FRC Blog

Ben Shapiro: America Must Have a Shared Duty to God to Survive

by Daniel Hart

March 28, 2018

In a stirring speech given to supporters of FRC yesterday, The Daily Wire editor-in-chief and well-known political commentator Ben Shapiro drew a stark picture of how the loss of religion in America has led to a harrowing host of problems, including the growing threats to religious freedom and traditional values.

As Shapiro noted, however, this loss of faith has led to an even more fundamental breakdown: a loss of the desire to live at all, especially among the young. “There’s a crisis of meaning that is happening among young people. That crisis of meaning is directly related to the loss of religion in the United States. There is no doubt about this. The suicide rates have tripled among young people between 2006 and 2016. There’s a reason for this. Right now, young American children [who] are growing up in the freest, most prosperous country in the history of mankind are killing themselves at record rates. It is happening for a very specific reason. It is happening because we are not providing them meaning.”

Shapiro went on to argue that if transcendent truth is not taught and handed down to us, we tend to latch on to whatever popular platitudes (such as “diversity” and “equality”) that are being fed to us by the culture, because we all have the inherent desire to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with something meaningful. But without a common purpose, Shapiro pointed out, “diversity tears people apart, because people tend to fall back into ethnic stereotyping [and] tribalism, and in large part that is what’s happening in the United States right now. We’re tearing each other apart because we don’t have a common vision of what the United States is supposed to be, and what we are supposed to be as human beings.”

The Founders understood this. Shapiro quoted George Washington, who said there exists “in the course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage. The propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained.”

We have decided to abandon [faith] in the United States,” Shapiro said, “but this is where we have to fight back.” How do we do this? By trusting in the Wisdom that has come down to us through millennia, which is the foundation of western civilization. Ultimately, Shapiro concluded, we are in a fight about what is most fundamental: “We are fighting about the meaning of human life. We are fighting about what human dignity is worth, and what our purpose is in the universe. And if we lose that battle, there are no other battles to be fought.”

View Ben Shapiro’s entire speech here.

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Drug Addicts Need Treatment and Tough Love, Not Facilitation of Their Habit

by David Krayden

March 27, 2018

Some of the largest cities in America are beginning a potentially fatal attraction to supervised injection sites for drug addicts. 

These facilities allow addicts to consume heroin and other drugs—legally, without the inconvenience of federal, state, or municipal laws to hamper their habit. Proponents argue that the sterile environment and presence of medical professionals offers a relatively safe drug-taking experience.

San Francisco became the first city in America to announce plans to open an injection site later this year, with Philadelphia promising to be the second and Seattle not far behind. New York City has been deliberating over the possibility for almost a year but a decision in favor is highly anticipated, perhaps before the long Easter weekend.

Supervised injection sites are wrong on both moral and practical grounds. These sites may be supervised, but they are certainly not “safe,” as they are described by many social justice advocates, health care professionals, and drug addicts. They do represent a tragically bizarre way of thinking that passes itself off as harm reduction—currently in style with some liberals who believe it is somehow cruel to insist addicts seek treatment or that there is really some way to make the ingestion of a potentially lethal substance like heroin safer.

Just as drugs like heroin and its many opioid derivatives are epidemic in America, supervised injection sites are becoming an epidemic in Canada, where the first such facility opened in Vancouver in 2005. Since then, two more have opened in the city, while Toronto and Montreal have also opened such facilities. The result, as to be expected, has not been a reduction in drug use or a decrease in heroin overdoses but quite the reverse. In 2017, a record 335 people died of opioid-related overdoses in Vancouver, a 43 percent increase from the year before. That all-time high was matched by a provincial level that soared to 1,420 drug deaths in 2017.

Are these figures and is this striking failure prompting the liberal leadership in Canada to question their drug strategy? Yes, but not as you might think. Vancouver is now contemplating decriminalizing all illegal drugs because, inexplicably, this will somehow engender a “safer” drug climate. As evidence and common sense indicate, however, making illegal drugs easier to access and use will most likely lead to a proliferation of drug use and drug deaths. That is precisely what has happened, but liberal health care professionals still don’t get it.

Just as we ask why high schools have become shooting galleries in 2018 when the same Second Amendment rights existed in 1958 without similar tragic results, we have to wonder what moral rot has promulgated a drug-addicted America and Canada. 

As Christians, it is clear to see that the virtual eradication of God from public life and the exile of the Bible from public institutions has created a spiritual emptiness in our society that many people choose to fill with drugs. We recently saw the passing of Billy Graham—perhaps the greatest voice of Christianity of the last century. Having grown up watching Graham preach the simple message of the Bible in so many crusades around the world, I have been listening to a personal retrospective of his messages over the years that is available on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. It is both intriguing and just a little bit frightening to listen to Graham confront the moral lapses in America in the 1950s and 1960s—the problems we faced then seem quaint in comparison to now.

What Graham always offered—no matter the decade in which he spoke and the America that he experienced—was God’s love. And that’s what Christians need to continue to provide to a drug-ravaged America and Canada. 

But love should never be confused with enabling an alcoholic to drink or a drug addict to use—at public expense. Safe injection sites are sham operations that perpetuate drug habits, exacerbate the drug epidemic, and contribute to the moral collapse of society. Addicts need treatment, not “safe” places to use. They need Christ, not easier access to the poison that is killing them. The hard truth that liberal leaders of license must face is that supervised injection sites are killing centers and, after all is said and done, ineffective in curbing drug use or rebuilding lives.

