FRC Blog

Loosening Abortion Pill Restrictions Sends Women Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

by Laura Grossberndt

July 20, 2020

On July 13, a Maryland district judge granted a preliminary injunction that waives the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety limitations on administering abortion pills for the duration of the present health crisis. These limitations, part of the FDA’s drug safety program called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), require women to visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office in person in order to obtain abortion pills. By waving these requirements, the preliminary injunction allows providers to mail abortion pills directly to women without an in-person visit. This contact-free process allegedly mitigates risks to women’s health by making them less likely to be exposed to COVID-19. However, loosening the FDA’s risk-mitigation requirements merely substitutes one health risk for another, effectively sending women out of the frying pan of COVID-19 and into the fire of severe abortion complications.

Abortion advocates have argued that the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements place a significant burden on women seeking abortions, particularly during the present health crisis. District Judge Theodore Chuang agreed, saying, “By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the in-person requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients.”

Judge Chuang continued, “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”

Such a decision fails to consider the irreparable harm that can befall women who take abortion pills. The abortion industry markets the abortion pill as straightforward and safe. However, there are over 4,000 documented cases of abortion pills endangering the lives and health of women. The pills can cause extensive physical trauma, including severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. And that’s with the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements in place. Imagine how much more harm abortion pills could cause now that the safety restrictions on them have been temporarily waived.

There are two general types of abortion: surgical and chemical. The act of taking abortion pills is a chemical abortion. Abortion providers and activists like chemical abortions (often called by the more palliative name “medication abortion”) as an option because they require less overhead for the clinic and can be performed virtually anywhere. But this locational flexibility is precisely what makes chemical abortions so incredibly risky. While surgical abortions are performed in a clinic, chemical abortions take place at least partially at home.

Under the FDA restrictions, a woman seeking a chemical abortion would visit a physician in-person. In order to be a certified prescriber, the physician must have the ability to 1) assess the duration of pregnancy accurately; 2) diagnose ectopic pregnancies, and 3) provide surgical intervention or ensure necessary care in the event of severe complications. The woman will then take the first pill (mifepristone) in the two-part regimen. The physician would give her instructions on when to take the second pill (misoprostol). Ideally, there would be a follow-up in-person appointment to ensure the abortion was completed without any serious complications for the woman.

This process is already risky, but it at least involves a local physician in the process. Under the preliminary injunction, a woman would merely need to complete a virtual consultation in order to be mailed abortion pills. The injunction does not even specify if the prescribing physician must be local or not.

It can be difficult for the woman to know if her life or health is seriously at risk during a chemical abortion. The abortion pill’s medication guide brushes off the following types of physical trauma as normal, even a sign that the treatment is “working”:

Cramping and vaginal bleeding are expected with this treatment. Usually, these symptoms mean that the treatment is working…Bleeding or spotting can be expected for an average of 9 to 16 days and may last for up to 30 days…You may see blood clots and tissue. This is an expected part of passing the pregnancy.

In the event of severe complications from the chemical abortion, it is entirely the woman’s responsibility to get herself to a hospital. Furthermore, the cost of this emergency care is assumed by the patient, who may or may not have health care coverage.

Loosening restrictions on chemical abortions does not protect the health of women. Rather, it plays into the abortion industry’s long-term strategy of making abortions “self-managed.” Why do they want abortions to be self-managed? Because it makes abortions more commonplace and readily available—which is better for their business and bottom line. But the ready availability of abortion pills has the potential to expose women to a whole host of problems. As Patrina Mosley writes:

Making the abortion pill a “self-managed” over-the-counter (OTC) drug product has radical implications for women’s health and safety, especially as it pertains to intimate partner violence, sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and accurate patient assessment. Furthermore, it would also dangerously bypass state laws governing parental rights and informed consent on the issue of abortion.

Abortion advocates once claimed that legalizing abortion would eliminate life-threatening risks to women. Now they are attempting to make abortion completely “self-managed” despite the abortion pill’s life-threatening and health-damaging risks to women.

Judge Chuang took what ought to have been a regulatory decision (i.e., does the FDA have the authority to regulate this drug?) and turned it into constitutional privacy question based on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He also attempts to be a medical doctor who would know the ins and outs of what is medically necessary, instead of leaving that to the health experts—specifically, those at FDA—who wrote the regulations. Judge Chuang’s opinion sets a dangerous precedent for where the courts could go on this question in the future.

