Month Archives: May 2021

IRF 101: Sri Lanka’s Hidden Persecution of Christians

by Tyler Watt

May 20, 2021

This blog is part of an International Religious Freedom 101 series providing an overview of religious freedom challenges in countries around the world. Read our previous installments on Turkey and Pakistan.

In February 2020, a mob in Ihala Yakkura led by Buddhist monks attacked and injured a Christian minister, his wife, and his son in yet another tragic episode of the persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka. The perpetrators of the attack were never tried or punished. These Christians and so many others live in fear today, downtrodden by the threat of mob violence, terrorism, and a government bent on making conversion illegal in many circumstances.

One can view this incident as part of a larger series of intimidation and outright violence against Christians in a region of the world where the dominant religion is too often stereotyped to be wholly peaceful.

Repression in Context

Sri Lanka, a Southeast Asian nation with a population of over 20 million, is home to more than one million Christians, primarily Roman Catholics. They represent a sizable minority in a primarily Buddhist state. Sri Lanka is officially a Buddhist country, according to their constitution. The promotion of a particular religion as official doctrine has wide-ranging detrimental effects on those who place their faith in a religion not endorsed by the state.

For a country exposed to the gospel ever since the evangelizing efforts of St. Thomas in the first century, the repression of Christ’s followers here must be a point of concern for all Christians.

Terrorism Targeting Christians

The worst example of Christian persecution in Sri Lanka was a series of bombings that took place in three separate churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday in 2019. These attacks killed 269 people (mostly Christians) and injured hundreds more, marking one of the deadliest acts of Islamic terror in recent memory. Later reports suggest that the plot to commit these acts of terror may have been known by Sri Lankan officials, who did not act proactively to protect the threatened Christian minority.

Suppression of Christianity in Education

Anti-Christian sentiment in Sri Lanka experienced a previous peak in 1960, when the state took over all Christian parochial schools and forbade Christian missionaries from promoting discipleship within the nation. At present, Christ-centered schooling does not enjoy the privileges that larger religious traditions are afforded. As a subject, Christianity is often not taught in religious units in state-run public schools, ensuring that Christian students are only exposed to Buddhist or Hindu traditions and rituals, depending on what region they are in.

A UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion called for reform of the Sri Lankan educational system in 2019, as the system tied students too strongly to the religion of their family, preventing the vast majority of students from learning about different faiths.

Impediments to Conversion

In Sri Lanka, converts to Christianity often face intense pressure from their families and social circles after they join the faith. The dogmatic Buddhist government is presently pursuing a variety of policies that will make it harder to become and stay a Christian in Sri Lanka. The government frames some forms of religious conversion to be “unethical conversions” that are the result of unjust pressures from outside forces. The vagueness of this language allows for the deliberate targeting of any person, group, or congregation that seeks to make disciples of non-Christians. Both Christians and non-Christians have made their opposition clear to these discriminatory laws and practices.

Christians in Sri Lanka experience levels of oppression like those living in states in the Middle East and North Africa, though the popular perceptions of the Buddhist majority often impede these issues from coming to light among Christians living abroad. They are a true minority, existing in a country where religious hostilities are fueled and encouraged by the government and by many in the Buddhist majority. Strong support and prayers are needed to help the Christians in this country in the very real struggle to praise Jesus Christ and uphold His Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

Tyler Watt is an intern with the Center for Religious Liberty in FRC’s Policy & Government Affairs Department.

Thinking Biblically About Judging

by Joseph Backholm

May 19, 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 on Unity, Safety, “Christian Nationalism”, Love, Courage, Forgiveness, the Resurrection and the Social Gospel, Loyalty, Identity, Religious Freedom, Communication, and Cancel Culture.

Even people who don’t know the Bible have opinions about it. In my experience, the favorite verse of those who don’t like the Bible is Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” 

For many, this verse functions like a get-out-of-jail-free card that relieves them of the need to be concerned about anything else the Bible says. “Since God told you not to judge,” they suggest, “your belief that I have done something wrong is the real sin.” Whenever someone plays the Matthew 7:1 card, their sense of satisfaction is tangible. They believe they’ve beaten the Christians at their own game by using the Bible to prove that, if sin exists, it is the Christian who is the real sinner.   

But is it true? Does Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1 forbid Christians from forming moral judgments about people’s beliefs, behaviors, or ideas?

Of course not.

A fundamental rule of biblical interpretation is that Scripture must be interpreted as being consistent with itself. Most parents have told their children that they should not hit others. Does this mean that a parent is being hypocritical when, in another conversation, they tell their child to kick, scream, and “go for the eyes” if they are ever targeted by a kidnapper?  

In the same way, Jesus was not contradicting the entire moral law when he said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” He was making a different point that, although related, is completely consistent with everything else He said.

