Month Archives: November 2017

Love to Give: An Adoption Story

by Alison Contreras

November 30, 2017

We weren’t a couple that “always knew they wanted to adopt.” It’s not something that we discussed before we were married.

What we definitely did discuss was our desire to be parents. I married my husband because he helped me be the better person I’d always wanted to be. In fact, that was the thought that made me giddy on the night we were engaged. This was the man who would father my children! Yes, children, plural. We both hoped to have a large family.

I do remember, however, the first time we discussed adoption. We were living in Mexico City, sitting in the pink living room of our tiny apartment that would shake every time a truck drove by, momentarily causing us each to wonder if it was actually an earthquake. The sunlight was streaming through the windows and I brought it up. “What do you think about adopting?” Like many couples who first have this conversation, we were waiting for children. At that point it had been over a year of trying to grow our family, which for NFP (natural family planning) teachers, we knew signaled something might be wrong.

What about international adoption? Do you think we could parent a child that didn’t look like us?” Those were some of the first overwhelming questions that we pondered. We didn’t exactly come to any conclusions, but I do remember my husband’s response. If we have love to give, why wouldn’t we adopt?

Fast forward a year. It was the summer of 2011 and we were back to living in the states. I was able to receive medical care to remove endometriosis. Three months after that surgery, during a dark and hopeless time if I’m honest, we conceived. Our son, Samuel, is now five. He was a blessing from God, a healing balm for my soul. It was when I was holding him in our rocker when he was just days old that I had one of the most profound spiritual moments of my life. “Enjoy this child I sent you and this moment, right here. You do not love him because you bore him, but because he was meant to be your son. You will love your other children in the same way.” In that moment the message I heard was blindingly clear. I’ve gone back to savor the peace that moment brought me many times during our adoption journey. God is faithful. He could be trusted, completely. We were called to adopt.

Now, if only God would have told my husband that so clearly!

What was so evidently a call from God needed more time to grow in my husband. And its not as if anyone “just adopts,” as our story is evidence of. He was right to see the many logistical hurdles to reconcile. So we began pursuing adoption as we do most things: researching as much as possible. Over the next few years we attended several in-person sessions and orientations of local agencies, trying to figure out what would be the best avenue for our family. Foster to adopt? Domestic adoption? International? If international, what country? Through a long process of elimination, including a desire to honor birth order, we eventually decided to adopt a toddler from China. I had lived in China during a summer in college and was always drawn to the country. Plus, I already spoke some Chinese.

Then, in August 2015, just a week after we made the decision to adopt from China, my husband was unexpectedly let go from his job. Fortunately, he found another one rather quickly and just three months later, within a week of starting his new job, we began our homestudy. It was November 2015, and we were beyond excited to finally be starting the adoption process.

Then came a massive swerve in our plan. In January 2016 we got the sudden call about a potential domestic adoption situation from a friend. Here was a woman making an adoption plan. Would we be willing to adopt a baby to be born in two months? This was much faster than we’d planned, but God wouldn’t ask it of us if it wasn’t possible.

We said yes.

I met the mom and we hit it off. Meeting her and learning how facing an unintended pregnancy took such courage in every aspect of her life was humbling. This adoption was not about our desire for a child, but about her plan for hers. We just happened to be two people who fit together in this puzzle of loss, creating something so much more than our individual parts. Planning an open adoption, we were in contact over the next few months and I was actually able to be there for the birth of her daughter, our daughter, and spend three amazing days in the hospital with her. With input from her first mom we named her “Evangeline,” or “Good news.” There we were cocooned up in our little world of mutual love for this little baby, protected from the outside world. We loved this baby girl incredibly during those first few days of her life, and our original questions about adoption became suddenly irrelevant as they were undoubtedly answered. With a resounding yes, we learned first hand just how quickly we could love a baby that we didn’t birth, who didn’t look exactly like us.

However, we were not meant to parent Evangeline for long. Her mom changed her mind and we relinquished Evangeline back into her care not a week after leaving the hospital.

This was another incredibly dark time. Just writing that sentence hardly captures our emotions at the time. Had we done something wrong? Had we misinterpreted the call to adopt? What was so wrong with us that we couldn’t conceive and now we couldn’t even adopt to grow our family? My life felt so bleak and my faith was full of doubts. I was crumpling inwards, but God was constantly pulling me outside of myself. This wasn’t about me. Adoption wasn’t just about us. Yes, we had love to give, but our first promise was about treating everyone involved with dignity and respect, and trusting in God’s plan enough to know that we were where we should be. We wanted to adopt because we had love to give to a child, and this situation hadn’t depleted that love. We had more to give. So after taking a few months to get our bearings and heal, we continued on with our Chinese adoption.

