FRC Blog

Faith-based Adoption Providers Are Answering the Pro-Life Call and Must Be Protected

by Madison Ferguson

November 20, 2018

There is a movement of Christians putting actions to their pro-life words through adoption. Adoptive families will find their search for faith-based adoption agencies increasingly difficult, however. Faith-based agencies (FBAs) have been under attack for practicing their religious freedom, despite their impactful work in placing children in loving homes.

Courtney Lott works with such organizations. As part of Family Research Council’s Speaker Series and to recognize National Adoption Month 2018, she shared her experience as Co-Executive Director of Faithful Adoption Consultants (FAC) and mother of eight children—both biological and adopted. FAC walks alongside adoptive families to assist in all aspects of the adoption process. From matching families with children to encouraging the birth mothers to adopt instead of abort, the pro-life message is clear.

Lott summarized FAC’s mission: “Our heart is to build relationships, educate families, and put actions to our pro-life words.”

Private adoption agencies share similar goals. Child welfare services began in the private sector, but it wasn’t until the 1990s—after the public child welfare system was created—that private adoption agencies set cost and quality standards. Faith-based agencies are particularly beneficial because they utilize faith networks to recruit foster and adoptive families. The CALL and Focus on the Family, like FAC, encourage and equip families in the Christian community to consider foster care and adoption.

The impact of these FBAs is significant. In 2016, Catholic Charities agencies around the country served over 10,000 children through foster care and adoption services. That same year, 45 percent of Catholic Charities’ adoptions were of children with special needs. Children who have a historically hard time of being placed in homes due to age, background, or need are valued throughout the process—beginning with their “first family.”

FAC recognizes that the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families. The process of fostering and adoption gives FBAs and consultants an opportunity to love the child’s first family and encourage them to pursue a situation in which they could better parent their child.

Another fundamental aspect of the fostering and adoption process is educating families. As Courtney Lott pointed out, closed adoptions were common throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This means adoptees don’t know until later in life that they’re adopted, and mothers often didn’t get to meet their child or the child’s adoptive family. Now, there is an increasing trend of semi-open adoptions, where mothers know the first name of the adoptive family, as well as wide open adoptions, where the adoptee has unrestricted contact with and access to all knowledge of their first family while still being loved and cared for by their adoptive family.

FAC and FBAs clearly demonstrate how they value all life, from the pregnant mother to the child to the adoptive family. Their work is valuable in maintaining the institution of the family, and the protection of their work is necessary in maintaining religious freedom.

A myriad of FBAs joined the national fight for religious freedom when court-created same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015. Despite the variety of child welfare agencies already serving same-sex couples, and the thousands of families helped by FBAs, anti-faith policies have pushed out adoption agencies that decline to place children in households that do not comply with the biblical definition of marriage. This needlessly deprives children of having a better chance of finding a loving adoptive home.

FBAs in Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco were forced to shut their doors because of their convictions. In 2011, Catholic Charities organizations in Illinois closed their contracts with the state and consequently closed their doors to thousands of children. 

Congress has since urged President Trump to protect faith-based adoption agencies, and five states passed laws in 2017 prohibiting discrimination against faith-based adoption providers.

The nationwide decline in the value of life is apparent. In addition to the abortion industry’s attacks on life inside the womb, attacks on FBAs compromise children outside the womb. Thus, adoption is becoming recognized as a pro-life issue, and it should be defended as such.

To put action to pro-life words, we must be willing to answer the call of caring for children and parents through adoption or foster care. Whether driven by infertility or a mission-based calling, caring for children and parents can take many forms, include bringing a child home, financial support, mentorship, and transportation assistance to foster families.

In the mid-2000s, the evangelical church began to answer this call by educating about and engaging in the “uniquely Christian calling,” as termed by Rick Warren and Focus on the Family. While only two percent of Americans have adopted, more than twice as many practicing Christians fulfill this calling. As Courtney Lott pointed out, for Christians, it is the number one place we can make a huge impact for the gospel.

With the opioid crisis contributing to the adoption crisis, the problem is large enough for both faith-based and public agencies to work together for the sake of children and families. By standing for pro-life values in accordance with these faith-based organizations, we help to maintain religious freedom and ensure that ALL life has a chance to be heard.

To hear how Courtney Lott’s Faithful Adoption Consultants is answering the pro-life call, view the full event here.

Madison Ferguson is an intern at Family Research Council.

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Social Conservative Review - November 15, 2018

by Daniel Hart

November 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

In this age marked by cultural brokenness and political division, it can be easy for Christians to shake our heads in resignation to this seemingly discouraging predicament and say, “God’s Kingdom is obviously not here right now.”

Or is it? In the Gospel of Luke, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come. He said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

What does this mean? When Christ said these words in first century Judea, they would have caused great confusion amongst the Jews since it was clear from the Roman occupation of their ancestral land that there was certainly no “Kingdom” currently present. But Christ wasn’t speaking of the potential reign of an earthly king. He was asking those who were listening to realize that God’s Kingdom was right in front of them—in Christ’s own witness of love, mercy, and healing. He was asking them, and therefore all of us, to look into our hearts and see that whenever we act with love, compassion, and sacrifice, God’s Kingdom is literally “among” us.

It should give us great encouragement to know that whenever we show Christ’s love to others, we are an ambassador for Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Keep in mind that showing love can take the form of seemingly small acts, such as simply giving encouragement to someone we encounter in our daily lives who seems like they are in need of a boost. Whenever we do any act of love, whether great of small, we bring God’s Kingdom in our midst.

Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.

Sincerely,

Dan Hart
Managing Editor for Publications
Family Research Council

 

FRC Articles

Evangelicals Power Republicans to Senate Victories – David Closson

Voters Say ‘Full Steam Ahead’ On Judges – Travis Weber and Alexandra McPhee

America Deserves Better Than the Broward County Disaster – Ken Blackwell

School Board Says Boys and Girls Have Different Brains — Except in the Bathroom – Cathy Ruse

Post-Midterm optimism for religious freedom – Alexandra McPhee

Is the Republican Senate Ready to Advance Pro-Life Policy? – Patrina Mosley

The Supreme Court can fix Establishment Clause jurisprudence with the Peace Cross case –  Alexandra McPhee

Speaker Series: The Reality of Faith-Based Adoption Services

Truth Obscured by Hollywood Take on Sexual Orientation Therapy – Peter Sprigg

Must the State Recognize All Identities? – Dan Hart

The Times En-“genders” Controversy with Ignorance of “Sex” – Peter Sprigg

Notre Dame Students Take a Stand Against Porn – Patrina Mosley

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Supreme Court’s latest church-state conundrum: Must a ‘peace cross’ memorial to World War I vets come down? – Richard Wolf, USA Today

Muslims, the Bladensburg Cross, and the Preservation of Order – Ismail Royer, Public Discourse

Professor Sues after University Requires He Use Student’s Preferred Pronoun – Jack Crowe, National Review

Trump Administration Updates Conscience Exemptions for Contraceptive MandateNational Catholic Register

