Category archives: Family

Motherhood is Life-Giving

by Daniel Hart

May 11, 2017

Every May, our country is given the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate a tremendous blessing that God has bestowed on humankind: the gift of motherhood. Mother’s Day is this Sunday. It’s a day to celebrate and honor not just our own mothers, but the capacity that is present in all women to be life-giving, spiritual mothers.

Motherhood is indeed “life-giving” in two fundamental ways: in both a spiritual and physical sense.

First, the spiritual sense. We all have experiences of “mother figures” in our lives that illustrate why spiritual motherhood is so critical to human flourishing. Perhaps the foremost aspect of spiritual motherhood is that wonderfully mysterious and extraordinary power of empathy. This ability to deeply understand and journey with another person in a profoundly personal way is multifaceted, whether it be in shared rejoicing in our successes, offering true comfort when we are hurting, or challenging us to be more of who we are. Mother figures are the ones that make us feel comfortable in our own skin, and make the world feel like a more restful and cozy place. They are the ones that gaze at us in wonder and affirm us for who we are, reminding us of how good it is that we simply exist, which is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us.

Mother figures are everywhere, enriching our lives in limitless yet often overlooked ways. They are the grandmotherly neighbor who lovingly coos at our newborn child on the sidewalk; the friendly station manager lady that greets each commuter with a personal and genuine smile; the female friend who knowingly listens to our relationship woes with real pathos; the lady across the street who bakes a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies to make us feel welcome in our new neighborhood. Without this kind of spiritual motherhood permeating everyday life, society would disintegrate into savagery.

Physical motherhood is life-giving in a more obvious sense, but no less mysterious. Anyone who has witnessed the birth of a child cannot help but be in awe of the magnitude of the moment and its hint of the eternal; a brand new human life, once hidden and silent behind a veil of skin, suddenly there in front of you, wriggling, bloody, pink, and wailing. This illuminates a wonderful paradox of motherhood—it is at once fierce in its labor of love as the mother toils relentlessly through one contraction after the next to propel her child into the world, and yet soft, warm, and tender as she cradles the new life she has delivered.

This motherly fierceness/tenderness never ceases; think of the ferocity of a mama bear protecting her cubs or the Italian mother giving a piece of her mind to anyone foolish enough to wrong her son. Now think of the tenderness that only a mother can bestow; the gentle doting that we gratefully soak up when we are sick, the kisses and caresses we receive just for being a son or daughter, the hurt that our mother feels just as much as we do when we are suffering—mothers suffer not just beside us, but with us, helping us to navigate restless waters.

Mothers are therefore essential to building a culture of life. They nurture life in the womb and in their families and lovingly cultivate their homes, which in turn cultivates society. Mothers bring people alive by giving them an encounter with the Source of love, which is Christ—who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)—the life-giving presence in all of us.

Mary, the mother of Christ, further illuminates another crucial aspect of motherhood in the Gospels. Luke 1:38 illustrates her example of gratitude and trust in the Lord: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” In saying this, Mary recognizes and acknowledges the Source of her child, entrusting him to God the Father.

Her trust is tested further in Luke 2:34-35 with Simeon’s prophesy regarding her son and herself: “This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The unimaginable faith that she possessed to endure her own innocent son’s torture and crucifixion, at the very foot of his cross, no less (John 19:25), is a testament not only to the fierce lengths to which mothers will suffer with their children, but also to the trust they place in knowing that their children’s fates are ultimately in the Lord’s hands.

In the same way, all mothers are called to ultimately let their children go, entrusting them to the Father. Think of all the mothers who have lost their children to miscarriage, abortion, or untimely death, and of all mothers who are suffering because of their children’s estrangement from them. Even though their children are beyond their reach, they are mothers nonetheless who are called to follow the example of Mary and entrust their children to the Lord.

The unique, God-given capacity for motherhood that all women possess is something that our utilitarian culture tends to downplay and even treat with derision. This is tragic. When gender differences and the unique facets of humanity that emanate from womanhood (and manhood) are tamped down because of political correctness, everyone loses. The motherly instincts of women should instead be celebrated for the countless ways that they enrich all of our lives.

This Mother’s Day, let us thank God for the boundless blessings of all the mothers in our lives, both spiritual and physical.

Should Stay-At-Home Moms Be Forced To Work?

by Peter Witkowski

March 30, 2017

Recently, feminist author Sarrah Le Marquand made headlines when she reinvigorated a debate over motherhood. She went beyond the traditional fight for paid maternity leave, demanding that her Australian government outlaw stay-at-home mothers of school-aged children.

She writes, “Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children school-age or older are gainfully employed.” She goes on to say “only when we evenly divide responsibility for workplace participation between the two genders will we see a more equitable division between men and women in all parts of Australian life.”

In an attempt to control how men and women function in society, Le Marquand wants to establish new regulations that will ensure equality. She has good reasons to be concerned. According to Pew Research Center, more women than men want to stay home with their children. And more men than women feel compelled to work to provide for their families. Only 31 percent of women who live comfortably view working full time as their ideal. And only 23 percent of married women view working full time as ideal. When given a choice, most women prefer to stay home.

