Month Archives: January 2019

4 Ways Pro-Life Conversations Strengthen the Pro-Life Movement

by Anna Longbons

January 31, 2019

Pro-life individuals have a responsibility to communicate the pro-life message. Through civic participation, many pro-lifers put their beliefs into action, campaigning and voting for pro-life politicians and holding elected officials accountable for their positions on pro-life issues. However, when it comes to discussing pro-life issues with their friends and acquaintances, many pro-lifers hesitate.

On the one hand, because many conservatives ascribe to the pro-life position, pro-lifers may not see the need for intentional pro-life conversations with their conservative friends. Conversely, since abortion is a sensitive and often political issue, pro-lifers may avoid discussing it because they are unsure of an appropriate way to introduce the topic. By starting a conversation around pro-life issues, a pro-lifer risks an exchange that could be at best “preaching to the choir,” and at worst painful and alienating.

Although the risks of such conversations are real, pro-lifers must remember the great need for truth in America today. People who call themselves “pro-life” often do not know why they are pro-life, or what being pro-life even means. The Barna Group found that 59 percent of Mainline Protestant church leaders have never talked about the pro-life cause from the pulpit or mentioned it in a sermon. Engaging professed pro-lifers in conversation allows strong pro-lifers to share the reality of abortion and our opportunity to advocate for life in America.

Pro-lifers have several options available for beginning a pro-life conversation:

1. Inviting nominal pro-lifers to join pro-life initiatives can bolster their weaker pro-life convictions.

When nominal pro-lifers attend a pro-life conference, pray outside an abortion facility, or tour a Pregnancy Resource Center, they come face to face with the pro-life movement. Pro-lifers can enlist the support of friends and church members by asking them to volunteer at a Pregnancy Resource Center or attend a pro-life fundraiser. As these individuals become part of the pro-life movement, their eyes will be opened and their commitment strengthened.

Nominal pro-lifers also may not fully comprehend abortion, but they may have been personally impacted by it. Because abortion has been legal in America for 46 years, millions of Americans have been affected over the decades. People have lost siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends’ children. Talking about abortion allows these individuals to understand and process what happened to their family and friends.

2. Talking about pro-life issues can bring healing.

Abortion has impacted other individuals even more directly. Millions of American parents have lost their children to abortion. By bringing up pro-life issues, pro-lifers can point these parents to programs and resources for healing. Many local Pregnancy Resource Centers host post-abortive support groups, and organizations like Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More exist to come alongside post-abortive parents.

While such conversations open the door to healing from past abortion, they can also prevent future abortions. Josh Brahm from Equal Rights Institute observes that many women do not realize the support that is available to them if they become pregnant unexpectedly. By discussing pro-life issues, pro-lifers can ensure that their friends know about the alternatives to abortion and the support that is available to expectant parents.  

3. Asking questions can lead to changed minds.

Entering into a conversation about abortion allows pro-lifers to reach uniformed friends and acquaintances with the truth. Nonetheless, while some people are simply ignorant about abortion, others are hostile to the pro-life movement. Instead of replying with similar anger, pro-lifers can ask their pro-abortion friends why they are pro-abortion. Verbalizing their views forces pro-abortion individuals to consider the implications of their views.

4. Pro-lifers can also bring the message of life to their churches.

CareNet reported that 36 percent of women were attending a Christian church once a month or more at the time of their first abortion. David Bereit from 40 Days for Life reveals that post-abortive women can endure pain when they do not hear abortion addressed in their churches. Churches have an amazing opportunity to share the importance of life and forgiveness, encouraging expectant mothers not to abort and offering healing to those who have lost children to abortion.

Christians can involve their churches in a variety of ways, from coordinating activities for Sanctity of Life Sunday to recruiting church members to volunteer at Pregnancy Resource Centers. By asking church leaders for permission to pursue pro-life activities in their churches, pro-life members remind pastors of the importance of the pro-life message and support church leaders in spreading this message.

Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Engaging these four strategies in the pro-life movement will help to build a culture of life. Those who previously paid lip service to the pro-life movement will realize the tragedy of abortion and the sacredness of life, while those hurt by abortion will understand that healing is possible. Women who might consider abortion will learn about the pro-life resources available to them. Additionally, those who hold pro-abortion views will be prompted to reconsider their positions. Reaching out to friends with the pro-life message may be a leap of faith for pro-lifers, but through their faithfulness, our culture will experience the truth and healing of the pro-life message.

Anna Longbons is an intern at FRC Action.

