Month Archives: July 2019

The State Department’s Ministerial on Religious Freedom is Over. Now What?

by Arielle Del Turco , Luke Isbell

July 23, 2019

This year’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. State Department last week saw over 1,000 civil society and political leaders from around the world gather in Washington D.C. for a three-day summit to discuss religious freedom issues and solutions.

The ministerial itself is encouraging. That leaders and advocates of all faiths from all corners of the world can unite on the common goal of promoting religious freedom and protecting religious minorities is a step in the right direction. However, the stories of survivors of religious persecution featured at the ministerial serve to remind us of the work that still needs to be done.

Just last week, Pew Research Center released a new report which tracks government restrictions and social hostility to religion around the world over a 10-year period between 2007 and 2017. According to the report, “83 countries (42%) experienced high or very high levels of overall restrictions on religion from government actions or hostile acts by private individuals, organizations and social groups” in 2017. The enormity of this issue demonstrates the need for action both from U.S. and foreign leaders.

Thankfully, several good initiatives were announced during the ministerial. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a new International Religious Freedom Alliance. This alliance will provide a way for like-minded countries to work together to advance religious freedom, circumventing international bodies like the U.N., which often gives countries with appalling human rights violations a seat at the table.

Last year’s ministerial—the first event of its kind—inspired other countries to hold their own religious conferences. Albania, Colombia, and Morocco are planning to hold regional religious freedom conferences soon. This October, the State Department will partner with the Vatican to co-host a summit highlighting “the importance of working with faith-based organizations to support and protect religious freedom.”

The new alliance and these subsequent regional conferences show the long-term impact of the ministerial.

Yet, the U.S. can do more to advance religious freedom across the globe.

The discussions on religious persecution featured at the ministerial must be integral to United States foreign policy and trade negotiations. Rather than an afterthought, a country’s treatment of their religious minorities should be the litmus test for whether the United States continues economic and military ties with them.

News broke last week that the Trump administration imposed economic sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against four high-profile Iraqis guilty of human rights abuses. The Global Magnitsky Act is a great tool the U.S. can use to expose the human rights/religious freedom abuses of individuals—because these sanctions are targeted, they often come without the political and diplomatic risks associated with placing sanctions on an entire country.

The Global Magnitsky Act has already been proven effective. In 2018, the Trump administration relied on Executive Order 13818 (which builds on Global Magnitsky Act authority) to sanction two Turkish officials over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson due to his Christian faith. Less than three months later, Pastor Brunson was released. This was an important victory that demonstrated the power of the tools already at our disposal.

Countries care how they are perceived on the world stage. Recent heated responses from world leaders following unfavorable assessments in the State Department’s latest Report on International Religious Freedom demonstrate that much. Events like the ministerial further emphasize the importance of being seen as a country that protects religious freedom on the world stage.

For leaders of countries that live in the shadow of a regional power-house that fails to respect religious freedom such as China, it can take courage to travel to the U.S. to discuss religious liberty. In his address at the ministerial, Pompeo noted this, saying, “If you’re here today and you’re a country which has defied the Chinese pressure to come here, we salute you and we thank you. And if you have declined to attend for the same reason, we took note.” This type of pressure from U.S. leaders can be impactful in diplomacy, and the U.S. should make these public statements more often

Overall, the ministerial highlights several ways in which the United States and the international community can forward the cause of religious freedom. The ministerial was a great start, but it should only be the beginning.  

Arielle Del Turco is the Research Assistant for Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty. Luke Isbell is an intern at FRC.

Planned Parenthood Rejects Title X and Proves Their Bottom Line Is Abortions

by Patrina Mosley , Connor Semelsberger

July 22, 2019

As a result of the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit lifting a preliminary injunction on the Protect Life Rule, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced they will begin enforcing new regulations governing the Title X Family Planning Program. In response Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other abortion providers, have decided to withdraw from the program rather than comply with the new regulations.

This marks the first time that Congress has ever been able to successfully shift domestic federal family planning funds away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. The response from Planned Parenthood and others shows that they have only one thing on their mind—abortion. Even though these new regulations mandate that clinics provide non-directive counseling for women on all options when faced with a pregnancy—including abortion—they still refuse to comply.

The refusal of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to abide by federal laws regarding the separation between federal tax dollars and abortion is nothing new. This withdrawal is very similar to when in the early days of his presidency, President Donald Trump instituted the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA) which ensures taxpayer dollars are not used for abortions overseas. Instead of abiding by the requirement that grantees are not allowed to promote or perform abortions, the International Planned Parenthood Federation became one of only four grantees that perform abortions to back out of the program over the policy change.

