FRC Blog

How to Talk to Kids about Pornography: 3 Painless Steps

by Kristen Jenson

July 11, 2019

Parents, what conversation is dreaded more than the first one about pornography? I’m not sure there is one! Teaching kids about where babies come from seems simple in comparison. The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you think. I’ve broken it down into three relatively painless steps: start early, empower kids with the basics, and keep on learning and talking!

1. Start Early

How early should you begin warning your child about pornography? The short answer is as soon as they have any access to the internet (or apps that lead to the internet). #SoonerIsSafer! No conscientious parent allows a child access to a busy street without teaching them about the dangers of oncoming cars. It just makes sense to give young kids a gentle warning about harmful content as soon as they are allowed to play on the byways of the internet.

Susan is a very protective mom, and very wise, too. She told me about the time when her 7-year-old son was exposed to pornography by a neighbor. A few days earlier, she had re-read Good Pictures Bad Pictures to her son and reminded him of what to do if he ever saw a bad picture. Although it was distressing, everything worked according to plan! He turned away and went home and told his mom what he had seen. Thankfully, he was prepared!

Children who are caught off guard by pornography are not safe. They are more vulnerable than children who have been warned and given a plan for responding to exposure.

When a parent begins early, it’s not awkward for the child. As the adult, you create the context. Parents continue to tell me that their kids take it well, and that broaching the topic creates an even stronger, more trusting bond with their child.

Don’t be scared—be prepared!

2. Empower Kids with Three Basics

Children need to know three things about pornography:

  • What it is—they need an appropriate definition of pornography.
  • Why it’s harmful—so many kids grow up without a clue that pornography can hurt their young minds—they need good information!
  • How to reject it—a simple plan so they know exactly what to do when they see pornography.

An age-appropriate definition of pornography for a young child gives them just enough information so they can recognize it. In my Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books, I use the following simple definition. “Pornography means pictures, videos or even cartoons of people with little or no clothes on…that focus on the private parts of the body we keep covered with a swimsuit.”

Some critics argue that pornography should not be equated with nudity or else it will cause “body shame.” I take great pains to assure kids that “every part of your body is good, including your private parts. But taking pictures of them and sharing them with others is not good.” Kids are very literal, and nuance is lost on them. Just teach them to come and tell you if they see nudity or near nudity and you can enlighten them if they need additional understanding. For simple tips on how to explain the difference between porn and art to a child, read this blog post.

Explain why it’s harmful. For young children, I use the “picture poison” analogy in my Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. book. You’ve already taught them about poison and harmful substances. Pictures can poison the mind, too. Again, reassurance is critical: “There’s something good you can do if you see a bad picture.”

Older children can learn how pornography can become a bad habit or even an addiction. Once kids understand the process of addiction, they have a real opportunity to protect their own brains. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids describes how the “thinking brain” and the “feeling brain” can work together to stay safe from addiction. This article from my website ProtectYoungMinds.org contains a simplified explanation of how addictions develop.

3. Give Kids a Plan

It’s common wisdom to teach kids to respond to a fire or active shooter. They need the same “fire drill” for pornography. Thankfully, most children won’t deal with a fire or a shooter, but all of them will need to escape from pornography.

The “escape” plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is simply “Turn, Run and Tell!” Turn away from the bad picture, hurry and get away, and go tell a trusted adult what you saw. The CAN DO Plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures helps kids not only turn away from it, but to label it by saying “That’s pornography!” This allows kids to have more control over their thoughts by engaging their thinking brain.

Make sure your kids know who they can talk to about pornography exposure wherever they are. Talk to their teachers at school and find out what their plan is for students reporting pornography exposure.  

Finally, help your kids to know how to minimize or “forget” any shocking images they are exposed to by learning to redirect their thoughts to something they get excited about. For example, if they love horses, have them think about saddling up and galloping away! And encourage them to keep practicing—it takes several times, but every time a bad image pops up, just keep thinking about something else. Pretty soon, that memory will begin to fade.

No Child Deserves to Face the Porn Industry Alone

Kids who interface with screens need to know what pornography is, why it’s harmful and what to do when they see it. And they also need constant mentoring. Some families use #TalkTechTuesdays to address all kinds of digital age issues. Whatever day you choose, make sure you keep talking with your kids and listening to their experiences.

I am grateful for caring adults who choose to confront pornography head on so kids won’t have to face it alone. And once you begin the conversation, it gets easier and more comfortable. You CAN DO it.

To get started, check out the free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents on ProtectYoungMinds.org.