How Two “Slam Dunks” are Key to the Success of the Tennessee Volunteers

by Caleb Seals

January 30, 2019

The Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team is off to their best start in school history with a record of 19-1. The Volunteers are ranked number 1 in the nation for the first time in over 10 years. As someone who grew up in East Tennessee, I am thrilled to see the Volunteers at the top of the NCAA rankings once again.

However, the Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes has a bigger goal in mind other than winning games: “I hope that we’ve taught these guys how to grow up to be good Christian guys, men.”

Earlier in the season, Tennessee basketball players Kyle Alexander (image above) and Jordan Bowden got baptized at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Coach Barnes told reporters, “Wins are important, but what happened with Kyle Alexander and Jordan Bowden is bigger than any win we could ever have.”

Tennessee’s leading scorer Grant Williams posted on his Instagram page a picture of his teammates getting baptized, with the comment: “Two of my brothers were baptized and took a step closer to the Lord.” Kyle Alexander also posted on his Instagram a picture of him being baptized with Sevier Heights Baptist Church’s pastor Tim Miller with the comment, “God You’re Good.”

Coach Barnes told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Last night I was able to go over to Sevier Heights and watch 2 of our players get baptized last night. To see our team there and see not just the response from these guys, but also the students there were about 8 other students there and thankful for what Tim Miller is doing there for the students. I am also thankful for my family and the God that I believe in. I can sit here all day and tell you that I’m blessed and that there are so many things I am thankful for.”

Barnes has said that he spends time in prayer each morning to prepare for his day. Additionally, Barnes’ son Nick is a missionary overseas in the Middle East. Barnes recently reflected on his faith by saying, “I think God has created everything we do. I think he created basketball. I think it’s the platform that we’re supposed to use to be teachers and mentors of young people.”

It is refreshing to see more figures in sports living a God-centered life. We are blessed to live in a country where we can express our faith publicly. From Dabo Swinney giving God the glory after winning the National Championship to Tim Tebow wearing “John 3:16” under his eyes, we need more men of faith in popular culture. Although the current political climate is very harsh towards Christians, when a man of faith like Rick Barnes comes around, we need to cover him in support and prayer.

Go Vols!

What Most People Don’t Know About Sex Trafficking

by Patrina Mosley

January 28, 2019

It’s January, and most people who are socially and politically engaged see this month as the “life” issues month, or the time to celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But January is also Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It’s a time to bring more awareness to the issue of human trafficking because so little is still known about it in the general public. Most people are unaware that it could very well be happening in their own neighborhoods, malls, and on their social media feeds.

Human trafficking is a criminal enterprise that is raking in billions of dollars and victimizing an estimated 40.3 million people on a daily basis—75 percent of which are women and girls. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that it is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. Human trafficking can take two primary forms: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Sex trafficking happens in a multitude of contexts, from “brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution” to online commercial sex ads, chat rooms, suspicious romantic relationships, and even in the production of pornography.

In 2017, an estimated 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.

As we reported in our Women & Pornography publication, “Over 25 percent of child traffickers in Lederer’s study took pictures of the children they were exploiting. Across all ages and in nine different countries, 49 percent of rescued sex trafficking victims report they were forced to participate in the production of pornographic material. Over half of U.S. women used in commercial sexual exploitation were either in pornographic material or threatened with the possibility.”

Each click on pornography helps drives the demand for sex trafficking. In an excellent article by Fight the New Drug, they explain how by law even “porn stars” are at risk for trafficking:

By one definition, sex trafficking is a “modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.”

This means that sex trafficking not only includes sex trafficking rings but any instance in which an individual is forced, tricked or pressured into performing a commercial sex act or any scenario in which the individual involved is below legal age.

By this definition, sex trafficking victims can include “consenting” individuals in porn.

Sex trafficking does not just occur through the kidnapping of young girls and women, traffickers also prey upon victims who have emotional, physical, or economical needs and then falsely promise to meet those needs.

As Melissa Farley, a clinical psychologist and Executive Director of Prostitution Research & Education explains: “‘[F]orced’ doesn’t just mean at gunpoint or that you have shackles on your ankles—people can be forced into sex trafficking simply by a need to pay rent … Porn performers can be trafficked into the industry, and even consenting performers are at risk of becoming trafficking victims by being forced, lied to, or pressured into doing more than they’re comfortable with on camera.”

For more, take a look at this article by Fight the New Drug about what put’s someone at risk for sex trafficking, how to identify a trafficking victim and the trafficker, and the role that pornography plays in the demand for sex trafficking.