In 2017, President Trump even made an offer to then Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards that her organization could continue to receive federal funds as long as they committed to no longer performing abortions, and she responded with this: “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide abortion—a necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings.”

If Planned Parenthood truly cared about offering women the other “care” services they claim to provide, they would have had no problem complying. But their refusal to receive grant money to “care” for women by providing other services besides abortion only goes to show that abortion is their bottom line—not the “3 percent” like they claim.

Abortions from Planned Parenthood have increased while their “other services” have consistently decreased. From 2009 to 2014, breast exams at Planned Parenthood dropped by over half (56 percent), cancer screening and prevention programs at Planned Parenthood consistently decreased and dropped by close to two-thirds (63 percent), and prenatal services steadily decreased and dropped by more than half (57 percent). Planned Parenthood performs 18 times more abortions than the prenatal services it provides. Moreover, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2016-2017 report, out of total services for pregnant women (adoption referrals, prenatal services, abortion), abortion made up over 97 percent.

As of late, newly fired Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen alluded to the fact that her and the Planned Parenthood Board of Director’s philosophy dissected at abortion versus being a robust healthcare entity. The Board wanted abortions and abortion advocacy to be what drives the organization.

This goal is reflected in the fact that Planned Parenthood currently operates over half of all abortion facilitates in the U.S.

For far too long, Title X funds have been entangled with the abortion industry—particularly with Planned Parenthood who received nearly $60 million, all while the authorizing statutory language made it clear that the Title X family planning program must be separate from abortion.

Planned Parenthood has proven itself to be unfaithful with Title X anyways. In order to receive these annual grants, Planned Parenthood and other organizations are expected to comply with state mandatory reporting laws. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly been caught failing to report statutory rape and sex abuse, aiding and abetting sex trafficking, and performing services that it knows are dangerous and low-quality, killing young women such as Tonya Reaves and Cree Erwin.

The new Title X regulations not only enforces the physical separation of Title X activities and abortion centers but it also strengthens the enforcement of Title X recipients’ to be in compliance with mandatory reporting requirements and parental notification laws.

We are thankful Planned Parenthood has decided not to comply with the Protect Life Rule. This disentangles taxpayer dollars with the abortion business, keeps the integrity of the Title X program in place, and frees up resources to go to the other federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and pregnancy resource centers that both outnumber abortion facilities and provide true comprehensive care for women.

It is high time for Planned Parenthood to get out of the family planning business anyway.

Abortion is not healthcare, nor is it family planning.

Times Op-Ed Conflates “Sex” and “Gender” to Suit Transgender Purposes

by Peter Sprigg

July 19, 2019

A recent New York Times opinion piece by Julia Serano—one of ten commissioned by the Times from “the L.G.B.T.Q. community” for “Pride Month”—turns history upside down with only its second paragraph:

Opponents of transgender rights have increasingly worked to shift conversations and policy language away from gender and toward biological sex.

In reality, it is the supporters of “transgender rights,” not the opponents, who “have increasingly worked to shift conversations and policy language.” However, in this case, the effort has been to redefine the word “sex” to include “gender identity.”

Sex” Discrimination vs. “Gender Identity”

In the courts and legislatures, efforts to end discrimination on the basis of “sex” began over fifty years ago. Congress outlawed discrimination based on “sex” in employment in 1964, and in education in 1972.

In 1964 or 1972, there would have been no question, in the minds of lawmakers or anyone else, that these laws prevented discrimination against individuals for being biologically female or biologically male.

On the other hand, in the last 15 or 20 years there has been an effort to add “gender identity”—“a term that originated in the field of psychology,” as Serano acknowledges—as a protected category in non-discrimination laws, alongside the more traditional categories such as “race” and “sex.” However, these efforts have largely failed in the majority of states and at the federal level.

That failure has led to a shift in strategy by transgender activists. Instead of seeking to add “gender identity” as a new protected category, they have taken to arguing that transgender people are already protected by laws against discrimination based on “sex.”

The Trump administration has rejected this interpretation of the word “sex” in existing statutory law. That conclusion seems to be what has aroused Serano’s ire.

Serano, a male-to-female transgender person (that is, a biological male who identifies psychologically as female), also takes Family Research Council to task for its defense of the administration policy:

The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian activist group, recently published an article titled “Trump transgender policy is simple and scientific: ‘Sex’ means biological sex.”

