Tag archives: Government

Congressional Leadership Hijacks Ukraine Aid to Push Progressive Agenda

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

March 9, 2022

Russia’s assault on Ukraine is saturating the news, airwaves, and the public’s focus. It’s understandable that people want to help, and are helping, provide relief and aid to Ukraine. It’s also sensible for Congress to want to help. It’s for this reason (the political pressure to provide relief) that Democratic leadership in Congress wants to combine aid to Ukraine with their domestic social policy preferences in one giant stew of government spending called “the omnibus.”

There are reasons to resist simply going along with this bill.

For one, the omnibus bill contains a problematic reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congress passed VAWA in 1994 to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and increase the availability of victims’ services. These are admirable aims. But when VAWA was last reauthorized in 2013, language was added (and is in the current reauthorization text) that mandates harmful gender identity ideology, maintains Planned Parenthood’s ability to obtain VAWA grants, selectively applies grant money, and could open the door to funding abortion more directly. You’ve probably heard about biological men competing in women’s sporting events on the basis of “gender identity” and how that is negatively impacting woman athletes. Under the VAWA reauthorization, battered and vulnerable women would face another threat of the same type—that of biological men who identify as women entering private spaces in women’s shelters.

The omnibus bill also turns a program designed to help women succeed financially around the globe into a “Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund.” This new program, backed by previous commitments by the Biden administration to promote gender ideology around the world, will open the door wide for the administration to push a harmful ideology in places like Eastern Europe at a time when security should be the focus. This program will also pave the way for the international abortion industry to continue erroneously promoting abortion as necessary for women’s economic empowerment.

Providing funds to Ukraine is a sensible and laudable goal, and we understand that our government also needs to be funded. However, there is a simple solution: peel off Ukraine (as the House appears to be doing) from other funding. And to completely fix the problem, cut all the substantive policy changes (like VAWA) that have been tacked on to what is supposed to be a spending bill. The current text is 2,741 pages long and has so many sections that it runs through the entire alphabet once and has to start over.

Streamlining the text (and process) along these lines will, in theory, prevent what should be a bipartisan appropriations process from turning into a fight for a partisan wish list.

Praying for a Progressive President

by Joshua Arnold

February 15, 2022

Recently, President Joe Biden signed off on a successful mission in the ongoing fight against the ISIS terrorist organization, taking out ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. According to U.S. intelligence, al-Qurayshi “helped drive and justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of the Yazidi religious minority in northwest Iraq and also led some of the group’s global terrorist operations.” FRC’s Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin explained, “this was a guy that replaced Baghdadi as the head of ISIS.”

[Biden] deserves a lot of credit for this,” Boykin added. “It was a good decision. This was a good kill.” FRC President Tony Perkins agreed. “I commend the president for taking that action to stop this ISIS leader who had been linked to several terrorist activities in recent months that killed civilians and others.” Family Research Council often criticizes President Biden’s pro-abortion agenda, his promotion of LGBT ideology, and many other policies we believe promote what is morally objectionable. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). But in authorizing this military raid, President Biden did well.

While we often disagree with President Biden’s progressive priorities, we must remember that God commands Christians to honor their rulers (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17), and even to pray for them. The clearest biblical text on this is 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which reads:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

These verses contain three reasons to pray for our rulers. First, it pleases God. This should be the aim of every Christian. If we don’t delight to do what pleases him, it calls into question whether we really love him. Second, that they might be saved. Many rulers are not Christians—both in Paul’s day and in ours. They need Jesus’ righteousness to cover their sins and save them from the wrath of God just like every other person. Third, for the sake of our own hearts, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We are called not to anger and bitterness and outrage, but “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). That’s only possible if you “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

There is another, less discussed reason to pray for our rulers, which Paul does not address in 1 Timothy 2, but which the recent American military strike illustrates perfectly. That is, that when a nation’s rulers govern well, everyone benefits, including God’s people. For example, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). How does this prompt us to pray for rulers? To answer that question, we have to understand Jeremiah 29.

The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to counter false prophets who were promising the people a quick deliverance and return to Canaan. Jeremiah explained to the exiles that their exile would continue for 70 years before God would bring them back. Therefore, he sets forth three ways they should conduct themselves:

  • In verse 5 he says, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” That is, work! Don’t be idle. Improve your property by your own labor.
  • In verse 6 he says, “Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.” That is, don’t neglect the family. Enduring this exile and returning from it is a multi-generational project. Build relationships with your neighbors and plant deep roots.
  • And in verse 7 he says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). The Jewish exiles are commanded to seek the welfare of Babylon, their enemy and captor. Seeking the welfare of the enemy of God’s people would seem like rebellion against God if God himself had not commanded it. But God through Jeremiah explains that, during their exile, Babylon was their new home. Thus, their welfare was tied to its welfare.