The State of Hate – David Montgomery, The Washington Post

Christian student senator at UC Berkeley harassed for abstaining from pro-LGBTQ vote – Caleb Parke, Fox News

Fordham University Political Science Department Mandates Use of Students’ ‘Preferred Pronouns’ – Alana Mastrangelo, Breitbart

International Religious Freedom

What you should know about the persecution of Kachin Christians – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

78 Kidnapped Cameroonian Students from Christian School Freed – Aliya Kuykendall, The Stream

Christians Dragged Out of Cars and Beaten, Haunted With Fear as Asia Bibi Case Tears Pakistan Apart – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

Christians, pray for your brothers and sisters in North Korea – Christopher Summers, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Asia Bibi Leaves Pakistani Prison–Open Doors Calls for Urgent Prayer – Lindy Lowry, Open Doors USA

 

Life

Abortion

The Point of Gosnell – Charlotte Allen, First Things

6 claims of Planned Parenthood’s new president debunked – Kristi Burton Brown, Live Action

New Planned Parenthood CEO: “I Plan to Expand” Abortions. We Have a “Moral Imperative” to Kill Babies – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews

Pro-life ballot measures win passage in two of three states – Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times

Adoption

Philadelphia foster families continue fight for Catholic Social Services – Perry West, CAN

3 ways your church can participate in orphan care and prevention – Brittany Salmon, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Bioethics

Canadian Doctors Get Ready for Child Euthanasia – Wesley J. Smith, National Review

 

Family

Marriage

How Expectations Affect One’s Happiness in Marriage – Dianne Grande, Psychology Today

When the Military Takes a Toll on Your Marriage: Reflections on ‘Indivisible’ – Gary Chapman, Military.com

Men and Women: Should We Just Call the Whole Thing Off? – Rachel Lu, The American Conservative

One Couple’s Fight to Honor God With Their Bakery – Benjamin Hawkins, Focus on the Family

37.8 Percent in Generation That Starts Turning 21 Next Year Was Born to Unwed Moms – Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS News

Parenting

How to Respond When Your Kids Are Bullied – Jonathan McKee, Focus on the Family

Mothers Against Macron – Joy Pullmann, First Things

I’m Raising an Old Soul And It’s Such a Gift – Heidi Hamm, HerViewFromHome

Making of a Mom: How Motherhood Helped my Anxiety Disorder – Casey McCorry, Verily

New Findings Add Twist to Screen Time Limit Debate – Jean Twenge, Family Studies

Podcast: Your Teenager Needs Discipleship – Jen Wilkin and Melissa Kruger, The Gospel Coalition

Video: How is spiritual warfare involved in parenting? – Phillip Bethancourt, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

How to Be a Kindness Role Model for Your Kids – Dale V. Atkins and Amanda R. Salzhauer, Greater Good Magazine

Postpartum Depression and the Christian – Kathryn Butler, The Gospel Coalition

Economics/Education

9 Years Into Common Core, Test Scores Are Down, Indoctrination Up – Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

The Wealth of Nations Begins at Home – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

Your Family, Your Choice – Oren Cass, Family Studies

Faith/Character/Culture

10 ways your unsatisfied life is a blessing – Amy Simpson, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Honoring the ‘Invisible Work Force’ of Family Caregivers – Amy Ziettlow, Family Studies

How to Love People You Don’t Like – Greg Morse, Desiring God

Cultural winsomeness will not be enough for Christians – Andrew T. Walker, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

In An America This Ignorant, It’s No Wonder We Struggle To Stay Free – Stella Morabito, The Federalist

I Cremated My Unborn Son – Tish Harrison Warren, Christianity Today

8 Signs Your Christianity Is Too Comfortable – Brett McCracken, The Gospel Coalition

A Fresh Perspective on Joy – Liberty McArtor, The Stream

Remarkable’ decline in fertility rates – James Gallagher, BBC News

Human Sexuality

Where to Find Hope and Help amid the Sexual Revolution – Sam Allberry, The Gospel Coalition

Kissing Purity Culture Goodbye – Abigail Rine Favale, First Things

What ‘The New York Times’ Gets Wrong on the ‘Transgender Memo’ – Andrew T. Walker, The Gospel Coalition

Jesus Befriended Prostitutes. So This Victorian-Era Woman Did Too. – Kimi Harris, Christianity Today

Boy Erased’ Suggests Sexual Desire Can’t Change, So Religion Must – Brett McCracken, The Gospel Coalition

Where Angels Fear to Tread: The Fraud of Transgenderism – Babette Francis and John Ballantyne, Public Discourse

Pornography

The Problems of Pornography: Sexual Dysfunction and Beyond – Freda Bush, Focus on the Family

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Truth Obscured by Hollywood Take on Sexual Orientation Therapy

by Peter Sprigg

November 13, 2018

LGBT activists are pushing for an end to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)—the various forms of voluntary religious or secular counseling or therapy (referred to by critics and the media as “conversion therapy”) intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome those feelings or not act upon them. That campaign suffered a setback in August 2018 when an extreme version of a SOCE therapy ban, AB 2943, was withdrawn by its sponsor after strong resistance, especially from the religious community.

However, critics of SOCE are now hoping for a boost from the release of a new movie, Boy Erased, intended to dramatize the problems they associate with “conversion therapy.” The movie, starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the parents of the college student sent to counseling, premiered in limited release on November 1, and is gradually being rolled out around the country.

The movie is based on a 2016 memoir with the same title by Garrard Conley. Conley was a 19-year-old Arkansas college student in 2004, when he attended one-on-one counseling and then an intensive two-week group program offered by Love in Action (LIA), a Memphis ex-gay ministry run by John Smid, a man who had testified to his own transformation from gay to ex-gay.

In anticipation of the movie’s release, I recently read the book on which it is based. On November 8, the first day the film was screened in the D.C. area, I went to see it. The first screening in downtown Washington was sold out, but I was able to catch a later screening in a nearly empty theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. What follows will address both the book and the movie, but I will focus primarily on the book.

Conley and Love in Action

I will say one thing in the book’s favor—it does not appear to be a complete fabrication. That is more than I can say for some testimony given in favor of state therapy bans—accounts which have either been proven false or are highly suspect. Love in Action was a real organization, and the approach Conley describes in the book is roughly consistent with group therapy used by some (not all) such ministries. According to Conley, his personal memories were augmented by LIA’s 274-page handbook—which he still has.

This means that in Conley’s account, there is no electric shock therapy; no application of heat or ice to create an aversion to homosexual stimuli; no deliberate exposure to heterosexual or homosexual pornography; in short, none of the horror stories one usually hears about outdated treatments that were abandoned 40 or 50 years ago. Although often raised in critiques of SOCE, no one has been able to prove that any of these methods have been used in this century.

Another common charge is that minors are coerced into therapy by their parents. Therefore, it’s important to note that Conley was not a minor when he went to LIA, and he states explicitly, “I was here by my own choice.” Despite its short term of two weeks, Conley’s program was not even a residential one—he spent evenings in a motel room with his mother. This was no “conversion therapy camp” as they are sometimes depicted.

