Month Archives: July 2021

Suicide Risk and Gender Transition: The Facts

by Jennifer Bauwens

July 23, 2021

As a graduate student in my early twenties, I volunteered on a suicide hotline. The calls I received while working on the hotline certainly included the suicidal person, but they also came from concerned family members, friends, and coworkers.  When advising people who wanted to keep someone safe, it was essential to give them tools not only to speak with the person of concern, but to also underscore that the person they seek to help has a choice in the matter.  Of course, the goal was to save lives, but we wanted to communicate to the helping party that, ultimately, they are not responsible for another person’s decision should their loved one choose to follow through with their threat of suicide.

While suicide is a very serious issue, it doesn’t mean that the helper should be controlled by the threat.  For example, after years of counseling with domestic violence survivors, I can recall countless stories of women who were told by an abusive spouse or partner, “if you leave me, I’ll commit suicide.”  Again, suicidal thoughts and gestures should be assessed and evaluated, and underlying causes need to be properly addressed. However, tying such requests to expressions of suicide can prove to be, in some cases, controlling. That’s what I communicated to domestic violence survivors who felt demands placed on them to sacrifice their safety, and in some instances, their lives, because of the threats expressed by the person abusing them.      

Unfortunately, the “threat” of suicide is what is being used against responsible leaders trying to protect children from harmful and often unknown risks associated with gender transition procedures. In the wake of the news that a federal judge in Arkansas blocked that state’s Save Children from Experimentation Act (which would protect children from receiving unnecessary and invasive medical interventions aimed at treating a psychological condition characterized by confusion over one’s biological sex) from going into effect, we’ve seen a resurgence in claims of the risk of suicide, without reference or examination to a range of likely underlying and co-occurring conditions.

When appealing to the judge several days ago to temporarily enjoin Arkansas’ law, Chase Strangio of the ACLU claimed: “These families, like hundreds of others across the state, are terrified … There has already been a spike in suicide attempts since this legislation was passed.” Court filings read: “For some transgender youth, the prospect of losing this critical medical care, even before the legislation is in effect, is unbearable … In the weeks after the bill passed, at least six transgender adolescents in Arkansas attempted suicide.” 

Within the ACLU’s claims, there is no reference to the other factors that might affect these adolescents’ decisions to attempt suicide. We are simply led to believe that legislative decisions alone are prompting suicidal thoughts in these teenagers.

Similar assertions implying that this legislation will only increase the risk of suicide were sprinkled throughout other’s reports on the issue.  Some involved in the case went on to argue that these medical practices “save lives” and are necessary for the transgender population that tends to be vulnerable to depression and suicide.

The high suicide rate in the transgender identifying population, in fact, has been repeatedly given as the reason to support treatments that stop puberty in developing children, to start kids on a lifetime supply of the opposite-sex’s hormones, and to allow surgeries that remove healthy sexual organs. These claims are misplaced, and frankly, dangerous.

That said, suicide is a real threat, and it should be addressed. The underlying causes that are leading to this threat should also be investigated so that this population can be properly treated. But, at this time, there is no evidence that suicidality abates after transgender medical procedures are performed. To the contrary, the available evidence shows a rise in completed suicides following medical interventions. Why? Clearly, the real psychological pain behind the suicidality is not being addressed by medical interventions.

The problem here is that suicide should never be used as a tool, by any group, to strong-arm policymakers and the psychological and medical communities into both allowing and providing questionable practices that have somehow gained a monopoly on “standards of care” for gender dysphoria.  Especially when those practices involve onboarding children, who have not fully developed physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically, to potentially irreversible and sterilizing treatments. 

In response, public policy makers should focus on protecting citizens, particularly vulnerable children. Further, policies that inform public health and safety should be firmly grounded in solid empirical research, such as:

  • There is no evidence that transgender medical treatments reduce the psychological distress and mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria.
  • There is no long-term investigation into the psychological and physiological consequences of transgender medicine performed on children.