Perhaps the use of the word “scientific” in that headline was part of what triggered Serano, a biologist, to declare that “these developments … offend me as a scientist.”

What science? Here’s what Serano points to:

… [S]ex also seems straightforward. Every person superficially appears either female or male. But once we look beneath the surface, things are far more complicated.

While there are tangible biological sex characteristics — chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormones and secondary sex characteristics — they do not always fit neatly into male or female classifications, or align with one another within the same individual, as is the case for intersex people.

Yet this argument fails for a simple reason—“intersex people” are not the same as “transgender” people. Ambiguities in some people’s biological sex have nothing to do with anomalies in some people’s psychological “gender identity.”

Science Says: Intersex is Not Transgender

Don’t take my word for it. Look to the American Psychiatric Association. In their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), they define “sex” as:

Biological indication of male and female (understood in the context of reproductive capacity), such as sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and nonambiguous internal and external genitalia.

An “intersex condition” is also biological:

A condition in which individuals have conflicting or ambiguous biological indicators of sex.

 “Gender identity” is something quite different:

A category of social identity that refers to an individual’s identification as male, female or, occasionally, some category other than male or female.

The Intersex Society of North America explains the concept this way:

People who identify as transgender or transsexual are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the “wrong body.” . . .

People who have intersex conditions have anatomy that is not considered typically male or female. Most people with intersex conditions come to medical attention because doctors or parents notice something unusual about their bodies. In contrast, people who are transgendered have an internal experience of gender identity that is different from most people. [emphasis in the original]

The National Center for Transgender Equality makes the same point, in their “Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People”:

What’s the difference between being transgender and being intersex?

People sometimes confuse being transgender and being intersex. Intersex people have reproductive anatomy or genes that don’t fit typical definitions of male or female, which is often discovered at birth. Being transgender, meanwhile, has to do with your internal knowledge of your gender identity. A transgender person is usually born with a body and genes that match a typical male or female, but they know their gender identity to be different.

 . . .

While it’s possible to be both transgender and intersex, most transgender people aren’t intersex, and most intersex people aren’t transgender.

A piece on “debunking 10 intersex myths”—written by a “Black, queer, non-binary, intersex” author and published a year ago by the LGBT activist group GLAAD—stated:

Intersex people and transgender people are not the same thing. 

It also noted:

Not all intersex people identify as a part of the LGBTQIA community.

A glossary prepared for a National Geographic issue on the “Gender Revolution” in 2017—by the authors of The Teaching Transgender Toolkit—likewise defined gender identity:

A person’s deep-seated, internal sense of who they are as a gendered being; the gender with which they identify themselves.

Intersex, on the other hand, was defined this way:

An umbrella term that describes a person with a genetic, genital, reproductive, or hormonal configuration that does not fit typical binary notions of a male or female body. Intersex is frequently confused with transgender, but the two are completely distinct.

(Unfortunately, even that glossary did not prevent the author of another article in the same issue—as well as Katie Couric, host of a NatGeo TV special on the issue—from wrongly conflating intersex and transgender.)

Simple Truth

Serano’s critique of the FRC piece concludes:

The article not only ignores current thinking in the field of biology, but it also falsely implies that science yields simple answers. History shows otherwise, as scientific research has repeatedly revealed nature to be far more diverse and complex than we initially believed.

Yet the article on “current thinking” to which Serano linked also deals with biological intersex conditions—not psychological transgender ones. The fact that the biology of sex is “diverse and complex” (as with intersex conditions) does not change the simple scientific truth—made clear by the expert definitions above—that “sex” is a biological concept.

Nor does it change the simple legal truth that the word “sex” in non-discrimination law refers to biology, not to the entirely psychological concept of “gender identity.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Serano’s conclusion:

Those who now invoke science in support of their biases and prejudices do it a grave disservice, and science-minded people everywhere must speak out against it.

Unfortunately, Serano is the one guilty of this “grave disservice.”

Abby Johnson Reminds Us What the Pro-Life Movement Has Always Been About

by Matt Carpenter

July 18, 2019

If you haven’t already heard, the nation’s largest provider of abortion just unceremoniously cut ties with its president, Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen served as president of Planned Parenthood for eight months and cited “philosophical differences” regarding how the organization should prioritize political activities as the irreconcilable difference that led to her employment being terminated.

In an open letter to Planned Parenthood affiliates and staffers, Dr. Wen explained that her vision for the organization was for it to be a “national health care organization” first, and an advocate second. Planned Parenthood’s board of directors held a different vision. According to Wen, the board believes the organization ought to focus on advocacy (read: politics) first.