Kristen A. Jenson, MA is the founder of Protect Young Minds and best-selling author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books. She serves on the Safeguard Alliance founded by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Continue reading

How Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Linked

by Patrina Mosley

July 11, 2019

This is Part 2 of a series on prostitution. Read Part 1.

There is a very thin line between prostitution and sex trafficking. They are hardly distinguishable in operation, but one is more complicated to prove by law.

Let’s define some terms.

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual activity for money or anything of value (drugs, shelter, etc.).

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which amended the definition of the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not obtained 18 years of age.”

Under the TVPA, coercion is defined as: “threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.”

Who are the pimps and traffickers? They are the facilitator(s) or person(s) using force, fraud, or coercion for commercial sexual exploitation and collaborators who benefit financially.

According to USLegal.com, “Pimps are people who procures [sic] a prostitute for customers or vice versa, and takes [sic] a portion of the profits from the sexual activities. Supposedly he provides protection for the prostitutes, but quite often he will threaten, brutalize, rape, cheat and induce drug addiction of the prostitutes. A pimp is guilty of the crime of pandering. A pimp is someone who brokers the sexual favors of women for profits.”

Prostitution and sex trafficking operate the same way. There is recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, and soliciting of a person for sex. When it comes to proving force, fraud, or coercion, that largely depends on evidence and testimony. What woman will say they are a victim of trafficking when their very lives or family’s lives are threatened or if they have fear of leaving the lifestyle they have become accustomed to?

The Many Sides of Coercion

In one Chicago study, 43 percent of young women who were currently under the control of a pimp/trafficker “said they could not leave without physical harm.” Often, victims see their pimp/trafficker as a boyfriend and there is fear of ending the romantic relationship. It is not unusual for victims to be trafficked by a boyfriend, a male friend, or a family member. Females can also be traffickers and pimps.

In 2016, San Diego County conducted a study about the pimps and traffickers in that county. The study provided keen insight into the common characteristics of those being coerced with these findings:

  • Psychological coercion (defined as “social and emotional isolation, induced emotional exhaustion, and degradation, including humiliation, denial of the victim’s power, and name-calling”) and economic coercion (taking 50 percent or more of prostituted person’s earnings) were primary means sex traffickers employ for controlling victims.
  • Pimps reported an average income of $670,625.
  • Researchers determined that middle schools and high schools were significant/frequent places for recruiting girls who become victims of sexual exploitation, and not just in low-income neighborhoods.

Traffickers and pimps prey on women and children who have a history of abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, running away from home, homelessness, lack of education, or other emotional vulnerabilities. They lure them in with promises of meeting some type of need, whether it be economical, emotional, or both. Pimps/traffickers groom their victims to the point where they have control over them psychologically. Often, this is done by introducing drugs as well, which can cause the victims to become addicted and dependent on the pimp to keep them high and locked into the lucrative sex trade to support their new habit.

In that same Chicago study, 29 percent said they were provided drugs to encourage addiction and 23 percent reported drugs were withheld by the pimp to coerce them into prostitution.

According to a 2013 study of 150 countries, sex trafficking increased in the countries where prostitution was legal.

The idea that sex trafficking is involuntary prostitution and prostitution is willing “sex work” is false. The elements are the same except no one is willing to say an underage girl that she is a working professional prostitute—instead, we shout, “sex trafficking.” If she is 18 and above, is she automatically a willing prostitute? The Archives of Sexual Behavior notes: “In a review of reports on adults in prostitution, 84% were trafficked or under pimp control. The numbers of women who choose prostitution from a position of safety, equality, and genuine alternatives is minimal. O’Connell Davidson (1998, p. 5) noted that only a ‘tiny minority of individuals’ choose prostitution because of the ‘intrinsic qualities of sex work.’ Prostitution has to do with one person’s sexual desires and the other person’s economic needs. The money coerces the performance of sex.”

The operation of prostitution is by default coercion in its transactional nature.

Modern-Day Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

Sex trafficking and prostitution rings are way more advanced and sophisticated today than they were 20 year ago. Today, recruitment and transactions largely take place online through social media accounts, the dark web, and ad listings sites such as Craigslist and Backpage. Before the FBI seizure of Backpage, it was the most popular site for traffickers and pimps to trade off their victims. The average age of recruitment for prostitutes is 14 and the average age of pimps and traffickers are between the ages of 18-34. We have become a generation that are exploiting ourselves.

This May in D.C., as efforts to decriminalize prostitution began to wane, local police made arrests in a major human trafficking case involving teenagers:

Terrell Armstead had an Instagram hashtag “#TeamSupreme” for his prostitution business, according to court documents. He used it to advertise a commercial sex business, posting videos and images of money and luxury goods with the caption “Who wants to join TeamSupreme.”