The context of Matthew 7:1 is helpful for understanding its meaning:    

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)

It is clear that Jesus wants us to be more concerned with our own behavior than the behavior of others, and He wants us to live by the same standards we expect of others. In more contemporary terms, don’t throw rocks from glass houses.

But it is unreasonable, considering everything else the Bible says, to conclude that making moral judgments is wrong. The apostle Paul tells Timothy that, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul reminds us that we have a duty to help those who are in sin to get out of it.  “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). None of this makes any sense if we are forbidden from recognizing when someone has done wrong.

Yes, the priority is always on our own hearts, but we cannot be indifferent to what others are doing.

Jesus’ brother James described the importance of helping people walk away from sin: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). The book of Proverbs is dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, but wisdom is impossible without regularly making judgments about people and circumstances. After all, wisdom is knowledge properly applied.

Far from forbidding moral judgments, Jesus told us how we ought to judge: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). God shows us how to judge rightly when he selected David to be king, despite the fact that David did not have the appearance the Israelites expected of a king. “[F]or God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

In addition, Christians should never condemn or claim moral superiority when making moral judgments. Christianity is egalitarian in the sense that it begins with the recognition that we are all equally guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23) and equally deserving of condemnation (Rom. 6:23). Since any righteousness we have is God’s doing, not ours (Eph. 2:9), there is never a reason to feel self-satisfied.

Therefore, the Christian attitude in making judgments is compassion rather than condemnation or superiority. Paul made this point in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thes. 3:14-15). Although we must oppose evil and stand for truth, we do so out of concern for those in rebellion, rather than condemnation.

But there is another point that should not be missed. Many people who make arguments from Scripture don’t actually care what the Bible says. If you’re in a conversation with someone whose familiarity with the Bible begins and ends with Matthew 7:1, they are probably not trying to understand God’s will for their life. It’s just as likely that they are trying to render God irrelevant by quoting one part of the Bible that they believe nullifies the rest of it.

If that is happening in your world, be aware of it but don’t fall for it. Learn the lesson of Matthew 7 by making sure that you are most concerned with your own holiness. In your interactions with the world, make sure that you have exchanged pride and judgementalism for love and compassion. But, by all means, keep your brain engaged; make good judgments about what is good and evil, helpful and unhelpful. It’s crazy out there.

State Round-Up: A Growing Number of States Are Protecting Minors from Transgenderism

by Chantel Hoyt

May 19, 2021

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series about key issues that states have advanced in 2021.

The cultural phenomenon of transgenderism is growing at an astonishing rate. The number of gender reassignment clinics in the United States has increased from one in 2007 to 50 today. In her book, Irreversible Damage, Abigail Shrier reports that most Western countries have seen a 1,000-5,000 percent increase in teenage females seeking treatment from gender clinics and psychologists—many of whom recommend that these girls socially and physically transition through hormones and sometimes surgery. This is aimed at treating what is known as gender dysphoria, defined by the American Psychological Association as “psychological distress that results from incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”

One’s sex is never “assigned at birth”; it is always objective and observable by the time of birth. Propagating an ideology of fluid sexuality undermines a scientific understanding of human anatomy and damages children’s lives. The staggering growth of transgender ideology increasingly pressures children to undergo life-altering procedures with puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgeries. These unscientific, destructive gender transition procedures should not be allowed to interrupt the development of children and irreversibly alter their bodies.

States have been taking bold steps to protect vulnerable minors from being harmed by the unscientific idea that people can be “born in the wrong body.” To date, a total of 20 states have introduced gender transition bans in 2021. On April 6, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment surgeries for the purpose of gender transition on individuals under 18 when the legislature enacted House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, over the governor’s veto.

The Arkansas SAFE Act can be considered the “gold standard” for gender transition procedure bans. Arkansas HB 1570 has four key provisions:

  1. It protects minors from puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender transition surgeries (with a professional penalty).
  2. It bans the use of public funds and/or insurance coverage mandates for such procedures on minors.
  3. It includes an exception for the treatment of minors with a diagnosis of a physiological intersex disorder.
  4. It provides legal remedies for minors who have been permanently disfigured and/or sterilized by such procedures.

In addition to Arkansas, four states introduced fairly strong bills this year: Kentucky (HB 336), Mississippi (SB 2171), Iowa (HF 193), and North Carolina (S 514). Each of these bills contains a prohibition and professional penalty (Iowa’s bill includes a civil penalty as well), an exception for minors with a physiological intersex disorder, and legal remedies for minors harmed by such procedures. However, they do not prohibit medical insurance from covering such procedures for minors or put any restrictions on public funds being used for such purposes.