What the book, and at least the first part of the movie, feature instead is lots of talking and lots of writing. This makes the book and first half of the movie, frankly, rather boring.

Smid (depicted in the film as “Victor Sykes”) and LIA approached homosexuality using an addiction model, and many of their techniques were borrowed directly from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Different programs and different therapists use different methodologies—what unites SOCE is only the goal, not any particular technique. While AA and other twelve-step programs have their critics, as far as I know no one has ever tried to outlaw them.

For example, one exercise drawn directly from AA was the “Moral Inventory”—an effort to account in writing for as many past sins as the participant could recall. Another exercise was drawing a “genogram”—essentially a family tree noting patterns of sinful behavior by various forebears and relatives. These techniques may be questioned by some—but hardly constitute “torture,” or even stirring drama.

The Real Trauma

That’s not to say there are no traumatic events in Boy Erased—it’s just that most of them predate or are unrelated to the LIA program. In the book, Conley admits that in early puberty, he was so addicted to video games he would urinate on his bedroom carpet, rather than walk to the bathroom. (Later, in college, he would urinate in empty water bottles in his dorm, putting them under his bed to be discovered later.) In high school, he would “crouch on the toilet seat to hide from overcrowded lunch tables.” Conley, a runner, admits that in the summer before he started college, “my weight loss took an angry, masochistic turn that verged on anorexic”—something even a gay-friendly family doctor would call him on. Conley also admits several times to having suicidal thoughts. Note that almost all of these things happened before he went to LIA—and all were omitted from the movie.

If Conley had chosen to re-frame his story, it could have put an important male twist on the #MeToo movement. The worst thing that happened to Conley, and to the lead character in the film (renamed “Jared”), was that he was raped by a fellow male college student in a dorm room. (The under-a-blanket rape scene, as well as some strong language, are the main reasons for the film’s R rating.) The rapist then confessed to having done the same thing to a younger teen in the youth group at his church.

Conley told a pastor at his Presbyterian college about the latter crime—and was told “to stay quiet” because “there was nothing to be done.” However, he told no one—not the pastor, his parents, nor Love in Action counselors—about the assault he had suffered. He remained silent on this point even after the rapist was the one who “outed” him as “gay” to his parents. One is left to wonder whether his counseling might have had a different outcome if he had been more honest with the people who wanted to help him.

Family Dynamics

Family dynamics play an important role in Boy Erased—but this is one of several areas in which Conley appears to have misunderstood the theory behind some SOCE. It is true that many counselors have identified a pattern which is common (but not universal) among men with same-sex attractions, in which these men had strained relations with their fathers and male peers and unusually close relationships with their mothers.

This is the exact pattern evident in Conley’s description of his own life. With his father, a Christian car dealer who experienced a mid-life call to pastoral ministry, Conley had “moments of misunderstanding” that were “often damaging.” Sports is a common way for a boy to bond with his father or peers, but Conley admits, “It’s true that I was never any good at sports… I never liked to toss the ball with my father in the front yard.” (The film, however, makes “Jared” a high school basketball player.) With his mother, a glamorous Southern belle who married “in her sixteenth year,” he would go “to Memphis for weekends of shopping and movie binging.” In fact, when client Conley tells a counselor, “Yes, my mother and I were too close,” author Conley calls it his “first ex-gay utterance.”

The climax of both the book and the movie—and the incident that led to Conley walking out of LIA before the program was over—was an exercise called “the Lie Chair” (the name is puzzling, since it involves telling the truth). Conley was instructed to sit across from an empty chair “and imagine your father sitting across from you and you saying everything you’ve always wanted to tell him but couldn’t.” Conley says, “I tried working myself up into an angry fit,” but finally declared, “I’m not angry”—and walked out, never to return.

Conley seems convinced that the family dynamics theory did not apply to him, because his parents were not actually abusive—just once, “my father had raised his fist to strike me,” but thought better of it—and because he loves them. He does not seem to understand that there can be a deficit in meeting the developmental need for warm, non-sexual affection from the same-sex parent, even in the absence of any overt abuse.

Distorted Theology

Conley also seems to have a distorted view of Christian theology. For one thing, he (like many LGBT activists) seems obsessed with “Hell”—far more than any Christians I know, or any pastors I’ve ever heard preach. Even after having his horizons broadened by going to college, Conley declares, “I still believed that I would feel its fire licking my skin for all eternity if I continued on this path.” As an evangelical Christian myself, I also believe in hell (capitalizing the word, as Conley does, is unnecessary). Yet I’ve never believed—and know no one who teaches—that merely being (or becoming) straight is the key to avoiding it.

Critics of SOCE, including Conley, are also obsessed with “shame,” and a belief that such counseling operates by instilling a sense of shame over the client’s homosexuality. Yet every sexual reorientation therapist I have met has said the exact opposite—that one of the primary goals of such therapy is to overcome the shame that clients already feel when they begin therapy.

In fact, despite Conley repeatedly associating LIA and its teachings with terms like “self-loathing” and even “self-annihilation,” the actual quotations from LIA’s handbook and other materials express the opposite:

  • I believed many lies that I was worthless, hopeless, and had no future.”
  • I’ve learned that I am loved and accepted even though I have been involved in sexual addiction.”
  • I have worth. I am intelligent, funny, caring and strong.”

Film Fabrications

Because “moral inventories” and “genograms” don’t exactly make for compelling cinema, the filmmakers spiced up the last half of the film—by adding scenes that didn’t actually happen. The most dramatic—and most outrageous for its absurdity—is one in which an uncooperative LIA client is literally, physically beaten with a Bible (by family members including, apparently, his own little sister). Perhaps this is meant to be a metaphor for spiritual abuse, but some gullible viewers are likely to take it literally.

The character Jared’s “escape” from LIA is exaggerated in the film. Apart from having to ask a second time before his cell phone was returned, the book recounts no effort to physically prevent him from leaving or his mother from reaching him, the way the movie does. And the film’s biggest emotional gut punch is when we learn that the fictional victim of the fictional “Bible-beating” has committed suicide. (In his book, Conley reports no such event, but writes, “Various bloggers” have estimated that “twenty to thirty” suicides resulted from LIA, “though figures like these are impossible to pin down.” That’s probably because they are made up.)

One thing the film does somewhat better than the book is address the character Jared’s nuanced relationship with his parents after he left Love in Action. However, we have no way of knowing if the portrayal is a truthful one reflecting Conley’s actual experience, or merely a dramatic one serving Hollywood’s purposes. In the book, Conley addresses the decade after his LIA experience only cryptically, and somewhat confusingly. His father never followed through, apparently, on a threat to withdraw funding for his college education. Yet describing visits to his parents’ home, he declares, “I will refuse to even look at my father.” He concludes the Acknowledgments, though, by saying, “Thank you, most of all, to my mother and father, whose love has made all the difference.”