David Krayden (@DavidKrayden) is the Ottawa Bureau Chief for The Daily Caller. He is a former Air Force public affairs officer and communications specialist for the Canadian Parliament.

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How to Find Healing When Your Spouse is an Addict

by Caleb Anderson

March 26, 2018

Marriage is an empowering act of love. Countless difficulties can be faced together in marriage, but sometimes complex issues can arise that can seem too much to bear. Substance addiction is one such issue. It can cause immeasurable hurt and wreak havoc in marriages. However, there are ways to manage the strains caused by addiction, and seek healing as a couple.

Make an Early Intervention

Addiction can have a destructive impact on all aspects of life. It can alienate loved ones, fracture families, and have serious consequences on finances. Unfortunately, communication, which is key to recovery, can be lost to the secrecy and tension addiction can create. It’s important to take action immediately once the signs of addiction are noticed in order to prevent enabling. Don’t rationalize addiction or excuse symptoms, either to yourself or to others—this will only perpetuate the problem. Instead, talk to your spouse when they are sober and explain how their addiction is hurtful and upsetting and how it is damaging the relationship. Do so calmly and sympathetically—arguing will only cause further conflict and denial. Marriage thrives on open communication, and recovery can be galvanized by it.

Push for Treatment

The best option for addiction istreatment. Your spouse may be reluctant to seek help, perhaps fearful of the consequences of doing so, so stress its importance to the relationship’s future. Don’t, however, make hollow threats. It’s crucial that what’s said be conveyed as sincere concern for your partner’s well-being and the relationship. Thankfully, there are a number of options to aid recovery and self-care.

Treatment can include inpatient and outpatient care, providing a supportive environment to achieve sobriety. A doctor can be valuable in determining what’s best for your spouse. This time will be difficult. Your spouse may be scared and anxious, so reassure them of your support throughout the process. Participating incouples therapy, during and after treatment, can provide additional tools to manage the stresses and strains faced. It may also assist in restoring trust and intimacy, as well as aiding in mutual understanding.

Pursue Healing

Being married to an addict can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, but it’s important to trust that addiction can be overcome. With this in mind, it’s imperative to recognize that addiction doesn’tdefine your loved one. They may be feeling shame and guilt, so try to focus on progress and an addiction-free future. Feeling hurt and upset is understandable, but layingblame on your addicted spouse can sustain a cycle of negative emotions. Their perception of reality will likely be influenced by addiction, and their behaviors may not seem as egregious to them as it does to others.

It’s important to try to separate the person suffering from addiction with the actions that addiction causes. It won’t be easy, but it can help you remember that the person you love is still there, and can be reclaimed from addiction.

Treatment can hopefully give them an appreciation for the struggles you’ve gone through, and you can both try to encourage a return to a positive family life. This form of reciprocal self-care can involve things like dates and family outings. A therapist will be able to offer additional exercises and activities that can facilitate the practice of self-care, both as a couple and as individuals.

When the Situation is Untenable

If your partner resists treatment or you feel they’ve become a threat to you or your children, then a temporaryseparation may be the best option. The actions caused by addiction do not mean they don’t care for their loved ones, but sometimes you have to put your own and your children’s well-being first. In addition, for some who suffer from addiction, separation can be the catalyst to start confronting their problems. Separation can be a source of heartbreak for all involved, yet some couples may find that it is the only way to start to repair the damage wrought by addiction and begin to start the healing process.

Healing is Possible

Though it may be a challenge, the condition of addiction can be confronted. As the author of this article and a recovering addict myself, I can attest to the importance of a supportive spouse. When I went into recovery for opiate addiction, my wife stuck by my side through the good and the bad. In fact, she was the one who helped me see my downward spiral and find help to turn my life back around. It was hard on both of us, and there were some trying couple’s therapy sessions, but we approached my recovery as partners rather than me trying to go it alone. It’s a long-term process, but, with intervention, treatment, and time, your marriage can be brought back from the brink and your family can find healing.

Caleb Anderson and his wife Molly are the founders of RecoveryHope.org, which helps couples and individuals by providing research and resources regarding the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.

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Attacks on Counseling Threaten Pastors and Churches

by Travis Weber

March 23, 2018

Recently, California state legislators proposed a bill which would outlaw counseling—even that which is freely entered—for anyone who wanted help changing their unwanted same-sex attraction. We have seen such efforts before, but this one is noteworthy for how expansive it is—it covers individuals, associations, and “other group[s],” in addition to traditional businesses. As Alliance Defending Freedom points out, it could even implicate churches: “It could be a violation [of this proposed law] if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church bookstore to purchase books that help people address sexual issues, perhaps including the Bible itself, which teaches about the importance of sexual purity within the confines of marriage between a man and woman.” While outlawing such pastoral advice (the bill would consider it fraudulent “goods and services”), the bill completely endorses advice designed to cement same-sex attraction.

Masquerading as consumer protection and medical oversight, this is simply blatant and open discrimination against one side of our society’s debate on sexual ethics. Yet sin wants to suppress the truth, and even the idea that someone can help someone else change their sexual attractions implies that what one may be doing is not all good and healthy. This threat implicates not just businesses and Christians in the public eye, but all Christians who hold to a biblical position on these issues. It won’t matter how one approaches the issue. We should always speak the truth in love because that’s the right thing to do, but that won’t exempt us from being targeted. Our biblical beliefs themselves are the target. It is crucial that all Christians in America understand this social dynamic.