This reality creates a problem for Le Marquand and other feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, who once said: “No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice, because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” Both have concluded that women lack the intelligence to choose wisely. Thus, that choice must be removed.

Le Marquand argues that requiring mothers to work makes economic sense, but such thinking is woefully shortsighted. Economic value cannot be measured via the size of one’s paycheck. For example, a student who is in medical school makes very little money. Even so, the person’s earning potential will grow exponentially once he or she is out of school. Lack of gainful employment does not necessarily imply that a person is not contributing to a nation’s economic well-being.

Quite frankly, raising the next generation by ensuring that children are equipped to contribute to society and to the workforce allows the mother to do more for her nation’s well-being than her spouse does. By running her home well, she empowers both her kids and her spouse to engage society in a more meaningful manner and to work more effectively. To miss this fact is to doom your economy. The demographic disasters that are currently brewing in Japan, China, and all across Europe illustrate this point well. Maximizing a workforce solely for today at the expense of investing in future generations always has disastrous consequences.

Moreover, the equality of function that Le Marquand demands does not exist. Yes, both men and women are fully equal (Gen 1:27). Both are created in the image of God. But equality of value does not equal equality of function. Men and women function differently because they were designed differently. Women are naturally more nurturing than men; this is reflected in the fact that women’s bodies nurture their unborn children for nine months and feed their newborns for many months after birth. In addition, differences in the brain structure of men and women have shown that women have “more wiring in regions linked to memory and social cognition.” This is part of the reason why many women tend to be better at understanding the feelings of their children, and are thus more equipped to nurture them. Even those who wish to argue against the presence of these differences cannot ultimately escape them. As psychologist Emma M. Seppala concluded, “While women’s expression involved nurturing and bonding, men’s compassion was expressed through protecting and ensuring survival.” Women tend to be better equipped biologically and sociologically than men to care for their children.

As Pew Research Center discovered, most mothers will prefer being a stay-at-home mom over being a bread winner. This ability to care for the next generation does not preclude mothers from contributing directly to their nation’s economy if they so choose. But when women make the choice to focus primarily on raising the next generation, they are expressing their special and unique feminine capacity for nurturing their children. This is not a bad thing that must be legislated against. It is a natural function of femininity that should be embraced—not just for the benefit of children, but for all of society.

Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.

Boys Need Fathers

by Daniel Hart

March 24, 2017

While watching a documentary about the rise and fall of the rock band Oasis recently, I was struck by a comment that the group’s songwriter and guitarist Noel Gallagher made while discussing his relationship with his estranged father, who left the family when he was a child: “I’m long since over whatever was going on with my old fella. All I care about is the music. In the end, none of this will matter. When it’s all said and done, what will remain is the songs.”

I can certainly understand why he would feel this way about a father who was almost totally absent from his childhood. But what struck me was how he dismissed this gaping hole in his life as not even mattering, in the end. We as human beings know intuitively that having a stable childhood with a loving mother and father matters a great deal, often in ways that we don’t comprehend at the time but later realize in hindsight. But as adults, this can often be too painful to admit.

A recent two-part interview (1 & 2) with Dr. Warren Farrell conducted by Family Studies sheds further light on a growing body of evidence that illustrates the devastating effects that fatherlessness causes on kids, particularly boys:

Dads tend to build bonds with their sons by, for example, playing games and rough-housing, and then use the resulting bond as leverage for their sons to “get to bed on time” lest there be “no playing tomorrow night.” This boundary enforcement teaches boys postponed gratification. Boys with minimal or no father involvement more frequently suffer from an addiction to immediate gratification. For example, with minimal or no father involvement there is a much greater likelihood of video game addiction, more ADHD, worse grades in every subject, less empathy, less assertiveness (but more aggression), fewer social skills, more alienation and loneliness, more obesity, rudderlessness, anger, drugs, drinking, delinquency, disobedience, depression and suicide.

A boy looks at his dad and sees the man he could become. If his dad is minimally present, that doesn’t give him much hope that marriage with children will lead to him having the emotional satisfaction of being a fully-involved dad. Some dad-deprived boys see their dad living in a small apartment after divorce, and having to fight in court to be more involved with them, even as their dads are working a job they don’t like to pay for the children they can’t see as much as they’d like. That reinforces their purpose void and an abyss of hopelessness.

This demonstrates what has become a tragic pattern in our culture: when boys do not have their fathers in their lives, they themselves become skeptical and distrustful of marriage as a legitimate life goal. Too often, this leads to these same boys becoming absent fathers through non-marital relationships that break up. And so the cycle continues from one generation to the next.

Farrell observes that part of the solution “involves guiding our sons to seize the opportunity to find more meaningful senses of purpose in work and parenting—ones tailored to their unique self.” He further argues that mentorship is crucial for boys to find their unique vocational calling: “Dads and male mentors are crucial in this process, as are women who understand how to not throw out the baby of masculinity with the bathwater.”