Detectives allege he would direct message teenage girls, telling them they could make $1,000 a day working in strip clubs and arranging sex dates with customers inside…Among the evidence is a text from one of the young women to Armstead saying, “I only made 200 so far.” He replied, “It’s only 9 I got faith that you’ll get 800 more at least.”

D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, who for the second time introduced the bill to decriminalize prostitution, said:

It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex, and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health and safety.

As reported:

He was surrounded by several people holding signs. One read, “Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe in Their Work,” while another said, “Sex Workers Matter.”

You cannot combat sex trafficking while trying to legalize prostitution. It makes no sense when the two are essentially the same. And, how in the world does legal prostitution equal human rights? Whose rights? Most people in prostitution are either female or transgender women, and the vast majority of buyers are males. To say that prostitution is a human right is by default saying men have a right to use women’s body as a commodity. Why weren’t there signs that said, “Women’s lives matter,” “My body is not a commodity,” or “I’m not for sale, I’m a person”?

Clinical psychologist and founder of Prostitution Research and Education, Dr. Melissa Farley and former prostitute and founder of SPACE International, Rachel Moran came to a clear and disturbing conclusion in their study “Consent, Coercion, and Culpability: Is Prostitution Stigmatized Work or an Exploitive and Violent Practice Rooted in Sex, Race, and Class Inequality?”:

In thousands of interviews, we have heard prostituted women, men, and transwomen describe prostitution as paid rape, voluntary slavery, signing a contract to be raped (in legal prostitution), the choice that is not a choice, and as domestic violence taken to the extreme.

It is ironic, and even cruel, to equate prostitution with “safety” and “human rights.” The sexual exploitation of others is not a right. It is appalling that even in the age of #MeToo, we have politicians who say “its long past time” that we approach paid sex as a human right instead of saying that it is long past time for the exploitation of women to end.

Stay tuned for Part 3, which will take a deeper look at the path forward for going after the perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

Continue reading

State Department’s New Commission Set to Expose Human Rights Abusers

by Arielle Del Turco

July 10, 2019

July 9th marked the four-year anniversary of the launch of a campaign by Chinese officials to crack down on human rights lawyers. Many of these lawyers were arrested, given prison sentences, and tortured behind bars. This tragedy is now referred to as the “709 Incident” because it began on July 9, 2015. Since this date, China has continued to persecute human rights lawyers and activists.

The Chinese government’s crackdown on anyone brave enough to advocate for human rights in China is especially disgusting given that China currently sits on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

The fact that shameless human rights abusers can participate in the UN Human Rights Council brings to light an issue that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to address.

On July 7th, Pompeo announced the launch of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. This new panel of scholars, legal experts, and advocates are tasked with reorienting the definition of “human rights” to one that our country’s Founders and the signers of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights would recognize.

Political activists over the past several decades have slowly eroded the proper understanding of human rights from being centered around life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to a catch-all phrase that encompasses everything from abortion to free college tuition.

The confusion over human rights is especially evident in international affairs. The United Nations’ Human Rights Council has shamelessly ignored obvious human rights violations around the world—all while some of the worst violators of human rights claim membership on the council. It’s clear that international institutions tasked with addressing human rights concerns have lost focus on their mission. The Commission on Unalienable Rights is looking to change that.

The commission, which will provide advice, not policy, will take a step back and consider the source and substance of what the Declaration of Independence labeled our “unalienable rights.” Informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and U.S. founding documents, the commission is intended to provide insight on how we can better define and protect essential human rights.

Pompeo argues that oppressive regimes have abused the term “human rights” and acted as if they were champions of this cause. We can no longer let brutal regimes get away with hiding their heinous actions as they hijack the legitimate and necessary terminology of “human rights.” There must be a universal standard of basic human rights so that countries can be held accountable for violating the fundamental rights of their people. We can hope that this new commission will provide the clarity that is so desperately needed to effectively advocate for those most basic rights which all people are entitled to, but far too many people around the world are denied.

Continue reading

Taylor Swift and the Politicization of Pop Music

by Lauren Kaylor

July 10, 2019

In spring 2019, Taylor Swift announced that her newest album would “have political undertones,” and she was not kidding.

This June, she released the album’s second single and accompanying music video entitled “You Need to Calm Down.” The song is an unambiguous announcement of her support for the LGBT movement and a denouncement of anyone who isn’t fully on board with it. Lyrics like, “You would rather live in the Dark Ages,” and “Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?” leave no middle ground. 

