When confronting groups like ISIS or Hamas, it is often difficult for the West to understand the grotesque violence and reckless hatred that these groups promote toward those with whom they disagree. These groups do not wish to negotiate or reason. They wish to conquer and rule. On the one hand, the West has seen the all-too familiar horrors of despotic regimes such as those in 20th century Russia and Germany. It has also witnessed the tight grip of control maintained in such places as North Korea and China. All of these places have been the locations of mass executions and violence against peaceful citizens. Since most of these atrocities occurred far from the U.S. it can be difficult to come to terms with the reality that so many innocent people were killed. It was difficult to grasp the horrific Holocaust against the Jews or to understand the rigor of the Soviet GULAG system until eyewitness accounts became widely available. The Islamists doing so much harm in Iraq are evil but not unique. In Sudan, Islamists threatened to kill a woman, Meriam Ibrahim, simply because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. The Islamist culture is one of fear and death. Liberating Western (Christian) beliefs such as the dignity of every person, freedom of religion, and the good of peace are all undermined in Islamist theology.
Western culture has a great many flaws but much of its underlying philosophy is still providing a foundation for peace and prosperity today. Pretending that all cultures are equal or that Western culture is no different than any other culture undermines observable truth. It is easy to sit at home and play armchair philosophical quarterback or to theorize that economic concerns are driving violence but the thousands who die in the name of Islam in the Middle East don’t have such a luxury. Sometimes, a wake-up call is needed. If you would like to see a woman who experienced the cruelty of Islam and is a clear demonstration of the difference between cultures, please plan to attend the Values Voter Summit Gala honoring Meriam Ibrahim. Her story reminds us that the truth is worth fighting for and that some evils can’t be ignored with political rhetoric. May this woman shock our sedated Western mindset with the reality that there is a battle for truth taking place in cultures around the world. One side battles for a culture where a woman and child are seen as a mortal enemy for their beliefs. The other fights for a culture where that same woman is honored for her beliefs. In this cultural war with the lives of so many at stake may truth win, may freedom reign.
Today, Family Research Council filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.
In this case, a Gilbert, Arizona sign ordinance discriminated against certain signs based on the content of the signs — whether they were political, ideological, and directional. Directional signs were placed under more severe restrictions.
A local church — Good News Community Church — and its pastor — Clyde Reed – needed to announce the times and locations of their services, but because their announcement signs (which directed individuals to a public school were services were being held) were deemed directional, the church was severely hampered in getting its message out.
Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church sued to vindicate their constitutional rights. The lower courts ruled against them, so they have now taken their case to the Supreme Court.
In our brief, filed in support of Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church, we argue that the town does regulate signs differently based on their content, for politics, ideology, and directions are all matters of differing content. Well-established Supreme Court jurisprudence bars content-based restrictions on speech unless the government can meet strict scrutiny — which says that unless the government regulation advances a compelling government interest, and this is done in the least restrictive way possible – the government regulation cannot stand. We conclude that because there are content-based restrictions on speech in this case, the Supreme Court should send this case back to the district court to determine if the town can meet strict scrutiny.
A win for Pastor Reed and Good News Community Church in this case will help advance a strong interpretation of First Amendment free speech rights, which is good not only for small congregations like Good News Community Church, but for all who wish to speak free from government interference. Ensuring an open marketplace of ideas in which all voices are protected and can speak freely is what the First Amendment is all about.
Our press release is here, and our brief can be read here.
Imagine that as president of a private institution you receive a letter from your state government detailing that your health insurance plan must include coverage for elective abortion procedures. Imagine that despite your pleas for personal objections on religious or moral grounds that the state has “carefully considered all relevant aspects of state and federal law in reaching its position… that health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally” and thus your plan must include the “required abortion coverage.”
Unfortunately, this scenario is not imaginary. Recently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) filed a complaint with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning the state of California’s mandate requiring two Catholic universities to provide health insurance to their employees, insurance that HHS says must cover elective abortion. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration had announced just a month ago that it was withdrawing its abortion exemption from Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, and thereby any other religious non-profit or business that does not fit California’s razor thin definition of what qualifies a “religious employer.” Apparently a university run by the Jesuits, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, is not “religious” enough. As reported by California Lawyer the President of Santa Clara University, Michael Engh, in a letter to the university faculty communicated that “Santa Clara University cannot be true to its Jesuit Catholic identity and willingly offer, through its health care programs, financial support… [for] abortion that is not medically necessary.”