We were able to update our homestudy for an international adoption and get our complete dossier submitted by October of 2016. We settled in for a long wait. I was thankful for our domestic adoption situation because with international adoption we wouldn’t have the same opportunity to meet our child’s mom and experience first hand what exactly it took to make a decision to place your child for adoption. We were adopting a “waiting child,” a child whose parents couldn’t be found and who needed parents. The laws in China are different than the U.S. in that parents can’t legally place a baby up for adoption, forcing mothers and fathers who can’t parent to abandon their children in public places so they will be found and hopefully cared for. We would likely never meet our child’s first parents.

We got a call about our son on December 7th, 2016, just a few weeks after being eligible. Here was the face and file of a child who needed parents. He was so obviously our son. But would this really happen? Would we get to parent him forever? Looking at his file I saw his birthdate. Somewhere on the other side of the world, he was making his entrance at almost the exact moment we finally jointly decided to pursue adoption back in 2015. It had been him all along.

There was more paperwork (mostly immigration paperwork at this point) and waiting, and we were finally able to board the plane to China to meet him in March 2017. We met our 18-month old son one year to the day that Evangeline had been born, St. Joseph’s feast day. His Chinese name given to him by his caretakers was “Zi Zhong” or “faithful son” which we found especially compelling and it remains his middle name. We chose Mateo for his first name: “God’s gift.” Our older son was thrilled to have a sibling that would stay with us “forever and ever” and immediately began learning all that being a big brother entailed. The laughter we heard those first few days in the hotel in China was a long-awaited gift.

Adding a toddler to your family is not the typical route, and we definitely had challenges those first few months adjusting to our new family. While we had been waiting for Mateo for years at this point, this adjustment came with grief for him. Although he gained parents and a family, he also suffered an incredible loss of all that was familiar to him those first few months of life. However, his resilience and infectious laugh are reminders that God does make all things new. We’ve been home eight months now as a family of four and it’s still a gift each day to consider how it came to be. With all of our waiting and seemingly wrong turns and dead ends, Mateo would not have been here as our son had anything else happened.

Adoption has shaped a family, created brothers, and allowed us the privilege to parent a beautiful child carefully created by God. But the effects of adoption extend far beyond our family unit. Adoption has given grandparents another grandchild to dote on, aunts and uncles another nephew, and our neighbors another explorer to adventure with. So many people are richer because Mateo is in our family. We are the lucky ones.

Adoption has brought life to our home once again and we’re praying we get the opportunity to adopt again. We couldn’t have adopted again so quickly had it not been for the generous support of friends who helped us crowd-source our adoption funds after experiencing our failed adoption. Please consider how you can help promote adoption in your community, especially over this giving season!

Alison Contreras lives with her family in Hyattsville, Md. She teaches couples in the D.C. area about their natural signs of fertility as a Creighton Practitioner at Caritas FertilityCare.

Photograph by Melissa Green

Adoption: Multi-Racial, Multi-National, Heaven-Blessed

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 28, 2017

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from “National Adoption Month: My Family’s Adoption Story,” published in The Stream November 26, 2017.

On Thanksgiving this year, gathered around our table were people whose ancestors came from Africa and Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia.

I’m talking about my wife’s and my children.

Our multi-racial sons and daughter were adopted. Race and ethnicity are acknowledged in our family, but as benign issues. Love and laughter, firmness and faithfulness: these have been the integrating factors of our family life, not hair texture or skin complexion.

Children create family. Whether adopted or biological, children bring disparate people together into a small human community of affection, support, enjoyment, and wisdom.

About 110,000 children are adopted every year in America. About 52,000 are adopted from the foster system, the others through private agencies. Most adopted privately are Americans, but a significant but shrinking percentage are adopted from other countries.

Of those 110,000, about 18,000 are infants.

Thousands of loving and committed American families have sought to adopt from abroad, but it’s become tougher in recent years. The State Department provides troubling numbers: In 2004, 23,000 children born abroad were adopted by Americans. In 2016, that number had fallen to just under 6,000.

Why? Because the five countries from which American families adopted the most—China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ethiopia—have revised and tightened their adoption policies. There are a variety of reasons, ranging from stupid national pride (“we can care for our own!”) to bureaucratic corruption.

There are more than 400,000 children in foster care. Of them, roughly 112,000 await adoption.

Children with developmental problems languish in foster care or orphanages. Older children, virtually all of whom have been abused in ugly home environments, await loving homes. Often, they wait in vain, as potential adoptive families are wary of bringing into their homes children who might bring serious problems.

This is where the church needs to step in. If a family adopts a particularly needy child, be he six months or 16 years, the local church must do more than just hold a dedication ceremony and bless the family with prayers and smiles. 

Those families need help. They need the services of professional counselors, therapists, remedial educators, developmental experts, and health caregivers. Churches need to be prepared to support, financially, families whose children need that kind of help, possibly for years. 

Churches are not banks—resources are limited, admittedly. But when “bigger and better” church buildings are under construction in every state in the union, surely some money can be dedicated to help with needs far more profound than another 30 spaces in a parking lot.

