FRC Blog

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of February 21)

by Family Research Council

February 26, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Amazon Censorship Leaves a Plot to Be Desired

Ryan Anderson didn’t even know his book had been pulled. There was no warning, no notification from Amazon that the title had been removed. A reader tipped him off when he tried to buy a copy and couldn’t. And, sure enough, when Ryan logged-in to Amazon, his bright blue and pink book cover, When Harry Became Sally, had been taken down.

2. Update: SCOTUS Fails to Blaze a Trial on Election Reform

Befuddling.” “Inexplicable.” “Baffling.” Those are just three of the words Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas used to describe his colleagues’ latest response to the 2020 election. After three months of mixed signals, the justices finally turned down a case that had most conservatives holding their breaths—a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s expanded mail-in balloting order.

3. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Safety

As we approach the one-year anniversary of “15 days to flatten the curve,” the coronavirus continues to dominate the news and many people’s emotions. In many states, most public schools remain closed. It took a Supreme Court case for California churches to be allowed to meet indoors again, though many churches had been doing it anyway with the fines to prove it.

4. Blog: Biden’s Cabinet (Part 3): Jennifer Granholm’s Radical Worldview and Abortion Policies

This is Part 3 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read Part 3 on Jennifer Granholm, who is nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. She would have a major influence on environmental policies and would be responsible for enacting Biden’s climate change policies.

5. Washington Watch: Sen. James Lankford is Baffled by Biden’s Nomination of a Radical HHS Boss with No Health Experience

James Lankford, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, joined Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss the reintroduction of his Conscience Protection Act, and grave concerns over Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

6. Washington Watch: Andrew Torba Explains How Being Canceled Helped Him Blaze a Trail for Gab’s Free Speech Platform

Andrew Torba, CEO of Gab, joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to discuss how Big Tech censorship is driving many conservatives to join Gab.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Grace Under Fire

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins, Dr. Ben Carson, and Pastor Mike McClure discussed how we should respond when our freedoms are threatened and culture grows increasingly hostile to followers of Jesus.

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Roe is Legally Flawed and Should Be Overturned

by David K.

February 26, 2021

On the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Biden reaffirmed his desire to codify Roe into federal law, reflecting the Democratic Party’s fear that Roe is nearing its end.

While the Supreme Court has yet to add an abortion case to its docket, the number of pending cases challenging key provisions in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which affirmed the central holding of Roe, that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion) continues to grow. In light of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, legal, and legislative trends support a future reversal. This is due, in part, to Roe’s inherent legal inconsistencies. Not only did Justice Blackmun contradict himself in his majority opinion in Roe, new bodies of criminal law are incompatible with Roe’s foundational assumptions.

Former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself criticized Roe’s rationale, stating that it “went beyond the extreme ruling of the statute before the court.” Abortion advocates similarly recognize Roe’s critical flaws, mainly a lack of reasonable inference from a constitutionally enumerated right.

The contradiction within the Court’s rational is another reason to reevaluate its holding. First, it rejected the existence of an absolute right to privacy, then nine pages later made that right absolute in the first trimester of pregnancy. Two interests were at issue, the mother’s privacy interest and the state’s interest in protecting unborn persons. The Court should have ended the analysis there recognizing the compelling interest in protecting unborn persons.

The inconsistency of legal personhood is highlighted in criminal feticide laws. This is yet another indicator of its inherent incongruity. Unborn children are recognized as humans in other situations outside of abortion. For example, in 1984, the Massachusetts Supreme Court recognized unborn persons in vehicular homicide cases. Since then, 38 states have passed laws recognizing unborn victim status. Federal lawmakers followed suit, passing the 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Legal scholars recognize the dilemma this legal trend poses. How can courts grant the unborn personhood in criminal law while refusing it in the context of legal abortions?

Lawsuits in response to the 2020 presidential election, civil unrest, and the Covid-19 pandemic have captured the Supreme Court’s attention for the moment, but the abortion issue will soon have its day in court. If the Court with three new justices corrects the legal inconsistencies in its previous holding, the abortion issue will likely return to the 50 state legislatures, allowing states like Alabama to reinstitute significant protections for the unborn. So long as Congress refrains from packing the Court, it will likely not be a matter of if Roe will be overturned, but when.

David K. is an intern at FRC Action.

