FRC Blog

Some Evangelicals I Know

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 30, 2015

Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, ‘evangelical Christian’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘rube.’ In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly. Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair.” So writes Nicholas Kristof in the March 29th New York Times as he begins a narration of the ministry of Dr. Stephen Foster, a medical missionary who has brought hope and healing to thousands on behalf of the love of Christ.

Dr. Foster is but one of countless Evangelical Protestants whose devotion to their Lord has animated a life of anonymous service, often at great sacrifice. There is no way to capture the many believers whose dedication to the good news of Jesus Christ has driven them to give up virtually all the world has to offer in exchange for an as-yet unknown city (Hebrews 11:10-16). In this short piece, I thought I’d note just three of those I know personally.

K.K. Deveraj, Bombay Teen Challenge, Mumbai, India

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Taxpayers Shouldn’t Pay for Pornography

by Nathan Oppman

March 26, 2015

H.R. 5628, the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act, would prohibit government employees from accessing pornography on the job.  This Act passed out of committee this week and might seem unnecessary. 

Wouldn’t that kind of activity get you fired?  Not in the world of the Federal Government.  An EPA employee who watched as much as six hours a day of explicit content was still on the government payroll a year after being caught.  It is sad that our government has become so bloated that it can’t hold employees responsible for dereliction of their duties. 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) sponsored the bill to fix this problem.  Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the dime for something so harmful to society.  Let’s hope Rep. Meadows’ bill reaches the President’s desk.  For more information on the effects of pornography, please see the work done by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.  

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Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News March 26, 2015

by FRC Media Office

March 26, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


Wes Modder holds several noteworthy titles – Reverend, Doctor, husband, father. And two more: Chaplain and Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy.

Chaplain Modder served as a Marine in the 1980s but left to pursue his calling as a pastor. He later returned to the military to serve as a pastor to some of our country’s finest but most hard-pressed men and women, those who wear the uniform of the United States, and to their families.

Yet now, after serving faithfully for 19 years, Chaplain Modder has been “hauled before representatives of the military’s Equal Opportunity board for holding biblical views on marriage and sexuality.”

This would be bad enough, but it gets worse: “In continued defiance of federal law, a U.S. Navy official denied … Chaplain Wes Modder’s request for religious accommodation this week. Although Chaplain Modder’s Marine and Navy SEAL commanders have called him ‘a national asset’ and ‘the best of the best,’ Navy officials are threatening Chaplain Modder with career-ending punishment because he expressed faith-based beliefs in private counseling sessions with sailors.”

With our friends at the Liberty Institute, FRC is standing with the Chaplain. More than 100,000 people have signed our petition calling on the Secretaries of Defense and the Navy to “restore Chaplain Modder and ensure that his religious freedom is secure.”

Please sign our petition and join us in defending this American hero. Religious liberty is our first freedom, because without it, none of our other freedoms is possible. Wes Modder understands this. Let’s hope we all do.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. On Wednesday, April 1 be sure to come to FRC or watch online as the Institute for Religion and Democracy’s Chelsen Vicari talks about her recent book, Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith. Register for the event (at no charge) and join us next week!


Education

Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life

Abortion

Assisted Suicide

Bioethics

Obamacare

Marriage & Family

Economy and the family

Fatherhood

Homosexuality and Gender Issues

Human Sexuality

Human Trafficking

Marriage

Pornography

Religious Liberty and Persecution

Domestic

International

Religion in Public Life

Christian faith and public policy

Other Stories of Note

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Tony, the Homeless Track Star

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 23, 2015

This afternoon I met a man on the street named Tony. A tall, handsome African-American man, he was well-spoken and dressed warmly in a new-ish parka. We talked for a while in front of the shelter where he resides currently.

Tony is homeless and lives at a mission not far from Capitol Hill. Gregarious but soft-spoken, he told me a bit about his life and noted he had attended four colleges. He also said he had run competitively with some of track’s greatest.

So, when I got back to my office, I looked him up. In roughly 25 years in the nation’s capital, I’ve been scammed a lot by people on the street, so my skepticism is not without some history.

Tony was telling the truth. In fact, he was an All-American in 1977 in the two-mile relay.

Since then, he’s spent time in prison – I don’t know for what — and now is hoping for a job as a maintenance man at a store near downtown D.C. He is to find out if he gets the job on Friday.

From All-American collegiate athlete to being a homeless ex-inmate hoping for an entry level cleaning-type job: Life’s journey can be strange and painful.

At one point, I made some comment like, “With God, there are always new chances.” Tony stared at me hard and said, “It’s predestined, isn’t it?”

As a moderate Calvinist, I was a little taken aback, but not wanting to get into the Reformed-Arminian controversy quite so extemporaneously, I said simply, “We all have to make choices.” He said, quietly, “Amen.”

My prayer for Tony is that he will make the right choices from hereon, that if he hasn’t yet found new life in Christ that he will, and that God will guide and bless his life as Tony seeks to restore years eaten by the locusts of deception and evil. And I hope I don’t soon forget Tony: With only a few wrong decisions over the course of my more-than five decades of life, I might be standing beside him on the street, wondering if I’ll find work pushing a broom somewhere. There, but by the grace of God …

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A Great Man Honored: Jean Vanier (2015 Templeton Prize)

by Chris Gacek

March 23, 2015

The Templeton Foundation deserves considerable praise for giving its annual award, the Templeton Prize (and here ), to the Canadian philosopher and humanitarian, Jean Vanier (and here). The prize was established in 1972 and is given to a living person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

Vanier is a prolific writer, but he is most known for his founding of L’Arche. In Wikipedia, L’Arche is described as follows:

L’Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 147 communities in 35 countries, and on all five continents.

I first encountered Vanier’s writings twenty years ago when I read his overpowering volume on residents of the L’Arche community entitled, Man and Woman He Made Them. The Amazon description says of the book: “When Vanier speaks of the cry for love within a person who is disabled, he draws the wider parallel of that same search within every man and woman; the fragility and vulnerability of each person at the level of the heart and in the search for relationship.”

The Templeton Foundation hit it out of the park with this award.

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Georgia’s S.B. 129 would free all Georgians from the tentacles of government

by Travis Weber

March 19, 2015

Down in Georgia, opponents of individual rights and personal freedom are attempting to ratchet up their smear campaign against S.B. 129, the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

This measure is simply designed to ensure that individuals’ consciences cannot be easily trampled by intrusive government regulation.

The claims against this common sense proposal are wild and confused. For example, some have claimed the bill gives businesses an absolute right to refuse service. This is patently false.

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Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 18, 2015

Every so often an article comes along that is so moving it puts all the extemporaneous analysis and opinion that floods the Internet into the background. “Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting” is such an article.

In her loving, gentle, but painfully honest open letter to advocates of same-sex marriage, Heather Barwick describes being raised by two lesbians. Her mother and her partner loved Heather, but couldn’t replace her “deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man.” Following are some excerpts from her moving piece, which is addressed specifically to same-sex partners raising children:

I’m not saying that you can’t be good parents. You can. I had one of the best. I’m also not saying that being raised by straight parents means everything will turn out okay. We know there are so many different ways that the family unit can break down and cause kids to suffer: divorce, abandonment, infidelity, abuse, death, etc. But by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father …

Gay marriage doesn’t just redefine marriage, but also parenting. It promotes and normalizes a family structure that necessarily denies us something precious and foundational. It denies us something we need and long for, while at the same time tells us that we don’t need what we naturally crave. That we will be okay. But we’re not. We’re hurting …

It’s not just me. There are so many of us. Many of us are too scared to speak up and tell you about our hurt and pain, because for whatever reason it feels like you’re not listening. That you don’t want to hear. If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.

This isn’t about hate at all. I know you understand the pain of a label that doesn’t fit and the pain of a label that is used to malign or silence you. And I know that you really have been hated and that you really have been hurt. I was there, at the marches, when they held up signs that said, ‘God hates fags’ and ‘AIDS cures homosexuality.’ I cried and turned hot with anger right there in the street with you. But that’s not me. That’s not us.

I know this is a hard conversation. But we need to talk about it. If anyone can talk about hard things, it’s us. You taught me that.”

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Alarming New Study: Rise in Youth-Produced Child Pornography

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 13, 2015

That’s the headline of a story this week from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Here are excerpts:

A new research study concludes there is an, ‘increasing trend for distribution of sexually explicit content produced by younger children using laptop webcams.’ The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and Microsoft participated in the study, examining 3,803 images and videos, of ‘youth-produced sexual content’ depicting young people and uploaded by the children or covertly recorded by a third party. The report, ‘Emerging Patters and Trends Report #1 Youth-Produced Sexual Content,’ was published on March 10, 2015 …

The study established that 85.9 percent of content depicting children aged 15 or younger was created using a webcam and 93 percent featured girls. While much of the content appeared to be knowingly created for websites, the study indicates that 100 percent of the content was shared to third party websites, which cannot be traced. The researchers noted a specific concern that the young people featured, ‘took no steps to conceal their identity or location, even in many cases using their real names.’ The study also found that 667 of the images and videos evaluated featured children 15 years and younger, and of this group, 286 were 10 years or younger. The researchers said their report confirms an alarming trend of young children producing and distributing explicit content online.”

