Author archives: Samantha Stahl

The Martin Luther King Memorial: A Monument to Justice and Peace

by Samantha Stahl

August 20, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Joan of Arc Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial, and the Japanese American Memorial.

Overlooking the Tidal Basin and facing the Jefferson Memorial is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The King Memorial commemorates the foremost leader of the civil rights movement and stands as a tribute to the ideals he dedicated his life to advancing.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist preacher, orator, and activist. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, organized nonviolent protests throughout the American south, and served as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Additionally, King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, during which he delivered his well-known “I Have A Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King championed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 in recognition of his nonviolent protests and work toward racial equality. Tragically, King was assassinated in 1968.

Today, the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. are enshrined forever in a stunning granite memorial on the National Mall. Every aspect of the memorial is symbolic, including its physical address, 1964 Independence Avenue, which symbolizes the year the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Visitors pass through a narrow valley hewn into the “Mountain of Despair” and out into open freedom, where the missing part of the mountain, the “Stone of Hope,” stands. In this Stone of Hope, King’s likeness is engraved. This walk (through the Mountain of Despair and out to the Stone of Hope) represents the victory of the Civil Rights Movement, born out of disappointment and grief. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” from King’s August 28, 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech is engraved in the monument.

A 450-foot long inscription wall that spans the width of the monument’s plaza contains 14 excerpts from King’s sermons and speeches, which serve as a reminder of the values King stood for: peace, democracy, justice, and love. Quotes include:

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 1963
  • Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” District of Columbia, 1959
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 1963
  • True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” 1958

The process of establishing a national memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr began in the mid-1980s, when Boston University’s oldest African American intercollegiate fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha (the fraternity King was a member in the1950s), presented the idea. In 1996, Congress passed a resolution authorizing Alpha Phi Alpha to establish a memorial to King in Washington, D.C., and in 1998, President Clinton signed the resolution. In 1999, the National Memorial Project Foundation held a design competition, which attracted 900 submissions from 52 countries. In 2006, Lei Yixin was selected to sculpt the statue of King. Yixin completed 80 percent of King’s statue at his studio in Changsha, China, before traveling to D.C. to finish the rest. The completed memorial opened to the public on October 16, 2011, following a dedication ceremony attended by President Obama.

King’s legacy was to choose love over hate, a conviction he rooted in Scripture. Specifically, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) inspired King to respond to inequality with nonviolence and love. His Christian faith motivated him to make use of the suffering he endured during the struggle for civil rights. King looked forward to the day when those in office would “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [their] God” (Micah 6:8).

King firmly believed his work was God’s will, as he stated in his final speech on April 3, 1968. In this emotional speech the night before he was assassinated, King preached, “I just want to do God’s will. And He has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I have looked over and I have seen the Promised Land.” King knew he might not see the “Promised Land” (i.e., an America free of racial tension), but he had hope that “we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” He concluded his final speech by quoting the Battle Hymn of the Republic, noting, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

King’s legacy of peace, democracy, justice, and love should serve as a model for us today. At a time of heightened racial tensions, King would likely renounce violence and encourage Americans to remember that we are all God’s children.

Samantha Stahl is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

The Korean War Memorial: A Tribute to Sacrifice

by Samantha Stahl

August 11, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Joan of Arc Memorial.

The Korean War was a three-year struggle (1950-1953). North Korea, with the support of Communist China, crossed over the 38th parallel, the boundary line between the North and South, quickly overrunning South Korea. The U.S. and the United Nations came to the aid of South Korea and defended them from the onslaught of communism.

The Korean War was one of the hardest fought conflicts in America’s history. Of the 5.8 million Americans who served, 36,574 died, 8,200 were missing in action or buried at sea, and 103,284 were wounded.

The idea of a memorial for those who fought in Korea was supported as early as 1955 when G. Holcomb wrote a letter to the editor of The Washington Post: “Men of all races and creeds died for freedom there. Should there not be a monument showing the heterogeneous qualities of those united forces? Would not that serve to remind us and others that even the ‘little wars’ against free people (or even against unfree people) are important today?”

In 1986, Congress approved building a memorial to the Korean War, and President Ronald Reagan appointed an advisory board of 12 veterans to oversee its construction. A design was chosen from over 500 submissions, and on Flag Day 1992, President George H.W. Bush hosted a ground-breaking ceremony. When the memorial’s cost swelled to almost three times the original estimation, the design was revised—the number of statues was halved, from 38 to 19—and the building process took over half a decade to complete.

President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam dedicated the Korean War Memorial on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice. “The Korean War Memorial represents a sense of duty and simple patriotism found among common soldiers,” President Clinton said in his address to the veterans and their families. By fighting to preserve South Korean freedom from Northern oppression, the soldiers had won an important victory, even though the war never had a victor in the traditional sense.

The Korean War Memorial has four parts: the statues, the Mural Wall, the Pool of Remembrance, and the United Nations Wall. First, there are 19 seven-foot-tall stainless steel statues lined up in an entourage. The statues represent soldiers from different branches of the armed forces (14 Army, three Marines, one Navy, and one Air Force). All are carrying a weapon except the Army medic and Navy Corpsman. The soldiers are wearing ponchos billowing in the frigid Korean winds, walking over obstacles, rough terrain, and among the rice paddies of Korea, represented by juniper bushes and black granite strips. At the head of the group, where the American Flag waves, is the Dedication Stone with the inscription: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Second, adjacent to the statues, is the Mural Wall. There are 41 panels in the 164-foot-long wall, containing 2,400 pictures of the Korean War from the National Archives. Members of each branch of the military are represented. The 19 soldier statues are reflected by the granite of the Mural Wall so that there appear to be 38 soldiers, symbolic of the 38 months of the duration of the war and the 38th parallel.