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Planned Parenthood’s Consistent Message: Profits Over People

by Mary Szoch

February 25, 2021

Last Friday, Planned Parenthood published their annual report. The front cover of the report reads, “No Matter What.” Though the later message from leadership references Planned Parenthood unveiling a new tag line: “Care, no matter what,” it seems a better tag line for the organization would be “Profits, no matter what.” The annual report makes it clear that Planned Parenthood neither cares for nor about people. Planned Parenthood simply cares about profits.

In their report, which FRC has made a detailed analysis of, Planned Parenthood highlighted that during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, they committed 354,871 abortions. This means that Planned Parenthood aborted 972 babies every single day in 2019. This is the highest number of abortions Planned Parenthood has ever committed in a year.

According to a November 2020 CDC report, 619,691 abortions were reported to the CDC in 2018. In 2018, Planned Parenthood committed 345,672 abortions—which is 56 percent of all abortions reported to the federal government. Based on Planned Parenthood’s yearly increase in the number of abortions they commit and the decrease in the number of abortions committed nationally, Planned Parenthood is becoming more and more of an abortion monopoly.

Incidentally, this seems to be completely in line with Planned Parenthood’s goals. Over the past 10 years, the number of abortions committed by Planned Parenthood has increased by 7.7 percent. During that same time period, cancer screenings decreased by 68 percent, breast exams decreased by 68 percent, and prenatal services decreased by 80 percent. In September 2018, Dr. Leana Wen was hired as president of Planned Parenthood. In 2019, Dr. Leana Wen was fired. In her statement detailing the reasons for her departure, she noted, “Indeed, there was immediate criticism that I did not prioritize abortion enough…I began efforts to increase care for women before, during and after pregnancies…but the team I brought in…faced daily internal opposition from those who saw my goals as mission creep.”

Dr. Leana Wen was fired for challenging Planned Parenthood’s efforts to grow ONLY their abortion business. Since her firing, Planned Parenthood’s annual report demonstrates that they have doubled down in their commitment to making abortion their only service—with one glaring exception.

The Planned Parenthood annual report also showed that in 2019, there were over 200 Planned Parenthood facilities in 31 states providing services for patients who identify as transgender. As it turns out, Planned Parenthood is the second largest provider of cross-sex hormones. In an interview with Abigail Shrier, a former Planned Parenthood employee described Planned Parenthood prescribing hormones to young clients with almost no examination of their underlying problems and practically no medical oversight.

Planned Parenthood’s foray into providing cross-sex hormones is not shocking. For years, this organization has rejected basic truths about human beings, putting profits over people daily. During the 100 years of their existence, Planned Parenthood has denied the humanity and the right to life of the unborn child. Now, Planned Parenthood is denying the reality that XX chromosomes make a person a girl and XY chromosomes make a person a boy.

While Planned Parenthood acknowledges that transitioning from a girl to a boy can be dangerous, they argue that “expert care is needed to avoid problems,” and position themselves as the ones able to provide “expert care.” Their statement completely ignores the reality that taking hormones in an effort to transition comes with serious dangers, including: interference with brain development; inhibition of normal bone-density development; and sterilization. Planned Parenthood’s indifference to the truth that cross-sex hormones can leave a person incapable of having children is completely in line with their racist, eugenicist founder Margaret Sanger’s words: “But for my view, I believe that there should be no more babies.”

Planned Parenthood’s annual report demonstrates that their mission has not changed since their founding. Let’s pray for everyone involved in the organization to have a Saul-like conversion and for next year’s report to tell a different story.

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Biden’s Cabinet (Part 3): Jennifer Granholm’s Radical Worldview and Abortion Policies

by Molly Carman , Joseph Norris

February 24, 2021

This is Part 3 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read Part 1 on Antony Blinken and Part 2 on Xavier Becerra.

Jennifer Granholm, who served as the Governor of Michigan from 2003-2011, is back in the national spotlight as President Joe Biden has nominated her to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Department is tasked with overseeing America’s energy supply and carrying out environmental clean-ups. As the Secretary of the department, she would have a major influence on environmental policies, and would be responsible for enacting Biden’s climate change policies.

Why should American Christians care about Jennifer Granholm’s nomination to lead the Department of Energy? When there are so many pressing issues that demand our attention, does the Department of Energy—and the one leading the department—really require sustained thought and reflection? In short, the answer is “yes.”