Love in Action—The Rest of the Story

In 2005, a year after Conley left Love in Action, the ministry was subjected to a storm of controversy after a teenager named Zach Stark complained on social media that his parents had sent him to LIA’s residential program for adolescents, called “Refuge.” (The Boy Erased film conflates this program with the adult-focused one, “The Source,” that Conley attended—a staffer in the film says, “Welcome to Refuge,” but the notebooks say “Source” on the cover.) This sparked a round of protests by LGBT activists, and investigations by Tennessee state officials.

State officials said LIA required a license because they were providing mental health treatment; LIA insisted it offered discipleship programs, which are exempt from state regulation. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a federal lawsuit to protect LIA, and ultimately prevailed, with the state dropping its efforts to regulate the LIA ministry.

The controversy about the short-lived Refuge program seems to be the source of the mythology that there is a network of “conversion therapy camps” across the country holding teens against their will. The trailer on the film’s official website ends with the dramatic and absurd declaration, “77,000 people are currently being held in conversion therapy across America.” Yet the Refuge program—then already defunct—was the only such program identified in a 2009 American Psychological Association report on sexual orientation change efforts. Indeed, a 2015 Ph.D. dissertation agreed that “it is likely the media frenzy surrounding the story of 16-year-old Stark being forced into a conversion therapy residential program by his parents in 2005 led to these bans” on such therapy for minors.

The controversy took a toll on Smid, however, and on the ministry. In 2008, Smid resigned; he has since returned to living as a homosexual and married a man in 2014. Smid now has a gay-affirming ministry called Grace Rivers, and has apologized for the work he did with Love in Action. (LIA, under new leadership and with a completely new ministry model, changed its name to “Restoration Path” in 2012.)

Conclusion

The therapy bans enacted in fourteen states so far apply only to licensed mental health providers and only to clients who are minors. Since Garrard Conley was not a minor and Love in Action was not licensed by the state, his experience would not have been affected by such a law, even if one had been in place in Tennessee. Ironically, the passage of such laws, cutting off access to care consistent with their values from licensed providers, might only have the effect of driving desperate parents and clients into the hands of unlicensed religious programs such as Love in Action. For SOCE skeptics who see this as undesirable, therefore, such laws may actually be counter-productive.

California’s AB 2943, on the other hand, would have applied to any SOCE provider or program that charges a fee, even religious and unlicensed ones. This type of approach, however, raises constitutional questions even beyond those raised by the license restrictions.

Regardless of what one thinks of Conley’s story, its fictionalized film version, John Smid’s story, or the techniques of Love in Action, they all represent only anecdotes about a particular instance of sexual orientation change efforts. They cannot be taken as representative of all SOCE. The claim that SOCE in general has been shown to be ineffective and harmful is not supported by the scientific research.

Boy Erased is not particularly entertaining; and not at all informative for making policy regarding sexual orientation change efforts.

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Must the State Recognize All Identities?

by Daniel Hart

November 9, 2018

A man in the Netherlands named Emile Ratelband is 69 years old, but he feels like he is 49. His feeling isn’t a particularly remarkable one—I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t “feel” our ages depending on the day. But the problem is, Mr. Ratelband (pictured above) has filed a court claim seeking to have the Dutch government officially recognize his feelings of being young by changing his birth certificate to reflect the age that he feels himself to be.

Because nowadays, in Europe and in the United States, we are free people,” Ratelband said in an interview. “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”

Mr. Ratelband’s demand is the latest example of a remarkable trend that has taken hold in Western countries over the last decade. It is the insistence that the state give legal recognition to all lifestyle choices, a movement that I will call the “identity rights” movement. This modern movement arguably began in earnest around 2003 when homosexual activists demanded that the state give them marriage rights (which was legalized in Massachusetts that year), even though there was no prohibition against two people of the same sex living together in a domestic partnership if they wished. This movement culminated in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must recognize same-sex marriage.

The transgender movement steamrolled into the public consciousness soon after, with activists demanding that those who identify as the opposite sex from their biological sex at birth be given access to opposite sex public restrooms, changed birth certificates, and participation in opposite sex sports.

Also in 2015, a woman named Rachel Dolezal gained national attention when it was discovered that she had been posing as a black woman for years, even serving as the president of her local NAACP chapter, but in reality did not have any African ancestry. Even though her cause was not widely supported by the identity rights movement, Dolezal was simply following the same logic: if people can get state recognition to be the opposite sex from what they actually are, why can’t they also choose their ethnicity? Even U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) seems to think along these lines.

In an identity-obsessed world, Emile Ratelband’s demand for the state to publicly lie about his actual age doesn’t seem that unreasonable, which is why no one should be surprised if the Dutch court agrees to grant his request. But it raises the question: how far can this go? Where will society draw the line? Currently, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to foresee a day when people will be able to legally declare themselves to be taller than they actually are, or to be whatever animal they want to be. To follow this line of legal logic to its inevitable end is to grant people any conceivable identity that they can conjure up.

But what the identity rights movement doesn’t acknowledge is that when the state grants legal recognition to a person’s chosen identity, it affects the rights of others. Ask Jack Phillips, or Barronelle Stutzman, or Pascha Thomas. The list goes on and on.

At its root, the identity rights movement is a cry for the deepest human need: to be loved. When people publicly identify themselves as something they are not, they are crying out for what is tragically lacking in their lives through no fault of their own. As human beings, lovingly created in God’s image, it is our divine calling to love each other as best we possibly can, starting first and foremost with our own families. It is impossible for this kind of authentic love to be bestowed by the state. This is why the identity movement’s demand for state recognition of all identities is an ultimately futile endeavor—it’s never going to give them the affirmation that they are truly searching for.

In this age of an ascendant identity movement and the domination of identity politics, it is crucial for all believers to witness to this timeless truth: that God does not make mistakes. The way that we are created tells us something about who we are. We never have to seek the approval of others to know how much we matter. We have all been loved into being by the Creator of the universe—that is the only identity that truly matters.

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The Times En-“genders” Controversy with Ignorance of “Sex”

by Peter Sprigg

November 5, 2018

When I was a college student in the New York metropolitan area, I subscribed to the New York Times. For a while, I even set the goal of reading every article that appeared on the front page, no matter what it was about. I thought if it was important enough to be on the front page of the New York Times, it was important enough for me to read it. It was known, after all, as “the paper of record.”

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. On October 22, the Times published—on the front page—one of the worst-written, worst-edited newspaper articles I have ever read.

The article begins, “The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth . . .”

The fake news begins with the eighth word of the article—“gender.” It is simply untrue that the Trump administration is re-examining the definition of “gender.”

What is actually under consideration is the definition of the word “sex”—particularly where it appears in a law or policy that forbids discrimination on the basis of “sex.”

This is evident in the parts of the article that quote or directly cite a draft memo leaked to the Times from the Department of Health and Human Services, such as these (emphasis added):

  • Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo . . .
  • The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
  • For the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services has privately argued that the term “sex” was never meant to include gender identity . . .

Despite this evidence from their own reporting, the Times reporters continued throughout the article to use the word “gender” instead. For example (emphasis added):

  • The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender . . .
  • The agencies would consider the comments before issuing final rules with the force of law — both of which could include the new gender definition.
  • The department would have to decide what documentation schools would be required to collect to determine or codify gender.