Thankfully, the adoption tax credit ($13,460 per child) has been restored to the new Republican tax reduction plan. In 2015, about 64,000 American families used the tax credit to help them adopt. The tax credit has been a blessing to hundreds of thousands of middle-income families throughout the country—including mine.

The credit helps, a lot. But it still leaves a lot to be done. The churches need to be front and center in helping families adopt children who need homes. 

One of the many blessings my wife Valerie and I experienced when we adopted our children was receiving financial assistance from the adoption fund my church had set up. This remarkable ministry comes alongside church members who adopt and helps them pay the substantial up-front costs.

There is so much more to say, but for now, a final note: Valerie’s and my children are not adopted. They were adopted. Now, they are just our children. And, with each of them having come to know Christ, are God’s. At this Thanksgiving and always, these are truths for which we are eternally grateful.

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer at Regent University. He previously served as Senior Vice-President at Family Research Council.

The Unexpected Blessing of Adoption

by Harold Harper

November 27, 2017

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – Excerpted from Radical by David Platt

It is not surprising to me that the month we celebrate Thanksgiving is also the month that is recognized as National Adoption Month. Our call to adoption is one of the things I am most thankful for in my life. As unexpected as our adoption assignment was, I remain grateful that we were attentive to the voice of God and the call to adoption that he had for our family. We are forever changed by that invitation from the Lord!

The holidays are also a time to reflect on another gift that I am so very thankful for and that is the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out that he was invited by God to take Jesus into his life and family. God’s plan was for Jesus to have an earthly father and mother in Joseph and Mary. This special couple had the privilege of joining God to provide for and care for Jesus until He was old enough to start His earthly ministry.

In 2010, after much prayer and research, God confirmed His plan for our family to move forward with international adoption and specifically, special needs adoption in China. We learned of so many waiting children with medical needs that needed the love of a family and medical care. After many months of prayer and mountains of paperwork, we found ourselves matched with an incredible little boy living in China that needed a family. As crazy as it sounded at the outset, it was God’s plan that we adopt him and bring him back to the United States as a member of our family. We soon learned that we were set to travel and that he would become a part of our family on Valentine’s Day of 2011—a plan from God we could never have foreseen or imagined.

When adoption day arrived, we found ourselves surrounded by Chinese government officials, travel guides, interpreters, nannies, and a dozen other children waiting to be adopted. Squeezed tightly in a small government office, we signed page after page of official papers to become the parents of Josiah James Harper.

A translator interviewed my wife and I, asking numerous and sometimes odd-sounding questions, such as why we would want to adopt this child. Why wouldn’t we, we thought? We were asked to promise never to harm or abandon him—a commitment we could easily make. Fingerprints were taken, as well as a footprint of Josiah. After signing the papers with a notary official at our side and completing the extensive questioning, we were finally finished. Josiah James was our son. The meeting lasted less than an hour, but God’s assignment had been many, many months in the making. What an awesome privilege to receive and complete God’s “Josiah James” assignment.

The more I watch God at work in Josiah’s life, the more I understand why God sent us to China. His plan was clear. God has especially great things in store for our son just like He had for the Josiah we read about in 2 Chronicles 34. What an honor for us as a family.

Josiah has brought so much joy to our family and to all those who know him. We expected to be the ones blessing Josiah, yet it is Josiah who has quickly proven to be a profound blessing to us. God has done a great work in our midst, and we are humbled and grateful as He pours out His love on our family.

What might God be asking of you and your family? Is He inviting you to join Him and embrace a child in need? I encourage you to follow His leading. You will be forever changed.

Harold Harper is Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Family Research Council.

10th Circuit Lets Police Officers Off the Hook After Telling Woman She Could Not Pray in Her Own Home

by Travis Weber , Natalie Pugh

November 22, 2017

First Liberty, a non-profit law firm, recently filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court on behalf of their client, Mary Anne Sause, after the 10th Circuit ruled that the police officers who told her she could not pray did not clearly violate her rights. As recounted by the court, and alleged in her complaint, the police officers entered Sause’s house to investigate a noise complaint. When one officer left to search the house, an action he did not provide a valid reason for, Sause became frightened and asked the officer with her if she could pray. The officer said she could and Sause knelt on her prayer rug and began to pray. Once the other officer returned to the room he allegedly ordered Sause to get up and stop praying as he and the other officer began to mock Sause for praying and tell her that she should leave the state since no one liked her. As recounted, the behavior of these officers is reprehensible in multiple ways. Yet it is also troubling that the 10th Circuit let the officers off the hook for their actions in this case.

In its opinion, the court held that even assuming the police officers violated Sause’s First Amendment rights when they told her to stop praying, the officers had qualified immunity and therefore could not be held responsible.

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects public officials, such as police officers, from liability if their actions did not violate a clearly established law or constitutional right. Because the specific circumstances of this case had never been presented to the 10th Circuit before, that court claimed the officers did not violate a clearly established law and were protected by qualified immunity.