Judge Chuang made an ill-founded decision. Citing the current public health emergency as a reason for loosening the FDA’s medically justified risk-mitigation requirements for the abortion pill is not in the best interest of women’s health. Rather, it sends women out of the frying pan and into the fire.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of July 12)

by Family Research Council

July 17, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: “Enroll Models: Parents Explore Schooling Options”

With an intense battle raging over whether to reopen schools or not, more parents aren’t waiting to see what their districts decide—they’re taking matters into their own hands. A whopping 40 percent of families have been looking at homeschooling this fall.

2. Washington Update: “The Monuments Men: Trump Taps Cabinet to Guard History”

Extremists like to say that the violence we’re seeing is about justice. That somehow by attacking our past, they’re improving our future, but the administration is coming after anyone who defaces, damages, or tries to remove any monument by force.

3. Blog: “Cruz, Rubio, and Smith Are Banned From China”

A handful of U.S. congressmen recently woke up to an angry slap on the wrist from the Chinese government—they are now banned from entering China because of their work addressing China’s human rights violations.

4. Blog: “Christians Must Not Be Afraid of Being Controversial”

To be controversial is to intentionally turn in the opposite direction of one thing and turn towards another. Being controversial is not always a bad thing because, especially for Christians, we are called to stand counter to the ways of the world and turn towards truth.

5. Washington Watch: Abigail Shrier shares the heartbreaking stories that led her to write on the teen transgender craze

Abigail Shrier, regular writer for the Wall Street Journal, joined Sarah Perry to discuss her new book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters,” and Amazon banning advertising for the book.

6. Washington Watch: Mark Hemingway insists the cancel culture will twist any issue to serve its anti-American goals

Mark Hemingway, Senior Writer for Real Clear Investigations, joined Sarah Perry to discuss the liberal elites’ open letter against cancel culture, and the fragility of the woke.

7. Washington Watch: Rushan Abbas applauds Trump’s decision to make Chinese officials pay for Uyghur abuses

Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director for the Campaign for the Uyghurs, joined Sarah Perry to discuss the U.S. sanctioning Chinese officials in charge of the forced sterilization of Uyghurs.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

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What Are “Human Rights”?

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

July 17, 2020

Seeking to address what U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called a “moment of crisis” for human rights, the newly-created Commission on Unalienable Rights yesterday released a draft of its inaugural report—a report which articulates and unpacks the link between America’s founding and the very idea of human rights.

It is no secret that human rights advocacy has lost its way. The term “human rights” is often used today to refer to any number of desirable social programs or preferences—basically, anything anyone wants to cloak in noble terms. Yet such an approach strays far from the core human rights the movement sought to address in its earlier years. Hence, the new State Department commission will aim to bolster the modern human rights project initiated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in light of our founding, and recalibrate the United States’ approach to human rights promotion abroad.

Divided into three sections, the report explores the origin of America’s human rights tradition and the ways in which these rights are under threat.

First, the report provides a careful review of the country’s founding principles. It argues that America has a distinctive rights tradition, grounding the origin of an individual’s unalienable rights—rights that are unable to be taken away or given away by the possessor.

Second, the report discusses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a momentous document outlining a comprehensive view of human rights following World War II and the Holocaust. It describes how this document provides a standard of achievement for all people from all nations.

Finally, the report outlines new challenges to human rights internationally, concluding with 12 pertinent observations.

Despite all the modern talk of human rights, we face a world in which authoritarian regimes increasingly perpetuate injustices, and international human rights organizations are continually ineffective in addressing them. Human rights advocacy groups are quick to reject fundamental rights grounded in an ordered human nature in favor of a newly imagined, culturally popular set of “rights.” To the contrary, the very definition of human rights is tightly bound to the qualities and shared traits that make all of us human. This idea—though imperfectly implemented—permeated our nation’s founding, as well as subsequent human rights developments.

Yet today, the unalienable rights that founded our nation and lay at the heart of the original international human rights project are frequently attacked as “discriminatory” and “outdated”—and modern social preferences take over in the guise of “human rights.”

Meanwhile, others try to portray a moral equivalence between the United States and other human rights violators. Yet the very existence of debate domestically should help us see we are still free—compared to places that lack a debate (China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc.). It is there that opposition, dissent, and human rights are truly being suppressed.

