Month Archives: May 2020

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 24)

by Family Research Council

May 29, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: “Trump Insists It’s Open Season for Churches”

On Friday, after hearing from pastors all across the country, President Trump addressed the stricter restrictions placed upon church gatherings over other establishments like restaurants, malls, and even casinos and called for America’s governors to stop the injustice.

2. Washington Update: “Mask Hysteria? Scientists Say No”

Do masks help reduce the spread of the coronavirus? One of the things scientists have learned is that the virus is transferred more from airborne droplets and less from commonly touched surfaces and the number one thing we can do to reduce that transmission is to wear masks.

3. Publication: Sex Education in Public Schools: Sexualization of Children and LGBT Indoctrination

May has been deemed “Sex Ed For All Month” by the powerful lobby shops pushing radical sex ed on children. In response, FRC has released a new resource for parents to inform them on what they need to know.

4. Blog: “The Trump Administration Is About to Do the Right Thing on Religious Freedom — Again”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is about to finalize a rule it proposed last year to ensure that religious freedom and conscience are protected, the medical profession is not politicized, and patient care is prioritized.

5. Blog: “Gender-Neutral Intersex Passport Case May Advance Larger Transgender Goals”

Although most individuals who choose to identify as “non-binary” do not have a biological intersex condition, transgender activists would like for anyone who identifies as “non-binary” to be able to get identification documents with an “X” gender marker.

6. Washington Watch: Rep. Ted Yoho blasts Biden’s anti-Israel policy that aims to roll back Trump’s accomplishments

Ted Yoho, U.S. Representative for the 3rd district of Florida, joined Tony Perkins to discuss Joe Biden’s pledge to reverse the Trump administration’s Israel policies and also on the brewing war between Israel and Hezbollah.

7. Washington Watch: Rep. Mike Johnson says every cent Planned Parenthood stole from PPP hurts legitimate businesses

Mike Johnson, U.S. Representative for the 4th district of Louisiana and Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Democrats’ outrageous defense of Planned Parenthood’s illegal Paycheck Protection Program loan grab.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

Can the Pandemic Help Renew Home and Family Life?

by Daniel Hart

May 29, 2020

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a little-noted but interesting trend is occurring—home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have seen their sales rise higher than expected as a result of people spending more time at home and deciding to take on new or long put-off projects around the house.

I can personally attest to this. My wife and I decided it would be great to raise our own chickens so we could have fresh eggs for our family and be more self-sufficient. We went about researching how to raise chickens and got five baby chicks, who are now two months old and are able to live outside. Our extra time at home has allowed us to devote more energy to our chicken project, which is now involving my retired parents and family friends who are all helping us build a chicken coop and put up fencing to protect them from predators.

All of this to say that the pandemic is leading myself and many around the country to think more about how we can cultivate our homes, which in turn can lead to new and perhaps unexpected projects that can draw our families closer together as we work with each other to accomplish them.

There is also something deeply satisfying about working with our hands to improve our homes. This reminds me of something profound recently written by John Cuddeback:

We have lost something today, but we can get it back. Our very humanity calls for living and working in our bodies, with natural things, regularly. This means all of us. We have been separated from our own humanity, from our proper homeland, and we are suffering, even if we have never known anything else.

I say we can ‘get it back’—not because we ourselves have necessarily had it before, but because it is our birthright. Our own ancestors had it; we need it; and we can still do it, even if differently, and by fits and starts.

It need not be the work of our profession, or work that makes money. It just needs to be real and regular, preferably in our home.

Each of us can make our daily lives more human by choosing tried and true forms of human work. Certain kinds of work have shown themselves to be rich and reliable as especially human modes of acting.

Here is a short list we might consider:

1. hand-crafting in natural substances: wood, stone, metal or fiber
2. caring for the earth, plants, or animals.
3. preparing and preserving natural foods
4. any aesthetic work with hand tools, such as drawing, painting, carving
5. Miscellaneous such as cutting, splitting, and burning wood for heat  

It seems to me that doing these kinds of projects by hand is intimately connected with family. When we share in these activities with our families and teach ourselves and our children to do them, we are not only helping our homes become more self-sufficient during uncertain times, we are also participating in a primal familial bonding and formative experience that has the great potential to increase love and unity amongst each other while at the same time building character.

Families in the modern age desperately need to share in this type of formative bonding with each other. As Yuval Levin has recently written, there is a distinct sense in which the breakdown of the traditional family structure in our time has contributed to a breakdown in character formation that is essential for an individual to become a healthy, thriving member of society. He writes:

…The family forms us by imprinting upon us and giving us models to emulate and patterns to adopt.

The family does all this by giving each of its members a role, a set of relations to others, a body of responsibilities, and a network of privileges. Each of these, in its own way, is given more than earned and is obligatory more than chosen. Although the core human relationship at the heart of most families—the marital relationship—is one we enter into by choice, once we have entered it that relationship constrains the choices we may make. The other core familial bond—the parent-child relationship—often is not optional to begin with, and surely must not be treated as optional after that. It imposes heavy obligations on everyone involved, and yet it plays a crucial role in forming us to be capable of freedom and choice.