The credible and available evidence indicates:

  • There are significant health risks to transgender medicine. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, & blood clots.
  • In a 30-year longitudinal study, gender reassignment surgery patients had a 19 times higher rate of completed suicide than the general population.

A few known underlying conditions that are not addressed by transgender medicine:

  • A recent study showed 45 percent of transgender identifying persons experienced childhood sexual abuse.
  • Higher rates of substance abuse have been found in this population by comparison to the general population.

For more information on this topic, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Jennifer Bauwens is Director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council.

Embracing Modern Science Means Overturning Roe

by Joy Zavalick

July 23, 2021

In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision allowing for virtually unlimited access to abortion through nine months of pregnancy. The Court justified this decision by sidestepping the matter of whether children in the womb are alive. As Justice White explained in his Roe dissent, “The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries.”

The Roe decision to prioritize mothers seeking elective abortions rests on the outdated scientific opinions available to the Court in 1973. The Court fallaciously appealed to ignorance by permitting abortion based on a lack of knowledge about when life begins. In the opinion of the Court, Justice Blackmun wrote, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. […] The judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

There can be no doubt, however, that the human understanding of the world has shifted immeasurably in the past 48 years.

In 1973, the disposable camera was 13 years away from being invented, and the rings of Neptune would not be discovered for another decade. The Walkman would not hit the market until 1979. Doctors still operated on infants without anesthesia because they were not yet aware that babies could feel pain.

In terms of science and technological advancements, the practices of 1973 ought not govern the modern world. As lessons are learned and further information is gained, it is senseless to maintain outdated practices. When DNA fingerprinting was discovered in 1984, forensic teams did not insist on maintaining their current practices for the next 50 years; rather, the technology solved its first murder case two years later.

In 2021, the science is clearer than ever that infants in the womb are alive from the point of conception. A modern understanding of DNA reveals that human zygotes have completely unique genetic compositions, determining traits from eye color to aspects of personality, from the very point that they are fertilized. A 2019 study emphasizes that light is visible to children in the womb even as their eyes are closed.

The contemporary practices of prenatal health care have greatly adapted as well. Though the point of viability was thought to be at 28 weeks in 1973, it is now known to be at 22 weeks. The most premature infant to survive was born in 1987 at just 21 weeks gestation. Fetal surgery performed on children in the womb has successfully treated a host of developmental conditions, including spina bifida. Based on the Roe decision, which refused to consider whether infants in the womb were alive, children of the same age to be born or receive operations can just as easily be electively aborted at the mother’s discretion.

The case for reevaluating the substance of Roe is clear. Just as textbooks are updated when new facts become available to ensure that children learn the most recent information, the modern Court’s rulings must be based on current knowledge rather than the claim to ignorance of the Court in 1973. Legal precedent must not triumph over the necessity to acknowledge modern science.

As the Supreme Court will soon consider a direct challenge to Roe in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they face a pivotal decision: abide by the outdated excuses of 1973, or recognize the evidence presented by modern science and act accordingly. Americans, particularly the unborn ones, deserve to live by the best modern practices of human knowledge, which unequivocally affirms that babies in the womb are alive.

For more information on why Roe should be overturned, see FRC’s issue analysis.

Joy Zavalick is an intern with the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

How Should Christians Think About “Wokeness”?

by Molly Carman

July 22, 2021

Since its beginnings in the first century, the church has faced varied resistance from the surrounding culture and challenges to the gospel. Recently, a new challenge has emerged: “wokeness,” or the state of being “woke.” Merriam-Webster identifies “woke” as a slang term meaning being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” On the surface, wokeness might sound like seeking justice and showing concern for the weak and oppressed—things the Bible urges us to do (Isa. 1:17, Micah 6:8). However, wokeness often embraces theories and ideologies inconsistent with or even hostile to the Bible. Many well-intentioned Christians—out of a desire to be compassionate, accepting, and loving—are succumbing to cultural pressure to conform to woke ideology, likely unaware of its unbiblical tendencies.