This legislative development in California echoes the situation involving Metro City Church in Michigan, which took heavy criticism for offering a program to help teens who are questioning their sexuality walk through their situation from a biblical perspective. The program approached the issue very cautiously—and was defined by merely discussing the matter of sexuality by looking at what the Bible had to say about it. Yet in response, numerous activists subjected the church and its pastor, Jeremy Schossau, to vitriolic online attacks, criticism, and threats (including potentially criminal behavior), and two state legislators have called for the church to be “investigated” for offering “conversion therapy.”

While we have seen such vitriol often directed at those who advocate a biblical worldview on this issue, direct targeting of churches and pastors has been relatively rare. Yet this incident serves as a reminder that many of the religious freedom struggles we are facing will eventually reach any church which teaches an orthodox biblical position on questions of sexuality.

Moreover, in this case, nothing remotely controversial was occurring; the church was just trying to go to the Bible for answers on this topic. Along with the proposed California legislation, these developments make clear that the problem is not the way something is said, but the Christian position on these issues itself is what is opposed.

We must defend the ability of pastors and their churches to decide what is said in church … not the government. The First Amendment makes absolutely clear that the government has no power to tell churches what advice they can give or require a license to give that advice, and the First Amendment to the Constitution still guarantees the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. Additionally, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from assessing theology and targeting the theological beliefs it doesn’t like. This is the current law, but we must give voice to our rights to see them protected.

After the Supreme Court constitutionalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, many wondered whether pastors would be pressured into performing same-sex marriages. Perhaps the bigger question now is whether they will be threatened into compromising their larger biblical perspective on sexuality.

FRC is standing with Pastor Jeremy, and attempting to raise awareness of the religious freedom implications of this situation. To stand with Pastor Jeremy, please sign our petition at FRC.org/Metro to tell these legislators they cannot prohibit this pastor or his church from exercising their First Amendment rights.

For more information on Pastor Jeremy’s situation, please see:

FRC Washington Update articles:

Also: 

 

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Does Down Syndrome Keep the “Good Life” Out of Reach?

by Patrina Mosley

March 23, 2018

Across the globe this week, families are taking the time to show what a gift it is to have their brother, sister, daughter, or son with Down syndrome in their lives. It was just recently that Washington Post opinion columnist Ruth Marcus candidly stated that she would abort her own child if she knew from prenatal testing that they would have Down syndrome:

There is a new push in antiabortion circles to pass state laws aimed at barring women from terminating their pregnancies after the fetus has been determined to have Down syndrome… This is a difficult subject to discuss because there are so many parents who have — and cherish — a child with Down syndrome… I can say without hesitation that…I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.

For many, this sounded a little too honest and just down right offensive—especially for ranking Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has a son with Down syndrome. She took to Twitter to take Ruth Marcus to task (respectfully) to illustrate all the joys and happiness that loving families experience with their Down syndrome children.

Both Rodgers and Marcus acknowledged that over two-thirds of women in America choose to have an abortion in those circumstances but according to Marcus, Rodgers’ happy face response is not how the majority of women may feel about having a child with Down syndrome. In a follow-up piece responding to Rodgers, Marcus highlights the emails she received from women confiding in her that they would’ve made the decision to abort and support a woman’s right to choose. One woman wrote:

I’d never knowingly bring another Down syndrome child into our lives … My son turned 50 last September. He lives in a group home, has worked … for 29 years and has a good life, with lots of fun and quite a bit of independence. My life has been filled with advocacy for those with developmental disabilities. We are the lucky ones with our son. Nevertheless, I would fight to the dying breath for a woman’s right to choose.

Marcus says women like this represent the “silenced majority.” I don’t how true that is, but both women—the one who chooses to keep her child with Down syndrome and the one who doesn’t—should not be ignored. Everyone dreams for their lives and their children’s lives to be healthy, happy, and prosperous. I doubt any mother with a child that has Down syndrome or any disability would tell you it’s easy and that if they could they would do anything to make their child’s life easier and happier. But l believe Marcus’s words bring attention to a deeper issue in our society than simply the abortion of the disabled.

I’m grateful for Ruth Marcus’s audacious opinion piece because I believe it forces us to really think about what we may treasure most: “the good life.” It speaks to where we are placing our hope and begs the question: is it better to have no life if it can’t be the good life? Why does it matter if they will be born with challenges or discomfort? Is it better to die than to be born with difficulties in life?

In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, we as a society have tended to emphasize the definition of a good life as one that is easy and comfortable, one without much self-sacrifice. However, the end goal of life should not be comfort but goodness, and sometimes goodness is not always pleasant. It’s the pursuit of what is good (or the lack thereof) that shapes a society. Our laws should reflect what is naturally good, and intrinsic to this is protecting and valuing all innocent life made in the image of God. We do not seek such virtuousness so we can boast of our own achieved morality; we instead pursue goodness because it draws us closer to God—by understanding who he is and who he wants us to be.