The State Department is right to evaluate the scope of human rights at a time when human rights are widely championed and rarely understood. This report lays the groundwork for foundational questions to be asked and a thoughtful assessment of human rights going forward.

An understanding of what is innate to each person must inform such an assessment. Only then could the mass of humanity, with all its vast differences, even begin to agree on certain unchanging moral principles as the basis for human conduct. Moral objectivity is required in any shared endeavor to protect human rights for all human beings around the world.

For human rights work to endure, we must be able to agree on a shared definition around which we can unite and guard the term from becoming meaningless. As the report observes, the “enduring success” of human rights efforts “depends on the moral … commitments that undergird them.” The alternative is the status quo, represented by the “sad irony” that “the idea of human rights—which reflects the conviction that the positive laws of nations must be accountable to higher principles of justice—[is] reduced to whatever current treaties and institutions happen to say that it is.”

One way out of this is what the commission—whose diversity of different backgrounds and faiths should give us hope—proposes: identifying and substantively defending our shared unalienable rights. If it succeeds, we can perhaps begin reclaiming a true understanding of human rights for all, and not a moment too soon.

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Transgenderism is Now Rated G

by Arielle Leake

July 17, 2020

The Baby-Sitters Club is a new Netflix series based on the popular children’s books by the same name published in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The books—and now the television series—follow the lives of four 12-year-old girls and their entrepreneurial babysitting endeavors. Unfortunately, parents who fondly remember the books from their own childhood should think twice before allowing their impressionable children to watch this G-rated show.

Transgenderism is brazenly presented, unchallenged, and actively celebrated. The fourth episode of the show “Mary Ann Saves the Day” prominently displays the show’s cultural indoctrination. One of the four main characters, Mary Ann, is tasked with babysitting Bailey, a young boy who firmly believes he is a girl and lives a transgender lifestyle. The episode is fraught with highly concerning dialogue and messaging. For example, Mary Ann’s friend explains Bailey’s lifestyle to her by saying, “We all want our insides to match our outsides.” This explanation clearly illustrates the two-story dualism underlying the transgender movement or, as Nancy Pearcy puts it in her book Love Thy Body, “the idea that your brain can be at war with your body.”

The scriptwriters are so committed to the idea that your feelings control who you really are that they cannot even promote healthy encouragement. When Mary Ann, who struggles with self-confidence (as most tween girls do), exclaims that she is “a pathetic cry-baby,” the only help her friend can offer is to say, “If you believe you are a pathetic cry-baby who am I to tell you otherwise.” It could have been a moment used to show young girls how to support and encourage one another while not affirming a lie someone believes about themselves. Instead, all the show can muster is a weak statement meant to shove forward the philosophy that how you feel dictates who you are.

Mary Ann finally finds her “confidence” when she takes it upon herself to reprimand the doctor and nurse who dare to address Bailey by his biological sex. Mary Ann instructs them that “from here on out,” they should “recognize her for who she is.” Further, she requests that they bring Bailey something other than the standard blue hospital nightgown, which he evidently finds highly offensive.

Even more appalling, those in the position of authority—both the medical professionals and the child’s parents—willingly go along with the young child’s whims. Instead of helping him see who God created him to be, they encourage his harmful fascinations and reinforce the idea that fitting a certain “stereotype,” whether it be wearing blue or playing tea parties, is what makes you a male or female.

As a young woman, I am disappointed to see a show that will be viewed by many young and impressionable girls espousing such harmful views—without so much as a question about the consequences of these ideas. Instead of giving young girls a proper view of what it means to be a woman, The Baby-Sitters Club presents womanhood as something that is merely a product of your feelings and not a God-given identity.

In a world that is becoming increasingly accepting of transgender ideology, parents should be cautious about the ideas being espoused in the media their children consume. Christians have a role to play in restoring an understanding that humans are a unique combination of both body and soul, which equally make up who we are and are not at war with each other. Nancy Pearcy defines the Christian’s role as being “the first in line to nurture and support kids who don’t ‘fit in’ by affirming the diversity of gifts and temperaments in the body of Christ.” This is exactly the opposite of what is done in The Baby-Sitters Club.

Arielle Leake is a Policy & Government Affairs intern focusing on religious liberty.