Yet the right to exercise your religion, in this case the right to pray, is clearly established—in the Constitution. While it is difficult to expect police officers to perfectly understand the legal dynamics of every possible situation they might encounter with a civilian, and thus qualified immunity may be necessary in some contexts to allow police officers to do their jobs effectively, the violation in this case is nevertheless obvious and the officers responsible should not be allowed to hide behind qualified immunity.

It is essential that officers understand basic rights—including our First Amendment rights—named in the Constitution, which every student learns in public school. To claim that a police officer shouldn’t be expected to know that an American citizen has the right to pray in a context like that alleged in this case is a dangerous turn.

The Supreme Court should take up this case and declare to the nation that religious freedom is a vital constitutional right which should be respected by all public officials. No individual in a country which claims to protect the religious liberty of its citizens should ever be told that they cannot pray.

Why It Is Unnecessary to Force Jack Phillips to Bake a Wedding Cake

by Travis Weber

November 21, 2017

There are actually a number of answers to this question, but one of them is quite simple: because there are so many others nearby who are happy to do so.

One amicus brief filed in support of Jack Phillips by numerous law and economics scholars, including the esteemed Richard Epstein, makes this point quite nicely.

That brief points out that according to a search on Gayweddings.com, there are 67 other bakeries in the Denver area alone that are willing to create a same-sex wedding cake, including one that is only 1/10 of a mile from Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop. Forty-two of these bakeries are shown below; notice where they are compared to Jack’s shop, marked by the orange circle:

Given all these shops that are happy to create a wedding cake for a prospective same-sex couple, is it really necessary to force Jack Phillips to be the one to do so?

While the prospective customers may be offended at Jack’s beliefs, part of living in a free country is that we interact with people who believe differently than us.

Yet they can easily travel nearby and obtain the cake from someone else—someone happy to help create it.

Meanwhile, forcing Jack Phillips to create the cake comes with the heavy cost of forcing him to violate his conscience or stop designing wedding cakes (and potentially go out of business).

Regardless of our personal views on the issue, that is not a vision of American “freedom” that any of us should want to be a part of.

 

Social Conservative Review - November 15, 2017

by Daniel Hart

November 15, 2017

Dear Friends,

In our current cultural age of distraction and brokenness, it’s important to remember a fact of life that is often ignored: actions have consequences.

This essential principle becomes startlingly obvious in light of FRC’s newest publication, “The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion.” As this paper establishes, a single click of internet pornography by the public indicates to the pornography producer that their material is in demand, which will then fuel the continued production of porn, which then fuels the continued exploitation of women who are often pressured into being filmed doing sex acts, which then fuels the lustful desires of the pornography consumer to seek paid sex from women who are often being sex trafficked themselves, which often leads to them having forced abortions.

This is just one example of the horrific chain of consequences that can happen as a result of one poor choice. Happily, however, good deeds also have consequences, or more fittingly, fruits. When we give of ourselves generously, the person who receives this gift (or even someone who just observes the good deed) will often feel grateful and humbled, and even feel inspired to act generously themselves in response.

This reflects the nature of God—He exists in the form of gift. In other words, everything that we have—our lives, our breath, our material possessions—are a gift from Him. Therefore, we are all called to give ourselves away, just as God has done for us. May we always remember this principle and live by it, that selfish actions have dire consequences, but selfless deeds bear plentiful fruit.

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

The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion – Arina Grossu

The First Amendment Protects a Dissenting Cake Baker, Not State Coercion – Travis Weber

School Worker Was Told She Could Be Fired If She Offered to Pray for Someone Again – Tony Perkins

Sen. Cassidy Was Right: Most Planned Parenthood Businesses Are in Urban Areas – Arina Grossu

Atheists, Courts Mark Veterans Day While Demanding Demolition Of Veterans Memorials – Travis Weber

ObamaCare 2018: Unaffordable, fewer options, still covers abortion – Arina Grossu

What This Disabled Navy Veteran Told NFL Team When They Tried to Honor Him – Tony Perkins

66% Don’t Believe Bakery Should Be Punished for Not Baking Cake for Same-Sex Wedding – Tony Perkins

Conservative Group Claims YouTube Is Censoring Its Videos – Tony Perkins

Judge Usurps Power, Ignores Real Issues in Transgender Military Injunction – Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin

Religious Freedom for Bakers is Common Ground for Most Americans – Natalie Pugh

From Zero to Zelie: Our Adoption Journey and What We’ve Learned – Daniel and Bethany Meola

Concern for “Rights” Is Nothing New for Social Conservatives – Peter Sprigg

Following God’s Call to Adopt in Ethiopia – Maggie Banga

Did the ACLU Hide the Ball and Rush an Abortion? – Travis Weber

Scalise Shooting Declared to be an Act of Terrorism Under Virginia Law, So Why is the FBI Confused? – Chris Gacek

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Poll: 71% of Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have, 58% Have Political Views They’re Afraid to ShareCATO Institute

