Month Archives: May 2017

Hungarian Megachurch a Model of Salt and Light in Europe

by Peter Sprigg

May 31, 2017

FRC’s Director of the Center for Religious Liberty Travis Weber and I attended several events of the Budapest Family Summit in the Hungarian capital last week, including the Budapest Demographic Forum, the 11th World Congress of Families, and a Family Festival. We have already reported here on the address given on the opening day by Hungary’s conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

However, another highlight of the trip for Travis and I was getting two opportunities to speak at Faith Church, a charismatic mega-church in Budapest which also assisted in organizing several events in connection with the Budapest Family Summit.

Faith Church was founded in 1979, when Hungary was still under Communist rule, by Sandor Nemeth, who remains its pastor to this day. He and his wife began a small Bible study, which has grown to the point that Faith Church is now the center of a network of other congregations in multiple countries.

The pastor and several of his associates visited Family Research Council on a trip to Washington several years ago. As a result of that contact, Travis and I reached out to the church to let them know that we would be in Budapest. Leaders at Faith Church invited us not only to visit the church, but to speak to a youth gathering on Friday night.

This “youth group” turned out to be an audience of at least four hundred young people, including many students at the college and seminary run by the church, known as St. Paul Academy. I addressed the group about my work on the issues of marriage, family, and human sexuality, and Travis spoke about his field of religious liberty. They then fielded questions from the audience—all while a translator translated their remarks line by line into Hungarian. The entire meeting lasted three hours.

Travis and I were then invited back on Saturday to speak again—this time to the church’s main weekly worship service, which regularly draws between eight and ten thousand attendees. In addition to us, three other Americans from the World Congress of Families were invited to address the church—Larry Jacobs, Managing Director of the WCF, long-time pro-family leader Janice Crouse, and Ted Baehr of Movieguide.

Faith Church also now operates a TV network, a radio station (for which Travis and I were also interviewed), and a news magazine. The church also maintains close ties with the nation of Israel and has worked against anti-Semitism. Faith Church is modeling in Hungary the kind of cultural impact that Christians can have when they serve as salt and light in their community.

Budapest Family Summit Explores Ways to Revitalize the Family

by Peter Sprigg

May 30, 2017

On Thursday, May 25th, pro-family leaders from around the world gathered in the capital of Hungary for what local organizers have dubbed the “Budapest Family Summit.” Day One of the event was the second “Budapest Demographic Forum”—a focus on the demographic issues of declining birth and fertility rates which are plaguing virtually all of the world’s developed countries, including Europe. Despite long-discredited theories about the dangers of over-population, the real crisis of the West is declining population—especially as other countries (including the Muslim world) continue to grow. The event continued Friday and Saturday with the latest World Congress of Families. Family Research Council is being represented by myself and Senior Fellow Travis Weber.

One unique aspect of the Budapest summit, in comparison with other World Congress of Families events, is that the Hungarian government itself is a principal sponsor. Katalin Novak, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family, Youth, and International Affairs, is the event’s chief organizer and host.

Furthermore, the highlight of Thursday’s kickoff session was an address by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, who returned to Budapest from the NATO leaders summit in Brussels in time to address the Forum. Orban is the dynamic and sometimes controversial leader of Hungary’s governing center-right coalition (he was the subject of a major profile in Politico last year). In 2015, he closed Hungary’s southern border to a flood of illegal immigrants from the south. Orban is also unashamedly pro-family—when his coalition was large enough to amend the country’s constitution, one provision they added was to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In his address to the Demographic Summit today, Orban did not hesitate to link the issues of immigration and family in the context of the “competition of civilizations.” He bluntly warned that Europe, with its declining population, is “old, rich, and weak,” while the growing countries around it are “young, poor, and strong”—making the likely direction of population flows obvious.

Yet while some people suggest that the West should welcome immigrants precisely as a solution to its population woes, Orban bluntly rejected that option, saying that the countries of Central Europe, including Hungary, prefer the “renewal of our own resources.”

Toward that end, he declared that 2018 will be “the Year of Families” in Hungary, and announced a goal of raising Hungary’s fertility rate (the average number of children borne by a woman in her lifetime) to 2.1 (considered the “replacement” level necessary to maintain a stable population) by 2030.

