Month Archives: January 2018

A Woman’s Right to Not Be Pressured to Abort

by Daniel Hart

January 18, 2018

A new study of women who have undergone abortions reveals what many in the pro-life movement have known for years: that “a woman’s right to choose” is more often than not no choice at all.

The study was recently published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons by Bowling Green State University professor Priscilla K. Coleman. Of the 987 post-abortive women who were surveyed, 58 percent said that they had their abortions in order to “make others happy,” with over 28 percent saying they had the abortion because “they feared their partner would leave them” if they did not. In addition, almost half of the women believed that their unborn baby was indeed a “human being at the time of the abortion.” In perhaps the most heartbreaking statistic, fully 66 percent of women “said they knew in their hearts that they were making a mistake when they underwent the abortion.”

This study explodes a number of myths perpetuated by abortion activists. Chief among them is that abortion must be available on demand in order to preserve women’s “reproductive freedom” and “choice.” But what is painfully clear from this most recent study is that just the opposite is true. Instead of empowering women to make their own reproductive choices, abortion on demand more often empowers men to use abortion as a kind of cudgel to hold over their wife or girlfriend’s heads and demand that they make an appointment down at the local Planned Parenthood to get rid of the unwanted baby for a quick and easy $300. In other words, abortion provides an easy way for men to avoid the responsibility that is inherent in the sexual relationship that they share with their wife or girlfriend.

Meanwhile, the woman is left to pick up the pieces. As the study reveals, a majority of these women are completely unprepared for the emotional devastation that abortion causes. Only 13 percent visited a mental health professional before their abortions, but after the procedure, the percentage skyrocketed to 67.5 percent. Similarly, only 6.6 percent of women reported using prescription drugs before their abortions; afterwards, 51 percent reported prescription drug use.

There are so many devastating lessons that can be drawn from these findings—the failure of men to own up to their responsibilities and show true love for their wives and girlfriends; the failure of the abortion industry to properly warn women of the psychological effects of abortion; the failure of our culture to see sex as a sacred act that should be treated with respect due to its inherent power of human procreation.

One positive that can come out of this study is just the fact that it exists at all. This is precisely the kind of information that the abortion industry is desperate to cover up, because it so clearly and directly contradicts their “woman’s right to choose” mantra that they have been espousing for decades. This study is the latest example of a light of truth illuminating the darkness of abortion, and when it is shared on social media and blogged about by thousands of people (hint, hint), the darkness cannot overcome it (see John 1:5).

Studies like these should strengthen the resolve of all of us in the pro-life movement, and give us an extra spring in our step as we join the March for Life tomorrow in Washington, D.C., not only to speak up for millions of tiny innocent lives, but to speak up for millions of mothers who are forced to carry the excruciating yet invisible weight of their offspring’s death on their shoulders, a weight that they will carry for the rest of their lives.

Religious Freedom Day: A Call to Action

by Family Research Council

January 17, 2018

President Ronald Reagan once said, “To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: the First Amendment to the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values, it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.”

Yesterday was Religious Freedom Day, and in recognition of this important day to celebrate this indispensable freedom, FRC hosted a Washington Watch Special Report with Tony Perkins. The first guest, Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.), pointed out that it’s currently an “odd season” for Christians who want to live out their faith. “Religious freedom and the free expression of your faith has been a given throughout American history, and now for some reason, people of this country and in this cultural time are becoming afraid of faith and afraid of people of faith.” He went on to emphasize that there cannot be a “wall of separation” between one’s faith and the public square that they participate in through their job or through recreation, echoing Reagan’s proper interpretation of the First Amendment.

An unfortunate tendency in our culture today is for many people of faith to assume that there must be a “wall of separation” between their public and private faith lives. But as Senator Lankford underscored, that’s not the proper understanding of a truly lived faith: “If church and faith is only something you do on the weekend, that’s not a faith, that’s a hobby … A faith permeates everything that you do.”

Next, former Congressman Frank Wolf joined Tony to discuss international religious liberty issues. He declared religious liberty to be at greater risk today than it was 40 years ago, with 5.5 billion people currently living in religiously repressive nations. He also pointed out the outrageous fact that Squire Patton Boggs, one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, D.C., represents persecutors of religious freedom like Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, as well as China, which imprisons and executes Christians, Buddhists, and Uyghurs.