How, then, could Jewish exiles with no political power (except for a few uniquely gifted persons like Daniel) seek the welfare of Babylon? God explains; they seek its welfare by praying to the Lord on its behalf. And what is praying for a nation if not also praying for its rulers? Their own welfare was tied to their prayers for rulers of Babylon.

How does this apply to us today? First, let’s remember that not everything in the Old Testament applies to new covenant believers in the same way that it did to Israelites under the old covenant, and living in the unique, God-ruled theocracy of ancient Israel. Next, let’s note that the letter in Jeremiah 29 is written not to Jews in Canaan, but to Jews in exile in Babylon. New covenant believers are exiles (1 Peter 1:1), whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Like the recipients of Jeremiah’s letter, we are living in a place that is not our home, but we are eagerly looking forward to the day when we will finally get to go home at last. Our situation is quite similar to that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.

Of course, Christians have an additional mission. Israel under the old covenant was tasked with remaining a holy people, distinct from the surrounding nations. Christians are tasked with the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

As we wait for Jesus to return, and as we make disciples, we should also work, raise families, and seek the welfare of our nation. And that includes praying for our nation’s leaders, whether we like their policies or not. We can pray that they would rule wisely and justly and for the good of all. We can pray that they would pursue policies that allow the gospel to flourish, and that glorify God. We can pray that God would reveal himself to them that they might be saved.

Progressive “Deals” Are Usually Highways Going Nowhere Quickly

by Joshua Arnold

February 7, 2022

Conservatives in Congress keep falling for the same old trick. The other side will reach across the aisle and promise to have a sincere desire for bipartisan engagement on commonsense problem-solving for the good of the American people. Conservatives will eventually take their olive branch and then, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes enthusiastically, climb on board a bus that only turns Left.

Infrastructure” Bill

The most recent example is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on November 15 after 19 Republican senators and 13 Republican representatives voted with Democrats to pass it through both chambers (six House Democrats voted “no”). It was framed as a package to fund America’s infrastructure, an issue with bipartisan support that shouldn’t be controversial. This framing helped the bill pass a narrowly-divided Congress because everyone benefits from improved infrastructure.

But not so fast, warned The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial board. A memo from Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), laid out guidelines for distributing the funds that are almost as partisan as they are tedious. The memo states:

This Policy prioritizes projects that move more people and freight by modernizing and increasing the operation efficiency of existing roads and highways over projects that expand the general purpose capacity of roads and highways. Consistent with this Policy, FHWA will implement policies and undertake actions to encourage—and where permitted by law, require—recipients of Federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles. (emphasis added)

The main idea this stilted, bureaucratic jargon fails to conceal is this: some projects will be prioritized over others.

On the list of winners are projects that “moderniz[e]” or “increase[e] the operation efficiency,” which is code for mass transit, or as the memo states elsewhere, “new and emerging technologies like electric vehicle charging stations.” On the list of losers are “projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles,” which the WSJ editors helpfully summarized: “She means cars.” In fact, before the FHWA will dispense roadway funds to help widen that over-traveled artery you take to work each day, it will “encourage—and where permitted by law, require” your state or local government to do something like add bus stops or run light rail down the median.

Thus, the “highway” funds (“only $110 billion out of $1.2 Trillion”) from the ostensibly-bipartisan infrastructure bill will benefit urban centers, where such projects are viable, over rural areas, where cars are a necessity. Part of the rationale (stated clearly in the memo) is hostility toward fossil fuels, a luxury opinion only rich urbanites can afford to indulge. But another (unstated) part of the rationale could be the growing rural-urban, red-blue political divide; the progressives who control and staff executive agencies don’t mind rewarding their allies and punishing their opponents. The WSJ editors conclude, “don’t be surprised when federal agencies continue to steer ‘bipartisan’ infrastructure funds toward progressive priorities.”

COVID-19 Relief” Bill

Of course, very few Americans care about “highways”—at most, they will care about a highway, the one they use most often. However, the case offers a particularly striking example of standard progressive tactics.