Many people were exuberant once news of Wen’s firing was announced. One pro-life advocate had an entirely different take, however. Abby Johnson wrote the following in a post on Facebook:

I’m not an emotional person. I don’t cry easily or find myself overcome with emotions very often. But yesterday, I cried when I read Dr. Leana’s tweet stating that she had been fired from Planned Parenthood…

When I saw Dr Leana Wen’s salty tweet about Planned Parenthood firing her after management held “secret meetings,” I was overwhelmed with emotion. I know what that betrayal feels like. I know what this new transition in her life feels like. And guys, it sucks. BUT, she’s out. Maybe she didn’t leave because of a profound conversion, but she made it clear in her statement that she left because Planned Parenthood has too many problems that she can’t ignore. AND THAT IS AMAZING. She was in negotiations to leave her job because she couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t take their unabashed support of abortion, no matter the cost to women’s health. As a doctor, I’m sure the rose colored glasses were ripped off pretty quickly once she was inside. And now she’s out.

I don’t expect that she is prolife or even anything that resembles prolife. I wasn’t either when I first walked away from Planned Parenthood. But the chance for real conversion is so much greater now that she is away from that organization. And when that moment does come, I am ready. I am ready to chat with her for hours, to hear her story, to grieve with her, and to mourn the loss of her own child. I am here, arms open.

Let us all pray that her moment of clarity comes quickly. And when it does, she will need a safe place to land. Let’s make sure that the prolife movement is that place.

Johnson makes an important point the pro-life movement would do well to consider. We ought to stand ready to accept those coming out of the abortion industry/advocacy movement with open arms. Johnson herself knows this first hand (if you’re not familiar with her amazing story, you should go see the movie Unplanned).

Leana Wen hasn’t renounced the practice of abortion, but her abrupt departure reminds us that there are people at organizations like Planned Parenthood—people who may someday see the devastating toll of abortion. People like Abby Johnson.

For the pro-life movement to succeed in making abortion a thing of the past, it needs to change hearts and minds—especially of those in the abortion industry itself. For us to do that we need to pray. Changing the law and providing resources to women facing unplanned pregnancies are necessary to prevent abortion from happening today. However, lasting success for the movement depends on winning a spiritual war. As Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Ephesus: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). And that’s something we can’t do without prayer.

Matt Carpenter is the Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs at Family Research Council.

The Case Against Marijuana Legalization: 3 Myths Debunked

by Hugh Phillips

July 17, 2019

On July 10, the House Judiciary committee held a hearing entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.” The pro-pot panel that testified before the committee made many fantastic and outlandish claims to support the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

Claim 1: “Teen use of marijuana drops with legalization.”

One of the claims the panel made about recreational marijuana legalization is that when a state legalizes marijuana, adolescent usage declines. Yet, this claim does not match logic. As Charles Stimson notes, when marijuana is legalized, use by minors will rise because all deterrents have been removed:

Marijuana’s illegal status “keeps potential drug users from using” marijuana in a way that no legalization scheme can replicate “by virtue of the fear of arrest and the embarrassment of being caught.” With increased use comes increased abuse, as the fear of arrest and embarrassment will decrease.

Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) challenged the assumption that minors would be protected if the drug is legalized by pointing to the fact that legalization had “increased unintended exposure by young children” and “tripled” calls to poison centers for kids mistakenly “ingesting” marijuana. Thus, Rep. Cline asked Mr. Nathan, a member of the panel, “Have you seen youth access to legalization increase as a result of legalization?” Mr. Nathan was forced to admit that many more kids were mistakenly ingesting marijuana in legalized states. This shows that marijuana is much more accessible to minors and ripe for abuse in states were the substance is being made legal.

Claim 2: “The marijuana black market will be dismantled by legalization.”

The panel also made the argument that federal legalization would create a “regulated market” and take away the power of the black market. Yet, Neal Levine, representative of the Cannabis Trade Federation, was forced to admit that despite state regulation in states that had legalized marijuana, the black market was still the legal industry’s greatest “competitor.” This is backed up by research that shows the black market is the main seller in some legalized states. Even liberal California governor Gavin Newsom has admitted that the black market in California got more powerful after legalization. The governor has even recently deployed the California National Guard in an effort to halt illegal growers.

It is clear that government regulation does not stop the black market. In fact, if the federal government chooses to legalize and regulate pot, government intervention may very well increase the size and volatility of the black market as criminals seek to sell more potent strands of the drug than federal law allows.

