FRC Blog

State Round-Up: Defunding the Abortion Industry

by Chantel Hoyt

June 9, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021.

States have been working for years to protect taxpayers from having to subsidize the abortion industry, and the momentum continues this year.

As I’ve written elsewhere,

Ever since Roe v. Wade, Congress and most states have taken bipartisan efforts to stop taxpayer funds from going to pay for abortions and, later, to flow to the abortion industry. These efforts greatly intensified in 2015 when the release of several undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials laughing and joking about the transfer and sale of fetal tissue. These videos shocked the American people and shined a light on an unsavory profit center for the abortion industry, the gruesome harvesting of body parts of the aborted unborn (sometimes even, apparently, before fetal death).

Most Americans support defunding Planned Parenthood. An annual Knights of Columbus/Marist poll shows a majority of Americans oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion; in January it found that 60 percent of Americans, including 35 percent of Democrats, oppose public funding of abortions. A 2016 Harvard poll and a 2018 PRRI poll found that over half (58 percent and 51 percent, respectively) of Americans believe that Medicaid should not pay for abortions. Not surprisingly, 33 states have introduced legislation to restrict government funding of the abortion industry in recent years.  These bills largely address the three main streams of abortion funding – Medicaid (a joint federal-state health coverage program), Title X (a federal family planning grant program) and state appropriations.

Abortion funding restrictions have shifted from merely banning direct funding of abortion procedures to also cutting off abortion businesses. This distinction is important because even if taxpayer funds are not used for performing an abortion, they still support abortion centers by helping them offset their other costs. This frees up their budget to pay for abortions and other abortion-related expenses. After watching the undercover videos, federal and state policymakers realized it is time to defund abortion businesses.

Since 2015, states have consistently introduced bills that have attempted to defund both abortions and abortion centers. At least 131 bills have been introduced in 33 states in the past 6 years. Of these, 26 bills sought to defund Planned Parenthood in Medicaid, 43 bills in Title X, and 90 bills in state appropriations (About twelve of these 131 bills were specific in only prohibiting the funding of abortion procedures.  Thirteen of these bills sought to simply expand or strengthen existing defund laws. 22 of the 131 bills were temporary budget bills, in which states inserted a ‘rider’ restricting abortion funding into their yearly appropriations bill going into effect for the upcoming fiscal year.) 29 of the total 131 bills have been enacted in 19 different states. 

In addition to addressing the three streams of funding mentioned above, some states have gotten creative. For example, Iowa’s HF 422 (2015), rather than prohibiting funds from going to entities that supply abortions, sought to prohibit abortions from being done by entities that receive public funds (this bill was not enacted). A few states have sought to limit health insurance coverage of abortions.  Kentucky’s HB 484 (2020), for example, prohibited abortions from being covered under state-sponsored health insurance programs (this bill was enacted). In 2017, Wisconsin introduced a bill (SB 154) that would have prohibited publicly-funded universities from utilizing state funds to perform, assist, or train others to perform abortions.

Texas currently has the strongest defunding laws in place, as the state successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. First, Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter defunding Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program in 2015. While this action was enjoined, Texas was subsequently granted a Medicaid waiver allowing the state to redirect federal funds away from abortion businesses. This was the first (and so far, only) waiver of its kind to be granted.  Six other states – Arizona, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and Indiana – have similarly enacted very strong legislation defunding the abortion industry, as they have attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid and successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. However, none received a federal waiver for Medicaid; this is typically a multi-year process, which seems unlikely under the current administration, so pro-life state policymakers should begin thinking now about the waiver requests they’ll want the next time we get a pro-life administration.

In a like manner, a plethora of states have attempted to permanently defund abortion businesses in one or two streams of funding. While a state attempting to defund abortion businesses in a particular area doesn’t carry as much weight as a successful defund, it is still notable and shows the public’s support for defunding the abortion industry in that state. The following 15 states fall into this category:

  • Alabama, Utah, South Carolina – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid
  • Kansas, Tennessee – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X (i.e. when distributing federal grants, the state prefers non-abortion health care providers ahead of any entities that supply abortions)
  • Missouri, Idaho – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations
  • Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations; defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Michigan, Oklahoma – Defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations

Though lacking the strength of abortion industry funding bans, other states have taken action to defund abortion procedures. The 13 states that have done this are:

  • Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota – Defunded procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Nevada, North Dakota, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island – Defunded procedures in Medicaid
  • Pennsylvania – Defunded procedures in Medicaid; attempted to defund procedures in state appropriations
  • Minnesota – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Montana – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid

Lastly, several states have been successful in temporarily defunding abortions and/or the abortion industry. These states have passed yearly appropriations bills that include a pro-life ‘rider’ specifying that certain funds shall not be used for abortions and/or abortion businesses for the duration of the upcoming fiscal year. The following six states have done this:

  • Iowa – Temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid and abortion businesses in state appropriations and Title X (2019-2020); temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid (2015-2016)
  • Nebraska – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in Title X (2018-2019)
  • New Hampshire – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2019)
  • Missouri – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2018)
  • Pennsylvania – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2018-2019)
  • Michigan – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2017-2018)

As I wrote,

It is clear the majority of states want to prevent taxpayer funds from going to the abortion industry. These efforts have become normative since the release of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos in 2015. This effort has not slowed, with 19 bills being introduced this year in 14 different states; four having been enacted to date.

States believe that taxpayers should not fund the abortion industry, and states will continue passing laws that reflect the principle that abortion is not health care. After all, no other type of health care has as its main purpose and goal extinguishing an already-existing human life. As a recent FRC publication proves, abortion is not the type of health care for which health care professionals should advocate. Because of these and other reasons, abortion is far from deserving of taxpayer funds and states are sure to continue passing laws that recognize this fact.

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Book Review: Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult

by Meg Kilgannon

June 7, 2021

If you are scrupulous about using “preferred pronouns” and avoid “deadnaming” at all costs, this book may not be for you. Maria Keffler has long advocated for the rights of parents, and she need make no apology for the sage advice she offers.

If you think writing a book to challenge the idea of “affirmative care” for children makes her mean, cold or uncaring, you’d be very wrong about that. It is precisely her compassion for others that compelled Keffler to write this book. Having been on the receiving end of phone calls from desperate parents who search high and low to find authentic help for their struggling child, I can appreciate the very real need this book serves.

For the uninitiated, it’s useful to define some terms. As with any cult, transgenderism has its own set of vocabulary that manipulates word meanings and the people who speak that new language. The book even includes a glossary for this purpose. We will start with the term “transgenderism” itself and then move to the book’s title: Desist, Detrans, & Detox.

Transgender,” according the glossary, is “claiming to feel a mismatch between one’s biological sex and one’s sense of self; presenting oneself to the world according to stereotypes that do not align with those of one’s biological (birth) sex.”

To “desist,” in the world of gender ideology and transgenderism, is to have “adopted a transgender identity for a period of time, but to have come to accept your birth sex as reality.”

A “detransitioner” is “a person who presented as other than his or her birth sex, transitioning socially and/or medically, but has since accepted his or her birth sex as reality, and presents as such.”

Detox” refers to the detoxification or deprogramming that must take place to save a child from the cult. Often, this is the step that allows a child to return to his or her authentic self, and is a state that must be maintained. Managing access to the internet and toxic friends or family members, as well as pulling children from a school that is “affirming” an opposite sex identity or presentation all fall into the category of “detox.”

It is clear from her writing that Ms. Keffler cares very much. She relies not only on her training, but has taken the time and effort to collaborate with other experts in the field to write a practical, readable book. She centers the book on the family, using her training in educational psychology to reenforce loving common sense. Her parenting advice in significant portions of the book will be useful to any parent with teenagers and/or young adults. What parent doesn’t need a refresher on setting boundaries or motivation theory?

Perhaps the best advice in the book comes in chapter three, “Your Relationship with Your Transgender-Identified Child.” Here Keffler reviews the kinds of things parents forget in the throes of crisis parenting (or even just after a long, trying day): relationship skills; considerations for different aged children, including adult children; and staying focused on the goal. The goal in this case is rescuing your child from the gender cult, but parents needing help with other difficulties in life will also benefit from this chapter.

If more help is needed for your child, the author recommends using resources available at faith communities which still honor the dignity of the human person. She writes:

Whether or not you’re a person of religious faith, a church, temple, or mosque is a good place to start. Religious freedom is under fire by those who would see all traditional values expunged in America, but religious freedom is still the law of the land in the United States, and houses of faith still operate according to their consciences and scriptural mandates. If you know a house of worship that has not capitulated to the transgender narrative, start there. If you do not attend religious services, ask friends or colleagues about other local churches. Call the church secretary or administrator and ask about their doctrinal policy on the issue of transgenderism. If you’re comfortable with the response, tell them you’re looking for a therapist and you wonder if they can recommend someone.

