Author archives: Arielle Leake

USAID Does a World of Good for Religious Freedom

by Arielle Del Turco , Arielle Leake

August 6, 2020

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator John Barsa knows the importance of religious freedom firsthand. Barsa is half Cuban, and his Catholic family fled Cuba for reasons which included religious repression under communism. As a result, he knows how detrimental it is when a country suppresses religious belief.

At a recent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) event, Barsa made clear that promoting religious freedom is a priority for USAID. He boldly stated, “We will not shy away from calling religious persecution for what it is. No one gets a free pass for this.”

The USCIRF event explored how USAID plans to implement President Trump’s recent executive order on advancing international religious freedom. The order established a strong stance on furthering religious liberty around the world and laid out a concrete plan for progress.

USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin noted that “Since 2017 the Trump administration has made religious liberty one of its highest priorities.” Tony Perkins, USCIRF Vice Chair, added that he is “very encouraged by the people he [the president] has put in place to enforce the order.”

The order expands mandatory international religious liberty training to include more government officials, ensures the integration of religious liberty into American diplomacy, and requires the utilization of economic tools to promote religious liberty, among other provisions. It also requires the State Department and USAID to provide comprehensive action plans within 180 days of the order’s issuance.

USAID has already done much to further the cause of religious liberty. This order and the minimum of $50 million it allots will assist them in furthering that goal. Examples of USAID’s work include everything from partnering with the Greek Orthodox Church to provide job training for religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, to protecting minority religious groups in Nigeria from the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.

In Iraq, many Yazidis and Christians who were targets of religious persecution are still reluctant to return home. This week marks six years since the ISIS genocide against the Yazidi people, and many Yazidis remain displaced, living in crowded refugee camps because they do not feel safe enough to return home. USAID is committed to the vital work of ensuring these religious minorities are safe in their own homeland, eliminating the need for them to flee again.

USAID programs are aimed at preventing mass atrocities such as genocide and empowering “countries along their journey to self-reliance.” Barsa said that USAID recognizes “when governments suppress freedom of religion, they prevent entire segments of society from making meaningful contributions to their country’s political and economic development.”

USAID has begun a new partnership initiative bringing a positive change to their approach. The goal of this initiative is to expand the organization’s base by working with more community-based organizations. This involvement with organizations at the grassroots level will allow USAID to gain more of a cultural understanding of the best ways to promote religious liberty in each area. Barsa calls this approach “good government” because it allows USAID to work with people in the community who know what is going on. In the end, it will lead to more effective assistance and hopefully yield significant results.

The American people can be proud of the generous aid we provide to communities in need around the world. Money is a powerful tool, and when used for good, it can make a world of difference.

The good work that USAID is doing is rarely reported in the media, but it deserves attention and appreciation. President Trump’s executive order on advancing religious  freedom, in addition to the new programs being implemented, such as the partner initiative, will make USAID’s work more potent and will promote the freedom for all people to believe as they choose.

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

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.

The Court for the Common Good?

by Katherine Beck Johnson , Arielle Leake

July 6, 2020

The recent ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County has once again brought the judiciary’s role to the forefront of public discussion. As Justice Alito pointed out in his dissent, what the Court did in Bostock was legislate. By redefining sex to mean “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” they changed the meaning and application of the 1964 Civil Rights Act without Congress even lifting a finger. However, this is not the first time that the Court has overstepped its bounds as the independent judiciary. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court took it upon itself to redefine “marriage.” In Roe v. Wade, they essentially created a “constitutional right” to have an abortion.

What is the proper role of the courts? President Reagan summed it up well in his speech at Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swearing-in:

The role assigned to judges in our system was to interpret the Constitution and lesser laws, not to make them. It was to protect the integrity of the Constitution, not to add to it or subtract from it—certainly not to rewrite it. For as the framers knew, unless judges are bound by the text of the Constitution, we will, in fact, no longer have a government of laws, but of men and women who are judges. And if that happens, the words of the documents that we think govern us will be just masks for the personal and capricious rule of a small elite.

Each of the three federal branches is equal, independent, and tasked with fulfilling its role under the Constitution. According to Article III of the Constitution, the judicial branch’s role is to interpret and apply the “Constitution, the laws of the United States and treatises made, or which shall be made, under their authority.” The Court checks the other two branches through judicial review. However, its primary function—as the Framers intended and as evidenced by the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and other documents from that time—is to act as the federal government’s enforcement arm by applying the laws. It is not the job of unelected judges to make laws or change laws, as they have done in Bostock, Roe, and Obergefell. Instead, they are charged with basing their judgments on the objective meaning of laws and the Constitution.

Originalism and textualism are usual tools of judicial interpretation supported by many conservatives. However, there is a new theory beginning to emerge. The theory was proposed by Adrian Vermeule, a conservative professor of constitutional law at Harvard, and has been labeled “common-good constitutionalism.” He describes this approach as being “based on the principles that government helps direct persons, associations, and society generally toward the common good.” He advocates for reading into the “majestic generalities and ambiguities” of the Constitution, principles that advance the “common good.” Rather than focusing on the individual, he says the focus would be on a “powerful presidency ruling over a powerful bureaucracy” that will advance society’s needs as a whole, even if it overrides an individual’s private rights. Vermeule says originalism has served its purpose, and now conservatives should begin advocating this “authoritative rule for the common good” to guarantee that ideas such as life, family, and natural marriage are elevated and promoted in society. He says this view has a basis in the Constitution, but instead of being wedded to the original meaning, judges and other government officials will read morality into the text.

It is important to think about all of the implications of various judicial philosophies. While common-good constitutionalism has not become mainstream yet, it is beginning to pick up followers in conservative legal thought—especially after Justice Gorsuch’s disappointing holding in Bostock. Yet, many staunch originalists and textualists have fought back against Professor Vermeule’s theory, arguing that a judge must always remain neutral. It is too soon to know whether a new era in conservative judicial interpretation has arrived.

Katherine Beck Johnson is Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.

Arielle Leake is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

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