In the video, Swift parades around glamorously with celebrities and a multitude of individuals who identify as homosexual and transgender. A group of toothless, unwashed, scraggily-haired protesters also make a garish appearance, brandishing misspelled signs like “Get a brain, moran.” The video is crystal-clear social commentary with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. But the video goes a step further than one would normally expect from a popstar. At the end of the video, text appears calling for direct political action: “Please sign my petition for Senate support of the Equality Act on Change.org.”

As FRC has made clear, the “Equality Act” would in reality create vast amounts of inequality in our society through its codification of “sexual orientation/gender identity” (SOGI) laws. Among other injustices, the Equality Act would require small business owners like bakers, florists, and photographers to celebrate same-sex weddings, allow men who identify as women to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms and compete in women’s sports, shut down faith-based adoption agencies because of their religious beliefs, and force all medical providers, regardless of their conscientious objections, to perform sex-change surgeries.

Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” gives us a unique two-fold opportunity. First, you can respond to her petition by signing FRC’s own petition to halt the Equality Act. Second, you can use technology to respond with genuine love and reconciliation toward those who see any opposition to the LGBT agenda as “hateful.”

John 13:35 tells us that “They will know you by your love for one another.” Other verses that speak truth into this are 1 Corinthians 13 and Luke 6:27-36. Christians are called to love others completely, even those who disagree with or hate us. True love does not mean agreeing on everything or accepting all lifestyle choices, but it means willing the good of the other. Christians are called to love people who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Loving does not equate to pandering to views that contradict our beliefs. We ought to will the good of one another because we love them—because we love Christ. For this reason, we want the LGBT movement to know of God’s love for them.

Christians are called to the ministry of reconciliation, which can only be manifested in the advent of love. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting peoples’ sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

I propose that Christians embrace their role as Christ’s ambassadors and show others Christ inside of us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” When we accept our role as His ambassadors, the Holy Spirit will work through us and bust the false narrative of “hate.” Let us show so much of Christ’s love to those who disagree with us that Taylor Swift’s heart might be led to change. 

Lauren Kaylor is an intern for Life, Culture, and Women’s Advocacy at Family Research Council.

Continue reading

Minnesota Reports 3 Born-Alive Babies in 2018

by Patrina Mosley , Connor Semelsberger

July 3, 2019

Think babies aren’t being born alive after surviving an abortion attempt? Think again. From January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, three babies in Minnesota survived abortions but later died, according to a new Minnesota state Department of Health report.

Since 2015, Minnesota has been keeping track of abortion survivors since the states’ passage of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. The law recognizes infants who survive abortions as human persons and requires that they be provided with reasonable medical care. The law also requires information to be collected on the medical actions taken to preserve the life of the infant, whether the infant survived, and the status of a surviving infant.

Since the law went into effect, Minnesota has reported 11 babies surviving abortions:

  • five babies in 2016
  • three babies in 2017
  • three babies in 2018

Laws to require the collection of data on born-alive victims should be encouraged in all states. There are only six states that require reporting on babies born alive during abortion procedures: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas. As of 2017, only Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oklahoma have reported this information.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control report at least 143 babies were born alive after botched abortions between 2003 and 2014 in the U.S. The CDC took this data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) Mortality Data in regard to infant deaths. These numbers are different from the number collected by the states that report born-alive infants.

As a response to the lack of reporting on abortion and abortion survivors, U.S. Representatives Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) recently introduced The Ensuring Accurate and Complete Abortion Data Reporting Act of 2019 (H.R. 3580). This bill would require all states to submit abortion data, including the number of children who survive abortions, in order to receive Medicaid funds for family planning services.

The CDC already requests abortion reporting from states. However, the reporting of this information is voluntary, which allows states to leave out certain statistics or opt out altogether. Because there are only six states that require reporting on children who survive abortions, it is vital that the U.S. Congress passes this bill so that the American people know how many innocent lives are lost because of the failure to provide life-saving care to the most vulnerable.

Efforts to protect infants who survive abortion has not been limited to gathering a few data points, as Members of Congress continue to fight for a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962) which would require life-saving medical care for children born alive after abortion attempts. So far, Republicans have asked for unanimous consent to vote on this bill 67 times, and every single time Democrat leaders have said no.

Sometimes, a small symbol of humanity is all it takes to change the mind of our government officials. There is no better sign of the humanity of children who survive abortions then the soft, warm feel of the colorful baby hat given to newborns at hospitals, just like the ones in our End Birth Day Abortions Campaign. Every child deserves to wear a new baby hat, especially the three children who survived abortion attempts in Minnesota last year.

