Author archives: Rob Schwarzwalder

Winning the “War of Exhaustion:” Persevering in an Eroding Culture

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 23, 2015

In 2009, retired Army General Mark T. Kimmit wrote in the journal Foreign Policy of what he called “war exhaustion” respecting America’s military efforts in Afghanistan.

The objective in a war of exhaustion is to defeat a nation’s will to fight. The British Empire was not defeated in Afghanistan by a war of attrition, nor was the Soviet Union defeated in Afghanistan through attrition. Both were defeated through exhaustion. And this is how the Taliban intends to defeat the current coalition efforts in Afghanistan — by steadily eroding our will to fight,” he explained.

Whatever is now happening in Afghanistan, there is another “war of exhaustion” plaguing America: The exhaustion of social conservatives as we continue to defend life, uphold marriage, and protect religious liberty.

It’s wearisome to be in combat for a sustained period. Combat is usually a “dirty business fought by tired, hungry soldiers,” wrote Frederick J. Manning, former Director of the Division of Neuropsychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in the book War Psychiatry. “High morale demands, for each soldier, a goal, a role, and reasons for self-confidence,” he argues.

Christians involved in the public debates of our day often feel like they are in a “war of exhaustion.” Like the “tired, hungry soldiers” engaged in a “dirty business,” many of us are struggling with a sense of weariness, discouragement, and, in some cases, even hopelessness.

Some need to take a true break, to replenish their spirits and refresh their minds. There are many ways to serve, and not all of them involve political activism. No believer should ever withdraw from serving Christ and those made in His image, but there are seasons when Christians who have long participated in the cultural battle can, as Jesus said to the Twelve, “come away … and rest for a while.”

In the case of His disciples, His call to rest came because, as the apostle Mark explains, “many were coming and going, and they (the disciples) had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31). For Christians enmeshed in today’s social issues, “having the leisure to eat” – to detach from constant engagement in seeking to uphold righteousness and justice in the public arena – might well be merited.

With respect to Dr. Manning’s comments about the need for “a goal, a role, and reasons for self-confidence,” Christians who are committed to life from conception until natural death and protecting it in law, who understand the implications of turning from the historic (and biblical) definition of marriage as the covenantal union of one man and one woman, for life, who grasp the necessity of healthy families for parents, children, and the nation as a whole, and who recognize that religious liberty is under threat at home and being violently suppressed in many places around the world – we have our goal. As Family Research Council puts it, that goal is “a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish and religious liberty thrives.”

And we each have a role. There are various ways to participate in building such a culture, from sending emails to friends about an upcoming ballot initiative to running for office or preaching a sermon on biblical values. Most of us already know the roles we can play, given our time, health, and various other resources.

Perhaps what some of us need is a boost of confidence, not in the sense of “self-talk” or desperate efforts to see a bit of blue amid the gathering gray storm clouds. Rather, true confidence, in the context of the cultural battles we face, comes from surety that (1) we are in the right with respect to the convictions we seek to uphold and (2) in eternity, we indisputably are on the winning side.

As to the first point, I am not suggesting that every position taken by every conservative Christian activist on every issue is correct! Rather, the declarative, clear, and propositional assertions of the Bible concerning the sacredness of personhood from the womb onward, marriage and human sexuality, and human dignity and its obvious implications for religious liberty assure us that on the essentials of our efforts, we are moving in tandem with the Holy Spirit.

As to the second, the temporal scorecard is uneven. There have been some valuable federal court wins and some disastrous court losses. We have had some significant political victories at both the state and federal levels, and some noteworthy losses.

We need to keep seeking to advance the things we believe God cherishes for any society and do so with grace, courage, integrity, an unremitting allegiance to truth, and prudential good judgment. We must love our enemies, pray for those who oppose God’s rule and rules, and share with them the good news of a King Who died for them and rose again in triumph.

But we need to do so with a firm understanding that eternity awaits us, an eternity in which the Lord of Glory will reign over “new heavens and a new earth” in which justice and purity will be unblemished forever.

With that perspective ever in mind, exhaustion will never be our permanent lot. We will not lose heart (II Corinthians 4:16) nor grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).

That’s our call. That’s our challenge. That’s our confidence.