And how do boys find meaning in parenthood? Not surprisingly, Farrell argues that healthy marriages are crucial:

Making marriages better serves everyone. Many couples with children who are legally married are psychologically divorced. Divorces are due less to problems with money, sex or children, and more to each partner feeling that her or his perspectives on money, sex, or children are rarely heard. When our partner airs her or his perspective, we often take it as criticism, and the Achilles’ heel of human beings is our inability to handle personal criticism from a loved one without becoming defensive.

That is, we have a “love dilemma”: while “falling in love” is biologically natural, sustaining love is biologically unnatural. For our children to not fear marriage, then, they need to see that their parents have learned how to do what does not come naturally: sustain love.

This creates the greatest single opportunity for the most radical solution to the boy crisis: parental modeling of how to sustain love. I introduce in The Boy Crisis my “Altered Mindsets Method of Non-defensive Communication,” which has allowed couples to emotionally associate their partner’s criticism as an opportunity to deepen their love. It’s a method I have honed over two decades via couples’ communication workshops… [E]mpathy communication skills need to be part of every elementary school’s core curriculum… This is the most important single global change for love in our families and peace in the world.

When couples continually work at sustaining love within their marriage, divorces will decrease and more and more boys will grow up with their fathers. I think everyone, including Noel Gallagher, would agree that this is a goal worth fighting for, and it matters greatly indeed.

Why We Can’t Wait: A Call for MLK-like Leadership

by Patrina Mosley

January 16, 2017

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist…if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies—a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.”

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963), Why We Can’t Wait

These are powerful and prophetic words from the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., words that should be heeded today; for we can no longer wait to wake up from this racial nightmare that we are now in where black liberation ideologies are being foisted on the minds of young Americans. A teacher’s organization is encouraging teachers to provide Black Lives Matter (BLM) curriculum in the classroom one day every week, along with wearing BLM apparel. One teacher who has gotten on board with this agenda says “Black Lives Matter functions with 13 principles that I think are good and healthy for kids to learn about.” Considering what the Black Lives Matter movement has publically stated, this is a frightening prospect. Instead, children should be learning about the inspiring leadership of Dr. King, whose philosophy and principles we have all benefited from today. BLM is the very “black nationalist” ideology he warned would try to fill the void for truth if left vacant.

The Black Lives Matter movement states that they are “a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life and “to (re)build the Black liberation movement” (emphasis added). What does that mean? To answer that we need to look at who the Black Liberation movement was. The Black Liberation movement, more commonly known as the Black Liberation Army (BLA), was a splinter group developed after the Black Panther Party dissolved. Their four badges of honor were anti-capitalism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-imperialism. Secondly, they proclaimed “That we must of necessity strive for the abolishment of these systems and for the institution of Socialistic relationships in which Black people have total and absolute control over their own destiny as a people (emphasis added). This is essentially a description of black anarchy. Third, “in order to abolish our systems of oppression, we must utilize the science of class struggle, develop this science as it relates to our unique national condition” (emphasis added). In other words, perfect the science of profiting at being a victim of society. The Black Liberation Army was reported to be involved in numerous police shootings and murders throughout the 1970’s.

Black Lives Matter also emphasizes the same social and economic struggles as the Black Liberation movement once did, calling its members to “live Black and buy Black” to create wealth only in the black community. Black Lives Matter has also extended the Black Liberation Army’s interest in being “anti-sexism” by affirming “the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement” (emphasis added).

One of their core principles of being Queer Affirming states, “We are committed to fostering a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise” (emphasis added). Sadly, the movement seems to be against the family model that is the foundation of society.

BLM also seems to be wholeheartedly committed to what they call “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another…” A kind of America where innumerable government community programs are substituted for moral values taught by a mom and dad, perhaps?

The guiding principles of this movement take the African-American community in a downward spiral of black anarchy that erases the family and casts no vision for a sustainable future. These principles are neither good nor healthy and are vastly different from the successful principles of Dr. King.

The most successful model for social change we can draw from is itself the civil rights movement of the sixties, led by the late Dr. King. He was able to articulate what the real problems were and to cast a unifying vision for all Americans to move forward. Dr. King also called the collection of his brave volunteers an army, but “an army whose allegiance was to God … it was an army that would sing but not slay … no arsenal except its faith, no currency but its conscience.”

Dr. King took universal Christian principles that inherently speak to every human conscience and used them to make a crisis of conscience to promote action. He made sure the world televised his non-violent marches for the enforcement of equal rights, while dogs and water hoses were unleashed on their bodies, knocking them to ground only to be beaten down more with clubs and fists. The world saw the participants of these non-violent marches singing praises to God and stopping together to sink to their knees on the pavement to pray.