What’s wrong with this? Well, the very people who were stirred to outrage against the Trump administration by the Times article—transgender activists and their allies—are the ones who have been telling us for years that gender is not the same as sex! Yet the New York Times breezily assumes that the two words are synonymous. This mistake would not be tolerated in the average undergraduate term paper—yet somehow it slipped by the editors of the New York Times.

Unless it didn’t slip by at all.

In reality, there is little dispute that the word “sex” refers to biology. The American Psychiatric Association, for example—hardly a bastion of conservatism—defines “sex” as “Biological indication of male and female (understood in the context of reproductive capacity) …” Nor is there any dispute (even among conservatives) that the phrase “gender identity” commonly refers to a subjective, psychological state of, as the APA puts it, “an individual’s identification as male, female or, occasionally, some category other than male or female.”

The word “gender” standing alone, however, is ambiguous and contested ground. It has come to be used as a reference to someone’s essential “maleness” or “femaleness.” The cultural and social debate is about whether that is determined by a person’s objective “sex” (biology) or their subjective “gender identity” (psychology).

However, this debate is largely irrelevant in interpreting and applying current federal law—which is what the Times article was ostensibly about. Few federal laws or regulations even use the word “gender.” The key ones mentioned in the article—non-discrimination provisions in statutes regarding education (Title IX, 1972), employment (Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act), and health care (the Obamacare law)—all use the word “sex,” not “gender.”

If the Times’ unjustified conflation of the words “sex” and “gender” did not arise from incomprehensible ignorance, it can only have arisen from inexcusable bias. Acting as though the clear-cut term “sex” is the same as the ambiguous term “gender” seriously tilts the playing field in favor of the Left’s preference for psychological rather than biological definitions. It assumes the very point that is in dispute.

This is bad logic—as well as bad journalism.

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Notre Dame Students Take a Stand Against Porn

by Patrina Mosley

November 2, 2018

Recent studies have shown that young adults aged 18-24 are the most frequent porn users—almost six in 10 young adults seek out porn either daily, weekly, or monthly. It’s no wonder why students at the University of Notre Dome are calling for pornography filters on their campus Wi-Fi as part of a “White Ribbon Against Pornography Week” campaign created by NCOSE. The original request came from the male students in a letter emphasizing that “pornography is an affront to human rights and catastrophic to individuals and relationships. We are calling for this action in order to stand up for the dignity of all people, especially women.”

We applaud these men for showing concern for the well-being of their female peers and their own sexual health.

Women and Pornography

What is unique about this story is that after the males issued their letter, the female students stood in solidarity by issuing their own response letter acknowledging that pornography consumption correlates to sexual assault and that women themselves struggle with pornography addiction:

We want a filter because we want to eliminate sexual assault and sexual abuse on our campus. We want a filter because we care deeply about Notre Dame students — including women — who struggle with pornography addictions.

To some, it may be shocking to see that pornography can no longer be labeled as just a man’s issue. With 76 percent of 18 to 30-year-old women reporting that they watch porn at least once a month, and with the term “porn for women” seeing a 359 percent growth among female users in just one year, pornography can no longer be siloed to one sex.

By and large, men prefer images and graphic sex sites; women prefer erotic stories and romance sites. The connection between erotic materials and women seeking online porn makes sense when the erotica genre generated $1.37 billion in sales, making it the “the single largest share of the fiction market,” with over 90 percent of the consumers being women. Female-targeted erotica novel series like Fifty Shades of Grey are being turned into movies (the film grossed over $1.3 billion). In a recent Marie Claire survey of 3,000 women who sought out internet porn, 40 percent said they sought erotic stories. Erotica has proven to be a gateway to more “hardcore” content, which has led to a rise in women consuming this type of pornography.

And when it comes to curbing sexual assault and harassment, these ladies are right for wanting to curtail the consumption of pornography.

A recent review found 50 peer-reviewed studies directly linking porn use to sexual violence. Pornography also has been shown to play a role in shaping how women think they should be treated, leading to an increased likelihood that they will become victims of sexual assault by physical coercion or other abusive behavior. When you have nearly 80 percent of adult males consuming pornography, of which 88 percent of pornographic scenes are sexually violent against women, how do you think this will affect sexual behavior? In the era of #MeToo, we must look seriously at how pornography is shaping our cultural beliefs about what is acceptable behavior. 

Moral Ambiguity is Dissolving

The latest Barna research shows that just one in 20 young adults report talking with their friends about porn in a disapproving way.

But the evidence of its harmful effects are being brought to light. Much of the Notre Dame students’ letter cites the studies that acknowledge that pornography consumption is “associated with a host of issues: addiction, child sexual abuse, divorce, male fertility problems, sexual assault and the acceptance, normalization and sexualization of cruelty towards women. It contributes to prostitution, human trafficking and the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases.” I encourage you to read the full letter.

Yet many do not want to debate the morality of pornography. They would rather ignore the fact that this generation has been the primary subject of what has been dubbed “The Largest Unregulated Social Experiment In History.” Recognizing among their own personal relationships that pornography harms both the individual and society, buyer’s remorse on porn is slowly growing. Its devastating effects are being studied and recognized.

A Public Health Crisis

Pornography has been officially declared a public health crisis in five states, and the U.K. Parliament has been called upon to address pornography usage like other public health hazards in order to tackle sexual harassment of girls and women.

Society now warns potential users of the addictive harms of nicotine. Hopefully one day we will see  pornography in the same way.

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Social Conservative Review - November 1, 2018

by Daniel Hart

November 1, 2018

Dear Friends,

As our country grapples with yet another senseless, brutal, and evil act of violence, this time perpetrated against Jews worshipping in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the media is predictably churning out an avalanche of breathless accounts of who is to blame. Our collective energy as a nation would be much more valuably spent in reflection and prayer.

In the aftermath of such horrendous violence being perpetrated by one human being against fellow human beings, many rightly ask: how could someone do this? Only God knows the full answer to this question, but we can be certain of one thing: the attacker lacked empathy for his fellow man. Therefore, it is critical that our society spend more time pondering the concept of empathy, and increasingly put it into practice in our daily lives.

Empathy is the mental practice of putting oneself in the shoes of another in order to better understand what life must be like for that person. This practice seems relatively straightforward, but for most of us, it is difficult to do, because we human beings have a fallen natural tendency for selfishness and snap judgments. Just like everything else in life that is difficult yet worthwhile, we must work at practicing empathy. When we witness behavior from a person that we consider offensive, we must refrain from stereotyping the person based on their outward appearance. Similarly, we must refrain from making rash generalizations about groups of people based on ethnicity, religion, political views, etc. Instead, we must seek to better understand other people and avoid instant judgments of character.

When thinking about the actions and motivations of others, we must take into account a whole host of information before we can come to any fair conclusions. For the person in question, we must ask ourselves: What is the broader culture like where this person came from and how were they influenced by it? How was this person raised by their parents? Were they mistreated or abused as a child? What beliefs were taught to them growing up? And on and on. Obviously, we can’t know the answers to many of these questions without either research or first-hand knowledge. But we must make the effort so that we can better understand the reasons behind particular actions or words, and thereby have a better capacity for true empathy.