Wolf also issued a strong challenge to pastors and churches to stand up more forcefully for those being persecuted around the world for their faith. “I think we need some men like Martin Luther King. I think we need pastors to go to jail. I am disappointed in the church. There are exceptions … but overall the church has fundamentally failed.” Wolf also mentioned the current anti-Semitism phenomenon happening on college campuses, and how the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement is in reality thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. When asked what we can all do to fight religious persecution, Wolf emphasized the fundamental importance of prayer, supporting groups like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and Samaritan’s Purse, contacting congressmen and senators about religious liberty legislation, and hosting a “religious freedom day” at your church.

Dr. Alveda King was the show’s next guest, and she pointed out that religious liberty issues are particularly relevant to her personally in light of a recent incident in which Facebook blocked ads from being displayed advertising a movie about Roe v. Wade that she served as an executive producer for. She quoted her uncle Martin Luther King who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Ryan Bomberger, who is a tireless advocate for the unborn and for equal justice through his Radiance Foundation, closed out the show, noting that he himself was the target of a free speech lawsuit filed by the NAACP, who didn’t like the fact that he was unafraid to point out the organization’s support for the abortion of black children. He also underscored the need for Christians to be fearless in living out their faith: “What good is religious liberty if we are silent?  What good is that freedom if we are complacent?” He also noted how fundamental these issues are: “Without religious freedom, America no longer matters. Without life, nothing else matters. So for me, those two issues [religious freedom and the right to life] go hand in hand, and that’s why the Radiance Foundation really sees these things as so imperative, and why we have to fight for both.”

Tony and Ryan both emphasized the need for more courage among Christians to boldly stand up against injustice and live out their faith without fear. This could mean something as simple as posting an article about the importance of religious freedom on Facebook without being afraid of the negative comments. As Ryan succinctly put it, “At the heart of Christianity is self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice unleashes purpose. When we’re courageous, we enable opportunities to happen that allow others to be set free.”

Be sure to listen to the entire Washington Watch Special Report or watch the archived Facebook webcast.

Social Conservative Review - January 15, 2018

by Daniel Hart

January 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

Over and over, the New Testament gives us a “simple” commandment: love one another (John 13:34, 15:12, 1 John 3:11, Romans 13:8, Ephesians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, etc.). It sounds simple, but we all know that putting this commandment into practice is anything but.

When we are reminded to love one another, it’s easy to get discouraged by thinking of all the times we have failed to show love to our neighbor. C.S. Lewis provides an insightful way to think about how we can develop a habit of love by using the metaphor of mathematics. When we study math, we don’t begin by trying to understand calculus—we start with basic addition. In the same way, we learn to love by first loving our family—the basic unit of society from which we come from. This plays out in small, everyday acts of love, like forgiving your spouse for leaving the sink piled high with dirty dishes, or forgiving your child for blurting out an insult.

Once we gain this habit of love in our families, we can more easily transfer the habit to everyone we meet in our everyday lives. But it is still quite difficult, as we all know, because unloving feelings seem to naturally bubble up within us out of nowhere, and they are often difficult to shake. One example is when we are driving on a highway, and we are abruptly cut off by another driver who changes lanes right in front of us, forcing us to slow down. The immediate reaction is one of resentment, and we are often tempted to react in equal measure, perhaps by speeding up to tailgate them. But this is a failure to love one another. As C.S. Lewis has written, “The feeling of resentment, the desire for payback, must be simply killed. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible.”

When we feel the inklings of resentment building up within us, we must stop them before they become worse. Instead of letting your anger rise, take a deep breath and ask Jesus for the grace to forgive the person who has wronged you. Say a prayer for the person, asking the Lord to help them see the truth. When we begin to form this kind of habit of forgiveness and practice it over and over again, it will with time blossom into a way of life. When God sees our attempts at love, however small they may be, He pours His grace into our lives, giving us continued strength to persevere in love.

On this Martin Luther King Day, let us be especially mindful of the importance of loving one another in order to bring about increased harmony between those of different ethnicities and cultures.

