Tag archives: Family

Elected Leaders Are Moving to Protect Children and Religious Freedom

by Chantel Hoyt

March 22, 2021

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would allow faith-based child welfare agencies to operate in line with their convictions and protect their religious freedom. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) while Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the House. Speaking about the bill, Scott said, “At a time where religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [CWPIA] is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions.”

Several states have also recognized the need for such legislation. In recent weeks, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Kentucky have all introduced legislation that aims to provide the same protections to faith-based child welfare agencies. Specifically, this includes the freedom to place children in homes consistent with their beliefs on biblical family life and sexuality.

While it is the first time this type of legislation has been introduced in these three states, their introduction, as well as the introduction of the federal CWPIA, signals broader concern around the country about the Biden administration’s focus on LGBT issues and how it will impact religious liberty. With President Biden’s support for the Equality Act—a bill that would negatively impact these faith-based agencies (and many other groups)—the future of faith-based child welfare agencies is uncertain. But those committed to preserving religious freedom aren’t likely to go down without a fight.

Legislatures in eight different states have felt the need to pass legislation to protect foster and adoption care agencies, beginning in 2012 (Virginia) and most recently in 2020 (Tennessee). Such legislation allows these agencies to operate in a way consistent with their religious beliefs, without suffering from license revocation, contract termination, or other adverse action from the state. This growing threat has already been seen in Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. In many of these instances, faith-based foster and adoption care agencies have been forced to forego their religious beliefs, serve in a severely limited capacity, and even close their doors because they were not willing to compromise on their principles regarding marriage and sexuality.

Although such discriminatory actions harm the children these agencies serve, opponents of faith-based organizations tend to only focus on LGBT couples who are ‘turned away,’ supposedly limiting the pool of parents willing to help children in need. However, this logic makes two false assumptions.

The first is that faith-based child welfare agencies are LGBT couples’ only option to become parents. This is simply not the case. The majority of agencies in the country are more than willing to work with same-sex couples. Only about 25 percent of agencies are faith-based and have narrow criteria potential parents must meet. For example, in Philadelphia in 2018, only two out of the nearly 30 child welfare agencies were faith-based. The city terminated these agencies’ contracts anyway. The lawsuit filed against the city by foster parents who worked with Catholic Social Services has shown that the agency had not denied service or turned away anyone because of their LGBT status. Further, it showed that should they be unable to partner with a couple that approaches them, they would help that couple connect with one of the other 29 agencies in the city. This is not enough for the activists. Clearly, they were sued because of their religious belief. The picture of a same-sex couple being turned away from a faith-based agency and having nowhere else to turn is simply inaccurate.  

The second false assumption is that more children will receive homes and much needed care if faith-based agencies are forced to make the choice between their beliefs and continuing to help those in need. The reality, though, is that fewer children will receive the care they need because some of the highest performing and longest serving agencies will be shut down or sidelined simply because they’re faith-based. Illinois’ foster and adoption system, for example, seems to still be suffering after the closure of Catholic Charities in 2011. Sadly, Illinois has seen a 14 percent decrease in the number of non-relative foster care beds or homes from 2012 to 2017, and the state lost 1,547 foster homes during that same time period—homes that could have been available to serve foster children in need. It should go without saying that this will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems.

Protecting the ability of faith-based child welfare agencies to continue operating in accordance with their religious beliefs is good for everyone. It helps more children receive care by increasing the number of agencies able to serve them. Allowing religious organizations of any kind to operate alongside non-religious ones is crucial to preserve freedom of religion in our society and to ensure that we are able to serve as many children in need as possible.

We are thankful for the many states and those in Congress who are taking steps to protect this crucial area of religious freedom.

The Crisis of Fatherlessness and the Opportunity of Mentorship

by Grant Elledge

March 12, 2021

One in four.

It’s hard for many of us to grasp the extent of the silent social crisis of fatherlessness, but in the United States almost exactly one quarter of all children are growing up without a dad. This fraction doesn’t include children growing up with a stepdad, living in a co-parenting arrangement where dad is present at least a few days a week, living with adoptive fathers, or in any other non-traditional family structure—over 20 million U.S. kids are living without a man they can point to and say, “That’s my dad.”

