Month Archives: October 2021

Pew Finds High Rate of Global Restrictions on Religion

by Arielle Del Turco and Cristina Cevallos

October 12, 2021

Each year, the Pew Research Center publishes a report assessing the extent to which governments and societies around the world restrict religious beliefs and practices. This year’s report—which examines 198 countries and contains data up through 2019—shows how much more work needs to be done to protect religious freedom globally.

Social Hostility to Religion Declines Slightly

Let’s start with the good news. The report’s Social Hostilities Index measures acts of hostility to religion by private individuals, organizations, or groups in society. Examples of hostility include religion-related terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment, and other forms of intimidation or abuse. In 2018, 53 countries (27 percent) had “high” or “very high” levels of social hostility, but in 2019 this number was reduced to 43 (22 percent), the lowest it has been since 2009.

Religion-related terrorism incidents (such as deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, destruction of property, and fundraising and recruitment by terrorist groups) are also in decline. According to the Global Terrorism Database, 49 countries experienced at least one of these actions. However, 2019 was the fifth consecutive year of declining global terrorism rates. This decline is largely due to ISIS having lost control in many parts of the world, even though it continued to commit attacks such as the one in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in 2019 that killed more than 250 people and injured approximately 500 others.

Afghanistan is the greatest exception to these statistics. In 2019, the number of terrorist incidents by the Taliban in Afghanistan increased. Now that the terrorist group has taken control of the entire country, this trend will likely continue to worsen.

Notably, Christians are still the group most likely to be on the receiving end of religious harassment. In 2019, countries harassing Christians increased from 145 to 153. 

Government Restrictions Remain High

The report’s Government Restrictions Index measures government laws, policies, and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. In 2019, the number of government restrictions reached its highest level since 2007. Most of the countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions were located either in the Asia-Pacific region or in the Middle East-North Africa region.

Pew’s study reveals that government harassment and interference against religious groups were present in 163 countries (82 percent). All 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region and 91 percent of the European nations had this type of occurrence. These include governments prohibiting certain religious practices, withholding access to places of worship, or denying permits for religious activities or buildings.

High-Tech Threats to Religious Freedom

For the first time, Pew’s study measured governments’ use of online restrictions and advanced technologies (such as surveillance cameras, facial recognition technology, and biometric data) to target religious groups. Pew found that 28 countries (14 percent) have some type of online restriction of religious activity, and 10 countries use technology to surveil religious groups. Most of the countries were located in either the Asia-Pacific region or in the Middle East-North Africa region.

For example, in the United Arab Emirates, the government blocked websites with information on Judaism, Christianity, and atheism. Iran launched cyberattacks against religious minorities. China installed surveillance equipment in houses of worship, used facial recognition technology to monitor and collect biometric data on Uyghur Muslims, and installed software on their phones to monitor their calls and messages. 

Government Repression Is Brutally Enforced

Worst of all, Pew found that 48 percent of all nations used force against religious groups in 2019. China, Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria tallied over 10,000 use-of-force incidents each. These incidents include property damage, detention, arrests, ongoing displacement, physical abuse, and killings.

Among the 25 largest nations (which account for 75 percent of the world’s population), Egypt, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Russia recorded the highest overall levels of restrictions and hostilities against religious people.

Conclusion

Pew’s report demonstrates that many governments are attacking religious freedom rather than protecting it as a human right. Although much has changed since 2019, including a global pandemic, government attitudes seem to remain hostile to people of faith. For now, we can rejoice in the moderately good news that social hostility to religion declined slightly even as we take action to combat problematic global trends. Religious freedom for all people everywhere is worth fighting for.

Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. Cristina Cevallos is majoring in law at the University of Piura in Lima, Peru.

What Does the Future Hold for the Pro-life Movement in Mexico?

by Arielle Del Turco , Cristina Cevallos

October 6, 2021

Culturally conservative Mexico made international news last month when its Supreme Court decriminalized abortion. Four Mexican states had already legalized abortion, but the Supreme Court’s decision marks a major shift for a country with one of the largest Catholic populations in the world.

Mexico has a fairly conservative and religious culture. Yet, the Mexican Supreme Court dictated from the top down a decision that likely wouldn’t have passed if put to the Mexican people for a vote. A strong majority (60 percent) of Mexicans oppose abortion.