In this sense, the institution of the family helps us see that institutions in general take shape around our needs and, if they are well shaped, can help turn those needs into capacities. They literally make virtues of necessities, and forge our weaknesses and vulnerabilities into strengths and capabilities. They are formative because they act on us directly, and they offer us a kind of character formation for which there is no substitute…  

One potential positive effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that it gives families an unexpected occasion to renew our focus on our home life and build strong, formative, and lasting bonds through shared home-cultivating activities. Let us not waste the opportunity.

The Trump Administration Is About to Do the Right Thing on Religious Freedom — Again

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M. , Mary Beth Waddell, J.D.

May 22, 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is about to finalize a rule it proposed last year to ensure that religious freedom and conscience are protected, the medical profession is not politicized, and patient care is prioritized. We urge this rule’s swift finalization.

This rule is great news for patients and the health care community alike. In 2016, under the Obama administration, HHS issued regulations on Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act defining “sex” in the context of “sex discrimination” to incorporate “gender identity” and “the termination of pregnancy”. Health care institutions sued, contending that the heavy hand of government was forcing them to violate their conscience and threatening their ability to operate. Understanding that HHS had exceeded its authority, a federal judge issued an injunction to prevent the Obama administration rule from taking effect.

Now, President Trump plans to clean up this mess, and protect religious freedom, for our caregiving institutions nationwide. This policy change will enable the medical community to fulfill the Hippocratic oath, while protecting the convictions of those in that community who want to hold to their religious beliefs and consciences about the biological understanding of sex.

President Trump’s proposed rule is also pro-life, and will ensure that the pro-life convictions of medical professionals will be honored. The inclusion of “termination of pregnancy” in the Obama administration rule could be read to require the provision of, and coverage or referral for, abortion. This could then lead to federal financial assistance being conditioned on the promotion and performance of acts that devalue the sanctity of human life. Thus, removing this language is important to ensuring that federal laws protecting the right of healthcare workers not to provide or refer for abortion will be upheld. 

We applaud HHS for standing with science and religious liberty to ensure that the medical community is free of political chains and can simply focus on providing the best possible care to their patients according to the best medical science.

The finalization of this rule is a high priority for religious freedom, and very important to protecting the faith of many throughout our country.

It should be finalized promptly, so that those with long-running conscience and religious freedom concerns in this area can finally put them to rest.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of May 17)

by Family Research Council

May 22, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: “Colorado’s Signature Issue”

In a race against the clock, Colorado’s petition gatherers are hitting the ground running—trying to find the signatures they need to save lives. If you live in Colorado, please find a nearby location and sign the petition to ban late-term abortion. (And share with any Coloradans you know!)

2. Washington Update: “Democrats: The Test Is Yet to Come”

Democrats are pushing for a coronavirus response plan that raises costs and creates even more dependence on government, while they and the media refuse to mention the Trump administration’s successful response to the supply problem, the equipment problem, and the ventilator problem brought on by the coronavirus.

3. Washington Update: “To Teach His Own: The Rise of Homeschooling”

The current family situation of being stuck at home is finally forcing parents who might never have thought about public school alternatives to take stock of what their children are being taught and how well they’re performing.

4. Blog: “Churches Are Filing Lawsuits Over Coronavirus Restrictions. Here Is a List.”

The Department of Justice released a memo expressing its concern that states may not violate religious liberty rights, even amidst a pandemic. Many churches have challenged discriminatory state and local orders by filing lawsuits over coronavirus restrictions. Check out the list in our blog post.

5. Blog: “Speaker Pelosi’s Partisan Coronavirus Relief Bill Attacks Life and Family”

Last week, House Democrats passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), a coronavirus relief bill that funds abortion providers. Congressional Democrats have shown that they would rather score political points than help our country through this pandemic. Our blog post breaks it down.

6. Washington Watch: Rich Lowry describes how the press has systematically ignored Trump’s virus successes & solutions

Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review and author of The Case for Nationalism, joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to discuss how the media has largely ignored President Trump’s massive coronavirus supply effort.

7. Washington Watch: Cathy Ruse pulls back the curtain on modern sex ed and how parents everywhere can fight back

Cathy Ruse, FRC’s Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Human Dignity, joined Tony Perkins on the radio to introduce her new publication: Sex Education in Public Schools: Sexualization of Children and LGBT Indoctrination.

For more from FRC, visit our website at frc.org, our blog at frcblog.org, our Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. Get the latest on what FRC is saying about the current issues of the day that impact the state of faith, family, and freedom, both domestically and abroad. Check out “The 7” at the end of every week to get our highlights of the week’s trending items. Have a great weekend!

Gender-Neutral Intersex Passport Case May Advance Larger Transgender Goals

by Peter Sprigg

May 22, 2020

In a decision on May 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the State Department should reconsider its refusal to grant a gender-neutral passport to a plaintiff with an intersex condition who identifies with a “non-binary” gender.

