Category archives: Government

Christian Voting Myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

by Joseph Backholm

October 8, 2020

This is part 2 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

Anyone who has spent 15 minutes around a church during election season has heard someone say some version of the following: “Don’t worry about the election. It doesn’t really matter what happens because God is always in charge anyways.”

It’s true, of course, that God is always in charge. Neither human frailty nor human stupidity threaten God’s plan for the world. He will accomplish His plan despite us. But it isn’t logical to conclude that because God is sovereign, we don’t have to care about what happens in government. Here’s why. 

The freedom we enjoy in America is unusual. Even if you’re not a political activist, you’re probably thankful that life in the United States is different than life in places like Venezuela or North Korea. It’s not just different, it’s better. We can own property, say stupid things online about our government without fear of the police arresting us for it, and even help determine who our government is.  

These freedoms are so normal for Americans that we tend to take them for granted, but they were unimaginable for generations past. Billions of people have lived and died under a monarchy, oligarchy, or some form of dictatorship. That’s not only true of the past, it’s true of the present. Most people alive in the world right now are not free in the way Americans understand freedom.  

Those of us who have freedom and prosperity probably didn’t do anything to earn it. We inherited it. We’re political trust fund babies. Though we didn’t do anything to get it, we are responsible for what we do with it. To whom much is given, much is required. That’s why indifference isn’t an option. The American form of government is a gift, and we owe it to those who gave us that gift to treat it with appropriate respect and appreciation. One way we do that is by taking care of it.

A republican form of government, like everything in our lives, requires constant maintenance. If you decide to never mow your lawn again, never replace the breaks on your car, or never fix the leak in your roof, God will still be in charge and He will still accomplish His purpose. Nothing about neglecting adult responsibilities threatens God’s sovereignty. But we don’t decline to fix our roof because God is sovereign, nor is God’s sovereignty the reason we would fix it. We fix the roof as an act of stewardship for the good gift of a house that God has given us and as an act of service to the people in our family who live in the house. So it is with governments.

Educating ourselves, voting, and running for office are forms of civic maintenance. They feel like chores because in a real sense, they are chores. They’re civic chores and they’re a privilege. We shouldn’t complain about our civic duties any more than we should complain about the maintenance costs on our private fleet of jets. Some problems aren’t problems, they’re blessings. It is a privilege to be able to query which candidate is most tolerable. At least we get to have an opinion. Doing the work necessary to keep the luxury items God has given us in good condition does not show a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, it shows good stewardship of what He has given to us and kindness to our neighbors.

After all, well maintained governments make life better for everyone. Ideas are not neutral. All ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. When we allow bad ideas to take root in government, people get hurt. Engagement in our government is not just a way to fulfill a civic duty, it’s a chance to make life tangibly better for other people. Babies who would otherwise die get to live. People who would otherwise be punished for speaking the truth get to speak. Businesses that would otherwise be shut down can flourish. Parents who would otherwise lose the right to direct the upbringing of their children get to have the final say. Communities that would otherwise be unsafe are able to thrive. Justice exists where it didn’t before. Some political choices are purely a matter of opinion—chocolate or vanilla? But sometimes they’re a matter of life and death.

It’s true that God is in charge and we can trust Him, even when things are hard. It is also comforting to know that God will restore all things in His time, even if something bad happens. But that’s no excuse for indifference. God has placed us on earth to be His hands and feet in a broken world. Our efforts to make the world better by living out our beliefs are not a sign of misplaced trust but a recognition of who He made us to be.

Read myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

Christian Voting Myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”

by Joseph Backholm

October 6, 2020

This is part 1 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”; myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

In an age where we’re constantly told to follow “the science,” everyone wants their decisions to be data driven. We study and research to ensure that what we are doing does not simply feel helpful, but actually is helpful.

At the same time, we’re all told we should vote because every vote makes a difference. We’re often told this by the same people who tell us that our decisions should be data driven. Sometimes the idea that every vote makes a difference isn’t actually supported by the data. For example, in the 2016 election, 139 million people voted in the presidential election. That’s a lot of people.

Those of us who followed the law only voted once. You don’t need to be a math major to realize that one vote out of 139 million isn’t going very far to determine who the president is. Let’s be honest, if you or I had decided not to vote, we would still have the same president. But our vote still matters. Here’s why.