On September 7, the Mexican Supreme Court unanimously declared some articles of the state of Coahuila’s Penal Code, which penalized those who had or assisted in an abortion, as unconstitutional. Two days later, the same judges invalidated an article of the Sinaloa state constitution, which established: “[t]he State protects the right to life from the moment an individual is conceived.”

But the assault on life in the womb did not stop there. On September 13, the Mexican Supreme Court began to hear arguments concerning a law that seeks to restrict medical professionals’ conscientious objections to participating in abortions. A final ruling has yet to be made. 

This attack on conscience protections is devastating for people of faith, those who believe life begins at conception, and for medical workers whose professional opinions make them reluctant to participate in abortions. In the few Mexican states where abortion is legal, many medical professionals have refused to participate in carrying out abortions. Conscience protections are essential to protecting their freedom to live in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

The Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization ruling implies that there are Mexican women in prison for having abortions. But that’s not the case. According to the National Penitentiary Registry of Mexico, no woman is currently in jail for having an abortion. There are five female abortionists currently serving sentences for carrying out illegal abortions, but even these cases were only prosecuted because they resulted in the death of the mother.

Notably, the chief justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar, said, “From now on, a new path of freedom, clarity, dignity, and respect for all pregnant persons, but above all for women, begins.” By referring to “pregnant persons” as opposed to pregnant women, Zaldívar is adopting a dangerous gender ideology that denies the scientific reality of the biological distinctions between the sexes.

Pro-abortion activists hope Mexico’s Supreme Court rulings will put pressure on other countries to take steps in the same direction. Mexico’s decriminalization decision comes right after Argentina’s legalization of abortion and Ecuador’s decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape. Pressure from international organizations is also a factor in abortion’s increasing momentum in Latin America. In Mexico alone, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has invested more than $18 million in abortion advocacy between 2008 and 2016.

In a New York Times op-ed, Melissa Ayala wrote about the Mexican Supreme Court’s decriminalization decision, saying, “The justices said what has long been intuitive to feminist activists: that someone who is not yet born does not have the same protection as someone who already is alive.” This is a disturbing and revealing sentence—one that gets at the heart of the pro-abortion argument. It’s the dangerous assumption that a child in the womb is not already alive and that a woman’s comfort and convenience is worth more than the unborn child’s fundamental right to life.

Sadly, the Mexican legal system is moving towards embracing a culture of death. Yet, there is still reason for hope for the pro-life movement in Mexico. On October 3, thousands of women rallied across Mexico to protest the Supreme Court decision. The pro-life majority should not let radical Supreme Court justices decide the fate of the unborn. Now is the time for pro-lifers in Mexico and across Latin America to make their voices heard.

Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. Cristina Cevallos is majoring in law at the University of Piura in Lima, Peru.

Worldview is Central to Determining Views on Abortion

by George Barna

October 6, 2021

The month of October kicks off “Respect Life Month” in the Catholic Church, and with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to hear the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on December 1, Christians across the country have begun praying in earnest for the case that could overturn Roev. Wade. How will Americans react to the possibility of the Court altering the long-standing Roe ruling concerning abortion?

Many Americans wonder why abortion remains such a high-profile issue after all these years. The explanation is simple. Almost 50 years ago, seven appointed—not elected—justices decided that killing unborn babies should be a constitutionally-protected act. Since that time, more than 62 million unborn babies have been killed in our nation.

Rest assured, that fact has not gone unnoticed by the God who knitted together those babies in the wombs of their mothers.

Recent worldview research provides helpful insight into Americans’ views about abortion. The annual American Worldview Inventory undertaken by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University shows that after a half-century of energetic public debate about abortion, the abortion perspectives of millions of Americans remain surprisingly tenuous and pliable.

Keep in mind that very few adults are capable of applying a biblical worldview to this (or any other) issue. Although 51 percent of Americans think they have a biblical worldview (according to a Center for Biblical Worldview survey), the American Worldview Inventory reveals that only six percent of Americans actually have one. Since most Americans (88 percent) are driven by a Syncretistic worldview—an inconsistent, unpredictable combination of elements originating in various competing worldviews—the nation’s thinking about the morality and permissibility of abortion is more likely to be based on current emotions and popular thought, not on biblical principles related to life.