Dr. King led the fight for civil rights by calling for action through policy, not burning down buildings. After the 1956 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Alabama’s bus segregation laws, King co-founded the Christian Leadership Conference throughout the South which became the leading organizer for action in the civil rights movement. after many arrests, non-violent marches, sit-in’s and appeals, his leadership paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

What an astonishing difference King’s efforts have made. His movement has largely accomplished its goals, and we are alive to see it in beautiful ways today, from the first black president, to multi-ethnic families and churches, to endearing friendships that would have never taken place had segregation existed today. Why are we enjoying the success of the MLK movement today and not the BLA? I believe the answer is that any social movement not based on Christian principles cannot be sustained and will fail. Christianity operates in truth and is a benefit to all people, no matter one’s color, gender, or culture.

Dr. King cast this vision, stating:

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

We must be the voice of truth and fill the void. We cannot afford to wait, hoping things will just get better. Our destination should be what it was always meant to be, “to sit at the table of brotherhood.”

For this was God’s eternal and mysterious plan since the beginning of mankind according to Ephesians 3, where the apostle Paul explains God’s advanced plan to make one unified body out of diversity, which displays His wisdom. Any plan that inherently goes against this will not succeed and cannot be blessed by God. We should seek out policies of righteousness and justice just as Dr. King so diligently fought for. Today we honor him and his contributions to all Americans, and pray that leaders like him will take up the mantle to be the alternative and distinct Christian voice for truth and justice. 

Truth Wins at Arkansas Supreme Court Regarding Parentage on Birth Certificates

by Peter Sprigg

December 9, 2016

In June of 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples could not be denied marriage licenses by states. However, on December 8, 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court correctly ruled that the Obergefell decision should not be used to re-write all state laws relating to family, parenthood, and vital records, when they are unrelated to the issuance of marriage licenses.

The decision, in the case of Smith v. Pavan, overturned a lower court decision that had declared the Arkansas law governing birth registration unconstitutional. The statute in question says that in the absence of a court order or agreement by all parents and spouses involved,

If the mother was married at the time of either conception or birth or between conception and birth the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child.”

The law had been challenged by three lesbian couples. In all three cases, one of the women had borne a child who was conceived through artificial insemination involving an anonymous sperm donor as the father. When the children were born, the couples sought to have the names of both women listed on the birth certificate as the child’s parents. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) refused.

The legal principle involved has long been known as the “presumption of paternity.” If a married woman gives birth to a child, her husband is presumed to be the father of that child. Something which is factually true in the vast majority of cases is simply presumed to be true under the law.

Advocates of same-sex marriage and homosexual parenting, however, seek to convert the “presumption of paternity” into a gender-neutral “presumption of parentage.” Under this view, the legal spouse—regardless of sex—of a woman who gives birth is presumed to be the child’s other parent.

In other words, they would have the law go from presuming something that is almost always factually true to presuming something that cannot possibly be factually true—namely, that two women are both the biological mother of a newborn child.

Fortunately, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the absurd outcome of presuming the impossible.

In a model of judicial restraint, they interpreted the words of the statute by “giving the words their ordinary and usually accepted meaning in common language.” Noting that the dictionary definition of “husband” is “a married man,” and of “father” is “a man who has begotten a child,” they concluded that “the statute centers on the relationship of the biological mother and the biological father to the child, not on the marital relationship of husband and wife.”

The court’s opinion cited an affidavit by the ADH’s Vital Records State Registrar elaborating on the rationale for this approach:

The overarching purpose of the vital records system is to ensure that vital records, including birth certificates as well as death certificates and marriage certificates, are accurate regarding the vital events that they reflect…

Identification of biological parents through birth records is critical to ADH’s identification of public health trends, and it can be critical to an individual’s identification of personal health issues and genetic conditions.

To emphasize the significance of—and differences between—biological motherhood and biological fatherhood, the Arkansas Supreme Court also cited language from a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a question of citizenship for children born out of wedlock and outside the United States to one American parent. Ruling (in Nguyen v. INS) that Congress could treat children of American fathers differently from children of American mothers, the Court said,

[t]o fail to acknowledge even our most basic biological differences—such as the fact that a mother must be present at birth but the father need not be—risks making the guarantee of equal protection superficial, and so disserving it. Mechanistic classification of all our differences as stereotypes would operate to obscure those misconceptions and prejudices that are real… The difference between men and women in relation to the birth process is a real one, and the principle of equal protection does not forbid [legislative recognition of that fact].

Ironically, the author of the decision in Nguyen was Justice Anthony Kennedy—who also wrote the Obergefell decision on marriage.

LGBT activists, of course, will deplore the Arkansas decision. Perhaps, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, they and other liberals will even be tempted to lump it together with what they stereotype as other acts of “bigotry” committed by “angry white males.” Yet the Arkansas Supreme Court has a female majority—four women and three men. Three of the four women joined the majority opinion in the birth certificate case, while two of the three men dissented. And the opinion of the court was written by Associate Justice Josephine Linker Hart—a female pioneer in the legal profession in Arkansas, an Army veteran, and a woman with Cherokee ancestry.