Keffler offers an unflinching and objective review of the factors at play: the culture, the schools, the family, the parent(s). No one gets a pass, but neither is anyone attacked. The author simply asks the questions that need asking so that answers can be found or at least earnestly sought.

Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult is a must for parents confronting transgenderism in their families. If you know a family facing down the transgender cult, or if you are facing a crisis in your own family, this practical guide may offer a bit of wisdom or a helpful perspective at just the right moment.

Meg Kilgannon is Senior Fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 30)

by Family Research Council

June 4, 2021

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

1. Update: Gym Teacher Exercises Faith in Woke District

Tanner Cross may teach P.E., but it might be grammar that costs him his job! That’s the unbelievable situation playing out in Loudoun County, Virginia, where an elementary gym teacher dared to put himself on the wrong side of the gender wars during the public comment session of the local school board.

2. Update: MLB’s Political Bunt Faces Court Challenge

Woke corporations are learning the hard way that their social activism has a price. Monday, Major League Baseball was slapped with a $1.1 billion lawsuit for pulling the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia. The Job Creators Network (JCN), an organization that advocates for small businesses, filed the lawsuit—arguing that the MLB’s decision cost Georgia businesses $100 million in lost revenue.

3. Blog: Thinking Biblically About “Pride Month”

If you are on the internet, you likely know that June is “Pride Month.” Your social media feed will be filled with promotions, companies will temporarily change their logos to show that they are down with the struggle, and city streets will be lined with rainbow flags in solidarity with the sexual revolution. Meanwhile, many Christians will struggle with knowing how to respond. If you’re one of them, here are a few things to remember.

4. Blog: Fidelity to the Constitution Requires Roe’s Reversal

The biggest challenge many face when reasoning how the Supreme Court ought to rule on any given case is the understanding that justices should rule based in the United States Constitution, not in personal opinion. Americans must recognize the role and purpose of the highest court in the land, and why the United States Constitution must be its standard.

5. Washington Watch: Chris Mitchell, Warren Davidson, Gordon Chang, Beth Mizell, Gabrielle Clark

Tony was joined by Chris Mitchell, Middle East Bureau Chief for CBN News, to discuss the recent leadership tensions in Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents form a coalition deal to remove him from office. Warren Davidson, U.S. Representative for Ohio, shared his thoughts on what Dr. Fauci’s recently released emails reveal. Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War, explained what the public needs to know about the U.S. government funding in Wuhan. Beth Mizell, Louisiana State Senator, urged Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to sign the Louisiana Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. And, Gabrielle Clark, head of the Nevada chapter of No Left Turn in Education (NLTE), discussed her lawsuit against Critical Race Theory in her son’s public school.

6. Washington Watch: Mike Pompeo, George Barna, David Closson, Travis Weber

Tony was joined by Mike Pompeo, former United States Secretary of State, who discussed the Biden administration’s response to mounting questions about the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin. George Barna, FRC’s Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview, highlighted the findings of FRC’s recent national worldview survey. David Closson, FRC’s Director of the Center for Biblical Worldview, and Travis Weber, FRC’s Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, introduced FRC’s new Center for Biblical Worldview.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Critical Race Theory

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony was joined Todd Rokita, Jonathan Koeppel, Dr. Owen Strachan, and Pastor Iverson Jackson to discuss how Critical Race Theory (CRT) has taken over society and invaded schools, and how we can stand for truth against CRT.

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As China Crushes Dissent, the Legacy of Tiananmen Square Lives On

by Arielle Del Turco

June 4, 2021

While the death count was still rising in Tiananmen Square on June 4,1989, NBC News correspondent Tom Brokaw called China “a nation at war with itself.” The Chinese People’s Liberation Army had just opened fire into crowds of young protestors. Tanks rolled on to the square to intimidate unarmed civilians into submission. It brought a bloody end to weeks of student-led protests in favor of greater political participation.

That was 32 years ago. Yet, the photo of a string of tanks facing down a lone student who stood in their way remains a defining image of the Chinese government’s relationship with its people.

Dissent is no more tolerated in Xi Jinping’s China today than it was in 1989. One need not look farther than the Chinese government’s suppression of human rights advocates for evidence of this reality.

