How to respond to the “After School Satan Clubs”

by Travis Weber

August 10, 2016

As has been widely reported the last several weeks, a group called the “Satanic Temple” is looking to set up “After School Satan Clubs” (ASSC) in public schools around the country. What should we think of this, and how should we respond?

From the group’s name, one would presume these clubs are teaching about demonic activity. But a glance at their website shows them prominently proclaiming that they seek to teach “based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious world view,” and explaining their view that “Satanism is a religion that endorses scientific rationalism as our best model for understanding the natural world.” They don’t actually believe in Satan.

So why not name the clubs “humanist” or “atheist” clubs? Perhaps these activists realized this would not draw the public attention like the name “Satan” would (the actual Church of Satan rejects the ASSC’s methods). The Satanic Temple has already agitated in the name of its “religion” by “creating a gigantic bronze statue of Baphomet for the lawn of the Oklahoma State House, opening city council meetings with Satanic incantations, [and] distributing coloring books featuring the dark lord to schools across the country.” So why do they want to draw public attention and provoke?

These atheist and humanist activists simply don’t like the fact that children could be exposed to the message of Christianity, and appear to want to pick a fight with Christians. They say they want religion totally eliminated from schools, and the group’s homepage prominently displays: “DONATE TO HELP US COUNTER EVANGELISM IN SCHOOLS.” Their main purpose appears to be to try to shut down Christian clubs in schools. How would they accomplish that?

In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the Supreme Court held that when a school opens up a limited public forum to a certain type of speech, it cannot discriminate against groups looking to use that forum based on the viewpoint of their speech. The ASSC organization seeks to use these forums for its clubs. If the ASSC merely wanted the same opportunity as everyone else to speak their viewpoint, that would be understandable. But their whole purpose seems to be driven by an animosity toward Christian clubs; hence the provocative name.

They are aiming to do that by provoking school administrators into shutting down the limited public forum entirely. As the group’s website states: “Our goal, ultimately, is to place an ASSC in every school where the Good News Clubs, or other proselytizing religious groups, have established a presence.” Group members have said: “We would like to thank the Liberty Counsel specifically for opening the doors to the After School Satan Clubs through their dedication to religious liberty… So, ‘the Satanic Temple leverages religious freedom laws that put after-school clubs in elementary schools nationwide.’ That’s going to be the message.”

The ASSC organization appears to be trying to upset enough parents that school officials would close the forum to all groups (the fact that the group is based in Salem, Massachusetts, seems designed to aid its publicity stunt). If the forum is not open at all, then no clubs get to speak.

Though this would include the ASSC clubs, these activists appear to be fine with this as long as that puts an end to the Christian clubs too. As the ASSC founder reportedly told PEOPLE magazine, “[i]f they would get rid of the Good News clubs, there wouldn’t be a need for the After School Satan program.” In other words, the very purpose of the ASSC is to shut down the Good News Clubs. The ASSC organization, presuming parental outrage, is hoping school administrators take the bait and close the forum rather than allow the “Satan clubs” to operate.

What should we think about all this?

First, school administrators should not be deterred. The ASSC organization would love nothing more than for the school forum be shut down to all groups, including Christian groups. The forum should not be shut down out of concern for this group’s presence (its name does not even line up with what it is teaching anyway). It can be given a place among other student groups, and we can let the battle in the marketplace of ideas play out. Ultimately, neither rationalism nor demon worship can provide the hope and healing offered by Jesus.

Second, we should not look at this as a set-back, but as an opportunity, in at least two areas:

  • The ASSC organization is using a forum which is open to all under the Good News Club case. Why not use this opportunity to make sure that children are aware of their right to start Christian clubs if they don’t exist? As one Family Research Council event recently highlighted, let us also make sure school officials, administrators, and teachers are aware of the legal protections for religion in the public school. The forum is open—make sure we are using it!
  • If the ASSC organization wants to start a spiritual discussion, whether on the national stage or local school, let’s welcome such a discussion. The group’s use of the term “Satan” gives everyone an opportunity to discuss…Satan. Let’s explain his role in the Bible, his power to tempt humans away from God to our own detriment, and the good news that Jesus provides a way out of that temptation. Even if the ASSC organization wants to fall back on rationalism, let’s welcome an invitation to open up the Bible and rationally examine its claims: that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. He’s either Lord, liar, or lunatic. But nothing else. All must make a choice.