An “intersex” condition is a biological condition in which one or more of the biological indicators of sex does not develop in the typical male or female way. It is completely different from a “transgender” condition, in which an individual does not identify psychologically with his or her biological sex at birth. True intersex conditions are rare; but transgender identification is rapidly growing.

There is a proverb which warns, “Once the camel gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.” What seems like a small intrusion can quickly become a large one. I fear that metaphor may apply to the legal fight over “gender-neutral” passports.

Although several news outlets covered the story, Courthouse News Service was the most thorough in describing the plaintiff:

The birth certificate Zzyym was given in 1958 originally used the name Brian Orin Whitney and left the gender line blank because they were born with “ambiguous external sex characteristics.” Raised male, Zzyym was 5 when they underwent medically unnecessary corrective surgery at their parents’ request.

In 1995, the six-year Navy veteran changed their name to Dana Alix Zzyym.

The complaint that was filed by Zzyym elaborates:

Zzyym’s parents decided to raise Zzyym as a male, so the original birth certificate’s blank for sex was filled in as “male.” The State Department has treated this birth certificate as the original.

Zzyym lived as a male until adulthood. As an adult, Zzyym explored living as a woman and obtained a driver’s license identifying as female. But Zzyym grew increasingly uncomfortable living as a woman and eventually identified as a nonbinary intersex person. While identifying as intersex, Zzyym obtained an amended birth certificate identifying the sex as “UnKnown.”

According to one physician quoted in the court opinion, Zzyym did not merely “explore” living as a woman; he “has had surgery for transition to female genitalia.”

Zzyym applied for a passport—and requested that his sex be listed as “X.” (I will use male pronouns for Zzyym, since that is how he was identified on his original birth certificate, and in a photograph released by Lambda Legal, he appears to be conventionally male except for the hair on the top of his head being dyed blue.) The State Department refused, stating that U.S. passports may list only “M” (for Male) or “F” (for Female) as the passport holder’s sex. (This initial application and denial took place in 2014—under the administration of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.)

As the court acknowledged, “The State Department … noted that it had offered to produce a passport with an ‘F’ (matching Zzyym’s original Colorado driver’s license) or an ‘M’ (matching the original birth certificate).” However, the unprecedented “X” designation was refused.

News coverage made the Tenth Circuit decision appear to be a defeat for the State Department—but that is not the case. The District Court had ruled in favor of Zzyym outright, issuing “a permanent injunction against enforcement of the binary sex policy” with respect to Zzyym. The Tenth Circuit vacated this lower court decision.

Instead, the unanimous three-judge panel issued a more nuanced (but still flawed) ruling. The State Department had listed five reasons for upholding its binary-sex policy for passports. The court (in an opinion written by Judge Robert E. Bacharach, an Obama appointee) rejected three of these reasons, saying that the record of the case did not support them.

However, the panel also ruled that “the State Department had statutory authority to require applicants to identify their sex as male or female,” and that two of the five reasons for the policy were supported by the record. One might think that “statutory authority” and even one good reason would be enough to sustain the policy. But instead, the court said the State Department should reconsider to determine whether two reasons instead of five constitute enough justification.

The key error in the Tenth Circuit decision was its assumption that people with an “intersex” condition are neither male nor female. For example, the court stated that “most state identification documents pigeonhole[] everyone as male or female even though some people are neither.” They also asserted that requiring Zzyym to identify himself as male or female would amount to “forcing intersex individuals like Zzyym to inaccurately identify themselves” (emphasis added). The opinion even declares, “The State Department acknowledges that some individuals are born neither male nor female.”

If true, this is an unfortunate mischaracterization of what an “intersex” condition is. As even one intersex activist, Jonathan Leggette, has acknowledged, “Intersex traits can involve genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, and other secondary sex characteristics.” If even one of these characteristics develops in an abnormal way, that constitutes a “disorder of sexual development” (DSD), the medical term for an intersex condition. If, say, 98% of a person’s sex-related characteristics are normal male characteristics, and 2% are abnormal or appear to be those considered typical of a female, it would hardly make sense to say such a person is “neither male nor female.” Instead, that individual is clearly a male, but one with a DSD.

Anne Fausto-Sterling, a biologist at Brown University, has been widely quoted as asserting that up to 1.7% of the population is intersex. However, this claim has been challenged by others who point out that many who fall under Fausto-Sterling’s broad definition of “intersex” are people who may live their entire lives without even being aware that they have an intersex condition (such as an abnormality in their chromosomal make-up). The percentage of people who have any real ambiguity about their biological sex is far smaller—being found, by one estimate, in only 2 out of every 10,000 births.

Even among those with such a genuine intersex condition, however, the number who have both male and female characteristics in nearly a 50-50 ratio is very small. There are dozens of different DSDs that have been identified; of those, only one comes close to this type of ambiguity. It is known as an “ovotesticular” DSD (or “true gonadal intersex” or “true hermaphroditism”) because those with this condition have both ovarian and testicular tissue. This is the rarest DSDonly about 500 cases have ever been reported in the medical literature. And yet even among these, “Most affected individuals have a 46, XX chromosomal [typical female] make-up …, which normally results in female sexual development.”