The natural question that flows from this is, “Does it matter?” Both the research and anecdotal evidence shout a resounding “yes.” To take just a few examples, we know that fatherless individuals are:

And beyond this, the issue is itself cyclical and generational. Over 70 percent of unplanned pregnancies involve at least one parent who is themselves fatherless, and the vast majority of fatherless children are born out of unplanned pregnancies.

And so another natural question arises, “How do we break this cycle?” And this is where hope enters an otherwise-dismal picture: mentorship has been proven to have a categorical impact on fatherless individuals.

Thanks to a doctoral thesis from 2003, we can demonstrate just that based on a somewhat unusual metric: homicide rates. The only external context you need is what the author refers to as “old heads”—these are older individuals invested in their community and the lives of the young adults they’re connected to.

The thesis points out that the rate of male homicide is much higher than the rate of female homicide. Also, the influence of old heads (mentors) is relatively small on people growing up with dads, but significant on people growing up without dads. As a result, we can see that:

  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide without the presence of old heads is six compared to only four for females.
  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide with high presence of old heads is one—no more likely than their fathered counterparts—compared to two for females.

Combining these insights is dramatic: the influence of mentorship on fatherless males is significant, even significantly greater than the influence of mentorship on fatherless females. And combining this observation with the much higher homicide rate committed by males leads us to something incredible: effective mentor presence just for fatherless males (one in eight people, half of the one in four fatherless kids) may significantly reduce the homicide rate, perhaps cutting it in half—not to mention helping to reverse the myriad other trends we sampled earlier.

And so we arrive at the burning need: committed, loving men to support young dads. I’ve been blown away by the immediate connection in my personal mentorship relationship. The first time we spent meaningful time together in person (admittedly, after a long period of time pursuing him), he remarked, “I’ve never had someone who knows me so little care about me so much.” What a profoundly kind and encouraging statement! This young man is wrestling through the prospect of going to college while supporting a young family after graduating near the top of his class. It’s been a thrilling opportunity to support this young man who lives just three blocks from me.

How encouraging, how surprising, how exciting to have the prospect of this breadth of impact within all of our reach!

Grant Elledge is the CEO of fathering.me, a growing nonprofit committed to mentoring young fathers of unplanned babies and meeting the needs of those new dads with accessible online resources. He lives in Harrisburg, Pa. with his wife, Elaine, and their precocious 2.5-year-old, Peter.

The Imperative of Raising Good Citizens

by Molly Carman

October 5, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 4. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Good citizens are vital to the health and growth of a community. If we want our communities to continue flourishing in the long term, we must raise the next generation to be good citizens. Christians have the added opportunity of discipling the next generation to be good citizens of not only their earthly communities but also of heaven. This can be done through bearing biological children, adopting or fostering children, or teaching and mentoring children.

Today, fewer and fewer couples are having children. This is due to various reasons, ranging from personal choice to circumstances beyond a person’s control, such as infertility. But fear is a major factor in why many otherwise healthy couples opt against having children. Indeed, bringing children into a fallen world and taking responsibility for them can be a scary thought for potential parents. But one of the most practical ways that Christians can seek the welfare of their earthly communities—and potentially expand the kingdom of heaven—is by bearing, raising, and teaching children to have biblical beliefs and godly values.

Scripture is clear that “children are a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), and every married couple should be open to any and every child that the Lord wants to bless them with, be it through natural means or adoption. This is not a posture readily embraced by our culture, but in this we must be counter-cultural. In an article from the Colson Center, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris said, “Ours is a culture that hinders children, instead of welcoming them. That we look at God’s blessings as mere lifestyle choices, even as punchlines for wisecracks and mockery, marks that we are a dying culture. And maybe a dying Church.”

Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven and called to be imitators of Christ. Therefore, we should welcome children as Christ did (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) and seek to teach them the fear of the Lord. Christians have a unique opportunity and responsibility to raise good citizens of earth and heaven who will be good ambassadors for Christ, blessing the nations through their actions and inspiring gospel hope with their words.

Discerning how to teach children to be good citizens of both heaven and earth can be challenging. The Bible is our best guide. Throughout Scripture, parents are commanded and encouraged to disciple their children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not part from it.”

An important part of discipling children in Christian faith and good citizenship is modeling said behavior with humility, integrity, and courage. Children are always watching, and we can demonstrate godly traits—like resolve in the face of evil, hard work and diligence without complaint, and contentment with all of God’s blessings—through our daily actions.