Claim 3: “Marijuana is safer and causes less dependency than alcohol or tobacco.”

This claim made by a member of the panel is one of the most easily debunked myths about marijuana. The National Institute of Health has proven that marijuana is a gateway drug. Those who use marijuana become almost three times more likely to become addicted to opioids. The National Institute of Health also notes that, “Marijuana is associated with a six-fold increase in suicide.” This is just a fraction of the detrimental heath consequences associated with marijuana use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has noted that marijuana hinders brain development, can cause “paranoia,” hurts the respiratory system, and can cause permanent brain damage. The evidence is clear—marijuana is a dangerous drug and must not be legalized in the United States.

We Must Stand Against Marijuana Legalization

Legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana use on the federal level is bad policy. The STATES Act (H.R. 2093) and the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) are just steps in the road to complete legalization. Not only do they stand upon questionable constitutional foundations, but they would increase the many social detriments associated with marijuana, including rises in drug abuse, crime, criminal trafficking, and mental health problems. Family health and safety would be degraded across the United States if these two pieces of legislation were to pass and put the U.S. on the road to legalization. For the sake of America’s families, Congress should reject the STATES Act and SAFE Banking Act, keep marijuana illegal, and focus on more effective ways of stopping the interstate drug trade.

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

Joseph Nicolosi on the Deep Need for Fatherly Affirmation

by Peter Sprigg

July 16, 2019

I wrote yesterday about Amazon removing listings for a number of books about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sometimes referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” A particular target for Rojo Alan (the British LGBT activist who claimed credit for the change) and for other critics were the works of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He coined the term “reparative therapy” to describe his psychoanalytic approach to sexual orientation change. I have two of the books by Dr. Nicolosi that Amazon has banned in my library. While I have not read either cover to cover, I have read enough to know that they directly contradict some of what critics say about them. The two books are:

  • Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1997)
  • Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., & Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002)

One criticism of Nicolosi in particular stood out. Rojo Alan told the GayStarNews, “The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.”

Really?

Here are some of the actual recommendations and observations in Nicolosi’s Parent’s Guide:

  • Use “positive and affirming strategies.” (p. 15)
  • The “at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers.” (p. 22)
  • [To a father:] “Just be there for Stevie emotionally. Maintain a warm, loving relationship with him and don’t let him pull away.” (p. 29)
  •  “I told Bill that Stevie did not really need therapy. ‘He needs his dad.’” (p. 30)
  • (A father must) “do the little things—the everyday, caring, and loving things” (p. 31).
  • Boys “need from their dads what we reparative therapists call ‘the three A’s’: affection, attention, and approval.” (p. 50)
  •  [Quoting another expert:] “Anything that parents can do to make their kids feel proud of their identity—as young men, as young women—will help the [treatment] process” (p. 154).

Nicolosi’s own work focused primarily on men, but his Parent’s Guide included a chapter on girls as well. It includes these points:

  • For girls, “there should be a warm mother-daughter intimacy … . Indeed, a healthy relationship with Mom provides the most important foundation …” (p. 156)
  • The father of a daughter “provides love and positive regard so that the girl will feel worthy of another man’s love.” (p. 157)
  • When a girl has been found to be involved in a lesbian relationship, the parents will probably be focused on stopping their daughter’s sexual behavior. But the girl herself is primarily concerned about her own feelings of loneliness, alienation, rejection, and poor self-esteem. A skillful therapist can offer concern for the girl’s feelings… . The father will need to assess his involvement in his daughter’s life. This will probably require a more supportive, less intrusive role for him. The mother, at the same time, will need to share her emotional self and her vulnerabilities with her daughter, and build a relationship of greater mutuality.” (pp. 163-64)     

Stereotypes?

Some people suggest that SOCE tries to force boys into stereotypical masculinity. But it is actually pro-LGBT adults who often stereotype a child as “gay” (or even “transgender”) based on their personality traits. Here is what Nicolosi says:

  • The “child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature—his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness, or high intellect.” (p. 38)
  • A “boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle—and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician—and a heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are ‘who he is,’ part of the wonderful range of human abilities. No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits.” (p. 48)

 “Rejection”?

Critics of SOCE often argue that it results from a “rejection” of the LGBT child. Does Nicolosi urge parents to reject their children if they identify as gay? The answer is clearly no:

  • Of course, no intervention can guarantee that a child will grow up heterosexual… . I trusted that Margaret and Bill would still love their son if those efforts were not successful.” (p. 32)

Last month, USA Today ran an article about Scott Dittman, a man who attended Pittsburgh’s LGBT Pride parade wearing a t-shirt offering “Free Dad Hugs.” More than 700 people took him up on the offer, with some becoming quite emotional—“you can see how damaged deep down so many of them are,” Dittman reported.