On the issue of the environment and creation care, David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview explained, “Christians should care about the environment because it reflects the glory of God.” But he also cautions that Christians should not become “subservient to the created order.” Christians are called to exercise stewardship over the created world and should oppose efforts to exploit it. While the Bible is clear that the created world primarily exists to bring glory to God, it also exists to serve man’s needs. An unbiblical line is crossed when nature is defied or elevated in importance over people who are made in God’s image.

Unfortunately, in comments made during Granholm’s nomination hearing, it appears Biden’s nominee will pursue energy and environmental policies that prioritize politics over people. Several times during the hearing, she dodged questions about the economic impact of her new green policies and how many jobs might be lost due to them. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that Granholm, who has claimed to be Catholic, will hold to biblical principles on her environmental policy given her radical positions on other issues, such as abortion.

It should be concerning to Christians everywhere that the nominee to lead the Department of Energy would care so much about saving the planet for future generations, and simultaneously promote a pro-abortion agenda that directly harms future generations in the womb. Granholm considers herself a champion for abortion, showing hostility toward the lives of the unborn. For example, in a 2012 op-ed, Granholm smeared pro-life measures as a “war on women,” perpetrated by “white male legislatures” to enforce their power on women. During an interview that same year, she claimed that the pro-life movement was allegedly seeking to degrade women by assuming they are unable to make decisions for themselves.

Granholm’s pro-abortion ideology marked her tenure as Michigan’s governor. On two separate occasions, she vetoed a Partial Birth Abortion Ban—which protects babies that are near birth from being killed while being born. This same ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. She negotiated with the Michigan legislature to loosen restrictions on abortions, preventing a bill that would require an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion. In her second term as governor, she advocated for a ballot provision that would allow aborted fetal stem cell research in Michigan. Unfortunately, Emily’s List, the pro-abortion group that recruits abortion-friendly candidates, got exactly what they wanted when they endorsed her for governor.

Environmental policy has become entangled with protecting the unborn due to recent comments from prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claimed that funding abortions helps to reduce the world’s population, thereby helping fight climate change. In addition, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) alluded to a similar idea, describing what she viewed as the “disaster” our planet will be in without eliminating the effects of climate change. Along these lines, she claimed that millennials should legitimately question if it is still acceptable to have children. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is becoming mainstream in progressive circles, as high profile figures suggest that abortion is a necessary means to prevent overpopulation.

One’s worldview, whether biblical or not, will be revealed in the way they live their life. In the case of Granholm, how she leads, the decisions she makes, and the orders she implements as the head of an executive agency will reveal her worldview. The Bible calls for all of us to care for the world that God has created and to be stewards of the environment and our neighbors (Gen. 1:28 and 1 Peter 4:10). The disconnect is when leaders such as Granholm go too far in one direction, and care for the planet but not neighbor, in this case the unborn. It is crucial to have officials who are concerned about caring for the planet and the lives of the next generation—not just one or the other. As the Secretary of Energy, Granholm would have a platform to enact liberal policies that are purported to protect the environment. If confirmed, she will hopefully hold to a biblical worldview in all areas of public policy and become a steward that protects and cares for the environment and the unborn.

Joseph Norris is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on pro-life federal affairs.

Molly Carman is a Research Assistant for Worldview and Ethics.

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Thinking Biblically About Safety

by Joseph Backholm

February 24, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we will feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read Part 1: Thinking Biblically About Unity

As we approach the one-year anniversary of “15 days to flatten the curve,” the coronavirus continues to dominate the news and many people’s emotions. 

In many states, most public schools remain closed. It took a Supreme Court case for California churches to be allowed to meet indoors again, though many churches had been doing it anyway with the fines to prove it.

The different responses to the coronavirus aren’t simply a function of different local laws. Within the church, there are varying degrees of caution. This is attributable in part to the fact that the coronavirus poses a greater risk to some (the elderly, immunocompromised, etc.), than to others. But beyond that, some Christians are more afraid than others. What happens if I get it? What happens if I die? What happens if I get it and then pass it to someone else?

For Christians, these questions call us to consider how God wants us to think about safety.

Scripture shows us that God blesses His people with safety and security (Deut. 12:10; Jer. 32:38) and Paul even prayed for safety (Romans 15:30-31). After all his shipwrecks, beatings, stonings, and imprisonments (2 Corinthians 11:25), who can blame him?