Two other states, Georgia (HB 401) and Indiana (HB 1505, SB 224), also introduced bills with all but the insurance/public funding ban. Yet, these bills impose criminal as opposed to professional penalties, which may make them more difficult to pass. Tennessee’s bills (SB 657 and HB 578), which also contain criminal penalties, are diluted because they allow minors who have entered puberty to be subjected to such procedures, provided they have parental consent and the written consent of two doctors and a psychiatrist. Family Research Council does not support allowing for medical experimentation on minors before they are old enough to make adult decisions.

Twelve states this year have introduced protections for minors that contain criminal penalties but lack legal remedies and/or exceptions for children with physiological intersex disorders (in addition to lacking provisions addressing insurance and public funds). They are:

  • Alabama (SB 10, HB 1, no private right of action)
  • Arizona (SB 1511, lacks key definitions, no private right of action)
  • Florida (HB 935, no private right of action)
  • Kansas (SB 214, HB 2210, no private right of action)
  • Louisiana (HB 575, no private right of action)
  • Missouri (SB 442, lacks key definitions, no exception for intersex disorders, no private right of action)
  • Montana (HB 113, lacks key definitions, no exception for intersex disorders)
  • Oklahoma (SB 583, SB 676, no private right of action, no exception for intersex disorders)
  • South Carolina (HB 4047, no private right of action)
  • Texas (HB 2693, HB 1399, SB 1311, lacks key definitions, no private right of action)
  • Utah (HB 92, no private right of action)
  • West Virginia (HB 2171, no private right of action)

Bills like these have been the most common for gender transition bans since 2017. They would need to add a prohibition on insurance coverage and/or public funding, an exception for minors with intersex disorders, and stronger legal remedies, in addition to trading their criminal penalties for professional penalties.

Two states, Missouri and Montana, introduced very weak bills in 2021. Missouri HB 33 includes a prohibition and professional penalty but no other provisions. Montana HB 427, despite including each key provision besides one addressing insurance and public funds, only prohibits gender reassignment surgery, not the use of cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers. Since the latter is what is most often used on minors, this makes the bill much weaker.

Eight additional states introduced bills from 2017 to 2020. The strongest of these was Minnesota HF 4694, which included each of the key provisions, including a ban on insurance coverage. However, it imposed a civil penalty instead of a professional penalty, had slightly weaker definitions, and lacked findings, among other drawbacks. The next strongest of these bills was Ohio HB 513, which lacked an insurance coverage/public funding ban and imposed criminal penalties. Four of these states—Illinois (HB 3515, 2019), Idaho (H 465, 2019), South Carolina (4716, 2020), and South Dakota (HB 1057, 2020)—lacked most key provisions. Additionally, Idaho’s bill contained criminal penalties and South Dakota’s bill contained a civil penalty, as opposed to a professional penalty. New Hampshire’s bill (HB 1532, 2018) was especially weak, prohibiting gender reassignment surgery for minors but containing no other provisions.

Over the past four years, one thing has been made clear—states want to protect their minors from life-altering procedures such as puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgeries. They have come to grips with the reality that “gender transition” is an experiment. No intervention can change a person’s genetic composition, and the best studies have demonstrated no reduction in the number of completed suicides among those who have transitioned. We have also seen states proposing stronger, more successful bills each year. Arkansas’ SAFE Act made it the first state to pass potent protections for minors. Arkansas HB 1570 is a watermark and standard that states are sure to follow, making a safer United States for future generations.

FRC On the Hill (May 10-14)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Mary Beth Waddell, J.D.

May 18, 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.

Health and Human Services Secretary Denies His Duty to Enforce Pro-life Laws

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) fiscal year 2022 budget. HHS has the largest budget of any federal agency.

When Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) questioned Secretary Becerra about enforcing the federal partial-birth abortion ban, Becerra acted like he didn’t know what a partial-birth abortion is, claiming that it is not a medical term. Representative John Joyce (R-Pa.) followed up with a forceful line of questioning. He read the clear language and definition of the federal partial-birth abortion ban that was signed into law by President Bush in 2003, which prohibits physicians from committing the barbaric practice of partially delivering an unborn child before ending their life. Once again, Becerra denied the law’s existence, instead citing his duty to enforce federal laws and statutes that protect a woman’s right to an abortion. After several more attempts to get Becerra to acknowledge the federal law and his duty to enforce it, Rep. Joyce concluded, “As a physician myself, Mr. Secretary, I clearly understand what a partial-birth abortion is.”

The outright denial of the partial-birth abortion ban’s existence by the very person responsible for enforcing federal health laws is deeply concerning. Especially since President Biden, the man who appointed Becerra to his cabinet, voted in support of the partial-birth abortion ban at least six times during his tenure as a senator from Delaware. Secretary Becerra’s comments at this week’s hearing reflect his opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban in 2003, when he was a congressman. It is evident that he prioritizes his abortion ideology over his duty as a public servant to enforce the law.