In the World But Not of the World: Christians and Politics

by Zachary Rogers

January 25, 2019

Christians are commanded to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). This applies not only to areas of our secular life such as work and school but also extends to politics. According to the Apostle Paul, the government should promote good and restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4). This goal is best served by electing the right men and women to office and promoting laws that accord with justice.

Christians are confronted with different choices in candidates, policies, and parties. Choosing wisely requires the discipline of prudence—weighing ends and means in light of the circumstances in order to achieve the best results possible.

We are all made in the image of God, and He gave us the gift of reason. It should be used. Christians are able to weigh the declared aims and policies of politicians to determine between better and best, good and bad.

The blunt fact of the matter is that, currently, our two main parties advocate for different conceptions of the human good and biblical ethics. On issues such as abortion, LGBT rights, and religious liberty, the stances of the two parties and the politicians in them are starkly opposed. The implications for Christians are important because America lets its citizens elect their government. The Founders understood that the purpose of government is justice and structured it accordingly.

The Constitution on one hand carefully orders our republic to protect liberty and natural rights, while on the other relying upon a virtuous and vigorous citizenry. The federal government was given enumerated powers in order to achieve specific ends: national defense, domestic tranquility, and the protection of property and liberties. For this reason, it is a carefully constructed structure with separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism to restrain those who are overly ambitious and greedy. Yet at the same time citizens have immense power through their ability to elect representatives to deliberate regarding the national good and pass legislation to achieve this end.

Christians are faced with the fact that the American system of ordered liberty requires and depends upon active citizen participation. If they do not remain actively involved in campaigns, elections, running for office, litigation, and agency regulations, then politicians unconcerned with biblical morality, natural law, or natural right will be elected, and laws will inevitably be passed without the input of the citizenry. Americans sometimes fail to remember that the law and the system of government shapes the citizenry—the goals they have and how they pursue them. To ignore the privilege the Constitution bestows upon citizens and the need for Christians to be the salt of the earth is gross negligence of duty.

When military servicemen abandon their posts, the consequences are often severe—the destruction and defeat of their regiment, leaving open the city under their protection to invaders. Christians have the Holy Scriptures to guide them in a world of moral relativists. If Christians withdraw from the public square, what would fill the vacuum they leave behind? Because of the inevitable effect of laws upon culture (think of liberalized abortion and SOGI laws and their rapid acceptance afterwards by mainstream culture), Christians cannot safely withdraw from politics. Those who think they can safely withdraw to their local community and their local church are mistaken. Religious liberty and just laws are at stake. Therefore, men and women who will protect and promulgate these laws must be elected.

Are the politicians Christians elect perfect? No. On the question of whether flawed men can achieve sound ends, the answer is yes. Christians should strive to place the best candidates possible in government offices and recognize that while they are on Earth they will have to make use of their God given reason to make the best possible decision. This will inevitably include politicians who are not perfect and who will implement imperfect policies and pass less than flawless legislation.

Christians have been gifted with clear moral guidance from the Scriptures and the ability to carefully use reason to consider policies and laws, and have been blessed with a system of ordered liberty that depends upon their participation. To those Christians who are considering withdrawing from politics: you must stay. Your country needs you. While you might not be interested in politics, politics, politicians, and government bureaucracies are interested in you.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

How the Sexual Revolution Could End Women’s Sports

by Caleb Seals

January 24, 2019

Can you imagine watching a grown biological male choke, punch, and kick a biological female in a cage match? Or how about watching a male compete against females in a track meet? Do you think this would be fair? Even the thought of these scenarios seems deeply problematic. Unfortunately, these situations are becoming increasingly common in our culture thanks to the “Sexual Revolution.”

As part of an FRC Speaker Series event, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse spoke about her new book, The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along. Dr. Morse, while discussing the current gender ideology, explained how the Obama-era basis of Title IX will be a contributing factor on how the sexual revolution will be the end of women’s sports as we know it. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This sentence became the Obama-era basis for athletes who identify as transgender to justify competing against those who are the opposite of their biological sex.

Dr. Morse used the example of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Fox lived as a biological man until 2006. Since then, Fox has competed against females in mixed martial arts. Not surprisingly, Fox’s MMA record is 4-1.

Dr. Morse recognizes the vital role gender ideology plays in the sexual revolution of the 21st century. During her talk, she discussed how the rationale of this ideology can be broken down into three concepts: (1) The human body is unimportant and can be “transcended”; (2) Social reconstruction of societal norms regarding the differences between males and females; and (3) Individual reconstruction (with the help of ideological laws and technology).

If the human body can be transcended, then how can anything be sacred? If someone can publicly identify as the opposite sex from what they were born as, then where does this self-identification end? Following this logic, one should be able to change their race or ethnicity as well (or maybe not… just ask Rachel Dolezal).