Third, located ahead of the statues, is the Pool of Remembrance. The Pool encloses the wall, which reads: “Freedom Is Not Free,” and lists the cost of soldiers’ lives at the bottom, including those killed in action, wounded in action, missing in action, and prisoners of war. Soldiers who died during the war can be searched by name in the Honor Roll, an electronic kiosk located at the west entrance of the memorial.

Finally, the United Nations Wall is engraved with the names of the 22 nations who fought with South Korea in the war.

The United States and South Korea were united by similar ideals: “During the Korean War, South Koreans and Americans fought side by side to defend the values embodied in the established rules-based international order, which was then in its infancy,” Navy Admiral Philip S. Davidson said during a recent ceremony repatriating South Korean soldier remains. The relationship between the U.S. and South Korea is a special bond forged from mutual trust, shared values, and a powerful friendship, which came from the unforgettable, courageous sacrifice of American, South Korean, and many other United Nations soldiers.

The Korean War is often called the “forgotten war,” due to its unpopularity and the fact that it occurred between the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Additionally, the Korean War tends to be forgotten because it had no decisive end, but a rather unsatisfying armistice that did not seem to favor either side. We must not forget the Korean War, however. It was a crucial fight to end the spread of communism into South Korea by the North and Communist China.

Those who served and died protecting South Korean freedom mirror Christ’s sacrifice for the freedom of all mankind: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). The Korean War Memorial pays tribute to the brave men and women who fought in Korea, but it also stands as a special reminder for Christians to protect the freedom and seek the good of our neighbors, especially those who cannot fight for themselves.

The next time you visit the Korean War Memorial and take in the symbolic beauty of the place, remember the thousands of brave soldiers who gave their all so that others could be free.

Samantha Stahl is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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.

What is the Role of the Church Amidst Troubling Times?

by Samantha Stahl

June 18, 2020

According to Scripture, Christians have a responsibility to share the hope of the gospel (Mat. 5:14-16). Jesus made this clear in the Great Commission when He commissioned His disciples to spread His message to the ends of the world. Today, Americans are experiencing trying times. Amidst a virus that is frightening people and tearing apart economies, church celebrations that remain suspended, and riots that put vengeance as the answer to cases of unjust police violence, it can be hard to see God working. However, through the darkest points in history, God has raised up people of strong faith. Right now, God is calling upon the church to lead His people, and to not be silent. The church can give answers to today’s questions of how to proceed.

As controversial as it may be today, Christians are called to bear witness to the truth. This is not easy, but it is important to allow oneself to be guided by what is right and not by fear. Prayer is greatly needed for leaders and for the community. Even when it seems God is not immediately answering our prayers, we are still called to pray (1 Tim. 2:2). Leaders of the church must not be silent and must continue to speak bold messages of hope and support during these times.

As we’ve seen throughout the last three months, Christians should continue to serve those in their communities by offering them encouragement. Serving one’s community can be as simple as making a call or writing a letter, or something practical such as running an errand or safely praying with them. The best way to be a light of God is to be a light to others in His name. For a list of resources including ideas to serve your community, check out FRC’s church resource page at frc.org/church.

Christians must also not be silent during these times, especially as churches are still closed. When the church cannot worship together, the whole Christian community and beyond is affected by a lack of sharing the gospel. Christ’s command to “proclaim the good news to the whole creation” is greatly hindered if Christians cannot come together to worship (Mark 16:15). Many have fallen and will fall into a spiritual slump due to months of being unable to gather for public worship. Peace and joy have been fading as violence and hate settles in among people. The world needs the church now more than ever as it is greatly feeling the lack of messages of hope and guidance previously brought by open churches. Christians must be able to again partake in the communal worship of God in order to best be a light for this world.

Christians can help America get through the violent riots and the ensuing destruction. This is accomplished specifically by supporting the good in people. Peaceful protests represent the proper use of American freedom. However, when violent riots ensue (which do not honor the memory of George Floyd and others unjustly killed), it becomes an abuse of freedom.

As Christians, speaking out with love in the face of anger will change the response to violence. An example of such Christian leadership can be found in the words of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) during a recent Congressional hearing on police brutality, where he stated that everyone is made in the image of God, despite skin color. He called for a defense of the people upholding truth and justice, while not condoning those who obstruct those values. Elsewhere, many people have reached out to communities struck by violent riots, cleaning up the mess as best they can. For example, according to CNN, a truck driver in Houston, Texas named Brian Irving spent hours cleaning up after a riot destroyed parts of the city. Such examples of Christians living out the principles of their faith are shining beacons in these dark times, and they ought to be emulated. The church has a unique opportunity to bring these moments of good to light, and show the world there are indeed good people.

When the church is at work during a time of crisis, God does not fail to turn that work into something beautiful. Setting an example of prayer and peace in a time of pandemonium will help bring stability. Christians must rise together and bring the truth of Christ to a world that is searching for truth. God is calling the church to be that beacon of light for the world.

Samantha Stahl is Policy/Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

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