October 1, 2014
“In scouting, there’s a secular emphasis on values and virtue that is not found anyplace else. We don’t teach civic values in schools anymore, so where else are kids going to learn it?”
So said former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, now head of the Boy Scouts of America, in an interview last month. Gates, who spearheaded the military’s renunciation of its historic policy banning homosexuality, said earlier this year that he “would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country.”
I’ve written extensively on the Scouts’ decision to allow what the BSA itself has called “open and avowed” homosexuals into the ranks of Scouting (for example, my op-ed in U.S. News and World Report), and will not revisit the many issues involving this issue. Instead, I’m intrigued by Mr. Gates’ comment wedding secularism and “values and virtue.”
According to the Cambridge University Press Dictionary, secularism is “the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country.” Fair enough. But how does this square with the mission of Scouting?
Here is an excerpt from Scouting’s membership resolution, passed last year at the BSA’s annual convention in Dallas, Texas:
The Scout Oath begins with duty to God and the Scout Law ends with a Scout’s obligation to be reverent, and that will always remain a core value of the Boy Scouts of America, and the values set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are fundamental to the BSA and central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes …
Let’s see, Mr. Gates: An organization that promotes secular (i.e., non-theistic) values speaks of “duty to God” as “fundamental” and a “core value.” These are contradictory assertions, and cannot be integrated with any intellectual honesty.
Here is a brief summary of the world of Scouting, according to Robert Gates:
- A Scout is to be “reverent,” but reverence for God is a secular value. I think …
- Virtues and values are not grounded in revealed truth or natural law but in preferences and social adaptations.
- We need an organization like Scouts to teach values and virtues, but we can’t talk about where these values and virtues come from, since to do so would mean taking a position on final and unchanging truth, which would be decidedly un-secular.
- Kids aren’t taught values in their families, but we can’t define family since to do so would require a position on same-sex unions, which Scouting cannot take since to do so would be divisive and upsetting and, hey, what’s a Scout if not “cheerful,” right?
- Boy’s Life magazine will continue to have Bible stories in every issue, even though the Bible teaches non-secular values like truth and honor and sexual abstinence outside of traditional, one man-one woman, monogamous marriage, which is something Scouting neither condemns nor condones.
Robert Gates is a patriot who’s done a lot of good for our country. He is also caught between the internal knowledge of what’s right (“the works of the Law written on his heart,” Romans 2:15) and acquiescence to post-modern thinking and secularism’s arrogant condescension toward religion.
Sad way to end your career, Mr. Secretary. Sad.
September 25, 2014
In his speech yesterday at the United Nations, President Obama used the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri to note that America indignation at evil is not self-righteousness. Here is what commentator Richard Grenell, a former American U.N. official, said about the President’s comments:
“In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri: (said President Obama). Morally equating the events of Ferguson to Islamic terrorism and Russia’s annexation of Crimea gives foreign diplomats from Arab countries and Russia the excuse they need to dismiss America’s condemnation of their actions. For anyone thinking that President Obama didn’t purposefully mean to equate the world’s problems with the events in Ferguson, two sentences later Obama blamed globalization for the public’s outrage in Ferguson: “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization.” Overstating America’s issues doesn’t make us relatable; it makes others’ issues easily dismissible.
Equating a single and widely-condemned act of violence in America’s heartland, one that drew the personal attention of the Attorney General of the United States and enough FBI agents to make Al Capone shudder, with the systematic, calculated, and extensive mass murders perpetrated by the Islamic thugs in Iraq is such poor judgment as to be almost beyond belief. I am not diminishing the seriousness of Michael Brown’s killing, but it is not analogous to what so-called “ISIS” is doing in the Middle East.
The Islamists, as a matter of ideology, political conviction, and religious commitment, are dedicated to executing an agenda of death, including the murder (and beheading) of small children. Here is what Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) says about what the Islamists are doing:
“I have a picture of what I estimate to be a 6-year-old girl in a gingham party dress, white tights, a little red band around her wrist, Mary Janes [shoes], and she’s lying on the ground, and her head is gone,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This could be an American child. It could be a European child. It could be a child anywhere,” the chairwoman added. “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with. They have killed thousands; they are marching on; they have an army; they are well organized.”
A spasm of cruelty in Ferguson is not like a comprehensive program of genocide. The Russian invasion of Crimea and its threat to the Ukraine are the policies of a government, not the excesses of a single policeman. The President blurred the line between acknowledging America’s imperfection, in some contexts a good thing, with the outright humiliation of our country before the world.
