FRC Blog

H.B. 1228: Bringing Freedom to Arkansas

by Travis Weber

February 27, 2015

Down in Arkansas, opponents of individual rights and personal freedom are doing what they can to defeat H.B. 1228, the state Conscience Protection Act, a freedom-loving bill which is designed to ensure that individuals’ consciences and beliefs cannot be easily trampled by intrusive government regulation.

Human Rights Campaign proudly points to a statement by Apple in which the company opines on a religious rights bill it apparently does not understand—for H.B. 1228 does not diminish “equal treatment under the law” for anyone, certainly not based on their sexual orientation. The only thing it does is keep a powerful government in check. The idea that the company is demeaning the religious beliefs of the citizens of the same state whose business opportunities it is taking advantage of is apparently lost on Apple.

Here and elsewhere, opponents know they can’t defeat the bill by simply showing their hatred for anything religious. So here and elsewhere, some put forward religious figures as their “spokespeople” against the bill, trying to use religion for their ends. Meanwhile, these poor individuals don’t realize they are opposing a bill which would support their own individual rights and liberty when the government comes calling for them in the future.

Others don’t even pretend to focus on the actual issue, claiming “the point of the bill is to prevent equal treatment of gay people, even if it has no effect on anyone’s beliefs,” and implying H.B. 1228 would allow a gay person to be “denied a hamburger, an apartment or a job because of his or her sexuality.” Anyone who actually takes the time to understand how the bill works would know it does no such thing. It is precisely the “effect” on “beliefs” that has so many seeing the urgent need for such bills as forced conscience violations under penalty of law increasingly emerge elsewhere.

Enough about the misinformation on H.B. 1228. Let’s review the facts, for truth’s sake:

What does the bill actually do?

H.B. 1228 protects sincere conscientious objectors of all religions from over-intrusive government regulation burdening their religious practice, while winnowing out those using religion as a pretext to escape application of general laws. Neither the Conscience Protection Act nor similar laws protecting religious exercise would allow businesses to “turn away” customers or engage in “discrimination” as they see fit.

How does the bill actually work?

H.B. 1228 allows a person to appeal to their religious beliefs as a basis for their claim or defense in a judicial proceeding.

Under the bill, an individual first has to prove they have:

(1) A religious belief, and

(2) Which is also sincere, and

(3) Which has been substantially burdened by the government action in question. Only then can their claim move forward.

Only if the person making the religious claim satisfies those three elements does the claim move to the second stage. At this stage, the government must show that:

(1) It has a compelling interest in burdening the religious practice, and

(2) It has only burdened the practice in the least restrictive way possible.

If the government can make both of these showings, its law or regulation is allowed to infringe on the religious practice—even under H.B. 1228. However, if the government fails to make both of these showings, the religious claim will prevail, and at that point the person is entitled to legal protection for their religious beliefs and practices. Even then, the person must look to the court’s application of similar laws; in no cases would H.B. 1228 simply allow people to appeal to religion to act as they wish apart from judicial involvement. It is important to remember that just because someone brings a religious rights claim does not mean that the claim will win in every case.

This is a legal standard known as “strict scrutiny.” It has been used in constitutional law for decades, and has been applied to religious claims for over 20 years under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”)—all without any “discrimination” or pattern of abuses such as those claimed by the opponents of H.B. 1228.

This RFRA framework does not permit anyone to automatically do anything in the name of religion; they have to jump through all the hoops discussed above. RFRAs and laws like H.B. 1228 merely protect those of all faiths whose sincere beliefs are in danger of being unnecessarily burdened by the government, while winnowing out those using religion as a pretext to escape application of general laws. For all these same reasons, claims that the Michigan RFRA will “let EMTs refuse to serve gay people” and that the Arizona and Mississippi RFRAs from previous years are “right-to-discriminate” bills are completely misleading. When people are provided with a proper understanding of strict scrutiny’s application to religious claims, they can see that opponents of these bills are engaging in baseless fabrication.