For more information on Becerra, see the following FRC resources:

House Passes Bill to Provide Abortion Accommodations Without Religious Employer Protections

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to protect pregnant women from being discriminated against in the workplace. However, pregnant women are still not always receiving appropriate and adequate accommodations. In an effort to make the workplace more accommodating to pregnant women, the House passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065) by a vote of 315-101. Although the basis for this bill is very pro-family, it does contain some concerning language.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act includes accommodations for pregnancy and related medical conditions. Over the years, courts have interpreted “related medical conditions” to include abortion. Therefore, where this bill creates accommodations for pregnant women, it also creates a mandate to provide accommodations for abortion. This mandate could prove problematic for pro-life or religious employers who have a moral objection to abortion and do not want to provide benefits that pay for abortions. When Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) offered an amendment to the bill that would include a reference to already existing protections for religious employers, Democrats wholly rejected the amendment because it would cause many members and outside groups to withdraw their support for the bill. The question still stands as to why Democrats or other groups would reject a pregnancy accommodation bill if religious employers were afforded existing protections in law. In addition, many of the major pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, are active supporters of this bill.

This bill will now move over to the Senate for consideration. FRC will continue urging senators to include additional protections or clarification to ensure this bill will not be used against employers with a moral objection to abortion.

Senate Rules Committee Stalls the Corrupt Politicians Act

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a mark-up on the For the People Act (S. 1), otherwise known as the Corrupt Politicians Act. The committee spent over nine hours debating and voting on a multitude of amendments to the bill. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered an amendment that would have removed the unconstitutional religious test for individuals who would serve on redistricting commissions. FRC has voiced concerns with this particular portion of the bill and was pleased to see Sen. Cruz offer this amendment. Moreover, we were pleased to see the amendment pass by voice vote.  

Several other significant problems in the bill were not addressed; therefore, FRC remains opposed to the bill. Ultimately, the committee failed to report the bill to the floor for a vote. While this is good news, Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may still bring it to the floor on his own prerogative. We remain vigilant and continue to watch the bill’s movement and engage the Hill with our concerns.

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked this Week

  • The Senate confirmed Andrea Palm as a deputy secretary of HHS and Cindy Marten to be a deputy secretary of the Department of Education. Both are known to have an anti-life and anti-family record.
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), alongside members of the Senate Small Business Committee, sent a letter to the Small Business Administration to inquire about the investigations into Planned Parenthood continuing to receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans against congressional intent. This letter came after two additional Planned Parenthood locations had received PPP loans.
  • In a departure from precedent, HHS announced that it will be interpreting and enforcing the sex nondiscrimination provisions of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to include sexual orientation and gender identity, prioritizing ideology above patient care.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 9)

by Family Research Council

May 14, 2021

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

1. Update: Biden Isn’t Fueling Anyone with His Useless Agenda

Joe Biden wants to be FDR, but he may be a Jimmy Carter. The lines for gas up and down the east coast were so long that the traffic jams spilled onto the main streets. Along the southern border, the state of emergency hit a fever pitch when the surge hit a two-decade high. In Israel, Arab terrorists are on the verge of “full-scale war” and what is the president’s response? “This is progress.”

2. Update: Biden’s Big Government Works Overtime for Unemployment

The evidence of it is everywhere—at restaurants, factories, and construction sites. A couple in Chattanooga couldn’t even go out to dinner without being greeted by a sign that read: “We are short staffed. Please be patient… No one wants to work anymore.” Employers offer to pay more, give night and weekend incentives, and still—they can’t seem to find any applicants.

3. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Cancel Culture

Over the past few years, “cancel culture” has overtaken social media platforms with language urging us to “cancel” someone or declare that they are “over.” Whether the context is politics, sports, entertainment, or business, no one seems safe from the reach of the so-called cancel culture movement. How should Christians think about “canceling” people, institutions, or ideas?

4. Blog: God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

The Centers for Disease Control released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed.

5. Washington Watch: Chris Mitchell, Jason Smith, Chip Roy, Dan Celia

Tony was joined by Chris Mitchell, Middle East Bureau Chief for CBN News, who shared the latest on the rocket attacks against Israel. Jason Smith, U.S. Representative for Missouri, gave his take on President Biden’s spending proposals. Chip Roy, U.S. Representative for Texas, talked about the House Republicans’ upcoming vote to recall Rep. Liz Cheney as House GOP Conference Chair. And, Dan Celia, President and CEO of Financial Issues Stewardship Ministries, detailed what the April Jobs Report and President Biden’s spending proposals mean for the economy.