To help Christians think biblically about wokeness, Owen Strachan, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview, has written a new book, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel. In the book, Strachan walks through the history of woke ideology and examines its consequences in American culture and the church. He also consults Scripture to give Christians advice for responding to the woke movement.

Wokeness in the Culture and the Church

The first two chapters of Christianity and Wokeness examine how woke ideology is entering the culture and, more consequentially, the church. According to Strachan, “wokeness” means to be “awake” and in tune with the prevailing zeitgeist. Critical Race Theory (CRT), which sees society as an intentional system of power structures meant to oppress others based on their skin color, is currently the most well-known example of woke ideology. CRT purports that “White Privilege” is at the root of social justice issues and must be eradicated. 

The 21st century American church has been both passively and actively incorporating woke ideology into their institutions and practices. Strachan observes that some Christians have started apologizing for and repenting of their “whiteness.” Often these actions are prefaced with the proposal that we should change the gospel to fit with woke ideology so that brothers and sisters of color will be more comfortable in the church. While true racial reconciliation is an important outworking of the gospel (Eph. 2), wokeness changes the gospel by teaching that white people are never able to fully repent for their actions because they are inherently racist by nature of being white. But the gospel says all have sinned, and everyone can be fully redeemed through the work of Christ. With its different view of sin and redemption, wokeness undermines the gospel. This is why Strachan argues, “[W]okeness is not a prism by which we discover truths we couldn’t see in a Christian worldview. Wokeness is a different system entirely than Christianity. It is, in fact, ‘a different gospel.’ But it is not just that. In the final evaluation, wokeness is not just not the Gospel. Wokeness is anti-Gospel.”

Why is Wokeness an Ungodly System?

In chapters three and four, Strachan outlines his concern with the theological and cultural implications of CRT and woke ideology. First, he encourages believers to guard their hearts and minds, noting the apostle Paul’s admonition not to be taken captive by false philosophies (Col. 2:8). Strachan argues that wokeness represents a man-centered gospel that takes others captive through legalism rather than setting them free in the grace of Christ. In other words, wokeness says that only your works can save you—but you can never actually accumulate enough works to satisfy its requirements. Ultimately, this philosophy promises so much, only to abandon its followers in the end.

Furthermore, Strachan provides guidance for responding to unbiblical ideologies. According to Strachan, wokeness calls into question the sovereignty of God and contradicts Scripture by saying that the root of all evil is “whiteness.” But, as Strachan explains, “[in] biblical terms, ‘white’ skin is not our biggest problem. Sin is.” He goes on to say, “If you have been convicted and demeaned for your skin color or heritage (whatever each may be), you have been wronged.” Woke ideology turns humans against one another, and results in individuals being judged by the color of their skin and status in society rather than the content of their character or their status in the eyes of God.

The Bible and Ethnicity

Because questions of race and ethnicity are so closely tied to woke ideology and CRT, chapter five and six provide an in-depth study of what the Old and New Testament have to say about our identity as human beings. Strachan explains how Genesis teaches that all humans are equally part of one human race. Although we may have different skin tones, languages, or ethnicities that distinguish us, we are all human beings who are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).

Further, the doctrine of the fall—not CRT—explains the fractured relationships present in humanity. It is not the differences between our skin colors that make us misunderstand, betray, and abuse one another but the sin that infects us all. One tragic consequence of the fall is the sin of racism, which is one way that humans wrongly show partiality. God is not elitist and shows no partiality to anyone, as the apostle Paul frequently discusses in his letters (Rom. 2:11, 10:12; Gal. 2:6, Eph. 6:9). The New Testament also demonstrates how everyone can be united and reconciled in Christ through the gospel message (Eph. 2:14-18, 2 Cor. 5:16-21). God desires that, ultimately, every tribe, tongue, and language be untied in Christ to form the household of God (Eph. 2:19; Rev. 5:9-10, 7:9, 21:3). As Strachan explains, “Distinctiveness is no bad thing and is, in truth, a gift and blessing of God—but unity will be our song in all the ages to come.”