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

Voices From The Grave Cry Out For Justice In Iran – Ken Blackwell

Every Vote Really Does Count – Ken Blackwell

Will Republicans Finish The Job for Seniors And Small Businesses? – Ken Blackwell

Chai Feldblum Should Not Be Reappointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Peter Spring

What You Can Do to Fight Sex Trafficking – Dan Hart

Oregon State Appeals Court Rules Against Aaron and Melissa Klein – Travis Weber

How the New Tax Bill Helps Families – Andrew Guernsey

A Pastor’s Take on the Sex Abuse Scandals of 2017 – Andrew Hebert

The Rich History of Christmas Traditions – Dan Hart

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Is Your Church Prepared to Handle a Challenge to its Religious Liberty? – Erik Stanley, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

What the Founders Understood About Religious Freedom That We Must Recover – Michael Berry, The Daily Signal

Christian school fights Michigan Township for right to operate out of a church – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

FEMA to Allow Churches to Receive Disaster Relief After Key Policy Change – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Calif. County Allows Christian Group to Display Nativity Scene on Public Property for Epiphany – Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post

Top 5 religious liberty stories of 2017 – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Atheist Group Forces Louisiana Sheriff’s Office to Remove Christian Facebook Posts – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Free to Believe”

Judge Gives Partial Victory to Fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran – Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post

Christian Couple Who Lost Bakery After Heavy Fine for Not Making Lesbian Wedding Cake Loses Appeal – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

NJ Gives Christian Teacher 3-Year Suspension After Facebook Post on Homosexuality – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

International Religious Freedom

Italy Faces ‘Dark Future’ After Passing New End-of-Life Law – Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register

Under Justin Trudeau, Canada marches towards totalitarianism – Dorothy Cummings McLean, LifeSiteNews

Christians in Egypt Celebrate Christmas Amid Tight SecurityThe Christian Post

China church demolition sparks fears of campaign against Christians – Benjamin Haas, The Guardian

 

Life

Abortion

The new pro-life generation – Leigh Jones, WORLD

From Ireland to Africa: What Happened in the Pro-Life Movement in 2017 – Liberty McArtor, The Stream

Planned Parenthood: We Did 321,384 Abortions; Got $543.7 Million in Tax Dollars – Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS News

Path to pro-life: Overcoming pro-abortion peer pressure with facts – Marvin Olasky, WORLD

Ohio passes Down syndrome abortion ban – Samantha Gobba, WORLD

Unsafe: Ambulance calls to abortion facilities doubled in 2017 – Rebecca Downs, Live Action

Court strikes down Baltimore law on pregnancy centers – Associated Press

Women Describe Trauma of Abortion in Survey; Nearly 3 in 5 Abortions Done ‘To Make Others Happy’ – Brandon Showalter, The Christian Post

How Abortion Pills Upend the Politics and Practice of Abortion – Rebecca Oas, C-Fam

Adoption

Mother records heartfelt message for her son before he’s placed for adoption – KOAT

Bioethics

Six Things You Need to Know about Physician-Assisted Suicide – Nancy Valko, Public Discourse

Physicians Cannot Serve Both Death and Life – Gerard T. Mundy, Public Discourse

Health Care

Trump Rule Aims to Extend Health Care Option to 11 Million Uninsured – Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal

 

Family

Economics/Education

Taxes and Parental Educational Autonomy – John Grondelski, Ethika Politika

4 Of The Biggest Myths About The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act – Justin Haskins, The Federalist

A Good Guide: A Winsome Argument for Virtue in Business – John Yoest, The Stream

How Common Core Taught Me Bureaucrats Will Always Win Unless We Slash Big Government – Jenni White, The Federalist

Communicating Key Truths About Marriage and Family in the University Classroom – D. Scott Sibley, Family Studies

Marriage

What’s the Secret to Great Marriage in the New Year? – Erin Smalley, Focus on the Family

If Women Want A Family, They Need To Prioritize Marriage Above Their Careers – Suzanne Venker, The Federalist

7 New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthier Marriage in 2018 – Alysse ElHage, Family Studies

How to Live Out the Gospel in Your Marriage – Kaitlin Curtice, Relevant

Faith/Character/Culture

Why MLK’s Vision of Love as a Moral Imperative Still Matters – Joshua F.J. Inwood, Intellectual Takeout

