April 27, 2016
Modern culture is overloaded with news, social media, electronic images, technological advances, advertisements and so forth. The limits of our time and attention are pressed to new boundaries every day by the flood of external data hitting us from every angle.
There is so much happening in our society and our world that keeping up with it all is impossible. So, with respect to issues of concern to social conservatives and Christians who care deeply about the future of our country, the dignity of all people, and the persecuted around the world, FRC brings you The Social Conservative Review. It’s a unique, one-stop-shop for news and commentary about the critical moral and cultural issues of our time.
This is a content-heavy edition of SoCon. That’s because there’s much to report in the key areas where FRC works to advance religious liberty, human dignity, the health of the family, and the sanctity of life. But that’s also why we send out these editions every two weeks, to give you a chance to read the best of the Web on the issues you care about.
Thanks for your heart for the good things for which FRC stands. Pray we’ll keep standing, and moving forward, with the grace and truth Jesus embodied.
Family Research Council
“Free to Believe”
April 27, 2016
After oral argument this morning in United States v. Sterling before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, there is reason to remain hopeful that the court will see the clear Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim in this case and that the appellant will prevail on that claim. The case, concerning a Marine lance corporal’s posting of verses of scripture at her desk, and subsequent court martial for refusing to remove them, has significant implications for religious freedom in the military.
As Paul Clement, arguing for the appellant, pointed out: the RFRA analysis is straightforward in this case. RFRA protects “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” Clearly, posting Bible verses are an exercise of religion. And this exercise was substantially burdened in this case by the special court martial conviction imposed after the lance corporal refused to compromise her religious exercise by taking down the verses. The Supreme Court has found a substantial burden on much less punishment from the government. While not diminishing the unique needs of the military to maintain good order and discipline, Clement highlighted the clear religious freedom violation in this case.
The government tried to dispute the presence of a substantial burden, but the cases on this point are not helpful to the government. Its attorney tried to argue that a hypothetical religious belief requiring adherents to write in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the White House would not be allowed and is therefore not substantially burdened, but this is a flat-out misunderstanding of RFRA! Such a belief may in fact be substantially burdened, but would not be permitted because the government has a compelling interest in the security of that property.
The government also wanted to focus on the need of the lance corporal to obtain some sort of “accommodation,” claiming the way it was handled here showed the “lack of a substantial burden.” But this is a mere attempt to distract from the plain text of RFRA.
Upon questioning from the judges, the government expressly admitted the quite obvious fact that RFRA applies to the military. (One judge seemed to grasp that the government was in a tough spot because RFRA applies to the “government as a whole,” which includes the military.) The government also admitted it didn’t know this was a RFRA case in the trial below, which (if believable)—while not letting it off the hook—further highlights sloppy handling of the claim below. (The lance corporal invoked DODI 1300.17, which contains the same standard as RFRA, and other evidence clearly indicates she was bringing a religious exercise claim). While the government tried to shift attention away from RFRA because a straightforward RFRA analysis is harmful to its case, it is clear that the military knew religious exercise was at play here, and substantially burdened this exercise by court martialing the service member engaged in it.
The government wanted to argue that because the lance corporal (who did not have the helpful assistance of an attorney in the courts below, which the chief judge noted required granting her actions more deference) did not literally say “RFRA” or “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” she has now waived the religious exercise claim. This is just silly. The government clearly was on notice that her claim was religious.
Paul Clement pointed this out in his closing argument, noting there is no “magic words” test in applying RFRA. In addition, the trial court clearly recognized the religious nature of the postings, he said. Finally, the “accommodation” issue does not decide the substantial burden question! (The government seemed to need help understanding this.) In summary, the lower court falsely applied a far too restrictive understanding of RFRA, and must be reversed, Clement argued.
A win for the appellant in this case is a win for both religious exercise and the readiness of our military as a whole, for our armed forces can only be strengthened as their individual members draw upon faith to face hardship and danger in battle.
What should happen here? As Clement noted, there should be an obvious application of the text of RFRA. When this analysis is conducted, the lance corporal wins. Let us hope the court sees this as clearly as it decides this case in the coming months.
April 21, 2016
Ideas have consequences, Richard Weaver reminded us years ago. What someone believes will affect his behavior. What society endorses will consummate in certain results.