The Response to Wokeness

The final chapter of Strachan’s book considers the reality of American history, specifically slavery and the civil rights movement. He concludes with recommendations for how Christians can respond to woke ideology in a biblical way, reminding his readers: “We cannot fall silent. We cannot stand by as people around us are taken captive by wokeness or any ungodly ideology.”

Although Christians ought to recognize racism’s sinfulness and the necessity of repentance for racist thoughts, actions, and attitudes, they should also recognize that certain groups of people are not inherently racist simply because of the color of their skin. Strachan concludes, “Wokeness is advancing far too quickly to treat this matter lightly, or to assume that these issues will simply ‘go away.’” He reminds his readers, “No—they will not go away. As we have argued throughout the book, strongholds and false ideologies must be destroyed, not ignored or treated with a softshoe approach.”

May we all heed this timely warning and put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) to stand firm against all unbiblical ideologies in our day and proclaim the gospel of truth.

Owen Strachan’s recent interview about his new book on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins can be viewed here.

Opposing Modern History’s Most Persistent Bad Idea: 5 Ways Marxism Is Influencing Us Today

by Owen Strachan

July 21, 2021

Karl Marx’s ideas continue to be popular, despite the fact that a 100 million body count and an unmatched catalogue of misery follows them like a funeral procession wherever they go. Like the NFL coach who has only failed wherever he’s gone yet somehow keeps getting jobs, Marx’s ideas never work but remain perennially popular for the young and the naive. This is sadly true today; we can clearly identify how a Marxist framework is influencing our society, and decidedly for the worse. 

As I do in greater depth in my brand-new book, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel—and the Way to Stop It, I want to show in this short piece how neo-Marxist ideas are harming us all. Here are five key neo-Marxist formulations that are influencing us today.

1. “You are an oppressor if you are white.”

Marx structured all of society in terms of two groups: “every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes,” he and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto. He applied this theory economically, but today, his paradigm has been appropriated by some sociologists in their attempts to explain racial conflict. According to Critical Race Theory (CRT), white people are structurally oppressors of people of color. Having white skin means you’re automatically part of a movement of oppression. This vision of “white” people, racial Marxism, means neo-Marxism is truly neo-racism.

2. “You are oppressed if you are a person of color.”

According to CRT, people of color are fundamentally oppressed by white people. People of color do not live in a fair and prosperous order; they live in an environment framed by “white supremacy.” Robin DiAngelo defines such a culture as one “that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal.” According to woke voices, this condition terrorizes people of color, leaving them without agency, without justice, and without hope. Instead of teaching people that their freedom and destiny are in the hands of “white” oppressors, we do better to teach them to reject such a view, and take agency in their own life. Can “white” people wrong others? Absolutely. Is every “white” person a “white supremacist”? Absolutely not. 

3. “The way forward is revolution.”

Marxism talks a big game about lifting people out of squalor. But none of its tenets actually dignify the individual. Instead, Marxism denies the uniqueness of the individual, making them a mere pawn in a broader societal battle, one that ultimately causes only more suffering for the people it supposedly strengthens. The brutal forms of societal change that Marxism specializes in were on vital display last summer, when under the banner of social justice, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and many swept-up citizens destroyed businesses, ruined neighborhoods, and caused numerous deaths. No gentle new order, this. But what else would we expect of a Marx-influenced movement?

4. “I know who you are without knowing you.”

Marxism trains people to think they know others without knowing them. If you see a white person, you know who they are, according to wokeness. You know they’re privileged; you know they’re guilty of “white fragility”; you know they’re an oppressor, even though they may well try to deny it. Racial Marxism is just like economic Marxism: it tells us we know people without knowing them. But this is baseless. In order to know someone, you need to learn about them as an individual and figure out what makes them tick. You can’t run a stereotype scan on them. You need to treat them like an actual human being, which the humane system of redemptive Christianity not only allows for but encourages.

