May 14, 2019
By the end of every day, an average of 20 U.S. military veterans will have committed suicide. This number is staggering, especially when you consider the fact that less than 1 percent of the U.S. adult population are currently serving in the military. What happened?
Ask Richard Glickstein and he’ll tell you that there are several reasons. Glickstein, the former president of the National Bible Association and current military/veteran advocate on Capitol Hill, says that faith-based solutions are “devoid” in the military because the focus for the last several decades has been on the mind, not the spirit. Another reason why veteran suicide has escalated, Glickstein points out, is because some of the medications that veterans are given to help them are actually hurting them and can make the thoughts of suicide worse.
In a Speaker Series event at FRC headquarters last week, Glickstein quoted George Washington in a letter written to the Virginia Governor in 1758: “Common decency, Sir, in a camp calls for the services of a Divine; and which ought not to be dispensed with, altho’ the world should be so uncharitable as to think us void of Religion, & incapable of good Instructions.” Washington knew that religion played a vital role in the health and well-being of soldiers. He knew that spirituality needed to be the focus for both mental and bodily health. “This is why he instituted the chaplaincy at Valley Forge,” Glickstein stated.
So what do faith-based solutions have to do with veteran suicide? Glickstein pointed out that based on 140 years of evidence, “The disciplined practice of religion increases resiliency, reduces suicide, and helps to speed the resolution of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. PTSD and suicide ideations are conditions of the spirit/soul. Only therapy to this core of a person will affect change.”
These are some of the findings of Dr. Harold G. Koenig, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University, who gathered and analyzed 140 years of scientific evidence on mental health and found that people who prayed often and regularly attended religious services were far less likely to have mental health issues. This is vital information because science shows that once a male civilian enters the military, he is 30-50 percent more likely to commit suicide. For women who enter the military, their chance of mental health disorders and risk of suicide increases 200-500 percent.
Why are the percentages so high, especially for women? Glickstein says that major contributing factors are isolation and reverse culture shock. When our soldiers come back from war, most of them don’t have a common community of fellow veterans. They feel isolated and feel like they can’t talk to anybody about what they experienced because their civilian friends and family won’t understand. The other aspect is reverse culture shock—veterans often have an incredibly difficult time reentering into “normal life” because they are different. Their experiences changed them and now they are struggling to jump back into a life that no longer exists because they have changed.
What can we learn from this? Glickstein said, “Suicide doesn’t differentiate between a Democrat and Republican. Veteran and military suicide, they’re Democrats, they’re Republicans. This isn’t an ideological issue. This is a crisis.” What veterans need are Americans who are willing and want to hear their stories, more connection and community with fellow veterans, and accountability in faith and religious circles. New faith-based programs like Soul Survivor Outdoor and the Trump administration’s new high-level task force on preventing veteran suicide are huge steps in the right direction.
Arielle Del Turco
May 13, 2019
Last week, WIRED featured a report on the Chinese government’s extensive use of technology as they continue to oppress religious minorities.
The Chinese government has been involved in a long-running series of crackdowns against their Uyghur population, a Muslim minority group. China currently holds approximately one million Uyghurs in prison camps, where they are subjected to torture and indoctrination by the communist party. China claims these are counter-terrorism measures.
As technology has evolved, it has provided the Chinese government with more tools to harass this community. In recent years, China has been monitoring social media apps—including WeChat, an app which uses the Uyghur language—supposedly to stamp out pornography and information leading to violence and terrorism.
Uyghurs are often arrested for information found on their phones, including downloading apps blocked in China such as WhatsApp, or being caught with religious content on their phones.
China’s Uyghur population is concentrated in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. China has started to use facial recognition technology to track Uyghurs throughout the province as they go about their day. Facial recognition devices are fixed to the entrances of supermarkets, malls, hospitals, and at police checkpoints every few hundred feet.
This report of China’s surveillance crackdown on one of their religious minority communities is a reminder of the serious violations of religious freedom that the Chinese government continues to perpetrate against its own people.
We can be thankful that the U.S. has a leader in President Trump who stands up to China and isn’t timid on the international stage. In addition to the positive impact religious freedom has on economic development, trade discussions can be a platform to raise human rights concerns and advance religious freedom for the benefit of oppressed communities. We can hope and pray that the Trump administration will use the current trade talks with China to do just that.
May 10, 2019
There are many things we can thank our mothers for this Mother’s Day, but there is one aspect of motherhood that is unique and unrivaled in the human experience that deserves special recognition: the bodily sacrifice that mothers make on behalf of us, their children.
This act of self-sacrifice is so profound in its generosity that it mirrors the ultimate sacrifice that any human being can offer: to lay down their lives for another. Therefore, motherhood can be seen as a beautiful imitation of Christ’s bodily sacrifice for us. In Luke 22:19, He stated the nature of this sacrifice plainly: “This is my body, which is given for you.”