6. Washington Watch: Jackie Walorski, Roger Severino, Ken Harrison, David Closson

Tony was joined by Jackie Walorski, U.S. Representative for Indiana, to answer the question: are unemployment checks keeping people from finding work? Roger Severino, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, responded to the Biden administration’s redefinition of sex discrimination. Ken Harrison, Chairman and CEO of Promise Keepers, reacted to a USA Today columnist calling for the cancellation of a Promise Keepers rally. And, David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics & Biblical Worldview, shared how followers of Christ should respond in situations like the one faced by Promise Keepers.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: What You Need to Know About Biden’s “American Families Plan”

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Joy Pullmann, Mary Szoch, Charmaine Yoest, and Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-Mo.) to discuss President Biden’s massive and far-reaching proposal that will usher in a government takeover of childcare and education.

Thinking Biblically About Cancel Culture

by David Closson

May 12, 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 on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgivenessthe Resurrection and the Social GospelLoyaltyIdentityReligious Freedom, and Communication.

Over the past few years, the language of “cancel culture” has become ubiquitous in our society. Social media platforms are cluttered with hashtags and campaigns urging us to “cancel” someone or declare that they are “over.” Whether the context is politics, sports, entertainment, or business, no one seems safe from the reach of the so-called cancel culture movement.

However, many people are increasingly becoming wary of it. When asked about cancel culture in a recent interview, comedian Dave Chappelle quipped, “I hope we all survive it.” Chappelle’s passing comment points to a growing awareness that a movement that might have begun with good intentions has taken on a life of its own, resulting in a variety of unintended consequences.

What is cancel culture? How should Christians think about the notion of “canceling” people, institutions, or ideas?

A thirst for accountability. Broadly speaking, “cancel culture” refers to a coordinated effort to silence, shame, and sideline (i.e., “cancel”) an institution or individual on account of views, opinions, or beliefs that someone else (the cancelers) deems socially unacceptable. One online dictionary defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”

In other words, cancel culture encourages people to withdraw their support from and actively oppose public figures or organizations that step outside what the mainstream—or a sizable faction—of society thinks is socially acceptable. Seen in its best light, cancel culture is an attempt to hold people with large audiences and platforms accountable when they do or say bad things. However, cancel culture has a dark side.

A lack of forgiveness. It is important to hold people accountable. When public figures misuse their power or platforms, it may be appropriate to speak out publicly against their ideas or decisions. However, cancel culture (as it is being practiced today) does not merely encourage people to reconsider their biases or apologize for past actions. Nor does it help people thoughtfully handle disagreements. Rather, the impulse behind cancel culture is to impose a figurative capital punishment on the reputation of anyone who holds political, cultural, or religious beliefs deemed offensive to the cancelers. Cancel culture seeks to exclude the canceled from future participation in the public square, with little to no hope of reprieve.

Consider a few recent examples. Last summer, Boeing Communications Chief Niel Golightly was forced to resign after a colleague complained about a 1987 article he had written, in which he had stated that women should not serve in combat. Despite Golightly having since changed his opinion on the subject, Boeing forced him out of the company.

J.K. Rowling, the celebrated author of the Harry Potter series, faced intense backlash in July 2020 after tweeting her belief that biological sex distinctions are real.

Just last week, Promise Keepers CEO Ken Harrison faced criticism for explaining that his ministry supports a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. A USA Today editorial castigated Harrison for his comments and called upon AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys to rescind the ministry’s contract for an upcoming event.

Issues related to marriage and human sexuality usually provoke some of cancel culture’s strongest reactions. Moreover, a common theme in these examples is the extreme vitriol thrown at those whose views are deemed outdated or bigoted. In other words, if you disagree even the slightest bit with cultural progressivism (see the J.K. Rowling example), you are at risk of not only being canceled but also being labeled as hateful.

How should Christians think about all of this?

Christians should not be surprised when their churches, ministries, or beliefs are the object of criticism or outrage. According to recent research, only six percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview, which means most Americans do not think about issues such as marriage and human sexuality from a perspective influenced by the Bible. Thus, those who retain a biblical worldview are increasingly viewed by our society as being different, old-fashioned, or even dangerous.

Christians should expect to face opposition or marginalization for holding views in line with the Bible. Jesus forewarned us that there would be opposition. In his final extended conversation with His disciples before being betrayed, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The apostle Paul affirmed, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Furthermore, Paul explained that the gospel is a “stumbling block” and “folly” in the eyes of the world (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 1:23). Thus, Christians should not be surprised when their biblically informed beliefs are mocked or dismissed. However, we also ought to regularly examine ourselves against Scripture and make sure the reason we are being opposed is due to godly, not sinful, behavior (Mat. 5:10, 1 Peter 2:20).

The Bible teaches that no one is without sin. Scripture tells us that sin is wrong and that our actions have consequences. It also teaches that no one is without sin except for God. As Paul explains, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, all humans deserve to be “canceled.” Scripture also tells us that human beings are not qualified to pronounce ultimate judgement upon one another. None of us can determine that someone else is irredeemable. God, not us, is the judge (Mat. 7:1-5). Whereas cancel culture elevates the passing whims of an outraged mob to the role of judge and jury, Christians recognize that God is the ultimate arbitrator of right and wrong.