The Tenth Circuit decision reports that Zzyym “was born with both male and female genitalia.” That is a stronger assertion than the one found in Zzyym’s original complaint in the District Court, which was merely that “Zzyym was born intersex, with ambiguous genitalia.” We don’t know if that is a reference to “ovotesticular DSD,” since that more technical term is not used in the opinion.

In one sense, the ultimate disposition of Zzyym’s case poses little danger of setting a major precedent for others, since the number of people “with both male and female genitalia” is tiny. People with such a birth defect are deserving of our compassion.

However, this case, demanding a “gender X” passport for someone with a biological “intersex” condition, is merely the camel’s nose in the tent. In asserting that intersex people are “neither male nor female,” the court fails to note that most people with intersex conditions are perfectly content to identify as either male or female, notwithstanding their physical problems. The only reason Zzyym felt the need to sue the State Department is because—unlike most “intersex” people—his psychological “gender identity” is “non-binary,” meaning “neither male nor female.”

But declaring one’s “gender identity” to be “non-binary” is merely the latest fad in the larger “transgender movement.” Just as most “intersex” people are not “non-binary,” most of those who choose to identify as “non-binary” do not have a biological intersex condition but are entirely normal with respect to their biological sex at birth.

Transgender activists would like for anyone who identifies as “non-binary” to be able to get identification documents with an “X” gender marker. Winning one for an intersex person would only be the first step toward that even more radical goal.

The State Department should continue to refuse Zzyym’s request.

Iran Sends More Christians to Prison

by Arielle Del Turco

May 22, 2020

Four Iranian Christians are on their way to prison after a Revolutionary Court set their bail at the equivalent of $30,000 each—an exorbitant price they were unable to pay. The exact charges against these four—Moslem Rahimi, Ramin Hassanpour and his wife Kathrin Sajadpour, and another Christian who wishes to be anonymous—remain unknown. The charges are likely related to the Christians’ involvement in a house church, an act that the Iranian regime considers “hostile” to the state and to be connected to Zionist groups.

For Muslims in Iran, converting to Christianity is itself a crime. Iranian law stipulates that Muslim citizens may not “chang[e] or renouc[e] their religious beliefs.” The punishment for apostasy can include imprisonment or even the death penalty, though it is rarely carried out.

The four Iranian Christians converted to Christianity from a Muslim background, and are members of the same church movement to which Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani belongs. Pastor Nadarkhani has been in prison since July 22, 2018.

The Iranian regime classifies itself as an “Islamic Republic” and believes conversions away from Islam to Christianity undermines the regime’s authority. Consequently, Iranian Christians are often detained on trumped-up charges related to “national security.”

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh know what it is like to be imprisoned in Iran for their faith. In 2009, the two friends spent almost nine months in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. They had been charged with apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-government activity because they converted to Christianity and dared to share their newfound faith with their countrymen. Before authorities caught them, they had managed to hand out 20,000 copies of the New Testament.

In their book, Captive in Iran, Maryam and Marziyeh describe the many challenges faced by Iran’s political prisoners. Facilities are filthy, access to health care is inadequate, and the trauma of life in prison—including knowing others who are executed by the state—is overwhelming.

However, despite the regime’s best efforts to stifle the Christian faith, reports indicate that Christianity is rapidly spreading in Iran. House churches are flourishing, and the regime is unable to contain their growth. This should be a lesson to governments around the world, that individual faith cannot be controlled in the long run, and religious freedom is the best policy for a healthy society.

To hear Maryam and Marziyeh’s story and learn what it is like to live as a Christian in Iran, watch the video of FRC’s event, Stories from Iran: Religious Freedom and the Secret Growth of the Underground Church.

A “Blasphemous” Text Put a Pakistani Couple on Death Row. They’re Illiterate.

by Arielle Del Turco

May 21, 2020

Today, a married couple in Pakistan is languishing apart in separate prisons, unable to see each other or their four children. Shafqat Emmanuel remains paralyzed from the waist down following an accident in 2004. His wife, Shagufta Kausar provided for her family by working as a cleaner. Shafqat and Shagufta lived simple lives on a church compound before their world came crashing down and a years-long nightmare ensued due to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.  

The saga began in June 2013, when a Muslim cleric claimed he received a blasphemous text message from Shagufta’s phone. The cleric said he showed the text to his lawyer, and both subsequently claimed that they received more inflammatory texts from the phone registered to Shagufta. The alleged texts were written in English.

There are a few problems with this dubious story. Shagufta and Shafqat come from a poor background and are illiterate. They could not have crafted such a text in their native Urdu, and certainly not in English. The couple suspects the cleric’s accusation is retaliation for an argument between their children and their neighbors.