Indeed, the American Worldview Inventory underscores the morally wayward thinking of Americans. Not quite four out of 10 adults (39 percent) believe that life is sacred. An equal proportion of Americans argue that life is what we make it or that there is no absolute value associated with human life. The remaining two out of 10 adults possess a variety of other views about life, including outright uncertainty as to whether or not life has any intrinsic value.

Views about life are closely related to worldview and faith commitments. For instance, more than nine out of every 10 adults (93 percent) who have a biblical worldview believe that human life is sacred. Eight out of every 10 (81 percent) SAGE Cons (i.e., the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians) possess that view as well. Surprisingly, only six out of 10 theologically-determined born-again Christians (60 percent) say that human life is sacred. Those proportions dwarf those among people associated with non-Christian faiths (25 percent) or those who are spiritual skeptics (15 percent).

Many people are surprised to discover that Millennials are not a pro-life generation. Less than one-quarter of them (22 percent) believes that human life is sacred. Meanwhile, twice as many in Gen X and a slight majority of Boomers and their elders contend that human life is sacred.

Americans’ views about abortion continue to shock many observers. For instance, two out of three adults (64 percent) either say that the Bible is ambiguous in its views about abortion or that they don’t know what those views are. For a nation where roughly seven out of 10 adults call themselves “Christian,” that represents a mindboggling degree of biblical ignorance concerning one of the most high-profile social issues of the past half-century.

Not everyone falls into that vacuum of wisdom, though. More than nine out of 10 people who have a biblical worldview—a group known as Integrated Disciples—reject the notion that the Bible contains ambiguous ideas about abortion. Similarly, eight out of 10 SAGE Cons reject that position as well.

But the idea that the Bible is ambiguous about abortion is held by a variety of population segments. More than 70 percent of people who draw heavily from non-biblical worldviews—specifically, Marxism, Secular Humanism, Modern Mysticism, Postmodernism, and even Moralistic Therapeutic Deism—believe the Bible can be interpreted multiple ways regarding abortion. At least seven out of 10 adults aligned with a non-Christian faith or spiritual skeptics also embrace that point of view. And two-thirds of adults under the age of 50 harbor that misconception as well.

Given these perspectives, then, it should not shock us to find that nearly six out of 10 adults (57 percent) believe that a woman who chooses to have an abortion because her partner has left and she believes she cannot reasonably take care of the child is making a morally acceptable decision. Again, the survey shows that such a decision is a direct reflection of one’s worldview. Just two percent of the Integrated Disciples support abortion under such circumstances. In contrast, more than eight out of 10 who are adherents of other worldviews support that decision. That includes 89 percent of those who often draw their worldview from Postmodernism; 88 percent who often rely upon Secular Humanism; 82 percent who draw frequently from Modern Mysticism; and 81 percent who lean heavily upon Marxist philosophy.

Previous research by the Cultural Research Center also revealed that national opinion is roughly equally divided as to whether the Supreme Court should overturn its disastrous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. The subgroup numbers line up similarly to the segmentation patterns related to the responses to the other abortion-related questions described earlier. In general, those most desirous of the Court overturning the 1973 ruling are led by Integrated Disciples (67 percent consider a reversal of Roe to be a priority) and by SAGE Cons (74 percent). Those who want the Court to affirm Roe are led by groups that are not favorable to Christianity.

The Court’s ultimate decision, whatever it may be, will not satisfy everyone—or, perhaps, even a majority of Americans. But for biblically informed Christians, the abortion issue is not about pleasing a majority of the public or persuading a majority of jurists; it is a matter of understanding and obeying God’s principles and standing for His truth.

The Best Month for the Unborn in Texas Since 1973

by Joy Zavalick

October 4, 2021

October 1 marks one month since the Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect, outlawing abortions past six weeks, which is when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Since its implementation, about 150 unborn lives have been spared from abortion each day, meaning an estimated 4,500 babies will have the opportunity to be born because of the Act. According to estimates from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the six-week ban could save upwards of 33,000 lives in the next year if it continues to remain in effect.

This law has withstood many challenges since its passing and has triumphantly continued to defend human life. Even as radical proponents of abortion desperately seek any avenue to block the democratically enacted legislation, the Texas Heartbeat Act is unapologetically preserving the lives and futures of babies in the womb with each passing day.

