by Ken Blackwell
January 5, 2015
FRC Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment, Ken Blackwell appears on Meet the Press to discuss the economy under the Obama Administration.
FRC Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment, Ken Blackwell appears on Meet the Press to discuss the economy under the Obama Administration.
Our friends at the Porn Harms Coalition (of which FRC is a member) have drawn attention to a study that quantifies what every common-sensical person in the world knows intuitively: Viewing pornography discourages and damages marriage. The German Institute for the Study of Labor (apparently the Germans understand that marriage affects labor productivity, as FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute has argued for years) hired researchers at Pennsylvania’s West Chester University and Britain’s Timberlake Consultants to study whether “increasing ease of accessing pornography is an important factor underlying the decline in marriage formation and stability.”
Well, the German-sponsored study found it did: “Substitutes for marital sexual gratification may impact the decision to marry. Proliferation of the Internet has made pornography an increasingly low-cost substitute … We show that increased Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation. Pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect.”
Pornography as a “low-cost substitute” for marriage? So, are women merely sexual tools for readily-aroused young men? What a comment on how many young men in our time view women! Yet advocates of complete sexual autonomy (over-the-counter contraception for all, for example) refuse to acknowledge this corrosive fact.
We welcome this contribution to the scholarly literature showing that pornography adversely affects getting and staying married. To simplify things, though, ask any pastor, priest or rabbi who’s ever counseled a woman with a boyfriend or husband addicted to pornography. That conversation will prove more unforgettable than even the most riveting study ever can.
For those struggling with addiction to pornography or who want to help those who are, Porn Harms offers great resources. And, remember, Jesus Christ is the greatest resource of all.
“To save the life of the mother.” It’s one of the conundrums that advocates of elective abortion use to justify a woman’s decision to compromise the health or end the life of her unborn child in favor of protecting her own. But while ethicists and advocates may discuss and debate the relative morality of these decisions, most of us look in awe when a mother puts her own life on the line, in order to protect her unborn child.
The stories are often tragic and complex. For some, it may be the fatal decision to decline chemotherapy to address an aggressive form of cancer. But for some, like Darlene Pawlik, the prospect of an abortion was angrily presented as the only safe alternative to her own (likely violent) death at the hands of a small time organized crime boss, the father of her child. Ms. Pawlik’s story reads like the script of an excruciating, modern, R-rated Dickens novel. She herself was conceived during a brutal rape and sexually abused as a young child. By 14 years old, she was dabbling in drugs and alcohol and sold into prostitution. Before she reached legal adulthood, Ms. Pawlik found herself sold hundreds of times, bought by local businessmen, a city councilman, and a candidate for sheriff in her small city.
Purchased as a “house pet” by a local crime boss, Ms. Pawlik found herself pregnant and given an ultimatum—face an abortion or he’d kill her. After a vivid dream about the impending abortion, Ms. Pawlik fought—quietly and tenaciously—to leave her captor and keep her child. With the help of a social worker, Ms. Pawlik faked an abortion so she could leave the lifestyle. She reached a new home and began a new, restored life and eventually became a nurse, business owner, married mother of 5 children, and pro-life advocate.
Ms. Pawlik’s story is instructive. In this season of advent—of penitence, longing, and of hope—what is your calling?
-Will you support the local ministries of your church, pregnancy care centers, or other nonprofits in your area?
-Will you take the time to steer your well-intended friends away from organizations that profess to help, but push vulnerable individuals towards more abortion and greater sexual license, brokenness, and pain?
-If you, or someone you know, struggle with addiction to pornography, will take your struggle seriously? Will you acknowledge the links between pornography and human trafficking and fight for healing and restoration and listen to the voices of those who have survived?
-Will you notice the young woman with a frightened look in her eyes, cowed by a much older man, hovering in her vicinity? Will you take the time to learn the signs of a trafficked individual, and the trafficker? If you see something, will you say something?
Will you pause not only to save the life of the child, but the life of the mother?