The truth is that every child has both a mother and a father—even if the latter is only an anonymous sperm donor. The truth is that two women (or two men) alone can never conceive a new human life. The truth is that a birth certificate or registration is supposed to record the factual circumstances of a biological event—the birth of a child.

When the Obergefell decision was handed down, those celebrating it used a simple slogan: “Love Wins.” (The fallacy in that was the assumption that any and every relationship characterized by “love” is constitutionally entitled to be designated a “marriage.”)

Pro-family Americans can be grateful that, at least in the Arkansas Supreme Court, “Truth Wins.”

Adoption: How One Life Touches Countless Others

by Elizabeth Hance

November 11, 2016

I’ve had a baby, and I keep wanting to hold her. But she’s gone. I miss her.” A teenager named Bonnie wrote those words in August of 1990. Months before, she had been surprised and scared to learn she was pregnant. As a 17-year-old on the brink of beginning her higher education, she knew she was not equipped to be a parent. But instead of ending the life inside her, she made the bravest, most selfless decision possible: giving up her child for adoption.

I struggle to comprehend the difficulty of entrusting a biological child with new parents, but I am so thankful that Bonnie did so, because that child, Christine Marie, is now one of my dearest friends and has since shared this story to encourage countless others. The day that Bonnie gave up Christy was one of pain, as the words she wrote testify, but Christy’s life as well as innumerable other lives have benefitted as a result of Bonnie’s courageous sacrifice.

Many preconceived ideas and awkward questions often surround adoption. Can a parent’s bond with an adopted child ever be as strong as the one with a biological child? Will an adopted child ever secretly wish his or her birth parents had kept him or her? Are birth parents depriving their child by giving him or her to non-biological parents? These concerns all have valid elements to them, but I have had the privilege of witnessing many adoption stories and can say with certainty that adoption is one of the most beautiful and courageous decisions a woman could make in the face of an unplanned pregnancy.

My dear friend Christy grew up always knowing her adoption as a precious gift—her birth parents loved her and wanted the best for her, but knew that someone else could give that to her when they could not. And now, Christy has the joy of an ongoing relationship with both of her birth parents and has deep gratitude to them for giving her the best family for which she could have asked. Her parents and brother are her rock, and she now also has a wonderful husband who encouraged her to make contact with her birth father.

In her everyday work, Christy now counsels women like Bonnie, using her own story to show them the good that can come from adoption. She works for an adoption agency that comes alongside women with unplanned pregnancies to help them give the best future for themselves and their children.

Christy’s story shows me that abortion and adoption are not only about the child and the birth parents. If Bonnie had not carried Christy to term and then given her to her new parents, I likely wouldn’t be able to call Christy my friend, college roommate, or confidant. I know many other girls who are also blessed with her friendship and mentoring because Bonnie gave her up for adoption. What’s more, Christy’s parents wouldn’t have had the joy of raising her, and her brother wouldn’t have had her as his sister if not for Bonnie’s sacrifice. Christy’s husband William and his family would never have known her. And the vulnerable women who are blessed by Christy every day would not have her in their lives right now.

One life touches innumerable others, and I’m grateful to Christy’s birth mother for giving her baby girl the chance to touch so many lives that she wouldn’t have encountered without her adoption.        

 

Elizabeth Hance is an intern at Family Research Council.

Expanding the Definition of “Parent” Expands the Power of the State

by Peter Sprigg

September 2, 2016

New York’s highest state court, the Court of Appeals, ruled August 30th that the former lesbian partner of a woman who gave birth (via artificial insemination) while the couple was cohabiting could qualify as a “parent” for the purpose of seeking custody and visitation rights (Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C.C.).

In light of the 2015 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to order a fifty-state redefinition of “marriage” to include same-sex couples (Obergefell v. Hodges), this may seem like something inevitable—merely a legal mopping-up operation. Actually, it is far more troubling, with implications that extend far beyond same-sex couples.

New York’s Domestic Relations Law says that “either parent” of a child living in the state may apply to a court requesting “the natural guardianship, charge and custody of such child.” In a case similar to the current one 25 years ago (Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M.), the same court had ruled that “a biological stranger to a child who is properly in the custody of his biological mother” has no standing to seek visitation. Despite having upheld it as recently as 2010, the court explicitly overruled Alison D. this week.

In part, the decision was based on the fact that during the period the couple was together (2006-2010, with the baby boy being born in 2009), same-sex couples could not yet legally marry in New York. According to the opinion, the couple “lacked the resources to travel to another jurisdiction” to enter into a marriage or similar “legal arrangement.”

One is tempted to say that they must have been quite destitute—since the first state to grant civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples (in 2004), Massachusetts, borders on New York state. By the time the child was born, in June 2009, Massachusetts had repealed a 1913 law that had initially prevented many out-of-state couples from marrying there; and New York’s Gov. David Paterson had ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex unions from other states.