The fact that Paul experienced those things despite his obedience to God and his prayers for safety illustrates an important truth. As with health, safety is a blessing that at times God grants, but it is not a guarantee and should not be an expectation. Jesus promised us that things will be hard: “In this world you will have trouble, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that God wants us to live recklessly. Jesus spoke of carrying a sword for protection (Luke 22:36) and Paul was kept safe on several occasions by his friends (Acts 9:25, 17:10, 19:30) and once by a Roman commander (Acts 23:10). The book of Proverbs includes wisdom to avoid trouble and make life easier.  

But any conversation about safety must happen in context. Safety is good, but it is not the greatest good. In fact, more than God wants us to be safe, He wants us to be steadfast in the trials we are promised (James 1:12).

Depending on your English translation of the Bible, the command “do not fear” appears over 70 times. There are no examples of God commanding us to be safe.

Scripture is filled with examples of people forsaking their physical safety to pursue God’s purpose for their life. Moses risked his life by identifying with the Hebrews rather than the Egyptians (Hebrews 11:24-27). Esther risked her life when she appeared before the Persian king and pleaded for the lives of her people. In the face of danger, she asked her friends to fast and pray for her, noting, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). She had more important goals than simply surviving.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego preferred what seemed like certain death in the fiery furnace over the alternative of compromising their faith (Daniel 3). Their safety took a backseat to their loyalty and devotion to God.

Death is not only possible, it’s inevitable. But for the Christian, it’s also a promotion. As the apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Moreover, as Paul explained to the Christians in Corinth, even the sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage—as terrible as they might be—are “light and momentary” compared to the “eternal weight of glory” that awaits believers (1 Cor. 4:17). Paul does not trivialize our hardships, but he does reframe them in light of eternity.

When God does encourage us to be cautious, its typically about the most important things. We should be careful about what we see (Luke 11:33-36) and careful to obey all that God has commanded us. (Deut 8:1).

At all times, our spiritual health should be of greater concern than our physical health. This was Jesus’ point when he said “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

As we examine our decisions, we should ensure that we aren’t valuing our safety more than God does. If He grants us safety, we should be grateful. If He grants us peril and sickness and death, we should still be grateful. If our pursuit of safety is preventing us from doing what God created us to do, we may be attributing to wisdom what belongs to fear. 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of “two weeks to flatten the curve,” let’s make sure that our concerns about a virus haven’t prevented us from being who God created us to be.

If Jesus’s willingness to leave the safety of heaven on our behalf isn’t inspiration enough, maybe Jim Elliott, who gave his life on the mission field of Ecuador will help. Elliott famously exhorted, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

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Biden’s Cabinet (Part 2): Abortion Hardliner Xavier Becerra Is Not Fit to Lead HHS

by David Closson

February 23, 2021

This is Part 2 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read Part 1 on Antony Blinken.

During his inaugural address, President Joe Biden spoke repeatedly about the need for national unity. “With unity we can do great things. Important things,” he declared, adding, “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.”

While these inaugural platitudes about unity and healing were rhetorically effective, the new president has wasted little time in delivering on divisive campaign promises. These include reinstating President Obama’s transgender military policy, ordering federal agencies to redefine “sex” in their sex discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and repealing the Mexico City Policy that prohibited taxpayer money from funding overseas abortions. These policy changes, enacted unilaterally by executive order, offer little comfort to Americans who hoped the new administration would focus less on the culture wars and more on combating the coronavirus, re-opening America’s economy, and protecting the country from external threats.

Unfortunately, Biden’s nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is another example of why uniformity—not unity—seems to be the goal of the Biden administration.

HHS is one of 15 executive departments within the federal government. Although not the largest department in terms of personnel, it has the largest budget—over $1.3 trillion annually (compare that with the Department of Defense’s $721.5 billion budget in 2020). As the department tasked with overseeing health services, HHS has jurisdiction over nearly every aspect of federal policy concerning abortion. Because of Becerra’s record on abortion, his nomination to lead HHS is deeply troubling.

Concerns related to Becerra’s record on abortion are well-founded. During his 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Becerra proved to be one of the abortion lobby’s most reliable voters. For example, in 2003, he voted against prohibiting the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion. In 2005, Becerra voted against making the harming or killing of an unborn child during the committing of a violent crime a criminal offense. Becerra also voted for taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell experimentation in 2006 and against redirecting said money to more ethical lines of research. More recently, he voted against imposing civil and criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly attempted to commit an abortion on the basis of the sex or race of the unborn child or the race of a parent.