Since last month’s election, the President has been a busy fellow. He’s traveled to China, heralded what he called a “turning point” in American military affairs, “signed a Presidential Memorandum that prohibits future oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay” and land areas near it and announced a new director for the White House Council for Strong Cities, Strong Communities, to boot.
FRC takes no formal position on these issues, or on those that follow (with one exception). Rather, they are listed to make the point that Mr. Obama is not going suddenly to become an inactive Chief Executive. He has an agenda the bulk of which is opposed by conservatives. Regardless, if conservatives think he will simply fold his hands and let the new Republican majorities in House and Senate do as they will, they kid themselves.
Following is a rundown of other significant post-November 4, 2014 actions by Mr. Obama; the last, on international religious liberty, is not explicitly presidential but relates to a key presidential appointment at the Department of State.
Environment: In addition to his largely unnoticed decision regarding Bristol Bay, “Obama’s most recent move is committing the U.S. to a $3 billion contribution to an international fund that seeks to help developing countries address climate change, which he will announce this weekend. It’s the president’s second major climate action in a week, following Wednesday’s announcement of a bilateral climate agreement with China. Under the agreement, the U.S. will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while China will begin reducing its own emissions by 2030.”
Cuba: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the son of Cuban immigrants, gave an eloquent and impassioned critique of the President’s announcement on normalizing relations with Cuba last evening; read his Wall Street Journal op-ed on the Obama decision, as well. The Washington Post also made a potent argument in an op-ed titled, “Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout” (yes, that Washington Post; even a stopped clock is right twice a day): “The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.”
Immigration: With respect to his Executive Order on immigration, my personal take is not on the content of the orders but instead their basis in the U.S. Constitution: “Mr. Obama hasn’t gotten what he wants, so he is acting like a monarch unconstrained by legality. This is not constitutional, republican governance. It is something else altogether – something that should evoke in everyone who values his Constitution-based liberty apprehension about what might come next.”
Internet: “Net neutrality” demands a bit more explaining. Mr. Obama has asked “the Federal Communications Commission to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility,” writes Michael Hendrix in National Review. “All Internet traffic would be treated equally, no matter the size or pace of demand. Net neutrality is a relatively young concept based on the much older notion of ‘common carriage,’ which required providers of basic infrastructure to offer common service to all.”
Yet as Nancy Scola notes in the Washington Post, “At the center of the debate is a service known as IANA, or the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Operating almost entirely out of the public eye, IANA keeps tabs on the numerical directory that makes sure the global Internet runs smoothly.” And, Scola continues, though “Republicans in Congress managed to slip a provision into the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by the Senate this (past) weekend that would prevent the Obama administration from giving up part of its oversight of how the Internet runs. Observers say, though, that there’s little chance that the GOP’s legislative language will actually slow the process at all.
Religious Liberty: FRC does take a position on international religious liberty: We’re absolutely, unequivocally for it. Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein to be the State Department’s new U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. In his comments at his Senate confirmation hearing in September, the Rabbi said, “Religious freedom faces daunting and alarming challenges worldwide,” Saperstein said at his confirmation hearing in September. “If confirmed, I will do everything within my abilities and influence to engage every sector of the State Department and the rest of the U.S. government to integrate religious freedom into our nation’s statecraft and foreign policies.”
Amen. Christians should be praying for the Rabbi and his team as they work to advance religious liberty around the world. It’s in the interest of our country, not to mention one of the great moral imperatives of our time.
This President means no less business today than he did on January 20, 2009. That means that conservatives will have to think carefully about how we advance our priorities on issues involving faith, family and freedom in the coming two years leading up to the next presidential election. We have to consider our larger strategy as well as issue-specific tactics and also decide what our priorities are and aren’t.
Conservative leaders and activists are, of course, doing this. Let’s hope they coalesce around what issues are of highest importance and then move forward both boldly and wisely, aware that President Obama is a shrewd and determined political foe.
It’s not enough to be right. We also have to be smart.
Schwarzwalder previously was chief-of-staff for two Members of Congress and was a presidential appointee in the George W. Bush Administration.