Commenting on the study, NCSE Executive Director Dawn Hawkins said, “We are in the midst of a public health crisis on pornography. Every public official from the president on down, public health advocates, social leaders, as well as every parent must work to solve this crisis. We know that the long-term consequences to our children involved with pornography are monumental and can include problematic, even criminal sexual behaviors, and a host of anti-social activities.”

FRC is proud to partner with the NCSE’s Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation, which marshals the efforts of a large number of national and state organizations to fight pornography and its effects on individuals, families, and the culture.

To learn more about how you can protect your children from pornography, visit the Porn Harms Coalition website.

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Utah’s Unwise Rush to Judgment on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bill

by Peter Sprigg

March 12, 2015

Both houses of the Utah state legislature have now passed, and the state’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert has said he will sign, S.B. 296, a bill which purports to be a historic compromise prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“public accommodations” are not included), while at the same time exempting religious organizations and granting protections for the religious liberty of individual employees.

Endorsement of the bill and its principles by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints virtually assured passage in the heavily Mormon state. SB 296 was approved 23-5 in the Senate on March 6, and 65-10 in the House on March 11.

Family Research Council does not believe that “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” are characteristics comparable to those which are usually protected categories under civil rights law, because they are not inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous, and/or in the Constitution in the way that race and sex are, for example. Therefore, there is no justification in principle for interfering in the private choices of private economic actors with respect to these issues.

I am also skeptical, in the current cultural climate, as to whether the “religious protections” in such a compromise will ever be as vigorously maintained as the “non-discrimination” provisions.

However, there are specific technical problems with the way that S.B. 296 was drafted which should prevent it from being a model for other states, as is being touted by some. (The text of S.B. 296, with lines numbered, is available online at:

http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0296.html )

Definitions: “Gender Identity”

Two of these problems involve definitions in the bill. The first is found in lines 105-106, where it says:

QUOTE

Gender identity” has the meaning provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

END QUOTE

The “DSM-5” is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition,” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013.

It is very odd to have a “definition” in a piece of legislation which does not include what the definition actually is—but instead makes reference to another source (a non-legal, non-statutory, non-constitutional, non-governmental, private source at that).

I think I understand the rationale for this—the authors of the bill want the definition to be scientifically impeccable, and therefore want to reference a scientific source rather than write their own definition. However, this is problematic for several reasons.

The DSM-5 is not only published by a private organization (the American Psychiatric Association), but it is a copyrighted work (could that be why the bill doesn’t quote it?). I have the impression that the APA guards the copyright very jealously, because unlike a lot of copyrighted works, it is virtually impossible to find even excerpts of its text online.

To purchase a copy is very expensive—on Amazon, it is $145 for the hardback version, and $107 for the paperback. Some libraries may have it, but when I went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, which is the main branch of the District of Columbia Public Library, they did not have it—they only had the earlier DSM-IV-TR (2000). All this is to say that it is not all that easy to find out what the definition of “gender identity” in the DSM-5 actually is. It took me several hours of effort (and a trip to the National Library of Medicine) to actually locate it. That hardly seems like the most transparent way of legislating.

While referencing the DSM-5 may make the authors appear to be up-to-date scientifically now, the DSM is inherently a publication under periodic revision. As noted, it was only 13 years between the DSM-IV (2000) and the DSM-5 (2013). So in 13 years, will the up-to-date scientific definition of “gender identity” which Utah legislators referenced in their new law become the out-of-date definition when the DSM-6 comes out? Surely the law cannot be written to automatically be updated to the latest version of the DSM. It would be far better for legislators to actually write down in the text of the law the definitions which they are applying.

When I finally located both the DSM-IV-TR (2000) and the DSM-5 (2013), I found that indeed the definition of “gender identity” had changed. The DSM in 2000 included only this cryptic definition: “A person’s inner conviction of being male or female.”

The DSM-5 definition is longer: “A category of social identity that refers to an individual’s identification as male, female, or, occasionally, some category other than male or female.”

How many of the 88 Utah legislators who voted for this bill understood that they were creating special protections not only for men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men, but also for people who insist that they are neither male nor female?

Definitions: “Sex” and “Gender”

The other problematic definition in S.B. 296 is that of “sex.” On line 777 of the bill, it says:

QUOTE

Sex” means gender . . .