Like the obedient servants of God who were protected by the Angel of the Lord in the furnace, Texas’ Heartbeat Act has persevered through fiery attacks. The uproar from pro-abortion advocates was instantaneous following its passage by the state legislature and signing by Governor Abbott in the spring. Members of the abortion lobby, led by Planned Parenthood, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to block the law before it could go into effect. However, in a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the law on a procedural technicality, allowing it to take effect.

In a reactionary strategy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced a vote on the deceptively-named Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755). It should really be called the Abortion on Demand Act, since it would effectively codify Roe v. Wade and eradicate the vast majority of state-level pro-life laws, including the Texas Heartbeat Act. The legislation passed in the House last Friday and has moved to the Senate for consideration in the near future. Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, who has the duty to instruct Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a baptized Catholic in his diocese, declared that H.R. 3755 equates to child sacrifice.

Fortunately, the radically sweeping nature of H.R. 3755 has ruffled the feathers of even some Democrats. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are discomforted by the bill’s mission to overturn democratically instituted laws in the states that are created to promote women’s informed consent and human rights, such as ultrasound requirements, parental notification requirements for minors, and bans on discriminatory sex-selective abortions.

Texas was well-prepared for the surge of mothers requiring assistance after the ban; Texas has about 230 pregnancy resource centers (PCRs) that have been meeting the needs of mothers—more than any other state in the nation. One report shows that 46 percent of Texans support the six-week ban, only 43 percent oppose it, and 11 percent are undecided. Although these statistics are hopeful, they also demonstrate the work that remains to be done to educate all Americans about the inherent dignity of human life from the point of conception. Texas also provides a model for preparedness in resources for mothers that other states implementing pro-life laws ought to pursue.

The Texas Heartbeat Act has opened the eyes of pro-life legislators around the nation, who are now seeking to produce similar bills in their own states. Action to mimic Texas’ law is happening in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has demonstrated his support for a six-week ban that was introduced in the legislature last Wednesday. In Pennsylvania, legislators are anxiously seeking the election of a Republican governor in 2022 who would allow for a six-week ban to be signed into law.

Through its month of life-saving action, the Texas Heartbeat Act has increased hopes that a greater national understanding of the humanity of the unborn will allow for a favorable ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on December 1. As additional pro-life bills are considered around the nation, and the pro-life movement prays for Roe v. Wade to be overturned by the Dobbs case, it is clear that Americans are increasingly valuing life and will increasingly oppose those who seek to end the lives of the most vulnerable humans.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of September 26)

by Family Research Council

October 1, 2021

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

1. Update: How Should Christians Use Religious Exemptions for Vaccine Mandates?

After months of promising that his administration would not mandate COVID-19 vaccines, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring millions of federal employees to either get the vaccine, get tested weekly, or face dismissal from their job. Shortly after the executive order, the president handed down another mandate, requiring all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate their workers be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Businesses that do not comply with the rule can be fined up to $14,000 per violation.

2. Update: House Dems United in Death

People say it’s hard to find consensus in Washington, but Democrats have found plenty on one issue: abortion. At least in the House, the idea of middle ground has vanished. When it comes to the taking of innocent life, the battlelines are clear: Republicans are 100-percent opposed, and all but one Democrat is in favor.

3. Blog: Unconscionable: New Bill Proves Democrats Are Okay With Abortion Up Until Birth

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an abortion expansion bill that deserves the full attention of the American people. This bill is so morally bankrupt that the hackneyed terms used to express political outrage, such as “extreme” and “radical,” fail to capture the gravity of the bill’s implications.

4. Blog: Radical Progressive Ideology Has Become Normalized in Schools. It’s Time to Act.

Revelations of radical activism by a teacher in California with an Antifa flag in his classroom and marking student’s papers using stamps with images of communist leaders roiled Sacramento area parents. In a shocking and at times profane 12 minute video, Inderkum High School AP Government teacher Gabriel Gipe explained that he has “180 days to turn [students] into revolutionaries.”