Nonetheless, authorities arrested the couple and charged them both with “insulting the Qur’an” (under Section 295-B) and “insulting the Prophet” (Section 295-C). These crimes are punishable by life imprisonment and death, respectively. In April 2014, Shafqat and Shagufta were sentenced to death, and they are still appealing the court’s decision.

Blasphemy laws are an affront to human rights, and Pakistan has proven to be one of the foremost abusers of these laws.

A new report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that, as of December 2019, at least 17 people were on death row after being convicted on blasphemy charges.

Blasphemy laws prohibit insults to religion. Allegations of blasphemy made against religious minorities living in the Muslim world are often utilized to settle unrelated disputes. Religious minorities like Christians are particularly vulnerable to these accusations because of their marginalized place in society.

Unfortunately, blasphemy laws remain in many parts of the world. In its 2020 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that at least 84 countries have blasphemy laws, and even more have broad laws that are used to target speech deemed blasphemous.

The continued existence of blasphemy laws in so many countries makes this a global issue. Twenty-seven countries signed a statement of concern at last year’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held by the U.S. State Department, calling upon the governments that utilize blasphemy and apostasy laws to repeal them. The international community should continue to push for the end of blasphemy laws everywhere. It should be high on the agenda for the new International Religious Freedom Alliance spearheaded by the State Department.

Blasphemy laws restrict freedom of speech and freedom of religion—both fundamental human rights. No one should be put on death row for their faith.

To learn more about blasphemy laws around the world, check out FRC’s publication on Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-Conversion Laws.

Churches Are Filing Lawsuits Over Coronavirus Restrictions. Here Is a List.

by Katherine Beck Johnson , Kaitlyn Shepherd

May 20, 2020

**UPDATED as of 8/06

As the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold, religious services have been disrupted across the United States in perhaps the most drastic manner in recent memory. Many state and local governments have clamped down on gatherings, and almost everyone in the United States has had some kind of restriction placed on them. Yet not all government authorities have respected religious freedom during this process.

Various state authorities, particularly governors in California, Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maine, have failed to prioritize religious liberty even as they prioritized other secular interests. Rather than looking at churches as partners to help care for our communities at this time, the governors in these states have treated churches as antagonists. As have certain other governmental authorities, they have failed to cooperate with churches, often hindering them from assisting their communities during this time.

The Department of Justice, which has been keenly focused on protecting religious liberty, released a memo expressing its concern that this fundamental right not be violated during the pandemic. The memo notes that reasonable restrictions may be permissible during this time. However, a state may not cross the line from “an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections.” Many churches have challenged discriminatory state and local orders by bringing suit in court. These court cases are listed below.

Churches that Won

1. Tabernacle Baptist Church v. Beshear

To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Kentucky governor Andrew Beshear ordered nonessential businesses to close. The state put a limit on “mass gatherings,” including those considered “faith-based.” Tabernacle Baptist Church planned to hold services in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Nevertheless, they were not allowed. The judge held that Tabernacle’s free exercise rights were violated, and granted a temporary restraining order.

2. On Fire Christian Center v. Fischer

On Fire Christian Center in Louisville, Kentucky was granted a temporary restraining order, allowing it to hold drive-in services for Easter Sunday. Judge Walker found that the Louisville mayor’s prohibition was not neutral because it allowed businesses, such as liquor stores, to remain open for drive-through purposes but not churches.

*Update: The temporary restraining order was dissolved and the case was dismissed after the parties agreed that the church would take reasonable steps to comply with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

3. Maryville Baptist Church v. Beshear (church initially lost)

The district court denied the Hillview, Kentucky church’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order. The district judge found that the order applied to “all gatherings” and not just faith-based gatherings. The judge found the exceptions to be singular transitory experiences, whereas church services are communal activities. However, the opinion was appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit held that the governor’s order likely prohibits the Free Exercise Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, especially with respect to drive-in services. The governor had allowed law firms, laundromats, liquor stores, and gun shops to continue operating. The plaintiff’s motion for an injunction pending appeal was granted in part.

*Update: On May 8, 2020, the district court granted the injunction with respect to the in-person services, finding that the church was likely to succeed on its Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act claim and its constitutional claims. On May 9, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in another case involving Maryville Baptist Church, found that the governor’s restrictions on in-person worship likely violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Read more about the case here.

4. First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs v. City of Holly Springs

In Mississippi, First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs filed suit seeking a temporary restraining order permitting a planned Sunday service. At the hearing, the judge believed the city had made concessions that would resolve the dispute in question, but the court still put forth an order to clarify things. The judge noted that drive-in services should be permitted. Yet, the judge was less sympathetic to a request for a 35-person indoor gathering.

*Update: The church was burned down on May 20, 2020 in an act of suspected arson. Two days later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the church’s motion for a temporary injunction, allowing it to hold in-person services. Judge Willett issued a powerful concurrence on behalf of the church, condemning the City’s lack of sympathy and outrage over the destruction of a “neighborhood house of worship” and declaring the City’s argument that the arson rendered the First Amendment claim moot to be “shameful.”