While presidential elections are usually the first thing we think about when we think about elections, elections are about much more than a presidency. State and local elections not only have a big impact on your life, they are often decided by a small number of votes. In 2017, a Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie after more than 23,000 ballots were cast. The winner was decided by pulling a name out of a bowl, which also decided the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In 2016, a New Mexico State House seat was decided by two votes out of 14,000 ballots cast. School board elections, which happen in every town in America and determine what kids will be taught at school, don’t have hundreds of millions of votes—in many cases they have hundreds of votes cast. Total. These are critical decisions that make a big difference in our lives that are decided not by millions of people, they’re decided by dozens of people. Each one of those votes matters a lot.

But that’s not all. In elections, as in all of life, many small decisions make a big difference. When one person decides not to vote, it’s easy to make the argument that it doesn’t really matter. But what happens if millions of people decide that voting doesn’t matter?

In 2016, there were 235 million eligible voters in the United States, but only 139 million of them actually voted. That means that almost 100 million people who could have voted chose not to. Many of them probably thought their vote wouldn’t make a difference. But it did.

For Christians, however, voting isn’t just a practical decision. It’s also about doing the right thing.   

Romans 13 tells us that government was created by God in order to punish evil and reward good. If any of us had been born into royalty and grown to be king or queen, our duty to God would require us to use the power God gave us to punish evil and reward good. Most of us weren’t born into a royal family and won’t be monarchs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have political authority. Those of us privileged enough to vote have authority, and it, like everything, came from God. That means we have stewardship responsibility to use our authority in a way that recognizes where that authority came from and what it is for. Indifference is never good stewardship.

It’s true that we can’t always control what happens, but we can always control what we do with what we have, and that’s what we’ll ultimately be responsible for.

Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

Presidential Order Recognizes All Newborn Life is Precious

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Ruth Moreno

September 30, 2020

On September 25, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that reinforces existing protections for children born premature, with disabilities, or in medical distress, including infants who survive abortion. The Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children responds to credible concerns that some hospitals have refused to provide medical screening and stabilizing treatment to such children because “they believe[d] these infants may not survive, may have to live with long-term disabilities, or may have a quality-of-life deemed to be inadequate.” However, such refusals violate multiple federal laws, as the EO explains.

An EO is not a new law. Rather, it is a directive from the president instructing the executive branch on how to enforce existing law. This particular EO is primarily concerned with ensuring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) properly enforces three existing laws:

Specifically, HHS must ensure:

  • all federal funding recipients understand their obligations toward vulnerable children;
  • all federal funding recipients provide medical screening examinations, stabilizing treatments, or transfers when needed;
  • all federal funding recipients provide these services to all children, regardless of disability;
  • violation complaints regarding medical care for newborns and infants are investigated;
  • disability discrimination complaints can be filed on the HHS website; and
  • research into treatments for infants born with emergency medical conditions and programs that train medical personnel to care for said infants are prioritized.

This EO clarifies medical protocols for infants born with disabilities or who survive abortion. However, the executive branch is limited to enforcing the laws that already exist. A legislative fix is necessary to provide true legal protections for infants who survive abortion. Since 2006, five states have reported at least 179 cases in which an infant has survived an abortion. Because not all states report this data, the 179 cases we do know about do not even begin to paint the full picture of the number of abortion survivors in the United States. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is a bill before Congress that would legally require medical professionals to give the same level of care to infants that survive abortion as they would to any infant born at the same gestational age, and include criminal and civil penalties for any physician that fails to give appropriate care to these infants.

Unfortunately, pro-abortion politicians have fallen victim to the abortion industry’s lies. They have halted every effort in Congress to denounce infanticide and provide full legal and medical protection for these innocent babies. Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) voted against this life-saving measure twice, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continuously blocked Republican efforts to have a House floor vote on the bill.

Congress has neglected its duty to ensure that the right to life is secured for all individuals born in America. President Trump has stepped in to fill the void left by Congress’ inaction by issuing this Executive Order, demonstrating this administration’s willingness to do what is necessary to protect the unborn, the disabled, and every infant who has survived the horror of abortion.

Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.