Both humanism (the worship of human progress) and actual devil worship will fail to offer humans a solution to our dilemma of the sense that something is broken, that something is just not right in the world. Only a restored relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ can do that. Every day, we are already seeking opportunities to tell the world this good news before it’s too late. This is just another opportunity, planted right in our lap! Let us go forth and proclaim the Gospel!

The Islamic State (ISIS) Lays Out Its Plan for Christians

by Chris Gacek

August 9, 2016

In case there is any doubt as to what the Islamic State (ISIS) thinks about Christianity and Christians, the current issue of its English-language magazine, Dabiq, leaves no doubt. Frances Martel of Breitbart News broke the story about its release, and the Drudge Report linked to Martel’s article.

This 82-page volume should be read widely by Christians, church leaders, and anyone in government. A website, the Clarion Project, focuses on providing “up-to-date news on Islamic extremism, sharia law and human rights” and it makes complete copies of Dabiq available for download (in .pdf). Volume 15 of Dabiq, entitled “Break the Cross,” may be downloaded via Clarion here.

Here is a sample from the chapter “Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You” (pp. 33-33). It contains a six-paragraph section describing the reasons for their murderous animosity, so in the first paragraph (p. 31) one finds:

1. We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. … [concluding sentences of para. 1:] Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily…

Ultimately even supine submission will buy no respect for the Christian and makes clear why the cruelest persecutions of helpless religious minorities takes place in territories controlled by ISIS in the Middle East (pp. 32-33):

What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you. No doubt, we would stop fighting you then as we would stop fighting any disbelievers who enter into a covenant with us, but we would not stop hating you.

Ultimately, though, the ISIS ideologues let us know that they do this from a mind-set of giving salvation to lost pagans:

We fight you in order to bring you out from the darkness of disbelief and into the light of Islam, and to liberate you from the constraints of living for the sake of the worldly life alone so that you may enjoy both the blessings of the worldly life and the bliss of the Hereafter.

Well, that’s a relief. Christians being crucified, beheaded, burned alive, tortured, raped, kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, denied religious liberty, paying discriminatory and punitive taxes, etc., would be well-advised to remember such jihadi high-mindedness. After all, Christians are being saved from their heretical belief in multiple gods:

As for believing that there are other “gods” who partook in the creation of the universe or who have share in its lordship, then this was a creed so deviant and contrary to the fitrah that not even the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs believed in such. (p. 5)

The other sections of the volume are instructive in laying out the ISIS-jihadist ideology. Let there be no doubt about it—ISIS operates under a well-defined Islam-grounded, religious belief system that has no room for religious tolerance as the West understands it.

Question of the Week - August 9, 2016

by Daniel Hart

August 9, 2016

Question: In reading about Title IX and how the present administration is using it for their sexual experimentation, FRC repeatedly calls it a “law.” I thought it was a mandate that the schools could refuse, even though they might be losing their grant money from the government. Is it a law, since Obama has again overreached his powers by sidestepping Congress’ authority to make laws?

FRC: The Obama administration has interpreted Title IX in a manner that is inconsistent with the Congressional intent in passing the legislation. Until that interpretation is either rescinded by a future administration or overridden by a Court, that interpretation has legal effect.

We encourage you to watch our recent lecture to learn about what is being done legislatively, educationally, and legally to stand for students and families in response to the new interpretation of Title IX. In addition, please refer to FRC’s paper, “Title IX and Transgendered Students,” for more information.

Parents should demand that school boards not sacrifice the safety of children out of fear of losing federal funding, which on average only amounts to about nine cents of every educational dollar. The recent victory in Fairfax County is an encouraging example of the powerful impact that parents have when they stand for truth. It is also time for Congressional leadership to act and rein in this administration. Bottom line, the president’s decree should be resisted with every legal and moral instrument we have available to us in this country.

Finally, please sign our petition to Congress, asking them to take action to protect America’s children.