5. Berean Baptist Church v. Cooper

A federal judge in North Carolina granted a temporary restraining order, which allowed churchgoers to attend church in person. The North Carolina governor banned indoor church services of over 10 people, though outdoor services were still allowed. The judge noted that some religious services cannot be conducted outdoors or with fewer than 10 people. He also noted that the governor allowed over 10 people indoors for secular activities. Finally, the judge said, “The Governor has failed to cite any peer-reviewed study showing that religious interactions in those 15 states have accelerated the spread of COVID-19 in any manner distinguishable from non-religious interactions.”

*Update: The case was voluntarily dismissed in response to changes in the Governor’s orders.

6. Edgewater Christian Church v. Brown

Two churches in Oregon sued Governor Brown. The church argues that if people are able to gather at restaurants, they should be able to gather at church.

*Update: Case voluntarily dismissed on June 10, 2020 after Phase 2 of Oregon’s reopening plans allows church to resume services.

Churches that Lost

1. Lighthouse Fellowship Church v. Northam (DOJ intervened)

In Virginia, Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island filed suit after the pastor was issued a citation for holding a Palm Sunday service for 16 people. The church sought a preliminary injunction against Governor Northam’s order, but a U.S. District Court judge denied that request. The next day, attorneys for the church filed a notice that it would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and asked again for a temporary restraining order.

Governor Northam’s new order will allow churches to hold gatherings at 50 percent capacity.

*Update: The charges against the pastor were eventually dropped. On May 21, 2020, the U.S. District Court denied the church’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal.

2. Cassell v. Snyders

In Illinois, The Beloved Church sued because the stay-at-home order infringed on their religious practices. The governor reissued an order allowing churches to meet as long as they abided by the requirement of no more than 10 people. The judge held that the current crisis implicates Jacobson and advances the government’s interest in protecting Illinoisans from the pandemic. It has been appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

3. Legacy Church, Inc. v. Kunkel

In New Mexico, Legacy Church challenged the governor’s executive order, which restricts places of worship to gatherings of no more than five people within a single room. The judge held that the order did not violate the church’s First Amendment because it was neutral and generally applicable.

*Update: On July 13, 2020, the court denied the church’s request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The judge found that there was no religious animus and that similar restrictions were imposed on secular entities.

4. Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills

In Maine, Calvary Chapel sued Governor Mills over her executive order, which limited gatherings to 10 people. The district judge held that the plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on the merits. The judge found that the order was placed to protect the people from the virus. The judge found the order to be neutral and generally applicable.

*Update: The First Circuit Court of Appeals denied the church’s motion for an injunction pending appeal on June 2, 2020.

5. Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker

Two churches in Illinois sued because they did not want to abide by the 10-person limit. The judge held that under Jacobson and a First Amendment analysis, the churches lost. The judge found that the order does not target religion. He noted that gatherings at church pose much more risk than gatherings at businesses. Finally, the judge noted that the order had nothing to do with suppressing religion but rather was executed to protect people from the disease.

*Update: After the churches’ request for an injunction pending appeal was denied by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the case proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the application for injunctive relief because of new guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health on May 28. The case went back to the Seventh Circuit, and a panel of judges affirmed the court’s decision in favor of the governor. The court held that Illinois’s restrictions on the size of church gatherings did not violate the First Amendment. On July 27, the Seventh Circuit denied a request for a rehearing before the full court.

6. Gish v. Newsom

A day after Easter, three church pastors and a congregant sued the state of California, as well as Riverside and San Bernardino counties, for refusing to designate houses of worship as essential services. The social distancing mandates are particularly challenging for James Moffatt of Church Unlimited in Indio, who, the lawsuit complaint said, “believes that scripture commands him as a pastor to lay hands on people and pray for them, this includes the sick.” Here is the church’s complaint.

*Update: Request for a Temporary Restraining Order was denied. The orders were found to be neutral. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the request for an emergency injunction pending appeal. The case was eventually dismissed on July 8, 2020.

7. Cross Culture Christian Center v. Newsom

After a Lodi, California church was ordered to temporarily shut down, the Cross Culture Christian Center sued. “Plaintiffs have sincerely held religious beliefs, rooted in the Bible, that followers of Jesus Christ are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, and that they are to do so even more in times of peril and crisis.” Here is the church’s complaint.

*Update: Request for Temporary Restraining Order was denied. The court noted the general police powers to promote safety during a public health crisis.

8. Abiding Place Ministries v. Newsom

The San Diego church Abiding Place Ministries argued that California’s exemptions for non-religious businesses such as “cannabis retailers, grocery stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, big box stores,” betray a preference for non-religious activity. Here is the church’s complaint.

*Update: Request for Preliminary Injunction denied on June 4, 2020 (issue is moot in light of May 25 guidelines).