This fall, American Christians will have an opportunity to vote for leadership and policies that directly impact future generations. We have an obligation to vote for leaders at the local, state, and national levels who will defend and lead our children well. We must be wise in our decisions while modeling political engagement that is motivated by love of neighbor.

Whether married or single, parent or childless, every Christian has a role to play in raising the next generation to be good citizens of earth and heaven. It is important that we do not despise children for their youth (1 Timothy 4:12) but rather intentionally guide and counsel them. Christ said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Let us be good citizens for the glory of God and teach the next generation to do the same.

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.

FRC’s Efforts on Capitol Hill (Week of July 20)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Laura Lee Caum

July 28, 2020

FRC wrapped up another busy week fighting for faith, family, and freedom on Capitol Hill.

The House came together — and then fell apart

The House of Representatives returned from a two-week recess with a full schedule of legislative items. On Tuesday, the House passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes all of the major defense programs, with broad bipartisan support. Fortunately, unlike last year, this year’s bill did not include a new family planning program with pro-life concerns or language to reshape military standards to be gender-neutral. The Senate passed their version of the NDAA on Thursday, also with broad bipartisan support. The absence of progressive policy priorities allowed Democrats and Republicans to join together in support of this year’s NDAA.

While members resisted the temptation to insert partisan priorities in the NDAA, the same could not be said of the Democrats on the Appropriations committee. The House passed the first minibus appropriations package (H.R. 7608), which includes several major pro-life and pro-family concerns. Specifically, the State and Foreign Operations section of the bill included language to repeal President Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which bars funding for foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. The bill would also provide direct funding for the World Health Organization, which actively promotes abortion and a radical sex education agenda abroad. Finally, the bill would weaken a longstanding pro-life amendment that bans funding for any organization or program that promotes coercive abortions. Despite President Trump’s threat to veto any spending bills that weaken or undermine current pro-life policies, House leadership has pushed through a spending bill full of anti-life measures.

FRC priorities attacked in committee hearings

One-third of pregnancies in trans men are unintended.” That statement from the co-founder of Minority Veterans of America is just one example of the radical liberal agenda that was on full display in House committee hearings this week.

Several values issues came up in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. First, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) questioned what was included in the expansion of contraception access for veterans in H.R. 4281. The Director of Reproductive Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clarified that this would include abortifacients like the morning after pill. H.R. 3582, which would expand the scope of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT-identifying veterans, was also introduced. Promoting progressive social policies in the VA has become a new tactic in the House as they seek to sneak in social experiments on abortion, marijuana, and LGBT rights into these federal programs.

Some members used the House Foreign Assistance Budget hearing to attack the president’s appointees at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). John Barsa, the Acting Administrator of USAID, who has actively fought against the global expansion of abortion throughout the coronavirus pandemic, was questioned by members for the various pro-life and pro-family appointees at USAID. The questions the members asked were not about the appointee’s experience or credentials for the role. Instead, they raised concerns only because the president’s appointees hold a worldview with which they disagree. These types of attacks are very similar to those leveled at key White House officials, like Russ Vought, as they made their way through the Senate confirmation process. This indirect assault against people who hold a biblical worldview is greatly concerning.

Although there was a fair share of anti-life and anti-family rhetoric on Capitol Hill this week, Christians shouldn’t be discouraged. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that in God’s hand, “the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Remember, God is sovereign; nothing surprises Him or takes Him off guard. Moreover, there are actions you can take to protect the values of faith, family, and freedom. First, it is important that you pray. Scripture instructs us to pray for those who are in authority, which includes our leaders in government. Second, it is imperative that you vote and get involved in the political process. As God commanded the exiles in Babylon, we, too, should seek the welfare of our city by engaging in the sometimes messy world of politics. This is one of the practical ways we obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Thus, when we are tempted to be discouraged by the rhetoric on Capitol Hill, let’s remember the words of Winston Churchill. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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

Families and Charitable Organizations: The Foundation of American Society

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

June 17, 2020

This piece was originally published at NRB.org.