We should not live strictly by the creed “you only live once,” as many pop stars have mistakenly sang as an excuse for hedonism. Jesus talked about where your treasures are, there the desires of your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21), so we should store our treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed. In this life, we will have troubles—this is not a utopia. The goal of this life is to prepare for the next, and that will give us strength to deal with today. Are we building our life on a firm foundation of truth so that when bad or unpleasant things happen we can stand strong, or are we only putting stock in what we can get out of this life? If we abandon the pursuit of God, it will quickly be replaced with the pursuit of the good life.

Disability, discomfort, or making personal sacrifices does not automatically mean we will have no chance of a “good” life. In fact, the exact opposite occurs when, in those difficult moments, we come face to face with a divine strength and help. I say this not to bash anyone for the decisions they’ve made but to explain that the comfortable life is not necessarily the good life, and this life is not all there is. The natural law is written on our hearts and convicts us to pursue that which is good, and that will in its truest form lead us to God.

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As Science Advances, the Pro-Life Movement Swells

by Patrina Mosley

March 19, 2018

For all the progress since 1973, I just know in my heart of hearts that this will be the generation that restores life in America.” These inspiring words were spoken by our very own Vice President Mike Pence at a pro-life luncheon held on February 27th.

Of course, NARAL didn’t miss an opportunity to retort back with their antiquated and overused rhetoric to accuse the Vice President of trying to “normalize” the idea that “women don’t get to…control their own bodies.”

Pence is not trying to normalize anything except the right to be given a chance to live, which we have denied to nearly 60 million children since Roe v. Wade.

These days Pence and other pro-life advocates don’t really have to use slick marketing gimmicks to change people’s minds on abortion when science is pretty much already doing that for us, so Pence may be right—this could be the generation that sees the sanctity of life restored, given Americans’ changing opinions. 

A recent Marist Poll on “Americans’ Opinions on Abortions” found that:

  • Only 12 percent of Americans think abortion should be available to a woman any time during her pregnancy.
  • 56 percent believe abortion is morally wrong.

Now more than ever, Americans are changing the way they feel about abortion and want more restrictions on obtaining an abortion.

When the first oral arguments of the Roe v. Wade case occurred in 1971, the attorney for Jane Roe argued that since obtaining an abortion when the life of the mother was at risk was already legal in the Texas statue (where the original Jane Roe appeal was heard), then it was not the child who was the victim but the mother. She argued further that since there was no acknowledgment of death by the state, it was safe to conclude the baby should be treated as biological waste:

There is no requirement of — even though the State, in its brief, points out the development of the fetus that in an eight-week period, the same State, does not require any death certificate, or any formalities of birth.

The product of such a conception would be handled merely as a pathological specimen.

The “it’s just a clump of tissues” argument has a long history. 

What Roe. v Wade couldn’t predict was the advancement of scientific technology capable of detecting the intricate design inherent in the unborn child and the astonishing level of development taking place earlier and earlier in the womb.

The same Marist Poll asked Americans the question of when life begins: 47 percent said “at conception.”

Contrast this to what presiding Justice Blackmun wrote in 1973 in the majority opinion in Roe:

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.

There’s no “speculation” anymore. Science, in its respective fields of embryology and bioethics, has given us breakthrough answers. Scientists within the past few years have detected that a bright flash of light erupts when a sperm fuses with an egg, signaling when human life begins.

In addition, we are now seeing that early-stage embryos with abnormalities can still develop into healthy babies if given the chance to live. Thanks to 4D ultrasound technology, we can see an unborn child at 14 weeks respond to the sound of music. Previously, many believed a baby in the womb could not hear music until 26 weeks.

At 20 weeks we can scientifically prove that a baby has developed a mature enough nervous system to feel pain. The Marist Poll indicates that 63 percent of Americans now support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 17 states have already enacted some form of a “Pain-Capable bill” to protect unborn children who are able to feel pain from the brutal abortion methods used at this stage.

Even MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough recently had to admit: “You are seeing poll numbers move on abortion for banning abortions after 20 weeks.” He went on:

Why? Because for the past decade, younger Americans have been going in and they have been seeing 3-D imagery where they can look into the womb. If some activist said, ‘Your child is a lump,’ I must tell you, I’ve had four kids, I’ve never once had a doctor go to me, ‘we’ve got your lump, let me show you your lump, look at your lump’s profile.’ This is an example of science, technology changing that is going to change the politics of abortion. This is an issue that culturally is going to change. Americans, younger voters are going to become more conservative on abortion because they see their child very early on in the womb.

It is a marvel to see science catch up to where the morality of most Americans has always been, and where truth will always stand.

These scientific discoveries are just the tip of the iceberg and will inevitably continue to evolve. Many more Americans may begin to doubt the weight of the words from the seven Roe v. Wade Justices who declared abortion the law of the land when the evidence of unborn life right before their eyes cannot be denied.

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Of Guns and Prodigal Fathers

by Peter Sprigg

March 16, 2018

After a school shooter murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, the calls by liberals for new gun control laws were predictable, and received blanket coverage in the mainstream media.

Gun rights activists, in another unsurprising response, resisted efforts to blame the weapon rather than the killer, promoting instead ideas like arming teachers to defend their students.

I’ve been heartened to see that a number of pro-family conservatives have pointed out a third factor that must be addressed when examining violence in our society—the role of family structure, and specifically the negative effects of fatherlessness on boys and young men. The Parkland shooter (whose name I choose not to publicize) was fatherless, just like many other perpetrators of mass murders. Yet most of the media have not focused on this issue.