Continue reading

Dilshat Perhat Ataman: A Prisoner of Conscience in China

by Arielle Del Turco

July 3, 2019

As the United States and China continue to discuss trade, we have a unique opportunity to raise religious freedom concerns such as that country’s ongoing detention of Christian pastors and mass repression of Uyghur Muslims. It is therefore encouraging to see Family Research Council President and chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Tony Perkins announce yesterday that he was formally adopting Dilshat Perhat Ataman as a prisoner of conscience to highlight his case of unjust imprisonment due to his faith.

Dilshat is a Uyghur Muslim currently detained in a “re-education” internment camp in China’s Xinjiang province.

Dilshat founded and managed a popular website called “Diyarim,” which promoted Uyghur history and culture and provided a social media platform to the Uyghur community. In 2009, he was arrested by Chinese authorities and charged with “endangering state security” after a comment was posted in a chatroom on his website about the Chinese government’s suppression of Uyghur protests.

After serving five years in prison, Dilshat was released in 2014. Yet, his freedom was short-lived. In June 2018, he was rearrested without reason from the Chinese authorities—this time he was taken to a “re-education” internment camp.

Those who have been released from these camps describe how Uyghurs are tortured during interrogation, live in crowded cells, and are subjected to extensive daily regimens of Chinese Communist Party indoctrination (as seen in this BBC report). Detainees routinely face harsh treatment and are forced to live in unhygienic conditions, sometimes leading to their death. 

The Chinese government has invested a lot of resources to surveil and suppress Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group who are mostly Muslim. Yet, it is not a contradiction to say that Christians must care about the suffering they face due to their religious beliefs and advocate on their behalf.  

Christians believe that God is in control of human affairs yet gives people the freedom to choose their beliefs. Just as God gives people that freedom, we should defend the freedom of others to choose and live out their religious convictions without any government harassing, oppressing, imprisoning, or killing people for expressing their basic right to religious freedom.

What the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs is evil—and that should be something everyone is concerned about.

Dilshat is one of at least 880,000 and possibly more than 2 million Uyghurs who are detained in Chinese “re-education” internment camps.

The injustice of China’s detention of Dilshat Perhat Ataman in a “re-education” camp is obvious. Hopefully, by bringing Dilshat’s case to light, there will be a greater awareness of the plight of Uyghur Muslims who are targeted for persecution because the Chinese government views their religious beliefs as a threat to the political ideology and authority of the Communist Party.

Continue reading

Lemon v. The Constitution

by Nicolas Reynolds

July 1, 2019

Conservatives breathed a refreshing sigh of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling to protect the Bladensburg cross-shaped memorial last month in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. In defending the memorial, the Court not only resolved this case’s controversy but helped shed light on religion’s place in the public square entirely. This case may prove to be a greater victory than many suppose as it looks towards the original intentions of our Founding Fathers, measuring the memorial’s legality with the Constitution rather than tests the Court has conjured up in the past.

Though the Court has had to determine how the Constitution is to be interpreted, some of the ways chosen to do so have greatly deviated from the Constitution’s plain original meaning. One of the worst interpretations of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause—the Lemon testhas played a significant role in the Court’s decisions since Lemon v. Kurtzman was decided in 1971. The Lemon test instated a three-pronged set of requirements intended to drive a wedge between Church and State—something that the Establishment Clause never envisioned, supported, or made accommodations for.

Though the Lemon test has daunted cases of religious freedom for decades, the Court’s decision to protect the Bladensburg cross-shaped memorial gives one hope for a future full reversal of Lemon. Having produced a strong 7-2 ruling in favor of the memorial, the Court once again highlighted the futility of the test. Even though the Court did not throw out Lemon entirely, their ruling greatly crippled the test, increasingly marginalizing it and making clear it is simply unhelpful. In his concurring opinion, Justice Kavanaugh highlighted its obvious flaws and increasing uselessness, as he surveyed the Court’s Establishment Clause cases to show that Lemon has not been applied in many of them.

Kavanaugh pointed out Lemon’s grave flaws by showing that many normal religious practices would be prohibited by the test. As Lemon doesn’t allow the government to act in any way that could advance or endorse religion, any form of government-granted religious accommodations and exemptions—practices that have always been fundamental within the United States—would be entirely forbidden. Kavanaugh lays out that many religious practices intertwined with daily life “’by definition’ have the effect of advancing or endorsing religion to some extent.”