Yet Nicolosi himself wrote something similar, saying:

  • Boys have a need “for a man’s attention, affection, and affirmation—a need to be hugged and held” (p. 30).

Maybe the distance between LGBT activists and the books they persuaded Amazon to ban is not as great as they think—if only they would take the time to read them.

LISTEN: Mike Pompeo on the Fight for International Religious Freedom

by Family Research Council

July 15, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the Commission on Unalienable Rights last week to address basic human rights violations across the world. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins recently sat down with Pompeo to discuss how the Commission could impact religious freedom. Pompeo said progress has been made but there are still violations occurring around the world that are “unacceptable” (starts at 9:15).

Secretary Pompeo also previewed the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom which the State Department is hosting in Washington on July 16-18. Click here for more information on the ministerial.

Here is the full conversation between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and FRC President Tony Perkins.

 

Amazon Book-Banning: Cowardly, Bullying, and Foolish

by Peter Sprigg

July 15, 2019

A year ago, I wrote a blog post warning that a proposed bill in California, AB 2943, could result in books being banned. Some critics of the bill even pointed out how it could be interpreted to ban the Bible itself. As it turns out, book-banning has now become reality.

Here’s a brief recap:

Book-Banning: 2018

The California bill AB 2943 was intended to outlaw “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE;” sometimes referred to by the media and critics as “conversion therapy”) as a form of “consumer fraud.” But the state’s fraud statute applies to the “sale … of goods” (like books) as well as services (like counseling). And SOCE were defined to include efforts to change “behaviors”—not just attractions. So since the Bible is a “good” that is often sold, and since it attempts to change homosexual behavior (“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female,” Leviticus 18:22), an argument could be made that Bible sales would fall under the bill’s prohibition.

I pointed out that even if a Bible ban was unlikely (and unlikely to hold up in court), other books—ones whose whole purpose is to promote sexual orientation change—could be much more vulnerable.

Although “fact-checkers” tried to debunk the notion of a Bible ban (or even a book ban), the concerns about religious liberty were serious enough that Assembly sponsor Evan Low withdrew the bill.

Book-Banning: 2019

Fortunately, in 2018 the California legislature stepped back from the brink of banning books for people with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA).

But now in 2019, the country’s largest bookseller—Amazon.com—has done it for them.

News broke on the eve of Independence Day, when Americans celebrate our freedoms—that we will no longer be free to buy certain books dealing with SOCE or with unwanted SSA on Amazon.

Maybe it was the Brits’ revenge—because some reports made it appear that the change resulted from months of agitation by a lone British activist named Rojo Alan. (A Change.org petition urging their removal may have predated Alan’s campaign, though.)

The Amazon ban on SOCE books is, in some ways, even more insidious than the California one would have been. After all, the state would have had a hard time mustering the resources to enforce its ban on the “sale … of goods” that promote sexual orientation change.

Amazon, on the other hand, is itself a dominant force in the book market. If buyers cannot find these books on Amazon, there is a good chance they will not be able to find them anywhere—which, of course, is the goal of LGBT activists. A state ban would have run up against pesky obstacles like the First Amendment to the Constitution. Amazon, as a private company, faces no such constraint.

As a market leader, however, they have a moral obligation to a value usually promoted by the left—“diversity.” A diversity that makes no room for conservative viewpoints on controversial issues is no diversity at all—it is dictatorship.

Amazon is Reserving the Right to Actually Burn Books

Amazon has not made any explicit comment on the removal of ex-gay therapy books. Their website features a policy on “Offensive and Controversial Materials,” which include:

  • Violence, Intolerance, and Hate
  • Human Tragedies and Disasters
  • Child Abuse and Exploitation

However, the language is vague enough that Amazon has basically reserved the right to ban anything it wants. (“We exercise judgment in allowing or prohibiting listings … Amazon reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of listings on its site, and remove any listing at any time.”).

Some critics of Amazon’s decision have raised the specter not only of book banning, but of book burning. Lest you think this an extreme, purely metaphorical critique, note this part of the Amazon policy: “… [W]e will take corrective actions, as appropriate, including but not limited to …  destroying inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement …” (emphasis added). Rather inexplicably, however, the company also says, “Amazon’s Offensive Products policies apply to all products except books, music, video and DVD” (emphasis added). Perhaps they meant “including?”