On August 22nd Shelley Rouillard director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) informed the universities through their insurance providers that they would no longer be exempt from providing abortion coverage through their employee health insurance programs. DMHC points to the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 which they say “requires health plans to cover abortion as a basic health care service.”
That is not the opinion of Catherine W. Short, an attorney and legal director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. According to Short, as reported in California Lawyer, “Knox-Keene does not require coverage for abortion. Knox-Keene says nothing about abortion.” While it is true that California’s Constitution guarantees the “right” for a woman to choose to abort her child, it says nothing about forcing institutions or individuals from being complicit in anyone’s choice to have an abortion. In fact, federal law seems to dictate otherwise. The state of California receives billions of dollars in federal subsidies for education, health and employment every year. These appropriations are bound by the Weldon Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds from discriminating against any institution which opposes abortion coverage. There is little doubt that DMHC is bound by the Weldon Amendment, ADF and LLDFargue, as indicated by the State of California’s failed attempt to circumvent the amendment through its lawsuit against the U.S. government.
The decision by the DMHC to single out Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount universities is perplexing given that even employees of the State of California are exempt from having to pay for abortion services in their employee health plans according to the Cardinal Newman Society, which has been reporting on the case and which joined in a letter issued by ADF and LLDF to the DMHC.
Sadly, this is not the first time that the state of California has attempted to abridge religious liberty in the name of “reproductive rights” and universal access to abortion and contraception. In 2004, the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v Superior Court of Sacramento County that the Women’s Contraception Equity Act (WCEA) does not violate religious liberty. The Act stipulates that any entity not considered a “religious employer” must provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage.
The definition of what qualifies as a “religious employer” in WCEA is so narrow that Catholic Charities, an explicitly faith based charity organization focused on combating poverty and serving over nine million Americans per year, did not qualify. As a result, the State of California was able to succeed in silencing the religious objections of Catholic Charities.
They have succeeded once. They have succeeded again by forcing Santa Clara and Loyola, and all religious non-profits in California, to provide elective abortion coverage, despite religious objections. It is time we realize that religious liberty in America is under attack.
This morning, at the kind invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, I attended a Joint Session of Congress to hear courageous Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko describe Russia’s threat to his country and plead for U.S. backing of his embattled nation.
It was moving to hear President Poroshenko, and heartening to see the at least superficial unanimity of Members of Congress as they stood, repeatedly, in ovations of support.
This is, I believe, the eighth time I’ve had the privilege of attending such Joint Sessions, including two State of the Union messages by President Clinton. At all such events, there is a general if perhaps strained sense of bonhomie among the Senators and Members of Congress as they mingle on the House floor. Among some of the Senators, particularly, there is a measure of good humor unseen during testy televised debates or hearings.
Today, for example, I noticed two of the Senators, one a respected conservative, the other a recognized liberal, laughing together as if fraternity brothers who surreptitiously had stolen their professor’s tires. It was fun to see.
Three cheers for camaraderie, for friendship, for civility. But as I’ve written elsewhere, civility becomes a pretext for avoiding hard choices and acknowledging real and sometimes angering divisions when “being nice” supersedes the need for opposition and advocacy. Civility is the oil that prevents the gears of debate from becoming so dry with contention that they grind into civil strife. But it is not itself the purpose for which those gears are driven.
As a Christian, I believe in the depravity of man, for which reason I am grateful to awaken to streets empty of men fighting with knives and tire-irons. Civility is important in a fallen world, no question.
Courtesy and kindness are essential to any well-equipped arsenal of public discourse and action. They can sooth raw tempers and smooth rough discourse, thus making the pursuit and location of common ground possible.
Yet ultimately, civility cannot cover-over the deep chasms between worldviews and priorities existing in our society. The two Senators I noted above are both possible presidential candidates of their respective parties. They disagree on the critical issues of “faith, family, and freedom,” not to mention economics and foreign policy. By virtue of the positions they have taken, Americans will have to choose not just between them as persons but between the sharply different worldviews out of which they operate and the policy conclusions resulting therefrom.
Civility can prevent verbal abuse and physical violence. To decide is to lead and often to divide, and decision-making, especially in an era when the decisions to be made represent two such fundamentally opposite set of values and arguments, is unavoidable.