Along with other justices, Justice Kavanaugh urges that a test as hostile towards religious imagery as the Lemon test is dangerously unconstitutional and should hold no place within our judicial system. Kavanaugh concurred, “The Court’s decision in this case [The American Legion v. American Humanist Association] again makes clear that the Lemon test does not apply to the Establishment Clause…”

Rather than choosing to interpret the cross as a secular symbol, Kavanaugh drives home the significance of preserving religious imagery in the public square, stating, “I fully understand the deeply religious nature of the cross. It would demean both believers and nonbelievers to say that the cross is not religious, or not all that religious.” Kavanaugh summarized and solidified the cross’s validity, choosing to understand it for what it is—the universally chosen icon to represent Christ’s death and sacrifice on Calvary.

Justice Kavanaugh, along with others, shed light on the clear truth that it is impossible to separate religion from the public square, being that the public square is comprised of religious individuals. For those that prize religious freedom as a core principle of this country, the Bladensburg memorial stands as a testimony to the Constitution’s provisions for religious freedom. This case helps illuminate how religion is not only inseparable from but also necessary for public life to flourish, something that FRC’s amicus brief highlights. In a culture that appears to be continuously straying from biblical values, it is comforting for Supreme Court Justices to stand on and for the truths that this country was founded upon.

Nicolas Reynolds is an intern at Family Research Council.

Continue reading

The Fight to Defend Faith-Based Adoption Providers

by Nicolas Reynolds

June 28, 2019

Recently, faith-based adoption and foster care agencies have been the target of many discriminatory acts made by state and local governments.

Far from the Founding Fathers’ original intent, the ability to help others through foster care and adoption is now contingent on the feelings of LGBT activists in some states and localities. This is just the latest example of a disturbing trend—if the convictions of one’s religion encroaches on someone else’s comfort, ego, or ideology, they are demonized and declared to be a manifestation of hatred.

Increasingly, care provided by faith-based adoption agencies is only permitted on the condition that these agencies’ beliefs do not offend the LGBT movement, conditions that threaten their ability to serve children who are in desperate need of fundamental nurturing. Governmental discriminatory actions have been taken against faith-based agencies in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

In Philadelphia, actions were taken in March of 2018 to end the referral contract the city had with Catholic Social Services (CSS) even though they are one of the city’s largest foster care agencies (there are 30 total), working every day to place at-risk and special needs children in supportive homes. According to CSS, the agency serves 120 children in foster care and supervises 100 foster homes on a daily basis. In 2017 alone, they worked with over 2,200 children. Following the city’s ending of its referral contract with CSS, a “foster parent of the year” award winner’s home was emptied and siblings were nearly kept apart despite the city’s urgent call for hundreds of new foster homes. Even though CSS has been placing children in foster care for over a century, it appears they have lost the opportunity seemingly overnight.

Situations like Philadelphia will only escalate all governmental discriminatory actions towards religious organizations. Actions like these open the door to far more severe discriminatory actions to be taken against Christian organizations, which will adversely affect their ability to care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). As recently as December of last year, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services issued an ultimatum to faith-based adoption agency New Hope, forcing them to either violate their beliefs (that a child needs both a mother and a father) or close their doors. New Hope would likely no longer be able to provide children with homes.

In response to the clear governmental discriminatory actions taken against faith-based adoption agencies, legislators such as Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are introducing legislation to protect religious liberty. They have introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2019 (CWPIA) (H.R. 897 / S. 274), a piece of legislation which would allow organizations such as CSS and New Hope to continue helping those in need without threat of foreclosure from the government.  

Rep. Kelly echoes the plea to preserve the ability of Christians to care for children who are desperately in need of nurturing that only a family can give:

Faith-based adoption and foster care providers have historically played an unrivaled role in caring for our country’s most vulnerable kids… They are the very providers that we should be encouraging and promoting, not punishing.

Concurring, Rep. Enzi adds:

The government should not be in the business of forcing faith-based child welfare providers to abandon their sincerely held religious beliefs, especially at the expense of finding a new home for a child in need.

Additionally, laws similar to the CWPIA have been passed in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia—most recently in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Discriminatory actions taken against faith-based adoption and foster care agencies are attacks on the biblical definition of the family, the most fundamental establishment in society. These attacks show a disregard for the Judeo-Christian principles which are uniquely imparted through the family. Lawmakers must provide more security to Christian organizations that wish to place children in homes that will sacrifice for, care for, and nurture children in need of a forever-family. 

Since the family is the cornerstone of a moral and flourishing society, it should be regarded and defended with the utmost care. This includes ensuring that the best possible services are provided for children who are not privileged to have a biological family. If governmental discrimination causes families to fall short, society’s moral standards too will fall short. The American people must stand up for the rights of faith-based organizations to continue providing the care that children need. No longer should Christians be targeted by governmental discriminatory actions for their efforts to care for “the least of these.”