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Christians Must Not Be Afraid of Being Controversial

by Molly Carman

July 16, 2020

Last week on Washington Watch, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins observed, “We often avoid controversy, because we associate controversy with things that are wrong. But if you read the New Testament, controversy surrounded Jesus, controversy surrounded his disciples, controversy was a way of life for those who follow Jesus.”

Tony is right, and his call for Christians to take a stand on issues that may be perceived as controversial is needed more than ever. As Christians, we know that nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Although our beliefs are routinely labeled as too controversial, old fashioned, or even extreme, we know that we are called to stand for truth in the public square.

The term “controversial” comes from the Latin root contorversia. When broken down, the word is a combination of contra—turning in an opposite direction—and versus—turned toward or against. In other words, to be controversial is to intentionally turn in the opposite direction of one thing and turn towards another. Being controversial is not always a bad thing because, especially for Christians, we are called to stand counter to the ways of the world and turn towards truth.

To be controversial often means to be countercultural. Christ did not call His disciples to conform to the world but to be transformed (Romans 12:2). Moreover, Jesus warned His disciples that taking a stand for truth would bring about judgment from the world: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John encourages the church later in I John 3:13, “Do not be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” The same truth applies to Christians today.

This is not to say that Christians should intentionally incite controversy by becoming public provocateurs or scornfully dismiss those who disagree with us. But what it does mean is that when we as Christians face opposition or are in a situation where standing for truth is frowned upon, we take a stand. We do not go along with progressive and destructive thoughts, ideas, or institutions that subvert the truth. And, as Peter reminds us, “yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Bible is full of examples of people who faced opposition and controversy who had to decide how and when they would take a stand. Today is no different. As we read Scripture, we can be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to Moses when he spoke before Pharaoh (Exodus 6-11). Likewise, we should take heart when we read of the courage and strength God gave to Esther when she spoke up for her people or the wisdom and clarity God gave Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Joel, Malachi, Micah, and many other Old Testament prophets. This theme of the faithfulness of God when His people faced opposition continues into the New Testament when many of the new converts to Christianity were forced out of their synagogues. Jesus Himself was killed on the cross because the priests and leaders said that He was too controversial and was changing people’s way of thinking.

Truth is expensive—when we intentionally choose to stand for truth, it may cost us relationships, jobs, or even our lives, as those Christians being persecuted by authoritarian regimes around the world can attest to. Jesus warned of this at Caesarea Philippi when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24-26).

To conclude his radio show last week, Tony Perkins quoted the Apostle Paul and gave these words of encouragement from Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” In a world of opposition that seeks to make its own truth and abandon morality, Christians must remember that we must turn from worldly ways and instead turn towards “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Inevitably, this means we will be controversial.  

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

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The Media Attacks Churches for Getting PPP Loans, But Ignores Planned Parenthood

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Samantha Stahl

July 15, 2020

As reports began trickling in last week about which organizations received coronavirus relief funds, it became known that Planned Parenthood received at least $150 million in funds, and several businesses connected to Members of Congress also received funds. Despite this controversy over which organizations received relief funds, the media has singled out the church as being the most egregious recipient of them all.

The AP recently reported that the Roman Catholic Church lobbied the Trump administration to receive $1.4 billion in coronavirus relief funds and Reuters revealed that several evangelical churches with ties to the Trump administration also received funds. With targeted attacks on faith-based organizations, the media missed several marks about how the program operates and further demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of how religious institutions operate. 

The Media Ignores the Details

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), first passed in the CARES Act, is designed to grant forgivable loans to small businesses and nonprofit organizations specifically to keep employees on their employers’ payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. These loans are administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and because of that it has led to confusion that nonprofits including churches are not eligible. However, the legislation explicitly allows nonprofit organizations to be eligible for the program. The text of the legislation was not initially clear on whether religious nonprofits were eligible or not, so at the request of several Members of Congress, the SBA issued an FAQ document clearly stating that faith-based entities can receive PPP funds.

The program is also very clear on how the funds must be used for forgiveness eligibility. The funds must be used on payroll, mortgage payments, rent, or utilities to qualify for forgiveness; otherwise the funding acts as a normal loan complete with interest and other obligations. This ensures that the funds are directly used to help employees from being furloughed, and that funds are not used on expressly religious activities. Furthermore, this program is open to all faith-based entities regardless of religious affiliation. It does not provide special treatment for Christian or Jewish organizations; even the stridently atheist advocacy group Freedom From Religion Foundation received a PPP loan. This fact alone should help alleviate concerns that the government is somehow violating the establishment clause of the Constitution by unfairly favoring specific churches and religious groups.

