Month Archives: January 2019

Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh: We See Religious Freedom Problems with Coach Kennedy Case

by Travis Weber

January 22, 2019

Today the Supreme Court refused to take up the case of Coach Joe Kennedy, but some of the justices nonetheless sent a signal in favor of religious liberty.

Coach Kennedy, represented by our friends at First Liberty Institute, is a Christian high school football coach from Bremerton, Washington, who was punished after taking a knee and praying on the field after games. His case has been deliberated in federal district court, then the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, before making its way to the Supreme Court.

While the Court’s refusal to hear the case is not ideal, it appears that unresolved factual questions (the lower court never concluded whether Coach Kennedy was punished for praying or neglecting his professional duties) prevented the Court from hearing the full case and taking up the First Amendment free speech claim.

Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, penned a separate statement (see pp. 8-13) explaining that while he understands and agrees with the Court’s reason for not taking the case right now (if asked to do so, he would direct the lower court to reach a conclusion on this question, but at this point the Court was only asked to decide the legal question), he doesn’t necessarily agree with the lower court rulings, which appear problematic for religious liberty and the First Amendment:

While I thus concur in the denial of the present petition, the Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.

Alito criticized the “highly tendentious way” the Ninth Circuit applied the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos (dealing with the First Amendment rights of public employees) to Coach Kennedy’s situation, which would have required public school employees like teachers and coaches to refrain from any religious activity a student might see or the school might not like, from the time the teacher or coach shows up in the morning until the time they leave. Alito concluded:

If the Ninth Circuit continues to apply [this] interpretation of Garcetti in future cases involving public school teachers or coaches, review by this Court may be appropriate.

Alito wasn’t finished:

What is perhaps most troubling about the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is language that can be understood to mean that a coach’s duty to serve as a good role model requires the coach to refrain from any manifestation of religious faith—even when the coach is plainly not on duty. I hope that this is not the message that the Ninth Circuit meant to convey, but its opinion can certainly be read that way. After emphasizing that [Coach Kennedy] was hired to “communicate a positive message through the example set by his own conduct,” the court criticized him for “his media appearances and prayer in the [Bremerton High School (BHS)] bleachers (while wearing BHS apparel and surrounded by others).” [citation omitted] This conduct, in the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, “signal[ed] his intent to send a message to students and parents about appropriate behavior and what he values as a coach.” [citation omitted] But when [Coach Kennedy] prayed in the bleachers, he had been suspended. He was attending a game like any other fan. The suggestion that even while off duty, a teacher or coach cannot engage in any outward manifestation of religious faith is remarkable.

It’s very encouraging to see Justice Alito on record noting the religious liberty problems with this case—something we’ve come to expect from him—along with Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. But it’s particularly heartening to see Justice Kavanaugh join this statement. While his judicial record would have suggested he’d rule the right way on religious liberty issues once seated on the Court, his refusal to join these three justices in dissenting from denial of cert in the Planned Parenthood defunding cases late last year left many wondering whether he would be a true originalist. While these actions don’t necessarily indicate how the justices will rule on the merits (there’s a good chance Justice Roberts still agrees with his originalist colleagues on these matters), they are heartening nevertheless.

Justice Alito concluded by almost inviting Coach Kennedy to ask the Court to reconsider Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, a Title VII case lowering employee protections against religious discrimination, and Employment Division v. Smith, which cut back on Free Exercise protections and prompted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be passed over twenty-five years ago.

Let us hope Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are prophesying where the Court is going on religious liberty.

Fifth Circuit: Procedure Matters, and Texas Didn’t Get a Fair Shake in Cutting Ties with Planned Parenthood

by Alexandra McPhee

January 18, 2019

Yesterday’s ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a trial court’s temporary block on a Texas agency’s decision to terminate the state’s Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Fifth Circuit reasoned that in an evidentiary hearing over a challenge to the decision, the state agency didn’t get a fair shake, and Planned Parenthood’s evidence improperly received greater weight in a “peculiarly asymmetrical way.”

Undercover videos revealing officials from the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) illegally engaging in the procurement and sale of fetal tissue and body parts spurred Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood affiliates. Despite states’ “broad authority to ensure that Medicaid healthcare providers are qualified to provide medical services,” none of the states have until now been allowed to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, as ruling after ruling has resulted in success for the challengers.