The Bible teaches that no one is beyond hope or forgiveness. Scripture teaches that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is in direct contrast to cancel culture, which usually denies the possibility of forgiveness, even when repentance is present. Christianity not only teaches that sinful people can receive forgiveness from God but that we also receive, through the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive each other. This is why Paul says in Colossians 3:13 to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Cancel culture is incompatible with a biblical understanding of sin and redemption. Cancel culture teaches a message antithetical to the gospel. It denies the possibility of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It rejects God’s role as judge of human hearts and actions. In almost all recent examples, it singles out biblically based beliefs for scorn and censure. As Christians, we are called to be part of the ministry of reconciliation, not cancellation (2 Cor. 5:11-21).

The Prayer That Saved America

by Worth Loving

May 12, 2021

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a now-famous speech to the Illinois Republican Party as he accepted their nomination for the U.S. Senate. In this speech he referenced Matthew 12:25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Indeed, the nation would quite literally split in half a little over two years later. But less than 100 years prior, we nearly ceased to be a nation.

The United States was a mere six years old and was on the brink of collapse. Our first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, proved to be an abysmal failure due to a weak central government that failed to keep the young nation united. In May of 1787, the states decided to send delegates to Philadelphia to draft a new governing document—what is today known as the Constitutional Convention.

The convention dragged on for weeks amid the stifling heat and humidity of the Philadelphia summer. There was fierce debate among the delegates regarding representation in the new Congress. Delegates from the small states favored equal representation, known as the New Jersey Plan. Delegates from larger states, on the other hand, favored a more proportional representation based on population, known as the Virginia Plan. Apparently, there was such vigorous debate that it sometimes descended into a shouting match. Some delegates left and never returned. By late June, it was an open question whether an agreement could be reached to save the young nation.

It was at this point that the aged delegate from Pennsylvania offered his sage advice. Benjamin Franklin, now 81 years old, was a frail figure compared to his younger self who spent years frolicking in France as the U.S. ambassador. In fact, he was now so weak and feeble that he often had to be carried into the convention on a sedan chair. Additionally, he would write out his speeches and have a fellow Pennsylvania delegate deliver them in his stead. What makes this speech unique is that Franklin actually rose from his chair and delivered the speech himself.

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection.—Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. 

As a result of Franklin’s speech, the rest of the Convention proceeded smoothly. Although a chaplain was never appointed, likely because the Convention couldn’t afford to pay one, the delegates gathered a few days later on the anniversary of our independence at the Reformed Calvinist Lutheran Church for a sermon and prayer. A few weeks later, the delegates reached a compromise, known as the Connecticut Compromise, that gave birth to the House and Senate prescribed in our Constitution today. On September 17, 1787, the U.S Constitution was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates. While there were still great disagreements among the delegates, they chose to put aside those differences for the greater good. The “miracle at Philadelphia” was birthed through prayer. The new Constitution also honored Franklin’s request—a chaplain was appointed for both the House and Senate. To this day, both houses of Congress are opened in prayer by a chaplain before they proceed to business.

While Franklin was publicly a professed Christian, privately he did not believe in Christ’s saving work on the cross. Franklin believed he could live a virtuous life and perform enough good works to gain Heaven. Again, this makes his call to prayer at the Constitutional Convention even more unique. 

Over 240 years later, Benjamin Franklin’s call to prayer is just as relevant today. Perhaps we are even more divided today than we were in 1787. Have we forgotten “that powerful Friend” who gave this nation our independence? Have we thought of “humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings”?

James 5:16 says that “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We need Christians to offer up prayers for our nation, that our leaders would set aside their differences for the common good. Prayer literally saved our nation, and it can do so again today.

God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

by Mary Szoch

May 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. The Brookings Institute has predicted that in 2021, Americans should expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births, a 12-14 percent decline from 2020.   

The social and economic impact of the rapidly falling birthrate cannot be overstated. Fewer children means rising loneliness, fewer consumers, isolation in old age, a dwindling economy, and overall, less happiness. Americans recognize this and actually want more children. Forty-one percent of Americans say three or more children is ideal, while just 1 percent say zero, but in reality, the fertility rate for American women is just 1.7.

Around the world, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing an even more drastic trend with experts predicting as many as 23 countries will find their population has halved by 2100.

Many blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the dramatic decline in births, arguing the 14 percent decline predicted in America for 2021 is the result of the pandemic. This decline is much steeper than countries have seen before, but it would be naïve to think that this decline is more than an exaggerated data point in a general trend.