The Unique Structure of Churches

However, the main point of contention comes with the affiliation rule that Congress included in the CARES Act. This rule was included so that small businesses or nonprofits that have the same ownership, management, finances, or identity of a larger organization will have their total employees counted together to exclude small organizations that may already have the necessary financial help from a larger umbrella organization. This is the provision which gave the SBA the authority to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving PPP loans, yet it was not enforced, which lead Planned Parenthood to be given $150 million in funds. It’s also the same provision which some have argued should exclude churches which are affiliates of a larger entity like the Catholic Church.

However, this concern reveals a basic misunderstanding of the structure of religious organizations and has unfortunately led to attacks on churches for supposedly violating this rule. For the most part, churches affiliated with larger entities like the Southern Baptist Convention or the Catholic Church operate independently. They raise their own money, take out their own loans, pay their own utility costs, and hire and manage their own staff. In many respects, these churches operate as independent organizations to best serve their local community, resembling the operations of a small business. For example, within the Southern Baptist Convention—the largest Protestant denomination in America—each church is considered autonomous. This is a basic tenet of Baptist ecclesiology; churches can give a percentage of their undesignated receipts to their state convention to support missions and ministries through the Cooperate Program if they choose to, but are not punished or removed from the convention if they do not.

These considerations show that the media’s narrative on churches and the PPP program is not accurate, especially when it comes to churches that are connected to larger affiliate organizations for specifically religious reasons like directing religious teachings or assigning pastors to minister to specific churches. The SBA recognized this in their guidance for faith-based organizations applying for coronavirus relief funds. In fact, the SBA FAQs clearly applies the First Amendment to the program, noting:

If the connection between your organization and another entity that would constitute an affiliation is based on a religious teaching or belief or is otherwise a part of the exercise of religion, your organization qualifies for an exemption from the affiliation rules. For example, if your faith-based organization affiliates with another organization because of your organization’s religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs, your organization would qualify for the exemption.

While it may seem like Planned Parenthood and large religious affiliate organizations like a Catholic diocese have a similar structure and both should be ineligible for PPP loans, only these faith-based institutions are eligible for the religious exemption that is consistent with constitutional and statutory religious freedom protections.

Religion as an Important Public Good

Churches have employees they must continue to pay during the pandemic just like any other for-profit business. In addition to taking care of their workers, churches must also pay interest on mortgages or rent for the space they use as well as utilities to keep the lights on. These requirements have been met by the churches that have lawfully been granted a PPP loan.

Moreover, it is important to realize that churches also play an essential role in ministering to people’s needs. With the shutdown of churches due to COVID-19, many of these mercy ministers have been affected. Outside of the government, the Catholic Church supplies a huge portion of the social services in America, serving millions of people who are suffering now more than ever. In response to the targeted reporting on churches receiving PPP loans, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called the loans an “essential lifeline” for employees and their families. The PPP loans play an important part in the ability of churches to continue their support of their brothers and sisters in Christ, especially during this time of financial instability.

While it is understandable to raise concerns about certain organizations improperly applying for a PPP loan, media hit pieces like the AP article are nothing more than attacks on people of faith and religious organizations. Tragically, lies and falsehoods have a price; in the last few days as the mainstream media has singled out faith-based organizations in their reporting, religious statues have been vandalized and churches have been burned.   

Not only are attacks on churches lawfully applying for aid appalling, the comparative lack of media attention to the fact that Planned Parenthood improperly applied for the PPP loan is astounding. Planned Parenthood is not even remotely close to a small employer since its number of employees dwarf the 500-employee limit for eligibility for the PPP loan, yet they applied for and received millions of dollars in aid while also continuing to lobby for further financial assistance in future coronavirus relief legislation.

This whole situation makes it clear that the media and ruling elites of our country find churches and religious organizations, which often labor quietly for the common good for all of society, more abhorrent than abortion facilities designed specifically to end the lives of innocent human beings. Now is the time for the church and people of faith to stand for what is good and right and push back against a worldview which values the destruction of human life over the salvation of souls. 