In Texas, a trial court temporarily blocked the termination effort after affiliates sued. At an evidentiary hearing, the state agency presented evidence to justify its decision, including the videos, which recorded statements from PPGC officials showing that the facility intended to or already had illegally procured fetal tissue and body parts. The research director stated that its doctors had “collect[ed] the specimens . . . in a way that they can get the best specimen,” and the abortion facility director implied that doctors were able to obtain intact fetuses by lying about intent. Forensic analysis showed that none of the videos were “deceptively edited.” Yet the trial court “suggested that [the videos] may have been edited,” and it asserted that the state agency lacked “even a scintilla of evidence, to conclude the bases of termination.”

The Fifth Circuit vacated the trial court’s ruling, concluding that the trial court improperly weighed the evidence without any deference to the state agency’s evidence. In fact, the Fifth Circuit said, the trial court should have done the opposite and upheld the state agency’s decision unless it acted arbitrarily and capriciously.

The Fifth Circuit made clear the trial court’s error by including in the opinion a screenshot from the videos of the remains of a fetus after it was dismembered and discarded in a pool of blood in a glass tray. The image is sad and alarming. But the image boldly displays the crux of the issue. Can it truly be said that a state acts arbitrarily and capriciously by severing ties with an organization saying on camera that it is willing to illegally capitalize on an industry that treats humans with as much dignity as livestock in a meat processing facility?

For the Fifth Circuit, procedure mattered. Because the hearing with Planned Parenthood lacked procedural neutrality, Texas has been allowed another chance to uphold the virtues of health and life and to benefit from the rule of law.

Social Conservative Review - January 16, 2019

by Daniel Hart

January 16, 2019

Dear Friends,

Today is Religious Freedom Day in America (see FRC’s resources below). In our great country, religious freedom has held a special place in our civic life ever since the days of Thomas Jefferson. But this freedom is increasingly coming under assault by activists on the Left here at home and by authoritarian regimes abroad. This is why we must never take the freedoms we have in this country for granted.

So what do we mean by “religious freedom”? In this day and age, it’s vitally important to define our terms in order to counter those who have a far too narrow view of this first freedom. FRC’s David Closson has written an excellent summation of the proper understanding of religious freedom:

Simply put, religious liberty is the freedom to live out one’s faith according to his or her deepest convictions. This means people have the right to believe what they want in terms of theology and doctrine and can live in a way that brings their life into conformity with these beliefs. Obviously, this does not mean people can do whatever they want under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ but it does mean that as much latitude as possible should be extended to those with sincere religious convictions about how to order their lives.”

Our Founding Fathers understood that man’s deepest desire is to live out his most deeply held convictions, which most often come from religious foundations. The freedom of religion was therefore included in the First Amendment to the Constitution—our “first freedom.” May we never take this freedom for granted and always use it for the greater glory of God.

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 “Religious Freedom Day” Resources

Washington Watch” Special Report: Religious Freedom Day – 5-6 p.m. ET on Facebook Live

On Religious Freedom Day, consider life in countries without it – Travis Weber

Religious Freedom Day – David Closson

When Free Exercise Comes at a Price – Alexandra McPhee

 

FRC Articles

NEW Policy Publication: Top 10 Myths About Abortion – Ingrid Skop, M.D.

NEW Policy Publication: Why “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity” Should Never Be Specially Protected Categories Under the Law – Peter Sprigg

All I want for Christmas is a Supreme Court victory for public Christmas displays, crosses – Alexandra McPhee

E-Verify — The Immigration Solution Congress is Looking For – Ken Blackwell

Seventeen Years Later, Controversy Emerges Over Painting of “Ground Zero Cross” – Alexandra McPhee

The APA is Crazy: “Traditional Masculinity is Psychologically Harmful” – Cathy Ruse

Family Research Council Opposes the “Equal Rights Amendment”

The ERA: A Bad, Old Idea – Cathy Ruse

The Postal Service Stamps Out the Christmas Spirit – Alexandra McPhee

Is Anyone Surprised that Planned Parenthood Treats its Pregnant Employees Terribly? – Patrina Mosley

Is Chai Feldblum Reconsidering Religious Freedom? – Peter Sprigg

Compassion Is Needed for Parents and Professors Dealing with “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” Too – Peter Sprigg

Parents Beware of Puberty-Blocker Propaganda – Cathy Ruse

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Democrats Question Judicial Nominee About Membership in Catholic Association – Kevin Daley, The Daily Signal

Apple removes Christian ministry app following complaints by LGBT activists – Teri Webster, The Blaze

Colorado loses bid to dismiss cake artist’s lawsuit – Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington state senior center bans religious Christmas expression – Alliance Defending Freedom

Early Christmas gift: City ends discrimination, Maryland church resumes worship – Alliance Defending Freedom

House Passes Bill to Free Pastors from IRS Muzzle and Shield Churches from Accidental New Tax – Benjamin Gill, CBN News