The other major bill passed into law during President Biden’s first year in office was the American Rescue Plan Act, which also passed with bipartisan support because it was framed as a COVID-19 relief measure, although much of the $1.9 trillion spent had nothing to do with coronavirus. That bill appropriated over $450 billion without making clear that these funds cannot be used to pay for abortions or go to abortion businesses. This is on top of the over $80 million that Planned Parenthood already received from the Paycheck Protection Program through previous COVID-19 relief bills. This supposedly non-controversial, bipartisan, must-pass bill may have been the largest abortion bill Congress has passed in a decade.

Women in the Draft

Last year, Democrats in Congress tried the same trick with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA funds our military every year, so Republicans are typically in favor of it. But in 2021, gender ideologues inserted a provision that would require women to register for the Selective Service. At the last moment, a handful of Republicans made removing that provision their top priority, but it nearly became the law of the land.

Obamacare

Progressives have been using this tactic for a long time. For example, when Congress was considering the Affordable Care Act in 2011, pro-life Democrats went along with their party’s overhaul of the health care system based on the guarantee that the bill would not fund abortions, and President Obama signed an executive order to that effect. Yet, Obamacare continues to subsidize abortions through health insurance plans.

Conclusion: Don’t Give in to Fake Compromise

For conservatives in Washington, bipartisanship is often a poorly-concealed snare. Bipartisanship requires shared values, and, generally speaking, the modern progressive Left isn’t interested in compromise, consensus, or finding common ground. The progressive Left is aggressively seeking power at any cost. They want to radically transform America. And to impose unpopular ideas on a “government of the people,” they have to lie about their intentions.

Sometimes people on the Right preemptively surrender the battlefield in search of peace. For example, for years, progressives have endorsed the far-Left Equality Act, which would establish special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity and expand abortion access in federal law over and above other federally guaranteed rights such as religious freedom, women’s rights, and parental rights. Some Republicans are so alarmed by the implications of this bill that they have proposed their own, “compromise” version, titled Fairness for All. Fairness for All is essentially just the Equality Act with insufficient religious carve-outs. But this so-called “compromise” only features concessions from one side. Progressives have dug their heels in so firmly on the issue that they aren’t even pretending to care about the proposal by these few Republicans. Both the Equality Act and Fairness for All would still radically reorient American law around LGBT identity categories. If that happens, I wouldn’t put my money on the survival of religious exemptions.

The problem with compromise in today’s political climate is that progressives don’t want compromise. When they offer a “compromise,” it’s almost always in bad faith. Sometimes compromise becomes a white whale, which some Republicans chase, heedless of prudence or the reality of the situation. And when they finally get their bearings, they realize they’re miles down a highway going nowhere quickly.

The Filibuster: Guardian of the Republic

by Worth Loving

January 31, 2022

Many items on President Joe Biden’s agenda have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives only to be dead on arrival in the Senate. This is due to the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to move any piece of legislation. Recently, many Senate Democrats have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster in the hopes that some of Biden’s more partisan agenda items will finally reach his desk. But because two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have refused to go along with their party’s prevailing narrative, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cannot get the 50 votes he needs to change the Senate rules and do away with the filibuster.

What follows is a brief explanation of what the filibuster is and why it is so important.

Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House and Senate the broad authority to “determine the rules of its proceedings.” This allows the House and Senate to determine how bills will be voted on, how committees will be assigned, how long a bill may be debated, and much more. Although the House does not allow for unlimited debate on a bill, the Senate does through a tactic known as the filibuster.

In its early days, the filibuster manifested itself through long speeches from senators on the floor. As long as a senator could stand and talk, voting on a bill or nomination would be delayed. The filibuster was used in the very first session of the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay wrote that the “design of the Virginians was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.”

It wasn’t until 1917, at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that the Senate adopted a formal process for a majority to end debate and force a vote, a concept known as cloture. Senate Rule 22 required a two-thirds majority to invoke cloture. In 1975, the threshold was lowered to three-fifths (i.e., 60 votes of 100).

Fortunately, the legislative filibuster has been preserved so that a simple majority cannot ram through legislation from the House. Last week, thanks to the efforts of Senators Manchin and Sinema bucking their party leadership, the filibuster lived to see another day. But you can count on Democratic leadership to continue berating these senators with the hopes of breaking their resolve so they can change the rules and push their agenda through the Senate with the barest of majorities.