I was puzzled. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta had sent me an entire briefing book on suicide rates. The thick 3-ring binder had statistics on suicide for every demographic group—from Aleuts and Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians. But the figure for Black Females was less than 1 per 100,000. Could this be? I called a desk officer at CDC to learn if there was some mistake. “No mistake,” I was assured as the staffer on the other end of the line smoothly told me “we call it the ‘BFPF—Black Female Protection Factor—they’re very religious.”
The U.S. Government knows this to be true. Or at least it used to know this in the Reagan years when I was tasked with studying “Suicide among Youth” for the federal education department.
If the government cannot promote religion, one would think that at least the government would not try to impede religion. (And isn’t that what even the Supreme Court has said?)
Especially, it would seem, the government should not try to impede religion in its efforts to prevent suicide.
But, no! The atheizers and the pink panzers of political correctness have so cowed our military that we actually have senior officers who want to punish chaplains for the grave offense of including spiritual and secular resources in a program for the troops seeking to prevent suicide.
Does the Army want more suicide? You have to wonder when you see the infamous actions of Col. David Fivecoat at Fort Benning, Georgia. Here’s a news report from FRC’s communications department. This is a verified report on the disciplining of a military Chaplain:
Capt. Joseph Lawhorn, U.S. Army Chaplain at Fort Benning, participated in a mandatory suicide awareness and prevention briefing in which he gave a presentation describing resources – both spiritual and secular – that were available for handling such grave mental health situations. He went further and discussed his personal struggles with depression, describing the spiritual and religious steps that helped him during those dark times in his life.
As a result of the chaplain’s discussion of his faith, he was called into his brigade commander’s office on Thanksgiving Day. There Col. David G. Fivecoat issued Chaplain Lawhorn a Letter of Concern that is to remain in his personnel file for the duration of his stay at Fort Benning. This type of letter can be devastating for career military personnel and would likely prohibit further professional advancement of Chaplain Lawhorn.
We can contrast this Fort Benning colonel’s despicable action with the brave stance of Coast Guard Rear Admiral Dean Lee. The admiral spoke at the National Day of Prayer recently on this very question of spiritual resources shared with young volunteers in our military who are in danger of suicide. Admiral Lee spoke truth to power. He showed undaunted courage in the face of a rising storm.
Admiral Lee doubtless knows the toll of suicide—and not just on the young victim’s family and fellow service members. Those of us who served in the Coast Guard—like many first responders—have on occasion been called upon to deal with the tragic results of a suicide.
I will never forget having to pick up the body of a “floater” who had been in the water for weeks. I was a young enlisted Coast Guardsman more than thirty years ago. I can still remember the sight, the smell, the feel, and the sounds of that bloated and crab-eaten corpse.
As vivid and unforgettable as that experience was, I am not scarred by it. That is because it was also in the Coast Guard and in that same year that I came to faith in Jesus Christ. I thank God every day for that.
I hope those of you reading this column will sign FRC’s urgent petition calling for a reversal of this cruel and unjust discipline of a brave Army Chaplain. Be a lifesaver!
Yesterday, the DC Council passed a bill called the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014,” which could force employers in the District of Columbia (including the Family Research Council) to cover abortions.
The actual language of the bill would prevent employers from “discriminat[ing] against” an individual with respect to the “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of an individual’s “reproductive health decisions.” The definition of “reproductive health decisions” includes but is not limited to “a decision by an employee … related to the use or intended use of … contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.” In plain terms, no employer would be able to say they don’t want to cover an abortion.
There is no exemption in the bill for any employer who might object to such coverage. This would have drastic consequences for a number of employers and organizations in the District who not only might object to such coverage on conscience grounds, but whose actual purpose for existing is to stop abortion because they believe it is a moral evil. This is the essence of a Freedom of Association violation – disrupting the very purpose of autonomous, private groups through legislative bulldozing tactics, thus rendering the groups’ existence meaningless.
Aside from this injustice, there are a number of legal problems with the bill. As pointed out by Alliance Defending Freedom, the bill would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Weldon Amendment, and the First Amendment protections of Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Freedom of Association.