Well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s condition and location has been unknown since 2017, following long periods of detention during which he was brutally tortured. The Chinese government’s political persecution drove Gao to the Christian faith. Known for serving those from oppressed groups including Christians and Falun Gong adherents when it was taboo to do so, he was harshly punished for his outspokenness and moral clarity.

In 2018, Uyghur advocate Rushan Abbas spoke at a Hudson Institute panel about growing challenges for the Uyghur people under the Chinese government’s rule. Six days later, her sister and aunt in Xinjiang disappeared. Her sister has been detained continuously since then and the Chinese foreign ministry announced in 2020 that she received a 20-year prison sentence for terrorism-related charges. It’s a laughable charge for the former medical doctor, and Abbas believes it is in retaliation for her advocacy in the United States.

The Chinese government will go to great lengths to stifle criticism of its human rights violations or other unseemly policies.

The memory of student protests in Tiananmen Square was long commemorated by the people of Hong Kong, who resonated with the students’ call for democracy and reform. Since the passing of a new national security law, the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong—an event forbidden on the mainland—was banned by police last year and is now a thing of the past. This year, activists merely hung posters with cryptic messages, afraid to find out which phrases might violate new national security measures.

In what came to be known as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the official death count remains unknown. Estimates range from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though Beijing obscures the facts, history matters. By suppressing the truth about the shameful crackdown in 1989, the Chinese government is trying to erase history. But by doing so, they will merely repeat it. The cycle of Chinese government abuses against dissidents must come to an end as China seeks a positive international spotlight.

The United States must speak out on behalf of the Chinese people, who merely seek to live out their faith, express their opinions, and participate in the governance of their country. These are basic rights owed to all Chinese citizens, and the free world ought to stand with the individuals brave enough to publicly demand them.

Just like the protestor now known as the “Tank Man” was undeterred as he stared down armored vehicles, the Chinese people remain resilient even in the face of totalitarian efforts to suppress any dissent. An authoritarian regime can use its power to intimidate its people, but the human hope for freedom is not so easily crushed.

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Thinking Biblically About “Pride Month”

by Joseph Backholm

June 2, 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 the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

If you are on the internet, you likely know that June is “Pride Month.” Your social media feed will be filled with promotions, companies will temporarily change their logos to show that they are down with the struggle, and city streets will be lined with rainbow flags in solidarity with the sexual revolution.  

Meanwhile, many Christians will struggle with knowing how to respond. If you’re one of them, here are a few things to remember.

Pride celebrations are not new.

Although pride parades down the streets of America’s cities are a relatively recent development, people making a declaration of independence from God is so old it is almost cliché.  

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:2-3). However, Eve, with Satan’s help, convinced herself that doing things her way would help her become like God. Perhaps she decided she was spiritual, not religious.

She observed that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was desirable to make one wise (Gen. 3:6). She convinced herself that her rebellion would not be rebellion at all but virtue. She found God’s rules to be stifling of her individuality and was ready to chart a new path. Her husband even joined her. They may have even felt a sense of pride as they freed themselves from the bondage of God’s rules.

Basically, Adam and Eve started these parades, and we’ve all participated in various ways and with varying degrees of enthusiasm.     

You can love the way God wants you to or the way the world wants you to, but not both.

Much will be said about love this month. T-shirts, memes, and parade signs will declare that “love is love” and that “love wins.” Whether Christians can agree with these sentiments depends on how “love” is defined. Proponents of the sexual revolution would have us believe that we show love for someone by affirming identities, indulging desires, and encouraging each other to “live your truth.” But God’s definition of love is very different.

Scripture reminds us that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4-5). But then it goes on to remind us that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). This crucial verse is where God’s understanding of love and the world’s understanding of love diverge. God’s love forbids the celebration of things God does not celebrate. The world’s understanding of love requires it.

This means that a Christian’s unwillingness to celebrate Pride Month will be seen by the world as an act of hate and by God as an act of love. Christians must choose whose definition of love they will accept.  

Pride comes before a fall.

It’s ironic that those who started “Pride” events used the term “pride” to describe them. They named their entire movement after one of the seven deadly sins; a sin that Proverbs assures us is the prelude to our destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It is almost as if God was looking to make it obvious what was actually happening here. Just as we would be wise to avoid celebrating “Wrath Month” or a “Lust Parade,” Christians should be wary of celebrating pride. After all, we know what happens next.   