Dr. Morse helpfully described social reconstruction as the “propaganda” of the sexual revolution. By legitimizing the ability to change one’s gender, society is forcing the public to acknowledge this change without the need for biological proof. And with the help of new laws and technology, these individuals can change their biological features to align with their gender identification. Dr. Morse urged listeners to not engage in this “forceful propaganda.”

She went on to describe the sexual revolution as “A totalitarian ideology that no Christian should get involved with.” Dr. Morse summed up the societal harm of allowing the culture to embrace the notion that there are more than two genders by saying, “If you can make people call Bruce Jenner a woman, then you can make them do anything.” She went on to make the point that a good call to action would be to call out this ideology for what it is: propaganda.

As Christians, we should not be silenced for not recognizing the “fluidity” of gender. We should not be silenced for speaking up about the inappropriate and unfair nature of biological men competing with biological women. And we should never waver on the sanctity and majesty of the God-given differences between genders.

If this current trend continues, it could lead to the end of women’s sports as we know it. The latest example of this happened last October in women’s cycling, when a biological man was allowed to compete in a women’s event. Naturally, he won it.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that men and women are created differently, especially when it comes to bone structure, muscle mass, and hormones. These differences should be celebrated! Since the beginning of organized sports, there have been separate leagues for men and women, girls and boys. There’s an obvious reason why: it simply wouldn’t be fair to have males and females compete against each other. God created males and females differently. Having separate men’s and women’s sports leagues is simply a celebration of this beautiful difference.

Caleb Seals is an intern at Family Research Council.

What Does Tuesday’s Supreme Court Decision Mean for Trump’s Military Transgender Policy?

by Peter Sprigg , Travis Weber

January 23, 2019

On Tuesday, in Trump v. Karnoski and Trump v. Stockman, the Supreme Court announced it was staying the district court injunctions issued against President Trump’s military transgender troop policy until the cases sorted themselves out in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the cases arose out of Washington state and California, respectively).

But where does that leave the other cases in which this policy has been challenged?

In Doe v. Trump, the D.C. Circuit already lifted an injunction against the policy arising from a challenge in D.C., and this remains unaffected by the Supreme Court’s recent action.

That leaves one other case, Stone v. Trump, arising out of Maryland, and currently in the Fourth Circuit.

The preliminary injunction against the Trump policy in that case (granted 11/21/17) was based on specific language in the Presidential Memorandum to Mattis of August 25, 2017. But that memorandum was explicitly revoked when President Trump accepted the Mattis Report and Recommendations on March 23, 2018. Although both sides have filed revised briefs in response to the 3/23/18 policy, it does not appear that the judge has ruled in response to those (for example, to amend the preliminary injunction). Despite the Stone injunction (which is likely to eventually be dissolved), the Department of Defense appears to be viewing the Court’s decision yesterday as a signal to slowly but confidently move toward the implementation of Trump’s military transgender policy.

While the Supreme Court’s action yesterday stayed several injunctions, it didn’t wipe them out. The Court will still need to rule on the injunction and the merits at some point, which will dispose of any lingering issues. As the Solicitor General’s brief in Karnoski says in footnote 8, “If this Court were to vacate the injunctions in these cases in whole or in part, that decision would be binding precedent requiring the district court to similarly vacate the injunction in Stone.”

Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh: We See Religious Freedom Problems with Coach Kennedy Case

by Travis Weber

January 22, 2019

Today the Supreme Court refused to take up the case of Coach Joe Kennedy, but some of the justices nonetheless sent a signal in favor of religious liberty.

Coach Kennedy, represented by our friends at First Liberty Institute, is a Christian high school football coach from Bremerton, Washington, who was punished after taking a knee and praying on the field after games. His case has been deliberated in federal district court, then the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, before making its way to the Supreme Court.

While the Court’s refusal to hear the case is not ideal, it appears that unresolved factual questions (the lower court never concluded whether Coach Kennedy was punished for praying or neglecting his professional duties) prevented the Court from hearing the full case and taking up the First Amendment free speech claim.

Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, penned a separate statement (see pp. 8-13) explaining that while he understands and agrees with the Court’s reason for not taking the case right now (if asked to do so, he would direct the lower court to reach a conclusion on this question, but at this point the Court was only asked to decide the legal question), he doesn’t necessarily agree with the lower court rulings, which appear problematic for religious liberty and the First Amendment:

While I thus concur in the denial of the present petition, the Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.