Even the mayor’s office recognized the legal problems with the bill. Yet, more interested in ramming its policies down every District employer’s throat, the DC Council went ahead and passed the bill in defiance of the mayor’s concerns. One of the mayor’s concerns was a potential Equal Protection violation because the bill only addressed protections for women. In response, the Council reportedly added protections for men as well. That the Council would make this correction, and leave other groups who expressed religious and associational concerns hanging out to dry, only confirms the devious nature of the DC Council.
If following one’s conscience is to retain any meaning at all for those living and working in the District, the mayor absolutely must veto this bill!
Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) has been blacklisted from a local Washington D.C. bike shop, at least according to the sign in their window reading “Andy Harris Not Welcome.” For those planning to visit who want to avoid a similar fate, the cautionary tale here is don’t expect to uphold federal marijuana laws in the District if you want to get your derailleur adjusted.
Earlier this month, Rep. Harris successfully attached bipartisan language to the omnibus spending deal designed to block enactment of a marijuana legalization initiative that the District passed in November. Pot activists have decried the action as an example of an outsider meddling in local affairs. “You don’t serve us, we don’t serve you” is the tagline to their blacklist sign, a reference to the fact that Rep. Harris’ district is in Maryland and not in D.C.
What’s going on, aren’t Republican’s for self-government and local control?
It’s a fair question to ask and one that Rep. Harris along with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) have addressed in a Washington Post op-ed. I won’t attempt to repeat it here but the thrust of the argument is: yes, Republicans are the party of self-government and local control, but they’re also the party of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law.
Federal law is explicit, under the Controlled Substances Act it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. Furthermore, Article I, § 8, cl. 17I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over the District of Columbia. The charge that Congress is somehow treating the District unfairly or in a way they would not treat another city ignores the fact that the District is unlike any other city.
Every year, the Appropriations Committee, on which Rep. Harris sits, provides federal payments to the tune of $500,000,000 to the District of Columbia for the cost of judges, court personnel and defendant representation. They provide payments for programs in areas like education and security. The Department of Justice provides payment for federal attorneys to prosecute local crimes and house prisoners. Federal taxpayers do not fund similar activities in any other city.
As Reps. Harris and Pitts rightly point out in their op-ed, if marijuana laws aren’t confusing enough, nearly a quarter of the District is federal park land and is policed by 26 different enforcement agencies—places and personnel that would still answer to federal law, not D.C. legalization.
Congress has a direct responsibility over the District of Columbia. One that apparently gets you kicked out of bike shops.
Think Progress reported yesterday on a decision by the city of Dallas to revise regulations on feeding the homeless. These revisions, which made it easier to feed and care for those living on Dallas streets, were motivated by a federal court ruling last year in favor of several religious ministries desiring to take food to the homeless and feed and care for them wherever they are found.
Years ago, Dallas had cracked down on feeding the homeless and placed restrictions on how it could be done, and several Dallas area ministries and individuals who were impacted by these changes sued. The Think Progress report discusses these events:
“After Big Hart Ministries Association and Rip Parker Memorial Homeless Ministry sued the city, six years passed before a judge ruled that the law violated the charities’ religious liberties under a Texas statute. Wednesday’s City Council vote carries the judge’s logic further, softening the rules charities face and effectively ending Dallas’ effort to clamp down on on-the-street feeding programs for the indigent regardless of religious affiliation.” (emphasis added)
Big Hart Ministries Association, Rip Parker Memorial Homeless Ministry, and William Edwards had sued under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). The Texas RFRA states that (1) sincere religious practices (2) cannot be substantially burdened by the government unless the government (3) has a compelling interest which it is (4) advancing by the least restrictive means possible. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs had alleged that – in violation of the Texas RFRA – they had a sincere belief that their religion requires them to care for the homeless, and that the city was substantially burdening that belief by making it impossible to carry out with heavy regulations on feeding the homeless. Early in 2013, a federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs religious beliefs were indeed substantially burdened, and the city did not have a compelling interest in its regulations – thus, they violated the Texas RFRA. Finally, this past week, in response to this ruling, the Dallas City Council approved changes to regulations on feeding the homeless.