One notable characteristic at international gatherings like this is that in Europe, even conservative governments are more likely to see government intervention and incentives as a solution to family issues, while in the United States, most pro-family conservatives are also supporters of a free market and limited government, and therefore are more skeptical of government intervention. Orban, for example, proposed to write off student loans and offer subsidies for mortgage payments for families with three or more children. He also proposed building more child-care facilities for the benefit of working parents—although American pro-family activists generally prefer policies that might make it easier for parents to care for their own children at home.

It should be noted that several speakers made clear that the intention is not for government to dictate how many children people should have or to punish those who choose not to become parents. However, surveys regarding how many children people would like to have consistently show that the number is higher than the number they actually have. So the goal of pro-natal policy is not to make people have children they don’t want, but to clear away obstacles that may prevent them from having as many children as they do want.

In addition to Orban and several other government officials from Hungary and other European countries, speakers at the Forum included former FRC staffers like Pat Fagan of MARRI and Allan Carlson.

Stay tuned for further updates from Budapest.

A Fitting Tribute to Memorial Day

by Chris Gacek

May 26, 2017

If you want to do something on Memorial Day Weekend to honor those fallen and missing in our wars, I suggest that you watch a magnificent PBS documentary entitled, “These Hallowed Grounds.” PBS describes the film this way:

Hallowed Grounds visits 22 of America’s overseas military cemeteries, and tells the story of these remarkable places with historical sequences about the wars and battles that created them, and moving vignettes and interviews about the men and women who rest in them. Created after World War I and World War II, these cemeteries are some of America’s great national treasures.

There are a number of different ways to watch it. PBS provides this site that allows it to be watched online. It can also be watched here on YouTube. Finally, there is an embedded player in this review of the film by Warner Todd Huston (May 29, 2016) on Breitbart.

Even though the documentary describes only the graves of those lost and missing in World War I and World War II, one’s thoughts of those who fell, were wounded, or lost in previous and later wars are not far from one’s mind.

These Hallowed Grounds” is a powerful antidote to the narratives often taught to the young that America has not been a force for good in the world. The story of the fallen and the foreign friends of Americans who visit the cemeteries tell a far different story.

Please watch and remember with your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. They deserve to know the truth about America and its hundreds of thousands of heroes.

FRC’s Arina Grossu Speaks at New D.C. Abortion Business Operated by Controversial Abortionist

by Arina Grossu

May 26, 2017

Yesterday, Arina Grossu, Family Research Council’s Director of the Center for Human Dignity, along with other pro-life leaders held a press conference outside of a new D.C. abortion business that Steven Brigham, one of the most infamous abortionists in America, opened up. The following is a transcript of her speech:

It is incredibly unfortunate that we must be here today. It is an outrage and a shame that Steven Brigham, an incredibly dangerous and unscrupulous abortionist, has opened up a new abortion business in our nation’s capital. Brigham runs sham, Gosnell-like abortion operations wherever he sets up shop. Brigham has had his medical licenses revoked in six states because he practices illegal scams and gross negligence such as starting abortions in one state, then crossing state lines to complete them in order to skirt the rule of law. Brigham commits abortions, even late-term abortions, although he has never completed his residency in either obstetrics or gynecology.  

He was caught illegally committing abortions in Maryland although he was never licensed there.  He has operated at least two illegal late-term abortion businesses. Brigham was arrested in 2010 and even faced multiple counts of murder charges involving late-term abortions. 

He has lost at least $6.5 million in malpractice lawsuits and has injured many women including an 18-year-old woman who had such severe injuries that she had to be transported via helicopter to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. She was rushed into an emergency surgery where doctors removed the remains of her partially aborted baby, removed and repaired part of her injured small intestine, and repaired her ruptured uterus.

He has lied to previous landlords about the nature of his business and has been evicted from various offices, owing $37,000 in back rent to one Delaware landlord. He did not even tell this landlord about his abortion business until pro-life leaders told him. He also has a history of fraudulent billing practices.

This man is a danger to women and to society, trespassing the rule of law time and time again. 

Where is the outrage from Planned Parenthood or feminists who purport to care about women’s health and safety? We are deeply concerned about women’s health and safety at the hands of Brigham. His practice reveals to us the horrific and shocking reality of the abortion industry.

D.C. must immediately stop Brigham from bringing his horrific, shoddy abortion practice to our nation’s capital. We call on officials to close this business immediately. How has Brigham been able to hop around states, bringing with him his horrific abortion practices? Shouldn’t abortion facilities have more oversight than veterinary clinics, dentists’ offices, tanning salons, and tattoo parlors? All of our states and the District must pass abortion facility regulations to protect the health and safety of women from dangerous abortionists like Brigham.