Who’s Waging a War on Science? (Hint: It’s Not Conservatives)

by Peter Sprigg

August 5, 2016

Liberals often accuse conservatives of being hostile to science, and insist that they will rely only on “evidence-based” policies. The questioning of scientific claims that we face catastrophic human-induced global warming, and efforts to teach critiques of evolutionary theory in school biology classes, are two of the most frequently-cited example of conservatives’ supposed “war on science.”

Professor Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame Law School, however, points out in Public Discourse that this supposed liberal reverence for science is itself a myth and a deception. When it comes to some areas of policy—those involving any aspect of the sexual revolution and the demand for a “right” to sex of any kind without consequences—the Left abandons science in favor of ideology every time.

Whether it is the humanity of the unborn, the harms of abortion, the benefits of contraception, the advantages of abstinence, the origins of homosexuality, or the reality of biological sex, the Left has no patience for science incompatible with their worldview.

I am especially grateful that he mentions sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE (what its enemies—and none of its practitioners—call “conversion therapy”). Even some Republicans have been influenced by the LGBT’s constant drumbeat on this issue (yes, I’m looking at you, Chris Christie), and several states have actually outlawed such treatment for minors. One has to be very familiar with the scientific research to know that there is no scientific research regarding the impact of SOCE on minors—only unscientific anecdotes.

This is an important and valuable article. Check out President Obama’s Sex-Driven War on Science.

High Court Puts Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. Ruling on Hold

by Travis Weber

August 4, 2016

Yesterday, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to stay the ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which had required the Gloucester County School Board to open up a male restroom in its schools to a biological female student who identifies as male. Pending the filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari by the school board asking the Court to hear the case on the merits, the school board’s policy permitting only biological boys to use boy’s rooms and girls to use girl’s rooms will be allowed to remain in effect.

While only a procedural development, it is a promising one. The Court could have allowed the Fourth Circuit’s decision to go into effect—but didn’t. The fact that the Court took affirmative action in favor of this school district’s freedom should be heartening to schools around the country who want to retain the ability to set their own policies.

It is especially important that schools take note of this development in the face of the hostile actions of the Obama administration. Despite all the talk of how conservatives focus on social issues, the President is the one obsessed with bathrooms, coming out with an edict that unilaterally makes up law to use as a cudgel against every locality through the country. And the administration is not satisfied to tread lightly. Its edict directs every school district to open not just its bathrooms to people of the opposite sex, but locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and other areas.

The administration is also more radical than the courts. In its opinion, the Fourth Circuit had directed that restrooms be opened to the opposite sex by relying on a legal doctrine demanding deference to an executive branch opinion. The administration, however, in its edict, simply declares a new interpretation of “law” (that Title IX’s definition of sex includes protections on the basis of “gender identity”) without a coherent basis. It flies in the face of multiple sources of legal authority, and exists nowhere except in the fevered minds of modern activist judges, administration officials, and their allies. Schools have properly resisted the Obama administration’s unlawful bathroom edict for this reason. The Court’s latest move is further reason to do so.

PolitiFact Falsifies Family Findings

by Peter Sprigg

August 4, 2016

In an interview on July 17, Chuck Todd of NBC challenged Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus regarding a passage in the Republican platform dealing with family structure, which includes the statements:

Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime, or become pregnant outside of marriage.

and:

The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad.

Priebus defended the platform plank, affirming that “the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad.”

That same day, PolitiFact released an article that rated Priebus’ statement “False.”

A rating along the lines of “Requires clarification” might have been defensible. However, in light of the available evidence, rating the statement “False” is nothing short of bizarre. It destroys not Priebus’ credibility, but PolitiFact’s as a neutral arbiter.

In October 2014, PolitiFact offered a similar critique of a similar statement by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. A detailed response was posted on the Family Research Council blog, all of which is still valid. Following is a summary with information on some more recent research.

What the research on family structure shows

Here are some other professional organizations which have made statements similar to that in the platform:

The non-partisan, non-profit research group Child Trends has reported, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”

The anti-poverty group the Center for Law and Social Policy reported, “Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. Compared to children who are raised by their married parents, children in other family types are more likely to achieve lower levels of education, to become teen parents, and to experience health, behavior, and mental health problems.”

The Institute for American Values declared (as one of its “fundamental conclusions” about “what current social science evidence reveals about marriage in our social system”), “The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive—economically, socially, and psychologically—in this family form.”