We see this play out naturally of its own accord when a woman becomes pregnant. From the moment of conception, her body literally becomes the home of another human being. In accepting this role, a woman gives her body over to make a series of awe-inspiring sacrifices for her child.
During pregnancy, our mothers increase their blood volume by up to 50 percent. They increase their own lifeblood to give us life, reflecting Christ pouring out His own blood to give us eternal life (1 John 1:7).
Our mothers grow an entirely new organ within themselves—the placenta—to provide our developing bodies with oxygen and nutrients to sustain our own growth. This mirrors how God gives us a new heart when we give ourselves to him (Ezekiel 36:26) and how our hearts are reborn in the Spirit through Christ (John 3:3-5).
Most sacrificially of all, our mother’s bodies are permanently changed in a number of ways as a result of gestating and birthing our own bodies. This reflects the permanency of the wounds that Christ suffered during His passion and death when He appeared to Thomas after His resurrection: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
In these physical ways during pregnancy and birth and in the countless ways that our mothers sacrifice themselves for our sake throughout our lives, motherhood truly is a divine and life-giving calling that reflects the very inner life and heart of God, made manifest through His Son Jesus.
On this Mother’s Day, let us reflect on and thank our mothers for the profound and generous sacrifices they have made for us and continue to make, from the moment of our conception to the present day.
May 10, 2019
A number of Democrats of color have defied party lines to support pro-life legislation in North Carolina, Illinois, New Mexico, and Nevada, according to this Washington Times article—proving “One’s party affiliation should not determine one’s conviction to be an advocate for life,” tweeted North Carolina Right to Life.
Sen. Don Davis crossed party lines and joined Senate Republicans in voting to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill providing born-alive protections for infants surviving a failed abortion.
The executive director of Illinois Right to Life, Mary Kate Knorr, credits such heroic efforts to the work of pro-life outreach from urban church ministries and the “the growing sense that such communities have not been well served by abortion.”
As written in our Planned Parenthood is Not Pro-Woman publication, we see that the nation’s largest abortion supplier is only interested in targeting certain woman.
Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was a prominent eugenicist who wrote many notable articles in defense of eugenics and even authored a book called “The Pivot of Civilization.” In it, Sanger shared her views on creating a better society by eliminating the “unfit.” In establishing what she called the “Negro Project,” Sanger enlisted black leaders, particularly of the clergy, to convince them that birth control was in the African-American community’s best interests. As she once said to an ally, “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
Praise God that today urban clergy are the ones who are deciding to take up the call to rescue their community from the hands of the abortion industry.
Consider this: Today, Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion supplier and operates nearly 80 percent of its facilities within walking distance of black and Hispanic communities.
Thankfully abortions have declined overall, with a slight decline among ethnic groups, but African-American women are still 3.5 times more likely to have an abortion than Caucasian women.
According to the latest census data, just over 12 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, about 30 percent of all abortions are committed on black babies. Though the African-American population in America grew by 12 percent between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the African-American population “grew at a slower rate than most other major race and ethnic groups in the country.”
This trend is most clearly demonstrated in New York, where more African-American babies are aborted than are born alive! According to New York’s abortion report, there were 82,189 abortions performed on New York residents in 2016. Out of the 47,718 total reported pregnancies experienced by non-Hispanic black women, almost half—49 percent—ended in abortion, and 47 percent made it out of the womb alive. What is most devastating is that this has been the trend in New York for years now.
A number of organizations have been exposing the racist nature of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, like The Radiance Foundation, CURE, L.E.A.R.N, Life Dynamics, Black Dignity, the Douglas Leadership Institute, and so many others!
We are so thankful for them and for the courageous black Democratic legislators who were willing to abandon the party’s extremity on abortion and acknowledge the fact that abortion does not help the black community—it eliminates them. The faithful work of urban faith ministries is also to be commended for continually sounding the alarm of the black genocide taking place in our backyards and for being willing to build a bridge on this issue of life with Democratic lawmakers.
Black Democratic politicians may be waking up to the fact that abortion is not in their communities’ best interest—it is actually to their detriment. Moreover, refusing to stand with a party who won’t support policies that extend compassion to newborns after a failed abortion goes beyond protecting their own racial group—it protects human society and their very souls. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of legislators of color who will stop and consider whether or not they should support policies that contribute to the erasure of their existence!
