The View from my Adirondack Chair

by Robert Morrison

August 29, 2014

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I’m getting a head start today by having lunch in my back yard with a good friend.

Working from home has its decided benefits. It’s been a good and productive week for me. (I hope my boss agrees). My friend and I will be sitting in my favorite birthday gift — my new Adirondack chairs. This very American invention seems to symbolize peace, order, creativity. Sitting side-by-side with a friend, in animated conversation, is one of life’s joys.

But there is a certain bittersweet quality to these days. We have never had a nicer summer in Maryland. Blue skies, low humidity, picnic suppers at the sea wall in Annapolis, watching red sails in the sunset, enjoying a summer of peace.

Yet the world has seemingly never been in worse shape, but here at home, peace is precious. The Mideast is exploding. War between Israel and Hamas brings condemnation — as usual — of those who are defending themselves from terrorists. From Gaza, Hamas has been tunneling under the Israeli primary schools and staging rocket attacks on their hospitals. The French have an old expression for this: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”

The president this week announced to the world: “We have no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.” Truth be told, this president has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Russia, or China, or Boko Haram. Not since Jimmy Carter’s uncertain course has the Ship of State been so obviously adrift.

I had the honor of interviewing President Carter’s own choice for Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malcolm Toon had been a thirty-year diplomat. He told me in 1982 that the only time in his career that he feared for the United States was when Carter was president. “I had never seen the Soviets so contemptuous of American weakness,” Amb. Toon told me then.

President Bush erred, badly, in saying he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and had seen “a good man.” He looked into the Russian strong man’s soul, Mr. Bush announced. Russian dissident writer Vladimir Bukovsky spoke to a Victims of Communism Dinner shortly thereafter. Asked about George W. Bush’s statement, Bukovsky deadpanned, with his lugubrious Slavic intonations: “I have looked into eyes of many KGB agents. I have never found it a particularly soulful experience.”

It took years for George Bush to gain a better understanding of Putin and his conduct. But at least he got it. Not so this administration. Vice President Joe Biden related how he had told Putin “I don’t think you have a soul at all.” This prompts one to ask: Is there a Nobel Prize for Jackassery?

The Obama administration’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, is famous for her evoking of “Soft Power,” whatever that is. But in the UN this week, she declaimed that the Russians had to stop “lying” about their activities in Ukraine. Why, Madame Ambassador, must they stop lying? Are you going to invoke Soft Power against them? Liberalizing Czech Communists tried Soft Power in 1968. The Kremlin crushed that Prague Spring under the tank treads of their T-34’s. So much for Soft Power.

We in America can thank God for our safety — and thank the U.S. military, too. There’s a quote — probably misattributed to the great English writer George Orwell — that says “people sleep safely in their beds because rough men are ready to do violence in their behalf.”

What the U.S. military does is not violence. The U.S. military has always been a force for peace. When obliged to use force, even deadly force, it is not engaged in violence. The “authorized use of deadly force” is what distinguishes legitimate and civilized nations from those — like Russia under the Communists, like the Nazis in Germany, like Hamas, Iran, or ISIS today — whose use of force is always violence, never legitimate.

Every Sunday, my wife and I join in prayers at Chapel for the families of young Americans who have died the previous week defending us. We thank God for the sacrifice of these heroes. They are not rough men ready to do violence. But they are brave men, capable men, men and women ready to defend our peace, our freedom, our laws and our Constitution, with their very lives.

To my friends and dear readers enjoying this last breath of summer may I share this poem?

The Last Rose of Summer

Tis the last rose of summer,

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred,

No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter,

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true hearts lie withered,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

Truth Matters in Ex-Gay Debate

by Peter Sprigg

August 29, 2014

[Note: A condensed version of this post appeared at The Christian Post on August 28, 2014 under the title, “Ex-Gay Therapy Debate: The Truth Matters.”]

The fact that some people change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (some spontaneously as a developmental change, some through religious counseling, and some through professional therapy) is a big problem for the homosexual movement. It seriously undermines the myth that people are “born gay and can’t change” This myth is essential to making the public believe that disapproval of (or even failure to actively affirm and celebrate) men choosing to have sex with men and women choosing to have sex with women is exactly as loathsome as “discrimination” based on race.

The organized ex-gay movement is small and poorly-funded, but it poses such an existential threat to pro-homosexual mythology that homosexual activists have mounted a furious assault upon it. The principal form this assault has taken is the introduction of laws that would ban any and all “sexual orientation change efforts” (or “SOCE”) with minors by licensed mental health providers. This idea was pioneered in California where they originally wanted a ban across the board regardless of age. However, it was concluded that this shocking violation of a long-time ethical principle of client autonomy might be too much to take, so the ban was limited to minors on the grounds of “protecting” children. Such laws have been adopted already in California and New Jersey, but similar bills died in more than a dozen other states over the last year or so.

As noted, “protection of minors” has been a key selling point in the legislatures that have considered these bills, and the threatened loss of licensing has been the legal stick employed. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a wealthy, left-wing, anti-Christian political advocacy group that was linked to domestic terrorism in federal court, has executed a pincer movement in New Jersey by suing SOCE providers, including unlicensed counselors who work with adults, charging “fraud” under that state’s consumer protection laws.

Most “sexual reorientation therapy” today consists of “talk therapy” — a client simply talking with a counselor about his or her feelings, experiences, relationships with parents and peers, etc. Some therapists add other positive techniques that have been validated in a variety of contexts — not just SOCE.

However, to generate opposition to SOCE, its opponents have reached back decades to techniques some therapists once used called “aversion therapy” — attempting to associate homosexual feelings with some sort of negative stimuli. No one has been able to identify a single therapist actually practicing today who uses “aversive” techniques in SOCE — but that hasn’t stopped homosexual activists from pretending that they do.

In a hearing before the New Jersey legislature, one witness in support of the ban was a young person who is a male-to-female transgender and goes by the name Brielle Goldani. Christopher Doyle is ex-gay, a therapist himself, and a founder of the ex-gay advocacy group Voice of the Voiceless. He was also present at the March 18, 2013 hearing, and described Goldani’s testimony in a piece for WorldNetDaily the following week:

QUOTE

Twice a week I was hooked up to electrodes on my hands,” she said. “I, a child, was shocked repeatedly by people who had my parent’s permission to torture me.” Goldani, now 29, claims that she had no rights when her parents sent her away as a male teenager. She claims that the torture occurred at conversion camp called True Directions. “This is nothing more than legalized child abuse,” claimed Goldani at the hearing.

Having attended and testified at the hearing myself, I was shocked and horrified to hear about such abuse… . So I tracked down Goldani and talked to her on the phone to find out more information.

Goldani claims that an Assemblies of God Church in Columbus, Ohio, ran the True Directions conversion therapy camp:

There were 12 boys, and 12 girls. The first Sunday I was there, I was forced to sit in their church service, which was nothing but hate speech. Then, on Monday, the heavier therapy began. We were forced to masturbate to heterosexual images and soft-core pornography, such as Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Twice a week, my hands were hooked up to electrodes for two hours at a time while we were shown positive images such as a nuclear family, a female with children, a male construction worker and a female receptionist. I was also subjected to forced IV injections twice a week for two hours each while being made to watch negative images of what they didn’t approve of. … The injections made me vomit uncontrollably. Every Friday and Saturday evening, we were forced to go on ‘flirting dates’ where a camp counselor coached us on how to talk to the opposite sex romantically. … We were also given uniforms to wear, black pants and white shirts for boys, black skirts and white blouses for girls.”

END QUOTE

Doyle wrote in his article, “As a former homosexual and practitioner of Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) therapy, I had never heard of such inhumane treatment, except from anti-ex-gay activists who often claim that SOCE employs such barbaric methods.” So he did further research to see if he could verify any of Goldani’s account.

The Assemblies of God in Ohio denied that any such camp existed, or that they had ever participated in such activities. The state government of Ohio could find no record that a camp named “True Directions” had ever existed there. Goldani claimed that her family’s church in New Jersey had paid for him to go to the camp for a month and a half, but the pastor of the church scoffed at the idea that they would ever have done such a thing.

Doyle did find one reference to a “gay conversion camp” called “True Directions,” though. It was part of the plot of a fictional 1999 movie called But I’m a Cheerleader, which starred drag queen RuPaul. It would be hard to conclude anything other than that Goldani took the plot of this far-fetched movie, and tried to pass it off as her own life story.

The latest debate over the issue occurred on June 27 at a committee hearing on a bill similar to the California and New Jersey measures that has been introduced in the District of Columbia. You can read my account of the hearing on the Family Research Council Blog, and my testimony on the FRC website.

One of the witnesses at that hearing who testified in support of the proposed ban was Dr. Gregory Jones, who introduced himself as a “gay identified” licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in “Affirmative LGBTQ Mental Health.”

In his testimony, Jones included this quote from a recent article on the SOCE bans that appeared on Time magazine’s website on June 23, 2014:

QUOTE

Sam Brinton says that his father first tried physical abuse to rid his young son of homosexual feelings. When that didn’t work, Brinton’s parents turned to something called reparative therapy. Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later, but Brinton does remember the tactics the counselor used. There was talk therapy, about how God disapproved, and there was aversion therapy, during which pictures of men touching men would be accompanied by the application of heat or ice. “It was pretty much mental torture,” Brinton says. “To this day, I still have light pain when I shake hands with another male.”

END QUOTE

I had seen the Time article — and it, in turn rang a bell. The name of Sam Brinton had first come to my attention the week before that, when a piece appeared in Politico that was authored by John Paulk. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, John and his wife Anne were former homosexuals who worked for Focus on the Family promoting the ex-gay message. In 2003, they fled the spotlight to move to Oregon, where John opened a catering business.

John Paulk has now renounced his ex-gay advocacy and, apparently, returned to homosexuality. (Anne Paulk, his now-estranged wife remains active in the ex-gay movement.)

A sidebar article accompanied John Paulk’s piece in Politico: “Gay-Conversion Therapy: How It Works (Or Doesn’t),” By Elizabeth F. Ralph.

It included this:

QUOTE

Electroconvulsive Therapy

One former patient described his course of electroconvulsive therapy, in use today, as “The Month of Hell.” The treatment, he told the Huffington Post, “consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I’d be electrocuted.”

END QUOTE

This refers to Samuel Brinton, a Kansas State student whose story was reported almost three years ago in the Huffington Post:

QUOTE [emphasis added]

I grew up as the son of Southern Baptist missionaries and without knowing what the word “gay” was (we just called them abominations) I asked my father why I was feeling attracted to my best friend, Dale. I don’t remember the second punch but I do remember waking up in the emergency room for the third time asking the doctors not to send me back and telling them that I had not fallen down the stairs again. When “punching the gay out” didn’t work we moved to conversion therapy. Being told I had AIDS and was going to die if the government found me was only the beginning. I would be strapped down with blocks of ice or heating pads placed on my hands while pictures of men holding hands were shown. The conversion ended when I told my parents I was straight to stop the electrocution by needles in my fingers while gay sex acts where shown to me. When I would later come back out to them for a second time I was told never to walk back in that house if I wanted to walk out alive.

I tell you the story of my conversion therapy not for dramatic effect but to explain why I do what I do. I cannot let another child go through that torture because their parents think this is the only way to have a normal child.

END QUOTE

Brinton received an award from “Campus Pride,” the college LGBT group, for sharing his horror story of therapy. This report was so shocking that even some pro-“gay” media tried to verify this report — and couldn’t.

Even Wayne Besen, the most rabid “anti-ex-gay” activist, refused to use his story because it remains unverified. Here’s the full statement Besen posted in the comments section of the Queerty article which questioned Brinton’s story.

QUOTE [emphasis added]

Wayne Besen

Samuel came forward and told a story presumably in an effort to help others. There are groups like mine who would be thrilled to use his example to demonstrate the harm caused by “ex-gay” therapy. We live for real life examples like this.

However, until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so.

If a group like mine puts out or promotes a story that turns out to be exaggerated or fake, the religious right would rake us through the coals and by extension the entire LGBT community. This would cast an ominous shadow on all of the legitimate ex-ex-gay testimonies that have helped so many people come out of the closet.

So, for the sake of the movement he is trying to help — it is critical that Sam reveal exactly who the therapist was that tortured him. He could do this publicly or privately, but we need more information before we can use his narrative.

We very much hope he will provide enough information so we can help people by sharing his compelling story.

Sincerely,

Wayne Besen

Truth Wins Out

Oct 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm

END QUOTE

Here is part of Brinton’s reply to Besen:

QUOTE

I was indirectly in contact with Wayne and although I know he wants me to send the information of the therapist that is simply not an option. Counselor after counselor has seen me revert to near suicidal tendencies when I try to dig deep into the memories of that time and I simply don’t have his name. I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares but his name is not there. The movement can’t use me I guess.

I have no problem with people not believing my story. It is not for me to try to prove. I don’t want to be the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement since graduate school at MIT is plenty tough as it is.

. . .

Oct 14, 2011 at 2:11 am

END QUOTE

Brinton’s memory does not seem to have gotten any better since 2011, since Time reports “Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later.” And he seems to have dropped the claim that he was electrocuted as part of his therapy (or perhaps even Time thought that strained credulity). Yet what even Wayne Besen said would be “grossly irresponsible” (using Brinton as an example), Time is perfectly willing to do, thus making Brinton exactly what he coyly claimed he didn’t want to be — “the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement.”

Critics of Natural Marriage Remain in Search of Legal Rationale in 7th Circuit Arguments

by Peter Sprigg

August 28, 2014

I regard it as absurd, you say it’s self-evident.”

That caustic remark — one of many — from Judge Richard Posner, during the August 26 oral arguments regarding Indiana and Wisconsin marriage laws, perhaps encapsulated the gulf between those seeking to retain the natural definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and those seeking to redefine it for the purpose of affirming homosexual relationships.