One example of the type of research being summarized in those statements is the federal survey data published in 2014 which showed that “children living with two biological parents” (which by definition includes a “mom and dad”) are fifteen times less likely “to have had four or more adverse experiences” than children in any other living situation.

These statements alone should be sufficient to designate Priebus’ innocuous statement as “true.”

Not just about parents who identify as homosexual

The clarification that might be justified is that these broad and entirely accurate summaries of the research on family structure are based primarily on studies that did not focus specifically on a comparison with children raised by parents who identify as homosexual or by same-sex couples. However, the platform passage did not limit its conclusion to such comparisons, either. Omitted from mention in Todd’s questioning of Priebus were the following references in the platform to cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, and single-parent households:

We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation. Moreover, marriage remains the greatest antidote to child poverty. The 40 percent of children who now are born outside of marriage are five times more likely to live in poverty than youngsters born and raised by a mother and father in the home. Nearly three-quarters of the $450 billion government annually spends on welfare goes to single-parent households.

Instead, Todd focused only on same-sex parents, saying, “It’s implying that somehow children of same-sex couples are more likely to be addicts? To engage in crime?” Chuck Todd’s single-minded focus on same-sex parents was deceptive regarding the context of the platform language—and PolitiFact should have noted that and called him out on it.

What about the research on parents who identify as homosexual?

Nevertheless, it is also true that the platform says that “the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman,” and it declares, “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” as well as saying, “Every child deserves a married mom and dad.” Since same-sex couples do not meet this definition of marriage and do not provide both a mom and a dad, a clarification of what the research on parents who identify as homosexual shows is also in order.

PolitiFact refers to only two sources for its conclusion: a one-page summary of the findings of “78 scholarly studies” on “the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents” published by Columbia Law School (which concludes that “children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children”); and a longer research summary on “LGB-Parent Families” published by a pro-homosexual think tank, The Williams Institute (which concludes that “LGB parents and their children are functioning quite well”).

Apples to Apples? Some studies omit the “intact biological family”

In evaluating any particular study that relates to “gay or lesbian parents,” it is crucial to be aware of what is being compared to what, and what conclusions can legitimately be drawn (or evaluated) from the findings.

For example, it is true that there have been a large number of studies which purport to show that children raised by “gay or lesbian” parents “do just as well” as, or show “no differences” from, children raised by “straight” or “heterosexual” parents. However, when you dig down you discover that many of these studies do not feature a comparison between children raised by “gay or lesbian parents” and children raised by the intact biological family—that is, children raised from birth by their married, biological mother and biological father. Instead, the comparison is with children who have heterosexual parents, but from single-parent, divorced, or step-parent households, for example.

Studies which look at children of “gay parents,” but which do not include the intact biological family as a comparison group, can tell us exactly nothing about whether “the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad.”

Furthermore, these studies, although numerous, suffer from serious methodological limitations, such as the use of very small, non-random “convenience” samples (gathered by advertising in “gay” publications, for example). Referring to a defense of parents who identify as homosexual by the American Psychological Association (APA), researcher Loren Marks reported in 2012, “[N]ot one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children.”

The Columbia publication cited by PolitiFact downplays this, arguing that “convenience sampling is not considered a methodological flaw, but simply a limitation to generalizability.” Yet “generalizing” from such studies, without apparent “limitation,” is exactly what defenders of “gay parents”—and PolitiFact—have done.

Apples to Apples? Some studies omit same-sex couples

On the other hand, some other studies have included comparisons between the intact biological family and other family structures, including ones in which a child’s mother or father had a same-sex relationship while the child was growing up. The most widely-reported such study in recent years was the New Family Structures Study published in 2012 by sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas. It showed that children raised in the intact biological family have considerable advantages over those raised in other family structures—including children with a mother or father who had a homosexual relationship. (FRC published a summary of the Regnerus study on our website, then later added a more detailed list of its findings.)

One of the criticisms that some observers made regarding the Regnerus research was that it (like most of the studies favorable to “gay parents,” it might be noted) was not based on a direct, “couples-to-couples” comparison. Many of the “fathers who had a gay relationship” and “mothers who had a lesbian relationship” never lived in the same household with the child and a same-sex partner, and almost none lived in such a household throughout the child’s growing up. (Regnerus made these facts perfectly clear in both his initial article and a later, more detailed one.) The deficits identified in the children of “gay parents,” according to these critics, were the result of household instability (e.g., one parent divorcing the other parent to “come out” as gay or lesbian), not of sexual orientation per se.