FRC On the Hill (September 21-25)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

September 25, 2020

Issues related to life, family, and religious freedom continue to be debated in Congress in the lead up to the election. Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring these issues and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the biggest items from the past week:

Senate Seeks to Save Moms and Babies

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) made a unanimous consent request for the Senate to pass the Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies (SAVE) Act, which would codify the safety restrictions (risk-evaluating and management strategies, or REMS) placed on chemical abortion pills by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

First approved by the FDA in 2000 under pressure from the Clinton administration and its pro-abortion allies, chemical abortion pills are known to have serious complication risks, which can sometimes be life-threatening for the women who use them. The REMS impose several commonsense safety restrictions on the dispensing of chemical abortion pills, such as ensuring women receive the pills from physicians, are made fully aware of the associated risks, and know how to seek follow-up care from a doctor in the event of complications.  

Recently, some Democrats have pushed to repeal the REMS. In his remarks on the bill, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) noted that some Democrats advocate for chemical abortion pills being available by mail, with no additional information or care provided.

The risks chemical abortion pills pose to women are real, and they are serious. As Lee pointed out, “Women have suffered tragic, gruesome, and horrific experiences using the abortion pill.” Since its approval, abortion pills have caused over 4,200 medical problems, including more than 1,000 hospitalizations and nearly 600 life-saving blood transfusions. Twenty-four women have died from complications caused by abortion pills.

The repeal of the REMs would surely lead to greater harm to mothers. The SAVE Act should not be controversial, but pro-abortion Democrats have turned even the most basic conversations about women’s health into debates about Roe v. Wade. The truth is, Sen. Hyde-Smith’s bill says nothing about the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

As Lee said, “Something’s terribly wrong if we can’t have a conversation about women’s health without being accused of wanting to undo an entire line of precedent dating back to 1973.”

For those who care about expectant mothers’ health, Sen. Hyde-Smith’s bill is a welcome measure.

Untangling Government Subsidies for the Abortion Industry

Congress is taking steps to untangle Planned Parenthood from taxpayer subsidies.  Representative Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, a bill that would amend the Medicaid statute to give states the ability to exclude abortion businesses from participating in Medicaid.

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for millions of low-income Americans. The Hyde Amendment does prohibit federal Medicaid funds from paying for elective abortions directly. However, Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses will perform other services besides abortion and are reimbursed for those services with a mix of federal and state Medicaid funds.

The most recent report published by the Government Accountability Office revealed that in 2015 Planned Parenthood received $414.37 million in federal Medicaid reimbursements alone! Although the funds cannot be used to pay for abortions directly, these funds subsidize the abortion industry by allowing abortion facilities to be reimbursed for other services they perform, which then frees up other money to hire abortionists, pay for abortions, or build abortion facilities.

Fourteen states have attempted to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, but because of a provision in the federal Medicaid statute, all of these efforts have been blocked by federal courts. Now is the time for Congress to clarify the Medicaid statute once and for all and give states the ability to make their Medicaid program free from elective abortion.

Senate Bill Would Protect Female Athletes Nationwide

Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) introduced the Protection of Women and Girls and Sports Act, which would make it a violation of Title IX for a school receiving federal funds to permit a biological male to participate in a sports program designated for women and girls.

Title IX is well known for its expansion of educational and athletic opportunities for women. With this bill, Loeffler is taking action to block what may be the biggest threat to girls and women’s sports since Title IX was adopted—the effort by some biological males who identify as female to compete against biological females. In the state of Connecticut alone, female high school track athletes have lost 15 medals to biological males in state competition in the last two years, reducing their chances for college athletic scholarships in the process.

Loeffler is the perfect senator to introduce this bill. She is a grateful beneficiary of Title IX, having played basketball and run cross-country and track in high school. As an adult, she invested financially in women’s sports by becoming a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Now, as a U.S. senator, she is seeking to protect the opportunities afforded by Title IX for future generations of female athletes.

Regardless of what one thinks about the transgender movement or “gender identity” protections in other areas of life, fair athletic competition demands a policy like the one outlined in the Protection of Women and Girls and Sports Act. It is great to see Sen. Loeffler and her bill’s co-sponsors standing up for the rights of women and girls.

Other Notable Items

  • The House took action to protect religious freedom in China by passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill would require companies to prove that goods produced in Xinjiang, China, and imported to the U.S. are not made using forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim minority. It passed with near-unanimous support!
  • The House Judiciary Committee attempted to hold a hearing on oversight of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division. However, it quickly turned into a partisan grandstand against Attorney General Bill Barr and his team of lawyers. Representatives Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) did a great job defending DOJ’s work to protect religious freedom from aggressive state and local coronavirus lockdown measures. 
  • Acting United States Secretary of Homeland (DHS) Security Chad Wolf sat before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in a nomination hearing to be confirmed into the role of DHS Secretary. The acting secretary has been a strong leader in protecting American cities against the recent threat of violent mobs and riots.

FRC On the Hill (September 14-18)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

September 18, 2020

Issues related to life, family, and religious freedom continued to be debated in Congress after its return from August recess. Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring these issues and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the biggest items from this week:

Pro-Life Concerns with Vaccine Development

In Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on coronavirus response efforts, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) urged panelists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to pursue an ethical coronavirus vaccine. All vaccines use human tissue in their production, but not all use tissue derived from ethical sources. As Lankford explained, some companies are using stem cells from adults or the placentas of born children to pursue a vaccine, while others (such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are using tissue derived from aborted children. 

Lankford voiced the concerns the pro-life community has with vaccines developed from aborted children. He reminded the scientific and medical communities that the dignity of every human being must never be compromised. He also pointed out that vaccines from ethical sources will be more effective, as they will be better received by the public. “I don’t want to have a reason for people to not go get a vaccine because they’re concerned about the origin of the vaccine,” Lankford said to the panelists. “I want as many people as possible to actually get a vaccine because I think it’s important.” 

CDC Director Robert Redfield did not have an immediate answer to the pro-life concerns with vaccine development but assured Sen. Lankford that his office would follow up with more details.

Vote on Marijuana Legalization Delayed Due To Public Pressure

On Thursday, Democratic leaders from the House of Representatives announced the postponement of the vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884). If passed, this bill would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Originally scheduled for a vote on the House floor next week, public pressure from groups opposed to the drug’s decriminalization has resulted in its delay. Family Research Council is part of the opposition effort led by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), an organization that dedicates itself to educating and lobbying against the legalization of marijuana at both the federal and state levels.

Although Democratic leaders say they remain committed to bringing the MORE Act to a vote before the end of the year, this delay proves that public pressure has real consequences in Congress and that Americans want public officials to focus on the coronavirus pandemic, not partisan priorities. This delay will give those opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana even more time to voice their concerns with the bill and change some minds in the House of Representatives.  

Other Notable Items

  • The Trump administration proposed a new federal regulation that would expand the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy. This policy requires non-governmental organizations to agree, as a condition of their receipt of U.S. federal grant money, to neither perform nor promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. The Trump administration’s new rule, if implemented, would apply this policy to contracts and subcontracts as well as grants.
  • House Republicans led a last-minute amendment effort to add religious liberty protections for employers to the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694).
  • Democratic strategists have amplified their efforts to eliminate the filibuster if they regain control of the Senate. This move would allow a simple majority of senators to pass radical liberal policies like the Equality Act or the Green New Deal.

Ruth Moreno, a Policy & Government Affairs intern, assisted in writing this blog.

State Department Reaffirms That the U.S. Can Meet Global Health Goals While Protecting Life

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

August 19, 2020

On Monday, the State Department, in coordination with other federal agencies, released a second review of President Donald Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA), affirming its effectiveness in both protecting life and promoting global health.

On January 23, 2017, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy which restricts foreign funds from going to organizations that perform or promote abortions. This unprecedented expansion, which is now known under the PLGHA name, expanded the requirements from only applying to family planning funds to now covering all global health funds totaling nearly $8.8 billion in American foreign aid.

The outrage from pro-abortion groups was prompt, as 130 groups sent a letter to President Trump immediately following the announcement, condemning this policy for increasing unintended pregnancies and maternal deaths. The attacks on this policy have also made regular appearances in Congress as pro-abortion members have sought to delegitimize the effort and paint it as harming United States global health goals. This February, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on women’s global health, and pro-abortion members used it as fodder to attack PLGHA. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) claimed that “This administration’s unprecedented expansions [were] implemented with no analysis of the potential impacts.” She further asserted that “mass confusion about the policy has led to a chilling effect causing organizations to unnecessarily change or eliminate vital health services.” The State Department has now issued two thorough reports showing that these allegations are far from the truth.