Becerra continued his work to advance abortion when he became California’s attorney general in 2017. Since taking office, he has filed numerous lawsuits seeking to overturn pro-life laws in other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio. In 2019, Becerra sued the Trump administration over an HHS rule that blocked millions of dollars to abortion businesses who refused to separate their abortion business from family planning services. In 2019, he sued the Little Sisters of the Poor, insisting that the nuns should be forced to pay for abortifacients and contraception against their religious convictions. 

As attorney general, Becerra defended a California law that required pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide information to their patients on how to obtain state-funded abortions. The case, NIFLA v. Becerra, went to the Supreme Court, which struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2018. Justice Thomas, who wrote the majority’s opinion, noted that the California law defended by Becerra imposed an undue burden on the First Amendment rights of pro-life clinics and doctors. Becerra also defended California’s abortion coverage mandate that was in direct violation the Weldon Amendment. HHS notified California in January 2020 that its mandate was in violation of federal law. Instead of working with HHS to remedy the issue, Becerra doubled down, telling the Trump administration that they were impeding California’s ability to support women’s right to “reproductive freedom.”

Finally, Becerra continued what his predecessor, Kamala Harris, started by continuing the investigation into pro-life journalists who had exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in selling baby body parts. In 2015, David Daleiden released a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing fees for human fetal tissue and organs. Rather than pursue Planned Parenthood—which endorsed Becerra in 2017 when he ran for attorney general—Becerra harassed and investigated Daleiden. Actions like this demonstrate Becerra’s proven record of shaping the law to fit his ideology. Instead of doing a substantive investigation into the evidence that Planned Parenthood violated federal law, he directly targeted Daleiden because his videos revealed unsavory truths about the abortion industry.

In short, Becerra’s record is known and well documented. Thus, while Joe Biden has preached a message of unity and told his supporters that they shouldn’t treat political opponents as enemies, the nomination of an abortion hardliner like Xavier Becerra sends a clear message: a Biden administration will not be moderate on abortion.

Nominating Becerra, a politician with little experience concerning matters related to public health, to lead the federal agency tasked with public health amid a global pandemic prioritizes political and ideological commitments over public safety. It signals Biden’s readiness to reverse President Trump’s pro-life policies. It also reveals tone-deafness to the tens of millions of Americans who just elected the most pro-life women to Congress in history.

Elections have consequences, and Americans should not be surprised that the most pro-abortion candidate in American history is nominating ideologues committed to promoting abortion. But if there was ever a time to draw a line in the sand over a nomination, this is the nominee, and this is the time. Becerra’s nomination is currently pending before the U.S. Senate, and senators committed to protecting the unborn should do everything in their power to oppose and block his nomination. Incoming presidents generally deserve deference when it comes to assembling their cabinet. However, Xavier Becerra’s extreme positions and advocacy for abortion rights are disqualifying when it comes to leading the department tasked with protecting America’s health.

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In Turkey, Authoritarianism and Islamization Are Squeezing Out Christians

by Arielle Del Turco

February 23, 2021

This blog is Part 1 of an International Religious Freedom 101 series providing an overview of religious freedom challenges in countries around the world.

David Byle had lived in Turkey for 19 years, boldly and consistently sharing the gospel in Istanbul while raising his children and building a life there. Now, authorities have forced the Canadian-American pastor to leave.

Byle first noticed a marked increase in harassment by local police in 2007. The government tried to deport him in 2016, but he challenged the decision in court and was allowed to remain. Then, in October 2018, authorities instructed him to leave within 15 days, calling him a security threat and permanently banning him from the country.

Whenever we spoke in public, people were excited to listen and learn. For a long time, we were successfully able to fight the government attempts to stop our ministry, because we were only making use of our right to religious freedom, protected by the Turkish constitution. The government did not want us in Turkey, but plenty of people do. God called us there, [H]e wants the Turkish people to hear about Him and to know that He is doing wonderful things,” Byle told ADF International.

The Turkish government’s increasing pressure on Christians has made its religious freedom violations more obvious. At the end of January, ADF International filed an application on Byle’s behalf with the European Court of Human Rights. This legal recourse is a long shot, but many Turkish Christians do not even have that.

Rise of Religious Nationalism

The backdrop of Turkey’s religious freedom violations is an increasingly hostile political scene. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become bold in pronouncing his dream of a neo-Ottoman state, growing aggressive with dissidents at home and assertive in the region. This has consequences for many people in Turkey and throughout the Middle East, including Christians, Kurds, and other minorities.