Connor Semelsberger, MPP
May 9, 2019
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up a bill that will funds large federal health programs like the Title X Family Planning Program, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in her opening statement was quick to attack the Trump administration’s recent Protect Life Rule which would ensure separation between abortion clinics and family planning services in the Title X program. She concluded that this rule attacks the doctor-patient relationship by banning doctors from even talking about abortion or abortion services to patients. Clearly Rep. DeLauro did not read the regulation. While the regulation change does prohibit Title X clinics from referring for abortions, it still allows for nondirective pregnancy counseling in which clinics can discuss all available pregnancy options with women. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) spoke up in defense of the Protect Life Rule saying, “Time and time again Americans have said they do not want their tax dollars paying for abortions.” Rep. DeLauro later claimed that this rule change will limit access to family planning services for women. Family Research Council recently published a brief explaining how the Title X rule change actually expands family planning options for women, not limits them.
The attacks on the president’s policies did not stop there, as Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) celebrated the fact that the spending bill eliminates the “abstinence only until marriage program” and increases funding for comprehensive sex education. What Congresswomen Lee was really referring to is the Sexual Risk-Avoidance Education program (SRA) which received $35 million this year. The SRA program is designed to encourage avoiding risky sexual behavior all together as opposed to simply reducing it. FRC’s Peter Sprigg wrote a brief explaining more about how SRA education helps eliminate sexual risk for teens. While Rep. Lee would make you believe that the only way to educate teens about sex is through her comprehensive sexual education programs, SRA education, which receives far less federal funding, is actually more effective.
Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) followed along with her colleagues when she opposed a Born-Alive amendment offered by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) that would ensure funding recipients do not allow an infant that is born alive after a failed abortion to be denied lifesaving care. Rep. Frankel couldn’t help herself from making the conversation about abortion access when she claimed that this amendment is a way to keep women from being in charge of their own bodies and intimidating doctors from performing abortions. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) a mother of two children, responded by saying, “To hide behind the idea that this is about overturning the law of the land, you can say that, but that’s not the truth.” Requiring born-alive protections does not undermine abortion access in any way—it instead treats all infants who survive failed abortions as a patient that deserves the same lifesaving care guaranteed to all Americans. Since Rep. Frankel and other Democrats cannot seem to understand that infants do in fact survive failed abortions, Family Research Council published a blog outlining just the facts about the issue.
To end the mark-up, several Democratic members made lofty promises about the success of fetal tissue research to attack an amendment offered by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) that would ban federal funding for research using tissue from aborted babies. In defending his amendment, Rep. Harris said, “It’s a straw man argument—Parkinson’s was never cured, Alzheimer’s is not being investigated using fetal cells—these are straw men.” Democrat politicians have little moral boundaries when it comes to achieving supposed medical “breakthroughs”—they will even take tissue from the most vulnerable among us just for a chance at new cures that never come.
Statements like these from Democratic leaders should come as no surprise, as time and time again they fail to read legislation, understand regulations, and listen to the facts. Even as the appropriations process continues with Democrats at the helm, we will continue to speak the truth and advocate for policies that respect the dignity of all human life and allow families to flourish.
Connor Semelsberger is the Legislative Assistant for Family Research Council.
Arielle Del Turco
May 8, 2019
This week marked a long-awaited victory for religious freedom when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for a blasphemy charge in Pakistan, was finally reunited with her family in Canada.
As confirmed by her lawyer Saif Ul Malook earlier this morning: After being freed from death row last year, the mother of five has arrived in Canada, on the heels of “repeated death threats from religious extremists in Pakistan, following the quashing of her conviction for blasphemy.”
Bibi had been separated from her family and was living in safe houses since her sentence was thrown out last year. (Bibi was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to death after she was accused of insulting the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a dispute with Muslim colleagues.) Her children are already in Canada, and she now joins them there.
It is encouraging to see Bibi finally released to a safe destination after her plight and quest for justice which lasted nearly ten years.
While this development is positive, it serves to highlight the continued threat to religious liberty posed by blasphemy laws.
Just last week, Family Research Council released a report on the status of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws (which threaten the ability to freely live out and choose or change one’s faith) around the world, and the threat they pose to religious freedom.
The most widespread of these types of laws, blasphemy laws prohibit insults to religion. Featured in many Muslim countries, these laws are often abused and used to settle unrelated disputes—this is exactly what Bibi claimed happened to her.
Even as we celebrate this victory, we must continue to monitor the status of these laws which inhibit the freedom of religious expression.
Arielle Del Turco
May 8, 2019
A new report out of the UK this week highlights the severity of anti-Christian persecution around the world. Commissioned by the Foreign Secretary, the report states that an overwhelming majority (estimated at 80 percent) of the world’s persecuted religious believers are Christians. It found that “evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity.”
The report features incidences of violent and social persecution committed against Christians by state and non-state actors. The trends presented are troubling.
In some African countries, such as in Mauritania, Islamic constitutions explicitly deny Christians their basic right to publicly express their religion. In South Asia, the growth of militant nationalism has been the main cause of Christian persecution. Furthermore, anti-conversion laws in South Asia explicitly prohibit people from converting to another religion, usually to protect the majority status of Hindu or Buddhist populations.