The most recent report from the State Department analyzing the implementation of the PLGHA policy reveals that so far, only eight out of the 1,340 prime grantees of global health funds have declined to agree to the terms of the policy, two of which were the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International—two of the largest global abortion groups. That means that 99 percent of all organizations directly receiving these global health funds have agreed not to promote or perform abortions. An additional 47 subgrantees also declined to accept the terms of the policy, but in most cases the prime partner organization directly receiving the U.S. global health funds was able to take on these activities or transition them to another organization. Not everything with the implementation was perfect, as 18 of the subgrantees did report delays in health care delivery of greater than three months. In these instances, USAID stepped in to help find new partner organizations or work to provide technical assistance. Also, following the completion of the first State Department report, USAID has taken substantial action to train grantees on the implementation of the policy by providing in-person trainings and electronic guidance materials. Contradicting what Congressional opponents have claimed, the report concluded: “When organizations declined the terms of PLGHA, the transitions to alternative health providers have been, for the most part, smooth.”

Abortion providers, whether domestic or abroad, act as if they have a right to receive public funds, and any time those funds are taken away, there will supposedly be immediate consequences to public health. Time after time, this has been proven false, and the latest State Department report is further evidence of that. The other trend confirmed in this report is that when the government restricts funds for abortion providers, other willing funders will always step in to keep abortion groups supported. The report noted that in Burkina Faso and Niger, private donors stepped in to fund organizations that did not comply with the PLGHA policy.

A similar situation happened when President Trump implemented the Protect Life Rule which prohibited Title X grantees from promoting abortion. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers withdrew from the program, sacrificing over $50 million in federal funds only for it to be replaced by state revenues instead. These trends raise the debate over whether public programs should only seek to provide services in the most efficient way possible; or, should morals and ethics play a role in how programs are implemented and which organizations provide those programs. The thorough review of using taxpayer funds to promote women’s health through Title X domestically and international global health funds demonstrate that our government can do both.

President Trump and his administration have gone above and beyond any past president to implement government-wide policies that protect unborn life. The reports being released further confirm that the U.S. can have policies that seek to both protect unborn children and promote better health outcomes for women. As Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) boldly proclaimed in response to the Congressional attacks on PLGHA: “To win the future, America should be leading to affirm the dignity and value of both patients, mothers and children.”

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.

7 Things You Should Know About D.C. Statehood

by Laura Grossberndt

June 26, 2020

The effort to make the District of Columbia a state is in the news again. D.C. statehood is often cited as a solution to residents’ “taxation without [congressional] representation” problem. But is D.C. statehood constitutional? Here are some things you should know about our capital city and the current campaign for D.C. statehood.

1. The seat of government of the United States cannot be part of a state.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the seat of the federal government (the “District”) to be contained within a state. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 states that the District was to be comprised of ceded land. This means the state(s) providing the land for the creation of the District gave up all claims of ownership and authority over said land. Soon after the ratification of the Constitution, Maryland and Virginia each ceded land that would comprise the District. (Although the land ceded by Virginia was later ceded back.)

2. Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the District. This means Congress has the authority to govern the District’s laws, including its budget. Without this authority, the federal government could be endangered or rendered ineffective in its duty of serving the entire nation.

In Federalist Paper No. 43, James Madison declared Congress’ complete authority at the seat of government an “indispensable necessity.” He and his fellow constitutional theorists knew from personal experience the dangers of the federal government being in any way dependent on a single state. At the time of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Congress was situated in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). When a mob surrounded the State House and demanded payment for the military service they had rendered during the American War for Independence, the Pennsylvania state government refused Congress’ requests for protection. This led to Congress fleeing Philadelphia and eventually choosing a locale for the national capital that would not be contained within a state or surrounded by one state.

3. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in Congress.

Because the District is not a state, nor a part of a state, it does not have voting members of Congress; it only has non-voting delegates. This means the District’s approximately 500,000 registered voters do not have voting representation in Congress. This has generated many policy proposals that seek to create voting representation. D.C. statehood is one of these proposals.

4. H.R. 51 would dramatically reduce the size of the District.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) currently being debated is one measure designed to try to make D.C. a state. It would carve out a smaller federal District, consisting of and limited to the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, and federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall. By dramatically reducing the size of the District in this way, H.R. 51 seeks to circumnavigate the need for a constitutional amendment by only admitting part of D.C. as a state, leaving behind a District that would theoretically still be independent of a state.