Churches and other charitable organizations have been on the front lines of the coronavirus response. A few examples are Samaritan’s Purse building a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park and churches hosting food drives and conducting coronavirus testing. One Alabama church tested 1,000 people in two days! Despite the active role these nonprofits have taken in meeting the health and economic needs of our country, they still rely on donations—at a time when many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. Thankfully, some leaders on Capitol Hill are championing the important role churches and charitable organizations play in helping local communities.

One way the tax code helps charitable organizations is through the charitable deduction. However when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000, it caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. Realizing this problem in the tax code, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which allows charitable contributions up to $300 to be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy is a great first step in promoting charitable giving during the pandemic. But congressional leaders believe there is much more to be done.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been the most vocal voice advocating for direct changes to the tax law to support both families and nonprofits. He summed this need up perfectly in a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. “We have three safety nets in America. The family is the first safety net. Nonprofits are our second safety net and government is our third…The first two are essential and if the family collapses, nonprofits struggle to keep up and governments struggle to keep up.”

In May, Senator Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) co-authored a letter to Senate leaders, advocating for nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in any future coronavirus relief bills. One of the specific proposals Lankford and King offered is raising the $300 charitable deduction limit in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction. This would equate to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has taken a similar approach in the House of Representatives. His bill, the Coronavirus Help and Response Initiative Through the Year 2022 (CHARITY) Act, would expand the charitable deduction to one-third of the standard deduction until 2022.

Families and churches are the foundation of our society. They are, therefore, the societal institutions best-equipped to provide stability when America faces many health and safety challenges. When families and churches struggle, so does the rest of America. That is why the government needs to recognize and support these institutions and charitable organizations. As Sen. Lankford said, “it’s beneficial for us in our official policy and what we choose to do in the tax code to be able to create a tax code that is encouraging to families and that is encouraging to nonprofits.

Can the Pandemic Help Renew Home and Family Life?

by Dan Hart

May 29, 2020

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a little-noted but interesting trend is occurring—home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have seen their sales rise higher than expected as a result of people spending more time at home and deciding to take on new or long put-off projects around the house.

I can personally attest to this. My wife and I decided it would be great to raise our own chickens so we could have fresh eggs for our family and be more self-sufficient. We went about researching how to raise chickens and got five baby chicks, who are now two months old and are able to live outside. Our extra time at home has allowed us to devote more energy to our chicken project, which is now involving my retired parents and family friends who are all helping us build a chicken coop and put up fencing to protect them from predators.

All of this to say that the pandemic is leading myself and many around the country to think more about how we can cultivate our homes, which in turn can lead to new and perhaps unexpected projects that can draw our families closer together as we work with each other to accomplish them.

There is also something deeply satisfying about working with our hands to improve our homes. This reminds me of something profound recently written by John Cuddeback:

We have lost something today, but we can get it back. Our very humanity calls for living and working in our bodies, with natural things, regularly. This means all of us. We have been separated from our own humanity, from our proper homeland, and we are suffering, even if we have never known anything else.

I say we can ‘get it back’—not because we ourselves have necessarily had it before, but because it is our birthright. Our own ancestors had it; we need it; and we can still do it, even if differently, and by fits and starts.

It need not be the work of our profession, or work that makes money. It just needs to be real and regular, preferably in our home.

Each of us can make our daily lives more human by choosing tried and true forms of human work. Certain kinds of work have shown themselves to be rich and reliable as especially human modes of acting.

Here is a short list we might consider:

1. hand-crafting in natural substances: wood, stone, metal or fiber
2. caring for the earth, plants, or animals.
3. preparing and preserving natural foods
4. any aesthetic work with hand tools, such as drawing, painting, carving
5. Miscellaneous such as cutting, splitting, and burning wood for heat  

It seems to me that doing these kinds of projects by hand is intimately connected with family. When we share in these activities with our families and teach ourselves and our children to do them, we are not only helping our homes become more self-sufficient during uncertain times, we are also participating in a primal familial bonding and formative experience that has the great potential to increase love and unity amongst each other while at the same time building character.

Families in the modern age desperately need to share in this type of formative bonding with each other. As Yuval Levin has recently written, there is a distinct sense in which the breakdown of the traditional family structure in our time has contributed to a breakdown in character formation that is essential for an individual to become a healthy, thriving member of society. He writes:

…The family forms us by imprinting upon us and giving us models to emulate and patterns to adopt.