We are living in a time when blurry is the new normal. As Christian rocker Randy Stonehill wrote years ago:
Right is wrong and wrong is right
White is black and black is white
I think I just lost my appetite
Stop the world I wanna get off
Well, his last plea cannot be fulfilled (and where would we go if it could?), but his larger point—moral confusion is one of the gods of the age—is more valid by the day. Here are some scenarios that are wholly possible at a time when gender is seen as “fluid,” petulant insistencies are seen as “rights,” and petty (and often fabricated) emotional duress is seen as “micro-aggressive.”
Transgender use of restrooms and showers: A man, clothed in attire traditionally identified as masculine and short, crisply-parted hair, walks into a women’s locker room at a gym. The women there are upset and demand he leave. His response: “I am a transgendered man who prefers wearing men’s clothing and cutting my hair in a manner consistent with accepted norms for professional male hairstyles. But I identify as a woman and have every right to be here.”
Marriage: Three men and two women insist upon the right to marry. They argue that the definition of marriage as the union of only two people is arbitrary and culturally-based. They assert that their affection for and commitment to one another, and their free volitional choice to unite in matrimony, entitle them to legal marriage. They cite Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s statement in his Obergefell opinion that “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” If two people become something greater than once they were, how much greater will five? Who is anyone to say that the five of them don’t mutually fill one another’s needs uniquely?
Legal accountability: “A Connecticut judge declined on (April 14) to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the maker of the assault-style rifle that a gunman used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School to fatally shoot 26 people before killing himself,” reported the New York Times earlier this month.
How about this: A woman is hit by a drunk driver and experiences physical trauma. She sues the manufacturer of the vehicle’s tires for enabling the guy behind the wheel to automate his car and, in his drunken state, hit her.
Hate speech and coercive silence: Is it hateful to quote a Bible verse, express a controversial opinion, or hold an unpopular view? Fascism was supposed to have been America’s enemy in the Second World War; is it now our accepted modus vivendi?
“The University of California, Los Angeles Graduate Student Association approved a resolution Wednesday calling those who do not support a pro-Palestine agenda ‘Islamophobic’,” according to reporter Peter Fricke. This is but one example of hundreds, even thousands, of how the Left is seeking to compel uniform cultural allegiance to its agenda and the silencing of those who resist it.
Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and an Obama appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes it very clear that religious liberty is subordinate to the special privileges of people who identify as lesbian or gay:
For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed-and-breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making that decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.
What’s next? How about these:
- Teaching the eternal destruction of those who refuse to trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord is made illegal as it is “hateful.”
- Telling one’s daughter she must dress as a girl is deemed “oppressive” and “genderist.”
- Preventing people from eating certain foods because they are deemed inherently unhealthy, or in some way tracking the eating habits of ordinary citizens so as to restrict their intake of various kinds of foods.
- The Supreme Court voiding all laws against full legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages.
April 15, 2016
In yet the latest example of cognitive hypocrisy by the Left, Sen. Barbara Boxer berated a Catholic priest during a hearing on Wednesday for not explicitly agreeing with Pope Francis’s views on the causes of climate change.
It’s at once a maddening yet unsurprising phenomenon: to trumpet the Pope’s stature as a moral authority whenever it is most convenient by belittling those who disagree with him on a scientific issue like climate change, while at the same time remaining entirely silent and apparently having complete disregard for anything he says about matters of faith and morals, like abortion, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, etc.
As the priest pointed out during the hearing, Pope Francis does not and would never claim to be “infallible” or even have any sort of professional expertise in matters of science. It is only “when he speaks on moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and the like, then he speaks on magisterial authority.”
In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) released on April 8, Pope Francis wrote these eloquent words in regard to the weakening of marriage and the family:
No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?
“Some societies still maintain the practice of polygamy; in other places, arranged marriages are an enduring practice… In many places, not only in the West, the practice of living together before marriage is widespread, as well as a type of cohabitation which totally excludes any intention to marry.” In various countries, legislation facilitates a growing variety of alternatives to marriage, with the result that marriage, with its characteristics of exclusivity, indissolubility and openness to life, comes to appear as an old-fashioned and outdated option. Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal. The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family’s problems, it can always grow, beginning with love.”
On the one hand, it’s great that the Left is so eager to revere the Pope’s words (Sen. Boxer emphasized several times in the hearing that she wasn’t just citing anyone, but “the Pope”). Maybe someday they will find the time to actually engage and wrestle in their souls with what Francis says in the area of faith and morals, not just in the cherry-picked topics that happen to align with their agenda.