Nicolas Reynolds is an intern at Family Research Council.

Continue reading

Democrats Are Fixated on Climate Change. How Should Christians Respond?

by David Closson

June 28, 2019

In Wednesday night’s first Democratic debate, the first ten candidates made their pitch for why they should be their party’s nominee to take on President Trump in 2020.

While significant moral issues such as transgender rights and abortion were brought up repeatedly throughout the night—notably all of the candidates have promised to expand LGBT rights and advance the Democrat party’s extreme position on abortion—it was another issue with worldview implications that received a significant amount of attention: climate change.

Although climate activists were disappointed their issue did not receive more time in the debate, five candidates were asked specific questions about the climate. Moreover, when asked about what they considered the “greatest geopolitical threat to the United States right now,” four candidates (Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Julian Castro) named “climate change.”

However, as he has throughout his candidacy, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington ratcheted up the rhetoric by drawing special attention to the “climate crisis” in his closing statement. The Governor explained: “When I was thinking of running for president, I made a decision. I decided that on my last day on earth, I wanted to look [my grandchildren] in the eye and tell them I did everything humanly possible to protect them from the ravages of the climate crisis.”

Although stated melodramatically, Inslee’s comments and the relative unanimity among his primary rivals that climate change is an “existential threat” indicate the issue will feature prominently in the 2020 campaign. Thus, it is important for Christians to think through the issue carefully and approach the issue through the lens of Scripture.

Dominion and Stewardship

From the perspective of the biblical worldview, there are two theological truths that must be held together when “global warming” or “climate change” is discussed: dominion and stewardship.

First, the Bible teaches that when God created the world he created human beings in his image and charged them to exercise dominion by multiplying and filling the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). As the Creator’s vice-regent, man was tasked with the responsibility to rule the earth in a way that honors God.

Significantly, man’s dominion is designed to promote human flourishing. Examples of exercising dominion which necessarily require the use of natural resources include irrigating a garden, constructing a building, designing a power grid, and domesticating animals, just to name a few. The clear teaching of the Bible is that man is permitted, even commanded, to develop the earth and its resources for the benefit of humanity. Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric surrounding the environment loses sight of the biblical insight that man has a God-given responsibility to cultivate the earth.

History contains examples of how this authority has been handled well. In fact, in obedience to the creation mandate, gifted men and women have been able to do incredible things such as develop life-saving medicine from nature, increase crop efficiency, and create power sources that improve the quality of life of billions of people.

But the earth and its resources hold more than just instrumental value. This is why the second theological truth that Christians must remember in conversations about environmental ethics is the principle of stewardship.

Stated simply, Christians are called to exercise stewardship over creation. As Albert Mohler explains, “We are given a garden. We do not own it. We are called to tend it and to make it flourish. And we are going to give an answer to the owner of the garden for how we cared for it…”

Environmental Care Should Never Fall Prey to Naturalism

Christians should oppose the unfettered exploitation of natural resources because creation should be received and cherished as a gift; it is not merely a resource to be exhausted and consumed. However, because man is fallen, Christians should not be surprised when people go beyond good use of creation to sinful abuse. But concern for the environment should never prompt the pendulum to swing so far to the other side that man becomes subservient to the created order. The tasks of dominion and stewardship are not opposed. Rather, they are complementary and should be held together.  

Christians should care about the environment because it reflects the glory of God. In fact, Psalm 19:1 affirms, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.” Similarly, Psalm 97:6 says that “the heavens proclaim his righteousness; all the people see his glory.” God himself cares so much about his creation that he provided specific guidance for how the Israelites were to respect the land during war (see Deut. 20:19-20).

However, as witnessed in Wednesday night’s Democrat debate, much of the recent discussion about the environment has ventured beyond reasonable concern. In fact, when candidates for President of the United States list “climate change” as the “greatest geopolitical threat” over pressing issues such as terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or China, they betray a worldview rooted in naturalism rather than biblical Christianity.

The Natural World Is Not All There Is

If the natural world is all there is, it is easy to get distraught about changes in the weather and obsess about how to reverse rising global temperatures. Although creation care should be a priority for believers and the scientific community should be taken seriously when they suggest solutions for addressing obvious misuses of natural resources, Christians must remember that God is sovereign and holds the earth in his hands. As Paul explained in his letter to the Colossians, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).

Although the creation now groans under the curse of sin (Rom. 8:22), the Bible promises that one day it will be set free from its bondage and will obtain “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21).