There is no moral equivalence between America and ISIS. Mr. Obama would affirm this, surely, but in his desperate effort to discourage criticism he plays into our adversaries’ hands. Those who would highlight America’s flaws either to minimize their own evil or, out of envious hostility, to tear down rather than emulate the world’s greatest beacon of liberty, opportunity, and hope — that would be the United States of America — are wrong. President Obama seems to have internalized their criticisms, which says a lot about his approach to American foreign policy over the past nearly six years. A lot that’s disturbing.
All but a relative handful of the countries represented in the United Nations are authoritarian regimes, outright dictatorships, or hereditary (even if benevolent) monarchies. Anti-Semitism, cruel religious persecution, severe political repression, systemic policies that entrench poverty, quenching or abridging all the freedoms “endowed by their Creator” to their citizens: These things constitute the normal course of events in the majority of the world’s nations, all of which, to one degree or another, regularly castigate our country.
To allow such brutes, whether in developing countries, the Communist world, or totalitarian regimes to cow America into Uriah Heepish hand-wringing is maddening. No American, and certainly no American President, should succumb to it.
September 25, 2014
Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation punctures some of Ken Burns’s myth-making in the latest PBS series, “The Roosevelts.” As this distinguished economist points out, unemployment throughout the decade of the 1930s averaged an eye-popping 15%. Even as late as 1941, as the country ramped up its defense spending and millions went to work in war industries, the unemployment rate was still 12%. On top of all this, the federal government vastly expanded its reach with a dizzying array of “alphabet soup” agencies — FCC, FDIC, FTC, WPA, PWA, PDQ (oops, that last one is a joke, folks).
Still, this 14-hour infomercial for Big Government Liberalism that bores Steve Moore to tears, I found fascinating. The folks at the government-funded PBS and the National Endowment for the Humanities were hardly going to do a documentary that trashed three of liberalism’s greatest heroes — Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
When we look at this series, however, we note that what the Ken Burns team does not celebrate is “lifestyle liberalism.”
Theodore Roosevelt bids fair to be considered the first “pro-family” president. He fretted about birth rates and divorce rates. He pored over the Census reports. He was sincerely concerned about family life. One of my favorite TR stories has him traveling by train to the West Coast. He stops at every whistle stop. He addresses the farmers who have brought their wives and children to see this “steam locomotive in britches.” He praises their bumper crops of wheat, corn, and soybeans, but most of all, he tells them, it is good to see a bumper crop of bright and healthy children.
September 25, 2014
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So now even the federal government affirms what FRC and others have been saying for years: President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA, or ObamaCare) subsidizes abortion.
According to a report issued by the General Accountability Office earlier this month, “1,036 qualified health plans in … 28 states cover non-excepted abortion services.” Commenting on the report. FRC President Tony Perkins said, “Not only does Obamacare fund elective abortion, but the ACA only requires that the information about elective abortion coverage be provided after an individual purchases a plan. Americans should not be forced to play a game of moral Russian roulette when they select a health care plan.”
That’s why the director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, joined U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and other national pro-life leaders at a Capitol Hill news conference a few days ago to say FRC “call(s) on Congress to vote for H.R. 7, the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion’ and the ‘Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.’ The American people deserve real answers, real options, real transparency and absolutely no taxpayer funding of abortion.”
The more complex the legislation, the less accountability and transparency it provides. In a republic in which representative self-government depends on integrity and knowledge, accountability and transparency are essential. Let’s demand them from Congress and from our President when it comes to paying for something - abortion - tens of millions of Americans can never approve.
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council
P.S. It’s not too late to register for FRC’s annual “Values Voter Summit” this weekend to hear from some of America’s leading conservative voices and find out how you can help advance faith, family, and freedom.
Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
September 23, 2014
Adoption is a regular target of psycho-babbling critics, race-mongerers, ultra-nationalists in countries filled with parentless children, and those who believe children are better warehoused than loved.
In addition to rejecting all of these demonic conceptions, it’s a personal joy for me to affirm the wonder that adoption brings into countless families, including my own.
Bethany Christian Services, through which my wife and I adopted our three children, has connected thousands of moms and dads with children who need the affection and security of a family. In a moving story on how Bethany brought him together with his father and mother here in the States, Ethiopia-born Getenet Timmermans tells how his brother and he “found a family” in Illinois, and with them found love, hope, and a future.
You can read Getenet’s account here. I hope you will, and that you’ll share it with anyone you know skeptical of bearing children from the heart and not just the womb.