Susan L. M. Goldberg was one of the first to raise the issue, at PJ Media. Former Sen. Rick Santorum also raised it in a CNN interview. Unfortunately, one statistic that was cited multiple times turned out to be unverified (at this writing, it lives on in a headline at Patheos: “Of the 27 Deadliest Mass Shooters, 26 of Them Had One Thing in Common.”) Paul Kengor, a scrupulous scholar from Grove City College, apologized for having cited this number in a piece in Crisis Magazine. After studying the available (albeit incomplete) data more closely, Kengor said that

[W]e found maybe four or five of the 27 shooters that we could definitively conclude (without doubt) had been raised in an intact family, or a family that included the biological dad at home, or a biological father who was consistently at home… .

At this point, however, what is clear is the vast majority of shooters came from broken families without a consistent biological father throughout their rearing and development. Very few had good, stable, present dads.

(I would also note that the CNN list of the “deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history,” starting in 1949 and apparently first compiled in 2013, has now been updated to include 34 incidents, not 27. Only four of those, however, have been in schools, and another three at colleges.)

What is perhaps more compelling than the anecdotal evidence from the most extreme events is the overall data regarding the link between fatherlessness and crime and violence. Here is edited data I accessed from the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2015:

Father Factor in Emotional and Behavioral Problems

      • Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Source: Journal of Marriage and Family, 2007.

 . . .

Father Factor in Crime

      • A study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.
        Source: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2000.
      • [H]igher social encounters and frequent communication with nonresident biological fathers decreased adolescent delinquency.
        Source: Child Development, 2007.
      • [A] more positive father-child relationship predicts a reduced risk of engagement in multiple first risky behaviors. The positive influence of the father-child relationship on risk behaviors seemed to be stronger for male than for female adolescents.
        Source: Journal of Family Issues, 2006.
      • [I]f the number of fathers is low in a neighborhood, then there is an increase in acts of teen violence. Source: Journal of Marriage and Family, 2005.
      • In a study of INTERPOL crime statistics of 39 countries, it was found that single parenthood ratios were strongly correlated with violent crimes. Source: Cross-Cultural Research, 2004.

NFI also offers these graphics as free downloads:

 

 

An infographic from the National Center for Fathering reports the following:

Fatherless children are:

  • 11 times more likely to have violent behavior
  • 20 times more likely to be incarcerated

and:

  • 70% of adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities come from fatherless homes
  • 60% of rapists were raised in fatherless homes

It’s clear we have a problem of what we might call “prodigal dads” in our society. (Writer Doug Mainwaring used that term in a piece last year in Public Discourse, “May I Please Speak to My Daddy?”)

More powerful, though, than statistics may be a three-minute film produced recently by students at Gordon College, an evangelical school in Massachusetts (full disclosure: my son is one of those students). If you want to illustrate the pain of fathers and children who are separated, consider sharing “Prodigal.”

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Social Conservative Review - March 15, 2018

by Daniel Hart

March 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

A man who lives alone and completely off the grid in the British Columbian woods is the subject of a short documentary I happened upon recently. Dag Aabye is 76 years old and spends his days clearing and building trails to run on so that he can train for 80-mile ultramarathon races. “I’m perfectly imperfect,” he says. “If you’re perfectly imperfect, you always have to work on yourself … tomorrow, I want to be a better person than today.” These are sage words for us all. But then Aabye says something interesting: “And if you work on yourself, you don’t have time to talk about other people or worry about other people … I don’t try to understand people. They do their thing, and I leave them alone. The only person you want to understand, really, is yourself.”

In our modern lives that seem built around being “plugged in” —to the internet, our phones, TV, etc. —it can sometimes be tempting to make a radical break from “the rat race” and “break free” so that we can live a life like Aabye’s, one of complete separation from worldly concerns so that we can constantly search for ultimate meaning in which we only have ourselves to worry about. There are indeed important lessons to be learned from a life like Aabye’s—instead of gossiping about others, improve yourself; instead of wasting time surfing Facebook or cable TV, live with purpose and creativity to accomplish meaningful goals.

But underneath the surface of words like “I don’t try to understand people” and “They do their thing, and I leave them alone” is a sense of loss. In a way, it’s an admission of defeat, of not attempting the difficult task of empathy and sacrifice for our fellow man. Ultimately, it’s an indirect dismissal of the greatest act of love we can ever perform in life: to lay down our lives for another (John 15:13). As tempting as it is to think of a life like Dag Aabye’s as one of ultimate “freedom,” Christ showed us that true freedom lies in self-sacrifice for the other. As Nathanael Blake has written recently, even something as seemingly ordinary as a man and a woman staying true to their marriage vows “is an act of defiance against all of the difficulties of life, from the catastrophic to the mundane. In marriage, men and women promise themselves to one another, and tell fate to go to hell. The traditional promises that solemnize a marriage are some of the greatest assertions of human agency, and therefore of human dignity, possible. Our freedom is not realized in the possibility that we might do anything, but in doing what we have said we will do.”