Who needs the bill’s protections?

Everyone with religious beliefs and a conscience—regardless of their religion, political views, the content of their beliefs, or how they apply those beliefs.

Religious freedom laws like H.B. 1228 never used to be (and still should not be) a partisan issue, as they protect those of all faiths and political persuasions. Indeed, when the federal RFRA was passed in 1993, a coalition of groups from across the religious, political, and legal spectrum—from the Southern Baptists to the ACLU—came together to support restoring strong protections for free exercise claims. A review of RFRA and free exercise case law going back decades clearly shows its benefit to everyone from Muslims to Jews, Christians to Santeria adherents, and Native Americans to more obscure sects, as they seek to protect their beliefs and consciences in the face of ever more intrusive government. Moreover, these laws are not political—they cut across racial and social lines, and apply in a variety of factual scenarios, such as property disputes, social welfare (just this past year, the Texas RFRA served as protection for those seeking to care for the homeless), conscience objections to abortion, and restrictions on using controlled substances in religious ceremonies. H.B. 1228 and RFRAs like it are not fact-specific. They are not race-specific. They are not religion-specific. And they are not political party-specific.

Americans of all political persuasions and religions who care about individual freedom from government coercion should get behind H.B. 1228. The bill’s text and our established practices for analyzing religious claims show that H.B. 1228 will merely support conscience rights for all in the face of ever larger and more intrusive government—it does nothing more, and nothing less. That’s something all Americans can support.

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Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News February 26, 2015

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 26, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


Theologian David Wells has written of “the extraordinary bombardment … that goes on every day from a thousand different sources that leave us distracted, with our minds going simultaneously in multiple directions” (God in the Whirlwind, p.17). Not only are we inundated with information, but attentive citizens are confronted daily with national and international matters of great significance.

As is appropriate, each of us has particular interests and concerns. Only God is infinite, and only He can attend to all matters simultaneously and in proportion to their true value. But sometimes things rise to the surface that cut through the noise and stand out on their own. Here are a couple:

Domestic Policy - Marriage: Earlier this week, FRC released the findings of a new survey showing that 61 percent of Americans agree that “states and citizens should remain free to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and the Supreme Court should not force all 50 states to redefine marriage.” The survey also found that 53 percent of Americans agree that marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman. In addition, an overwhelming majority (81 percent) of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses.”

In April, the Supreme Court will hear arguments concerning the constitutionality of same-sex “marriage.” As they weigh what to do, they would be wise to remember that sundering the social fabric through judicial fiat has never born good fruit; the Dred Scott and Roe decisions make that plain. And they should be sobered by the fact that four out of five Americans believe moral convictions grounded in deeply-held religious faith can’t be parked at one’s home or left within the four walls of a house of worship – they continue to uphold the right of their fellow citizens to live-out the implications of their faith at work as well as worship.

Foreign Policy – ISIS: In this edition of the SoCon Review, we feature a special section devoted to analyses of ISIS and Christian responses to it. The beheading of Coptic Christians along the Libyan shoreline was evil in its rawest, most horrific form. Yet followers of Jesus in the Middle East know that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). ISIS seeks conquest of a temporal kingdom, but Christians serve a King Who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). As we pray for the persecuted – and their persecutors – let’s remember, and be comforted, by that changeless truth.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Be sure to listen to Dr. Mark Regnerus’ FRC lecture, “Stability and Change in Americans’ Relationships,” presented this week at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.


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Desperate Times for Christians in Syria

by Chris Gacek

February 26, 2015

Accurate news of the depredations being visited upon Christians by the savage ISIS forces operating in Syria and Iraq is not easy to come by. Fortunately, there are policy specialists in Washington who have established deep ties with Syria’s Christians. One of these experts is Katharine (“Katie”) Gorka, President of the Council on Global Security.