The Anomaly of Being an Anti-Drifter – Jared Zimmerer, Word On Fire

Creation waits: Incarnation and resurrection are the pulse of the world – Janie B. Cheaney, WORLD

A Modest Suggestion: Perhaps Things Aren’t That Bad – Heather Wilhelm, National Review

The Supernatural Foundation of Charity – Gary A. Anderson, Principles

The Fatal Flaw of Going It AloneRelevant

Be True to Yourself – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

6 Ways to practice being kinder – Cynthia Dermody, Aleteia

Modesty and Charity – Anthony Esolen, The Catholic Thing

Human Sexuality

Manhood Is Not Natural – Glenn Stanton, Public Discourse

A great sexual reckoning – Mindy Belz, WORLD

In Defense of Prudery – David Sandifer, Touchstone

Military to begin accepting transgender recruits after Trump delays appeal – Julia Manchester, The Hill

The Cure for Toxic Masculinity is Real Masculinity – Robin Koerner, The Stream

Psychologist Says Teens Need to Stop Asking for Nude Texts – Katherine Blakeman, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

CDC study shows decline in teen sex during abstinence education period – Fr. Mark Hodges, LifeSiteNews

How Their Refusal To Tolerate Dissent Is Creating A Global Backlash Against LGBT People – Stefano Gennarini, The Federalist

Human Trafficking

5 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Sex Trafficking In Your Daily Life – Fight the New Drug

How to Participate in National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2018 – Haley Halverson, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Harvey Weinstein Isn’t Unusual: Sexual Abuse and Trafficking in the United States – Mary Rose Somarriba, Public Discourse

Bill to Aid Victims of Child Pornography Passes Senate Judiciary CommitteeNational Catholic Register

Pornography

Your Brain on Porn – Katherine Blakeman, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

16 Need-To-Know Facts About How Porn Is Impacting Our Society – Fight the New Drug

What You Can Do to Fight Sex Trafficking

by Daniel Hart

January 9, 2018

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. There are an estimated 20 to 30 million human trafficking victims in the world today, with an estimated 4.5 million of those forcibly involved in sex trafficking. In the U.S., an estimated 640,000 are being trafficked for sex.

These numbers are profoundly disturbing, and it can be tempting to feel discouraged that ordinary citizens like us are powerless to help these victims and to help stop the demand for paid sex. In reality, there are a number of ways that all of us can help in the fight. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Fight the New Drug have both published a list of practical ways we can all join the cause. Here is a brief summary of what you can do:

1. Do Not View or Pay for Porn

As we have written about previously, porn and sex trafficking are inseparably linked. Each click of pornography creates a demand for more pornography and brings in a profit to the industry. The demand causes traffickers, pimps, and those involved in the sex industry to abuse their victims by filming them in sex acts.

2. Learn How to Identify Potential Victims and Report Suspicious Activity

If you think you see suspicious activity happening wherever you are, be sure you have learned about what to look for. The Department of Homeland Security has published Indicators of Human Trafficking—be sure to look for these warning signs particularly in airports, gas stations, rest stops, and hotels. If you think you see something suspicious, call local law enforcement, or you can contact the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

3. Use a New App to Take Pictures of Your Hotel Room

Hotel rooms are a hotspot for sex trafficking. Victims are often advertised online through pictures taken of them in hotel rooms. As Fight the New Drug has written on, there is a new app called TraffickCam that catalogues details of different hotel rooms like wallpaper and furniture to help create a database of identifiers, which can then be used by TraffickCam’s algorithm to match images of sex trafficking victims that will help law enforcement identify the possible locations of victims.

4. Participate in Online Activism

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) has organized a number of ways that you can participate in online activism. Here are two:

  • Joining NCSE’s #TACKLEDEMAND social media campaign before the Super Bowl is a way to bring awareness about the problem of large commercial sporting events being used by sex traffickers and buyers for sexual exploitation.
  • Netflix is producing a show called “Baby” that normalizes the sexual exploitation of young teenagers by portraying it as a kind of “edgy” coming of age story. You can protest this repulsive show by sending an email or Facebook message to Netflix executives demanding that they stop producing it.