Blasphemy Laws” Violate Religious Liberty

by Travis Weber

May 24, 2017

Yesterday, the Christian governor of Jakarta, Indonesia – Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – decided to drop the appeal of his blasphemy conviction, for which he will now serve two years in jail. The reason? Fears of the possibility that the sentence may be lengthened, and concerns about continued violent clashes between factions on different sides of the case. Whatever the precise reason (and criminal defendants often have several reasons factoring into their decision), allowing outside social pressure to affect the continued incarceration of Mr. Basuki is an absolute tragedy.

Blasphemy laws – aside from being a violation of the human right of freedom of religion – are notoriously abused to target political and social opponents. In the past, Indonesia hasn’t been at the center of such misuse – as has Pakistan – and for this reason such developments are all the more concerning. While Mr. Basuki is obviously entitled to make his own decision regarding his case, the circumstances surrounding it are a bad omen for the future of Indonesian democracy and rule of law in that country, and do not set a good precedent for standing up to hardline Islamists favoring such laws.

The application of the laws themselves to people like Mr. Basuki – who though not Muslim was charged and convicted (and sentenced beyond what the prosecutor even asked for!) of the religious crime after he cited a Quranic verse in public debate (and after radical Muslims protested) – is bad enough. This is a human rights problem. It compounds the problem when such laws are abused and taken advantage of to eliminate political opponents – which is a rule of law problem. Both issues need to be corrected in Indonesia (and other places) going forward.

Emotionally Manipulative Videos Can’t Save Planned Parenthood

by Daniel Hart

May 19, 2017

First, it was Star Wars director J.J. Abrams. Now, Avengers director Joss Whedon has joined the Planned Parenthood bandwagon. A Whedon-directed video entitled “UNLOCKED” was recently released portraying Planned Parenthood as the savior of women by providing cancer screenings, STD prevention classes, and birth control.

It’s a video that is long on emotional, slow-motion tracking shots accompanied by heart-rending orchestration, but short on factual reality. The first myth of “UNLOCKED” is that without Planned Parenthood, countless women would be robbed of vital cancer screenings. But this is simply not the case. According to Planned Parenthood’s own numbers, they provide a fraction of care nationwide:

Planned Parenthood performed 271,539 Pap tests in fiscal year 2014-15, out of 28.1 million tests nationwide. That’s less than 1% of the nation’s Pap tests.

Planned Parenthood performed 363,803 clinical breast exams (these are not mammograms) in fiscal year 2014-15, out of 20 million exams nationwide. Planned Parenthood’s U.S. market share for clinical breast exams is 1.8%.

Planned Parenthood’s market share in the nation’s mammograms is 0.0%. Meaning, no, they do not provide any mammograms… at all.

It’s clear from these numbers that the 13,540 health care centers in the U.S. would have no problem picking up an additional 1-2% of cancer screenings, showing that Planned Parenthood is in no way “vital” to women’s health care.

Another myth propagated by the video is that women need birth control pills in order to save them from a life of uneducated misery in servitude to a baby. This is dramatized by showing a pregnant young woman crumpling up a college scholarship, while her mother wails in agony. But if “female empowerment” is the goal, why portray an unplanned pregnancy as a hopeless void? Can’t a situation that millions of women have experienced instead be an opportunity for new beginnings and the pursuit of new dreams? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Here is another example. And here is a direct response to Whedon’s video from a woman who experienced an unplanned pregnancy herself: “Unlike the video, I had scholarships and I used them and I kept them because that’s obviously an option. And I succeeded.”

An additional glaring hypocrisy presented in “UNLOCKED” is that it positively portrays STD prevention classes and birth control pills side by side as if both are vital services to promote young women’s health. But if preventing STDs is the goal, birth control pills certainly aren’t going to help. They will in fact heighten the problem if used by young, unmarried women because of the lifestyle they inherently promote: consequence-free sex with whoever you want.

All of this is mere window dressing to what Planned Parenthood’s business is really all about: abortion. It’s by far the most massive irony in “UNLOCKED”—the biggest “service” that Planned Parenthood provides isn’t given even a passing mention in the video. One third of all abortions committed in the U.S. are done at Planned Parenthood, and the resulting baby body parts are sold for profit. It’s no surprise that Joss Whedon decided not to include that scene in the final cut.

New Research Shows “Adult-Like” Nerves in Very Young Embryos: Affirming the Likelihood of Fetal Pain

by Arina Grossu

May 16, 2017

This article first appeared at CareNet.