Posner, a 75-year-old Reagan appointee, directed his quip at Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who was defending his state’s law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a set of cases under the heading Baskin v. Bogan. The court also heard arguments regarding Wisconsin’s marriage amendment in the case of Wolf v. Walker. District courts in both cases ruled the state marriage laws unconstitutional earlier this year. (Oral arguments in the cases can be heard online at the links above.)

Mr. Fisher was right. The case for defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman is (or at least should be) self-evident. It is self-evident that opposite-sex and same-sex sexual relationships are not the same — the former can result in natural procreation, and the latter never can. That fact, in turn, makes it self-evident that society has a greater interest in both encouraging and regulating opposite-sex relationships (which it does through the institution of marriage) than same-sex ones.

Nevertheless, the homosexual movement has succeeded in draping a curtain over these self-evident truths by misdirection involving not the rule, but exceptions — namely, opposite-sex couples who do not procreate and same-sex couples who do raise children. The specific point which Judge Posner considered “absurd” was the idea (posed by Posner himself) that a sterile, elderly opposite-sex couple could in any way be a “model” for a younger couple forming a family.

Posner dominated the arguments in both cases, offering by far the most questions and comments of any of the three judges — at least when defenders of natural marriage were attempting to make their case. While it is customary for judges in such settings to seize control of the discussion rather than simply allow the attorneys free rein, for most of the arguments, Posner was pushing a single point of his own, arguing rather than asking questions, and often not even allowing time for a single sentence in reply.

Posner’s single-minded obsession was the presumed plight of children who are being raised by same-sex couples. When the state argued that marriage addresses the uniquely heterosexual problem of accidental or unintended procreation, Posner asked, “Now, isn’t it true most unintended children are put up for adoption?” (Fisher answered, correctly, “I think many times single mothers care for them.”) Posner seemed to assume that most children raised by homosexuals are adopted from this pool of “unintended” children — painting a picture of homosexual couples heroically rescuing children abandoned by their heterosexual parents. (In reality, most children being raised by homosexuals or same-sex couples are the biological child of one partner, conceived in a previous heterosexual relationship and now forcibly separated from one biological parent by the other.) Posner’s own “self-evident” truth — apparently heavily influenced by a brief filed by the pro-homosexual Family Equality Council — was that such children would be helped by their same-sex “parents” having access to the legal benefits of marriage. His question was, who would be harmed by that (or, alternatively, who benefits from the current law which prevents such same-sex “parents” from marrying)?

There are good answers to this question — see, for example, my FRC booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage.” Unfortunately, attorneys for the states seemed unprepared — or reluctant — to offer examples of such potential harms, suggesting only that we cannot know with certainty what the consequences would be. That aside, however, the kind of cost-benefit analysis Judge Posner was proposing is a fundamentally legislative task — not a judicial one. Whether costs outweigh benefits may help determine if a particular policy is wise — but it is not sufficient to determine if a policy is constitutional, or should be struck down by the courts.

Another judge in the three-judge panel, 57-year-old David Hamilton (appointed to a District Court position by Clinton and to the Appeals Court by Obama), was also skeptical of the state’s arguments. Hamilton, however, was far more measured in tone than Posner — and more balanced, asking challenging questions of the plaintiffs’ attorneys as well. Having warned each attorney that while they want to emphasize their strong points, the judges want to probe their weak ones, Hamilton pressed those backing the redefinition of marriage about one of Fisher’s arguments for Indiana — namely, “The position put forth by the plaintiffs in this case admit[s] of no limiting principle.”

In other words, as many have pointed out, the arguments put forth in support of same-sex “marriage” — such as “equality” and the freedom to marry whom you choose — could be equally applied to other types of unions, including polygamous or incestuous ones. That challenge was also pressed by the third judge, 65-year-old Ann Claire Williams (appointed by Reagan to a District Court and by Clinton to the Appeals Court). Even Posner, by far the most skeptical of “traditional” marriage, piled on in the polygamy discussion, asking, “How many people do you have a fundamental right to marry at one time? Just one? … I don’t understand — where do you draw the line?”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs mostly avoided the question or struggled to find an answer, with Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana falling back on his own form of “self-evident” truth, referring to “my mathematical diagram of marriage” in declaring that “if you have two people in it, regardless of their sexes … it’s going to look like marriage. If you have three or four people, it’s not going to look like marriage.” (Of course, for most of history, if it didn’t have a man and a woman, it didn’t “look like marriage.”)

Another Achilles’ heel for the marriage redefinition movement, despite a string of federal court victories since last year’s Supreme Court decision requiring federal recognition of same-sex unions that are legally recognized by states, is that no consensus has emerged about the legal or constitutional reasoning for declaring a “right” to same-sex “marriage.” The Supreme Court has said that the “liberty” interests protected by the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment include a “fundamental right to marry,” which some courts have asserted also encompasses the right to marry a person of the same sex. However, the 7th Circuit judges seemed skeptical of that approach, with Hamilton saying, “Finding a federal right to marry that is undefined is a pretty problematic concept for substantive due process.” Even Posner was skeptical on this point, saying, “I think when you talk about fundamental rights … you get into a morass, right?”

Judge Hamilton asserted that “you’ve got a much stronger equal protection theory.” The problem for those seeking to overturn the marriage laws under “equal protection” is that most laws are presumed constitutional under the lenient “rational basis” test, which requires only that there be some conceivable “rational basis” for the classification in the law. Hamilton, therefore, raised the possibility that the differential treatment of same-sex couples might trigger “heightened scrutiny,” which places a heavier burden of proof upon the state to defend the law. “If we look strictly at the text,” Hamilton said, “what the statute does is classify based on sex… . So that would seem to point us in the direction of heightened scrutiny.”

Most courts, however, have viewed the “classification” as being based on sexual orientation rather than sex, and even attorney James Esseks of the ACLU, arguing in the Wisconsin case, admitted that 7th Circuit precedent does not apply heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation. (In reality, the “classification” in the marriage laws is based on “gender complementarity,” which is different from either of the other theories.) On the “heightened scrutiny” theory, Posner parted ways with Hamilton, declaring, “I don’t get any help from phrases like heightened scrutiny.” Posner, perhaps oblivious to what he was saying, even touched the third rail of debates over homosexuality by appearing to compare homosexuals to pedophiles and treat pedophilia as a “sexual orientation”:

If you were dealing with pedophiles, you wouldn’t say … any regulation of pedophiles was subject to heightened scrutiny because it’s an innate sexual orientation… . We don’t think of those terms when we’re dealing with all sorts of sexual compulsions, right? We just say, “This is obviously very harmful to other people.” So it’s illegal, even though these people can’t help it in many cases.

One thing that was disappointing in the oral arguments (in addition to Judge Posner’s vitriolic hostility to natural marriage) was the relatively weak defense offered by attorneys for the states. By focusing narrowly on the issue of accidental procreation (the one public concern that is absolutely unique to opposite-sex relationships), Indiana’s Fisher omitted broader state interests in encouraging procreation in general, and in encouraging the raising of children by both their mother and father. (Indeed, one of Judge Hamilton’s first statements to him was, “I would think that the state’s interest is equal regardless of whether the children are intended or unintended.”).

Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson’s defense of Wisconsin’s law was even more vague, as he drew mockery from the judges for his reliance on “tradition” and “experience” as justifications for the one-man-one-woman definition. He was given little opportunity to develop a more technical argument he proposed regarding the difference between “negative” rights (such as protection from employment discrimination) and “positive” rights (such as access to the legal benefits of marriage). At one point, he said, “We defer to Mr. Fisher’s arguments [in the Indiana case] … [M]arriage provides a mechanism for tying unplanned children to their biological parents.” At another, he referred the judges to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent in last year’s case striking down the federal definition of marriage (Alito had cited the increase in divorce rates following the adoption of no-fault divorce as an example of how changes in marriage laws can lead to unforeseen negative consequences).

In neither case did the state’s attorneys make assertions as to actual harms that might result from redefining marriage — forcing Judge Hamilton to raise the issue by mentioning friend-of-the-court briefs by pro-family professor Helen Alvare (who argues, “Redefining marriage in a way that de-links sex, marriage and children threatens to harm the most vulnerable Americans and exacerbate the ‘marriage gap’ responsible for increasing levels of social inequality in America”) and by authors Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson (who argue, “Redefining marriage would not extend its stabilizing norms, but undermine them across society.”) Fisher merely affirmed the state’s position is that they “can win without making that argument.”

Although all three judges seemed skeptical of the states codifying only natural marriage between a man and a woman, it remains unclear what argument will win in the 7th Circuit, given the lack of consensus on any constitutional rationale for striking those laws down, and the lack of a “limiting principle” to be placed upon such a redefinition of marriage.

The Social Conservative Review: August 28, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

August 28, 2014

Click here to subscribe to The Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends,

Baseball great Lou Gehrig is one of my heroes. His photo is on the wall of my office and I recall vividly seeing his uniform at baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Gehrig probably was, in the words of his biographer, the greatest first baseman ever to play the game. His record as a hitter and player generally remains, more than 70 years after his death, the stuff of legend.

Just about everyone is familiar now with the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” in which ice water is poured over one’s head in the hope of generating gifts to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. ALS, commonly called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” tragically cut short the Iron Horse’s life, and remains a debilitating disease for which there is no cure.

Sadly, as my colleague Dr. David Prentice notes, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research.”

So, Dr. Prentice, one of America’s most distinguished stem cell biologists, has suggested that instead of sending money to the ALSA, you send it to alternative groups that are performing leading-edge ALS research without using human embryos. Instead, they use adult stem cells, the ethics and effectiveness of which are unquestioned. Here’s a link to access groups like the Mayo Clinic and the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center that are working to conquer ALS without sacrificing nascent human lives.

I have been challenged by my sons and one of my nephews to stand beneath an ice bucket, as they have done. I’m thinking about it. But one thing none of us has to think about: Adult stem cells save lives, ethically, and that’s something to celebrate during baseball season and always.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Join us in Washington, D.C. for our annual Values Voter Summit from Sept. 26-28! For more details, click here.


Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Abortion

Euthanasia/End of Life Issues

Stem Cells and Biotechnology

Marriage & Family
Education

Family Life

Human Sexuality

Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage”

Pornography

Human trafficking

Religious Liberty

Religion in Public Life

International Religious Liberty

Other important articles

Book Reviews

No Thanks, Common Core

by Sarah Perry

August 25, 2014

Too often, conservatives engaging in critical analysis of a federal policy presenting smart, salient critiques to hopefully fair-minded opponents, find themselves thrown into that category of the “lunatic fringe.” Case in point, the straw-man bonfire Family Research Council endured in the Washington Post recently.

The Post’s “Answer Sheet” took a Family Research Council fundraising letter regarding “Common Core” (in which I am named) to the level of circus fare. The author, Valerie Strauss, made reference to the derisive Twitter hashtag, “ThanksCommonCore,” equating the rhetoric in the letter with “garbage.”

It appears as if Ms. Strauss was at a loss for what to write about, and so chose to mock a fundraising letter directed toward FRC’s constituency, utterly ignoring what she calls the “legitimate criticism” we’ve offered to the CCSS Initiative in the past (I would direct her to watch our recent webcast forum, or read some of my white papers, or op-eds at TownHall.com or DailyCaller.com). Rather than moving the ball, she decided to foul another player. On her own team.

#ThanksCommonCore.

What Ms. Strauss also fails to recognize is that language employed by FRC in its letter to constituents about CCSS does not change the fact that the components of CCSS themselves are still problematic.

Everyone from the National Education Association to the Socialist Worker to the Heritage Foundation to the American Enterprise Institute have recognized the Standards as a failed experiment in test-heavy, sub-par, bureaucratic academics.

I set wholly aside the avowed directive of the CCSS (to, among other things, “broaden worldviews“). I’ll leave out of this discussion the fact that the Core’s development was steeped in secrecy, or that’s its architect, David Coleman, is now replacing the AP U.S. History Exam with a creation that shifts the landscape of American history “sharply to the left.” It is clear that the Common Core engineers had a worldview, and one they didn’t want open to discussion, which to my mind is the epitome of closed minded “nonsense.”

But from whence Common Core’s divergent critics draw our conclusions should not matter if we are all energized to the same end: its ultimate and swift repeal.

Tragically, Ms. Strauss quotes the “report” of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards.” That self-same “report” which lacks a single footnote or citation, that “report” which is as much propaganda itself as that which it claims to expose, that “report” which notes that “this far-right campaign is really a proxy for a broader assault on public education itself.”

As a citizen of blue-state Maryland who sends three children to public school, I speak for both myself and my organization in saying I have no interest in assaulting public education; only in making it better. I think Ms. Strauss and I agree — perhaps for different reasons — that the Common Core Standards are not the way to do so.

If we both see the initiative as riddled with problems, what good is served in criticizing the Family Research Council, aside from ingratiating Ms. Strauss to the left? Particularly in using the left’s own arguments against us? It is no secret that the Southern Poverty Law Center is no friend of the Family Research Council.

But, Ms. Strauss. I thought we were friends.

#ThanksCommonCore.

August 24, 1814: Saving the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights from the Flames

by Robert Morrison

August 24, 2014

Professional football Hall of Famer Steve Largent liked to tell the story of his first real visit to Washington, D.C. He had been to RFK Stadium repeatedly when his Seattle Seahawks played our Redskins. As he rode in a cab to the Capitol in 1995, the newly elected Congressman from Oklahoma (R) marveled at all the huge government buildings he saw on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. “I wonder how many people work in those buildings,” he mused. “Oh,” his cabby said, “about half of them.”

Government workers in Washington had plenty of work to do on this date two hundred years ago. In the President’s House, First Lady Dolley Madison was supervising the emergency evacuation. During the War of 1812, most of our victories against Britain had come at sea, in ship-to-ship encounters or else on the Great Lakes. America’s army had repeatedly failed to conquer Britain’s northern dominions in Canada, but had managed to outrage the Canadians by burning their provincial capital of York, Ontario.

By 1814, it was payback time. A powerful British squadron sailed into Chesapeake Bay. Landing a strong contingent in Maryland, the redcoats marched overland. U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong was complacent about the threat to Washington, D.C. They are headed for Baltimore, he repeatedly told subordinates. Or maybe Annapolis.

President James Madison felt it his duty to join the troops defending the nation’s capital. The five-foot-four-inch, 63-year old commander-in-chief calmly mounted his horse and rode off.

Meanwhile, Charles Carroll of Maryland, a famed Signer of the Declaration and a leading Catholic layman, stopped by the Executive Mansion to warn Mrs. Madison of the British advance. She was all activity that day as the enemy defeated state militia forces at battles in Bladensburg and Upper Marlboro, Maryland. American troops were attacked with Congreve rockets. These newly developed weapons were not so deadly in themselves, and fairly inaccurate, but they served to panic the Yankees’ horses (and, truth be told, not a few inexperienced American militiamen.)

Dolley Madison had bravely remained behind to take care of last-minute details. She went from window to window with a spyglass, looking for the redcoats’ approach. She was determined to rescue Gilbert Stuart’s famous full-length portrait of President George Washington. The canvas painting had to be cut out of its frame.

At the State Department, a clerk was not one of those “half of them” — government workers who worked. On this fateful day, this clerk was all duty and all efficiency. As the National Archives website relates the story:

Secretary of State James Monroe rode out to observe the landing of British forces along the Patuxent River in Maryland. A message from Monroe alerted State Department officials, including a clerk named Stephen Pleasonton, of the imminent threat to the capital city and, also, to the government’s official records. Pleasonton “proceeded to purchase coarse linen, and cause it to be made into bags of convenient size, in which the gentlemen of the office” packed the precious books and records including the Declaration. A cartload of records was then taken up the Potomac River to an unused gristmill belonging to Edgar Patterson. Here the Declaration and the other records remained, probably overnight. On August 24, while the White House and other government buildings were burning, the Declaration was stored 35 miles away at Leesburg. The Declaration remained there at a private home until the British had withdrawn their troops from Washington and their fleet from the Chesapeake Bay.

Americans long remembered the British burning of our White House, our Capitol, and, shamefully, our Library of Congress. They held off burning the Patent Building only when a brave American, William Thornton persuaded them that it contained private property, a priceless record of inventions to benefit all mankind.

The mayors of Georgetown and Alexandria, Virginia, pursued the British Admiral for two days. When the harassed Royal Navy leader impatiently granted them an audience, they told him they wanted to surrender their cities to him. “I’m not even going there,” was the exasperated response of the man who burned Washington. True enough. He was headed to Baltimore. Georgetown and Alexandria are famous liberal bastions (ready then as now to surrender even before they are attacked.)

Stephen Pleasonton, however, is a great example of a government worker with a high sense of duty and the keenness and foresight to understand the inestimable value of the records that were given to him for safekeeping. We can all be thankful for the watchfulness and energy of Stephen Pleasonton, the dutiful government clerk. Now wouldn’t it have be wonderful if the IRS’s Lois Lerner had been as careful to preserve important government documents as Stephen Pleasonton was?

From Annapolis: A Capitol View

by Robert Morrison

August 22, 2014

I recently celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of my thirty-ninth birthday by climbing to the top of our Old State House in Maryland. The gracious capitol building dates from the 1770s and is the oldest legislative building in continuous use in America. This Old State House was the scene of many important events in U.S. history. General Washington came here to meet with Congress in 1783. He wanted to resign his commission to the civil authorities from whom he had first received it. This noble action would make him, King George III of England said, “the greatest man in the world.”

Previous victorious commanders — like Caesar, like Cromwell — had used their military renown to establish dictatorships. Washington’s model was Cincinnatus, the Roman general who had been called from his plow to defend the republic.

Thomas Jefferson had been in the Old Senate Chamber that cold winter’s day in December 1783, when Washington appeared before a tearful body of legislators. Congressman Jefferson had in fact drafted the response that the President of Congress, Thomas Mifflin, would give to Gen. Washington.

Intentionally, the Members of Congress remained seated while His Excellency stood before them. They wanted to emphasize the fact that their new nation was a republic. In England, when the King delivered his Speech from the Throne, Members of Parliament would stand before their seated Sovereign. America would be different; we would be a Novus Ordo Seclorum — a New Order of the Ages.

Climbing to the top of the Old State House affords a commanding view of the little seaport town of Annapolis. You can walk the entire city in an hour. You can go to City Dock, to Middleton Tavern, still serving dinners as it has since 1750.

Doubtless Alexander Hamilton and James Madison dined there in 1786 when they convened their Annapolis Convention. These young men (Madison at 35 was senior to Hamilton, just 31) had hoped to bring together delegates from all the newly united States to try to repair the defects of the Articles of Confederation. Only five states were represented and their twelve delegates could do little more than to issue a call for a general convention to meet the next year in Philadelphia. It would be called upon to revise the frame of government to “enable the United States in Congress assembled, effectually to provide for the exigencies of the Union.” But these young Framers would wholly overhaul the government. They gave us the Constitution, which all officeholders and members of our armed forces swear (or affirm) they will preserve, protect, and defend.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had climbed these very stairs to the top of the Capitol dome in 1791. By that time, they had split with Hamilton’s faction in the new federal government and were intent on forming a new political alliance, joining Southerners with Northerners who opposed Hamilton’s financial plans and his centralizing of power. Jefferson and Madison’s new political party would be called the Republicans, but they were in fact the ancestors of today’s Democratic Party. (Today’s Republicans date from 1854 and descend, mostly, from Hamilton’s Federalists.)

I am mindful as I climb in the footsteps of Jefferson and Madison to the top of the dome that they were also two of our leading advocates for religious freedom. Jefferson had introduced the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in that state’s legislature in 1779. It took James Madison’s skillful advocacy and legislative savvy to guide that historic measure to successful adoption in 1786.

Today’s world needs the wisdom of Jefferson and Madison more than ever.

In our own time, our State Department has collaborated with Islamic factions in Iraq and Afghanistan to produce unworkable constitutions that effectively deny religious freedom. “Nothing shall by done by this government that is repugnant to Islam,” say the clauses that our advisers placed in the constitutions of these two countries. These are lands and peoples our brave soldiers sacrificed to liberate. The present chaos we see throughout that Bloody Crescent derives in no small part from the simple fact that these people believe you should murder your neighbor if he leaves Islam. Or even your own child.

From the top of the Old State House, you can clearly make out the steeples of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. The Methodist and Presbyterian churches can also be seen. Across the way you can see the majestic dome of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

Beyond that dome is the newer Jewish Chapel, an architectural jewel and a house of worship that honors the contributions of U.S. Navy Commodore Uriah Philips Levy.

Here in Annapolis, you can walk from one of these cherished religious sites to another, each one standing apart from the other, but every one united in its respect for its neighbors’ rights. We need less bowing to desert despots and more candid talk. “Let facts be submitted to a candid world,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in our own Declaration of Independence. The fact is, those who murder their neighbors because they worship differently never have and never will enjoy true democracy. [When 89% of German voters affirmed Adolf Hitler as their Fürer in 1934, their votes didn’t express democracy, they killed it!]

Madison explained the link between civil and religious freedom most cogently in Federalist 51. He showed how religious freedom forms the foundation for political freedom:

In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.

The view from this Capitol dome helps one to consider how much of Jefferson and Madison’s wisdom is being disregarded today.

Our foreign policy — conducted by both parties — routinely ignores religious freedom. Our U.S. State Department has forgotten the strong beliefs of Jefferson and Madison, who were also two of our most eminent Secretaries of State!

Domestically, the Union that Washington called “sacred” is being subverted by ObamaCare. Under this most perilous measure, the religious freedom of Americans has been threatened as it has not been threatened since 1786. Under ObamaCare, the states cease to be states and become instead mere branch offices of the federal HHS Department.

In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson struck out the word Subjects and inserted the word Citizens. Our National Archives celebrated this important emendation with a press release on July 4, 2010, the very year that President Obama signed the legislation that will make us Subjects once again.

It took two years of patient petitioning with my State Senator, an honorable Democrat, to make that climb to the top of the Old State House dome. I’m glad I persisted. I pray I never forget the Capitol view it gave me.

Iowa Judge Upholds Regulations Banning Skype Abortions

by Emily Minick

August 21, 2014

In 2008 Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa began performing what has been termed “skype abortions.” A skype abortion is where the physician never actually physically examines a patient, rather, diagnoses them via a webcast and if the patient qualifies to have a chemical abortion, pushes a button which allows RU-486 to be dispensed to the women seeking an abortion.

In August 2013 the Iowa Board of Medicine passed regulations to ban skype abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland challenged the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision, and this week Polk County District Jude Jeffrey Farrell, thankfully upheld the state Board of Medicine’s regulations to ban skype abortions.

The Board of Medicine regulations do not ban chemical abortions or the use of RU-486; rather, it places common sense regulations on the practice of dispensing RU-486, specifically requiring a doctor to physically examine the patient before prescribing RU-486 and requiring a follow-up visit, among other provisions.

As more people learn more about the practice of skype abortions, more states will take action to preserve health and safety standards for their citizens and ban this practice.

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