In 2020, much of the Christian world expressed outrage over Erdogan’s plans to convert the ancient Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque. Ottoman conquerors had previously converted the church into a mosque once before, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Erdogan declared, “Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after eighty-six years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be.” This harkening back to the time of Ottoman sultan Fatih Sultan¿Mehmet (known as Mehmed the Conqueror) paints a picture of a renewed conquering Turkish state.

The beginning of 2021 has seen an increase in religious freedom violations concerning historic Turkish churches, according to International Christian Concern. Violations committed by the government include turning old churches into museums and destroying old churches despite their historic designations.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increased the Turkish government’s authoritarianism and Islamization of institutions. Erdogan’s power was further consolidated after a 2016 coup attempt that provided the government with an excuse to crack down on perceived opponents. Andrew Brunson, an American pastor of a small Turkish church and a resident of Turkey for 23 years, was caught up in this crackdown. In 2016, Pastor Brunson was imprisoned and then placed under house arrest for a total of two years on false national security charges in the wake of the coup attempt. He was released following pressure from the U.S. government.

Legal Pressure on Foreign Christians

Over 98 percent of Turkey is Muslim, while Christians comprise less than one percent of the population. This tiny Christian minority faces very high government restrictions and high social hostilities, according to Pew Research reports.

The U.S. State Department’s 2019 international religious freedom report found that “Multiple monitoring organizations and media outlets… reported entry bans, denial of residency permit extensions, and deportations for long-time residents affiliated with Protestant churches in the country.” Most training for Protestant leaders in Turkey is conducted by foreign workers on long-term residence visas. Restrictions on foreign nationals participating in ministry are a direct attack on Protestant churches’ existence and growth in Turkey.

American Christian Joy Subasiguller has lived in Turkey for the past 10 years. Her husband, Lutfu, is the pastor of a small Turkish church, while Joy is a stay-at-home mom with their three young children. All of that was suddenly threatened when Turkey’s Ministry of the Interior revoked Joy’s residency permit without warning or explanation. The Subasigullers have appealed the decision, but appeals in similar situations are typically rejected by the government.

Joy, like David Byle, will most likely be forced to leave. If the family wishes to remain together, they must all go together. For their children, that means leaving the only home they know. For Turkey, it means one less Christian minister. “Turkey is my home. I love Turkey and the Turkish people very much,” Joy said. “My family has very strong ties with Turkish friends here and especially with Lutfu’s family, who would be devastated if we had to permanently relocate to another country.”

Concerns for the Future in the Middle East

Turkey’s recent military involvement in the region, including conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Northeast Syria, and Northern Iraq, demonstrate Turkey’s assertiveness in the region and eagerness to expand its influence in the Middle East, often to the detriment of minority communities.

Family Research Council closely followed the situation in Northeast Syria in the Fall of 2019, when Turkey sent forces to occupy land across its border governed by a Kurdish administration that had allowed religious freedom to flourish for the diverse groups living there. The invasion resulted in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing, including Christian communities. Many of the displaced people have yet to return. As Turkey continues expressing this interventionist bent, its meddling in Middle Eastern affairs is bad news for religious minorities.

Turkey increasingly presents challenges to religious freedom within its borders and across the region. Western countries should take note of the changes happening under Erdogan’s leadership. If left unchecked, the religious freedom violations occurring in Turkey will not be confined to that country alone.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of February 14)

by Family Research Council

February 19, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: With Cuomo, Democrats Are Fleeing a Sinking Ship

New York was America’s first and deadliest hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic, driven in large part by poor policymaking from the very top—Governor Cuomo. He forced nursing homes to accept Covid-positive patients who were discharged from hospitals, placing New York’s most vulnerable citizens at the greatest risk of exposure.

2. Update: Impeachment: A Saga Put to Rest, or a Slumbering Beast Awoken?

It certainly feels as though impeachment has eaten up America’s time, attention, and energy over the past weeks. With the Senate acquitting President Trump on the charge of “inciting” the mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol, many may be asking whether the era of impeachment is over. Others may be asking whether impeachment as a political weapon is only just being awoken.

3. Blog: Connecticut Seeks to Stifle the Voice of Pregnancy Resource Centers

Last week, the Connecticut State Senate considered a bill that is a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of pregnancy resource centers. This bill makes it harder for women who are unexpectedly pregnant to know what their choices are, and it places the state in the position of promoting abortion over childbirth.