Last year, I wrote this:

But shouldn’t every American be shocked at the thought of a state banning the sale of any books based on their philosophical, religious, or moral viewpoint?

Banning books because one doesn’t like their message?

In the United States of America?

In this country, you can sell all kinds of books.

You can sell Mein Kampf, and The Communist Manifesto. Bookstores sell the celebration of sado-masochism of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the celebration of sodomy in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

But now, apparently, you cannot (or will not, in the case of Amazon) sell books that are intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions achieve their own goals for their lives.

Every American—even those who don’t approve of or support therapies to change sexual orientation—should oppose the kind of blatant censorship that Amazon is exercising.

Critiques of SOCE are Misguided and Ill-Informed

In pulling SOCE books from its website, Amazon is acting as a bully—but also as a coward, succumbing to social and political pressure (from a tiny group of people), rather than standing firm for true diversity of thought.

However, they are also simply acting as fools. While principles of freedom and diversity should be enough to keep books on change therapies available for sale, there is another major reason to do so—the things critics say about such therapies, and books promoting them, are simply false. In fact, I doubt very much that any of the critics of these books have ever even seen—let alone read—any of the books they want banned.

Here are some of the myths about sexual orientation change promoted by critics of SOCE. Since I have written extensively on this topic, let me just provide links to some of the papers documenting the truth about sexual orientation change.

  • Myth No. 1 – “Sexual orientation is immutable.”

Four large data sets reflecting longitudinal analysis of the same individuals over time in population-based samples have shown that significant change in all elements of sexual orientation (attractions, behaviors, and identity) can change. Even lesbian scholar Lisa Diamond has said it is time to “abandon the immutability argument once and for all.”

See: “Evidence Shows Sexual Orientation Can Change: Debunking the Myth of ‘Immutability’” (March 2019)

  • Myth No. 2 – “There is no evidence that SOCE is ever effective.”

Six studies or surveys from 2000 to 2018—five of them in peer-reviewed academic journals—have all shown that SOCE can be effective for some clients in bringing about significant change in some components of sexual orientation, while few harms were reported.

See: “Are Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Effective? Are They Harmful? What the Evidence Shows” (September 2018)

  • Myth No. 3 – “Research has proven that SOCE is harmful.”

The American Psychological Association—although generally critical of SOCE—has admitted that there is no “valid causal evidence” that SOCE is harmful.

See: “The Hidden Truth About Changing Sexual Orientation: Ten Ways Pro-LGBT Sources Undermine the Case for Therapy Bans” (May 2018)

Court Rulings on the Protect Life Rule Leave Abortion Advocates Stunned

by Connor Semelsberger , Mary Jayne Caum

July 15, 2019

Across the United States, courts tasked with hearing the lawsuits against the Trump administration’s pro-life rule changes to the Title X Family Planning Program agree, “the Government is likely to prevail.”

When the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the Protect Life Rule, pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood lost no time in filing lawsuits to halt the Rule’s implementation. Believing they would be assigned a favorable judge, opponents of the Rule filed suit in the Ninth Circuit and other friendly courts. Although opponents obtained an advantageous ruling at the district court level, ultimately a three-judge panel in both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (9th Circuit) and the Fourth Circuit (4th Circuit) decided to lift the preliminary injunctions and allow the Rule to be implemented temporarily. Opponents of the Rule suffered another failure when an 11-judge panel sitting en banc in the 9th Circuit reiterated that the Rule should be implemented while the merits of the case are heard. Lastly, a district judge in Maine refused to halt the Rule’s implementation while the merits of the case are litigated. That totals four devastating and seemingly unexpected adverse rulings opponents of the Protect Life Rule have suffered thus far. 

In each Court Opinion, the various courts explain the Protect Life Rule should go into effect during the lawsuit, because HHS will likely prevail in defending the Rule. This legal conclusion is reached for primarily two reasons: precedent and statutory interpretation. The Supreme Court Decision Rust v. Sullivan upheld regulations nearly identical to the Protect Life Rule. Additionally, the Rule adheres to applicable statutes. Therefore, courts across the nation conclude that HHS is likely to succeed on the merits because of the precedent established by Rust and the Rule’s lawful adherence to statutory law. An issue brief published by Family Research Council has further information on the legal arguments surrounding Title X. 