The family does all this by giving each of its members a role, a set of relations to others, a body of responsibilities, and a network of privileges. Each of these, in its own way, is given more than earned and is obligatory more than chosen. Although the core human relationship at the heart of most families—the marital relationship—is one we enter into by choice, once we have entered it that relationship constrains the choices we may make. The other core familial bond—the parent-child relationship—often is not optional to begin with, and surely must not be treated as optional after that. It imposes heavy obligations on everyone involved, and yet it plays a crucial role in forming us to be capable of freedom and choice.

In this sense, the institution of the family helps us see that institutions in general take shape around our needs and, if they are well shaped, can help turn those needs into capacities. They literally make virtues of necessities, and forge our weaknesses and vulnerabilities into strengths and capabilities. They are formative because they act on us directly, and they offer us a kind of character formation for which there is no substitute…  

One potential positive effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that it gives families an unexpected occasion to renew our focus on our home life and build strong, formative, and lasting bonds through shared home-cultivating activities. Let us not waste the opportunity.

Looking for Good Family TV During the Quarantine? Here’s What We Are Watching

by Cathy Ruse

April 13, 2020

If your family is like ours, television is a rarity in our house. We gave up cable television years ago, but we stream movies on the weekends and can “earn” a television program or two during the week for good behavior (adults and children alike).

But now that COVID-19 is keeping us all at home all day and every night, there is greater demand than ever for “Family TV.” Believe it or not, there are some good options that are both entertaining and appropriate for children.

We have become very serious fans of The Great British Baking Show, and a new discovery is the television network produced by Brigham Young University, BYU-TV. It is a font of totally family-friendly fare. Our favorite program is Show-Offs, featuring a team of improv actors and special guests who are given script ideas from a studio audience. I have always loved improv, but it seems always to be geared to the raunchier side of things (where the cheapest laughs are). But this show is 100 percent “appropriate”—our family’s watchword—and the actors are really talented. It routinely has us in stitches. We also love Studio C, a sketch comedy team similar to Saturday Night Live, but totally clean and appropriate for all audiences. Our teen and tween daughters love Dwight in Shining Armor about a teen boy who travels back in time and returns with a posse of hilarious medieval friends. There are a dozen others. BYU-TV is the only network our children are allowed to surf freely. All great shows, all “appropriate,” no commercials. And for anyone who may be wondering, we have not seen any proselytizing of the LDS faith.

We research movies, old and new, and watch them as a family. Recent movies that we have watched and enjoyed include oldies like Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, and new movies like Midway (lots of obscenities, but in context it was tolerable). We have 12 Angry Men ready to go, and Bird Man of Alcatraz. We also highly recommend anything with Rowan Atkinson, from his Mr. Bean features (my favorite is Mr. Bean’s Holiday, I could watch it every week) to Johnny English. We howl with family laughter.

My go-to review sites are Movie Guide and Dove, and I check both each time. Why? Because even the best review team can miss things, so you have to be vigilant. Generally, we have been happy with their reviews. They are very detailed, going beyond counting obscenities and profanities and describing violence and nudity to explaining storyline ethos and underlying messaging, with scene-based evidence to back up their conclusions. But once they both let us down. We like musicals, and were excited about watching the award-winning new musical, Lala Land. I read the reviews carefully, and thought I knew what to expect: some language, no nudity, no sex, no violence. Fine. Yet, as we watched, the two young lovers crawled into bed together. They were clothed. They only talked. But then, flash, it is the next morning, and they are sitting on the bed. Sorry kids, let’s turn on BYU-TV. (Movie Guide has revised its review to include a more detailed discussion of this scene.)

One service that has met with mixed reviews in our household is Vid Angel. I love it, my husband does not. For a low monthly fee, you can calibrate each movie that you stream to your family’s standards, based on that particular movie’s details. The service allows you to filter content in dozens of areas of concern, including language, violence, sexual content, and drug and alcohol use. You can literally take a PG-13 movie and turn it into a slightly shorter, sloppily-spliced G movie. Our first try with Vid Angel was hilarious. We rented Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing and just set all filters to ON. We watched it, or tried to watch, as it abruptly skipped from scene to scene like it had a terminal case of the hiccups. We realized, upon investigation, that a cleavage filter was responsible for much of the 30 minutes that were cut from the movie! If missing elements of plot and watching herky-jerky scene splicing are a problem for you (they are not for me, but they are for my husband), then this service is not for you. Another problem is the absence of Disney, or the “Evil Mouse” as we call it. The service does not work with any of the hugely-popular Disney-produced movies due to a protracted copyright lawsuit Disney slapped on Vid Angel. (Hey Evil Mouse, why don’t you just make your movies family-friendly and we won’t have to use this service!)