Mrs. Gorka has written two significant articles in Breitbart’s national security section on the recent ISIS attacks against these Christians. In the first article she gathered news by directly contacting representatives of the Assyrian community. A summary of the facts is as follows:

Around 4:00 in the morning on Monday, February 23rd, an estimated 1500 ISIS fighters attacked a series of Christian towns in northeast Syria, burning churches, taking as many as 90 hostages, and forcing hundreds to flee from their homes.


Many Christians have fled to the Syrian town of al-Hassaka, but the fear now is that ISIS will overrun the town, kill the men, and kidnap the women and children. After the attacks on Monday, Gorka writes, “According to one source, ISIS has taken 30 Christian young women and plans to distribute them as concubines in the town of Shadadeh.”

In the second article, “ISIS Hammers Christian Towns in Syria for Third Day,” Gorka provides a better sense of the military campaign being waged by ISIS against thirty-five Assyrian towns in northeastern Syria. One source told Gorka “that ISIS is still trying to take control of the region and that they are trying to cross the Khabur River.” Kurdish and Syrian forces have repelled the assaults so far “but it is uncertain how much longer that can last.” ISIS is estimated to have several thousand fighters involved. The Kurds and Christians have fewer, and they are inadequately armed.

Reading between the lines, the American effort has been comically inadequate. For example, DoD put out a press release trumpeting less than a dozen drone strikes in a day. ROLLING THUNDER this is not.

What’s important is the bottom line: the United States is making no commitment or effort to truly help the Christians. Nothing new here. However, the U.S. government appears to be doing something. It is running a disinformation campaign against the American public to make it believe that these Middle Eastern minority populations are not being sacrificed.

(Finally, ISIS is destroying cultural artifacts in Mosul. Read this article describing how it burned down the Mosul Public Library. “Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.”)

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This Man Won’t Be Bullied: Bravo Archbishop Cordileone!

by Cathy Ruse

February 25, 2015

It’s not easy swimming against the tide. I am sorry to admit that “pro-life activist” is not always my first response to the cocktail party question.

And standing by your belief in man-woman marriage sometimes feels like holding up a “punch me” sign.

But San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has shown again and again that he is made of the strongest stuff.

Here’s the tick-tock on his latest battle to protect Catholic teaching in Catholic schools:

February 3: The Archdiocese of San Francisco announces proposed changes in teacher contracts telling applicants that if they’d like a job teaching children at one of their schools, they will be expected to uphold and not publicly contradict Catholic moral teaching. In the view of the Archdiocese, this simply codifies the long-established expectation for school employees.

February 17: A group of legislators, all Democrats, writes a letter to Cordileone urging him to stand down, arguing that his plan would discriminate against the teachers and violate their civil rights to “choose who to love and marry, how to plan a family, and what causes or beliefs to support.”

February 19: The archbishop replies. Here is the meat of his letter:

First of all, I always believe that it is important, before making a judgment on a situation or anyone’s action, that one first obtain as complete and accurate information as possible. To this end, a number of documents and videos giving accurate and more complete information about this contentious issue are available on the website of our Archdiocese. I would encourage you to avail yourselves of these resources, as they will help to clear up a lot of misinformation being circulated about it (such as, for example, the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers’ private life).

The next thing I would like to mention is actually a question: would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general? On the other hand, if you knew a brilliant campaign manager who, although a Republican, was willing to work for you and not speak or act in public contrary to you or your party — would you hire such a person? If your answer to the first question is “no,” and to the second question is “yes,” then we are actually in agreement on the principal point in debate here.

Now let’s say that this campaign manager you hired, despite promises to the contrary, starts speaking critically of your party and favorably of your running opponent, and so you decide to fire the person. Would you have done this because you hate all Republicans outright, or because this individual, who happens to be a Republican, violated the trust given to you and acted contrary to your mission? If the latter, then we are again in agreement on this principle.

My point is: I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.

This is how you do it. Bravo Archbishop Cordileone!