Jesus displayed empathy all over Scripture. When coming upon Matthew, a tax collector who was widely reviled, Jesus did not judge him by his place in society or apparent misdeeds of extortion. He saw the goodness in Matthew and his need for salvation, and invited him to become a disciple (Matthew 9:9). Similarly, rather than condemning the woman caught in adultery, Jesus rebuked those who were condemning her and invited her to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). All over Scripture, Jesus is said to have spent time in the company of sinners, which the Pharisees reviled Him for. Jesus displays a crucial trait here: His first instinct is mercy rather than condemnation, which shows that He empathizes with those He meets and responds to them with love.

We are called to do likewise. The more we make empathy our first reaction, the better chance we have of making it a habit rather than falling into the bad habit of snap judgments. When we fail to empathize with others, and instead burrow down the rabbit hole of stereotypes and prejudice based on outward appearances, the more we are prone to hate and dehumanize other people. The more we see others with empathetic eyes, as Christ did, the more we will grow in love and the more our world will flourish in peace and unity.

Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.

Sincerely,

Dan Hart
Managing Editor for Publications
Family Research Council

 

FRC Articles

We Must Turn to God to Find Healing, Unity and Restoration – Tony Perkins

HHS should put a stop to ObamaCare’s hidden abortion surcharge – Marjorie Dannenfelser and Tony Perkins

Trump transgender policy is simple and scientific: ‘Sex’ means biological sex – Peter Sprigg

Why Evangelicals Will Vote (It’s Not What You Think) – Tony Perkins

The Attack on Faith-Based Adoption Agencies – David Closson

Pastor Brunson’s Release: A View From the Courtroom – Travis Weber

Pastor Andrew Brunson’s release illustrates power and potential of Trump’s foreign policy – Tony Perkins

Pray Tell: Atheist Sues to Lead Legislative Prayer – Alexandra McPhee

Ala. Supreme Court Justice: Roe Cuts Off the Unborn’s Full Right to Life – Alexandra McPhee

The Gosnell Story: America Deserves to Know – Alyssa Grasinski

How Shall We Engage Politically? A Response to Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung – David Closson

Christianity’s Blessings to Society – Travis Weber

Pro-Life Law Upheld By Another Federal Court: Dare We Say “Momentum”? – Cathy Ruse

Our Moralized Social Tyranny and What Conservatives Can Do About It – Caleb Sutherlin

Our Gifts Received through Child Loss – Katy Downey

Atlanta’s Kelvin Cochran Settles the Score – Alexandra McPhee

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

School Bans Christmas Songs That Mention Jesus – ToddStarnes.com

Gosnell’ Filmmakers: Theaters Dropping Movie, Preventing People From Buying Tickets – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

Bakers Fined $135K Over Wedding Cake Appeal to Supreme Court – Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop Asks Court to Halt New Civil Rights Prosecution – Kevin Daley, The Daily Caller

ABC, NBC, CBS Ignore GOP Candidates Allegedly Assaulted by Left-Wing ‘Protesters’ – Kristine Marsh, NewsBusters

Atheists Put an End to Police Prayer Vigils, but Fail to Stop ‘Pastors on Patrol’ – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

School Bans Christian Athletes From Meeting on Campus – Jeremiah Poff, ToddStarnes.com

Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Are Under Siege in the US – Emily Jones, CBN News

Lawsuit challenges tax perks available to America’s pastors – Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News

Pensacola cross: Does Kavanaugh’s rise change the stakes? – Alabama.com

International Religious Freedom

China Must End Its Campaign of Religious Persecution – Sen. Chuck Grassley, Politico

The Secret and Surprising Ways Christians Worship in North Korea – Lindy Lowry, Open Doors USA

Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death rowBBC News

Oxford Students Vote to Ban Christian Group Over LGBT Claims of ‘Threat to Physical, Mental Safety’ – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

Turkey Arrests Another Pastor Just Days after Pastor Brunson is Released – Kayla Koslosky, ChristianHeadlines.com

Big Victory for Medical Conscience in Norway – Wesley J. Smith, National Review

Imprisoned Iranian Pastor Got Help From Unlikely Source to Spread Gospel – Mark Ellis, The Christian Post

American missionary shot and killed in ‘targeted’ attack weeks after moving family to Cameroon – Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News

Over 20 Chinese Christians Arrested for Sharing Gospel, Holding Public Worship Service – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

 

Life

Abortion

Alabama top court judge urges Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade – Gualberto Garcia Jones, LifeSiteNews

Nearly 60% of Millennials consider abortion a sin: new poll – James Risdon, LifeSiteNews

Abortion has been decriminalised in QueenslandSBS News

NIH Spends $13.5 Million on Aborted Baby Parts to Transplant Their Brain Tissue Into Mice – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews

Is It Possible to Be an Anti-Abortion Democrat? One Woman Tried to Find Out – Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times

65-year-old pro-lifer in hospital after being punched outside Florida Planned Parenthood – Calvin Freiburger, LifeNews

Abortion pills now available by mail in US — but FDA is investigating – Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Watching ‘Gosnell’ Shattered My Agnosticism On Abortion – Adam Mill, The Federalist

Adoption

After two generations of adoption, family finds incredible way to give back – Anna Reynolds, Live Action

Why adoption isn’t Plan A or B – Jenn Hesse, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Parents told they cannot do foster care due to Christian beliefs – The Bridgehead

Bioethics

The Dangerous Effects of Surrogacy: A Review of A Transnational Feminist View of Surrogacy Biomarkets in India – K. Blaine, Public Discourse

 

Family

Marriage

Love Has A Source – Fr. Billy Swan, Word on Fire

How All Relationships Prepare Us For MarriageVerily

Premarital Cohabitation Is Still Associated With Greater Odds of Divorce – Scott Stanley, Family Studies

Dear Husband, Having Kids Together Has Only Made Me Love You More – Celeste, HerViewFromHome

Why Does Graduate School Kill So Many Marriages? – Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Does Sexual History Affect Marital Happiness? – Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Family Studies

Parenting

Your Kids Are Not Projects or Burdens. They Are Gifts. – Cameron Cole, The Gospel Coalition

Getting Your Kids to Really Listen – Justin Coulson, Family Studies

Why it’s important to teach modern kids to “mind their manners” – Calah Alexander, Aleteia

Helping Low-Income Fathers Form Loving Relationships With Their Children – Natasha J. Cabrera, Family Studies

Silicon Valley Execs Get Your Kids Hooked On Their Gadgets, But Not Their Kids – Jessica Burke, The Federalist

Economics/Education

The Family Geography of the American Dream: New Neighborhood Data on Single Parenthood, Prisons, and Poverty – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

From the Great Recession to the Great Divide: Business and Economics in the Last Decade – Kelly Hanlon, Public Discourse

Tax-Cut Repeal Could Cost Americans $27K in Pay Over 10 Years, Study Says – Rachel del Guidice, The Daily Signal