This new research shows that the nervous system of an embryo is quite complex by the time most women find out they are pregnant.

A study published in March 2017 reveals “adult-like” pattern of nerves established before the end of the first trimester. This new dose of science and technology should inform our fetal pain debate.

The study generated 3D images at the cellular level of actual human embryos ranging from 6 to 14 weeks gestation (4 to 12 weeks post-fertilization), as never before seen. These images show nerve, muscular, cardiovascular, and other organ system development. The results are incredible. For example, below is an image of the complex peripheral nerves of an embryo at 7 to 8 weeks gestation (5-6 weeks post-fertilization):

fetal pain.png

The second image shows the nerves on the right hand of embryos from 7-11 weeks gestation (5-9 weeks post-fertilization). Even at 7 weeks gestation, the development is quite advanced—even more so at 11 weeks. All of this is happening in the first trimester!

fetal pain 2.png

What this new research shows is that the nervous system of an embryo is quite complex even by 5 weeks post-fertilization when quite often, the mom is only finding out that she is pregnant after missing her first period. We already know that “pain receptors appear around the mouth at 4 to 5 weeks post-fertilization, followed by the development of nerve fibers, which carry stimuli to the brain. Around 6 weeks post-fertilization, the unborn child first responds to touch. By 18 weeks post-fertilization, pain receptors have appeared throughout the body.”

We also know that there is no question, biologically speaking, about whether an unborn child can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization at the very latest, since by then they have the full anatomy to process pain and also the neurobiology to transmit painful sensations to the brain and to perceive pain. Studies show that babies can feel pain by their increased hormonal stress response and by wincing when they are exposed to painful stimuli.

It should come as no surprise that it is common practice for doctors to administer anesthesia before performing in-utero surgeries on preborn babies. When administered, anesthesia decreases the stress response in preborn babies when compared to their hormone levels when painful stimuli are applied without any anesthesia. Twenty states have already passed laws banning abortions after 18 or 20 weeks post-fertilization because of the capacity for unborn children to experience pain, with Iowa being the latest to pass such legislation.

A few weeks ago, people gathered for the March for Science. If we are to be honest, science shows us the clear-cut reality and complexity of embryonic development in the earliest weeks of the first trimester. This is an inconvenient reality for those who rely on ideology instead of science to deny the humanity of preborn children and their capacity to feel pain.

In our culture, there are those who will have more compassion for animals than for babies who are given a death sentence because of their age and location. We will continue to fight until every one of these vulnerable preborn babies are protected — by our laws and our culture. It is not enough to recognize that these children feel pain when aborted; we must empower those around us to make life-affirming choices. Only then will our nation become one where it is safe to be in the womb.

Social Conservative Review - May 15, 2017

by Daniel Hart

May 15, 2017

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago, an event occurred on my morning commute to work that has stuck with me ever since. As I was exiting the metro car at my station stop, I noticed a man standing to the side of the door outside of the car, waiting for myself and other passengers to exit before entering. His head was turned to his right, angrily glowering at a woman who was also outside of the car waiting to get on. As I stepped out of the car, I overhead the woman say in a low, even, and slightly nervous tone, “You heard me.” I instantly knew that she must have just uttered an insult, and was doubling down on it.

As I walked out of the metro station, I felt a churning clump in the pit of my stomach and a tinge of shame warming my cheeks. It was the same feeling I always get when I witness one person maltreating another, or right after I myself have wronged another person and immediately realize it. Think of those times when we observe a bitter argument, with insults and vilifications flying in every direction, or even in smaller disparagements that go unanswered but are no less cutting and hurtful. That bitterness seems to hang in the air, taking on a metaphysical reality that can be clearly sensed by our God-given consciences. Since our conscience is built in to our souls and delineated by our minds, and since our personhood is a union of mind and body, it makes perfect sense that our bodies react this way. When we witness the sins of others or commit sin ourselves, they physically manifest in our bodies, leaving a pit in our stomach and a bruise in our heart.