No one is beyond the love or reach of Jesus.

While Christians are right to separate themselves from celebrations of sin, we should be equally careful to avoid a different but equally bad kind of pride—self-righteousness. If Christians have any goodness within ourselves, we do not deserve the credit. After all, “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Rather than a sense of self-righteousness, Jesus modeled how our hearts should respond to people who are lost:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mat. 9:36-38).

When we see crowds who are lost, we should be moved to compassion, not self-righteousness.

Don’t be afraid.

This month, some will encounter a city street lined with rainbow flags or unwittingly expose their child to sexual revolutionary propaganda on Blue’s Clues and be prone to despair. Don’t despair.

Fear is never from God (2 Tim. 1:7). Whatever situation you are dealing with, God is not surprised by it, nor is it beyond His control. However, He knows we are prone to worry, which is why Peter encourages us to cast all our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). The same God who formed the mountains and put the planets into orbit is aware of the situation and handling it.

The good news is that our moments of weakness are the moments God does His best work in us. While the culture takes pride in their independence from God, we should boast in our dependence:  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor. 12:9).

Maybe we should start our own pride parade; it would be kind of the same but also very different.

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Kim Jong Un Encourages Workers to Maintain “Communist Faith”

by Arielle Del Turco

June 2, 2021

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un recently encouraged workers to build up their “communist faith.” In a letter released by North Korean state media last month, Kim wrote to a federation of trade unions, claiming that such communist faith is required to attain the utopian society supposedly possible in the world’s last true communist dictatorship.

But placing faith in the totalitarian Kim regime has not worked out for North Koreans in the past. In the 1990s, North Koreans had become accustomed to certain provisions by the government. But when a famine hit and the government could no longer provide food for the people, mass starvation and death followed, claiming as many as three million lives.

Some North Koreans crossed over the border with China in search of food, and some found spiritual sustenance as well. Missionaries from South Korea traveled to China’s border region to aid desperate North Koreans, offering them food, shelter, clothing, and sharing the gospel with them.

Missionary outreach from the 1990s is one of the main ways Christians in China today heard about Christ. To this day, North Korea remains the most isolated country on earth. There is no free access to information. It is particularly dangerous to be caught with religious materials. One defector suggested that murderers have a better chance escaping punishment than someone found to be in possession of a Bible.

Recently, North Korean defectors Yeonmi Park and Cherie Yang answered questions about their experiences in North Korea on YouTube. When the subject of religion came up, Yang recounted that her first experience in a Western church made her uncomfortable because it reminded her of the enforced adoration paid to the Kim family dictators in North Korea. She said that Kim Il Sung (Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of North Korea) adopted songs praising himself similar to worship songs praising God that might be heard in a Christian church.

The North Korean regime transformed the country into an atheistic society as it set out to eradicate religious belief, driving the church far underground. But that was not enough. Kim Il Sung, along with his son and grandson after him, positioned themselves as gods, requiring the praise of their people. This is an unspeakably cruel and ultimately ineffective course of action. No “communist faith” or worship for a dictator will create a utopian society in North Korea or anywhere else.

The North Korean people deserve to be free—to practice their religion, to speak their opinions, to access information, and to have a say in their system of governance. Those of us in the free world should not stop advocating and praying for the North Korean people until the day that becomes a reality.

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IRF 101: Living Under the Oppressive Heel of Communist Vietnam

by Tyler Watt

June 1, 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 Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Pakistan.

In 2001, 60 police officers stormed into a Catholic parish to arrest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Vietnamese priest, for the ridiculous charge of “damaging the Government’s unity policy,” as reported  by Freedom Now. Father Ly was not a radical. He merely raised his voice in opposition to a proposed U.S.-Vietnam trade deal, considering Vietnam’s human rights record.

After being imprisoned following his arrest for nearly four years, Father Ly was released, only to be arrested again in 2007 while he was organizing efforts to boycott an election. Since then, he has suffered multiple strokes, a brain tumor, a heart attack, and partial paralysis. Nonetheless, Father Ly regularly writes articles to encourage his countrymen in their faith. Like Job of the Old Testament, he continues to persevere in his faith no matter what oppression or illness he may face.

Tragically, Father Ly’s story is not unique. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam remains a single-party Communist state, and it continues in the leftist vein of Marx in its preference for de facto state atheism, oftentimes relegating the 24 million religious Vietnamese people to a secondary social plane. Religious groups are often the victim of government policies that openly discriminate against believers and build barriers to prevent them from practicing their faith.