END QUOTE

Really? According to my dictionary, it’s the other way around. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2005), under “gender,” lists “SEX” as a synonym. However, the first definition under “sex” is: “either of the two major forms of individuals … that are distinguished respectively as female or male esp. on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures.”

If the legislature wanted to reference the DSM-5 as the definitive source for a definition of “gender identity,” why did it not do the same for “sex” and “gender?”

The DSM-5 definition of “sex” is: “Biological indication of male and female (understood in the context of reproductive capacity), such as sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and nonambiguous internal and external genitalia.”

On the other hand, the DSM-5 definition of “gender” is: “The public (and usually legally recognized) lived role as boy or girl, man or woman. Biological factors are seen as contributing in interaction with social and psychological factors to gender development.”

These are hardly synonyms, as the bill states. If legislators feel that they must pass laws conceding that one’s “gender identity” can be distinguished from one’s “sex,” at least they should insist that the word “sex” itself be defined in biological terms (as the DSM-5 does), and not by some circular reference to “gender.”

Religious Liberty Protections”

The second major area of concern is the section with the much ballyhooed “religious liberty protections.” First, the bill exempts “a religious organization” and “the Boy Scouts of America” from its definition of an “employer” subject to the employment discrimination provisions (lines 92-100). Note, however, that this leaves profit-making businesses (such as Christian publishers and Christian book stores) and other organizations like non-religious day care centers still vulnerable to being forced to hire homosexual and transgender persons.

More attention has been focused on the unique “religious liberty protections” for individual employees (lines 693-706). Constituting a scant fourteen lines out of over a thousand in the bill, they read as follows:

QUOTE

69334A-5-112. Religious liberty protections — Expressing beliefs and commitments in
694workplace — Prohibition on employment actions against certain employee speech.
695(1) An employee may express the employee’s religious or moral beliefs and
696commitments in the workplace in a reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing way on
697equal terms with similar types of expression of beliefs or commitments allowed by the
698employer in the workplace, unless the expression is in direct conflict with the essential
699business-related interests of the employer.
700(2) An employer may not discharge, demote, terminate, or refuse to hire any person, or
701retaliate against, harass, or discriminate in matters of compensation or in terms, privileges, and
702conditions of employment against any person otherwise qualified, for lawful expression or
703expressive activity outside of the workplace regarding the person’s religious, political, or
704personal convictions, including convictions about marriage, family, or sexuality, unless the
705expression or expressive activity is in direct conflict with the essential business-related
706interests of the employer.

END QUOTE

At first glance, this passage appears to address some of the “horror stories” that have been in the news regarding punishments or adverse employment actions taken against employees for expressing traditional values on marriage, family, and sexuality either within (lines 695-699) or outside (lines 700-706) the workplace.

However, a huge question leaps out—how are these “protections” to be enforced?

First of all, the exemption from the “protection” if the free expression “is in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer” (lines 698-99, 705-706) could end up being the exemption that eats the protection. What if an employer has an internal, corporate non-discrimination policy protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, and claims on that basis alone that excluding dissenters is an “essential business-related interest?” In what government forum, if any, could the employee challenge such a determination?

It is notable that a distinction is made between an employee’s free expression within the workplace and outside the workplace. With the respect to the former, there is an affirmative statement of the rights the employee possesses—but nothing regarding an obligation being placed on the employer to respect those rights.

Only with respect to expression outside of the workplace is there an active prohibition of negative action by the employer. To some extent this is understandable—an employer certainly has some legitimate interest in communication that occurs in the workplace, while they have very little legitimate interest in expression outside the workplace. However, it is unclear how that line is to be drawn, or who is to draw it. Allowing the employer to draw it makes the “protections” meaningless, since it is from the employer that the employees need protection.

One answer to this would be to make explicit that a violation of the religious liberty protections in Section 34A-5-112 constitutes a prohibited form of discrimination based on “religion” under Section 34A-5-106 (lines 277-536) of the bill, and is subject to the full set of remedies set out in Section 34A-5-107 (lines 537-673). Since the bill is being sold as one representing vigorous action both to prevent “discrimination” and to protect religious liberty, the mechanisms to advance both goals should be the same in order to assure parity between the two objectives.

The most optimistic view would be that this is already implicit in the bill—but it would be far more reassuring if it were made explicit. Even this approach is imperfect, however, since the “protections” should apply to any expression of opinion on these subjects, even if it is not rooted in a particular religious teaching.

An alternative would be to establish a specific set of remedies for the religious protections in the bill. It might also help to remove the section about “essential business-related interests” from the section dealing with expression outside the workplace.

Without explicit remedies, I fear these “religious liberty protections” will be a toothless tiger.

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