I say all this to emphasize an important principle of Christianity: nothing we do in life occurs in a vacuum. Every action has consequences. This reality is often ignored and rejected in our culture of individualism. Somehow, the idea of “victimless crimes” has become an accepted fact. This is wrong—our burning cheeks and sensitive souls tell us otherwise. The fact that we identify ourselves primarily through relationships (as a son, daughter, wife, husband, member of an organization, etc.) underscores how interconnected we are with one another and why our actions affect those around us so intimately. May we always remember that great adage that the character of Maximus instills in his soldiers in the film Gladiator: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

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

GOP religious freedom bill restores free speech, not ‘dark money’Mandi Ancalle

Counterpoint: Trump — Destroying the Johnson AmendmentTravis Weber

Motherhood is Life-GivingDan Hart

Questions Abound Regarding Air Force Academy Commandant NomineePeter Sprigg

Yes, Trump’s HHS Appointee Charmaine Yoest is Pro-Life. Deal With ItDan Hart

 

Religious Liberty

Free to Believe”

Geologist Denied Samples from Grand Canyon Because of His FaithCBN News

Professor Tells Student to Stop Reading BibleToddStarnes.com

Christian Firefighter, Axed for Sharing His Faith, Now Heading to WA High CourtMark Martin, CBN News

Victory! Teacher fired for giving student a Bible — gets job backTodd Starnes, Fox News

International Religious Freedom

Global Persecution Rises for First Time in Three YearsMedium

Under Caesar’s Sword’: A Project to Aid Persecuted ChristiansJim Graves, National Catholic Register

The Land Of Athanasius and Its LessonsCharles J. Chaput, First Things

Persecution of Christians isn’t rareFranklin Graham, USA Today

Catholic School Faces LGBT Backlash for Canceling Gender Show for 5-year-oldsToddStarnes.com

Sentencing is a stark reminder of the global Islamist threatMischel Yosick, American Islamic Forum for Democracy

Whoever Wins Iran’s Election, Its Religious Minorities LoseKristina Arriaga, Wall Street Journal

Human rights lawyer unjustly tried for subversion in Hunan, pleads guilty after months of tortureChinaAid

Military Religious Freedom

Trump’s Army Secretary nominee: The left trying to ‘paint me as a hater’ for my Christian viewsPeter LaBarbera, LifeSiteNews

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Religious Liberty and the Common GoodGerard V. Bradley, Public Discourse

Gay couple can sue Kim Davis for damages, appeals court rulesLianne Laurence, LifeSiteNews

Christians Fight for Freedom of Conscience in IndianaPeter Heck, The Christian Post

Bible club for 1st-, 2nd-graders shut down by school district after complaintDave Urbanski, TheBlaze

Catholic’ college bans Chick-fil-A over gay students’ complaintsPeter LaBarbera, LifeSiteNews


Life

Abortion

The Problem With Linking Abortion and Economics – Lori Szala, The New York Times

Left Wants To Make Abortion An Economic Issue To Sideline Its AtrocitiesCullen Herout, The Federalist

The Real Life of the Pro-Life HomeRachel Jankovic, Desiring God

Thaddeus was almost aborted because of a rare disorder. His parents chose life, and saw a miracleDoug Mainwaring, LifeSiteNews

Adoption

Children Before PoliticsKevin D. Williamson, National Review

Bill protecting the religious freedom of Alabama faith-based adoption agencies officially becomes lawJordan LaPorta, Yellowhammer

Emotional Video of Adopted Man Thanking His Birth Mother Goes ViralSteven Ertelt, Life News

Bioethics

Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female—and ChildbearingAlastair Roberts, The Gospel Coalition

The Embryo Orphanage: A Cautionary TaleAna Maria Dumitru, Public Discourse

Physician-Assisted Suicide Tells People Like Me That Our Lives Are No Longer Worth LivingZachary D. Schmoll, Public Discourse

Canada Considering Proposal to Allow Euthanizing Mentally Ill PatientsEric Metaxas, Life News

International furor erupts over embryo jewelry business  Samantha Gobba, WORLD

Obamacare

Aetna to exit Obamacare exchanges in 2 remaining states – Reuters

The House Has Passed Its Health Care Bill. Here’s What Senate Republicans Are Up To. – Sen. Mike Lee, The Daily Signal


Family

Economics/Education

The Decline of Mobility and the Decline of the Family – Robert VerBruggen, Family Studies

The Men Who Take ‘Women’s‘ Jobs – Alana Semuels, The Atlantic

Hidden horror of school sex assaults revealed by AP – Associated Press

Marriage

The Norm of Marital Monogamy Is Not Crumbling – Alan J. Hawkins, Family Studies

Stuffing Emotions is a False Way to Keep the Peace in Your Marriage – Lysa TerKeurst, Focus on the Family