Constitutional Promises Falling Short

Though Article 24 of the Constitution of Vietnam protects the right to practice or abstain from religion and holds all religions equal before the law, this policy truly exists only on paper. Religious groups are required to register with a government body before they can legally assemble and worship. According to a 2018 U.S. State Department report, the government of Vietnam may restrict religious practices in the interest of “national security” or “social unity.” These policies have been roundly criticized by religious leaders in the country as well as the non-governmental Interfaith Council of Vietnam.

Less than 40 denominations within 15 religions are sanctioned by the state; all others are not permitted to organize publicly. Red tape and pressure from the government make it difficult to worship in denominations not recognized by the government.

Some groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are banned entirely. Buddhist groups are required to affiliate with the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, and some Buddhist sects like the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam were banned, and their members imprisoned or otherwise persecuted.

Spreading the Written Word

Key to the religious life of so many Christians is the Holy Bible, the Word given to us by God which is so essential to church services and individual study. In Vietnam, the publishing of all materials is heavily regulated by the state, and all publishers must acquire approval from the government and certain licenses to print books and other media. Beyond this, only certain publishers can produce religious works, preventing the written gospel from being spread any further than what the government permits.

Overlapping Oppression: Targeting Ethnoreligious Minorities

The Hmong people, an ethnic minority with a population of around one million, are disproportionately followers of Christ: about 300,000 Hmong are Protestants, with a smaller number following Roman Catholicism. These numbers have shifted in the past few decades. In the days following the Vietnam War, thousands of Hmong were evacuated from Vietnam and neighboring Laos with the assistance of Catholic and Protestant (particularly Lutheran) charities. Those that remain to this day face pressures from the government and the majority Kinh (Viet) population to not seek converts or express their faith openly.

The Christian Hmongs’ faith is used as justification for the state to suppress them, on the grounds that it dilutes their allegiance to the government. To alienate the Hmong even further, the state prevents them from receiving government identification materials, ensuring that they cannot start businesses or open bank accounts. Applications to register Hmong churches are regularly denied, forcing Hmong Christians to worship in underground churches, placing them at risk of arrest or violence.

Hope in an Uncertain Future

Despite the difficulties faced by Vietnamese Christians and other religious minorities, there is hope for the future. The religious groups (Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and others) coexist fairly peacefully, allowing for a degree of interreligious cooperation to occur. American and European lawmakers have denounced human rights violations in Vietnam, and were vocal in their discontent with Father Ly’s imprisonments. The attention devoted to Vietnam in the past half century makes it a better starting point than many other countries to fight religious persecution.

That said, there is ample room for us as individual Christians—both lay and clergy—to act. We must act with the courage that Father Ly possesses to denounce oppressive states where they exist and encourage our lawmakers to keep the pressure on this communist state, lest we forget their countless acts of violence and oppression. The causeless imprisonment and persecution of so many faithful Christians must be central in our prayers and chief in the hearts of our legislators as our country hopes for a free Vietnam and grapples with ongoing concerns about their dubious human rights record.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 23)

by Family Research Council

May 28, 2021

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

1. Update: Unequally Woked: One Teacher’s Stand to Stop the Left

It took a young, courageous Spanish teacher to stand up and say, “Not in my school district” to open the eyes of Americans all across the country. Now, a month later, his viral video is sparking a nationwide movement to expose the Left’s biggest lie: it’s not happening here. It is, Jonathan Koeppel insists. People just don’t know it.

2. Update: The Fighting Irish Fight Back

The White House called it a “scheduling conflict.” But people at Notre Dame knew it was something else: a conflict of values. When Joe Biden didn’t give the keynote address at Sunday’s graduation ceremony, his absence was enough to make headlines. The only truly controversial visit was Barack Obama’s in 2009, but that would be nothing—protestors warned—compared to the backlash over Biden.

3. Blog: Why I Don’t Use Preferred Pronouns

Demi Lovato has “come out” as non-binary. Being non-binary seems to mean that someone does not feel entirely masculine or feminine so they choose to be neither male or female—non-binary. With this label comes preferred pronouns. The thing is, pronouns contain a statement of belief about the nature of reality, so how do we navigate using preferred pronouns that defy reality?