Why America desperately needs another baby boom – Steven W. Mosher, New York Post

How Public Schools Indoctrinate Kids Without Almost Anyone Noticing – Auguste Meyrat, The Federalist

Faith/Character/Culture

The Joy We Know Only in Suffering – Marshall Segal, Desiring God

Where Is God? The Problem of Divine Hiddenness – Matt Nelson, Word on Fire

What Makes a Woman Strong – Kathleen Nielson, Desiring God

Rage Makes You Stupid – Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

Human Dignity Is Not a Political Platform – Tina Boesch, The Gospel Coalition

Are Siblings More Important Than Parents? – Ben Healy, The Atlantic

Human Sexuality

The Future of American Sexuality and Family: Five Key Trends – Mark Regnerus, Public Discourse

Satisfied in the Arms of Another – Christopher Asmus, Desiring God

Video: Understanding Sexual Exploitation – What Drives Our Objectification Culture? – Lisa L. Thompson, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Transing California Foster Children & Why Doctors Like Us Opposed It – Andre Van Mol, Public Discourse

The new taboo: More people regret sex change and want to ‘detransition’, surgeon says – Joe Shute, The Telegraph

Did Transgenderism End Political Correctness? – Jacob Airey, The Daily Wire

On Sex, the Trump Administration Returns to Reality and the Law – Ben Shapiro, National Review

Teacher Faces Punishment Over Objections to Girls Taking Showers With Boys – ToddStarnes.com

Trump’s Proposed Rollback of Transgender Policy Is Good News for Many Who Are Suffering – Walt Heyer, The Daily Signal

Pornography

How Pornography Prevents Intimacy in Your Marriage – Jonathan Daugherty, Focus on the Family

Porn problem is so serious that British MPs want to address it with public health campaign – James Risdon, LifeSiteNews

Beating the Odds: 10 indicators your marriage will survive porn addiction – Rob Jackson, Focus on the Family

Nepal Bans Pornography to Stem High Rate of Sexual AssaultNational Catholic Register

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Pray Tell: Atheist Sues to Lead Legislative Prayer

by Alexandra McPhee

November 1, 2018

In a peculiar turn of events, secularist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has argued before a federal appeals court that an atheist has the right to pray on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dan Barker, co-founder of FFRF, desired to serve as Rep. Mark Pocan’s (D-Wis.) guest in leading the opening prayer for the following legislative session. Barker is an atheist. His request was denied because it was determined that he did not meet the chaplain-policy requirements to give an invocation on the House floor. His lawsuit argues that the policy unconstitutionally discriminates against nonbelievers under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

It is ironic and hypocritical that the group that routinely seeks to box out religion from the public square is now invoking the principles of religious freedom in order to make a secular invocation in our national legislature.

This anomaly notwithstanding, the greater issue is that the current judicial precedent surrounding the Establishment Clause is so malleable (one federal circuit court judge called it “a hot mess” and “a wreck”) that even something as unobtrusive as prayer is no longer guaranteed protection in the public square. Coach Joe Kennedy of Washington is one example, and there are many more like him across the nation.

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia observed, 1970s-era Establishment Clause doctrine has created a “geometry of crooked lines and wavering shapes” in this area of constitutional law. So what should we expect out of the judges responsible for interpreting constitutional law at our nation’s highest court and in lower courts across the country?

To establish sound Establishment Clause (or any constitutional) doctrine, the most intellectually honest and sustainable approach is to look to the understanding of the Founders at the time they penned and ratified the U.S. Constitution. This means looking at history. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said, “The line we must draw between the permissible and the impermissible is one which accords with history and faithfully reflects the understanding of the Founding Fathers.” This idea of looking at the understanding of the drafters of any law is as true for the latest entry of the U.S. Code as it is for the First Amendment.

Barker’s case involves legislative prayer, which is specially recognized for its undeniable historical precedent. In fact, legislative prayer, or “divine service,” has taken place as early as the 1700s. Largely because of its deep roots in history, legislative prayer is considered constitutional. It is an instructive example of how the courts have used and should use legal history to determine the constitutionality of religion in the public square. Unfortunately, the same is not true for judicial precedent surrounding religiously inspired monuments or certain tax exemptions, which some argue should fail constitutional muster under the Establishment Clause.

Fortunately, scholars have observed a resurgence in the role of legal history in modern judicial decision-making at the Supreme Court. What’s more, President Donald Trump’s laser-like focus on the appointment of judges has resulted in “appointees [that] are showing themselves to be strong spokespeople for what is generally described as the conservative viewpoint.” As such, law professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh said, “[n]ew blood reopens old issues.” And even though this use of legal history, or “originalism,” has become associated with “the conservative viewpoint,” the fact is that it is “ideologically neutral. On various stormy issues, both the conservative and liberal factions . . . have found safe harbor in historical reasoning.” What all this means is stable judicial precedent—not the confusion that exists today.

As with the doctrine of legislative prayer, we need to return to our legal historical roots and use what we find there as our guiding principles for understanding the constitutionality of religion in the public square.

Moreover, with mid-term elections on the horizon, it is critical that we vote in U.S. Senators who will help appoint judges that protect our constitutional rights. Our Republican-controlled Senate has faithfully stewarded its advice-and-consent powers by helping appoint judges who value historical reasoning. We ought to vote for candidates who will continue this trend.

Public prayer in schools and the government workplace, for instance, is more constitutional than it’s given credit for. You can feel assured in this by looking no further than Article III of the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787, in which the Founding-era Congress stated, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

As for Barker and his legislative prayer case—we’ll have to see whether the judges in his case conclude that history is on his side.

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Ala. Supreme Court Justice: Roe Cuts Off the Unborn’s Full Right to Life

by Alexandra McPhee

October 31, 2018

In a concurring opinion, Justice Tom Parker of the Supreme Court of Alabama called on the nation’s highest court to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and remove the last major obstacle to the states’ right to enact protections for the unborn.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed that Jesse Livell Phillips will face the jury-recommended death penalty for the murder of his young wife and their unborn child. Prosecutors used Alabama’s Brody Act, one of several laws in Alabama that legally recognize the personhood of the unborn.

Justice Parker agreed with the outcome and wrote separately to denounce what he calls the “Roe exception.” Because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Roe, he writes, “the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion.” The “unborn child’s fundamental, inalienable, God-given right to life is the only right the states are prohibited from ensuring . . . .”

His proffer comes at a time when advocates on both sides of the life debate are keeping a close watch on the new makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and how it might rule in a case that allows it to revisit the holding in Roe. But for years Justice Parker has urged that the decision in Roe is outmoded, that the holding in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) meant to address the decision in Roe only created more issues, and that the unborn are “entitled to the full protection of law at every stage of development.”

Many (though not all) state legislatures agree. Americans United for Life comprehensively documents the “legal recognition of the unborn and newly born” available in every state. Another article covers the numerous state laws governing crime, tort, health care, property, and guardianship that recognize the personhood of the unborn.