These legal proclamations are devastating for pro-abortion groups because it undermines a significant portion of their industry. The clear separation that the Protect Life Rule establishes between family planning funding and the abortion industry is contrary to their worldview. If the Protect Life Rule is ultimately upheld, abortion providers must adhere to the regulations in order to continue receiving Title X funds. If abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood refuse to comply, however, those Title X family planning funds can be diverted to other healthcare clinics such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Centers, and Pregnancy Resource Centers which provide certain services that would be eligible for Title X funding under the Protect Life Rule

Since taking office, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate have worked together to confirm 127 federal judges. Several of these judges were vital to lifting the preliminary injunction against the Protect Life Rule, including two in the 9th Circuit, two in the 4th Circuit, and one in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The ability of President Trump and the U.S. Senate to confirm constitutionally-minded judges shows that elections have consequences and that victory in the courts is crucial.

Without a favorable ruling on the merits, abortion referrals will continue, co-mingling of funds will perpetuate, and precious babies developing in the womb will perish. Courts must continue to discard the shallow political arguments opponents of the Rule are making and choose to uphold the law. The survival of countless lives depends upon future legal victories. 

Mary Jayne Caum is a Policy intern at Family Research Council. Connor Semelsberger is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

World Leaders Shamelessly Deny Religious Freedom Violations in Their Countries

by Arielle Del Turco , Luke Isbell

July 12, 2019

When the State Department released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom in June detailing the status of religious freedom in countries around the world, it drew blowback from world leaders whose countries failed to receive a positive report. 

Officials from India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were especially quick to criticize the State Department’s assessment of their country.

The report outlines several instances where violence has occurred against religious minorities and how Indian law enforcement has been implicated in many of the crimes.

Violence against Christians and Muslims is an ongoing problem in India—and Indian law enforcement has been reluctant to protect these religious minority communities. What’s worse is that law enforcement has often been implicated in many of the crimes committed against religious minorities. Over the past several years, it has become increasingly common for members of Hindu nationalist groups to attack Christian leaders and their ministries following false accusations that Christians are practicing forced conversions. There’s clearly religious freedom violations occurring in India, and the State Department report offers substantial evidence to confirm that.

In response to the State Department’s report, Anil Baluni, the National Media head for the BJP, defended Indian president Narendra Modi in an official statement. “The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false,” he stated. “Whenever needed, Mr. Modi and other BJP leaders have deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections.”

In another response to the report, a government spokesperson tersely retorted that, “India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

The State Department report is not the only announcement that has put oppressive countries on the defensive. Popular news outlets are also calling out countries on the abuses levied at their people.

Recently, Pakistani leaders issued a defense of Pakistan’s treatment of religious minorities. During a recent trip to Brussels, Pakistani Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi attempted to downplay accusations of ongoing Christian persecution in Pakistan. He argued that Christians are “very welcome,” and stated, “we respect them and want them to be there.”

News reports suggest the environment for Christians in Pakistan is less than welcoming. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which prohibit speaking against Islam, are often abused and used to settle unrelated disputes. Pakistani Christians live in fear of being accused of blasphemy, which can be punishable by death.

Last week, Nigerian leaders also claimed that accusations of persecution against Christians in Nigeria was exaggerated. This is an especially bold denial when the situation in Nigeria borders on genocide.

Tens of thousands of Christians have been displaced or killed by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Boko Haram has killed more people than ISIS, and the Fulani are armed with AK-47s. Despite the horrific violence occurring in Nigeria, when the Northern Christian Elders Forum wrote a letter to the British Parliament about the abuses suffered under the current administration, the Nigerian government was quick to retort that claims of religious persecution in Nigeria were false. Nigerian officials went so far as to trivialize the current violence by calling it a simple case of clashes between farmers and herdsman.  

These incidences of world leaders denying religious freedom violations in their countries is appalling and hard to believe—yet it is actually a good sign. This shows that efforts like the State Department’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom (which calls out countries on their religious freedom violations), the upcoming Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom (which highlights the diplomatic importance of honoring religious liberty), and even reports by major news outlets are effective. The fact that state leaders don’t want their countries to be seen as countries where religious liberty isn’t protected shows the pressure that the U.S. State Department can put on countries to improve the status of religious freedom in their countries.

World leaders can deny the truth all they want, but religious freedom is only gaining ground as an issue of focus on the world stage. Soon, leaders will have to do more than deny the ongoing persecution in their countries. If regimes want to gain international legitimacy and improve their reputation, they must become known as governments which respect the freedom of their people to adhere to their conscience and protect religious minorities from harassment and violence due to their faith.

Arielle Del Turco is the Research Assistant for FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty. Luke Isbell is an intern at Family Research Council.

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