9. South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom

With Gov. Newsom declaring a transition from “Phase 1” to “Phase 2” of the state’s pandemic response, allowing for more businesses to open and operate, two religious institutions felt they were not treated equally in the reopening plans. The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and the Chabad of Carmel Valley synagogue in San Diego are suing, arguing that the revised order restricts their congregation’s free exercise of religion, assembly, speech, and right to due process and that it constitutes “excessive government entanglement with religion.” Here is the church’s complaint.

*Update: Case went to the Supreme Court. Application for injunctive relief was denied May 29, 2020 (Roberts, C.J., concurring) (holding that California’s reopening procedures do not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment). After the decision at the Supreme Court, the church filed an amended complaint with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the unequal treatment of churches as compared to protests and other secular entities.

10. Spell v. Edwards

Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana filed suit to stop Governor Edwards from enforcing restrictions on him and his church. Spell has proceeded in a manner lacking legal strategy, making it more likely he will lose.

*Update: Motion for Temporary Restraining Order was denied by the district court. On June 18, 2020, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the pastor’s motion for an injunction because the request became moot when the challenged stay-at-home orders expired.

11. Bullock v. Carney

A pastor sued the Governor of Delaware claiming that the executive orders deprive his right to freely exercise his religion. A motion for a Temporary Restraining Order was denied.

12. Elkhorn Baptist Church, et al. v. Brown

More than 10 Oregon churches and multiple individuals brought suit against Governor Brown’s stay-at-home order. When the state started phase one opening, many churches still experienced heavy operating restrictions. The judge ruled that Brown’s executive order was null and void.

*Update: Although the church initially prevailed, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated the preliminary injunction in favor of the church because the lower court erred in holding that the Governor’s orders exceeded a statutory time limit.

Churches Awaiting an Opinion

1. Temple Baptist Church v. City of Greenville (DOJ intervened)

In Mississippi, Temple Baptist Church sued after congregants were ticketed for attending drive-in church services. The attorneys withdrew the request for a temporary restraining order because new guidance was issued.

2. Robinson, Knopfler v. Murphy

St. Thomas More Society is representing a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest against New Jersey’s Executive Order 107, which caps gatherings at 10 people. The police halted the celebration of Mass and a Jewish prayer ceremony, which requires 10 men.

*Update: Rabbi Knopfler was arrested in early May for violating the governor’s executive order. The plaintiffs asked the court for leave to file a third amended complaint on July 23, 2020.

3. High Plains Harvest Church v. Polis

High Plains Harvest Church sued Colorado health officials over their ban which prevents churches from gathering. The suit notes that if hundreds of people can gather at Lowe’s, they should be able to gather at church.

*Update: DOJ intervened in the case supporting the church. The district court denied the church’s motion for a temporary restraining order on June 16, 2020. Citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, the court found that the church had “not made a strong showing of a reasonable likelihood of success in this matter.”

4. Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak

A complaint filed on May 22, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, challenging Governor’s ban on church services of more than 10 people; complaint amended May 28, 2020 (updated Phase II plan says that churches not allowed to meet with more than 50 people).

*Update: The church’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was denied by the district court on June 11, 2020. The court found that the church did “not demonstrate[] a likelihood of success on its First Amendment Free Exercise claim.” The U.S. Supreme Court denied the church’s application of injunctive relief on July 24, 2020. Four Justices dissented from the denial: Justice Alito (for himself, Justice Thomas, and Justice Kavanaugh), Justice Gorsuch (for himself), and Justice Kavanaugh (for himself).

5. Calvary Chapel of Ukiah v. Newsom

Three churches in California challenged Governor Newsom’s “ban on singing and chanting activities … in places of worship while permitting the same activities in all other similarly situated indoor uses within the counties where [they] are located.”

6. Harvest Rock Church v. Newsom

Another California church challenged Governor Newsom’s restrictions on singing and chanting during worship services. The church sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the Governor from enforcing the ban. Its request was denied by the court on July 20.

** It should also be noted that some attorneys and legal firms sent letters to localities that resulted in churches being allowed to resume services. They did not get to the point of bringing suit. First Liberty has a list that can be found here.

While there seems to be a split in approaches to how some courts are handling the lawsuits by the church, there is an overwhelming willingness of judges to allow outdoor church services. While the pandemic continues to unfold, we will be monitoring the church lawsuits in the courts and making sure churches are treated equally. Leaders in states less interested in protecting religious liberty during the pandemic should not be permitted to prioritize secular interests over faith-based ones. It is crucial to religious liberty that churches are treated equally; the right to freely exercise one’s religion should not be infringed upon unnecessarily.

Katherine Beck Johnson, J.D. is Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.

Kaitlyn Shepherd is a legal intern with Policy & Government Affairs at Family Research Council.

Sex Ed for All Month” Pushes Radical Sexual Ideology for Youth. FRC Responds With New Pamphlet for Parents.

by Cathy Ruse

May 20, 2020

When Guinevere sang about “The Lusty Month of May” in Camelot, I am quite sure she did not have this in mind.

May has been deemed “Sex Ed For All Month” by the powerful lobby shops pushing radical sex ed on children.