Demanding that comparisons be made only with children of “stable” same-sex couples, however, is both unreasonable and unrealistic—given that such households are extraordinarily rare. Of the 248 children in the Regnerus study whose parents had had a homosexual relationship, only two had been raised by a same-sex couple (a female couple in both cases) from birth. Even the Williams Institute survey cited by PolitiFact acknowledges at the outset, “In the majority of contemporary LGB-parent families, the children were conceived in the context of different-sex relationships,” adding that “research is needed on LGB stepfamily formation post-heterosexual divorce.”

Recent research

More recent studies have overcome some of the methodological limitations of earlier research, allowing couples-to-couples comparisons using much larger sample sizes drawn from government surveys. Canadian economist Douglas W. Allen and co-authors analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. census and reported, “Compared with traditional married households, we find that children being raised by same-sex couples are 35% less likely to make normal progress through school.” Another study by Allen using the 2006 Canada census found, “Children living with gay and lesbian families [a “same-sex married or common law couple”] in 2006 were about 65% as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”

Sociologist D. Paul Sullins studied data from the National Health Interview Survey that included 512 children living with same-sex couples, and found that children in households with same-sex couples “are at least twice as likely to experience serious emotional problems compared to their counterparts” in other types of households generally, and more specifically “they are at almost four (3.6) times the risk of emotional problems when compared to children residing with married biological parents.”

Other Resources

Several other organizations and publications have produced summaries within the last two years of the existing research on family structure and child outcomes, including:

The American College of Pediatricians, et al. (amicus brief, U.S. Supreme Court)

The Heritage Foundation

MercatorNet

Public Discourse

Conclusion

The Republican platform, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, did not say, “Straight parents are better than gay parents.” The primary issue addressed by summary statements on family structure like those in the platform is not “sexual orientation”—it is the benefits to children of a two-parent home, marriage, gender complementarity, and a biological relationship with both parents. Evidence suggests that children denied the first two suffer, even if their parents are “straight”; while children with openly “gay” parents are always denied the latter two, no matter how “stable” their household.

This evidence is more than sufficient to rate Priebus’ statement that “the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad” as “True.”

Federal Judge Still Refuses to Let Mississippi Religious Freedom Law Go Into Effect

by Travis Weber

August 3, 2016

After Judge Carlton Reeves in Mississippi granted a preliminary injunction against HB 1523 and refused to let that state’s religious freedom law go into effect last month, Governor Bryant requested that the ruling be put on hold pending appeal. Judge Reeves refused to grant this request too, the other day declining to stay his ruling while the case is appealed. His opinion contains several weaknesses, and a failure to adequately address arguments in support of the law.

Judge Reeves claims that his opinion granting the preliminary injunction “laid out” why “HB 1523 is not like federal laws which permit persons to opt-out of going to war or performing abortions.” But that opinion did not adequately explain the distinction in the abortion context. He tried to argue that abortion dissenters have a problem with “all abortions,” while Mississippi clerks don’t have a problem with “all marriages licenses.” But it’s not for Judge Reeves to dictate whether someone’s conscience objections are correct. If someone has a guilty conscience, then they have a guilty conscience. Moreover, he still dodges the question of why conscience protections which only protect the pro-life view violate the Establishment Clause—which is the actual legal question anyway. The answer, of course, is that they don’t. In Harris v. McRae, the challengers to the Hyde Amendment (barring certain funding of abortions) had argued that it violated the Establishment Clause on the theory that it incorporated into law “the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the sinfulness of abortion and the time at which life commences.” The Court responded that “it does not follow that a statute violates the Establishment Clause because it ‘happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions.’ … That the Judaeo-Christian religions oppose stealing does not mean that a State or the Federal Government may not, consistent with the Establishment Clause, enact laws prohibiting larceny.”

On top of inadequately addressing these arguments, Judge Reeves’ initial opinion failed to even mention “laws which permit persons to opt-out of going to war,” much less “la[y] out” why they are different from HB 1523.

Of course, the answer is they are not. Judge Reeves bafflingly cites to Gillette v. United States, but Gillette actually supports Governor Bryant’s case, standing for the proposition that laws which protect only one side of a certain area of beliefs are perfectly consistent with the Establishment Clause. Judge Reeves claims that “issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis.” But this isn’t the issue. Judges have no role in providing their personal opinion as to the matter being objected to. If the objector has a conscience problem, the inquiry stops there. This is well-settled under our constitutional religious freedom framework, and prevents judges themselves from being tangled up in assessing religious beliefs. To do otherwise leads to Judge Reeves’ error: judging the conscience of the objecting clerk. Who is he to tell that clerk otherwise if they believe same-sex marriage causes grievous harm and they don’t want to be a part of facilitating it?

Judge Reeves continues this error in a footnote: “Allowing conscientious objectors was a win-win: good for soldiers and good for conscientious objectors. HB 1523 is different. Allowing people to opt-out of serving LGBT citizens comes at the expense of LGBT citizens.”

Aside from continuing to err by assessing the value of the conscience objection in the military context, he is just flat wrong. He can’t show any “expense” on the part of LGBT citizens. He tries to point to Estate of Thornton v. Caldor to argue that laws which burden “other citizens and entities” are unconstitutional, but that case involved an actual requirement being placed on private citizens regarding their employment practices. There is NO such requirement here. HB 1523 merely protects certain people from the government. Our Constitution itself does that, and laws are perfectly constitutional when they accomplish the same.

Illinois Governor Signs Bill Forcing Pregnancy Care Centers to Refer for Abortions

by Andrew Guernsey

August 3, 2016

Could you imagine a law forcing a vegetarian store clerk to tell customers about the benefits of eating meat and then to refer them to Burger King? A new Illinois law does worse than this—it forces pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even the state’s 51 pregnancy care centers to become abortion advocates and escorts to abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood for the killing of innocent human life. Far from leaving abortion to the privacy of a woman and her doctor as pro-abortion politicians would have us believe, the new Illinois law tells pro-life health care personnel what to say and do.

Late last week, Illinois’ Republican governor Bruce Rauner signed the draconian and anti-religious freedom bill, SB 1564, despite not receiving a single Republican vote. The law forces pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even pregnancy care centers, who object to abortion, to tell their patients about the alleged “benefits” of abortion and abortifacient drugs, against all evidence to the contrary, and then to refer or transfer those patients to an abortionist, or provide written information about where they can obtain an abortion or abortion inducing drugs or devices. Victims of illegal pro-abortion hospital policies like Illinois nurse Sandra Mendoza, who was forced out of her long-time job in June 2016 as a pediatric nurse for refusing to participate in abortion, will also no longer be able to sue under the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

Anti-religious freedom initiatives like Illinois’ pro-abortion law are spreading in liberal states around the country, emboldened by the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) refusal to enforce the federal conscience law, known as the Weldon Amendment, to stop California and New York from forcing even churches to cover abortion. Illinois’ new abortion promotion and referral law directly violates the federal conscience law (the Weldon Amendment), which prohibits any state that receives federal funding from conducting “discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” This harmful, anti-life discrimination must not stand!

Thankfully, there is meaningful legislation waiting for a vote in the Senate, and has already passed the House, which would provide pro-life health care providers relief from the new Illinois law: the Conscience Protection Act (S. 2927, “CPA”), introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). CPA would codify the Weldon Amendment and provide a critical private right of action so that health care providers and organizations facing discrimination in any state for refusing to participate in abortion can sue in court to protect their conscience rights. In light of HHS’ refusal to enforce the law in California and now Illinois, the Senate should follow the House’s example and pass CPA. The pro-life doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and pregnancy centers of Illinois deserve to have their rights protected.

Religion in Immigration: How to Handle it Properly

by Travis Weber

August 2, 2016

An opinion by Judge Reinhardt out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday shows how to properly view the role of religion in asylum and immigration matters.

Kurniawan Salim had first filed for asylum in 2006 when he was a Buddhist on the grounds that he feared returning to Indonesia because of his Chinese ancestry. His claim was rejected. Still in the United States, he has since converted to Catholicism, and now asserts a fear of persecution based on religion if he returns to Indonesia. Yet the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected his request to reopen his case, claiming the evidence offered was “largely cumulative” of that offered in his first case.