4. Blog: Leah Sharibu: Held Captive 3 Years for Her Christian Faith

February 19, 2021, marks a grim third anniversary for a young Nigerian Christian named Leah Sharibu. In a horrifying terrorist attack in 2018, 14-year-old Leah was among more than 100 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists. Nearly all the surviving girls were freed by their captors on March 21. One girl, however, was left behind—Leah Sharibu.

5. Washington Watch: Gordon Chang Warns About the Serious Implications of Biden’s Pro-China Policies

Gordon Chang, the author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War, joined Tony Perkins on the radio to share about the serious implications of Biden’s pro-China policies.

6. Washington Watch: Abigail Shrier Goes Inside Planned Parenthood’s Dangerous Gender Hormone Program for Teens

Abigail Shrier, the author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, joined Tony Perkins to discuss her article, “Inside Planned Parenthood’s Gender Factory” where she goes inside Planned Parenthood’s dangerous gender hormone program for teens.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Prayer for Winter Weather Crises

As millions of Americans have been facing winter weather crises, Tony Perkins, Sen. James Lankford, and Pastor Roy Smith joined together for a special time of prayer for those affected by the storms and for those tasked with restoring power to our communities.

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Leah Sharibu: Held Captive 3 Years for Her Christian Faith

by Lela Gilbert

February 19, 2021

Today, February 19, 2021, marks a grim third anniversary for a young Nigerian Christian named Leah Sharibu.

In a horrifying terrorist attack on February 19, 2018, 14-year-old Leah was among more than 100 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists. Their abduction took place at 5:30 in the afternoon, when the girls were unexpectedly seized at Dapchi Girls’ Science and Technical College.

During the incident, four or five girls died in the back of a truck as they were violently transported to Boko Haram’s encampment. Thankfully, following a month of horrific captivity, and after enduring death threats and unspeakable abuses, nearly all the surviving girls were freed by their captors on March 21.

One girl, however, was left behind—Leah Sharibu.

Before long, it become clear that she had not returned home for one simple reason: The other girls were all Muslim. And Leah had refused to renounce her Christian faith.

In August 2018, The Cable, a Nigerian news source, obtained a recording of Leah, begging President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue her and reunite her with her family: “I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation.”

Leah’s appeal fell on deaf ears; no intervention took place.

Later, when she heard that her classmates were being set free, Leah asked one of them to carry a note to her mother, Rebecca Sharibu. “My mother you should not be disturbed,” she wrote. “I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am… I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Her mother later said, “She did an amazing thing by refusing to renounce Christ, and I’m very proud of what she has done. I’m not sure if I was even in her position at 14 years old that I would have even done what she has done.”

In the summer of 2019, I met Rebecca Sharibu in Washington, D.C. She had come to seek help from the United States, and her heartache was evident on her weary and sorrowful face. When I asked her what she had most recently heard about her daughter, she said, “We don’t even know where Leah is,” her friend translated. “We have not seen her. We have not heard from her. I have no idea.”

Around six months later, on January 26, 2020, The Cable again reported about Leah, this time claiming that she had been “impregnated by one of the commanders of the sect, and she was delivered of a baby four days ago.” It was impossible to confirm the story, although it implied that Leah was probably still alive.

Today, there is no further news about Leah Sharibu. But Nigeria’s abuses of religious freedom continue to accelerate. In fact, FRC has just released an updated account of what has been described by some as a slow-motion genocide: The Crisis of Christian Persecution in Nigeria.

According to a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report released in February 2021, estimates suggest that the conflict with groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province has resulted in the deaths of more than 37,500 people since 2011. There is a reasonable basis to believe that these groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  

USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins adopted Leah as a prisoner of conscience, personally advocating for this brave hostage who refuses to renounce her faith. Yet sadly, not much has changed. Just weeks ago, Open Doors listed Nigeria as the ninth worst persecutor of Christians on its 2021 World Watch List. And massacres of Nigerian Christians have only increased.  

Meanwhile, as we mark the third year following her abduction, Leah Sharibu remains a captive. Mercifully, across the world, faithful prayers continue for her freedom. But reports about her have dwindled to silence, despite pleas from international human rights groups and Christian organizations appealing for her release

Dede Laugesen, Executive Director of Save the Persecuted Christians, reflects, “It is impossible to know what Leah Sharibu’s life is like now… By all appearances, the Nigerian government has given up on Leah. But the world will not forget this fearless Christian teen, nor give up praying for her and demanding her release. Nigeria must do more to ensure all Nigerians—Muslim, Christian or African traditionalists—are freed from the dens of these monsters.”