In fairness, though, the couple apparently did live in Chautauqua County—at the far western end of the state, about 400 miles from Massachusetts. However, it is only a little over 100 miles from Niagara Falls, Ontario—which was also giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples from the U.S. Meanwhile, New York’s high court had already recognized a right of “second-parent” adoption even for unmarried partners of a biological parent in a case decided in 1995.

All this is to say that, even for a same-sex couple, it may not have been so difficult to establish a legal family relationship by a more traditional means—either a civil marriage or legal adoption.

Family Research Council (FRC) promotes the ideal of the “natural family.” In the natural family, a man and a woman commit to one another in marriage, and their sexual union bears its natural fruit in the birth of children who are biologically related to both parents. Support for the natural family is not just based on abstract principle—there is abundant social science research showing that it tends to result in the best outcomes for children (see this recent blog post reviewing the evidence).

However, we realize that the natural family is not universal, and recognize that parental relationships are sometimes formed without marriage (as in out-of-wedlock births) or without a biological relationship between parent and child (as in adoption). These parents should have their rights respected by the state just as much as those in the more traditional natural family.

However, these have historically been the limits of how legally-recognized “parental” relationships may be established. The court’s decision in Brooke B. smashes through those limits.

Only one of the New York judges, Eugene Pigott, fully acknowledged this. Although he concurred with the outcome of the case, based on its “extraordinary circumstances,” he disagreed with the decision to overrule Alison D. “I would retain the rule that parental status under New York law derives from marriage, biology or adoption,” Pigott wrote. Until now, he said, “Our Court … rejected the impulse to judicially enlarge the term ‘parent’ beyond marriage, biology, or adoption.” Instead, they had “consistently interpreted it in the most obvious and colloquial sense to mean a child’s natural parents or parents by adoption.”

The argument for expanding the definition of “parent” to include “de facto parents” who have lived with, cared for, and formed a close personal relationship with a child is simple—namely that it may be “in the best interests of the child” to preserve that relationship even if the adult couple breaks up. This sounds emotionally appealing—but the problem is what it means for parental rights. While parental rights are not absolute—in the case of serious abuse, for example, a parent may be declared “unfit” and have those rights severed—they are normally entitled to great deference.

The court did quote from its 1991 decision in Alison D., which said that “[t]raditionally … it is the child’s mother and father who, assuming fitness, have the right to the care and custody of their child,” and granting visitation to a “de facto” parent “would necessarily impair the parents’ right.” Without a biological or adoptive connection to the child, the former partner has no right “to displace the choice made by this fit parent in deciding what is in the child’s best interests.”

The New York court claimed it was still protecting this “substantial and fundamental right” (which it acknowledged as “perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests”). It did so by saying that it was only recognizing the “parental status” of a non-biological, non-adoptive partner where the person “proves … that he or she has agreed with the biological parent of the child to conceive and raise the child as co-parents.”

This limitation is small comfort. Libertarians inclined to see this as another step toward “freedom” or “equality” for all sexual preferences, or conservatives inclined to shrug it off as the inevitable consequence of Obergefell, are missing the larger point—which is a massive expansion of the power of the state in general, and of judges in particular.

Judge Pigott addressed the latter point, noting that “other states had legislatively expanded the class of individuals who may seek custody and/or visitation of a child.” In fact, New York had done the same, explicitly extending it by statute to siblings or grandparents—but not to those in the position of the petitioner. If the result seems unfair, “such criticism is properly directed at the Legislature;” but judges had, until now, “refused to undertake the kind of policy analysis reserved for the elected representatives of this State.”

In my view, however, the Legislature should not further expand the definition of “parent,” either. The existence of the natural institution of the family is an inherent check upon the power of the artificial institution of the state. Even when the state does create a parental relationship through a legal act (adoption), it does so only when the natural parents are absent, or there has been a convincing showing, with a strong burden of proof, that they are unfit.

Moving away from the limited definition of families as being formed by marriage, biology, or adoption is a move in the direction of the further deconstruction of the family as an institution. Granting greater power to the government to define or even create “family” or “parental” relationships, meanwhile, is a move toward concentrating greater societal power in the hands of the state across the board.

Both trends should alarm not just social conservatives, but anyone who is concerned about excessive concentrations of power in the hands of the government.

Simone Biles Would Have Been Planned Parenthood’s Perfect Target

by Arina Grossu

August 12, 2016

By now you’ve probably seen or heard about the best female gymnast that ever lived, Simone Biles. She is wowing everyone at the Olympics this summer. Simone Biles’ margin of victory is 2.1, larger than the margins of victory from 1980 to 2012 combined. She’s already won gold for team and individual all-around at Rio Olympics. All this girl does is win:

Not only is she the first female gymnast since 1974 to win four consecutive all-around titles at the U.S. national championships, but she’s also the first woman ever to be the all-around world champion three years in a row. Not to mention that she’s won fourteen total world championships medals-the most ever won by an American woman.”