With the continued savagery of ISIS in the news, FRC’s Bob Morrison and Ken Blackwell have two op-eds in American Thinker that examines the stance that the U.S. has taken on this group. Both Blackwell and Morrison’s recent article looks at how President Obama has dealt with ISIS and the growing threat that this group poses on global security.
President Obama is locked in a Westphalian mindset. That seminal 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in Europe and gave us the nation-state system we see today. Or most of it. What ISIS shows, however, is that the Westphalian definitions really don’t apply in the Mideast. It was an Egyptian diplomat who famously said: “There is only one nation over here; the rest are tribes with flags.”
Fortunately, President Obama realizes that you cannot give credence to a border between Iraq and Syria. He says he will hammer ISIS in Syria. Go to it. (Unfortunately, this president seems not to recognize a border between the Mexico and the U.S., either.)
Healthcare is unique among many of the products we commonly purchase in that it is non-returnable. Healthcare is only available for purchase once a year during “Open Enrollment”, unless one has a qualifying life event. Once you enroll in a healthcare plan, while you can drop your coverage anytime over the course of the year, you cannot enroll in another plan until next open season.
Why is this significant? Well, if you have to purchase healthcare on the ObamaCare exchanges, you are unable to find out due to a secrecy clause in the law whether that particular plan covers elective abortion until after you already enroll and pay. Essentially you have to purchase a plan in order to find out what is in it. A newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan government watchdog, confirmed in a groundbreaking report this week that there is a lack of transparency regarding abortion coverage in ObamaCare, with 11 out of 18 issuers not informing individuals about elective abortion coverage until after they already enroll in a particular plan.
Let’s say someone finds a plan on their respective state exchange and they enroll and they find out after that the plan includes elective abortion coverage. That individual can either a) drop coverage entirely and unless they have a qualifying life event and go without coverage for the remainder of the plan year, and more than likely be subject to the individual mandate penalty or b) violate their conscience and pay for elective abortion coverage through the abortion surcharge, which is a slush fund used to finance other people’s abortions.
Either way, these are both non-options.
Purchasing a healthcare plan before you are able to find out what is in it is completely unacceptable. Additionally, the long-standing Hyde Amendment to the Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (LHHS) strictly prohibits federal funding for abortion yet. GAO confirmed in their report, however, that Obamacare subsidizes elective abortion coverage on the exchanges with taxpayer dollars. ObamaCare therefore bypasses the principles of the Hyde Amendment.
We were told that ObamaCare would not subsidize elective abortion with taxpayer funds. I guess we can add this to the long laundry list of ways the Administration has broken their promise when it comes to ObamaCare next to individuals losing their plans, premiums increasing, limited choices and budget busting price tags.
“Evangelicals for Marriage Equality” has published a piece in TIME magazine asserting an orthodox theological case for same-sex “marriage.”
This ground has been covered so often that to write about it again seems redundant to the point of being tedious. Yet it cannot be ignored because its proponents keep raising it. Below are some responses to this new initiative whose essential argument – that “it’s possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality” – is simply not consistent with biblical teaching, natural law, or the quantifiable good of society.
This is not a dispute like Christian disagreements over modes of baptism or the doctrines of the end times (you say amillenial, I say premillennial, but we’re not going to call our fellowship off). It is about whether or not the clear meaning of any number of passages in the Old and New Testaments is true, and whether what the Bible teaches about human sexuality is right or wrong.
To professing Evangelical advocates of same-sex “marriage:” Stop dissembling. Reject revealed truth concerning human sexual behavior if you will. Christ does not compel faithful discipleship at the point of a gun. Just don’t pretend the Bible doesn’t say what it says or that your personal experiences and/or longings must supersede the commands of the Creator and Redeemer of the universe.
On Tuesday, FRC hosted a webcast, “Common Core: The Government’s Classroom,” which featured several government officials and education experts discussing the flaws behind the Obama Administration’s program designed to improve testing and curriculum. Common Core has experienced quite a bit of backlash from both educators and parents alike, as the standards for this program were not fully developed prior to implementation at the state level.
Jane Robbins, J.D., with the American Principles Project, was one of the experts who appeared on our webcast. Robbins discussed how data mining is being used to collect information on students, thus violating their privacy and threatening parental rights. Watch Jane Robbins’s interview below.