Connor Semelsberger is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Samantha Stahl is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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The Silence of the Libs in Bostock

by Peter Sprigg

July 14, 2020

I, together with colleagues, have already commented several times on the outrageous opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County. (See an initial response co-authored by Mary Beth Waddell, another here, and separate pieces analyzing the problems with the decision regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.)

Gorsuch, together with Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court’s four most liberal justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan), ruled that the prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends also to discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The decision leapfrogged the democratic process by granting to homosexual and transgender persons special protections not granted by a majority of states nor by Congress, despite proposals to do so going back decades.

The three dissenting justices produced two dissenting opinions. Justice Samuel Alito wrote one with which Justice Clarence Thomas joined, while Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately. They did a thorough job of dismantling Justice Gorsuch’s astonishing claim that he was merely interpreting the plain language of the 1964 statute in granting this sweeping victory to the LGBT movement. Between them, the 82 pages of dissent were two and a half times as long as the 33-page Gorsuch opinion.

But what I found in some ways even more interesting was what the four liberals who concurred with Gorsuch said.

Nothing.

Not one of the Court’s four most liberal justices wrote a single word in concurrence. None saw fit to wax eloquent about what the decision would mean for Americans who identify as LGBT—ironically, only the two dissenters did that. Justice Alito wrote:

The updating desire to which the Court succumbs no doubt arises from humane and generous impulses. Today, many Americans know individuals who are gay, lesbian, or transgender and want them to be treated with the dignity, consideration, and fairness that everyone deserves.

Justice Kavanaugh went even further, implying that if he were a legislator, he would have voted for a bill to do what the Bostock decision did:

[I]t is appropriate to acknowledge the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans. Millions of gay and lesbian Americans have worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit—battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives. They have advanced powerful policy arguments and can take pride in today’s result.

Yet the four liberal justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, wrote not a single word.

In my opinion, there is a profound cynicism in that. The silence of the liberals confirms, more eloquently than anything they could say, the chief criticism of their philosophy. To them, only the result matters, not the reasoning.

The exact same thing happened five years ago in the Supreme Court’s last “landmark” decision on LGBT rights—Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court declared unconstitutional state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In that 5-4 decision, the Court’s “swing vote,” Anthony Kennedy, wrote a nebulous opinion declaring, “The Constitution promises liberty to all … to define and express their identity.” All four of the dissenting justices wrote separate opinions detailing their objections; but not one of the liberals wrote a concurring opinion.

A few days later, a writer in the liberal New Republic hit upon why, pointing out that Kennedy’s “opinion in Obergefell is, logically speaking, kind of a disaster.” The writer, Brian Beutler, believed that “his ultimate holding was the correct one. But the price of admission for Court’s four liberals was to join a muddled, unconvincing opinion.”

Beutler seemed to shrug and say there was no other choice:

But as long as Kennedy is the Court’s “swing” justice, he will frequently be the liberal justices’ best hope for good outcomes, and they will feel compelled to defer to him, even if he’s unable to marshal arguments that stand the test of time.

Justice Kennedy has now retired—but in Bostock, it was Justice Neil Gorsuch who did the liberals’ dirty work for them.

Justice Gorsuch’s Bostock opinion was of a completely different style from Kennedy’s in Obergefell. Gorsuch claimed to be strictly applying the principles of “textualism,” a judicial philosophy most closely associated with the late Justice Antonin Scalia. According to Gorsuch, his decision “follows ineluctably from the statutory text.”

Of course, Justice Samuel Alito demolished this claim in his dissent, writing:

The Court’s opinion is like a pirate ship. It sails under a textualist flag, but what it actually represents is a theory of statutory interpretation that Justice Scalia excoriated––the theory that courts should “update” old statutes so that they better reflect the current values of society.

In any case, the Supreme Court’s four most liberal justices are not “textualists.” A writer for Slate, Richard L. Hasen, expressed the liberal contempt for “textualism” and its sibling “originalism” in 2018, decrying the “bankruptcy” of “a kind of formalism which resuscitates the moribund idea that judges do not make law in part through value judgments, but instead find law through neutral principles.” (The Constitution, I guess, is “moribund”—either dying or obsolescent.)

However, Hasen noted, “liberal lawyers trying to get progressive results at the Supreme Court have already begun trying to pick off conservative justices through a calculated embrace of the theories.” In fact, he calls this “the model for what liberal lawyers are going to need to do,” noting that “because at least some of the [conservative] justices actually believe they are applying neutral principles … , they can be persuaded to vote against conservative positions . . .”