Currently, government leaders around the world are working to reverse this trend. China expanded their one-child policy to a two-child policy in hopes of increasing the population, but it has failed to do so. Various countries have implemented maternity leave and childcare policies but failed to find a panacea. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, efforts to correct it will continue to flounder.

Without a doubt—the conditions created under the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic decline in births. Throughout American history, during times of economic decline, the fertility rate has also dropped. Fewer births in 2020 are attributed to the instability caused by COVID-19. But an examination of what happened during the lockdowns across the country points to another, major cause.

During the pandemic, in the name of keeping people safe, weddings were postponed, couples decided not to have children, students did not go to school, loved ones died alone, ICU patients were denied the presence of a priest, multiple churches were ordered to close or limit attendance—even at Christmas. Of course, in many cases, precautions were prudent and, in some cases, necessary. Still, the message “Be afraid of yourself and be afraid of others. Do not make any commitments or take any risks—even for the sake of love (especially not love of God)” was incredibly damaging. 

Sadly, this message was just a magnified version of what society has been preaching for years: “Be afraid. Don’t commit. Don’t take any risks—even for the sake of love.”

Today, the world is one where technology allows us to cancel plans even minutes before they were scheduled; where it is possible to find out everything about a person before going on a first date; where instead of committing to marriage, the norm is to “try things out” by moving in together; where commitment to moral principles has been replaced by a “commitment” to whatever makes people feel good; and where instead of practicing a religion, people identify as “spiritual” but not religious or as “nothing.”

The inability to commit points to an inability to love, which requires commitment, vulnerability, and risk taking. Ultimately, the inability to love indicates a rejection of God who is love. As the birthrate has declined in the United States, so has Christianity. In fact, among Millennials, four in 10 people identify as religious “nones.” It is not surprising that the rejection of God and the rejection of the self-sacrificial love required to fall in love, get married, and bring a child into the world go hand in hand.

The pandemic and the restrictions implemented as a result proved many things—human beings need social interaction; in general, people follow rules; work is a huge source of self-esteem; fear motivates drastic actions; and most importantly, spending time with God is essential for human flourishing.

Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed. The antidote to this instability is a return to God. He is the only being not surprised by anything in the future. In Him is ultimate stability—and with that, the courage to fall in love, get married, and have children.

4 Reasons Why the Founders Valued Religious Freedom

by Arielle Del Turco

May 10, 2021

Contemporary debates over proposed legislation like the Equality Act and over COVID-19 church restrictions draw attention to the so-called “first freedom” listed in the Bill of Rights—religious freedom. This core right in the U.S. Constitution has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and passed down to contemporary Americans intact.

But as debates over how Christians and those of other faiths should live out their faith in the public square increase, questions about religious freedom will remain relevant. Understanding how religious freedom became a core value of the American Founders is critical to understanding its place in the United States today.

Here are four reasons that Americans in the Revolutionary era valued religious freedom and protected it for future generations:

1. The truth concerning religion is deeply important.

In advocating for religious freedom, its proponents did not embrace moral relativism. Isaac Backus, a Baptist preacher, argued that it is precisely because there is objective truth concerning religion that every individual deserves the freedom to discover that religious truth for themselves. Backus wrote:

The true liberty of man is, to know, obey and enjoy his Creator, and to do all the good unto, and enjoy all the happiness with and in his fellow-creatures that he is capable of; in order to which the law of love was written in his heart, which carries in its nature union and benevolence to being in general, and to each being in particular, according to its nature and excellency, and to its relation and connection to and with the supreme Being, and ourselves.

For Backus and others of his day, part of the definition of liberty itself is the freedom for an individual to “know, obey and enjoy his Creator.” Thus, policies protecting the ability to seek religious truth were a natural extension of this understanding of truth and the freedom to pursue it.

2. Respect for individuals’ consciences.

Former diplomat Tom Farr argues that human nature “impels us to seek answers to profound questions about ultimate things. If we are not free to pursue those answers… we cannot live a fully human life.” Many of the American Founders understood religious freedom in much the same way.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776, was drafted by George Mason and was influential when Thomas Jefferson was drafting the Declaration of Independence. The Virginia Declaration of Rights stresses the importance of religious freedom to each individual’s conscience:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

The declaration affirms the importance for all individuals to choose their religious beliefs for themselves, according to the “dictates of conscience.” This highlights how the lack of religious freedom is a very personal assault on the rights of every individual. It is wrong for the government to try to control what goes on in someone’s head, heart, or soul.

John Leland, a Baptist minister, argued for robust conscience protections and asserted that the state had no right to be involved in religion in part because every individual must make himself right with God and no government can answer for the souls of men. In 1791, Leland said:

It would be sinful for a man to surrender that to man which is to be kept sacred for God. A man’s mind should be always open to conviction, and an honest man will receive that doctrine which appears the best demonstrated; and what is more common than for the best of men to change their minds?