Most Americans Believe Christian Bakers Should Not Be Forced to Make Cakes for Gay Weddings – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

Atheist Group Demands School District End Evangelical Group’s Mentor Program – Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post

Minnesota officials attempt to control the message of Christian filmmakers – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Free to Believe”

Georgia School District Bans Coach From Praying With Team After Atheists Complain – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Victory for Special Education Employee Reprimanded for Telling Coworker, “I will pray for you” – First Liberty

She publicly turned from her lesbian lifestyle, so this college refused to hire her as a coach – Aaron Colen, TheBlaze

Department of Agriculture Religious Freedom Policy Resolves Case of Christian Meat Packer – Dr. Susan Berry, Breitbart

International Religious Freedom

Egypt’s President Sisi Meets With US Evangelical Leaders for First Time in Cairo – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

French court orders removal of cross from statue of John Paul II – Zelda Caldwell, Aleteia

Christians Called to Take Action on International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church – Anugrah Kumar, The Christian Post

 

Life

Abortion

Ohio House votes to ban abortions on babies with Down syndrome – Nancy Flanders, Live Action

7 Things I Learned At The Women’s Convention About Feminists And Abortion – Abby Johnson, The Federalist

Supreme Court to hear case against California law forcing pro-life centers to advertise abortion – Pete Baklinski, LifeSiteNews

Pro-life student impeached for her views speaks out: I will never lose my passion for protecting life – Cassy Fiano, Live Action

Adoption

Adoption Tax Credit Saved by Both House and Senate – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

Why the Adoption Tax Credit matters – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Adoption Videos & Documentaries – BraveLove.org

National Adoption Awareness Month: one family’s adoption story – Julie Bourdon, Mission Network News

Video: Older Child, Foster Care Adoption – Bethany Christian Services

5 Facts about orphans – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Singer Sarah McLachlan, other celebs explain what it feels like to be adopted – Kelli, Live Action

Bioethics

Contract Pregnancies Exposed: Surrogacy Contracts Don’t Protect Surrogate Mothers and Their Children – Jennifer Lahl, Public Discourse

Why are attempts to legalize assisted suicide failing across the United States? – Cassy Fiano, Live Action

Embryology and Science Denial – Patrick Lee and Melissa Moschella, Public Discourse

Down Syndrome and Eugenics – Roberto Rivera, BreakPoint

Obamacare

Obamacare Won’t Pay for His Back Surgery, but Will Cover Opioids – Lorie Johnson, CBN News

Hits keep on coming: Obamacare premiums rising by $1K per month – Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review

 

Family

Economics/Education

The Missing Ingredients in Modern Education – Dwight Longenecker, Intellectual Takeout

A Record Share of Men Are “Marrying Up” Educationally – Wendy Wang, Family Studies

Marriage

The Research Proves The No. 1 Social Justice Imperative Is Marriage – Glenn T. Stanton, The Federalist

Cheap Sex is the “Inconvenient Truth” in the Retreat from Marriage – Mark Regnerus, Family Studies

I Married a Same-Sex Attracted Man. And I Am Blessed. – Jaclyn S. Parrish, The Gospel Coalition

Cheap sex and tumbling marriage rates – Kiley Crossland, WORLD

Marriage is a dance of growing together, apart, together – Dani Shapiro, PBS NewsHour

Faith/Character/Culture

It’s Time We Got Loud About Love Again – Matthew Archbold, National Catholic Register

No. 1 Thing Parents Can Do to Ensure Kids Are Faithful Christians When They Grow Up – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

By Rejecting God, Modern Man Rejects His Humanity – Paul Krause, Crisis

Passions’ Republic: The Christian Cure for What Ails Modern Politics – David Bradshaw, Touchstone

The Science About Motherhood Liberals Don’t Want to Hear – Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

Do Men Owe Women a Special Kind of Care? – John Piper, Desiring God

Attacking the Ties That Bind – Wesley J. Smith, First Things

Human Sexuality

Open secret: The one thing that can prevent sexual harassment – Elizabeth Scalia, Aleteia

Children fast-tracked into gender transition – Kiley Crossland, WORLD

Let’s Cast a Vision for Mere Sexuality – Todd Wilson, The Gospel Coalition

Trump Administration To Conduct New Research On Sex Education Programs – David Brody, CBN News

Human Trafficking

Under Pressure, Tech Giants Drop Opposition to Anti-Trafficking Bill – Lisa Correnti, C-Fam

Pornography

You won’t believe how many kids under 10 are watching porn – Calah Alexander, Aleteia

Podcast: Jimmy and Kelly Needham discuss overcoming pornography – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Could Porn Be One Explanation for Sexual Predators Like Louis C.K.? – Naomi Schaefer Riley, Family Studies

Religious Freedom for Bakers is Common Ground for Most Americans

by Natalie Pugh

November 13, 2017

The Cato Institute published their Free Speech and Tolerance Survey for 2017 at the end of October. In their research, they asked over 2,000 United States citizens about their opinions on free speech. Their study revealed that 50% of Americans think businesses with religious objections should still be required to serve those who identify as gay and lesbian as a general rule (which the wedding vendors who have been sued are happy to do), but 68% believe a baker should not be required to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. These results show that, at least on this issue, Americans can identify and support a genuine desire to live according to one’s religious beliefs.