Oregon State Appeals Court Rules Against Aaron and Melissa Klein

by Travis Weber

January 5, 2018

On December 28th, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against Aaron and Melissa Klein, upholding a determination under state law that forced them to create a cake for a same-sex wedding against their consciences.

The court threw cold water on the Kleins’ First Amendment defenses, claiming that if it allowed them to proceed, then others seeking to defend racial discrimination through religious freedom claims would also be allowed to prevail.

The Court also goes overboard by accepting and recounting wholesale the feelings and perceptions of the upset same-sex couple, coloring bias into the entire narrative—while failing to do the same courtesy for the feelings and perceptions of Aaron and Melissa, who no doubt have been seriously harmed throughout this case. Moreover, Aaron and Melissa had to endure a barrage of hateful rhetoric directed at them as this incident developed, yet none of this is built into the court’s recounting of events, which ultimately supported highly excessive damages against the Kleins built on nothing more than the couple’s flimsy emotional narrative.

Yet there were a couple of bright spots in the opinion.

The one finding the court reversed was the part of the administrative ruling which acted as a “gag order” on the Kleins being able to speak about what happened to them. This finding was outrageous, and rightly reversed by the court of appeals.

Second, even though the court ruled against the Kleins’ freedom of expression claim, it recognized that to the degree such cake creations are artistic, they are very likely protected. Noting that “[i]t appears that the Supreme Court has never decided a free-speech challenge to the application of a public accommodations law to a retail establishment selling highly customized, creative goods and services that arguably are in the nature of art or other expression,” the court said that “[i]f BOLI’s [Bureau of Labor and Industry—the administrative entity which ruled against the Kleins] order can be understood to compel the Kleins to create pure ‘expression’ that they would not otherwise create, it is possible that the Court would regard BOLI’s order as a regulation of content, thus subject to strict scrutiny, the test for regulating fully protected expression.” This also “would be a different case if BOLI’s order had awarded damages against the Kleins for refusing to decorate a cake with a specific message requested by a customer (‘God Bless This Marriage.’)”

Well, the Supreme Court is about to decide this very issue in Jack Phillips’ case—Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—in the upcoming months. When his case is decided, the Kleins’ case may be too. Indeed, at oral argument in Phillips’ case, the exact message “God Bless This Marriage” was mentioned by the justices as implicating protected expressive conduct (one wonders if the Oregon Court of Appeals specifically cited it in order to leave itself an “out”).

Finally, in another bright moment in its opinion, the Oregon Court of Appeals observed that the Kleins’ case (and therefore many of these wedding vendor cases) are unlike FAIR v. Rumsfeld, in which the Supreme Court said law schools must allow military recruiters (the military was under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the time) access to campus if they wanted to continue to receive federal funds. Opponents of the Kleins and others often claim their cases are like FAIR, and it was good to see the Court here dismiss that notion, observing that the law schools never objected to being forced to speak a message with which they disagree, while the Kleins and other wedding vendors do.

Despite these few promising points, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling is a blow to freedom for all, and will only perpetuate the current culture war by suppressing the religious freedom of many people of good will who just want to live their lives in peace. The Kleins’ opponents could have easily obtained a cake from a nearby bakery, and the problem would be solved. Instead, once again, everyone has been dragged into years of litigation. Until a different approach to these conflicts is taken, we can only expect more of the same results.

How the New Tax Bill Helps Families

by Andrew Guernsey

January 4, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1 “TCJA”), signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, provides numerous provisions that benefit working families.

Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) has a positive impact on individual families and the economy as a whole and helps parents bear the costs of raising their children.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the CTC for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by:

  • Increasing the CTC to $2,000 for children under 17;
  • Making the CTC refundable up to $1,400 (indexed for inflation) for low-income working families based on
    • 15 percent of earned income in excess of $2,500; or
    • (if greater) the amount of payroll taxes in excess of the earned income tax credit, for a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children;
  • Removing the CTC marriage penalty for the income phase-out, and increasing the income threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly;
  • Providing a $500 non-refundable Family Care Credit credit for dependents who don’t receive the CTC; and
  • Requiring a qualifying child to have a Social Security Number for a taxpayer to claim the CTC

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Penalty

Starting in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. This helps many working families obtain relief from being forced into an Obamacare health insurance plan. Repealing the individual mandate penalty also allows individuals to forgo purchasing coverage if doing so violates their conscience. This is especially relevant for individuals who live in the states where there are few or no pro-life health insurance plans that exclude coverage of abortion.