Thankfully, Judge Reinhardt reversed the BIA, which had apparently missed the significance of the fact that Kurniawan was now a Christian and had offered significant evidence he would be persecuted on that basis. As Judge Reinhardt observed, the BIA’s “reasoning makes little sense where, as here, the motion to reopen presents a different basis for relief than was relied upon during the prior hearing. In such cases, the evidence related to the new claim for relief is necessarily “qualitatively different” from that offered at the earlier hearing.”

Kurniawan had submitted significant evidence that hostility toward Christians in Indonesia had dramatically increased since his first case, with a letter from his sister in Jakarta describing the immediate threat of attacks against Christians in her area. Judge Reinhardt additionally found that the BIA erred by failing to examine the evidence that Christians were threatened in light of Kurniawan’s membership of this specific religious group.

Judge Reinhardt accurately diagnosed the religious freedom threat for this asylum applicant, while the BIA showed an ignorance of the role religion plays in this type of case. If those at the BIA can’t understand that evidence of threats against Christians matter because someone is a Christian and not a Buddhist, we are in trouble. It is not sufficient to merely recognize the role of religion generally (though that is not always properly done), but government officials must also understand the religious freedom component of these cases as informed by the social, political, and interreligious dynamics of specific areas around the world. They must also bring this clear-headed approach to the broader context of immigration and security, which needs our objectivity and understanding much more than our simple, one-size-fits-all “solutions.”

This case is a glimpse into how international religious freedom as a human right should inform our values as they play out in our immigration system. America has been and will hopefully remain a beacon around the world for the freedom to choose one’s beliefs and live them out without fear of harm. Kudos to Judge Reinhardt for protecting this freedom today.

The Social Conservative Review: August 1, 2016

by Daniel Hart

August 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

The murder of Rev. Jacques Hamel as he celebrated Mass at a small village church in France last week was a tragic event that was also historic. It “marked the first time that [Isis has] targeted a church in the West.” Paradoxically, it is also a hopeful sign in dark times. That the terrorist group would see an elderly 85-year-old priest along with two nuns and two worshippers who were present as a threat that must be targeted with deadly violence is proof that the ideology driving the terrorist group is spiritually bankrupt; it does not bother with attempting to participate in an exchange of ideas, and has no interest in appealing to the hearts and minds of those who don’t share their ideology. Every act of terrorism is therefore an act of desperation. It is an ideology without hope and without a future.

Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “One who has hope lives differently.” Rev. Hamel was one of these. By all accounts, he was a “quiet” and “discrete” priest who went unassumingly about his daily duties of “baptizing infants, celebrating Mass and tending to parishioners.” When he reached retirement age of 75, however, he refused to stop his ministry, humbly continuing to serve despite his advancing age. In doing this, Rev. Hamel can now rejoice in his martyrdom, as was foretold by Christ in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

Christians are a people of hope. By martyring Rev. Hamel, the terrorists only strengthen our resolve to live hope-filled lives of self-sacrificial love, with the faith that Christ’s final victory on earth is forthcoming and that our reward will indeed be great in heaven.

Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.

Sincerely,

Dan Hart
Managing Editor for Publications
Family Research Council

 

Religious Liberty

Free to Believe”

Macy’s Fires Catholic Employee for Disagreement With Transgender Bathroom PolicyLydia Goerner, The Stream

AZ Official Tim Jeffries Attacked for Offering to Take Employees’ Prayer Requests to Holy Site in FranceRachel Alexander, The Stream

Colorado cake artist asks US Supreme Court to protect his freedom of expressionAlliance Defending Freedom

Catholic College Reinstates Pro-family Employee after ‘Hate Crime’ Investigation – Claire Chretien, LifeSiteNews

International Religious freedom

Russia’s Ban on Evangelism Is Now in EffectSarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

One Woman’s Struggle for Freedom in Castro’s CubaAndrew Egger, The Daily Signal

Concern grows for Christians in Turkey after failed coupRuth Gledhill, Christian Today

The UN Funds Repressive Regimes at the Expense of US TaxpayersBrett Schaefer, The Daily Signal