The survey also revealed that most Americans feel that political correctness is preventing important discussions (71%) and feel afraid to voice their opinions (58%). Additionally, while an overwhelming majority (79%) of Americans find hate speech “morally unacceptable,” only 40% believe the government should prevent public expressions of hate speech.

If most Americans believe in the value of free speech, even to the point of allowing hate speech, why is there so much outrage over speech in our society? The problem lies in the conflicting ideas of what Americans find offensive. In the survey, people’s answers followed closely to party values. Despite their support for free speech as an idea, most strong liberals (51%) think it’s acceptable to punch Nazis; and most conservatives (53%) support revoking citizenship status of individuals who burn the American flag. While both sides of the political spectrum would like to punish specific speech that they find offensive, they need to recognize that taking away free speech would hurt each other equally.

There is no clear consensus on what classifies as “hateful” or “offensive” speech among Americans. A majority of liberals (59%) think saying people who identify as transgender have a mental disorder is hate speech, however the majority of conservatives disagree. While 39% of conservatives think saying the police are “racist” is hate speech, only 17% of liberals agree. Given the highly partisan viewpoint that individuals are placing on speech, any laws to censor speech would be completely dependent on which political party was currently holding a majority on Capitol Hill. This would destroy the basic principle of free speech.

The right to speak freely is a foundational right of our nation. It allows citizens to voice their displeasure with our current government, society, or situation, and through dialogue, devise a plan for improvement. Without this right, citizens would lose the ability to hold their government accountable or merely express their opinions, as the party in power could suppress the spread of any ideas they disliked. This could have devastating effects on Americans’ right to assemble, right to protest, freedom of the press, and religious freedom.

Has society already destroyed the acceptance of free speech? A majority of Americans are afraid to publicly voice their opinions. It’s not hard to imagine why when 59% of Democrats believe employers should punish their employees for offensive Facebook posts. However, freedom of speech is still a constitutional right for every American citizen. While an argument for censorship can sound convincing in today’s divisive climate, it is important to remember the equality that freedom of speech gives to each citizen.

Ultimately, we need to remember the origin of the Bill of Rights that our Founding Fathers fought so hard to achieve. Being occasionally offended is a small price to pay to ensure freedom of speech for all citizens, regardless of their political party. 

From Zero to Zelie: Our Adoption Journey and What We’ve Learned

by Daniel and Bethany Meola

November 10, 2017

November is National Adoption Month. To recognize this important issue, we are publishing personal adoption testimonies this month.

Adoption is very near and dear to our hearts. After six years of marriage, and many prayers for a child, earlier this year we welcomed our daughter Zelie-Louise Layla Rose into our family through adoption. This experience has been a profound journey of faith for us—a pilgrimage—and God has taught us so much through it, and through the people we’ve encountered along the way.

Our adoption story, in a nutshell: we were married in 2011, experienced the heartache of infertility, and in 2015 discerned a call to adopt. Adoption is a calling; not every couple without children is called to pursue it, but all couples should discern it. We then completed our home study (the state’s approval process for pre-adoptive parents) for domestic, infant adoption and after a year and a half of actively waiting, we were chosen by our daughter’s birthparents in February 2017. Zelie was born on April 6, 2017, and we were blessed to be with her from her very first moments after birth. She is a beautiful, energetic, delightfully happy baby who brings immeasurable joy into our family!

Being so personally close to adoption, and being such a new adoptive family, there is both so much to say and at the same time no way to adequately capture all that adoption means to us. Nonetheless, here are a few things we have learned about adoption so far.

Adoption is…

…an act of heroism. And by that we are not talking first about adoptive parents like ourselves, but of birthparents. Selfless love means putting another’s needs ahead of your own desires, and that is exactly what birthparents do. It’s crucial to say that birthparents don’t “give up” a child for adoption, but rather “place” a child or “make an adoption plan.” The latter speak to the proactive love and generosity shown by birthparents in choosing a family for their child, despite the pain and heartache that it can mean for them. We will always teach Zelie that her birthparents are her heroes for their loving decision to place her in our family.

…a response to a loss. This truth is necessary to acknowledge, that adoption happens because there is some crisis or difficulty so grave that a child cannot be raised by his or her birthparents; this is undeniably a tragedy. In a perfect world, we’d have no need for adoption (nor would infertility exist), but in this actual world, adoption is a loving response to a difficult situation, and a powerful example of bringing hope and beauty out of very hard circumstances. It’s important for all involved in adoption to be mindful of the losses involved, especially as an adopted child grows and processes his or her feelings about it. Here, open adoption (some level of ongoing contact between the adoptive and birth families) can help answer a child’s questions, provide connection with his or her heritage, and offer an opportunity for the child to stay connected to the birthparents.