Marriage Penalties

Marriage penalties exist in the tax code and also in welfare programs. The penalty generally applies in the tax code when a tax deduction or credit applies to single and married persons based on income, but a married couple is eliminated from receipt of the benefit making less than 200 percent of an eligible single person’s income.

Income Tax Brackets

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has no marriage penalties for five of seven tax income brackets for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

  • Marriage bonus in the 22 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent lower rate than single filers for the first $25,000 they make over $140,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $500 bonus, decreasing income taxes by up to 1.41 percent.
  • Small marriage penalty in the 32 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have an 8 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $5,000 they make over $315,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $400 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 0.61 percent.
  • Large marriage penalty in the 37 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 2.59 percent.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces marriage penalties for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by removing the marriage penalty for the AMT income phase-out ($500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married couples filing jointly). TCJA retains the marriage penalty for the AMT exemption ($70,300 for single filers and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly).

  • Due to the marriage penalty in the AMT exemption,
    • Married couples filing jointly are taxed at 26 percent higher rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $109,400 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,112 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 22.19 percent.
    • Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher AMT tax rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $295,700 in taxable income. This is a maximium $624 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 0.71 percent.

Other Marriage Penalty Provisions

  • Retains a marriage penalty for the $10,000 State and local income tax (SALT), property tax, and/or sales tax deduction, which is equal in amount for single filers and married couples filing jointly. This is a maximum $3,700 penalty.
  • Removes the marriage penalty in the Child Tax Credit phase-out ($200,000 for single filers, $400,000 for married couples filing jointly).
  • Fails to address the marriage penalty for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Alimony Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently repeals the alimony deduction, which subsidizes divorce. A divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result by receiving a tax break for payments between them than a married couple can. Removing the alimony deduction restores equitable treatment for divorced and married couples’ expenses for child support.

529 Education Savings Accounts

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently allows 529 education savings accounts to be used for up to $10,000 per year per child for K-12 tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.

529 plan contributions have tax-free earnings and are exempt from the annual federal gift tax if under $14,000 for that year ($28,000 for married couples filing jointly). Contributions to 529 plans receive significant tax breaks in many states. Previously, the 529 plans were only allowed to be used for higher education related expenses.

Death Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the tax exclusion from the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” thereby shielding from taxation the first $11.2 million (indexed for inflation) of bequeathed assets. This provision applies for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

The death tax is double taxation that handicaps families, and particularly family-owned businesses, by imposing heavy and burdensome taxes on bequeathed assets. Families often work as a unit to build their small businesses, but when a parent dies with the intention of leaving his or her small business to the children who helped build it, that transfer of assets is often taxed at such high rates that the business cannot continue operating and pay the government, causing the grieving family to close the business’s doors.

Adoption Tax Credit

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act retains the adoption tax credit in current law, which is currently a $13,570 non-refundable credit per eligible child (with a phase out for wealthier individuals). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, in 2015 over 111,000 children were waiting to be adopted. Maintaining the adoption tax credit in current law helps adoptive children find loving families.

Standard Deduction and Charitable Giving

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the deduction for personal exemptions, including the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, and any dependents. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for the taxpayer and taxpayer’s spouse into a larger standard deduction. The standard deduction is substantially increased from $6,300 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples (and surviving spouses), giving working parents more take-home pay to provide for their families. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for children and dependents into the expanded child tax credit and a new family tax credit to care for non-child dependents. However, increasing the standard deduction could harm charitable giving, including to nonprofits and churches, since fewer people will likely itemize.