This approach seems to have worked in the Bostock case, “picking off” both Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The complicity of the four liberal justices in this cynical strategy is demonstrated by their silence.

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Cruz, Rubio, and Smith Are Banned From China

by Arielle Del Turco

July 13, 2020

A handful of U.S. congressmen woke up to an angry slap on the wrist from the Chinese government on Monday.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback are now banned from entering China, though the full scope of the new sanctions against them have yet to be revealed.

What prompted the giant authoritarian regime to target these lawmakers? Apparently, their work to address China’s many human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, “Xinjiang affairs are China’s internal affairs and the U.S. has no right to interfere in them.”

These congressmen deserve kudos for their work. The fact that China is singling them out to be targeted means their actions to address China’s human rights issues have had an impact. China noticed their efforts and reacted. That is significant, and they should be commended.  

Cruz, Rubio, and Smith have all advocated for and co-sponsored legislation to address China’s religious freedom and human rights violations.

Rubio and Smith introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which was recently signed into law. It is meant to hold perpetrators of abuses against the Uyghur people, including the systematic use of indoctrination camps, accountable for their actions.

Cruz also joined Rubio to introduce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would prevent goods produced by forced labor (suspected to be sourced by China’s brutal system of “re-education” camps) in Xinjiang from entering the United States. This will be an effective measure, and Congress should seek to pass this as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Brownback is a consistently fearless advocate for religious freedom for all people in China. He has long denounced China’s “war on faith,” reminding them “it is a war they will not win.”

The sanctions against these individuals are likely in retaliation for sanctions the U.S. placed on selected Chinese officials last week for their human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims.

But there’s an obvious difference between the sanctions the U.S. and China placed on each other’s officials. While China merely targets U.S. officials for interference in China’s human rights violations, the U.S. sanctioned Chinese officials based on actual human rights violations. 

The sanctioned Chinese officials are directly responsible for developing and enacting the dystopian campaign of repression in Xinjiang. The most high-profile individual targeted is Chen Quanguo. As the Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, Chen is responsible for building the network of “re-education” camps in which 1-3 million innocent Uyghurs and those other ethnic minorities remain arbitrarily detained. Outside of the camps, facial recognition technology, forced abortions, birth control and sterilizations, and an intense culture fear is used to control the daily lives of Uyghurs.

Chen and the other Chinese officials who were sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, a tool designed to address global human rights violators, deserve to be singled out for their actions. But the Chinese government is not happy about this, so they are lashing out against U.S. politicians.

The reaction of the Chinese government should encourage U.S. leaders to press on as they seek to improve human rights conditions in China. Recent U.S. efforts have struck a nerve, and lawmakers and diplomats should continue to build on that momentum.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of July 5)

by Family Research Council

July 10, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: “Rushmore and the Two-Faced Left”

The Left’s idea of justice divides. Their idea of equality silences. If we can’t unite around our common identity as Americans, what is there?

2. Washington Update: “This Fourth of July, Do Law and the Constitution Still Matter?”

The Fourth of July is a time we rejoice in our liberty and remember those who won our freedoms at great cost. Yet underlying these things is a foundation that must remain strong—It’s the rule of law.

3. Blog: “Our Founders Were Flawed, But Our Founding Ideals Endure”

The moral failings of our Founders don’t automatically invalidate the ideals they claimed to espouse. Truth is truth, regardless of human behavior. But how do we know if the ideals they wrote about are true? 

4. Blog: “Befriending Our Opponents: A Tale of Two Presidents”

Amid the current political divisions gripping our nation, it’s difficult to find close friendships between people with opposing viewpoints. But what if forming genuine relationships with those on the other side could make our nation better?

5. Washington WatchSen. Mike Lee describes his frustration at Senate Dems refusing to condemn mob violence

Mike Lee, U.S. Senator from Utah, joined Tony Perkins to discuss his resolution condemning mob violence, and also on President Donald Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore.

6. Washington WatchSec. Mike Pompeo explains the effort to discourage U.S. companies from using China’s forced laborers

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Chinese Communist party imposing forced sterilization and abortions on Uyghurs and other minorities, and the State Department issuing an advisory discouraging U.S. companies from doing business with human rights violators.