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

What an Idaho Federal Judge Should Have Said About Transgender Birth Certificates – Peter Sprigg

Sixth Circuit Shows Why SOGIs Are a Threat to Religious Freedom – Travis Weber

Women Speak: A Panel Discussion on Real Issues that Women Face Today

She Persisted: Star Parker’s Mission to End Abortion

Gentle Strength: Why I’m Not a Feminist – Cassidy Rich

Remarks by Tony Perkins at the 2018 NRB Convention

 

Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty in the Public Square

Christian Bakers Appeal Fine for Refusing to Make Cake for Same-Sex Wedding – Anugrah Kumar, The Christian Post

Fourth Circuit Denies En Banc Rehearing in Bladensburg Veterans Memorial Case – First Liberty

Report: Southern Poverty Law Center ignores anti-Semitic hate crimes on campus – Caleb Parke, Fox News

Condo Bans Senior Citizen’s Bible Study, Christian Music – ToddStarnes.com

Christian group sues Michigan university after it is kicked off campus – Caleb Parke, Fox News

School District Bans Baptist Chaplain From Praying with Football Team – ToddStarnes.com

College student kicked out of class for telling professor there are only two genders – Rick Lessard, Fox61

61% of College Students Says Campus Climate Deters Conservative Speech – Tom Ciccotta, Breitbart

Pa. County Continues Fight Against Atheists’ Lawsuit Demanding Cross Be Removed From Seal – Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post

International Religious Freedom

Mike Pompeo’s Nomination is ‘Very Positive for the Cause of International Religious Freedom’ – George Thomas, CBN News

Remains of 40 Iraqi Christians With Their Crosses Found in Mass Grave – Anugrah Kumar, The Christian Post

Christian Parents Praying for Son on Death Row in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’ – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post

Military Religious Freedom

Should a ‘secular humanist’ serve as Navy chaplain? Absolutely not – Sen. Roger Wicker, Fox News

 

Life

Abortion

Discriminating against people like my son, with Down syndrome, must end – Cassy Fiano, Live Action

Abortion Clinics Have Lost 3 Million Customers to This Pro-Life Helpline – Jay Hobbs, LifeNews

To Call Abortion ‘Health Care’ Defies Logic – Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, National Catholic Register

A Miracle Story: Baby Saved After Mother Had Already Started Abortion – Hank Berrien, The Daily Wire

Abortion worker pressured by other workers to abort her wanted baby – Sarah Terzo, Live Action

Michigan pro-lifers now saving babies from within a former Planned Parenthood – Katie Franklin, LifeSiteNews

Kentucky House OKs bill to ban abortion procedure after 11 weeks – Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

Human Rights Groups Thank U.S. for Rolling Back Abortion in Impending Report – Austin Ruse, C-Fam

Why Is the Abortion Industry Run by Women? – Rebekah Merkle, Desiring God

Adoption

Video: Family Adopts an Abandoned Newborn Baby – Sarah Zagorski, LifeNews

A ‘perfect’ ending for four Kansas siblings seeking adoption brings judge to tears – Rick Montgomery, Chicago Tribune

Bioethics

The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide – George F. Will, The Washington Post

Euthanasia is Now Being Performed … on Prisoners – Michael Cook, Intellectual Takeout

Appeals court: Hospital can yank baby Alfie Evans’ life support against parents’ wishes – Claire Chretien, LifeSiteNews

VSED: A New Form of Assisted Suicide – Richard Becker, Crisis

Netherlands Euthanized 252 Mentally Ill People in 2017 – Alex Schadenberg, LifeNews

Basic Bioethics: What Christians should know about abortifacients – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

 

Family

Economics/Education

Tax Cuts Already Have America’s Small Businesses Moving Again – Chris Stansbury, The Daily Signal

Saving men in the heartland: The case for place-based employment policies – The Brookings Institution

Marriage

The Romance of Ordinary Marriage – Nathanael Blake, Public Discourse

Don’t Miss the Joy of Family Life – Justin Coulson, Family Studies

7 Questions Every Husband Should Be Asking Himself – Christopher Greco, Relevant

God, Why Won’t You Fulfill Our Desire for Children? – Michael McAfee, The Gospel Coalition

How to Increase Participation in Marriage and Relationship Education – Stephen F. Duncan, Family Studies

Faith/Character/Culture

3 Things A Father Must Teach His Son So That His Son Doesn’t End Up Dead Or In Prison – Matt Walsh, The Daily Wire

You Must Fight Hard for Peace – Jon Bloom, Desiring God

What Your Kids Need from YouJ. D. Greear, The Gospel Coalition

What Jordan Peterson Has to Say About Motherhood Might Surprise You – Ashley McGuire, Family Studies

9 ways to establish sexual norms for your children before the world doesJ.D. Thorne, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

The Lost Art of Intentionality – Tod Worner, Word On Fire

The Christian’s Hammer – Rob Schwarzwalder, The Stream

Human Sexuality

Guttmacher Report Misleads on Abstinence-Only Education – Michael J. New, National Review

Sex Change: Physically Impossible, Psychosocially Unhelpful, and Philosophically Misguided – Ryan T. Anderson, Public Discourse

Bisexual Confessions, Ex-Gay Testimonies Receive Scorn – Dan Delzell, The Christian Post

Why He Doesn’t Call Himself Gay – Rachel Gilson, The Gospel Coalition

Historic Stand? Kansas GOP Affirms ‘God’s Design for Gender’ – Heather Sells, CBN News

New Resource Lovingly Presents the Truth About Homosexuality – Kathy Schiffer, National Catholic Register

Human Trafficking

Survivors of Human Trafficking, in Their Own Words – Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic

The House acts to fight against sex trafficking – Josh Wester, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Does #MeToo Have the Power to Bring Down Corporatized Sex Trafficking? – Lisa L. Thompson, National Center On Sexual Exploitation

Pornography

What to do when you can’t “unsee” pornography – Kathleen N. Hattrup, Aleteia

Restricting Online Porn Is Focus of Rhode Island BillNational Catholic Register

10 Things To Avoid Saying To Someone Struggling To Give Up Porn – Fight the New Drug

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What an Idaho Federal Judge Should Have Said About Transgender Birth Certificates

by Peter Sprigg

March 13, 2018

On March 5th, a federal court in Idaho ordered that state to begin allowing persons who identify as transgender to obtain revised birth certificates which would designate them as male or female on the basis of their “gender identity” rather than their biological sex at birth.

This decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale was both legally and logically wrong.

Ironically, Judge Dale’s written decision contains within it all the facts necessary for a reasonable decision—but she ignored them. Let me begin by quoting two key passages from her actual decision (most source citations omitted):

As explained above, IDHW [Idaho Department of Health and Welfare] interprets Idaho vital statistics law to prohibit changes to the listed sex unless there was an error in recording the sex at birth. Notably, IDHW asserts that Idaho birth certificates reflect the “sex” of a person at birth and do not contain a “gender marker” designation. From this interpretation comes IDHW’s policy of automatically and categorically denying applications made by transgender individuals for the purpose of changing the listed sex to reflect their gender identity.

2. Biological Sex, Gender Identity, Transition

There is scientific consensus that biological sex is determined by numerous elements, which can include chromosomal composition, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, hormone prevalence, and brain structure. [Footnote: The American Psychology [sic] Association defines sex as “one’s biological status as either male or female” that “is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy.” Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, American Psychological Association (2018), http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx.] Sex determinations made at birth are most often based on the observation of external genitalia alone. For most people, this determination aligns with gender identity and gender expression. Of importance here, however, are instances where it does not.

Gender identity, also known as core gender, is the intrinsic sense of being male, female, or an alternative gender. Transgender is an adjective used to designate “a person whose identity does not confirm unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.” Put another way, transgender is an adjective used to describe a person who has a gender identity that differs, in varying degrees, from the sex observed and assigned at birth.

 . . .

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

 1.      The Equal Protection Clause

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that all similarly situated people be treated alike. Equal protection requirements restrict state legislative action that is inconsistent with bedrock constitutional guarantees, such as equality in treatment. An equal protection claim is established when plaintiffs show they were treated differently than other similarly situated people. Yet, states are given significant leeway to establish laws to effectively govern citizens and remedy societal ills. Because of this, successful equal protection claims additionally require plaintiffs to show the difference in treatment was the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination.

The whole case could have been settled at this point. Here is what Judge Dale could have said—but, unfortunately, did not:

Since there remains a scientific consensus that “sex” is an inherently different characteristic from “gender identity” or “core gender,” (the former being biological, the latter psychological), and since Idaho birth certificates note only the “sex” of the individual and not the “gender” or “gender identity,” the plaintiffs’ claims fail.

It is understandable that plaintiffs may experience hardships as a result of their “gender” or “gender identity” not matching the “sex” listed on their birth certificates. It is understandable that they might prefer that all identity documents, including birth certificates, should reflect only the male or female designation that they prefer as their “gender identity.” However, these are concerns that they must take to the legislature, not the courts.

For now, Idaho has made the policy decision that birth certificates should reflect the “sex” of the child, defined in biological terms. In the vast majority of cases, this is readily identifiable (and in the rare exceptions, Idaho law and policy already allows correction if the biological sex is identified incorrectly). This decision certainly has a rational basis, since it is hard to even conceptualize how anyone could identify or assign a “gender” or “gender identity” (as distinct from “sex”) to a newborn infant.

It would be within the power of the legislature to authorize retroactive changes to birth certificates in the way the plaintiffs desire. Some legislators may see an individual’s psychological “gender identity” as a more fundamental aspect of who the person is, and may favor the policy change requested by plaintiffs as a way of alleviating the inconvenience and suffering endured by transgender individuals. However, some legislators may see an individual’s biological “sex” as a more fundamental aspect of who the person is, and may prefer to preserve the integrity and accuracy of the birth certificate as a permanent factual record of the individual’s biological sex at birth.

This is a policy choice that only the legislature can make. The Constitution of the United States does not speak to the issue one way or the other. Plaintiffs argue that Idaho’s current policy violates the constitutional guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws.” Yet this claim surely fails, since the current policy treats everyone alike. All persons have their biological sex recorded at birth on their birth certificate. No one has the right to alter this portion of the birth certificate. And it cannot be claimed that this policy is “the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination” against transgender persons, since the policy was in place long before there was any legal or legislative awareness of “gender dysphoria.”

Plaintiffs may argue that the “unequal” treatment consists of the fact that transgender people are denied a birth certificate on which the designation of “sex” corresponds to their “gender identity,” while non-transgender people have birth certificates in which the two aspects of identity match. However, this situation is simply the result of the individual’s unusual transgender condition itself—not any intentional or irrational discrimination on the part of the state.

Case dismissed.