A Planned Parenthood Lexicon

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 13, 2015

To understand Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) public statements concerning the videos released this past summer showing its coarse and predatory sale of the body parts of unborn children, reflection on two passages from a couple of great books is worthwhile:

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of (the state), but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.”

George Orwell, 1984

Language shapes thought. It defines the content of our thinking such that we revert, by mental default, to using words we are used to hearing regarding various subject matter.

An example: When I think of the Grand Canyon, I think of the amazing canyon in Arizona whose depth, variety, and sheer size are both beautiful and remarkable. However, had I been conditioned to think of this geographical wonder as dangerous and hideous, my mental conception would be starkly different.

Words are used to depict or describe; when they are used dishonestly — when they distort one’s understanding of a person or event or idea — they are weapons against intellectual integrity and morality itself.

Planned Parenthood has developed a lectionary, accepted pro forma by the secular Left, to describe its various activities. Not unique to PPFA — this same set of words and phrases is used by the popular media and liberal politicians, as well — nonetheless the brazenness of the organization in using its specialized and euphemized vocabulary has elevated verbal and intellectual misrepresentation to a new level of hypocrisy.

This lectionary is articulated in an announcement made today by PPFA President Cecile Richards. In a letter for National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Richards said “the organization’s affiliates will no longer accept any reimbursements for costs associated with procuring tissue from abortions.”

Consider just one of the terms used in the letter: “fetal tissue.” When one thinks of tissue, usually it is of the flesh around our bones. Tissue samples are removed and studied; innocuous and common, right?

PPFA is not referring to a “donation” of such “tissue.” It’s speaking of the scavenging of organs of unborn children aborted late in their pregnancies. Dr. Deborah Necotola, Senior Director of Medical Services for the PPFA, explains what her organization really means by “tissue:”

You try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver … so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact … I’ll actually collect what you want sometimes, and put it aside … Why not? I’m right there. Oh, for sure, I mean to me, I don’t know, it makes the procedure that much better.”

Then there’s the term “reimbursement.” PPFA’s decision to end its “reimbursement” scheme amounts to the employment of another euphemism, at best; the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress imply that PPFA has a high profit motive for its organs-for-sale business.

The reality is that there is no cost to PPFA in providing infant cadavers to tissue procurement organizations (TPOs). As David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress wrote to congressional leaders in August,

We now know from Cecile Richards’ letter that $60 per collected tissue specimen is what will “get a toe in” to harvest baby parts at Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest. Like other TPOs, (Advanced Bioscience Resources) handles all dissection, packaging, and shipping of fetal organs and tissues, and so it is unclear for what PPPS could be receiving “reimbursement.” This is especially suspicious given that Ms. Richards says the $60 fee is paid “per tissue specimen.” Thus, if ABR harvests a liver and a thymus, a common fetal tissue order, from an 18-week fetus aborted at the San Diego clinic, Planned Parenthood receives a total payment of $120 from that case. It stretches credulity to believe that ABR’s technician harvesting two organs from a fetus costs Planned Parenthood $120 — this is a new revenue stream off of fetal tissue with no real cost to Planned Parenthood, and thus a criminal profit.

In sum, as Notre Dame Law School professor O. Carter Snead told the Associated Press today, “Planned Parenthood’s decision is clearly an effort at damage control — to preserve its carefully cultivated (and ferociously defended) image as merely a women’s health care organization. Nothing Planned Parenthood has done today will change its role as the world’s leading abortion provider.”

Indeed. In the words of Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Diane Black, quoted in the same AP story as Snead, “It is curious that, while Planned Parenthood officials maintain there has been no wrongdoing, they still find it necessary to change their policy following the recent undercover videos. Clearly, this was a decision motivated by optics rather than the organization’s conscience.”

And as Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said, “It is clear that Planned Parenthood knows it is wrong to profit from the sale of baby body parts, but their decision to stop selling organs doesn’t change the fact that Planned Parenthood still profits from the death of children. This organization still engages in the inhumane treatment of children, and our federal government forces taxpayers to give them their hard-earned money. Congress must continue all investigations into their grotesque practices and remain committed to defunding them.”

At this stage, even Big Brother would walk away from trying to market Planned Parenthood. Will Congress? Will the White House? Let us pray to that end.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day” and Planned Parenthood

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 5, 2015

Since 2006, October 15 has been designated by Congress as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the United States.

This day is intended for the remembrance of “pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes but is not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or the death of a newborn.”