As the Archdiocesan announcement said: “Catholic schools exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Amen. Let them take their best shot at that goal, and complaining legislators stand aside.

HT: LifeSiteNews

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Depression, Divorce, and Hope

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 25, 2015

Graham Moore won the Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation of “The Imitation Game.” In a moving speech upon receiving the award, he spoke candidly of the depression that haunted his youth. Here’s what he said:

When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

Moore’s parents were divorced. Could this have contributed to his depression? “Children whose parents divorce will exhibit more anxiety and depression and antisocial behavior than children from intact families,” write social scientists Pat Fagan and Aaron Churchill.

Divorce is related to increased depression and anxiety for both boys and girls of all ages,” they write. Quoting from a study in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, Fagan and Churchill note that “boys with divorced parents tended to be more depressed than those from two-parent families regardless of the psychological adjustment, level of conflict, or quality of parenting manifested by their parents.”

Depression is a growing problem among our youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81% of the deaths were males and 19% were females.”

There’s so much hope: As Graham Moore movingly said, everyone fits in. And with counseling, appropriate medication, the love of parents and family and the support of true friends, young men and women can get through the pain of depression. Most importantly, the knowledge that there’s a loving God can sustain even in the darkest moments.

The link between divorce and youth depression seems to be a real one. It’s just one more reason for couples to work through their problems and find healing for their marriages and their children.

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In the Footsteps of Jesus

by Travis Weber

February 20, 2015

In the New York Times, David Brooks asserts that followers of ISIS are looking for purpose, fulfillment, and destiny, and that attempting to address these needs with materialistic solutions misses the mark. In order to lessen the appeal of ISIS, Brooks suggests, its followers must be offered an even greater opportunity for fulfillment:

[P]eople don’t join ISIS, or the Islamic State, because they want better jobs with more benefits.”

They’re not doing it because they are sexually repressed. They are doing it because they think it will ennoble their souls and purify creation.”

You can’t counter a heroic impulse with a mundane and bourgeois response. You can counter it only with a more compelling heroic vision… . Terrorism will be defeated only when they find a different fulfillment, even more bold and self-transcending.”

He’s right about all of that.

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Blinded by Liberalism - Our President and His State Department

by Chris Gacek

February 20, 2015

Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department, has taken a great deal of heat this week for saying this and other things regarding our struggle with the Islamic State (ISIS):

We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs…”

Root cause” explanations constitute part of the fantasy life of liberals. They lead inevitably to an ever greater fantasy: the belief that poverty lies at the base of almost all malignant human behavior.  If the government can spend lots of money on something somewhere, all will be well. 

It’s interesting to recall that Lyndon Johnson, one of the big-time liberal presidents, exhibited a similar myopia when dealing with Vietnam and North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh.  President Johnson delivered his first major speech about Vietnam on April 7, 1965 at Johns Hopkins University.  It is referred to as the “Peace without Conquest” Speech.  The title reveals its high-level content in wishful thinking.

In the speech, Johnson proposed a $1 billion development program for the Mekong River region including North Vietnam.  Johnson thought he could be buy off Ho with a TVA-like development program.  How could it fail?  It worked for FDR, right.  Guys like Johnson always had a price.  You just had to find it.  A water project, a military base, electric power.    As, Johnson told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, “old Ho can’t turn me down.”  Wrong.

Well, Ho was a Marxist ideologue, and he rejected the offer the next day.  Johnson must have been perplexed.  LBJ couldn’t understand a sociopathic Marxist ideologue like Ho, and today’s liberals cannot comprehend the fact that Islam is the driving force in our present-day world-wide struggle with a resurgent, modernized ideology that is replacing the failed Arab socialist nationalism of the twentieth century.

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Judge relies on decision upholding government¿s ability to regulate marriage as it suppresses conscience objections to same-sex “marriage”

by Travis Weber

February 19, 2015

Yesterday, in the consolidated cases of State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington state court judge held that a small wedding vendor defendant engaged in impermissible discrimination in seeking to honor her religious beliefs and not support the promotion of a same-sex wedding ceremony with her services.