David Closson is the Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

Continue reading

Do No Harm Act” Threatens Our First Freedom

by Luke Isbell , Mary Beth Waddell

June 27, 2019

Yesterday, the House Committee of Education and Labor held a hearing on the Do No Harm Act. While this bill purports to prevent harm, it would actually significantly harm religious believers by gutting our most prominent religious liberty statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Pitched as an act that would prevent abuse of religious freedom, and “restore” RFRA’s “original intent,” the bill would actually treat religious believers differently based on the circumstances of their claim and dictate when RFRA can be applied. Instead of all individuals having access to RFRA as a defense against a government burden on their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion, the Do No Harm Act explicitly excludes some individuals from RFRA’s protections.

A Threat to a Fair Hearing

At the hearing, Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.), a constitutional lawyer with nearly 20 years of experience working on religious freedom, testified how religious freedom is “often referred to as our first freedom.” The Founders of the United States recognized that everyone should be able to live their lives according to their deeply held beliefs, and never be forced by the government to act in a way contrary to their beliefs. The protection and flourishing of religious liberty was understood to be so vital to the foundation of our nation that it was written as the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law establishing religion OR prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As apparent from this hearing, those on the Left seem to misunderstand the meaning of this constitutional right and the protections that flow from it.

The sentiments expressed by Rep. Johnson used to be understood by both sides of the aisle, a point that he made at this week’s hearing. They certainly were back in 1993 when RFRA was passed unanimously by the House, 97-3 by the Senate, and then signed into law by President Bill Clinton. RFRA promises that a fair hearing will be given to all individuals whose religious freedom has been infringed by the government. That’s it. It does not favor any one ideology over the other or predetermine an outcome. As Matthew Sharp, Senior Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, testified at the hearing, even when RFRA is used the government often wins.

Disagreement is Not Discrimination

Many proponents of the Do No Harm Act claim it is necessary because discrimination is happening in the name of religious liberty under RFRA. However, there is a big gap between acting on personal convictions and discriminating, or forcing others to believe the same as you. Disagreement is not discrimination. RFRA does not allow individuals to force others to believe the same as them. That is not religious freedom, and RFRA does not protect it.

The Do No Harm Act would be the cause of harm and discrimination, not the alleviator of it. The Little Sisters of the Poor used RFRA in their fight against the government trying to force them to provide contraceptives, but they would no longer be able to bring a RFRA claim under the Do No Harm Act.

The Displacement of Children in Need

A few Democrats made a fuss about the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) using RFRA to grant Miracle Hill Ministries, a faith-based adoption and foster care agency in South Carolina, a waiver from Obama-era regulations still in effect that would force them to violate their conscience or stop serving children in need. Democrats bemoaned the granting of this waiver in the hearing and claimed that such waivers are harmful to the children in need of loving homes.

In fact, the opposite is true. When Catholic Charities was shut down in Illinois, nearly 3,000 children were displaced. When Philadelphia cut its contracts with two of their 30 partner agencies because they were faith-based, foster parents (one of whom was a “foster parent of the year”) were left with empty homes and siblings faced the possibility of not being placed together. Ironically, all this occurred after the city put out an urgent call for hundreds of new foster homes. Birth moms have also expressed their desire to use faith-based agencies to help them navigate the darkest time in their life and to place their child in a home of a particular faith. They deserve that option, but would see it shut down if proponents of the Do No Harm Act get their way.

In Michigan, St. Vincent Catholic Charities is one of the most successful adoption agencies in the state, performing 90 percent better than the other agencies in its area. However, when Michigan attempted to cut ties with the religious organization (which would have severe negative impacts as noted above), the organization was able to team with Becket Law to argue that their rights were being violated. Discovery in the case found that they were clearly being targeted because they were faith-based. Children in their care had been adopted by couples identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) through other agencies in the state. The same-sex couple who sued also lived closer to three or four other agencies they could have worked with. Yet the Do No Harm Act would strip Catholic Charities of the ability to even have their claim heard. This case is ongoing.

A Threat to the Foundation of Peaceful Co-existence

Religious liberty and non-discrimination are not at odds—rather, they promote each other by allowing people to freely act on the values that are most important to them.

Religious freedom was a founding principle of our nation, and it led to the ability for people of all faiths to live together peacefully—because the government never forced them to act against their personal beliefs. RFRA is the door that ensures people will always have recourse in court if the government violates this freedom, yet the Do No Harm Act would shut that door to many.

Mary Beth Waddell is the Senior Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council. Luke Isbell is an intern at Family Research Council.

Continue reading

Archives