So, life is strange right now, but let’s look on the bright side. We all have more time to spend with our families, and with some attention and planning, that time can include the joy of watching good television, together.

How Parents Can Create Loving Homes in a Time of Crisis

by Nicolas Reynolds

April 4, 2020

Worship leader Sean Feucht recently tweeted:

Our kids won’t remember much about the effects of this virus (social, economic, political, etc) but they will remember how HOME FELT while the world freaks out. Little eyes are watching how we handle this crisis. Let’s step it up and ¿#ProtectOurPeace

Feucht’s words could not be any more poignant during the COVID-19 crisis.

Now That You’re All Home

This is a time when the whole world is being affected by a phenomenon, comparable to the First and Second World Wars. And yet, our crisis is still different. We are not fighting a seen enemy but an invisible one—the coronavirus. But where is the commoner’s front line? Where can he or she make a difference? In the home.

With most schools closing their doors, and with most jobs either worked from home or suspended, families have been provided a rare opportunity. Families are home, together, indefinitely. Being together under the same roof, for days on end, is brand new to many families. There is plenty that can tempt us to become annoyed by during this time of national crisis. But family togetherness should not be one of those things. This is a blessing. This is an opportunity.

It’s About What You Have, Not What You Don’t

You’re unable to eat out, or spend time at the movies, or even buy the freshest produce at the grocery store. But it’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about what you do have—each other—your sons and daughters. When the absence of every-day luxuries you are used to leaves you frustrated, remember what you have, remember the precious individuals you have the privilege of raising. Unstructured time—what you usually have very little of—you probably have much more of now. You now have the ability to spend extra time with the little ones that you work hard to care for, provide for, and protect.

When your children grow up, they’re not going to remember the instability of the Dow Jones during the COVID-19 crisis. They’ll remember when you asked them to help you cook dinner, when you did puzzles with them, when you made cards to send to loved ones in light of not being able to see them face to face. Though the logistics of this crisis can be very concerning, don’t let it weigh on your children. Let them remember the joy-filled activities that replaced the normal cycle of their school buses and your 9 to 5.

You’re Always Teaching Your Children, Chalkboard or No Chalkboard

Most associate “homeschooling” with pencils, chalkboards, and curriculum. That is one form of it, yet whether or not you realize it, you are always homeschooling your children. They are home, and you are teaching—teaching them what learning, responsibility, and flexibility look like. You’re not at the front of their classroom, but you are now at the center of their focus, providing them an example of what it looks like to lead and to love. This was also the case prior to the virus, but now you’re on the clock 24 hours a day.

Your children have a front-row seat to your leadership. When you’re inconvenienced because Walmart grocery-pickup is out of your favorite brand of cereal, your children see how you respond, how you cope with inconvenience, and what you value. Children grow up to be adults that either want to follow in their parents’ footsteps or steer clear of their example. Take the opportunity to patiently endure the inconveniences and pressures of this crisis and be an honorable example that your children will want to follow.

The Outside World and Your Children’s World

The world certainly does not feel safe. This crisis has caused most to doubt their security and stability. Yet the world of your children, particularly when they are very young, is not the 50 states nor the seven continents—it’s you, their parents. Fear may permeate the outside world, but it doesn’t have to penetrate the world of your children.

Take this prime opportunity and raise your children with a cognitive understanding of where your home’s hope comes from. As Romans 15:13 reads, “Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Put this current crisis into perspective, pointing the eyes of your household toward the perfect example of a father—our supreme, perfect, loving, and gracious Heavenly Father (2 Corinthians 4:17).

The coronavirus presents the world with complications and worry, but we have also been blessed with opportunities that we may never have again. Little eyes are watching; little hearts are learning. Seize the opportunity—cherish, lead, and love your children with the time the Lord has given you.

Nicolas Reynolds is a former intern at Family Research Council.

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