Christian law school standing strong after win at Nova Scotia Court of AppealsAlliance Defending Freedom

Military Religious Freedom

Atheist wants military chaplains punished for wearing uniforms to a chaplains’ event – Fr. Mark Hodges, LifeSiteNews

Secular Civilians Assault Warfighters’ Faith – Andrew Harrod, Juicy Ecumenism

Religious Liberty in the public square

Pastor Banned From Advertising Jesus Because It’s Too OffensiveCasey Harper, The Stream

A History of Religious FreedomJames Hitchcock, Touchstone

Lovers of Religious Liberty Will Find Scant Comfort in the New Democratic Party PlatformMark Kellner, The Stream

Why Are Progressives on an Anti-Christian Witch Hunt? – Rachel Lu, The Federalist

 

Life

Abortion

New Poll Finds Americans Strongly Support Abortion RestrictionsPR Newswire

Texas dismisses felony charges against David Daleiden and Sandra MerrittBen Johnson, LifeSiteNews

How Can Pro-Life Liberals, Conservatives, and Libertarians Work Together? – Jason Scott Jones, The Stream

State Legislatures Have Passed 334 Pro-life Laws in the Past 5 Years – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews

Democrats for Life Leader Wants to ‘Take Back’ the Party – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews

Bioethics

Abortion, euthanasia, Nazis: Irish bishop connects the dots, and faces blowbackSteve Weatherbe, LifeSiteNews

New Study, Social Media Humanize Disabled Babies That Doctors Once Left to DieLindsey Tanner, The Stream

Cancer Center Bows the Knee to Assisted Suicide – Wesley J. Smith, National Review

AMA Wants to Empower Doctors to Refuse Treatment to Terminally Ill – Wesley J. Smith, LifeNews

2-year-old Claimed ‘Brain Dead’ Continues to Improve – Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews

Obamacare

16 Obamacare Co-Ops Collapsed. Here’s How the Rest Are FaringMelissa Quinn, The Stream

Will Pence’s Obamacare Perfidy Damage Trump?David Catron, The American Spectator

How Democrats Came to Embrace Taxpayer-Funded AbortionsFred Lucas, The Daily Signal

 

Family

Economics

What Are Young Non-Working Men Doing? – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Lower Middle Class Hurt Most by Gov’t Marriage Penalties, Study Finds – Brandon Showalter, The Christian Post

You Could Pay More to Fly Under This EPA Climate Change Rule – Katie Tubb, The Daily Signal

Here’s How Americans Can Curtail ‘Autopilot’ Spending and Take Back the Federal Budget – Mollie McNeill, The Daily Signal

Low employment levels affect children too – Angela Rachidi, AEI

Marriage

Solutions for Black Americans, Beginning With the Need for DadsWalter E. Williams, The Daily Signal

Millennial Marriages: Surprisingly StrongChristina Deal, Lifezette

In sickness and health: A picture of Christ-centered marriage – Andrew T. Walker, ERLC

Character

Students’ Broken Moral CompassesPaul Barnwell, The Atlantic

Do God’s Will, Not His WorkBethany Jenkins, The Gospel Coalition

A time for Christian heroesFr. Robert McTeigue, Aleteia

Want to change the world? Stay homeMichael Rennier, Aleteia

Human Sexuality

These 24 States Are Calling on the Obama Administration to Stop Imposing Its Agenda on StudentsAlliance Defending Freedom

Amid Complaints From Parents, Virginia School Board Pauses New Transgender PolicyKelsey Harkness, The Stream

The Problem with Gender Studies – Matthew Tuininga, The Public Discourse

The Endless Muddle of Transgender Policy – John Rosenberg, Minding the Campus

100,000 Panamanians March Against UN-Style Sex EdMarianna Orlandi, C-Fam

Pornography

4 revelations about porn from your wife’s perspective – Nikki Daniel, ERLC

Hotels: Pretty Okay With Their Customers’ Porn-Watching Habits – Adam Chandler, The Atlantic

To Filter Public WiFi, or Not? Starbucks and the Librarian of Congress Weigh In – National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Romance Porn: More Women are Addicted Than You Think – Leah Z. Singh, Crisis

You know what’s actually America’s most relentless propagator of racism? The porn industry – Jonathon Van Maren, LifeSiteNews

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