…a powerful act of hospitality. Borrowing from this beautiful piece by adoptive father Timothy O’Malley, adoption expresses great hospitality and welcome. There is a reason why Scripture speaks so often of us as God’s adopted children! “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son … so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4: 4-5). Zelie will always have her precious heritage from her birth family, including genetic connections, her looks, and so forth, and we will help her cherish that part of her identity. But when we adopted her, she became fully and truly a member of our family as well. She is forever our daughter. (Side note: this is why adoptive parents bristle when asked, “Do you have any of ‘your own’ children?”) As Timothy O’Malley explains, the hospitality of adoption is a message that speaks to the heart of all parenting: “Adoption reminds us that every act of parenting is a moment of hospitality, a moment that allows love to flourish anew in the world… a love that always comes as gift.”

…a challenging process. Adoption is not for the faint of heart! For potential adoptive parents, the process involves lots of paperwork and an examination of all areas of your life, at times feeling excessive or downright invasive; likely lots of waiting as you hope day after day for “the call”; and a deep vulnerability as you entrust your family’s growth to the Lord, mediated through the very earthly realities of agencies, lawyers, and prospective birthparents. Seen in the right way, trying to adopt is an incredible opportunity to grow as a couple in patience, humility, and trust. The delicacy of the adoption process, and the strong emotions involved, means that it’s also crucial to work with ethical adoption professionals who safeguard the rights and dignity of all those involved: adoptive parents, birthparents, and the child. For couples hoping to adopt, prayer is so important every step of the way.

…a miracle of love. The sacrifices given do not compare to the great gift received—a blessed, unique child—who is a miracle of God’s love never before seen on this earth! When we received Zelie into our arms, you could say we went from “zero” to a fullness of love who smiles and dances around with the wonderful name of Zelie. We marvel at how such a tiny infant can not only draw love and laughter out of us, but also so wonderfully love us in return. Zelie is an unrepeatable miracle of love entrusted to us by her birthparents and by God. For this unfathomable responsibility, we will be forever grateful and we will love Zelie every day of her life.

Daniel Meola is a catechetical specialist at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.; Bethany Meola is a stay-at-home mom who loves being with Zelie full-time. The couple lives in Bowie, Md. and blogs about their adoption at http://www.adoptionpilgrimage.blogspot.com

Concern for “Rights” Is Nothing New for Social Conservatives

by Peter Sprigg

November 8, 2017

The Religion News Service (RNS) recently ran an interview with the author of a new book who claims, in the words of the RNS summary, “that in recent years, the Religious Right has moved away from discussing morality to ‘rights,’ especially the ‘rights of the unborn.’” This is portrayed as an ironic development, given that “[t]alking in terms of individual rights used to be primarily the purview of liberals.” The book is The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars, by political scientist Andrew Lewis.

But is the discussion of “‘rights,’ especially the ‘rights of the unborn’” among social conservatives really a “recent” move?

Not exactly. For example, one of the leading “anti-abortion” groups in America is the National Right to Life Committee, which was founded in 1968. Furthermore, the use of “rights” language with respect to abortion was not unique to one organization, or to activists. For example, in the original New York Times article reporting the Supreme Court’s January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision striking down abortion laws, they said that in May of 1972 President Richard Nixon had written a letter to Cardinal Terence Cooke, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, in which the president spoke out for “the right to life of literally hundreds of thousands of unborn children.”

It appears that the Religion News Service had simply mis-characterized author Lewis’ position by referring to the shift toward using “the rights of the unborn” as “recent.” Indeed, in the interview, Lewis himself suggests the change occurred “[o]nce Roe v. Wade happened, and the decade after,” which would hardly be “recent.” But, as indicated above, even that assertion is inaccurate.

Another odd assertion is Lewis’s statement in the interview regarding the relationship between the language used by those supportive of legal abortion and the language used by those who oppose it: “They began countering the left’s ‘right to choose’ language with their own potent language.” As noted above, conservatives have talked about the “right to life” all along. It is the Left that has had to scramble to find new language. Around the time of Roe, liberals did not hesitate to call themselves “pro-abortion,” or at least to speak about a “right to abortion.” But over time they found out that “pro-abortion” was a losing term for them, and it was their language that evolved to avoid talking about the real subject (abortion), and instead to use a euphemism like “the right to choose.”

Another example of the Left’s shifting language is the name of the well-known pro-abortion group that is often just referred to by the acronym “NARAL.” This group went from being dubbed the “National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws” to being the “National Abortion Rights Action League” (adding “rights” to their name) to being the “National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League” (expanding the range of “rights” they purport to defend) to now calling themselves “NARAL Pro-Choice America.”

Also odd is this statement by Lewis: “As conservative Christians start engaging on a wider array of things, particularly issues that might be controversial and the base might not be sure what to do with, the leadership always ties it to abortion.”