But Justice Parker points out that “in spite of voluminous state laws recognizing that the lives of unborn children are increasingly entitled to full legal protection, the isolated Roe exception stubbornly endures.”

At least two courts have ruled on the side of life in cases about statutes requiring abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. But a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit may present the opportunity to strike at the heart of the matter and revisit the aberrational decision in Roe. If the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court take up the case on this ground, we hope they heed Justice Parker’s call for the restoration of the power of the states to protect the lives of the unborn in all areas of the law.

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The Gosnell Story: America Deserves to Know

by Alyssa Grasinski

October 26, 2018

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, based on The New York Times best-selling book, is a film dramatization of the true story of the investigation and trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, which debuted on October 12 and rose to the top 10 at the box office on its opening weekend. It grossed $1,162,988 in the first three days of its release.

The movie tells the story of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist convicted of three counts of first-degree murder as well as involuntary manslaughter. Gosnell’s abortion facility was raided in 2010 by the FBI, detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and others. There had been reports of illegal prescription drug activity, but what they found instead was a house of horrors, with blood on the floor, urine on the walls, a cat in the facility, cat feces on the stairs and in rooms, and much worse: “…semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.”

The grand jury report details some of the most shocking and horrifying actions that occurred in Gosnell’s abortion facility.

  • Gosnell often punctured women’s uteruses, bowels, and cervixes and left limbs and other body parts of partially aborted fetuses in women.
  • Unsanitary and reused instruments were utilized to tend to patients.
  • White women were treated in a superior manner to women of color, receiving privileges like placement in a cleaner room and administration of drugs by the doctor rather than a staff member. 

The staff at the facility were not properly licensed or trained and unlawfully practiced medicine unsupervised.

  • Fetal remains were found in various containers, some refrigerated and others frozen, including “bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and cat food containers.”
  • Investigators found the remains of 45 fetuses during the raid.
  • Among the fetal remains were rows of jars containing severed feet of aborted fetuses.

The practice Gosnell ran was largely fraudulent and money-centric.

  • For one woman who changed her mind about going through with the abortion, Gosnell refused to reimburse her the $1,300 she had paid.  
  • He fraudulently and illegally documented the age of unborn children for late term abortions as 24.5 weeks; he and his staff would manipulate ultrasounds to hide the real age. 

The patient who died at Gosnell’s abortion facility was named Karnamaya Mongar.

  • Mongar died due to repeated injections of narcotics administered by unlicensed staff.
  • Gosnell and his employees did not sufficiently attempt to save her life.
  • By the time she got to the Intensive Care Unit, she had no signs of neurological function and was pronounced dead. 

Gosnell had no regard for legal restrictions on abortions past 24 weeks.

  • Gosnell was known for his willingness to perform extremely late term abortions.
  • When babies were born alive, their spinal cords were cut with scissors and their skulls were often crushed and suctioned.
  • The staff members would administer large amounts of medication to the women, inducing them to deliver their babies without the presence of a doctor; babies “dropped out on lounge chairs, on the floor, and often in the toilet.”
  • Gosnell commented on the size of one of the babies born alive, saying the baby was “big enough to … walk me to the bus stop.”
  • A staff member played with one of the babies born alive before slitting its neck.

We all deserve better than Gosnell and abortion.

Gosnell was held accountable for his crimes and is serving multiple life sentences in prison. Now that a few years have passed, we are still left asking why there are not better standards for women. For example, in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt opinion, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer referred to Gosnell’s behavior as “terribly wrong,” but denied that any further regulation, specifically admitting privileges (which allow a doctor the ability to admit patients to a particular hospital for services or care) would have made any difference in the outcome. Justice Alito, on the other hand, argued that if Pennsylvania had required “abortion clinics to comply with the same regulations as Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs),” which was recommended by the Philadelphia grand jury that investigated the case, “the Gosnell facility might have been shut down before his crimes” took place.

Even so, Gosnell was already violating countless basic regulations that were already in place and if the state had enforced the regulations that were in place and imposed further restrictions, perhaps Karnamaya Mongar would be alive today. Because of bureaucratic entities turning a blind eye to the practices of Gosnell for over 30 years, we will never know the true totality of his devastation on humanity.

Racism is inherent to the abortion industry.

The idea that white women would be treated more favorably and separately from women of color in a modern-day practice or business of any kind is absurd. However, one of the abortion industry’s best-kept secrets is that the black community is by far the most affected by abortion than any other race. In 2014, black women were 3.5 times more likely to abort a pregnancy than white women; 28 percent of all abortions were performed on black women. Abortion disproportionately affects the black community and perpetuates the negative treatment, and ultimately, discrimination of black women in comparison to women of other races. More abortion will not remedy this controversy.

Indiana and Arizona have addressed this issue by enacting laws that prohibit abortion on the basis of race and other characteristics. Arizona’s 2011 law prohibited abortion based on sex and race; the ACLU of Arizona filed suit challenging the law after its enactment, but the case was dismissed because of lack of standing. Indiana passed HEA 1337 in 2016, which prohibited abortion based on sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed a lawsuit and the law has since been enjoined from enforcement.

Abortion facilities should be held to the same standard as hospitals.

In addition to legislation focused on the preborn child, state legislatures have recognized the urgency and need for introducing and enacting statutes aimed at holding abortion facilities to higher standards, especially in a post-Gosnell reality.

For example, a 2013 Wisconsin statute, Wis. Stat. § 253.095(2), prohibited a doctor from performing an abortion without holding admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the abortion facility. In response to a challenge of the statute, the court affirmed the district court’s opinion granting the permanent injunction of the law, citing as one of the reasons the “rarity of complications of abortion that require hospitalization.” (Planned Parenthood of Wis., Inc. v. Schimel, 806 F.3d 908 (7th Cir. 2015)). Similarly, the state of Texas enacted a law in 2013 requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The law was challenged but was upheld as constitutional (Planned Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 748 F.3d 583 (5th Cir. 2014)).

Women continue to suffer from abortion facility malpractice.

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of moving on from Gosnell and believing that the horrors he perpetrated are strictly in the past. Similar atrocities are still occurring today. A Planned Parenthood in Chicago has been the source from which “at least six known women have been hospitalized from botched abortions since November 2017.” Multiple abortion patients have experienced heavy and uncontrolled bleeding that required ambulances to be called. Another woman required hospitalization for seizures after an abortion. The reality is that there are still abortion facilities that offer sub-par services and treatment that lead to injured women.    

Whether you believe the practice of abortion is unethical and should be ended entirely or that it should be available to women as a “standard medical procedure,” everyone should at least agree that women deserve proper care and that standards should be put in place to ensure that this happens.

The Gosnell movie has performed quite well at the box office, which is a demonstration of the movie’s quality and importance. You can purchase tickets and find local theater listings here. Watching this film is a must in order to further understand what can happen when regulations are not placed on abortion facilities, and how bureaucratic entities are more committed to political ideology than the safety and protection of women. Let us hope that this film will serve as a stirring reminder to us all that women deserve better.

Alyssa Grasinski is an intern at Family Research Council.

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