Recently it came to light that Simone Biles was born in March 1997 in Columbus, Ohio to Shannon Biles, who at the time was an “unfit” drug and alcohol addict and who was unable to take care of Simone and her younger sister Adria. Their father, who also struggled with addictions, abandoned Shannon and was not part of the children’s life. They were shuffled back and forth between her mom’s house and foster care for her first three years of life. When she was three years old, her maternal grandfather, Ron, and his second wife, Nellie, brought Simone and her sister to Spring, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. When Simone was six years old, they officially adopted the girls, becoming “mom and dad.” Her adoption story is well-documented here.

NBC Olympics describes Biles as “fearless, teaching herself to do back flips off her family’s mailbox before she even took a gymnastics class. It was a daycare field trip to a gym that led her to the sport—the six-year-old saw the older girls flipping and twisting and immediately started copying them.”

The instructors suggested she continue doing gymnastics. As the story goes, “she returned home with an information packet and a single, insistent demand: enroll me at the gym.” Biles then enrolled in an optional training program at Bannon’s Gymnastix at age six. This was late by competitive standards, since most aspiring gymnasts start as soon as they can walk. She began her training with Aimee Boorman at eight years of age, her coach now of eleven years. And the rest is history.

Her story are what fairy tales are made of. We love the underdog. We love stories of human strength that defy all odds.

Yet, she would have been the perfect target of Planned Parenthood. It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood targets blacks and minorities: 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

LiveAction also revealed that Planned Parenthood accepts money for aborting black babies.

Black women make up only 13% of the female population in the United States, but they undergo approximately 28% of the abortions. In the U.S., black children are aborted at nearly four times the rate of white children. In fact, one in three black babies are killed in the womb. Simone Biles seems to have defied the odds in more ways than at first glance.

Margaret Sanger, founder of what is now known as Planned Parenthood, would have wanted women like Shannon never to have children. In her 1920 book “Woman and the New Race”, Sanger said, “By all means, there should be no children when either mother or father suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, cancer, epilepsy, insanity, drunkenness and mental disorders.”

In a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace, Sanger mused: “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world, that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically… Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin-that people can-can commit.”

By Sanger and Planned Parenthood’s standard, Simone Biles would have been eliminated.

Yet Simone Biles stands before us, a marvel of a human being, having beat the odds. This is the constant message of the pro-life movement. No one, absolutely no one, is beyond hope or possibility. Each unborn child deserves the right to life, even when the circumstances seem dire. How many others like Simone Biles who would have started from less-than-ideal circumstances but were not even given a chance at life? How many Olympians, presidents, politicians, and artists have we aborted? Fifty-nine million babies with infinite potential have been aborted in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Without the fundamental right to life, no other rights or potentialities are possible.

Simone Biles’ story also highlights the power of adoption. Every child is a wanted child, whether by her biological family or by someone else. Simone’s biological mother spoke of her deep admiration for Simone’s adoptive mother saying, “It takes a hell of a woman to raise her husband’s child’s children. I’m very blessed and thankful for that. It was the right thing at the time.”

While Simone Biles has undeniable exceptional talent, her worth does not come even from her talent. It comes from the fact that she is human. All people are valuable and necessary, not because of what they do, but because they simply are. Yet, we can also rejoice and marvel at the beauty, strength, and talent of Olympian athletes like Simone Biles who demonstrate for us the peak of athletic human excellence. 

We’re glad you’re here Simone and we’re glad for adoption. The world would, literally, not be the same without you.

Arina O. Grossu, M.A. is the director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, where she focuses on sanctity of human life issues, ranging from conception to natural death.

Adopted or Biological, Children Are a Joyous, Disruptive Mystery

by Rob Schwarzwalder

February 19, 2016

Jamie Hughes has written a tender but candid piece on adoption on the valuable Her.Meneutics website. With her husband, she has adopted two sons.

My wife and I also adopted sons, twin boys, when they were three months old. We had prayed for twins for 16 years and, in God’s remarkable kindness, got them, although not in the biological way we initially anticipated. Our boys are now 18 and our daughter, adopted when she was also an infant, turns 13 next month.

What is striking to me about Hughes’ article is that practically everything she describes concerning the adjustments of having young adopted children could be said about having young children, period. None of us knows if our children, biological or adopted, will have exceptional physical, mental, or emotional needs. No one with a small child is unaccustomed to sleepless nights, meal upon meal of packaged food, or disruptions that are frequent, often unnerving, and, in aggregate, wholly draining. Young children are the sworn enemies of efficiency, privacy, predictability, order, and quiet. Always have been, always will be, adopted or biological.

The point of what I’m writing is that nothing Hughes mentions is unique to adoptive parents except, perhaps, various types of attachment disorder in some children and the occasional untoward comment from a tactless observer (“Are they yours?”). For example, as Hughes notes, “There are … holes in the boys’ childhoods, in my understanding of them and how they work, even in their medical histories.” That’s true — but it’s also true for all parents, to one degree or another. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I’ve never seen anything about their medical histories and know them only through a handful of anecdotes. I knew my grandmothers barely before each of them died. My many aunts and uncles and some cousins have passed away from a host of causes.