This is a lovely recognition of the painful loss of a baby, something millions of Americans have experienced.  It’s a loss no parent ever wants to know.

Exactly one week before this date, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining Abortion Procedures and Medical Ethics at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” The hearing, which will take place in the Rayburn House Office building, will address issues raised by the release this summer of a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the details of harvesting organs from aborted unborn children — and even discussing techniques for aborting those children so as to optimize the collection of their body parts.

The irony is almost overwhelming: We are rightly compassionate toward women whose loss of their littles ones causes such pain, but the Left is fiercely defending the nation’s largest provider of abortion by trying to discredit the organization that revealed its evil behaviors and minimizing the gravity of what Planned Parenthood does to almost-born babies.

The late Anglican theologian John R.W. Stott, writing about abortion and its related wrongs, wrote this more than 25 years ago:

Any society which can tolerate these things, let alone legislate for them, has ceased to be civilised. One of the major signs of decadence in the Roman Empire was that its unwanted babies were ‘exposed’, that is abandoned and left to die. Can we claim that contemporary Western society is any less decadent because it consigns its unwanted babies to the hospital incinerator instead of the local rubbish dump? Indeed modern abortion is even worse than ancient exposure because it has been commercialised, and has become, at least for some doctors and clinics, an extremely lucrative practice. But reverence for human life is an indisputable characteristic of a humane and civilised society.

The only thing that has changed is the further coarsening of our culture and the greater number of unborn deaths.  And that’s why the battle for life and for the dignity of women preyed upon by the abortion industry goes on.

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News October 1, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 1, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


The First World War began a little more than 101 years ago.  It shattered a generation and its cost in lives and treasure remains stunning to contemplate.

Yet out of the war came C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, two of the 20th century’s greatest proponents of the importance of Christian virtue for all of culture.  Unlike a generation of young writers who lost faith in the God of the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis produced epic stories infused with the themes of guilt and grace, sorrow and consolation. Giving an unabashedly Christian vision of hope in a world tortured by doubt and disillusionment, the two writers created works that changed the course of literature and shaped the faith of millions. Dr. Joe Loconte’s new book, A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 is the first book to explore Tolkien and Lewis’ work in light of the spiritual crisis sparked by the conflict.

One of the things these men came to value was a core Christian commitment to the dignity of every person.  As image-bearers of God, each of us has a primary duty to Him – which is the very foundation of the religious liberty which undergirds all of our other freedoms.  As Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Every Government consists of mere men … if it adds to its commands ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ it lies, and lies dangerously.”

At noon on Thursday, October 8th, join us at FRC or watch online as Dr. Loconte shares the circumstances which bound together and inspired these two dearly loved authors.

Joe Loconte (Ph.D., King’s College, University of London) teaches history at The King’s College in the heart of New York City.  He has written thoughtfully on many of today’s most pressing issues, and his commentary on religion and democracy, human rights, and international religious freedom appears in the nation’s leading media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard, and National Public Radio. He is also a regular contributor to the London-based Standpoint Magazine and Italy’s La Stampa.

To register for this important lecture (either to attend or watch online), go to http://www.frc.org/events/book-event-with-joseph-loconte-phd.  We hope you can join us. 

Sincerely,
Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Be sure to watch the speeches of leading presidential contenders and other compelling panels and events at this year’s Values Voter Summit. The stakes for the 2016 election are high, and VVS helps us understand what they are and how each of us can make a difference.


Religious Liberty

Free to Believe” –

International Religious freedom-

Military Religious Freedom

 Religious Liberty in the public square –

Threats to Religious Institutions

 

Life

Abortion

Adoption

Fetal Pain

Healthcare conscience

Obamacare

 

Family

Human Sexuality (Homosexual/ gender issues)

Human Trafficking

Marriage

Pornography

President Obama: Insulting Friends, Placating Adversaries

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 21, 2015

Today’s Washington Post carries one of the most remarkable and surprising op-eds that paper has published in a long time. Note: This op-ed is the paper’s own “voice,” not a piece by a columnist.

Commenting on the Obama administration’s inclusion of “transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and a nun who criticizes church policies on abortion and euthanasia” in the welcoming ceremony planned for the Pope’s upcoming visit, the Post comments:

What struck us as we read about this small controversy is the contrast between the administration’s apparent decision to risk a bit of rudeness in the case of the pope and its overwhelming deference to foreign dictators when similar issues arise. When Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Havana to reopen the U.S. Embassy recently, he painstakingly excluded from the guest list any democrat, dissident or member of civil society who might offend the Castro brothers.