7. Washington WatchTodd Gilbert warns America that the Left is coming for anyone who cares about freedom & godly values

Todd Gilbert, Delegate representing the 15th district in the Virginia House of Delegates, joined Tony Perkins to discuss Virginia officials ordering the removal of an American flag from a construction site ahead of the Fourth of July.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook pageTwitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

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Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia is Now a Mosque. What Next?

by Lela Gilbert

July 10, 2020

An outcry from around the world has greeted a Turkish court’s announced decision, permitting Turkey’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan’s regime to convert the ancient Christian church Hagia Sophia—the Church of the Holy Wisdom—into a mosque.

The revered Christian historical site has served as a museum since the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire following WWI and the subsequent secular presidency of Kemal Ataturk. The magnificent building—an architectural marvel—contains some of the most beautiful Christian frescos and mosaics in the world (including the one above). Hagia Sophia remains the most popular tourist site in Turkey and is regularly visited by millions of Christian pilgrims.

The existing church, located in the heart of Istanbul, is a truly sacred space for Christians worldwide. It stands intact as one the most ancient artifacts of early Christian history:

The first church was built at the same location where there had been a pagan temple before. It was Constantius II who inaugurated Hagia Sophia on 15 February 360. From the chronicles of Socrates of Constantinople, we know that the church was built by the orders of Constantine the Great.

That earliest church was torched during rioting; a second Hagia Sophia was inaugurated in 532. Again, violence led to the church’s damage and destruction.

Today’s Hagia Sophia was completed and inaugurated in by Emperor Justinian the Great in 537; the magnificent mosaics—some of the finest in the world—were completed later in the sixth century. It is for both historic and sacred reasons that voices are protesting the Islamization of the holy site. 

On July 10, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) decried the declaration that the ancient church would be converted into a mosque. USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins said: 

USCIRF condemns the unequivocal politicization of the Hagia Sophia, an architectural wonder that has for so long stood as a cherished testament to a complex history and rich diversity. Both Christians and Muslims alike ascribe great cultural and spiritual importance to the Hagia Sophia, whose universal value to humankind was reaffirmed with its inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1985.

Just weeks ago, on May 29, Erdogan, who is widely viewed as an aggressive pan-Islamist, celebrated the fifteenth century conquest of Constantinople with festivities centered on Hagia Sophia. It was converted into a mosque when the Byzantine (Christian) army was defeated by the armies of Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453.

Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported:

…The program was followed with the recitation of the 48th chapter of the Quran, surah Al-Fath…Erdogan expressed gratitude to all those who did not abandon Hagia Sophia, the heirloom of the conquest.  He stressed it was important to remember the 567th anniversary with prayers and surah Al-Fath.  Erdogan said he had dedicated his life to his beloved Istanbul and noted that if the city was somehow removed from Earth, world history would have to be rewritten. A presentation with the theme of the conquest of Istanbul was performed on a platform in front of the museum. 

For years, Hagia Sophia has been a coveted trophy for Erdogan, who publicly cherishes neo-Ottoman Islamist sentiments. And as of the Turkish court decision on July 10, Erdogan’s goal is likely to be achieved. 

However, there are other complaints besides that of USCIRF. In fact, another significant obstacle may block Erogan’s way—Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Putin proudly—even pretentiously—belongs to the Russian Orthodox church, and represents it globally. And Hagia Sophia has great significance to the Russian Orthodox world community. In fact, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill was quoted just days ago in The Moscow Times stating that he is “deeply concerned” by Turkey’s moves, describing Hagia Sophia as “one of the greatest monuments of Christian culture…”

A threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to the whole of Christian civilization, and therefore to our spirituality and history,” the Orthodox church leader said. “To this day, for every Russian Orthodox person, Hagia Sophia is a great Christian shrine,” he said, urging the Turkish government to be cautious. He said that altering the current neutral status of the historic building would cause “deep pain” among the Russian people.

Reuters reports that Erdogan has signed an official declaration that Hagia Sophia will, in fact, be converted into a mosque. He has chosen to gamble with his somewhat frayed relationship with Putin as well as with other powers who have ample reason to oppose him.

Will this move successfully fulfill Erdogan’s triumphalist Islamist vision? Or will international reactions—including Russian Orthodox resistance, Greek disfavor, and American disgust—serve as the last straw in global rejection of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dream empire? Time will tell.

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