As the world’s attention is diverted to other crises, other violence, and ever-increasing Christian persecution elsewhere, the significance of Leah’s brave devotion to her faith continues to resonate. A few months ago in an eloquent opinion piece, Nigeria’s Guardian summed up the significance of Leah’s capture, her faithful witness at just 14 years of age, and her continued detention by the Boko Haram insurgents:

The story of her capture and her continued detention by the Boko Haram insurgents as a result of her defiance of compromise and refusal to renounce her faith is the stuff of legend … Leah Sharibu alone was not released because she refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam as demanded by her captors. Still missing and in captivity till the present … she has since become the symbol of Nigeria’s refusal to succumb to agents of darkness, hell-bent on dividing the country and appropriating a section of the nation’s territory to themselves. By her principled stand, the battle for the soul of Nigeria became one between a young girl with a heart and a garrison of devils without souls.

As time goes by and other concerns arise, our memory of Leah Sharibu’s story may grow dim. Let’s agree to remember this courageous young woman in our prayers.

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40 Days for Life: Praying and Fasting for an End to Abortion

by Mary Szoch

February 18, 2021

Yesterday around the country, 40 Days for Life campaigns will kick-off. Started in Byran/College Station, Texas, 40 Days for Life is a prayer and fasting campaign with the goal of bringing about the end to the atrocity of abortion. 

Throughout biblical history, God has used the timeframe of 40 days and 40 nights to change the hearts of people. In Genesis, Noah spent 40 days and 40 nights in the ark. In Exodus, Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments. In the Book of Jonah, Jonah proclaims to the Ninevites that in 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown. In Matthew, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Over and over again, God uses the timeframe of 40 days and 40 nights. Inspired by this, 40 Days for Life was founded.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus casts a demon out of a child. The disciples come to Jesus and ask why they could not cast out the demon. Jesus replies, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Led by these words, 40 Days for Life’s mission of prayer, fasting, constant vigil, and community outreach arose. During the 40 days, volunteers keep peaceful, prayerful, round-the-clock vigil outside abortion businesses across the country. Churches, families, and friends agree to pray together for an end to abortion, and people of faith are invited to fast as a sacrifice to bring about the end to abortion.

Since 2007, over 18,000 lives have been saved. Over 100 abortion businesses have closed, and over 200 abortion workers have quit as the result of the 40 Days for Life campaign. Clearly, God is still using the timeframe of 40 days to change hearts. To find a 40 Days for Life campaign in your area, go to the Find a 40 Days for Life Vigil page.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when joining a 40 Days for Life campaign.

1. This is a peaceful, prayerful vigil. It seems in 2020 our nation has forgotten how powerful peace and prayerful protests can be. It is especially important that people praying outside abortion businesses remain peaceful and prayerful. As someone is passing the clinic, your witness can either promote deeper thought about abortion, or it can entrench someone more deeply in their belief. Be peaceful and prayerful and let the Lord use you.

2. Bring a buddy. Invite a friend or family member to join you as you pray outside the clinic. Jesus tells us, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20). In addition to the spiritual help a friend provides, having a second person with you also ensures your safety outside the abortion business.    

3. Bring a sign. A well worded sign can touch the hearts of both the women entering the abortion business and the people driving past. If you do not have a pro-life sign, consider making your own. Some great phrases are “Choose Love, Choose Life!”, “Abortion Stops One Heart and Breaks Another”, “God Loves You and Your Baby!”, “Want to Choose Life? I Can Help!”

4. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Perhaps as you are praying outside the abortion business, you will be prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak to a man or woman entering the business. If so, do not be afraid! Remember, a woman about to have an abortion is likely terrified. Speak lovingly to her. Perhaps say, “If you’d like to talk about choosing life, I can help you!” Make sure not to yell or say anything hurtful to the woman.

5. Bring the number of your local pregnancy resource center. Always make certain you have the number of your local pregnancy resource center with you when you are praying outside a clinic. If a woman turns to you for help, the pregnancy resource center in your community is the best place to send her. The pregnancy resource center will provide her with the support and resources she needs to choose life and plan to parent or place her child for adoption.

During these next 40 days, prayerfully consider joining 40 Days for Life. Your presence outside the abortion business might just be the sign a woman needs to choose life.

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