And when Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the White House next week, shortly after the pope leaves town, it’s a safe bet that he won’t have to risk being photographed with anyone of whom he disapproves. Chen Guangcheng, the courageous blind lawyer, for example, lives nearby in exile, but he probably won’t be at the state dinner. Neither will Falun Gong activists, democracy advocates or anyone else who might, well, give offense.

The Obama administration argues that it will include many people of every background. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, “The presence of these (controversial) figures is especially irritating, (a) Vatican official said, because it isn’t yet clear if the White House has invited any representatives of the U.S. anti-abortion movement, traditionally a high-priority cause for the U.S. bishops.”

Read that, no one active in the pro-life movement is welcome to greet the head of the world’s largest pro-life organization.

There will be some Evangelical leaders present at the event. U.S. News reports that they include “the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida who is a confidant of Obama on spiritual matters; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 conservative Christian denominations; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.”

While it’s nice of the White House to include some Evangelicals, the inclusion of persons at overt and public odds with the teachings the Pope represents and the omission of others whose political activities — standing for the unborn and their mothers — are essential to Catholic teaching are startling.

Remarkable: A stinging and blunt calling-on-the-carpet of an Administration far more concerned with advancing an aggressive “gay rights” agenda than defending religious liberty here at home or standing with those being horribly persecuted for their faith in repressive nations around the world. As I have written elsewhere, President Obama “cannot defend abroad what (he and his) administration … are working to erode here at home.”

The willingness of this Administration to affront the leader of the world’s largest Christian tradition is an embarrassment to our country. It demonstrates a moral arrogance so profound as to be one of the few things that still surprises after nearly seven years of the President’s diligent efforts to, in his words, “transform the United States of America.”

Insulting foreign friends while placating foreign adversaries strikes one as an unusual approach to advancing America’s national security and vital interests. Sadly, this Administration seems eager to do just that.

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News September 18, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 18, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


One could not watch the Republican presidential candidate debate Wednesday evening, nor can one scan the headlines of today’s papers, without realizing that protecting the unborn has become one of the most decisive issues of our time. 

The horrific videos of Planned Parenthood personnel coldly discussing income from selling the body parts of the unborn have struck the conscience of the nation, and moved pro-life lawmakers to demand a complete end to federal funding of the abortion giant.  FRC stands with them in this effortAs FRC President Tony Perkins has said, “FRC is demanding that Congress zero-out Planned Parenthood’s funding on a must-pass piece of legislation.” This is what legislation by U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee would do.  As she wrote recently in National Review, her bill would “ultimately increase available funding to community health centers by $235 million during this one-year period. The legislation further prioritizes women’s health care over abortion by reallocating federal funding to the more than 13,000 facilities nationwide that provide preventive care to those who need it most and do not perform abortions.”

Pro-life champions like U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona have offered legislation to curtail the destruction of unborn life. Rep. Franks, who spoke about his efforts yesterday at FRC, has authored the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 3504), which is scheduled to be considered in the House over the next several days. And next week, the Senate will consider U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham’s “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” the House version of which was also authored by Rep. Franks. The bill, which has already passed the House, would protect unborn children from abortion in almost all cases for two reasons: one, as documented by the Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, these little ones feel pain — intensely. And two, they have inherent value as little lives created by a loving God. 

FRC will never compromise our commitment to those whose precious, God-given lives are treated by the abortion industry merely as revenue sources and saleable commodities. The image of God they bear, from conception onward, calls us to defend them. Protecting unborn babies and their mothers from the predatory abortion industry is one of the highest callings of our time.  Affirming the value of life is a privilege.  And we can rejoice that in our time, we have the honor of standing for it. 

Sincerely,
Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Are you coming to FRC’s annual Values Voter Summit?  It’s not too late to register to hear leading presidential candidates and key conservative leaders lay-out their agendas for the coming year.  And don’t miss Chelsen Vicari’s excellent review of Tony Perkins’ important new book, No Fear.   