5. Washington Watch: Vicky Hartzler, Michael Burgess, Robert Cahaly, William Lee

Tony Perkins was joined by Vicky Hartzler, U.S. Representative for Missouri, who discussed the Pentagon leadership’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee over the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the atrocities that have followed. Michael Burgess, U.S. Representative for Texas, gave an update on the debt ceiling debate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s push for massive spending bills. The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly shared the findings of a poll showing a 65 percent majority believe Americans who refuse the vaccine should not lose their jobs. And, William “Dean” Lee, retired Vice Admiral of the United States Coast Guard, shared his thoughts on the military vaccine mandates and the leaked documents showing how Coast Guard chaplains are being used to enforce the mandate.

6. Washington Watch: Ron Estes, Mike Berry, Jerry Boykin, Arielle Del Turco, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Ron Estes, U.S. Representative for Kansas, to talk about the massive spending votes in the House of Representatives. Mike Berry, with First Liberty Institute, discussed leaked documents showing the Coast Guard plans to grill service members about their religious beliefs over religious vaccine exemptions. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President and former commander of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, shared how imposing a vaccine mandate on the military will harm recruiting and retention. Arielle Del Turco, FRC’s Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, talked about the recent March for Martyrs in Washington, D.C. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, discussed the graphic material a Fairfax High School mother found in school library books and what happened when she read them during a Fairfax County School Board meeting.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Biden’s Mandates and Your Freedom

On this episode of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Christopher Ferrara, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Jennifer Bridges, and Pastor Jack Hibbs to discuss and pray over what America soon might look like if President Biden’s vaccine mandate is not stopped.

Google’s Hypocrisy on Free Speech and Human Rights, at Home and Abroad

by Arielle Del Turco

October 1, 2021

This week, Google’s YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told Bloomberg that free speech is a “core value” for Google. Her assertion comes a week after Google and Apple deleted a Russian political opposition app from their app stores after Russian censors demanded they do so.

The app’s purpose was simple enough; it acted as a voting guide to encourage all opposition voters to vote for the candidate in their district most likely to beat candidates from the ruling party, United Russia. The app was part of a “smart voting” strategy developed by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Last year, Navalny was nearly killed by a nerve-agent attack suspected to be carried out by Russian agents on a flight in Siberia. After he recovered from the attack in Berlin, he returned to Moscow, only to be arrested upon arrival.

In his first interview from prison in August, Navalny described his experience to The New York Times, saying, “You need to imagine something like a Chinese labor camp, where everybody marches in a line and where video cameras are hung everywhere. There is constant control and a culture of snitching.”

Russian authorities accused Google and Apple of interfering with Russia’s September elections by hosting Navalny’s app on their platforms. Yet, free speech is hardly election interference.

Confident leaders don’t feel threatened by political opposition, and they don’t eliminate apps that encourage citizens to vote for other candidates.

Russian President Putin has gone to great lengths to suppress activism from opposition leaders—and in doing so, crush freedom of speech. Sadly, Google is enabling these human rights violations without putting up much of a fight.

Some Google employees are reportedly outraged about the move and frustrated that their company was so quick to accommodate the demands of foreign governments that have little respect for basic freedoms.

In addition to deleting the “smart voting” app, Google also blocked YouTube videos and Google Docs files meant to coordinate opposition voting. When tech companies like Google suppress speech on behalf of the Russian government or other oppressors, they are facilitating human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Google disallowed Live Action’s pro-life advertisements for abortion pill reversals earlier this month. Google claimed that “medical questions” about the reversal pill motivated the decision to disallow the ads. In actuality, the ads were cut shortly after abortion activists asked the company to stop running them.

Actions like these reveal something ugly about tech giants like Google. They are not actually concerned about upholding free speech or standing for human rights—at home or abroad.

Similarly, major U.S. companies like Disney have threatened to boycott U.S. states that pass pro-life laws, supposedly out of concern for a woman’s bodily autonomy and “right” to abortion. However, in the credits of Mulan, Disney happily thanked the same Xinjiang police units responsible for detaining one to three million innocent Uyghur Muslims in China, forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women, and aborting their children.

Tech giants’ concern about U.S. legislation and simultaneous disregard for egregious human rights violations in China and Russia is the height of hypocrisy. Americans should keep this history of duplicity in mind the next time Google or other corporations lecture or threaten states about policy decisions and claim to value “free speech.”

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