However, shrinking the federal District in this way would render congressional authority over the seat of government (in the truest sense) impossible. In such a scenario, the tiny federal District would be entirely surrounded by a “state of D.C.,” and Congress would not even have authority over the streets, necessary public services, and other elements on which it is dependent. The Constitution gives Congress authority to govern the federal District’s laws, including its budget. If the majority of Washington, D.C. were to become a state, it would no longer be subject to this congressional authority. The federal government and foreign embassies would be directly affected by the new state’s budgetary decisions and dependent upon the state for public services. The state of D.C. could grow inordinately powerful and might impose an “awe or influence” over the federal government that Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 43, called “equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”

5. A constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.

Even with H.R. 51’s reinterpretation of “seat of government,” a constitutional amendment would still be necessary before admitting D.C. as a state. The 23rd Amendment (which grants the District electoral college votes) would need to be repealed—or it would simply be rendered nonsensical (if D.C. were to become a state and the federal District reduced in size, the District’s only residents, the first family, would be the only individuals represented through all three electoral college votes).

6. D.C. statehood would have legislative implications for the entire country.

Knowing what we know from past budgets and laws proposed by the D.C. City Council, a “state of D.C.” would almost certainly support policies that undermine the sanctity of human life and are detrimental to the American family. A state of D.C. would most likely contribute two more votes for such policies in the U.S. Senate (as well as a yet undetermined number of votes in the House), directly impacting millions of Americans nationwide.

7. Statehood isn’t the only possible solution for D.C. voting rights.

Proponents of D.C. statehood like to claim that statehood’s opponents are opposed to D.C. residents’ voting rights. But this is simply not the case. By supporting H.R. 51, House leadership is rejecting other possible paths to securing congressional voting representation for D.C.—ones that would honor the Founders’ intent to keep the federal seat of government non-dependent on a single state. Instead, the backers of H.R. 51 favor a statehood campaign that threatens the federal government’s indispensable authority over its seat of governance while benefitting their own progressive political ends. H.R. 51 is not a solution the Constitution permits.

Governments Are Allowing Unrestricted Protests. So Why Are Churches Still Restricted?

by Laura Lee Caum

June 11, 2020

Since March, churches all over America have suspended in person worship services to comply with social distancing guidelines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For nearly three months, churches have adapted to alternatives including online services and drive-in services. Surprisingly, a few state and local governments punished those participating in drive-in services by handing out tickets. Despite the challenges, the vast majority of worshippers have abided by social distancing restrictions, longing for the days when they can worship together again.

The same cannot be said of many of the protestors in recent days. After the unjust death of George Floyd in Minnesota, many protestors flooded the streets demanding justice. However, these large gatherings of protestors were in direct violation of CDC guidelines. At the height of the protests, Minnesota’s Department of Health was still officially encouraging its citizens to go out only to “buy food, medicine, and other needed items.”

Since the mass protests, there has been a spike in new coronavirus cases in Minnesota. Violence has greatly increased. A number of businesses in Minnesota have been destroyed and one of their police stations was torched. Around the country, several policemen—both black and white— were assaulted and some even murdered while attempting to maintain order. Despite the public health risks of large protests, government officials throughout the country have allowed the protests to continue (and in some cases participated themselves). And while it is important to underscore the justifiable outrage over George Floyd’s death, the acquiescence of authorities to these protests while churches remain shuttered raises the question of a double standard.

In short, if governors allow thousands of protestors to march in cities around the country, when can churches have in-person services? The CDC has cleared churches to hold services in their buildings. The issue seems to be with some state governments who are explicitly discriminating against churches. One example is in Nevada where Governor Sisolak is restricting church gatherings to 50 or fewer people while permitting casinos and restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity; in some of the larger casinos this means allowing hundreds of people to gather at one time. According to these government mandates, church gatherings must abide by restrictions while secular businesses can serve many guests. Clearly, these decisions violate the religious freedom of worshippers.

Freedom of speech is a cherished principle that must include even unpopular views and opinions. If protestors are permitted to chant, “I can’t breathe,” churchgoers should be allowed to sing, “Amazing Grace.” Protestors should be free to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and churchgoers should be treated no differently.  

Any worshipper will readily admit that church in recent weeks has felt a little different. Church members do not wish to break the law or endanger anyone. They simply wish to worship together. Some outside the church may marvel or be confused about why Christians are so adamant about meeting for corporate worship. The reason is that for followers of Christ, gathering for worship is not a preference, but a command that Christians must obey. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Though the church is commanded to gather together, government restrictions in many places continue to prevent this from happening. So long as government restrictions are applied equally to all sectors of society, these orders should be followed. After all, Romans 13 teaches that government has been ordained by God. However, it is clear now that the government’s orders are not being applied equally as protestors have been permitted to voice their grievances and stage large gatherings without CDC health guidelines being enforced. Let us meet in the middle: allow protesters to voice their opinion while at the same time permitting church goers to worship together in person.