What Makes Motherhood Worthwhile? – Rhonda Kruse Nordin, Family Studies

Video: Reclaiming Fatherhood Promotes Equality – The Wheatley Institution

The Brain Boosting Power of MotherhoodAshley McGuire, Family Studies

What our stay-at-home mom taught us about human dignityJill Waggoner and Allison Hucks, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Faith/Character/Culture

Breaking Free From Identity Politics – Stephen Adubato, Ethika Politika

The real tragedy in the shooting of Jordan EdwardsJemar Tisby, CNN

Historian George Marsden revisits C.S. Lewis’s remarkable case for ‘Mere Christianity’Richard Ostling, GetReligion

How to Take Every Thought CaptiveRob Schwarzwalder, The Stream

Human Sexuality

4 Really good reasons ‘hooking up’ is a bad ideaChloe Mooradian, Aleteia

How Can You Live Without Sex?Ed Shaw, The Gospel Coalition

Democrats introduce bill to ban LGBT ‘conversion’ therapySteve Weatherbe, LifeSiteNews

Sharing Dinner and Jesus with StrippersSarah Eekhoff Zylstra, The Gospel Coalition

How Conversion Therapy Bans Will Trap Transgender ChildrenMarcus Gregory, The Federalist

Too young to cross a street but old enough for a sex changeJulie Borg, WORLD

Researchers Identify 6,500 Genes That Are Expressed Differently in Men and WomenWeizmann Wonder Wander

Pornography

4 Dozen Millennials Were Asked If They’d Watch Porn With Their Partner—Here’s What They Said – Fight the New Drug

Is Porn OK If It’s Made by Women? – Chelsea Samelson, Acculturated

Motherhood is Life-Giving

by Daniel Hart

May 11, 2017

Every May, our country is given the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate a tremendous blessing that God has bestowed on humankind: the gift of motherhood. Mother’s Day is this Sunday. It’s a day to celebrate and honor not just our own mothers, but the capacity that is present in all women to be life-giving, spiritual mothers.

Motherhood is indeed “life-giving” in two fundamental ways: in both a spiritual and physical sense.

First, the spiritual sense. We all have experiences of “mother figures” in our lives that illustrate why spiritual motherhood is so critical to human flourishing. Perhaps the foremost aspect of spiritual motherhood is that wonderfully mysterious and extraordinary power of empathy. This ability to deeply understand and journey with another person in a profoundly personal way is multifaceted, whether it be in shared rejoicing in our successes, offering true comfort when we are hurting, or challenging us to be more of who we are. Mother figures are the ones that make us feel comfortable in our own skin, and make the world feel like a more restful and cozy place. They are the ones that gaze at us in wonder and affirm us for who we are, reminding us of how good it is that we simply exist, which is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us.

Mother figures are everywhere, enriching our lives in limitless yet often overlooked ways. They are the grandmotherly neighbor who lovingly coos at our newborn child on the sidewalk; the friendly station manager lady that greets each commuter with a personal and genuine smile; the female friend who knowingly listens to our relationship woes with real pathos; the lady across the street who bakes a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies to make us feel welcome in our new neighborhood. Without this kind of spiritual motherhood permeating everyday life, society would disintegrate into savagery.

Physical motherhood is life-giving in a more obvious sense, but no less mysterious. Anyone who has witnessed the birth of a child cannot help but be in awe of the magnitude of the moment and its hint of the eternal; a brand new human life, once hidden and silent behind a veil of skin, suddenly there in front of you, wriggling, bloody, pink, and wailing. This illuminates a wonderful paradox of motherhood—it is at once fierce in its labor of love as the mother toils relentlessly through one contraction after the next to propel her child into the world, and yet soft, warm, and tender as she cradles the new life she has delivered.

This motherly fierceness/tenderness never ceases; think of the ferocity of a mama bear protecting her cubs or the Italian mother giving a piece of her mind to anyone foolish enough to wrong her son. Now think of the tenderness that only a mother can bestow; the gentle doting that we gratefully soak up when we are sick, the kisses and caresses we receive just for being a son or daughter, the hurt that our mother feels just as much as we do when we are suffering—mothers suffer not just beside us, but with us, helping us to navigate restless waters.

Mothers are therefore essential to building a culture of life. They nurture life in the womb and in their families and lovingly cultivate their homes, which in turn cultivates society. Mothers bring people alive by giving them an encounter with the Source of love, which is Christ—who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)—the life-giving presence in all of us.

Mary, the mother of Christ, further illuminates another crucial aspect of motherhood in the Gospels. Luke 1:38 illustrates her example of gratitude and trust in the Lord: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” In saying this, Mary recognizes and acknowledges the Source of her child, entrusting him to God the Father.