In granting the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment, Judge Ekstrom of the Benton County Superior Court elevated nondiscrimination laws over free exercise and free speech rights.

In holding that “[f]ree exercise is not … without its limits,” Judge Ekstrom relied on the Supreme Court’s proclamation in Reynolds v. United States that “[l]aws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices… . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? The permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.”

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Two Men, Three Men, A Man and His Daughter: Marriage on the Slope

by Cathy Ruse

February 19, 2015

Those of us who believe in man-woman marriage sometimes talk about the “slippery slope”: If we undo the age-old definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, this will lead to consequences that go well beyond the terms of the current debate.

Like three men marrying, or a father marrying his daughter.

Advocates for same-sex marriage say “pshaw” and call us crazy. Or worse. To which we often reply: Just you wait.

Well, that didn’t take long.

Yesterday, Salon.com published a piece calling parent-child incest normal.

There’s even a new politically-correct moniker for it. Don’t say “incest,” say “genetic sexual attraction.”

And because we live in Alphabet Soup Land, it’s best to call it “GSA.”

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Freedom is Defined by Virtue, Not Sexual Impulses

by Christina Hadford

February 19, 2015

Freedom is man’s ability to pursue freely God’s plan for him; slavery is man’s self-subjugation to his appetitive soul. Today’s culture has confounded the two, inadvertently defining man and measuring his freedom based on his sexual drive.

Last week Stella Morabito wrote about the plurality of sexual identifications accepted and even promoted today: pedophilia, BDSM (bondage/ domination/ sado-masochism), transgender children, incest, bestiality, group sex, and anonymous sex (to name a few). Like many opponents to gay marriage predicted, re-defining marriage as anything other than a sacred bond between one man and one woman will inevitably lead us down a slippery slope in which all sexual exploits are permissible in the name of freedom.

President Obama’s crass advertisement for women to “vote like your lady parts depend on it” makes this case in point. Supposedly, a girl’s ability to have casual sex with a range of men empowers her; a mother’s decision to kill her unborn child indicates her individual agency; a woman’s choice to sleep with other women means she is an equal member of society. This sentiment has seeped into wider discourse. Now, people identify themselves by their sexual orientation, and interpret their freedom based on whether they can fulfill these desires without limits. This distortion is degrading, debilitating, and downright disgusting.

Defining a person’s freedom in terms of her sexual desires and actions reduces her to an animalistic state. The trademark of humankind—both man and woman—is their logic. Animals experience an urge, and go to all limits to satisfy that urge. Humans share the sensual desires of animals, but are additionally endowed with a sense of reasoning and restraint that should ultimately dictate their appetites. As Aristotle said, “[T]he good for man is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, or if there are more kinds of virtue than one, in accordance with the best and most perfect kind” (Nicomachean Ethics).

In addition to the backwardness of reducing man to an animalistic state, defining freedom in terms of sexual passions is inherently restrictive. Ultimately, we are all constrained by our bodily limits. It is impossible for two men to conjugally unite to produce offspring; it is impossible to have pedophiliac relationships and not profoundly wound an innocent child; it is impossible to have healthy and respectful sado-masochistic relationships. The human body is limited, and defining man in terms of his body inescapably confines him.

Freedom is, however, very achievable as long as it is properly defined. As Aristotle indicated true freedom is the absolute pursuit of highest virtue; specifically, it is the spiritual and corporal surrender to God’s omniscient and benevolent plan for man. Because God is all-powerful, pursuing God’s plan—whether or not it is sensually fulfilling to man—will manifest boundless interior and spiritual freedom. It is high time our society stop accepting any and all sexual desires in the name of freedom. A man with uncontrollable sexual impulses will not achieve freedom by society affirming his actions; rather, he will achieve freedom after he is offered loving and compassionate counsel away from his sexual slavery.

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