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Judging

On this edition of “Worldview Wednesday” we unpack what scripture says about “judging.” Even people who don’t know the Bible have opinions about it. A favorite verse of many who want a get-out-of-jail-free card is Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” But what does this Bible verse, and the rest of Scripture, say about the issue of “judging”?

5. Washington Watch: Chip Roy, Rand Paul, Mat Staver, Anthony Wade, Tom Cotton, Jerry Boykin

Tony was joined by Chip Roy, U.S. Representative for Texas, and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President, who cautioned against the influx of Critical Race Theory in military training. Rand Paul, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, discussed the small business committee hearing about Planned Parenthood unlawfully obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans. Anthony Wade, Lead Pastor of Faith Building Church in Lebanon, Ohio, praised his City Council for making Lebanon Ohio’s first sanctuary city for the unborn. And Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, talked about new intelligence showing that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in November 2019.

6. Washington Watch: Mike Johnson, Scott Rasmussen, David Bullard, Jonathan Koeppel

Tony Perkins was joined by Mike Johnson, U.S. Representative for Louisiana, who discussed the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire agreement and the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the Iran deal. Scott Rasmussen, Pollster and Publisher of ScottRasmussen.com, emphasized the importance of the abortion issue ahead of the midterm elections. David Bullard, Oklahoma State Senator, explained his bill that banned Critical Race Theory from being taught in Oklahoma public school classrooms. And Jonathan Koeppel, a high school Spanish teacher, objected to his school’s radical gender theory curriculum.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: How to Pray for America

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Mike Berry, Jay Johnston, and Michele Bachmann to discuss government policies that have created hostility and even opposition towards biblical Christianity and how Christians should respond.

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Fidelity to the Constitution Requires Roe’s Reversal

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

Before joining the policy world, I taught history in Catholic schools. One of my favorite units was on the Supreme Court. Students were required to memorize the justices’ names, review various cases, and argue how the justices should rule in each case. The biggest challenge I faced as a teacher was convincing students that their determination of how justices should rule needed to be based in the United States Constitution, not in personal opinion. Sadly, this is not a problem only middle school teachers face but one confronting all Americans who recognize the role and purpose of the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—a case asking whether Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks is constitutional. The Court’s decision to review this case is terrifying pro-abortion activists across the country because not only does Dobbs have the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but if the Supreme Court justices follow their obligation to the Constitution, the Dobbs decision should overturn Roe and Casey.

In Roe, the Court argued that under the 14th Amendment, the Due Process Clause, a woman has a right to privacy, and as such, she has a constitutional right to an abortion. As part of this decision, the Court said that the states had the power to regulate abortion in the first trimester for any reason, in the second trimester in the interest of the woman’s health, and in the third trimester, the state could outlaw abortion. In the Court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court reaffirmed Roe’s finding that a woman has the right to an abortion but changed the requirements for outlawing abortion from the trimester framework to a viability framework.

As any former student of mine should be able to attest, the words “right to privacy” that are used to justify the right to an abortion in both Roe and Casey do not appear anywhere in the Constitution—neither do the words “viability ” or “trimester.” The seven justices who ruled in favor of Roe, and the five justices who ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood fell into the same trap that plagued my 8th graders. They ruled based on their personal opinion—not on the United States Constitution.

Many have speculated that the outcome of Dobbs will be less than satisfactory to those in the pro-life movement—suggesting that the decision will likely favor a more incremental walk-back of Roe and Casey rather than a full reversal. I hope they are wrong.

If my middle school students (who were very bright, but still, middle school students) were the ones deciding Dobbs, I could understand another failure to decide an abortion case based on the Constitution. I could understand that for a third time, middle school students might substitute their own opinions and create their own framework for when and how abortion should be allowed. But the nine individuals deciding this case have been educated far beyond middle school by teachers and professors far more knowledgeable than me. In fact, these nine men and women are some of the best and the brightest this country has to offer, and more importantly, they have taken an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

As the Dobbs case is argued and the opinion is written, the pro-life movement must pray that the nine justices are able to recognize that overturning Roe and Casey is not a form of judicial advocacy, a decision based on religious principles, or an ideological answer to the pro-life movement. Overturning Roe and Casey is what fidelity to the Constitution requires.

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Spiritual Considerations During Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

This is the final part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Read part 1 on how to support a friend who has gone through a miscarriage and part 2 on the practical considerations during miscarriage.

The information contained in this post may be difficult to read.