Her trust is tested further in Luke 2:34-35 with Simeon’s prophesy regarding her son and herself: “This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The unimaginable faith that she possessed to endure her own innocent son’s torture and crucifixion, at the very foot of his cross, no less (John 19:25), is a testament not only to the fierce lengths to which mothers will suffer with their children, but also to the trust they place in knowing that their children’s fates are ultimately in the Lord’s hands.

In the same way, all mothers are called to ultimately let their children go, entrusting them to the Father. Think of all the mothers who have lost their children to miscarriage, abortion, or untimely death, and of all mothers who are suffering because of their children’s estrangement from them. Even though their children are beyond their reach, they are mothers nonetheless who are called to follow the example of Mary and entrust their children to the Lord.

The unique, God-given capacity for motherhood that all women possess is something that our utilitarian culture tends to downplay and even treat with derision. This is tragic. When gender differences and the unique facets of humanity that emanate from womanhood (and manhood) are tamped down because of political correctness, everyone loses. The motherly instincts of women should instead be celebrated for the countless ways that they enrich all of our lives.

This Mother’s Day, let us thank God for the boundless blessings of all the mothers in our lives, both spiritual and physical.

Questions Abound Regarding Air Force Academy Commandant Nominee

by Peter Sprigg

May 8, 2017

A mere five years ago, Air Force officer Kristin Goodwin could have been discharged from the military for engaging in a homosexual relationship or a same-sex marriage.

Yet last month, it was announced that Col. Goodwin has been nominated for promotion to brigadier general—and to be the next commandant of cadets at the U. S. Air Force Academy. Goodwin is a 1993 Academy graduate who openly identifies as homosexual and will be moving to Colorado Springs with her same-sex spouse and two children they are raising together. Her promotion and appointment, however, must be confirmed by the Senate.

When the news broke publicly in the Colorado Springs Independent, Mikey Weinstein, founder of the ironically titled “Military Religious Freedom Foundation,” could hardly contain his glee that “the Air Force has chosen a gay female officer to be its next USAFA Commandant!” However, Weinstein also groused, “Should not USAFA and Senior Air Force leadership be touting this action as an historic milestone of jovian magnitude as well?”

Christians, however, may have legitimate concerns about what Goodwin’s appointment will mean for the future of religious liberty at the Academy. Since the repeal of the 1993 law against homosexuality in the military, the Air Force has seen incidents in which airmen have been punished for espousing the biblical view of human sexuality and marriage. Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was relieved of duty by a commander who identifies as homosexual at Lackland Air Force Base for defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman (although after the intervention of pro-family groups, he received a commendation instead).

At the Air Force Academy itself, a cadet was recently ordered to erase a Bible verse written on a whiteboard that was provided to cadets in their dorms to write personal messages. Although Weinstein insisted that the words of the New Testament created a “hostile environment” for non-Christians, the flap merely encouraged more cadets to exercise their freedom of speech and religion by posting Bible verses on the whiteboards, and brought members of Congress down on the Academy for engaging in “viewpoint discrimination.” Can we expect more such discrimination under Goodwin’s leadership?

A few days after her appointment, however, the website God and Country (devoted to “Military Religious Freedom and Christian Service”) raised a different question:

BGen(S) Kristin Goodwin, soon to be the newest Commandant of Cadets at the US Air Force Academy, commissioned into the Air Force with the Academy Class of 1993.

The policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was instated in February of 1994. Anyone who entered the military prior to that date answered a question about homosexuality during the enlistment process. Those who answered in the affirmative were refused enlistment.

How was Col Goodwin — an open homosexual — able to enter the Air Force?

The author acknowledges that many may see this as a non-issue in the post-DADT military. But he does raise a question unique to Goodwin serving as commandant of cadets at the Academy—namely, the Academy’s honor code.

The code declares, “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” God and Country notes that “cadets practically venerate the Honor Code (in spirit, if not in deed).”

The article speculates, “No doubt someone will work a hypothetical story into an early Philosophy class”:

It could make for a fascinating thought experiment.

Is it “wrong” to lie to enter the US military — or the Air Force, whose first core value is “integrity”?  Is it wrong to “live a lie” as a cadet under the Honor Code?

What if you eventually become a leader, a General, or the Commandant of Cadets — now charged with enforcing that standard of integrity and honor?