Family’s Christmas Stamps Rejected Because of “Religious” Content – ToddStarnes.com

Texas Lawmaker Wants to Put The Ten Commandments Back in Public Schools – Jeremiah Poff, ToddStarnes.com

Indiana school district bars coaches from participating in team prayers after atheist complaint – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Oxford students demand university fire famed philosophy prof for ‘homophobia’ – Lisa Bourne, LifeSiteNews

International Religious Freedom

Wise Men Still Bring Gifts: Our Extraordinary Christmas in Egypt – Rick Segal, Desiring God

The Coming ‘Turkish Jihadist Invasion’ Against Christians: A Christmas Plea from Syrians to US Christians – Chris Mitchell, CBN News

As China Cracks Down on Churches, Christians Declare ‘We Will Not Forfeit Our Faith’ – Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times

2 Christian brothers sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, charity warns – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

India: Shock as pastor arrested for ‘showing movie about Jesus’ – Athena Chrysanthou, Express

Chinese City Bans Christmas Celebrations to Maintain ‘Clean Environment’ – Frances Martel, Breitbart

Trump’s troop withdrawal ‘sacrifices’ Syrian Christians, gives ‘victory’ to jihadis: activist – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Christians ‘Standing in the Way’ of China’s Xi Jinping’s Totalitarian Rule – George Thomas, CBN News

During Christmas Week, Iran Arrests 9 Christians for ‘Zionism,’ Spreading ‘Corrupt’ Beliefs – Tyler O’Neil, PJ Media

Military Religious Freedom

Air Force Under Attack For Helping Salvation Army Provide Christmas to Needy Kids – ToddStarnes.com

 

Life

Abortion

Abortion Killed 42 Million People In 2018 – Paul Bois, The Daily Wire

Living pro-vida – Mary Jackson, WORLD

Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions – Jessie Hellmann, The Hill

The Supreme Court Should Protect Unborn Children with Down Syndrome – O. Carter Snead and Mary O’Callaghan, Public Discourse

Trump Contests “Sexual and Reproductive Health” at UN but Fails to Rollback Abortion Language – Austin Ruse, C-Fam

Indiana Health Department Refuses To License Abortion Clinic Over Undisclosed Records –  Grace Carr, The Daily Caller

Planned Parenthood, Other Feminist Organizations Accused Of Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers – Ashe Schow, The Daily Wire

Pro-choice activist tells kids: abortion is ‘part of God’s plan,’ ‘like dentist appointment’ – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Kansas judge rules telemedicine abortions can continue – John Hanna, ABC News

Like a giant what-if’: Siblings of aborted children mourn their loss – Skyler Lee, Live Action

Planned Parenthood’s President Admits Abortion Is Group’s ‘Core Mission’ – Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review

Adoption

Texas couple: God ‘purposefully connected’ us to kids found chained in horrific abuse case – Caleb Parke, Fox News

Bioethics

Obama-Appointed NIH Director: Aborted Fetal Tissue Will ‘Continue to Be the Mainstay’ for Research – Susan Berry, Breitbart

 

Family

Marriage

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Your Marriage – Teri Reisser and Paul Reisser, Focus on the Family

The Cleansing of the Temple: Casting Pornography Out of Marriage – Michelle Curran and Luca Marelli, Humanum

Podcast: Holy longing: The struggle with infertility – Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

State Efforts to Reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences Should Include Programs to Strengthen Marriage – Alysse ElHage, Family Studies

Parenting

Farewell, Judith Rich Harris – Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Gender-Neutral Parenting Isn’t for Me – Leigh Harper, Family Life

Faith/Character/Culture

How Tragedy Testifies To The Supreme, Glorious Value Of Human Life – Caroline D’Agati, The Federalist

What Do We Owe Our Parents? – Ashley McGuire, Family Studies

Grown Men Are the Solution, Not the Problem – David French, National Review

It Is Good That You Exist – Rachel Bulman, Word on Fire

The Strongest Men Are Gentle – David Mathis, Desiring God

Watch This Dude Climb 3,200 Feet Of Granite With No Harness In ‘Free Solo’ – Glenn T. Stanton, The Federalist

Breaking the Fourth Wall on Social Media – Austin Ruse, Crisis

This New Year, Act More Leisurely – Bart Price, Ethika Politika

Should I Stay at a Christian Organization That Doesn’t Seem Christian? – Joshua Chatraw, The Gospel Coalition

Human Sexuality

When Sex Becomes Cheap – Paul Sullins, Humanum

Protecting Sex From Liberalism – Anthony McCarthy, Public Discourse

The Problem Isn’t Technological: Rebuilding Women’s Reproductive Health – Weronika Janczuk, Public Discourse

30 Transgender Regretters Come Out Of The Closet – Stella Morabito, The Federalist

Comprehensive Sex Education Undermines Students’ Moral Development – Tapio Puolimatka, Public Discourse

Study: Infidelity, porn prevalent sex sins in church – Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Criminal Records Show Women Are Prudent To Not Want Men In Their Bathrooms – Jamie Shupe, The Federalist

Idaho ordered to provide sex reassignment surgery to inmate jailed for sexually abusing a child – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post

Human Trafficking

Who Are Sex Traffickers, And Why Do They Exploit Other Humans? – Fight the New Drug

Pornography

Two Developments That Changed Our Movement – Patrick Trueman, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

50 Heartbreaking Ways That Porn Harms Relationships And Society – Fight the New Drug

Filmmaker/Actor Josh Radnor On Why He’s Against Porn – Fight the New Drug

Myth #7: “Abortion is an important part of women’s health care.”

by Ingrid Skop, M.D.

January 16, 2019

Pregnancy is a normal bodily function; it is not a disease. Interrupting this normal process is not health care. It is a surgical solution to a societal problem. The argument that “abortion is between a woman and her doctor” incorrectly assumes that an abortion requires a medical judgment, and will be performed by a woman’s own OB/GYN. This is false. The vast majority of abortionists are employed by abortion clinics, not health care clinics. Most abortionists are merely technicians who only perform one procedure for money; they do not perform any other health care service.

Statistically, if a pregnant woman walks through Planned Parenthood’s door, there is a 96 percent chance that the pregnancy service she will receive is an abortion. Only 3 percent will receive prenatal care, and less than 1 percent of women will choose to place their babies for adoption, to be raised by a loving family if the woman is unable to do so. We know that 10-15 percent of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, so one also wonders why they do so little miscarriage management (1 percent)?

It is often reported by an uncritical media that only 3 percent of their services are abortion. If a woman presents for an abortion, she is also going to have several other discrete services performed: pregnancy test, sonogram, STD testing, and possible pap, as well as a provision of birth control afterward. Thus, abortion is only 17-20 percent of the services provided to this woman, but an abortion is why she came.

It is easy to see how counting every individual service, when most women have multiple services provided each visit, can dilute out the numbers and make it look like abortion is only a small part of what they do. The reality is that over 3,000 abortions is greater than over 2,000 pap tests. It is easy to see the primary purpose for this organization’s existence.

What happens if women do not have access to a Planned Parenthood? Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) also receive state and federal money to provide indigent care, and they provide every service that Planned Parenthood does, except abortion. In addition, they employ practitioners who specialize in other health problems.

A woman is more than a uterus, and she often has other health issues that can be addressed in a more comprehensive way by an FQHC. While the number of Planned Parenthood clinics in our country has dropped to 620 as of August 2017, there are 13,540 FQHCs. They outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 20 to 1.

For more, watch the rest of our video series and read our new publication Top 10 Myths About Abortion.

Myth #6: “Abortion is safer than childbirth.”

by Ingrid Skop, M.D.

January 15, 2019

Due to the controversial nature of abortion, it is very difficult to find reliable data in order to compare pregnancy outcomes of women in the United States. When most observers consider safety related to abortion, they only consider physical complications, but they should also consider psychological complications, which can also lead to a woman’s death. One comprehensive study analyzed 22 studies which considered mental health consequences of abortion. It found that there was an 81 percent overall increased risk of mental health problems after abortion. The safety of abortion is determined less by whether it is legal, and more by other factors such as available technology, gestational age in which it is committed, and the skill of the practitioner.

The frequency of complications increases as the pregnancy advances. Only half of U.S. states require abortionists to report their complications and no states require non-abortion doctors, coroners, or emergency rooms to report abortion-related deaths for investigation. Deaths are counted by the CDC only if they happen to come to their attention through death certificates, anecdotal reports, reports to state health agencies, quality committees, or Morbidity & Mortality committees.

For many reasons, the information about a preceding abortion may not make it onto a death certificate. The abortion may have initiated a cascade of events resulting in death, but only the most proximate events may be listed on the death certificate. The physician who completes the death certificate may be unaware of the abortion, which could happen if a sick woman presents to the emergency room, but leads the staff to believe that it was a miscarriage and not an abortion that led to her complication. If she is too sick to give a history, the family may be unaware of, or may be embarrassed about the abortion.

An ideologic commitment to legal abortion may lead a physician to leave this information off of the death certificate. A single investigative reporter was able to document 30 percent more abortion-related deaths nationwide than the CDC had listed, merely by correlating public documentation of malpractice cases with autopsy reports.