Alito criticized the “highly tendentious way” the Ninth Circuit applied the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos (dealing with the First Amendment rights of public employees) to Coach Kennedy’s situation, which would have required public school employees like teachers and coaches to refrain from any religious activity a student might see or the school might not like, from the time the teacher or coach shows up in the morning until the time they leave. Alito concluded:

If the Ninth Circuit continues to apply [this] interpretation of Garcetti in future cases involving public school teachers or coaches, review by this Court may be appropriate.

Alito wasn’t finished:

What is perhaps most troubling about the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is language that can be understood to mean that a coach’s duty to serve as a good role model requires the coach to refrain from any manifestation of religious faith—even when the coach is plainly not on duty. I hope that this is not the message that the Ninth Circuit meant to convey, but its opinion can certainly be read that way. After emphasizing that [Coach Kennedy] was hired to “communicate a positive message through the example set by his own conduct,” the court criticized him for “his media appearances and prayer in the [Bremerton High School (BHS)] bleachers (while wearing BHS apparel and surrounded by others).” [citation omitted] This conduct, in the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, “signal[ed] his intent to send a message to students and parents about appropriate behavior and what he values as a coach.” [citation omitted] But when [Coach Kennedy] prayed in the bleachers, he had been suspended. He was attending a game like any other fan. The suggestion that even while off duty, a teacher or coach cannot engage in any outward manifestation of religious faith is remarkable.

It’s very encouraging to see Justice Alito on record noting the religious liberty problems with this case—something we’ve come to expect from him—along with Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. But it’s particularly heartening to see Justice Kavanaugh join this statement. While his judicial record would have suggested he’d rule the right way on religious liberty issues once seated on the Court, his refusal to join these three justices in dissenting from denial of cert in the Planned Parenthood defunding cases late last year left many wondering whether he would be a true originalist. While these actions don’t necessarily indicate how the justices will rule on the merits (there’s a good chance Justice Roberts still agrees with his originalist colleagues on these matters), they are heartening nevertheless.

Justice Alito concluded by almost inviting Coach Kennedy to ask the Court to reconsider Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, a Title VII case lowering employee protections against religious discrimination, and Employment Division v. Smith, which cut back on Free Exercise protections and prompted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be passed over twenty-five years ago.

Let us hope Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are prophesying where the Court is going on religious liberty.

Fifth Circuit: Procedure Matters, and Texas Didn’t Get a Fair Shake in Cutting Ties with Planned Parenthood

by Family Research Council

January 18, 2019

Yesterday’s ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a trial court’s temporary block on a Texas agency’s decision to terminate the state’s Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Fifth Circuit reasoned that in an evidentiary hearing over a challenge to the decision, the state agency didn’t get a fair shake, and Planned Parenthood’s evidence improperly received greater weight in a “peculiarly asymmetrical way.”

Undercover videos revealing officials from the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) illegally engaging in the procurement and sale of fetal tissue and body parts spurred Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood affiliates. Despite states’ “broad authority to ensure that Medicaid healthcare providers are qualified to provide medical services,” none of the states have until now been allowed to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, as ruling after ruling has resulted in success for the challengers.

In Texas, a trial court temporarily blocked the termination effort after affiliates sued. At an evidentiary hearing, the state agency presented evidence to justify its decision, including the videos, which recorded statements from PPGC officials showing that the facility intended to or already had illegally procured fetal tissue and body parts. The research director stated that its doctors had “collect[ed] the specimens . . . in a way that they can get the best specimen,” and the abortion facility director implied that doctors were able to obtain intact fetuses by lying about intent. Forensic analysis showed that none of the videos were “deceptively edited.” Yet the trial court “suggested that [the videos] may have been edited,” and it asserted that the state agency lacked “even a scintilla of evidence, to conclude the bases of termination.”

The Fifth Circuit vacated the trial court’s ruling, concluding that the trial court improperly weighed the evidence without any deference to the state agency’s evidence. In fact, the Fifth Circuit said, the trial court should have done the opposite and upheld the state agency’s decision unless it acted arbitrarily and capriciously.

The Fifth Circuit made clear the trial court’s error by including in the opinion a screenshot from the videos of the remains of a fetus after it was dismembered and discarded in a pool of blood in a glass tray. The image is sad and alarming. But the image boldly displays the crux of the issue. Can it truly be said that a state acts arbitrarily and capriciously by severing ties with an organization saying on camera that it is willing to illegally capitalize on an industry that treats humans with as much dignity as livestock in a meat processing facility?

For the Fifth Circuit, procedure mattered. Because the hearing with Planned Parenthood lacked procedural neutrality, Texas has been allowed another chance to uphold the virtues of health and life and to benefit from the rule of law.

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