April 15, 2016
News about the persecution of Christians around the world has become more frequent and more vivid. We are jarred by the growing stream of photos showing bloodied corpses and crying children, by reports of gruesome slaughter and indiscriminate massacres. In many places, professing faith in Jesus is requiring the ultimate sacrifice.
FRC is calling on Christians throughout America to “Stand with the Persecuted” this coming Sunday, April 17th. With our friends at Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, In Defense of Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, International Christian Concern, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, we’re issuing a call for churches nationwide to show a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body,” we read in Hebrews 13:3 (ESV). This coming Sunday, let’s do just that.
Family Research Council
April 11, 2016
With Governor Bryant’s signature on HB 1523, Mississippi joins other states taking steps to protect the freedom to believe in the post-Obergefell world. It is the first state to pass comprehensive legislation aligning with the federal First Amendment Defense Act to protect private citizens from the heavy hand of government that may seek to penalize them for supporting natural marriage after last year’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
HB 1523 is simple: it prevents the government from telling individuals and entities they are excluded from working with the government and can’t receive the same treatment everyone else receives simply because they still believe marriage is between a man and a woman. In essence, it prevents government discrimination against private citizens.
Most people get that such discrimination should not be permitted. One recent poll shows nearly two-thirds of Mississippi voters want to protect pastors, churches, schools, and businesses from government discrimination. Another poll last year found that 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.”
Now that Mississippi has passed such needed protections, the way is open for other states and the federal government to do the same.
April 5, 2016
In a serious, probing article in Christianity Today, political scientist David Koyzis argues that American Christians are facing an increasingly hostile culture, one which may drive them to a position of respectful but undeniable defiance to a usurping state.
As FRC has documented, there are far too many examples of believers in our country whose convictions concerning the Savior’s truth outweigh their willingness to accede to government’s demands. Will this become more widespread? Undoubtedly, if we refuse to use the political tools we possess to defend our God-given liberties.
Koyzis’s piece is cautious and thorough. Not every reader of this blog will agree with all of his conclusions, but his efforts to be faithful to Scripture’s demands are admirable and there is much truth to be gleaned from his observations. As we might be coming to a time when, as the Body of Christ, we will need to “obey God, rather than man,” as Peter put it (Acts 5:29), honest followers of Jesus should contemplate what might be required of them.
Below, I excerpt a few passages from the article I found particularly bracing.
Among (American) believers, complaining about Caesar’s heavy yoke can look like an affront to victims of genuine persecution—the violent kind meted out by ISIS fighters. It all adds up to a strong presumption that unless there’s a clear family resemblance to the civil rights movement, civil disobedience is simply beyond the pale.
But given the trend lines of our culture, it’s time to rethink this presumption. Christians face intensifying pressure to compromise their convictions and conform to secular ideologies. Calculated lawbreaking won’t be the right response to every government provocation, and it should never be undertaken lightly—especially in democratic societies where offensive laws can be debated, protested, and changed. But no one who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord can meekly submit to the proposition that man-made laws are sacred and inviolable. We need to restore a bold willingness to treat principled resistance as a live possibility, rather than a relic of a bygone era … (Emphasis mine)
Where we can change laws and constitutions, let’s make every effort to do so. But it’s no secret that Christian convictions run seriously afoul of the spirit of the age. Caesar’s edicts may create situations where living them out puts us on the wrong side of the law.
Civil disobedience is our very last resort, to be contemplated only with fear and trembling. But by no means can faithful believers rule it out of bounds.
March 31, 2016
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable. Consider what happened last year when 21 Christians were beheaded on a beach along the shores of the Mediterranean:
Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity. “We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, “Two Rows by the Sea” (the story of the Libyan victims) was sent to the printer. One week later, 1.65 million copies (had) been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.
We weep with the families of those slain and pray for their killers. But we also rejoice that what man planned for evil, God has used for good (Genesis 50:20).
Yet even as human evil can be employed by the Lord of all for His glory, He never excuses or countenances it, and He calls on His people to oppose it (see, as just one of many scriptural examples, Psalm 82:3-4).
That’s why FRC and our allies Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, In Defense of Christians, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are hosting “Stand with the Persecuted Sunday” on April 17th.
We are calling on churches across America to “view a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.”
To learn how your church can participate, go to http://frc.org/stand. Stand with “the least of these, His brethren,” and thereby stand with the unstoppable Lord Jesus Himself.