Think Progress does not refer to the Texas RFRA by name – but that’s the law which has benefitted the homeless in this situation. This is exactly what RFRAs – whether in Texas or elsewhere – are meant to accomplish: protect the exercise of sincere religious faith, in recognition of the valuable role it plays in society and benefits it brings to people around us. Furthermore, and contrary to many popular claims, RFRAs do protect religious exercise “regardless of religious affiliation.” A quick search of how the laws have been used in court will reveal that they have protected religious exercise for a variety of faiths.
It would be nice (and intellectually consistent) for Think Progress to extend this logic to other situations implicating RFRA. Indeed, the beauty of law is that it is blind to political preferences. This is why having RFRAs passed into law is so important to protecting religious freedom today. When religious freedom is diminished and made part of a political game, everyone suffers.
At Family Research Council, we fully support RFRA and what it stands for – protecting the exercise of faith for all in the face of often overreaching and too powerful governments.
Each Christmas my wife Joy and I set up our tree and relive the memories of past years. For every year of Joy’s life she has received an ornament commemorating a major life event. There is a baby crib for year one and a Crayon box for a few years later. There is an ornament for her first car and for her college graduation. There are many “Joy” ornaments as can be expected for someone with such a cheery Christmas name. And there is one of my favorites, the one that reminds us of our marriage. Sadly many couples do not spend Christmas together. Many more use the holiday, not for sharing sweet memories but for hurtful words and unkind actions. Others spend it shuttling the kids between their broken homes.
I consider my marriage to my wife to be precious as well as sacred. When we said our vows we both sincerely understood and meant “for better or for worse” and “‘til death do you part.” A recent article in First Things on the danger of no-fault divorce laws demonstrates the sad reality for many families harmed by recent American attitudes toward divorce. The article lists some casualties of no-fault divorce including “abandoned spouses, the institution of marriage, and American society itself.” No-fault divorce gives the false impression that there is an easy way out of the difficulties of marriage. Rather than seeking to understand one another, become more loving, and to get counseling when needed, many couples simply give up on marriage. But divorce is never that simple. It affects children, the couple, and the country. A society whose basic family unit is not functioning in harmony cannot expect its political institutions to function well. A society where the marriages are not accountable to God cannot expect its other institutions to be accountable to God.
Love in marriage is a difficult thing. One sees all of the faults of their spouse. It can be easy to become frustrated and discouraged. But marriage is not about one, it is about two who have become one. No fault divorce has caused many homes to become not a place of joy at Christmas but one of bitterness and broken hearts. We must work to change the no-fault divorce culture to a marriage-is-precious culture. So this Christmas if you are struggling, let your spouse know you believe your marriage is precious and seek help. If you are happily married then I recommend going home and, like me, giving your Joy a loving Christmas hug, it will do more good than you know.
Christianity Today has assembled a thoughtful collection of observations by Evangelical leaders on the tragic death of Eric Garner. I encourage readers of the FRC blog to take a few moments and read through it. Probably no one will agree with everything each of the contributors has written, but surely we can all agree that the Body of Christ must more actively pursue racial reconciliation.
Paul the apostle teaches us that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Faithful Christians believe this, and at FRC we have long affirmed it; most Christians I know practice it. At my racially diverse suburban church, I’ve seen wonderful evidence of how people of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9) can serve the living King together with joy.
But the pain of the African-American community concerning the deaths of Eric Garner and, earlier, Michael Brown, is palpable. The wise words of Lifeway’s Ed Stetzer capture the point well: “I wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why. I think we should listen to them.”
Listen to FRC President Tony Perkins’ interview with Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland on the Bishop’s meetings and experience on the ground before and after the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, and check out the racial roundtable dialogs hosted by Pastor Darrin Patrick (of The Journey church in St. Louis) for some probing thoughts about the church, race and reconciliation.