Author archives: Spenser White

Nikki Haley’s Great Advice on Resurrecting Civil Discourse

by Spenser White

August 2, 2018

Our republic has a problem. Commentators have commented on it, pundits have pontificated on it—it could be the death of our society. What is this issue that could destroy our country? It is, simply, the death of civil discourse. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been the most recent leader to address this societal problem.

Since her appointment, Ambassador Haley has become a conservative “rock star” for her stunning speeches on the UN floor. At an event at The Heritage Foundation this month, the Ambassador called the UN Human Rights Council, a council which currently includes egregious human rights violators Iran and the Congo, a “cesspool of political bias.” She has defended Israel—America’s main ally in the Middle East—countless times against its detractors in the UN.

Now Ambassador Haley is advising conservatives on their approach to debating and discussing ideas with those who may disagree. In a recent speech to a group of conservative high schoolers at the Turning Point USA conference at George Washington University, she commented on a recent trend by young people on social media: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted anything online to quote-unquote ‘own the libs.’” For those not up-to-date with modern slang, in this context, to “own” someone is to render them unable to reasonably reply to a sarcastic statement or zinger.

Quite a few students raised their hands and a few cheered. The ambassador then explained her view of the tactic: “I know that it’s fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this—are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading? We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn’t leadership—it’s the exact opposite.” Instead, Ambassador Haley offered her own definition of leadership: “Real leadership is about persuasion, it’s about movement, it’s bringing people around to your point of view. Not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do.”

Ambassador Haley’s words line up perfectly with what Scripture says (which is not surprising, as she is a Christian). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon advises his son that “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” He then warns that the opposite, “harsh words,” only “stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Peter writes to his readers that they should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” and to “do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The fundamental issue here is how we conduct discourse. Disagreements should never become merely a platform for “zingers” in and of themselves. When one or both sides resort to name calling and/or mocking their opponent rather than using reason to persuade, nothing of any value is accomplished. For example, suppose a conservative (or liberal) posts a political statement on Facebook or another social media platform, and a commenter on the other side of the aisle replies nastily to the post. The original poster has three options: not replying, replying with the same amount of ire, or replying with the purpose of persuasion. If the poster replies with “gentleness and respect,” there is a good chance that their original argument will get a fair hearing. Obviously, civil discourse needs two participants, and the commenter may not comply, but Scripture demands that we at least try to respectfully persuade our opponents.

If our culture really is coming apart at the seams, as some commentators are bemoaning, then conservatives adding to the cacophony of empty rhetoric will certainly not aid in tamping down the culture war vitriol. If conservatives are correct, than we should be comfortable voicing our opinions reasonably. At the end of the day, resorting to “owning” our opponents with one liners and zingers will not convince anyone of the rightness of our side. Let us resurrect civil discourse for the future our of country.

The Freedom to Serve: Why Religious Adoption Agencies Must Be Protected

by Spenser White

June 19, 2018

Adoption and foster care agencies are the latest battle grounds of religious freedom in the United States today. A number of states have already passed legislation which would protect religiously motivated adoption agencies from being forced to place children with those who identify as LGBT. These bills are called Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIA). Not surprisingly, CWPIAs have not passed through state legislatures without opposition. Opponents call them “needless”—but are they? Or are they necessary to ensure the survival of faith-based adoption agencies?

In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston shocked the U.S. charity world when, on March 10, it announced it “plann[ed] to be in discussion with the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts] to end [its] work in adoption services.” They cited disagreement with the Massachusetts law which required the charity to violate its convictions on a child’s need for a mom and dad. Catholic teaching describes homosexual adoption as gravely immoral. The Archdiocese declared in a statement concerning the issue, “in spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities of Boston finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth.”

This was one of the first situations that showed the dark underbelly of sexual orientation “non-discrimination” policies. Following the Archdiocese of Boston’s decision, Catholic Charities of D.C. was “informed…that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law.” Catholic Charities was forced into similar situations in southern Illinois and in San Francisco.

North Dakota became the first state to protect religious-based charities when, in 2003, it passed a law which states: “A child-placing agency is not required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, facilitate, refer, or participate in a placement that violates the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” In addition, the law also states that a state cannot deny a contract based on religion. These laws read similarly in the states that have passed them. Kansas, Alabama, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Texas have passed CWPIAs. Oklahoma is the newest state to pass a CWPIA on May 11, 2018.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares that “[g]overnment shall make no law respecting religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In forcing religious charities to choose between violating their religious beliefs or shutting down, the government is effectively prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Under CWPIAs, no adoption agency is prohibited by the state from allowing anyone to adopt children, it only allows religious charities to uphold their religious belief that children need a mom and dad.  

There are an estimated 118,000 children in need of adoption in the United States right now. Limiting the number of adoption agencies is certainly not the best way to help them. The well-being of children should be paramount, and they should not be used as pawns in the culture war. Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts allow for religiously motivated charities to continue to operate and place children without violating their consciences, a freedom the government is required under the Constitution to protect.

Be sure to read FRC’s in-depth analysis on the importance of CWPIAs.

Spenser White is an intern at Family Research Council.

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