Planned Parenthood has its blood-drenched hands in this new effort, but the chief force behind “Sex Ed for All Month” is the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.(SIECUS), the oldest architect of institutional sex ed.

The full name for the May campaign is: Sex Ed For All Month: Accessing Power, Information, and Rights.

Sex ed is no longer about education. It’s about indoctrination. Programs normalize youth sex and promote the concept of “sexual rights” and radical sexual ideology for youth.

It’s about power and rights.

SEICUS’s new sex-positive brand is: “Sex Ed for Social Change.” To them, sex ed is “a golden opportunity to create a culture shift” on issues like “reproductive justice” (a.k.a. abortion) and “LGBTQ equality” and “dismantling white supremacy.”

Wow. No wonder parents are concerned that sex ed has become a vehicle for sexual and political indoctrination!

Family Research Council has released a new pamphlet with research into the dangerous, anti-science sex ed programs on offer in many public schools today, and the powerful organizations behind it all.

Most states do not (yet) require school districts to use a politicized age-inappropriate curriculum. Often the curriculum choice is left to the county or school district, which means the curriculum decision is much closer to the decision-makers that matter: parents.

There are good sex ed programs in use today, but they don’t have multi-million-dollar lobby shops backing them. What they need is an army of the real stakeholders—parents and children—backing them. Sex Education in Public Schools: Sexualization of Children and LGBT Indoctrination offers action steps for parents in their fight to protect the health and innocence of their children and all children.

USAID Tells UN That Abortion Is Not “Humanitarian Aid”

by Patrina Mosley

May 20, 2020

The United Nations (UN) has declared abortion as “essential healthcare” and intends to use humanitarian coronavirus funds to supplement abortions around the world.

John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), recently sent a letter urging the UN to stay focused on saving lives rather than taking them. As we previously noted, it has been apparent that world abortion leaders, like the World Health Organization, have been using the current pandemic to push abortions now more than ever before as “essential.” Unfortunately, the United Nations is one of those leaders that is willing to use billions of U.S. dollars to deliver abortions as a part of coronavirus humanitarian aid.

USAID’s letter reminds UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the U.S. is the “the largest donor of global health and humanitarian assistance” and emphatically states that the UN’s $6.71 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Global HRP) “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”

Barsa further noted that the U.S. alone contributed half of this amount—just in fiscal year 2019—at $3.5 billion. As President Trump stated in his address to the 74th UN General Assembly, the U.S. will “never tire of defending innocent life.” We have a vested stake in protecting our sovereignty as well as standing with those who wish to protect their sovereignty in accepting aid without strings attached. The letter reemphasized Trump’s statement that the UN simply has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

The United Nations has acted as the global enforcer of liberalism, disregarding the national sovereignty of nations by withholding aid to nations that do not support their abortion agenda. For far too long, developing countries that desperately need basic necessities have had to choose between their national sovereignty in holding values like the sanctity of life or accepting UN food and water that come with contraceptives and abortions. So much for the UN being “humanitarian.” Now that we as a global community are confronting something we have rarely faced before with the current pandemic, it should not be controversial to collectively say: Abortion is not humanitarian aid.

The USAID letter is unprecedented in that it brings attention to the UN’s twisted supposition that abortions are on the same critical level as “food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation.” It is a rebuke to the UN not seen from a world leader like the United States in some time. 

The letter states that unity can be found if the controversial abortion funding is avoided, and the “sexual and reproductive health services” provisions as part of the COVID-19 response are removed.

Furthermore, the USAID letter calls attention to what is “most egregious”: the Global HRP call “for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.”

Abortion inducing drugs, like the abortion pill, are extremely dangerous, yet they are the go-to method universally for abortion advocates. As we pointed out here, the global abortion industry favors the abortion pill especially in areas they deem as “low-resource settings.” This means that the industry expects women to self-manage her own abortion by self-administering pills and expelling the child in her own home. The abortion pill regimen has been known to cause severe hemorrhaging that requires blood transfusions and incomplete abortions that can incur severe infections and the need for follow up surgery. Many women have died.

Sadly, just this month, a 32-year-old woman in India died at her home after suffering severe blood loss from taking abortion pills. During the police investigation, they seized a bloodstained bedsheet, abortion-inducing pills, and painkillers.

She is survived by her one-year-old daughter.

How this could ever be described as “humanitarian aid,” no one with a conscience will ever know. What we do know is that the U.S. is becoming more watchful and is giving teeth to the values we claim to have by being consistent with them around the world.

This is quite noteworthy and displays the seriousness of the Trump administration’s intention of being the leader in protecting the sanctity of life, at home and aboard. This follows the Trump administration’s success in restoring integrity back to the domestic Title X family planning funds where abortion will no longer be considered a method of family planning, expanding the Mexico City policy in what is now known as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (where U.S. funds will be restricted from supplementing oversees abortions), and defunding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which actively contributes to international abortions.

As an active partner of the UN and the leading contributor of humanitarian aid, we are confidently displaying continuity in our pro-life policies, thereby encouraging other sovereign nations to do the same.

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