In East and Central Asia, authoritarian governments routinely discriminate against and intimidate Christians. Oppression experienced by Christians in several Asian countries is due to the influence Communist and nationalist ideologies have on their governments.
Even in Latin America, a largely Christian region, Christians have been “specifically targeted” for persecution from illegal organizations and paramilitary groups.
Yet, even in the face of these concerning developments, we have reasons to be hopeful. Some Middle East countries—such as the United Arab Emirates—are moving toward an openness to religious freedom. As evidence of this trend, the report cited the accord between the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed At-Tayyeb, and His Holiness Pope Francis in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year. At the signing, Dr. At-Tayyeb called on Muslims to protect Christian communities in the Middle East.
The Trump administration has played a part in the elevation of this issue on the global stage, having held the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department last July, with another planned for this year. Right now, the U.S. has other opportunities on the international stage to demonstrate the importance of religious freedom. As we continue to engage in trade negotiations with China, we have a pathway to pressure the Chinese government to cease its persecution of Uyghurs, along with its detention and harassment of Christians, theft of religious symbols, and destruction of churches.
The UK report also calls on the international community to take actions to protect Christians across the globe: “Given the scale of persecution of Christians today, indications that it is getting worse and that its impact involves the decimation of some of the faith group’s oldest and most enduring communities, the need for governments to give increasing priority and specific targeted support to this faith community is not only necessary but increasingly urgent.”
This much-needed attention on religious freedom comes on the heels of the release of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) report on the world’s most egregious violators of religious freedom—which specifically highlighted the problems for religious freedom in China, Russia, and other oppressive states, in addition to the threat posed by cultural and legal opposition to religious freedom in much of the Islamic world. Just last week, Family Research Council released a report on the status of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws (which threaten the ability to choose or change one’s faith) around the world, and the threat they pose to religious freedom.
While it might be disheartening to learn about the hardships Christians face daily around the world, it is encouraging that this issue is starting to receive the national and international attention it deserves. If we do not remain informed, advocate for policies protecting Christian communities, and submit these things to God in prayer, nothing will change.
Arielle Del Turco is the Research Assistant for FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty.
Family Research Council
May 2, 2019
There is unprecedented religious persecution around the globe. In recent years, the Pew Research Center has found increasing governmental and social hostility toward religious believers worldwide. For the last ten years, Christians have been harassed in more countries, including the United States, than any other religious group, and in 2016, one or more religious groups were harassed in 187 countries globally.
While the specific threats to religious freedom vary in type and intensity, one common source is the legal and cultural support for apostasy, blasphemy, and/or anti-conversion laws, which often threaten the freedom to choose and/or change one’s faith.
- Apostasy laws punish people who “apostasize” and convert away from Islam. Across much of the Muslim world, apostasy laws—backed by social pressure—are used to deter apostasy and sometimes punish even allegations of the crime. These laws prevent Muslims from freely choosing their faith— whether Christianity or anything else.
- Blasphemy laws generally prohibit insults to religion and are the most widespread of these three types of laws. In many places, while still on the books, such laws are no longer enforced or even used. But in other places, again in many Muslim majority countries, they are often abused when allegations of blasphemy are made against religious minorities—often with no evidence—to settle unrelated disputes and vendettas.
- Anti-conversion laws, quite simply, prohibit people from converting to another religion. Primarily in place in parts of the Hindu and Buddhist world, anti-conversion laws are used by governments to maintain a majority of the population within their preferred religion.
While threats to religious freedom arise from other sources, these three types of laws and the cultural support behind them are major threats to the freedom to choose one’s faith—and thus to religious freedom worldwide.
Punishment for those convicted of violating such laws can include marriage annulment, property confiscation, prison sentences, or death sentences. A number of countries can impose the death penalty for violations of such laws, including: Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Malaysia (in certain states), Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Additionally, a mere allegation of a violation often results in intense social hostility from one’s community and family members, who retaliate with anything from slight harassment all the way up to violence resulting in death.
Drafted out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) proclaims in Article 18 that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” (emphasis added). The laws listed and described here, and the social acceptance behind them, are a direct threat to religious freedom as articulated in the UDHR.
FRC’s new publication Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-Conversion Laws is a list of countries that have apostasy, blasphemy, and/or anti-conversion laws on the books, though not all such laws are still actively used. Moreover, some are not likely to be used or are effectively nullified by other legal measures or constitutional rights which take precedence. However, for purposes of understanding where these laws have been or are in place, they have been left in this publication.
Examples of enforcement and cultural impact are provided for some of the countries where these laws are still enforced or have influence. When we understand how these laws work, and how they serve as obstacles to religious freedom around the globe, we can better advocate for the freedom of all people worldwide.
Read the full report here.
Also, don’t miss a discussion on this new report with FRC President Tony Perkins and Travis Weber, the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty.