politics, Not Threats

Congressman Jim Banks joined Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss the Pentagon launching a PR campaign against Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

6. Washington Watch: Mississippi Sen. Angela Hill Celebrates the Wave of Girls’ Sports Bills Becoming Law Across the U.S.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill that protects girls’ sports. Angela Hill, Mississippi State Senator, joined Tony Perkins to share about this good news.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Fairness for All?

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins, Russell Vought, KathyGrace Duncan, and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran discuss the “Fairness For All” bill and why it’s not fair. It’s a compromise of our most sacred truth—the gospel.

Harriet Tubman: A Leader to Freedom and a Servant of God

by Molly Carman

March 19, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams and Fanny Crosby.

Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, has been called “the Moses of her people.” Born into slavery, she started with nothing—no freedom, no education, and no riches. However, despite these deficiencies, she eventually acquired her freedom and led others to theirs. Abolitionist William Still said, “in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men, by making personal visits to Maryland among the enslaved, she was without her equal.” Harriet’s life and legacy were marked by her trust in God to guide and protect her.

Araminta “Minty” Ross, the woman who would eventually become known as Harriet Tubman, was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, to Benjamin Ross and Harriet “Rit” Green. She was the fifth of nine children. The exact date of her birth is unknown, but it is estimated to be around 1822. Three of Minty’s sisters were sold away from the family unit, two of them having to leave young children behind.

She experienced one of her worst beatings after getting caught with her finger in a sugar bowl and hiding for several days. Life on the plantation was hard, but Minty was taught spirituals from childhood that kept her spirits up. She attended church and believed that God was good no matter her circumstances.

Minty suffered a traumatic head injury as an adolescent when an overseer aimed a metal weight at a runaway boy and hit Minty instead. She would suffer from seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. This event likely played a role in igniting Minty’s fierce desire to be free.

Around 1844, Minty married John Tubman, a free man about five years her senior. Their marriage, though genuine, had no legal standing on account of Minty’s enslaved status. Minty still had to live on her enslaver’s land, apart from her free husband, and any children they would have had together would have been considered the property of her master. It was around this time that Minty changed her name to Harriet Tubman.

In 1849, Harriet’s master died suddenly and left the estate in considerable debt. Knowing that she would likely be sold away from her husband and family, Harriet resolved to escape to freedom. She later recounted, “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” Harriet wanted her husband to go north with her, but he did not share her dreams and refused to go threatening to report her, but Harriet was determined.

Harriet made her first contact with the Underground Railroad when a Quaker woman visited the plantation and told Harriet that if she ever needed help—wanted to escape—then she could come to her house. On the night of September 17, 1849, Harriet ran away with two of her siblings, Ben and Henry. However, her brothers had second thoughts and turned back while Harriet continued on alone. Several historians believe that Harriet first took refuge on the farm of Jacob and Hannah Leverton.

Harriet was given assistance and provisions by members of the Underground Railroad, who advised her to chart her course by the North Star. She traveled over 100 miles before reaching Philadelphia—and freedom. She later recounted, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” Harriet got a job as a maid, and while she loved her newfound freedom, she desired that her family could be free, too. “I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home after all, was down in Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.”

Harriet began to make plans for the dangerous journey back to Maryland. Although highly discouraged to take the trip, she believed that God would protect her. The following quote has been attributed to Harriet: “Twasn’t me, ‘twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.” After bringing her sister and her sister’s children safely north, Harriet knew she wanted to help others. Eventually, she helped most of her family to freedom. She had wanted to bring her husband John north as well but was heartbroken to discover that he had remarried in her absence.

In 1850, the second Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, which allowed anyone to capture runaway slaves anywhere, even in the north—and there were hefty rewards. Free men resorted to fleeing to Canada to maintain their freedom. Harriet was scared, so she turned to her faith: “I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” Harriet used her savings to buy a house in Canada for fugitive slaves, and in the winter months, she traveled back to Maryland in order to guide others to freedom. She never traveled the same route twice and depended on the Quaker farms along the way to assist her. Legend says slave owners despised her so much that they posted a $40,000 reward for her arrest, although this figure is disputed by some modern historians.

Harriet may have taken as many as 19 trips and rescued or otherwise helped upwards of 300 slaves. She recounted her stories and life events to her friend Sarah Bradford, who published her memoir, Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People. Of her rescue efforts, Harriet said, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union army as a nurse, scout, cook, and spy and became the first woman to lead a military operation in the United States. She rejoiced when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863. After the war, she returned to New York, married her second husband, Union veteran Nelson Davis, and adopted a daughter named Gertie. She would go on to work as a humanitarian and suffragist alongside the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garret. The latter said of Harriet, “I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul … her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.”

When Harriet’s husband died in 1888, she received a widow’s pension. She also received a nurse’s pension but was denied a scout’s pension. She struggled financially for the rest of her life but continued to be thankful and serve others. Together with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in 1908. Harriet died on March 10, 1913, at approximately 90 years of age. She was laid to rest with military honors in Fort Hill Cemetery in New York. Her gravestone is inscribed with the words, “Servant of God, Well Done.”

Harriet was a servant her whole life—first to her enslavers, then as a free woman to her fellow men and country. But ultimately, she was a servant of God.

Hong Kong Has Gone Dark

by Arielle Del Turco , Bob Fu

March 19, 2021

A new law enacted in Hong Kong this week is the final death knell in the city’s democracy. China’s national legislature approved electoral changes intended to ensure there are “patriots governing Hong Kong.” Of course, in Communist Party-run China, “patriotism” means rubber-stamping the Party’s wishes.

With dozens of the top pro-democracy political candidates now in prison, Beijing has crushed the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who took to the streets in a call for greater democracy. As Hong Kong endures political repression under the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening grasp, the freedom-loving world must act to punish Beijing.

The new election law gives Beijing far greater input into choosing the members of the local legislature. Short on details, the measure’s new requirement of “patriotism” will block any dissident from being elected, or even anyone reluctant to affirm the policies of the Party.

As justification for the continued assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, Beijing loyalists now argue that the “one country, two systems” principle agreed upon prior to the British handover in 1997 refers only to economics, not politics. They are changing the rules in the middle of the game.

Consequently, serious China-watchers are appropriately starting to treat Hong Kong just like China. The Heritage Foundation dropped Hong Kong from its annual Index of Economic Freedom, finding the city not sufficiently autonomous to warrant a distinct listing. It is a move that makes Hong Kong’s leaders furious, but this reclassification is merely an acknowledgement of the reality on the ground. Hong Kong is different following China’s national security law and subsequent crackdown, and the world should act like it.

To make matters worse, the political and religious crackdown on the mainland is increasing, and this will no doubt extend to Hong Kong. New religious regulations going into effect in China on May 1 require religious leaders to “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party” and “practice the core values of socialism.” One church that aided pro-democracy demonstrators in 2019 had its bank accounts frozen. The pastor believes it to be retribution for supporting the protests. Such disregard for the rule of law is frequent on the mainland.

Hong Kong is now politically unrecognizable. Yet, the United States can and should take action to hold Beijing accountable for its trampling of Hong Kongers’ human rights.

Hong Kong’s deterioration of religious freedom, along with freedom of association and assembly, should prompt the U.S. to impose targeted sanctions as provided by the International Religious Freedom Act. Other sanctions for international human rights offenders should be considered, including those provided for under the Global Magnitsky Act.

The United States should also continue to apply the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against the Hong Kong and Chinese officials most responsible for stifling freedom in the territory.

Finally, the Biden administration should cooperate with Congress to completely void the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which allowed Hong Kong a privileged trade status distinct from mainland China. By designating Hong Kong a Chinese province, Beijing will no longer be able to benefit from the economic success Hong Kong incurred as an economically free society.

Beijing’s repression in Hong Kong must have consequences. America’s allies in the region, including democratic Taiwan, are watching and hoping that the free world will lend practical and meaningful support for democracy in the region. The United States must do its best to provide it.

Beijing and authoritarian leaders across the globe will learn something from the way the world reacts to its Hong Kong crackdown. The lesson they must learn is that regimes who crush democracies will not go unpunished.

Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council.

Arielle Del Turco is the Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

Thinking Biblically About Love

by Joseph Backholm

March 17, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts Thinking Biblically About Unity, Thinking Biblically About Safety, and Thinking Biblically About “Christian Nationalism”.

This week, the Vatican made headlines when it released a statement that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex relationships because God “does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’”   

The Vatican’s announcement shouldn’t have come as such a shock. This has been the orthodox Christian belief since the time Jesus walked the earth. Nevertheless, the reactions were predictable.

Don Lemon, a CNN television personality who identifies as gay, had this response: “I would say to the pope and the Vatican and all Christians or Catholics … go out and meet people and try to understand people and do what the Bible and what Jesus actually said, if you believe in Jesus, and that is to love your fellow man and judge not lest ye be not [sic] judged” (paraphrasing Mt. 7:1).

Lemon’s call for love is not surprising, and Christians agree in principle that part of following Jesus is loving people. Jesus told His disciples the night before His crucifixion, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). Years later, the apostle John wrote to his fellow believers, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

But what is biblical love?   

Many, like Don Lemon, equate love with tolerance. From this perspective, it is unloving to say that same-sex relationships are sinful because that isn’t tolerant. However, God does not conflate love and tolerance.  

In God’s world, loving people is a priority, but it is not the highest priority. Loving God is the highest priority: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).

We love God first and foremost through our obedience to Him and His word. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And again, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21).

Part of our obedience to God is loving those He created, and He tells us how to do that. The apostle Paul penned one of the Bible’s most famous expositions on what love of neighbor looks like: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered … it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13: 4-5,7 NASB).

There is much in this list for the “love is tolerance” crowd to like. But in the midst of this list is a verse that is absolutely critical to understanding the difference between biblical love and the world’s conception of love. That verse is, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”  (1 Cor. 13:6).

This is the point where, as Robert Frost would say, “two roads diverged in the wood…” The world’s understanding of love requires a celebration of unrighteousness, whereas God’s definition of love forbids it. Christians must choose.

This choice may be challenging for those who have spent their Christian lives conflating love with likability and tolerance. Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16 ESV). Does this mean that if people don’t like what we do in the name of God, we’re doing it wrong? Not necessarily. Loving people well does not always translate into people liking you. Just ask Jesus. They killed Him. He warned His disciples before His death that the world would hate them, too, on account of Him (John 15:18-25). We do not need to fear our fellow man, however, because God is our helper (Ps. 118:5-9, Rom. 8:31-39).

The fact is, a lot of people don’t want to be loved by God; they want to be indulged by God—and everyone else. However, if we love God, there are things we can’t indulge. As Christians, it is not our job to be liked by people; it is our job to love people like Jesus did—with a love that is patient and kind, a love that does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.

The reason why Christians can’t celebrate unrighteousness is important—the entire gospel hinges upon it. It is our unrighteousness that separates us from God and sentences us to eternity in hell. Fortunately, there is a solution (John 3:16, Rom. 6:23), but celebrating the problem is unhelpful because it obscures the solution. 

Loving as God loves and refusing to celebrate unrighteousness may bother Don Lemon and others, but it won’t bother Jesus, and pleasing Him is much more important. To borrow another line from Robert Frost, “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.” Or, as Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).

Fanny Crosby: One of History’s Most Prolific Poets and Songwriters

by Molly Carman

March 16, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams.

On March 24, 1820, Francis “Fanny” Jane Crosby, one of the most accomplished, well known, and sung poets and songwriters in history, was born. Her parents, John and Mercy Crosby, were devastated when at just six weeks old, Fanny developed a cold that caused her eyes to swell and a local country doctor prescribed a hot mustard poultice that rendered their daughter completely blind. Fanny Crosby never resented her blindness, but later in life she wrote, “In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him [the doctor], for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do.”

Fanny Crosby’s childhood was not easy, but she was determined to find joy and live life to the fullest. Tragically, her father died before her first birthday. She was not allowed to attend school because of her blindness, and at age five, after visiting an eye doctor in New York, she learned that her blindness was irreversible. Crosby’s grandmother took it upon herself “to be her eyes” and teach her Scripture and how to navigate life without her sight. As a child, she memorized large passages of the psalms and proverbs which would later be the foundation for writing many of her hymns.

In 1835, the New York school for the blind opened its doors and Fanny Crosby was one of the first students. Over time, she was considered one of their best students. When guests came to the school, Crosby was frequently asked to recite poetry. During her time as a student, 22 of the men that she met would serve, or had served, as America’s presidents, from John Quincy Adams to Woodrow Wilson. But her favorite guest was the poet William Colon Bryant who encouraged her poetry.

Upon graduation, she was offered a teaching position at the school. Crosby would go on to teach for 11 years during which time she mastered several instruments, learned musical techniques, and practiced her poetry. In 1843 the school asked Crosby and other faculty members to go to Washington, D.C. to ask for more financial assistant to further the work of the school. Crosby was the first woman to ever testify before the Senate and Congress. Her presentation and poetry moved many to tears, and her testimony increased awareness for citizens with disabilities.

Tragedy struck New York in the Autumn of 1848 when the Asiatic Cholera pandemic reached its shores. Crosby cared for the students in the blind school, even when ill herself. She lost her favorite student to the disease one night while rocking her to sleep, and in the morning carried her to the church for burial. This disease drew many to the church, including Crosby. Her new friend Theodore Camp inspired her to reconsider the gospel and examine her own life. She later had a dream where a friend was dying and asked if he would see her again in heaven. From this experience she realized, “I was trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in another.” At age 30, Fanny Crosby gave her life to Christ.

She married Alexander van Alstyne in 1858, a fellow blind teacher at the school in New York. They were married for 44 years. She became Fanny van Alstyne legally, but was known publicly as Fanny Crosby her whole life. Their only child suddenly died as an infant. In her grieving she wrote, “Safe in the arms of Jesus,” originally a poem that was later put to music.

Crosby worked for the famous composer Mr. William B. Bradberry for four years before he died, at which point she was hired on by L. H. Brigalow and Sylvester Maine at their publishing firm, where she remained for 34 years. Brigalow and Maine became the largest publishing company of hymns and gospel music. Philip Philips approached Crosby in 1866 with 40 hymn titles in need of lyrics for his new hymnal. She composed and memorized all of them in her mind before dictating them in one setting. One of her most famous hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” was written in just five minutes and debuted at the crusades of Dwight L. Moody and Iris Sanky.

In her lifetime, Crosby contributed to “Gospel Hymns” and “Sacred Songs” hymnals which sold over 15 million copies worldwide before her death, and she donated all of her royalties to charities. She was such a prolific songwriter, often writing up to six hymns in a day, that she acquired over 200 pen names to give author variety in publications. By age 43 she had written over 10,000 poems (most of which are now hymns).

Her husband passed away in 1902 and Crosby continued to write and serve for the rest of her life. Even the night before she died, she wrote to a friend who had just lost her daughter, thinking of others to the very end. Fanny Crosby saw her savior on February 12, 1915, and on her epitaph is the chorus of “Blessed Assurance.” Today, a hymnal is often considered incomplete without one of her hymns. Her final hymn points to the testimony of her life, “To God be the glory, great things He has done; so loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in.”

Religious Persecution Fuels Forced Marriage and Human Trafficking

by Arielle Del Turco

March 15, 2021

A new report from Open Doors, “Same Faith, Different Persecution,” details how religious persecution affects men and women differently. Women are particularly vulnerable to different expressions of persecution than men, including sexual violence.

Per the report, in the 50 countries with the highest level of Christian persecution, forced marriages of women have increased by 16 percent. Stunningly, 90 percent of countries featured in the 2021 World Watch List reported incidents of forced marriage, up six percent from the previous year.

Abduction and forced marriage are a particularly widespread problem in Pakistan’s minority communities. In October 2019, three men waited until Huma Younus’ parents left their home before barging in and taking 14-year-old Huma by force. A few days later, the kidnappers sent Huma’s parents copies of a marriage certificate and documents alleging her conversion to Islam. Huma was forced to live as the wife of one of her abductors, and last summer, her parents learned that she had become pregnant from repeated rape.

To Huma’s parents’ dismay, the Sindh High Court ruled in February 2020 that the marriage was legal based on Islamic law, which says men can marry underage girls if they have had their first menstrual cycle. Today, Huma remains subject to unknown abuses in the home of the man who kidnapped her.

In Pakistan, perpetrators choose Christian and Hindu girls as their victims so they can use the country’s religious tensions to cover up their crimes. When a possible instance of forced conversion occurs, the perpetrator will often tell Muslim members of the community that it is inappropriate to question someone’s conversion to Islam. It can be dangerous for a girl to tell authorities or the courts that she did not truly want to convert to Islam; she may face threats against her safety or her family. Mob rule often affects Pakistan’s justice system and weakens the government’s ability to protect the most vulnerable.

In many of the countries Open Doors studied, marriage documentation is often used to cover up human trafficking rings. The report notes, “Traffickers often attempt to cloak the associated sexual violence behind a claim that the girl is now married, which in reality is often a forced marriage or a marriage resulting from targeted seduction.”

It is no secret that in countries with pronounced religious discrimination, girls from religious minority communities are targeted for human trafficking.

State Department officials have repeatedly tried to draw attention to the trafficking of Christians in the countries surrounding China. Kachin Christians from Burma and Christians from Pakistan are favored targets for Chinese traffickers. Traffickers lure impoverished and uneducated girls with the promise of economic comfort, a good job, or the story of a nice Christian boy looking for a wife. In reality, work at a brothel or forced marriage to an abusive and unloving husband is what awaits them.

The fate of women who escape their trafficking or forced marriage situation is also dire. Many cultures attach great shame and stigma to rape. Victims of rape may cease to be seen as an appropriate marriage prospect by their community.

The Open Doors report tells the story of Esther, a young Nigerian girl who was abducted by Boko Haram. After she escaped and made her way home with the child she had in captivity, she was shunned by her community. She said, “They called my baby ‘Boko.’”

The trauma that victims of rape, forced marriage, and human trafficking suffer from is long-lasting. Recovery is an extensive journey that is made even harder without support from the community.

Religious freedom is a human right that affirms other human rights. The various ways in which men and women are victimized by persecution bears witness to that. Research on this topic should cause us to renew our commitment to promoting religious freedom. The painful consequences of religious persecution ought to prompt free societies to take more robust action.

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