In other words, children provide no guarantees concerning their health, intellectual capacities, motor skills, perception challenges, or any of a host of other things. Adoptive or biological, our children come suddenly into our lives and unmask our selfishness, our self-preoccupation, and our previously unknown resilience in the face of sleep-deprivation and emotional wornness. They awaken in us a fierce love and loyalty that can be arresting in its intensity. They are fallen and finite, filling our lives with joy, grief, regret, and gratitude. They are human, and they are ours.

Jamie Hughes is a lovely Christian woman whose account of her experience with her kids is beautiful. But her experiences are common to all parents, to all mothers and fathers who can hug a child and say, inwardly and with unspeakable contentment, “Mine.” 

A Common-Sense Strategy in the Battle Against Pornography

by Daniel Hart

November 19, 2015

NOTE: Those who are grappling with a serious pornography addiction will most likely need help beyond the advice given here. Being part of a support group, having accountability partners and cultivating a robust prayer life anchored in God’s Word are all crucial to overcoming an addiction to pornography. Click here for more resources on combatting addiction.

National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week has come and gone, but the battle for hearts and minds must continue. Important, common-sense strategies in the fight against pornography consumption often seem overlooked in regard to addressing the porn epidemic in our society. Therefore, this post will focus on the simple reality that natural sexual desires and energy can be redirected, and that this is something that is healthy and necessary for human beings to flourish. If more people applied this practice in their daily lives, it would stem the demand for porn that is fueling its production and dissemination.

First, it’s important to remember that even in today’s hyper-sexualized culture, most people still think that watching porn is morally wrong. And yet, studies show that two-thirds of men and over one-third of women in the United States use porn on a monthly basis, and half of all Internet traffic is related to sex. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what people know in their hearts to be true, and what they actually do despite what their conscience tells them.

How does this happen? Justifying immoral behavior to oneself is easy, especially when our culture literally encourages it. In a society where contraception, premarital sex, and one-click-away Internet porn are the norm, satisfying sexual urges is seen as akin to eating or sleeping, as if it must be done in order to function normally. Implicit in this assumption is the belief that we are merely animals who must masturbate or copulate on impulse like baboons. The problem with this view is that it does not reflect the actual experience of those who attempt to placate these urges through porn consumption and masturbation—instead of feeling satisfied, the overwhelming feeling is one of guilt, disgust, and shame (even cursory searches of online discussion forums about pornography reveal this).

At the heart of this problem is the reality of sexual desire, which is something intrinsically good in nature, but is also uniquely powerful and instinctual, which means it is highly susceptible to being warped and abused. Here at FRC, we strongly believe in the inherent goodness of sex as expressed in the marital bonds of one man and one woman. Having said that, any honest discussion of sexual desire cannot stop there for the simple reason that every one of us, whether young or old, single or married, must deal with our natural desires and urges on a daily basis. Certain demographics, particularly teenagers (and men in general) experience keener surges in sexual energy. In a world of instant gratification where one can carry around the entire Internet in one’s pocket, is it any wonder why the web is saturated with pornography? Technology has put society in an unprecedented position: Even the slightest sexual urge can be indulged instantly, with one or two typed words and a couple of clicks in Google—without the trouble of having any real human interaction.

This is why it is so critical to deal with this problem at its root: What is one to do with the energy that is felt in a sexual urge or desire? As touched upon earlier, it must be made clear that there is a crucial difference between perceived sexual “needs” and the need for food or sleep. One can’t redirect their hunger or tiredness toward something else—these needs will only become worse until they are satisfied. This is simply not the case with a sexual urge. With effort, one’s sexual thoughts can be redirected toward something else, and the urge will often simply pass. The key to succeeding in this is through forming the habit of not extending a sexual thought into a prolonged fantasy, which a well-formed conscience will react to with shame. Once one recognizes the nature of the temptation at its onset, it can more easily be purified.

This is easier said than done, of course. When a stronger sexual energy does come, as it inevitably will from time to time, experience tells us that it can be redirected toward a creative activity such as playing music or dancing, or it could simply be a physical activity like going for a run, playing sports, building a bookshelf, working in your garden, landscaping, cleaning, etc. These activities combine our physical and creative capacities and provide a therapeutic outlet for our energy, whether it be sexual or otherwise.

The law of supply and demand makes it clear that as long as pornography is in demand, there will always be a supply. Through self-discipline and redirecting our sexual energy, the temptation to consume pornography can be avoided, and thus the possibility of an addiction can be stopped before it starts. This will in turn decrease the demand for porn, and eventually lead to a decrease in its production and dissemination. Some may say that this is an idealistic pipe dream, but if more people in the majority of those who believe that pornography is wrong stopped using it, the tide could begin to turn.

This mission can only be fulfilled if we not only commit to undertaking it ourselves, but also commit to instilling it in our children. Make no mistake, this is an extremely difficult battle to fight, because it must be fought not only with the prevailing culture, but also with ourselves. Nevertheless, it is a noble battle for the human heart, and therefore worth fighting for with all our might.

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