America has a bicameral (i.e., two-chambered) legislature in order to protect two valid, competing interests. The House allocates representation based on population in order to reflect the will of the majority, while the Senate gives each of the states equal representation so that larger, more populated states would not have complete control of the legislative process.

The U.S. Senate is a fundamentally different body than when it was created in 1789. In a conversation with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington reportedly said that the Senate was intended to “cool” legislation from the House of Representatives, just as a saucer cools hot tea. The Founders realized that the directly-elected House of Representatives would be subject to sudden changes from the will of the people every two years. Therefore, they set up the Senate differently in order to “cool” those passions. Senators were originally selected by state legislatures for six-year terms with the intent that they would thoughtfully deliberate legislation to come up with something mutually beneficial to all the states rather than constantly focusing on reelection. That process lasted for over 120 years until 1913, when the ratification of the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of senators. With the 17th Amendment, the U.S. Senate was fundamentally changed and began to resemble the House of Representatives more and more. Yet the filibuster remained as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Senate.

The Senate has long been described as the world’s greatest deliberative body. The Founding Fathers never intended legislation and nominations to be rushed through. Rather, they envisioned a body of thoughtful and deliberate debate, a sometimes long and arduous process that would prove frustrating for both political parties but nonetheless a process that would eventually produce a mutually beneficial result for the entire country. It might be tempting for a majority party to eliminate the filibuster for short-term political gain, but to do so would remove one of the last tools that makes the Senate different from the House.

In 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville took a nine-month trip to the United States to discover what made America unique from other nations. He compiled his observations in his book Democracy in America. In it, de Tocqueville spoke highly of the American form of government and the national culture. However, he warned of what he called the “tyranny of the majority,” the inclination of whatever political party happens to be in control to push their will on the entire country. For 233 years, the U.S. Senate has mitigated the tyranny of the majority. And although the 17th Amendment significantly diluted the uniqueness of the Senate, it still remains distinct from the House, in part because the minority are given a voice through the filibuster.

In the current Senate, the legislative filibuster is the one thing preventing a radically different America. It is the one thing that will keep President Biden from signing key parts of his radical agenda. It will continue to block Democrats from passing the Equality Act, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and codifying Roe v. Wade. In short, it will stop Democrats from fundamentally transforming American government, which could then fundamentally transform America. If minority voices are to continue being heard and respected in the U.S. Senate, we must protect the filibuster at all costs.

FRC On the Hill (April 19-23): D.C. Statehood and Banking Access for Big Marijuana

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

April 23, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week as your voice for life, family, and religious freedom on Capitol Hill. Here are some highlights from what FRC worked on in Congress this week.

House Passes an Unconstitutional Bill to make D.C. the 51st State

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 51—a bill that aims to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state—by a vote of 216-208. It was met with fierce opposition from Republican members. No members of either party broke rank, making H.R. 51 a purely partisan bill.

Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican to represent the state of Maryland in either chamber, voiced his strong opposition to H.R. 51, citing his home state’s initial ceding of land to create the District. He outlined the constitutional problems with making the federal enclave into a new state, especially when land used to create D.C. was once a part of Maryland.

H.R. 51 now heads to the Senate, where only 44 of the 50 Democrats support the bill. FRC will continue engaging with both chambers of Congress to inform members of the constitutional and practical problems posed by D.C. statehood.

Check out FRC’s new resource outlining seven key things you should know about the current campaign for D.C. statehood.

Congress Seeks to Protect Big Marijuana Businesses, Without Debate

The marijuana industry continues to expand as more and more states begin legalizing recreational marijuana. Now, big marijuana businesses have partnered with the banking industry to push Congress for special legal protections. The SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1996) would maintain the current federal prohibitions on marijuana drug use for recreational or medical purposes; however, it would create a special carveout for businesses that buy and sell marijuana to have access to banking and other financial systems.

This bill passed the House 321-101 with virtually no hearing, debate, or amendments allowed to be offered. The FRC team worked diligently to inform House members and their staff of the detrimental impact this bill would have, including propping up the marijuana industry and further exposing families and children to pervasive drug use. Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) lead the opposition to this bill, giving an excellent floor speech outlining how its passage would affect families and children. Unfortunately, many members who typically champion socially conservative issues voted in favor of the SAFE Banking Act, placing business interests ahead of the interests of American families.

This bill now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to unveil a full marijuana legalization bill soon. Fortunately, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the Senate Banking Committee chairman, has come out in opposition to the SAFE Banking Act and has maintained a constant opposition to marijuana legalization. FRC will work with his office and other senators to ensure that this bill does not reach the president’s desk.