Finally, churches who dare to open are bending over backwards to abide by and even exceed government guidelines. Pastors are commissioned by God to care for those in their church. State governors should be assured that pastors will take care of their members just as well as a restaurant owner will take care of their guests. To help pastors care for their churches, FRC released a resource titled “Guidelines for Reopening Your Church.” If we are going to protect the right to freedom of speech for protestors, let us safeguard the freedom of religion for those who want to gather for public worship. Only when both free speech and freedom of religion are protected for all will we have a functioning and whole society.

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

USAID Tells UN That Abortion Is Not “Humanitarian Aid”

by Patrina Mosley

May 20, 2020

The United Nations (UN) has declared abortion as “essential healthcare” and intends to use humanitarian coronavirus funds to supplement abortions around the world.

John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), recently sent a letter urging the UN to stay focused on saving lives rather than taking them. As we previously noted, it has been apparent that world abortion leaders, like the World Health Organization, have been using the current pandemic to push abortions now more than ever before as “essential.” Unfortunately, the United Nations is one of those leaders that is willing to use billions of U.S. dollars to deliver abortions as a part of coronavirus humanitarian aid.

USAID’s letter reminds UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the U.S. is the “the largest donor of global health and humanitarian assistance” and emphatically states that the UN’s $6.71 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Global HRP) “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”

Barsa further noted that the U.S. alone contributed half of this amount—just in fiscal year 2019—at $3.5 billion. As President Trump stated in his address to the 74th UN General Assembly, the U.S. will “never tire of defending innocent life.” We have a vested stake in protecting our sovereignty as well as standing with those who wish to protect their sovereignty in accepting aid without strings attached. The letter reemphasized Trump’s statement that the UN simply has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

The United Nations has acted as the global enforcer of liberalism, disregarding the national sovereignty of nations by withholding aid to nations that do not support their abortion agenda. For far too long, developing countries that desperately need basic necessities have had to choose between their national sovereignty in holding values like the sanctity of life or accepting UN food and water that come with contraceptives and abortions. So much for the UN being “humanitarian.” Now that we as a global community are confronting something we have rarely faced before with the current pandemic, it should not be controversial to collectively say: Abortion is not humanitarian aid.

The USAID letter is unprecedented in that it brings attention to the UN’s twisted supposition that abortions are on the same critical level as “food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation.” It is a rebuke to the UN not seen from a world leader like the United States in some time. 

The letter states that unity can be found if the controversial abortion funding is avoided, and the “sexual and reproductive health services” provisions as part of the COVID-19 response are removed.

Furthermore, the USAID letter calls attention to what is “most egregious”: the Global HRP call “for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.”

Abortion inducing drugs, like the abortion pill, are extremely dangerous, yet they are the go-to method universally for abortion advocates. As we pointed out here, the global abortion industry favors the abortion pill especially in areas they deem as “low-resource settings.” This means that the industry expects women to self-manage her own abortion by self-administering pills and expelling the child in her own home. The abortion pill regimen has been known to cause severe hemorrhaging that requires blood transfusions and incomplete abortions that can incur severe infections and the need for follow up surgery. Many women have died.

Sadly, just this month, a 32-year-old woman in India died at her home after suffering severe blood loss from taking abortion pills. During the police investigation, they seized a bloodstained bedsheet, abortion-inducing pills, and painkillers.

She is survived by her one-year-old daughter.

How this could ever be described as “humanitarian aid,” no one with a conscience will ever know. What we do know is that the U.S. is becoming more watchful and is giving teeth to the values we claim to have by being consistent with them around the world.

This is quite noteworthy and displays the seriousness of the Trump administration’s intention of being the leader in protecting the sanctity of life, at home and aboard. This follows the Trump administration’s success in restoring integrity back to the domestic Title X family planning funds where abortion will no longer be considered a method of family planning, expanding the Mexico City policy in what is now known as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (where U.S. funds will be restricted from supplementing oversees abortions), and defunding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which actively contributes to international abortions.

As an active partner of the UN and the leading contributor of humanitarian aid, we are confidently displaying continuity in our pro-life policies, thereby encouraging other sovereign nations to do the same.

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