Unfortunately, this judge substituted her own hazy (but politically correct) philosophy for such a straightforward reading of the law. This philosophy does not reflect that “our medical understanding of biological sex and gender has advanced,” as Judge Dale asserts. In fact, her declaration that “there is medical consensus that gender identity plays a role in an individual’s determination of their own sex” is directly contradicted by her earlier acknowledgment that “sex” and “gender identity” remain defined by major medical and psychological associations as two different things. What her decision reflects is not the latest in medical science, but is instead a purely metaphysical view that the mind is everything and the body is nothing when it comes to deciding who is male or female.

She is entitled to hold (or blindly accept) this trendy opinion, but she has no right or power to impose it as law upon the state of Idaho.

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Sixth Circuit Shows Why SOGIs Are a Threat to Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber

March 12, 2018

Last week, in EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the religious freedom claim of a funeral home owner who wanted to run his business in accordance with his faith—and did not want to accede to the “gender identity” discrimination claim of an employee who desired to remain an employee while living out his transgendered lifestyle as he saw fit. The case is still ongoing (the appeals court ordered the case remanded for a lower court to continue sorting out), but there’s a very real possibility that business owner Thomas Rost may now be forced out of the marketplace rather than violate his faith.

This is the first federal court case dealing with a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim in the context of a sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) nondiscrimination claim (the only other such case is the state-level case of print shop owner Blaine Adamson in Kentucky), and SOGI came out the victor. The concerns of those who have warned of the religious freedom threat of SOGIs are validated by this decision.

The Sixth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Karen Moore, got its analysis wrong on several levels. First, the court claimed it was somehow very clear that Title VII sex discrimination prohibitions include “gender identity”—despite the fact that no court considered such a possibility for decades. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginburg, writing about the proposed Equal Rights Amendment decades ago, did not take “gender identity” under consideration as she dismissed concerns that sex nondiscrimination provisions could force bathrooms to be opened up to the opposite biological sex. So when the Sixth Circuit says “[n]or can much be gleaned from the fact that … statutes, such as the Violence Against Women Act, expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of ‘gender identity,’ while Title VII does not,” it isn’t very convincing. If it was so clear, no court would ever have rejected the notion that “gender identity” falls under sex discrimination—yet many have.

The court continued to err when it analyzed the religious freedom issue here. The funeral home relied on RFRA as a defense to the SOGI claim, asserting that a sincere religious belief had been substantially burdened. At that point, the EEOC could only have prevailed if it had a compelling government interest which was accomplished through the least restrictive means.

Judge Moore incredibly (and erroneously) claimed it was not a “substantial burden” on religious exercise to “forc[e] [the Funeral Home] to violate Rost’s faith,” which “would significantly pressure Rost to leave the funeral industry and end his ministry to grieving people.” Yet it is an elementary principle of RFRA analysis to observe there is a substantial burden on someone who is told they must compromise their beliefs in order to retain their job. The court accepted that Rost sincerely believed he should not be “directly involved in supporting the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift,” but then summarily dismissed his concern, concluding that “tolerating [his employee’s] understanding of … sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it.”

The court tries to rely on lower federal court adjudications in the HHS mandate contraceptive litigation, claiming that “[m]ost circuits, including this one, have recognized that a party can sincerely believe that he is being coerced into engaging in conduct that violates his religious convictions without actually, as a matter of law, being so engaged.” Yet this second-guessing of religious beliefs has been roundly repudiated by the Supreme Court in Employment Division v. Smith, where the Court observed decades ago that “[r]epeatedly and in many different contexts, we have warned that courts must not presume to determine the place of a particular belief in a religion or the plausibility of a religious claim.” Moreover, despite citing HHS mandate cases from the lower courts, Judge Moore skips over the fact that when the Supreme Court handled those cases on appeal in Zubik v. Burwell, the justices told the parties to come to a resolution while honoring the religious exercise at issue, rather than flatly dismissing the substantial burden on the religious claimants.

After concluding there was no substantial burden on religious exercise, Judge Moore didn’t need to continue her analysis, but did so anyway, offering her view that it was a compelling interest to force the funeral home to accede to the transgendered employee’s demands: “Failing to enforce Title VII against the Funeral Home means the EEOC would be allowing a particular person—Stephens—to suffer discrimination, and such an outcome is directly contrary to the EEOC’s compelling interest in combating discrimination in the workforce.” The court did not want to “hoist automatically Rost’s religious interests above other compelling governmental concerns.” The Sixth Circuit then concluded that uniform enforcement of sex nondiscrimination provisions without religious exceptions was the least restrictive means to accomplish this compelling government interest of eradicating discrimination.

What are we to make of this? Aside from realizing that judges are not exempt from the temptation to arrive at a conclusion and then craft reasoning to help one get there, the court’s opinion shows us that businesses seeking religious freedom protections need to state clearly and regularly their religious nature (though part of a separate ministerial exemption analysis, the court did hold the business’s lack of numerous and overt religious indicia against it).

More relevant for our current religious freedom concerns, this case shows the inability of RFRA to adjudicate modern religious freedom disputes with certainty, as the statute allows judges the leeway to craft conclusions of their own liking, an even bigger danger when issues of sexuality—on which they want to be on the “right side of history”—are involved in the case.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, this opinion demonstrates that when RFRA and SOGI claims intersect, the SOGI claims will likely win (and will almost certainly win in the hands of judges under social and cultural pressure to reach a certain result), thus vindicating many who have claimed that SOGI laws themselves are a threat to religious freedom.

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