A Pastor’s Take on the Sex Abuse Scandals of 2017

by Andrew Hebert

January 3, 2018

Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Matt Lauer. Charlie Rose. Al Franken. What do these men have in common? They, along with over one hundred others, were accused in recent months of sexual misconduct. The list of names spans the east and west coasts, the media and politics, Democrats and Republicans. The revelation of widespread sex abuse was one of the most important developments of 2017. It brought darkness to light and uncovered a societal cancer that has been kept secret for far too long.

Some have expressed shock that people can indeed be so evil. Some wonder if this kind of depravity has always happened but remained concealed. Is the extreme nature of this abuse a new phenomenon?

As Christians, what are we to say about these things? Who’s to blame? And more importantly, how do we get out of this mess?

For Christians, none of this twisted sexual behavior should come as a surprise. Humanity has been this broken all along. The Bible gives both a framework for understanding why all of this is happening as well as a clear way out of the mess. Christians have believed for a long time in the depravity of mankind, that every human person is sinful and broken. This view of depravity does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly can be, but rather that any one of us is capable of doing anything.

Of course, this theological understanding of mankind does not in any way excuse the behavior of these men, any more than a compulsive liar’s proclivity to tell untruths justifies the lies he or she tells. We believe in protecting the innocent, fighting injustice, and guarding those who are most vulnerable in our society. We also believe that the government’s job is to punish evildoers, as the Apostle Paul states in Romans 13. If any of these men are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But while justice must be done, to what extent does our society also share some of the blame? Since the sexual revolution, American sexual mores have been alarmingly and harmfully fluid. Coupled with the moral relativism that has been espoused in many public forums—especially the media, the arts, and the classroom—the sexual revolution effectively taught boys and girls that personal expression supersedes “restrictive” traditional ethics. Those boys and girls grew up to be some of the same men and women who decided that love of self-expression is to be valued more than love of neighbor.

Currently, even our elementary aged children are exposed to sexual education where traditional sexual boundaries are pushed. Whether it is the issue of gender identification, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, or polyamory, the culture has enabled the sexual confusion and dysfunction we are experiencing. There is little doubt as to why we are where we are. Ideas have consequences. Failing to recognize any moral absolutes, society has left the door open for a host of unethical behaviors. It is time for our society to look in the mirror when leveling blame for these tragedies.

These scandals simply reflect the outcome when a society rejects the Christian notion of moral absolutes, which are grounded in the creative design of God. The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once famously remarked, “If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Hefner.” In this cultural moment, we are seeing what happens when people try to fill the void in their lives that is left when there is no room for God. We are sex-obsessed. Sex has become a god, and as all idols do, it has left us hurting and broken.

So, amidst the very apparent brokenness we are experiencing as a society, how should we respond, particularly from a Christian perspective?

Scripture calls us to humility and hope. We must have humility, because we believe “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Let him who thinks he stands beware lest he fall,” Scripture warns us (1 Corinthians 10:12). While not everyone has committed sexual assault, everyone stands equally sinful before God. Furthermore, most people struggle with sexual dysfunction in one way or another. We are all sexually broken and our sexuality needs to be healed. This recognition should give us humility.

Beyond humility, the gospel also says that there is hope. For the victims there is hope that justice will be done, if not on earth then in heaven. There is hope for those who feel used, hurt, dirty, and perhaps even full of shame. Regardless of what has caused that shame, cleansing is possible. The Christian gospel is clear: you are not the sum total of what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. People do not have to be defined by their mistakes, or the destructive actions of others. Psalm 147 tells us that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Restoration is possible through Christ.

A more scandalous notion is that those who have been accused have hope as well. Regardless of the crime they may have committed, any of these men who turn to Christ in repentance and faith can be forgiven and made new. This is the hope of the gospel: because of Christ crucified, our sin—past, present, and future—has already been judged at the cross. God reckoned Jesus as guilty so He could reckon us as innocent. The good news of the gospel is that no matter the mistake, forgiveness can be received in Jesus. What’s more, Christ rose from the dead, enabling us to walk in newness of life. Christ can restore us in such a way that we can pursue all of life, including our sexuality, in the way God designed it. We don’t have to be who we’ve been. That’s a message that Harvey Weinstein needs to hear. That’s a message that we all need to hear.

Dr. Andrew Hebert is the lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas. You can follow him on Twitter at @andrewhebert86.

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