He makes it sound as though looking for the implications for abortion in various pieces of legislation (such as, for example, Obamacare) is merely a political strategy. Does it not occur to him that we really believe the things we say, and that although there are many aspects of the sexual revolution which bother us, abortion is objectively the worst, because it involves the mass slaughter of millions of innocent unborn human beings?

Lewis offers this explanation for the shift toward “rights” language he claims to have identified:

[T]he big picture is that as the cultural status of conservative Christianity declines, they no longer have the cultural power that they once had. They move from taking cultural majority positions to thinking about rights and minority positions.

His thesis, and his explanation for it, makes somewhat more sense in the context of the homosexual movement—where opposition to redefining marriage was argued in part on the basis of the “right of a child to a mom and a dad,” and opposition to sexual orientation and gender identity laws has been supported in part by arguments about the “right to religious liberty.”

However, Lewis fails to give social conservatives enough credit for the sincerity of the arguments we make, including “rights” arguments. And when it comes to the abortion debate, the facts and chronology simply do not support his thesis.

Following God’s Call to Adopt in Ethiopia

by Maggie Banga

November 7, 2017

November is National Adoption Month. To recognize this important issue, we are publishing personal adoption testimonies this month.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I felt that God was calling us to live out our married life as missionaries. We joined the Comboni Missionaries, and after a one year period of formation we were ready to go to mission. A small village mission in Guatemala was chosen as the best match for our skill set and we began to study Spanish. However, two weeks before the planned departure our mission was changed. We would no longer be going to Central America but instead, to our great surprise, to Africa.

We went with a commitment to serve as missionaries for three years wherever we were sent. If someone had told us that we would be serving in Ethiopia for more than six years and that when we did return our family would be majority Ethiopian, we wouldn’t have believed it! We had never thought of nor planned to adopt.

In February 2010, my husband and I arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The sounds, the smells, the sights—everything that was so new and strange slowly became familiar. The community that was once foreign and unfamiliar became our home. We had the desire to share our love more deeply and to welcome a child into our family. We wanted to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Living in Ethiopia, the process was slightly different though not less complicated than in the U.S. We began working on the paperwork.

We met with the Missionaries of Charity and expressed our interest in adopting a child. On April 30, 2012 (the feast day of Our Lady of Africa), they matched us with a six-month-old baby girl from Northern Ethiopia with intense eyes and big dimples. Her name was Emebet, which in Amharic (a language commonly spoken in Ethiopia) means “honored woman” or “special lady.” I immediately relocated from the south where we were living to the capital to visit with her each day.

During the five week period of waiting to become her legal parents, we felt she might be taken from us before she became our adopted daughter as we saw her battle meningitis and then shortly afterwards measles. It was during this difficult time that my husband felt for the first time like her dad. Visiting her in the afternoon, he found her sick with measles, which is such a contagious disease that she had to be temporarily placed in an isolated part of the orphanage. She was face down and crying desperately in her crib in fear, pain, and loneliness, her body covered in a rash and her nose running from the illness and the tears. He scooped her up into his arms, laid her head on his shoulder, and sang softly, rocking her back and forth. She grew quiet and settled. A couple minutes later she lifted her head and pushed herself back to gaze into his face—who was this who was holding her? He smiled at her and whispered confidently, “I’m your dad and will hold you now forever.”

We continued to open the plan of our family to God’s love. Many changes related to orphan care and adoption were taking place within the country, and it was a very challenging process, but two years later to our amazement we welcomed two more children into our home—Isayas, a 14-month-old active and happy boy, and Teibe, an eight-month-old affectionate and snuggly girl. Isayas’s name is the Amharic version of the prophet Isaiah, meaning “God is salvation.” Teibe’s name comes from Therese Bethlehem—her first name is in honor of St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa) and her middle name reminds us of the joy and hope that was sparked there with the birth of Jesus.

We returned to North America last year, after more than six years in service. Our youngest is now four years old! This week we will be blessed with the visit of a Norwegian family that also adopted a boy and a girl from the same orphanage at the same time that we did. We supported each other through the process and waiting period and our kids were friends with cribs next to each other.

We see each of our children as a miracle. We delight in them and in the relationship of the three of them together. They bring joy to us as parents and to our bigger family, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It has been amazing to help them to understand our family and how they came to be part of it. We brewed delicious Ethiopian coffee on a recent Sunday morning and it gave our family an occasion to share, rejoice, and ask questions. The coffee was grown in the region where our youngest child Teibe was born. “Where was I born and what do they grow there?” the other two wanted to know. This was a small piece to an ongoing dialogue our family will have about adoption and God’s love and plans for each of us.

We can’t imagine our family without our three kids.

Ask God about his plan for your family. Could you welcome another child into your home?

Maggie Banga and her husband are Comboni Lay Missionaries. They live with their three adopted children in Hyattsville, Md.

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