This was too much for Mikey Weinstein. He filed a 14-page complaint with the Air Force Inspector General, charging the Air Force officer he believes to be responsible for the God and Country website with several violations, such as “Disrespect Toward a Superior Commissioned Officer” and “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman.” (The author did not seem alarmed—noting that this is the 9th time Weinstein has filed such a complaint, to no effect.)

If anything, however, the God and Country post may have understated the concerns raised by Goodwin’s appointment to a position enforcing the Academy’s Honor Code.

That’s because the author seems to have fallen prey to the nearly universal misunderstanding of the difference between the 1993 law enacted by Congress and the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy proposed by President Bill Clinton.

During his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton had stated his intention to lift the long-standing ban on military service of those who identify as homosexual. Within days of his inauguration in January 1993, he announced moves to make good on that promise.

This triggered a firestorm of criticism, both from Congress and within the military. By the time his six-month deadline for drafting an executive order arrived, it was clear that Congress would not tolerate a complete removal of the policy against homosexuality.

So in July 1993, President Clinton proposed a compromise policy colloquially referred to as “don’t ask don’t tell.” As usually described by the media, “DADT” meant that the military would no longer inquire about the sexual orientation of service members (“don’t ask”), and therefore people with same-sex attractions could serve as long as they did not publicly identify themselves as homosexual (“don’t tell”).

However, Congress did not simply accept President Clinton’s proposed compromise. Instead, they continued to debate the issue, and ultimately enacted a statutory “Policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces,” 10 U.S.C 654, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. President Clinton signed this into law on November 30, 1993.

The new law (which Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness retroactively dubbed the “Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993”) did not reflect the relatively laissez-faire attitude toward homosexuality that is usually associated with “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Instead, it explicitly restated the principles behind the existing policy of exclusion, declaring:

The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.”

and

The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

The law also declared flatly that “A member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces” [emphasis added] if it was found:

(1) That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts . . .

(2) That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect . . .

(3) That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex.

However, Department of Defense regulations announced in December 1993 and codified in February 1994 bore more resemblance to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy proposed in July than they did to the actual law enacted by Congress and signed by the president in November.

For example, the regulations stated, “Sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter, and homosexual orientation is not a bar to service entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct.” The law, however, says that “persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk.”

Note that “sexual orientation” is an umbrella term that, depending on the context, can refer to any one, or a combination, of three separate things—a person’s sexual attractions, their sexual conduct, and their self-identification.

By the time the 1993 law was repealed in December 2010 (and the repeal took effect in September 2011), the popular concept of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had evolved to where people thought “you can be gay in the military”—in both attractions and behavior—as long as you were not “out of the closet” with your self-identification.

However, in 1993, the proposed DADT “compromise” allowed a focus on both self-identification and conduct. For example, a July 1993 newspaper article described it this way:

Conduct is the key. Even people who have admitted being gay have a chance, under the language of the policy, to stay in the military if they can prove they are celibate, have always been celibate and will remain celibate.

The actual law enacted by Congress, however, made clear that all three elements of a “homosexual orientation”—attractions, conduct, and self-identification—remained problematic for the military. The statement, “The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity [emphasis added] or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk,” addresses sexual attractions. And both the conduct (“the member has engaged in … a homosexual act”) and the self-identification (“the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual”) remained grounds for separation from military service. This was the state of the law until September 2011.

In light of this, it should be clear that the issue involving Goodwin’s integrity is not just limited to how she may or may not have answered a question in 1993 or 1994. Whether she complied with federal law regarding eligibility for military service relates to both her sexual conduct and her sexual attractions at any point up until September 2011.

To be specific—if anyone at any point during Goodwin’s accession into the military and the repeal of the 1993 law in 2011, engaged in a homosexual act, they would have been in violation of the law (both the 1993 law and possibly the law against sodomy in the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and subject to separation from the military. If, during that time, a person experienced same-sex sexual attractions, it could be interpreted as “a propensity … to engage in homosexual acts.”

In my research on Goodwin’s career, I have not found any published evidence that she violated the law. Weinstein, citing a source he says spoke with Goodwin, declared in his complaint that Goodwin “relates that she did not become aware of her sexual orientation until well after DADT went into effect.”

However, there is nothing to prevent members of the Senate from raising these questions, as well as questions about her commitment to freedom of speech and religion for cadets. They may be crucial to determining whether she is suitable for promotion, or fit to command the Air Force Academy—and, as God and Country pointed out, to oversee its honor code.

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