September 23, 2014
When confronting groups like ISIS or Hamas, it is often difficult for the West to understand the grotesque violence and reckless hatred that these groups promote toward those with whom they disagree. These groups do not wish to negotiate or reason. They wish to conquer and rule. On the one hand, the West has seen the all-too familiar horrors of despotic regimes such as those in 20th century Russia and Germany. It has also witnessed the tight grip of control maintained in such places as North Korea and China. All of these places have been the locations of mass executions and violence against peaceful citizens. Since most of these atrocities occurred far from the U.S. it can be difficult to come to terms with the reality that so many innocent people were killed. It was difficult to grasp the horrific Holocaust against the Jews or to understand the rigor of the Soviet GULAG system until eyewitness accounts became widely available. The Islamists doing so much harm in Iraq are evil but not unique. In Sudan, Islamists threatened to kill a woman, Meriam Ibrahim, simply because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. The Islamist culture is one of fear and death. Liberating Western (Christian) beliefs such as the dignity of every person, freedom of religion, and the good of peace are all undermined in Islamist theology.
Western culture has a great many flaws but much of its underlying philosophy is still providing a foundation for peace and prosperity today. Pretending that all cultures are equal or that Western culture is no different than any other culture undermines observable truth. It is easy to sit at home and play armchair philosophical quarterback or to theorize that economic concerns are driving violence but the thousands who die in the name of Islam in the Middle East don’t have such a luxury. Sometimes, a wake-up call is needed. If you would like to see a woman who experienced the cruelty of Islam and is a clear demonstration of the difference between cultures, please plan to attend the Values Voter Summit Gala honoring Meriam Ibrahim. Her story reminds us that the truth is worth fighting for and that some evils can’t be ignored with political rhetoric. May this woman shock our sedated Western mindset with the reality that there is a battle for truth taking place in cultures around the world. One side battles for a culture where a woman and child are seen as a mortal enemy for their beliefs. The other fights for a culture where that same woman is honored for her beliefs. In this cultural war with the lives of so many at stake may truth win, may freedom reign.
September 22, 2014
Today, Family Research Council filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.
In this case, a Gilbert, Arizona sign ordinance discriminated against certain signs based on the content of the signs — whether they were political, ideological, and directional. Directional signs were placed under more severe restrictions.
A local church — Good News Community Church — and its pastor — Clyde Reed – needed to announce the times and locations of their services, but because their announcement signs (which directed individuals to a public school were services were being held) were deemed directional, the church was severely hampered in getting its message out.
Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church sued to vindicate their constitutional rights. The lower courts ruled against them, so they have now taken their case to the Supreme Court.
In our brief, filed in support of Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church, we argue that the town does regulate signs differently based on their content, for politics, ideology, and directions are all matters of differing content. Well-established Supreme Court jurisprudence bars content-based restrictions on speech unless the government can meet strict scrutiny — which says that unless the government regulation advances a compelling government interest, and this is done in the least restrictive way possible – the government regulation cannot stand. We conclude that because there are content-based restrictions on speech in this case, the Supreme Court should send this case back to the district court to determine if the town can meet strict scrutiny.
A win for Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church in this case will help advance a strong interpretation of First Amendment free speech rights, which is good not only for small congregations like Good News Community Church, but for all who wish to speak free from government interference. Ensuring an open marketplace of ideas in which all voices are protected and can speak freely is what the First Amendment is all about.
Our press release is here, and our brief can be read here.
September 22, 2014
Imagine that as president of a private institution you receive a letter from your state government detailing that your health insurance plan must include coverage for elective abortion procedures. Imagine that despite your pleas for personal objections on religious or moral grounds that the state has “carefully considered all relevant aspects of state and federal law in reaching its position… that health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally” and thus your plan must include the “required abortion coverage.”
Unfortunately, this scenario is not imaginary. Recently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) filed a complaint with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning the state of California’s mandate requiring two Catholic universities to provide health insurance to their employees, insurance that HHS says must cover elective abortion. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration had announced just a month ago that it was withdrawing its abortion exemption from Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, and thereby any other religious non-profit or business that does not fit California’s razor thin definition of what qualifies a “religious employer.” Apparently a university run by the Jesuits, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, is not “religious” enough. As reported by California Lawyer the President of Santa Clara University, Michael Engh, in a letter to the university faculty communicated that “Santa Clara University cannot be true to its Jesuit Catholic identity and willingly offer, through its health care programs, financial support… [for] abortion that is not medically necessary.”
On August 22nd Shelley Rouillard director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) informed the universities through their insurance providers that they would no longer be exempt from providing abortion coverage through their employee health insurance programs. DMHC points to the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 which they say “requires health plans to cover abortion as a basic health care service.”