If you are or have gone through a miscarriage, or if you are supporting a loved one going through a miscarriage, there are several spiritual considerations that may help you to grieve the death of your child and celebrate the life of your child.

Consider bringing these thoughts to prayer, especially reflecting on how Christ unites His experience of the cross to your pain. Invite Him to be with you in the midst of suffering, in order that He may fill it with His presence and transform it. Christ is carrying His cross and suffering with you. As Pope John Paul II said, “Christ, through His own salvific suffering, is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of His spirit of truth, His consoling spirit.” 

  • God loves your child. In fact, God has had a purpose for him or her since before your child was conceived. Regardless of how many weeks old your child was when he or she died, you can rest in the knowledge that God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you and appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Your child’s life made a difference. Acknowledge your child as a unique person. Recognize that the grief you feel is proof that your child’s life made an impact.
  • Isaiah said, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (49:1). God already knows your child’s name. You and your spouse should consider spending time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to name your child. You can share this name with others or keep it to yourself. Naming your child acknowledges his or her existence and connects you to him/her.
  • Your unborn baby’s death is not punishment. Their death is not because of anything you or your child did (John 9:2). God loves you. Isaiah 55:8 gently reminds us that we can’t always look into God’s purposes for the pain and suffering we experience: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” You will likely not understand why your unborn baby died until you meet Christ on the last day. It is okay to wonder what God is doing. Ultimately, trust that God loves you and your baby—even when you have no idea what His plan is.
  • Though Scripture tells us, “the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31), you and your husband will experience your miscarriage differently. A woman will undergo physical and emotional pain, while a man’s experience of pain will be purely emotional. You and your husband may grieve in different ways at different times. This is ok—in fact, it’s helpful. When one of you is falling apart, the other can be a source of comfort.
  • Isaiah 64:8 teaches, “We are the clay and you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand.” God does not make mistakes. Your child was and is a beautiful gift from Him to you. Consider keeping the ultrasound of your baby, your positive pregnancy test, and any other mementos of your child’s time on earth in a special place, and yearly—perhaps on your unborn child’s due date—consider remembering your child in a special way, even if just in a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift he or she was during his or her short time on earth.
  • An unborn baby was the first person to recognize Jesus as the Son of God without anyone telling him who He was: “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (read the whole story in Luke 1:39-45). While your baby was never formally introduced to Jesus, we know from Scripture that an unborn child can recognize the presence of the Lord even in the womb. Trust in God’s mercy and love and know that you will see your child in heaven one day. (On the question of about whether unborn babies go to heaven, read this short book or this article for biblical backing.)
  • Scripture also tells us, “In your book were written the days that were formed for me, every one of them…” (Psalm 139:16). Your child is part of God’s plan. Do not be afraid to share the experience of losing your child with others—especially with your other children and family members. This is a personal decision, and your decision on this may develop and change over time. Allowing your other children to grieve the loss of their brother or sister at an appropriate age is important. Knowing there is a sibling in heaven can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Sharing about the loss of your child with others not only acknowledges your child’s existence, but it also allows your child to continue to have an impact on this world. The following books have been helpful for other parents talking to their child about the loss of a sibling through miscarriage.
  • Trusting that God is all good and all loving is especially hard when grieving the loss of a child. Ask your pastor to preside over a memorial service to remember and celebrate the life of your unborn child. If your pastor is not able or willing to do this just for you, suggest a service for all parents mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage. Running to Jesus—even if only to cry out “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24”—is the first step to healing your heart. 
  • As a gift from God, your child will always be a part of you. For moms, your child will not only always hold a place in your heart, but it has been scientifically proven that an unborn baby’s DNA stays within his or her mother, and in fact, may help the mother’s body heal from certain diseases. This connection will unite you and your baby until you meet him or her in heaven.
  • Remember that you are a mom and that your husband is a dad, and that you have a child in heaven. This is a great gift. Do not forget that your child always belonged to God, and now your child is with God for eternity. May you be able to say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
  • If you are a Christian, take hope in the reality that you will see your child again. This is the hope of the resurrection. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” The hope for those in Christ is that we will see our loved ones again—born and unborn.
  • At some point, the wound of miscarriage can become a source of strength. “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).   When you feel ready, do not be afraid to share your story. Your unborn child’s life has and will continue to change the world. This article may be helpful in discerning when, how, and if you want to share your story.

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