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked This Week

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine voting rights legislation. Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) each gave great testimony and asked questions to counter claims that voter integrity laws are discriminatory.
  • The House Judiciary Committee hearing on enforcing the Voting Rights Act. North Carolina’s lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, gave a rousing defense of election integrity efforts in North Carolina and across the country.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee hearing on paid leave and child care. Representative Nunes (R-Calif.) brought up the importance of faith-based childcare providers and asked how they could be more involved in addressing childcare needs. 

FRC On the Hill (March 22-26): Senate Moves Quickly to Confirm Biden’s Radical Nominees

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joseph Norris

March 26, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.

The Senate Moves on President Biden’s Nominees

This week, amidst several votes and confirmation hearings, FRC was hard at work tracking nominations and informing senators on the radical positions held by many of the nominees under consideration. This week, the Senate made progress on several concerning nominees:

Marty Walsh: The Senate voted 68-29 to confirm Walsh as secretary of Labor. The former mayor of Boston has touted his credentials as a champion of the LGBT agenda and often prioritizes it over the constitutional right to religious liberty. Walsh and the Biden administration are now in a position to restrict faith-based organizations from contracting with the Department of Labor unless said organizations comply with their liberal sexuality ideology. See FRC’s blog on Walsh here.

Walsh’s confirmation also means that President Biden now has a full cabinet, with all 15 of his cabinet secretaries confirmed. Although President Trump’s nominees were confirmed earlier, Biden’s nominees have received more bipartisan support, despite being arguably the most pro-abortion cabinet of all time. The delay in confirming Biden’s nominees is likely due to the Senate taking up a second failed impeachment trial of President Trump.

Shalanda Young: The Senate voted 63-37 to confirm Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a position with significant influence on federal policy and the budget process. Representative Bob Good (R-Va.) had sent a letter to President Biden highlighting Young’s troubling opposition to the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, two longstanding federal pro-life policies. With Neera Tanden’s nomination having been withdrawn, Young could soon find herself as the director of OMB, wielding even greater influence. See FRC’s blog on Young here.

Rachel Levine: The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Levine as assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Only Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke with Republican ranks to support the nomination. Over the past several months, FRC had been actively educating senators on Levine’s concerning track record. Levine has a history of promoting abortion and actively speaking out against pro-life measures. Even more troubling are Levine’s radical stances on LGBT issues, which include advocating that children as young as five years old be allowed to change their gender without parental consent. Levine, who identifies as a transgender woman, has already announced intentions to use the position at HHS as a means of advancing this ideology.

See FRC’s resources for more information:

Vanita Gupta: The Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance the nomination of Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general at the Department of Justice ended in a deadlocked tie. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) eloquently stated how Gupta would use her new position to advance abortion while harming women’s sports and religious liberty. The committee chairman cut off Sen. Tom Cotton in the middle of his remarks in order to hold the vote. Gupta now waits to see if the full Senate will discharge her nomination in order to advance towards final confirmation.  

Cindy Marten: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing this past week to assess Marten’s qualifications to serve as deputy secretary of Education during a tumultuous time for all levels of education in our country. Marten has a history of spearheading LGBT issues in the San Diego school district, and Sen. Murray (D-Wash.) directly brought up how she would have the opportunity to break down barriers for LGBT students.

Samantha Power: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nomination hearing for Power to be the new head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). As USAID administrator, Power would have the ability to direct global health funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups, which is troubling given her past support for abortion and other anti-life policies. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also raised the issue of her troubling stance on an anti-Semitic UN resolution while serving as Obama’s UN ambassador.

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked this Week:

  • Congress passed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, even after discovering that Planned Parenthood received nearly $80 million in loans despite being ineligible for the program. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) lead efforts in committee and on the Senate floor to block Planned Parenthood from receiving these loans.
  • The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on S.1, a massive bill that would federalize elections and completely undermine election integrity. Senator Cruz introduced a letter for the record on behalf of FRC alongside letters from other conservative groups that oppose the bill.
  • Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) introduced two new bills supported by FRC. One bill would ban damages or monetary awards in lawsuits against religious monuments and religious imagery in public buildings. The other would make it illegal to transport a minor across state lines to get an abortion.
  • The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Extremism in the Armed Forces. The chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) testified. Several members of Congress, including Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.), went after the SPLC witness over their fallacious hate group designations and internal turmoil. Other members raised the shooting at FRC in 2012 as a direct implication of their targeting of social conservative organizations.