Religious Liberty

Free to Believe” –

International Religious freedom-

Marriage Licensing

 Religious Liberty in the public square –

Tax Exempt Status

 

Life

Abortion

Adoption

Federal funding of abortion

Fetal Pain

Healthcare conscience

Obamacare

 

Family

Family Economics

Human Sexuality (Homosexual/ gender issues)

Human Trafficking

Pornography

Pro-Marriage divorce reform

Fuller Seminary Takes a Stand”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 15, 2015

That’s the title of a new piece in First Things by the distinguished New Testament scholar Dr. Robert Gagnon. Dr. Gagnon, a professor at Pittsburg Theological Seminary, spoke at FRC on the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality last year and we honor him for his careful, judicious, and thorough teaching concerning what Scripture says about human sexuality.

Today he reports that California’s Fuller Seminary has “decided not to offer tenure to a New Testament professor, J. R. Daniel Kirk, whose view of marriage does not comport with Jesus’s view.” He notes that while this must not have been an easy decision, it was an important and necessary one: “Had Fuller set a precedent of embracing faculty whose position toward sexual ethics was so at odds with Jesus’s own, it would soon have ceased to be an evangelical institution.”

He is right. And despite calls by some on the Left that schools like Fuller should lose accreditation, federal student loan eligibility, or even tax exempt status, Dr. Gagnon reminds us that the cost of following Jesus is such that any temporal loss is worth accepting if it comes as a result of following Him faithfully. As he writes:

American Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic colleges and seminaries will face greater challenges in the not-too-distant future if they do not bend the proverbial knee to the unconstitutional, new state definition of marriage. They will be threatened with lawsuits and loss of accreditation. Their students will be denied access to federal student loans. This will happen for ‘discriminating’ not only against faculty supporters of ‘gay marriage’ but also against homosexually active job applicants. Eventually sanctions may be imposed even for permitting faculty to teach or write against homosexual practice. Yet no matter what comes, we must heed Jesus’s exhortation to ‘estimate the cost’ of being his faithful disciple and of ‘carrying one’s own cross’ (Luke 14:27-28).”

Sen. Mike Lee’s Senate Speech on Planned Parenthood

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 14, 2015

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee’s eloquent speech on Planned Parenthood in the Senate last week deserves wide distribution.  Here is a short excerpt; speaking of the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, the Senator said:

The evidence points to only one conclusion: Planned Parenthood really does these horrifying things—and makes money at it, and laughs about it over lunch.  But aside from the primary evidence, Mr. President, do you know how else we know it’s true?

Because if it were false, we would know for sure. The mainstream media—Big Abortion’s loudest shoe-banger of them all—would be thundering Planned Parenthood’s vindication from every headline, every home page, every network satellite. If the videos were false, Mr. President—if a pro-life group somehow fabricated this narrative of Planned Parenthood’s greed, barbarism, and cruelty—it would be a story.

Who are we kidding? It would be the story: a career-making scoop, with fame and Pulitzer Prizes and lucrative book deals and speaking tours awaiting the journalist who broke it. And yet, if you open a newspaper, click on the legacy media sites, and turn on the news… nothing. The major networks have gone dark on the videos over the last month. And major newspapers have scrubbed the scandal from their front pages.

Why the silence? Simple. They know it’s true, too.

Watch the full speech, or read the text, on Sen. Lee’s website. 

Religious Participation and Religious Liberty

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 9, 2015

My colleagues at FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) have spent years documenting, copiously and irrefutably, that religious practice benefits families and children. As MARRI argues, “the intact married family that worships weekly is the greatest generator of human and social positive outcomes and thus it is the core strength of the United States and of all other countries where the data are available.”

Strong, two-parent families mean higher educational attainment and emotional health for children, greater income, less crime, and a host of other benefits. Those families that do best are the ones that attend a religious service together at least once a week. But essential to such worship and, thus, to the benefits that correlate with it, is another factor.

That would be religious liberty. Not just the right to attend a religious service at a given building unimpeded by the law. Not just private devotions in the four walls of one’s home. Not just “freedom of religion” in the sense that people can believe, in their minds, what they choose as long as they are silent about it.

Religious liberty in its fullness means not only the ability to believe what one chooses but the right to live out one’s convictions at work, in the neighborhood, and in all facets of one’s life.

Religious liberty is grounded in the belief that God is the Author of our rights, and that government is merely their protector. This is what the Declaration of Independence asserts and is the very foundation of our philosophy of government and entire way of life. Unless God has granted us our rights, they are the arbitrary bestowals of a government which can diminish or even remove those rights at will.