That is not the opinion of Catherine W. Short, an attorney and legal director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. According to Short, as reported in California Lawyer, “Knox-Keene does not require coverage for abortion. Knox-Keene says nothing about abortion.” While it is true that California’s Constitution guarantees the “right” for a woman to choose to abort her child, it says nothing about forcing institutions or individuals from being complicit in anyone’s choice to have an abortion. In fact, federal law seems to dictate otherwise. The state of California receives billions of dollars in federal subsidies for education, health and employment every year. These appropriations are bound by the Weldon Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds from discriminating against any institution which opposes abortion coverage. There is little doubt that DMHC is bound by the Weldon Amendment, ADF and LLDF argue, as indicated by the State of California’s failed attempt to circumvent the amendment through its lawsuit against the U.S. government.
The decision by the DMHC to single out Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount universities is perplexing given that even employees of the State of California are exempt from having to pay for abortion services in their employee health plans according to the Cardinal Newman Society, which has been reporting on the case and which joined in a letter issued by ADF and LLDF to the DMHC.
Sadly, this is not the first time that the state of California has attempted to abridge religious liberty in the name of “reproductive rights” and universal access to abortion and contraception. In 2004, the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v Superior Court of Sacramento County that the Women’s Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) does not violate religious liberty. The Act stipulates that any entity not considered a “religious employer” must provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage.
The definition of what qualifies as a “religious employer” in WCEA is so narrow that Catholic Charities, an explicitly faith based charity organization focused on combating poverty and serving over nine million Americans per year, did not qualify. As a result, the State of California was able to succeed in silencing the religious objections of Catholic Charities.
They have succeeded once. They have succeeded again by forcing Santa Clara and Loyola, and all religious non-profits in California, to provide elective abortion coverage, despite religious objections. It is time we realize that religious liberty in America is under attack.
September 18, 2014
This morning, at the kind invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, I attended a Joint Session of Congress to hear courageous Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko describe Russia’s threat to his country and plead for U.S. backing of his embattled nation.
It was moving to hear President Poroshenko, and heartening to see the at least superficial unanimity of Members of Congress as they stood, repeatedly, in ovations of support.
This is, I believe, the eighth time I’ve had the privilege of attending such Joint Sessions, including two State of the Union messages by President Clinton. At all such events, there is a general if perhaps strained sense of bonhomie among the Senators and Members of Congress as they mingle on the House floor. Among some of the Senators, particularly, there is a measure of good humor unseen during testy televised debates or hearings.
Today, for example, I noticed two of the Senators, one a respected conservative, the other a recognized liberal, laughing together as if fraternity brothers who surreptitiously had stolen their professor’s tires. It was fun to see.
Three cheers for camaraderie, for friendship, for civility. But as I’ve written elsewhere, civility becomes a pretext for avoiding hard choices and acknowledging real and sometimes angering divisions when “being nice” supersedes the need for opposition and advocacy. Civility is the oil that prevents the gears of debate from becoming so dry with contention that they grind into civil strife. But it is not itself the purpose for which those gears are driven.
As a Christian, I believe in the depravity of man, for which reason I am grateful to awaken to streets empty of men fighting with knives and tire-irons. Civility is important in a fallen world, no question.
Courtesy and kindness are essential to any well-equipped arsenal of public discourse and action. They can sooth raw tempers and smooth rough discourse, thus making the pursuit and location of common ground possible.
Yet ultimately, civility cannot cover-over the deep chasms between worldviews and priorities existing in our society. The two Senators I noted above are both possible presidential candidates of their respective parties. They disagree on the critical issues of “faith, family, and freedom,” not to mention economics and foreign policy. By virtue of the positions they have taken, Americans will have to choose not just between them as persons but between the sharply different worldviews out of which they operate and the policy conclusions resulting therefrom.
Civility can prevent verbal abuse and physical violence. To decide is to lead and often to divide, and decision-making, especially in an era when the decisions to be made represent two such fundamentally opposite set of values and arguments, is unavoidable.
FRC Media Office
September 18, 2014
With the continued savagery of ISIS in the news, FRC’s Bob Morrison and Ken Blackwell have two op-eds in American Thinker that examines the stance that the U.S. has taken on this group. Both Blackwell and Morrison’s recent article looks at how President Obama has dealt with ISIS and the growing threat that this group poses on global security.
President Obama is locked in a Westphalian mindset. That seminal 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in Europe and gave us the nation-state system we see today. Or most of it. What ISIS shows, however, is that the Westphalian definitions really don’t apply in the Mideast. It was an Egyptian diplomat who famously said: “There is only one nation over here; the rest are tribes with flags.”
Fortunately, President Obama realizes that you cannot give credence to a border between Iraq and Syria. He says he will hammer ISIS in Syria. Go to it. (Unfortunately, this president seems not to recognize a border between the Mexico and the U.S., either.)
You can read more from their op-ed here.
Thirty years ago, FRC’s Bob Morrison watched a beheading video. And he has never forgotten the horror of it. Here’s his column that ran in American Thinker on August 30, 2014.