FRC On the Hill (March 15-19): A Radical HHS Secretary, So-Called “Women’s Rights” Bills, and the Equality Act

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joseph Norris

March 19, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.

The Senate Confirms Biden’s Radical HHS Nominee

This week, the Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Xavier Becerra as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra lacks any significant experience in public health; what he does have is an extensive track record of advocating for pro-abortion policies. The FRC team worked diligently over the past few months to inform senators about Becerra’s troubling history.

Becerra was confirmed with the support of two moderate senators who have voted for pro-life measures in the past, Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Collins (R-Maine). They unfortunately overlooked Becerra’s record and voted to confirm the most pro-abortion HHS secretary in history. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lead the Republican efforts to defeat Becerra’s nomination and spoke eloquently on the Senate floor. Cotton highlighted Becerra’s history of attacking pro-life groups while serving as California’s attorney general.

It is no fluke that Becerra’s nomination and confirmation coincide with ongoing aggressive lobbying from the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood has called for the removal of all regulations governing chemical abortions. Last month, the Guttmacher Institute released a long list of policy demands for the Biden administration. Now that Becerra is confirmed, FRC will work to expose Becerra’s efforts to implement President Biden’s radical anti-life, anti-family agenda.

See FRC’s resources for more information on Becerra:

House Votes on Women’s Rights Legislation Without Protecting Women

To mark Women’s History Month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on two measures advertised as advancing women’s rights. In reality, both measures contain language that poses great harm to biological women. Leading up to the votes, FRC informed members of Congress of the true nature of these bills and their harmful effects on women.

The first measure was a resolution to retroactively eliminate the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that failed to acquire support from the necessary number of states in the 1970s. The ERA has been touted as a legal cure for all unjust discrimination against women. However, the ERA would do little to advance women in society. Instead, it would mandate abortion funding and eliminate existing legal protections that celebrate the biological realities of women. The measure to remove the ratification deadline passed 244-204. However, the ERA garnered the lowest amount of support it has ever received in the past 50 years, with only four Republicans supporting it.

FRC’s Director of the Center for Human Dignity, Mary Szoch, shared her story of playing women’s basketball at Notre Dame and explained how the ERA would limit the dreams of countless women if it were ratified.

The second House measure was a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a historically bipartisan bill originally passed in 1994 in an effort to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and increase the availability of victims’ services. Unfortunately, this reauthorization bill perpetuates and adds language that prevents it from achieving these goals, making the bill about expanding a radical sexuality ideology, not protecting abuse victims. The bill passed 244-172, with many Republicans opposing it due to the provisions that promote abortion and the LGBT agenda. Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) highlighted how the bill did nothing to protect women from being coerced into an abortion from their partners. Sadly, Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) thoughtful amendment to ban sex-selection abortions was defeated by the pro-abortion majority.

The FRC team will continue to inform lawmakers on how these bills could be modified to achieve the goal of helping women.

See FRC’s resource for more information:

Debate Continues Around the Equality Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act, a bill that would massively overhaul our federal civil rights framework in order to mandate special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), expand abortion access, and gut religious liberty. If the Equality Act were to become law, it would leave many victims in its wake, including women, children, medical professionals, parents, teachers, students, families (including small business owners), the unborn, churches, religious organizations and schools, people of faith, and even those members of the LGBT community it claims to protect. FRC was instrumental in preparing senators to cut through the rhetoric and explain just how bad the Equality Act would be for our country.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), the Chairman of the Senate Values Action Team, put it best: “We don’t oppose equality, but we do oppose legislation when you take the rights of one and dismiss the rights of others.”

Alarmingly, President Biden has already said he would sign the bill if it does pass through Congress. FRC will continue to monitor the Equality Act as it moves through the Senate.

See FRC’s resource for more information:

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked This Week:

  • The Senate Health Committee voted 13-9 to advance Rachel Levine’s nomination to be HHS assistant secretary. Levine, a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman, has a history of advancing anti-family policies as the secretary of health in Pennsylvania.
  • The House Veteran’s Affairs Committee held a hearing on improving health care for America’s women veterans. Representatives Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) used this hearing to strongly push the VA to fund abortions. 
  • The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on forced labor. Several senators, including John Thune (R-S.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), raised concerns over the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in China.

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”

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.

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.

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