It is clear with the incomplete records available in the U.S., the political nature of abortion, and the ideological commitment of many academic researchers to legal abortion, that the question of comparative safety of abortion to childbirth is unlikely to be answered in our country.

A more complete, and less biased way to look at this question is to perform a records-linked study in a country with a more neutral view on legalized abortion, single payer health care so that records on all procedures are readily available, and more complete death certificate documentation.

Studies in other countries such as Finland have shown that women who have had abortions are 3.5 times more likely to die within a year than women who have carried their pregnancies to term. Researchers concluded that this may be due to the fact that carrying a baby to term has a protective effect on women’s bodies by reducing the risk of breast cancer as well as the risk of emotional stress.

For more, watch the rest of our video series and read our new publication Top 10 Myths About Abortion.

Myth #5: “A fetus does not feel pain during an abortion.”

by Ingrid Skop, M.D.

January 14, 2019

Science now shows that unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization, and most likely even earlier.

The first requirement for fetal pain perception is the presence of cutaneous sensory receptors, which begin to develop in the peri-oral area at seven weeks and spread to the palms and soles by 11 weeks. Early in the second trimester, the fetus reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, in much the same ways as an adult, for example, by recoiling. 

Fetuses can be seen reacting to intra-hepatic vein needling with vigorous body and breathing movements, increased heart rate, and increased blood flow to the brain. There are many instances in medical practice in which doctors take extra precautions to prevent pain in human beings by administering anesthesia to those who have experienced brain death, are in a vegetative state, or are being given the death penalty.

However, this same precautionary use of anesthesia is not extended to unborn children who are being aborted by brutal abortion procedures, such as the most practiced second trimester abortion method of dismemberment where a child is literally torn limb from limb in the womb. This is a grave injustice.

For more, watch the rest of our video series and read our new publication Top 10 Myths About Abortion.

Seventeen Years Later, Controversy Emerges Over Painting of “Ground Zero Cross”

by Alexandra McPhee

January 14, 2019

In Camdenton, Missouri, a county commission is facing the threat of a lawsuit for a painting hung on a courthouse wall in remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A year after almost 3,000 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack on American soil, a local high school student painted an image of a firefighter and young girl pointing to the “Ground Zero Cross,” a cross-shaped steel beam pulled from the rubble of Ground Zero in New York City and mounted on a platform. After the attacks, rescue and recovery workers found comfort in this new memorial, and the Camden County community saw the painting as a marker for a period of renewed national unity after catastrophic loss of life.

Commissioners called a public hearing after an activist secularist legal group, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), demanded its removal. Despite the specter of high legal fees to defend the painting in court, residents are holding fast.

What say ye, if it costs Camden County a tremendous amount of money. Does the painting stay?” a commissioner asked.

Most, if not all, hands were raised. Voices from the crowd shouted: “We have people in the hall, too.” “Raise my taxes!”

Legal arguments grounded on the so-called principle of the “separation of church and state” are based on the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

FFRF argues that the painting’s depiction of a cross-shaped beam constitutes an endorsement of Christianity, and thus, a violation of the separation of church and state. It dismisses the fact that a federal appellate court held that the very Ground Zero Cross depicted in the Camden County courthouse painting passed constitutional muster after a challenge to its exhibition in the National September 11 Museum by another secularist legal group.

Recent letters released en masse by FFRF demonstrate that the group’s understanding of the Establishment Clause fails to account for Supreme Court precedent that grounds its reasoning in the original meaning of the text of the U.S. Constitution rather than cut-and-paste phrases from previous Court opinions. In Marsh v. Chambers (1983), Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012), and Town of Greece v. Galloway (2014), the Supreme Court shows that it is increasingly relying on legal history, which recognizes the role religion has played in our nation, to decide various government actions.

The Supreme Court has not made clear whether this look at historical practices will be the standard under which courts consider establishment clause challenges to religious symbols located on government property. Hopefully, this will change now that the Court is slated to decide whether a war memorial in the shape of a cross and maintained by a local government can stand under the Establishment Clause. We have submitted a brief in that case urging the Court to recognize the pivotal role of religion in society and commemoration and to let the cross stand.

But even under the most subjective legal standard, which the Court put forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) (looking at the primary effect of a government action, the purpose of the action, or the extent to which the action entangles government with religion), the courthouse painting passes muster. The local artist’s sister-in-law said it best: “I think it’s sad, that this many years later, we’re all here. I obviously see [a cross] . . . but I see it as a symbol of hope and a reminder to what we’ve lost.”

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