March 31, 2016
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“Ten states in the US now ban some of the most inhumane forms of animal confinement, several including rules on the treatment of egg-laying hens,” writes Humane Society Vice-President Paul Shapiro in Quartz. “The more Americans learned about how eggs are produced, the greater their concerns over animal cruelty became. The changing tides pushed both lawmakers and corporations to act.”
No decent person should rejoice over cruelty to any animal. But how about unborn children?
On Monday of this week, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a measure “requiring doctors to administer anesthesia to women receiving an abortion at the 20th week of gestation … The bill, the first of its kind in the nation according to the Salt Lake Tribune, states that an anesthetic or analgesic will ‘eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child’.”
“A growing body of science reveals (that) unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization,” writes the Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, in her study of fetal pain. Yet for taking this thoughtful, commonsense, and simply humane step, Gov. Herbert has been castigated by abortion advocates and their allies in the media.
“The legislation is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point,” writes the New York Times. The online magazine Slate accuses the governor of “defying medical ethics.” And the Leftist Think Progress site shouts that the Utah bill “Could Literally Kill Women.”
Why are these proponents of abortion-on-demand so upset? Because the Utah bill operates from the premise that the unborn child should not be dismembered without at least some numbing of its excruciating pain, which itself implies that the unborn child must have some value.
This they cannot admit: If the unborn child has any value independent of her mother, she must be – what, a person? And that would mean that maybe we should revisit the whole elective-abortion-at-any-time regime imposed by Roe v. Wade, the sacred text of radical sexual autonomy and a culture that dehumanizes life within the womb.
Yes, let’s treat chickens with consideration. But those who see legalized and unrestricted access to abortion as among the highest priorities in our national life should consider the words of Jesus to His disciples: “You” — people made in the image and likeness of God, from fertilization onward (Psalm 139:13-16) — “are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). And many chickens, too.
Robert F. Schwarzwalder, Jr.
Family Research Council
P.S. At noon on April 6, be sure to watch FRC’s panel discussion, “Religious Liberty Around the World: Where We Stand as of Spring 2016,” hosted by the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, international human rights attorney Travis Weber, and featuring national leaders in the effort to protect the persecuted in all countries.
“Free to Believe” –
International Religious freedom-
Military Religious Freedom
Religious Liberty in the public square
Human Sexuality (Homosexual/ gender issues)
March 28, 2016
Yesterday, “Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility” for a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan that killed at least 69 people and wounded about 300. Why? Jamaat-e-Ahrar makes its reason very clear: “Its spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a statement that Christians were the target.”
The Taliban murders Christians on Easter Sunday: This is the essential headline of myriad news reports, at home and abroad. But you’d never know that Christians were in the killers’ bulls-eye from the U.S. State Department’s news release. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan. This cowardly act, which targeted innocent civilians in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, has killed dozens and left scores injured,” says the statement. No mention of the Taliban. No mention of Islamism and it’s brutal aggression. And no mention of Christians.
What happened yesterday in Lahore was the mass murder of Christians by Muslim radicals. This is not a statement of bigotry or an overreaction to violence. It is not inflammatory or hostile or anti-Muslim. It is a statement of fact, based on the remarks of the killers’ official spokesman (a sickening thought — barbarians have a “spokesman”) and the indisputable carnage at a park where Christian children were playing after Sunday services.
Yet this administration cannot summon the moral courage to say what actually and obviously occurred. This is repulsive and a shame to our country, which proclaims itself “the home of the brave.”
Former federal prosecutor and expert on radical Islam Andy McCarthy, in a recent lecture at Hillsdale College, said, “In the real world, we must deal with the facts of Islamic supremacism, because its jihadist legions have every intention of dealing with us. But we can only defeat them if we resolve to see them for what they are.”
The Obama Administration lacks such resolve. Its fear of giving offense exceeds its willingness to defeat our enemies. Brussels, Lahore, San Bernardino, 9-11: the list goes on and on, as does the Islamists’ intention of destroying us.
It is hard to know how to destroy an ideology grounded in a fanatical faith. But at least we can destroy those of its adherents intent on spreading their faith through vicious brutality. We must do this, even if it necessitates a recognition that such destruction could be a multi-generational endeavor. The security of 320 million Americans and the dignity of human life worldwide demand it.
Listen to FRC’s Executive Vice-President, Lt. Gen. (ret) Jerry Boykin, talk with FRC President Tony Perkins about the threat of radical Islam in a March 21 broadcast of Tony’s “Washington Watch” radio program.