The threats to religious liberty in our country are real. There are steady efforts to encroach upon it, attempts to chip-away at the right to live out one’s faith such that gradually, religious liberty itself will crumble from incremental erosion (see FRC’s “Free to Believe” webpage for myriad examples of this).

Participation in religious worship and related activities makes a tremendous difference in family life and, thereby, the well-being of our culture. But if religious liberty in its truest sense is lost, will the incentive for participation in formal religious services remain as strong as it is now? Although many Americans will continue such participation if the practice of their faith is hemmed-in by anti-religious laws and rules, repression of religious liberty will render their lives less whole, less happy, and less American.

Kim Davis: The Issues of Accommodation and Burden

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 8, 2015

In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has just been released from jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of Mrs. Davis’s case. Various Christian writers have argued that she is embarrassing Evangelical faith, that she simply should resign, that Christian leaders’ rhetoric defending Mrs. Davis is overheated, etc.

What they are failing to consider are two essential concepts that underlie the Davis case. They are these:

Accommodation. Does not Mrs. Davis deserve some kind of accommodation? We accommodate so many other religious beliefs in both government and private-sector workplaces. Can we not find one for Mrs. Davis and others like her who, out of the integrity of their consciences, cannot do something that abrades the very core of their religious convictions?

That’s why FRC is asking Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call “for a special legislative session and establishing statutory accommodations for clerks like Kim Davis.” As noted by legal scholars Craig Bertschi (Kilpatrick Townsend law firm) and Nathan S. Chapman (University of Georgia School of Law) in their brief on behalf of Hobby Lobby, “the Free Exercise Clause requires some religious accommodations;” in point of fact, some 2,000 such accommodations now exist. As they write in the conclusion of their brief, “When Congress provides religious accommodations consistent with the government’s compelling interests, including its interests in protecting third parties, it supplements, rather than contradicts, the Religion Clauses’ protection of religious liberty.”

The federal government has a “compelling interest” to honor the freedom of religion. As the Founders argued, duty to God precedes duty to the state. This precept is essential to the very heart of our system of government. The same can be said of state governments as well.

Burden. The same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses have many other venues from which to obtain them. There are other, simple, only marginally inconvenient ways for them to obtain them.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed by the U.S. Senate 97-3 and signed by President Clinton in a major public ceremony, makes this clear.

At the signing ceremony, the President said, “This event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.” Note his choice of word – both “profess” and “express.” Faith that is merely emotional or intellectual but whose public expression is stultified is not the kind of active faith to which religious devotion calls its followers.

Additionally, Kentucky has a RFRA which similarly requires the state government to offer an accommodation to people like Mrs. Davis unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest to advance and is doing so in the least restrictive way possible.

Writing in The Public Discourse, Kim Colby, Director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, says RFRA “incentivizes government officials to find mutually beneficial ways to accomplish a governmental interest while respecting citizens’ religious exercise—a win-win solution for all.”

Put simply, Mrs. Davis is being burdened in a manner wholly unfamiliar to those advocates of religious liberty who drafted and enacted RFRA only 22 years ago. The burden imposed on her is an unfair one for a simple reason: There are other recourses for those same-sex couples seeking legal legitimation of their unions.

For example, as Newsweek reports, Mrs. Davis’s attorneys have argued there are options “other than mandating the clerk’s name on all marriage licenses. They (range) from having the county judge executive issue the licenses to allowing a deputy clerk to issue them devoid of Davis’s name or authority as Rowan County Clerk.” Indeed, as reported in today’s Washington Post, “The licenses issued Friday (September 4) were altered to remove Davis’s name. They now say they are issued in the office of ‘Rowan County, Rowan County County Clerk’.”

In other words, there are ways in which same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses that respect Mrs. Davis’s religious conscience and that do not unduly burden those couples in their pursuit of marriage licenses. And clearly, Kentucky has not met its state RFRA’s requirement that the government advance any interest in the least restrictive way possible.

This situation casts into large and vivid relief the kinds of issues the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling redefining marriage has placed before the country. Religious liberty in its fullest sense is at stake.

Surely, for Kim Davis and myriad Americans like her, accommodations can be found and unnecessary burdens lifted.

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