Creating a political order with a state-established religion is not fair to the children and grandchildren who will come later because it may violate their conscience, which was not free to choose their faith since it was mandated by the government.

3. Establishment of religion is harmful for religion.

Many early American pastors were at the forefront of societal protests against the establishment of religion. They did so not for secular but religious reasons. Backus famously argued that a legally established religion or church corrupts “the purity and life of religion.”

Many religious leaders promoted religious freedom not just because the freedom to believe affects the conscience of individual Christians, but because the state establishment of religion can have negative affects on the established religion itself. When a state forces religious practice, it waters down churches with individuals who do not truly believe but rather are practicing the faith externally because they are compelled to do so.

Utilizing the force of government to require individuals to practice a religion is ineffective at making true religious believers. In 1675, William Penn said, “force makes hypocrites, ‘tis persuasion only that makes converts.”

Religious persecution doesn’t only harm those outside the religious majority, it harms the authentic practice of the majority religion. This makes the establishment of a state religion not only pointless, but also oppressive and detrimental to the religion the government associates with.

4. All people are equal under the law.

George Washington affirmed the inherent natural right to freedom of religion in a letter to a Jewish congregation. While president, he told the congregation, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” Washington strongly repudiates religious persecution and emphasizes the equality of all religious groups and believers under the law.

***

The embrace of religious freedom has contributed to what makes the United States unique in the world. Wherever religious freedom is not protected around the world, oppression and misery clouds society.

The world is better off because of the successful example of religious freedom that the United States has set. America’s promotion of international religious freedom has released religious prisoners, rebuilt religious communities devastated by genocide, and offered hope to the oppressed.  

This serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining religious freedom here at home. Our Founders enshrined robust religious freedom protections into law because they believed everyone’s right to seek the truth and live according to their beliefs was deeply important. This is worth protecting—for ourselves, for future generations, and for those around the world relying on our advocacy on their behalf. 

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 2)

by Family Research Council

May 7, 2021

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

1. Update: Dems Race Awareness of Hypocrisy with Scott Smear

Thanks to Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), we finally found all of those racists Joe Biden keeps talking about. They’re on the Left, right under the president’s nose. After Scott’s inspirational response to the president’s speech, in one of the most vile displays of hypocrisy, Democrats have apparently decided that it’s okay to be prejudiced—as long as the black man is a conservative.

2. Update: Voters Have a Vax to Grind with Dems

The New York Times wasn’t laughing at Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. But the host of the paper’s podcast was laughing at how popular the president’s team thinks it is. In a sit-down with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the former candidate estimated that “20 or 30” Republicans might vote for the president’s $2 trillion joke of a public works bill.

3. Blog: H.R. 1: A Religious Test for Redistricting?

Tucked away in H.R. 1, a bill intended to enact sweeping election reforms, is a problematic religious test for public service—this time on redistricting commissions set up by the bill. H.R. 1 requires states to establish a nonpartisan agency in the state legislature. This nonpartisan agency will establish an independent redistricting commission to organize electoral districts.

4. Blog: The Staggering Reach of Billionaire Transgender Activists

The first billionaire we have to thank for pushing trans propaganda on our children is a man named James Pritzker. Pritzker came out as transgender in his 60s and now goes by the name Jennifer. The Pritzker family has been on the Forbes magazine Top 10 list of “America’s Richest Families” since 1982. And now it’s the medical industry where the Pritzkers have staked a lot of their current investments.

5. Washington Watch: Scott Perry, Tom Cotton, Andy Barr, Kelsey Bolar

Tony was joined by Scott Perry, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania, on President Biden’s proposed spending of more than $4.3 trillion. Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, discussed foreign policy in the first 100 days of the Biden administration. Andy Barr, U.S. Representative for Kentucky, shared his call for an investigation into John Kerry after audio surfaced of him leaking sensitive intelligence. Kelsey Bolar, Senior Policy Analyst at Independent Women’s Forum, weighed in on the problems with President Biden’s daycare plan.

6. Washington Watch: Mike Rounds, Paul Coleman, Greg Steube, George Barna

Tony was joined by Mike Rounds, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, on a possible deal between the United States and Iran. Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, discussed a bishop in Finland who was charged for hate speech for sharing what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. Greg Steube, U.S. Representative from Florida, highlighted hostilities to religious expression here in the United States. George Barna, FRC’s Senior Research Fellow for Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, discussed worldview formation and what parents need to do to counter the indoctrination that is accelerating in our culture.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Praying For Our Foundations

On the eve of the National Day of Prayer, Tony Perkins was joined by two top leaders in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Jennie Lichter, who worked to protect religious liberty, and Ronnie Floyd to lift up our nation in prayer and pray for President Biden and his administration, believing that the Lord can turn hearts toward Him.

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