5. “We can achieve utopia in this life.”

This is truly the primary reason why Marxism continues to recur despite its abysmal track record. People are suckers for a utopian vision. As I make clear in Christianity and Wokeness, we all feel pulled to one in some sense, even though Christians should know that this world is not going to become perfect outside of divine agency. Nonetheless, Marx’s ideals, like leftist “progressivism” more broadly, hook fresh generations of catch all the same. People in the West continually believe, in fresh cycles, that Marx’s ideas will surely work this time around. That mythic boost never happens, however. Violence and bloodshed invariably explode, and yet this formulation continues to get traction in each generation. It is a repeat performance as comedic as it is tragic.

In sum, Marx’s vision looks so promising to so many. But it is far better to realize that Marx’s utopia is not possible. It would be a much better idea to accept a world in which one must make and accept “tradeoffs” rather than casting about for a perfect cure-all to every problem that ails us. If we could get people off the drug of paradisical statism, we would help them tremendously, queueing them up to appreciate the free market, free speech, free governments, and a free church. In yet simpler terms, we would liberate them—at least for now—from the clutches of history’s most persistent bad idea: Marxism. 

Owen Strachan’s recent interview about his new book on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins can be viewed here.

Owen Strachan is a Senior Fellow for FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview. A graduate of Bowdoin College, Dr. Strachan is the author of Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel—and the Way to Stop It, Provost of Grace Bible Theological Seminary, and host of The Antithesis podcast.

Mary Holland On the Dangers of Removing Parental Protections from Children’s Medical Decisions

by Family Research Council

July 21, 2021

Below is the transcript of an interview with Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, during the July 16, 2021 edition of Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.

***

TONY PERKINS: Welcome back to Washington Watch. I’m Tony Perkins, your host, along with Meg Kilgannon, our co-host today. On Monday, Parental Rights Foundation and Children’s Health Defense filed a lawsuit against Washington, D.C., arguing that a 2020 law permitting minors to obtain vaccinations without parental consent is unconstitutional. The D.C. Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 allows minors eleven years and up to consent to vaccines, including the COVID shot without parental knowledge or consent, if the health care provider believes the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard. Wow. Well, joining us to talk about this is Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense. She is also the co-author and co-editor of the books Vaccine Epidemic and the HPV Vaccine on Trial: Seeking Justice for a Generation Betrayed. Mary, welcome to Washington Watch.

MARY HOLLAND: Thank you so much for having me.

MEG KILGANNON: Mary, can you tell us about what prompted you to file the lawsuit?

HOLLAND: So this is a very dangerous law that the Washington, D.C. City Council passed and Congress did not override it. We were sort of watching this process. This is potentially precedent setting. The pharmaceutical industry had tried this in many states, but they have bicameral legislatures and they did not succeed because both parents opposed it. But in D.C., with only a unicameral legislature, they were able to get this through. This is dangerous for children because parents won’t know what vaccines their children get. It goes beyond just the parents don’t know. This is active concealment required by this law that the parents who filed a religious exemption will not know that their children got vaccines. Whether it’s the human papilloma virus vaccine or whether it’s the COVID shot or whether it’s a meningitis shot, the kids allegedly can consent to any federally recommended vaccine on their own and the parents won’t even find out about it from their health insurer. It will be concealed from the parents who will have access to information and the health care practitioner. But the health care practitioner and the school are disabled from giving that information to the parent. This is unconstitutional. It also violates the federal statute that put in place the vaccine program that we have today. So we strongly oppose it. We believe that we will prevail on this. We have four parents on behalf of their children who are enrolled in the D.C. public school system. And we think that, we feel that, this is an incredibly important law to challenge because it is so potentially precedent setting. Let me just add that four cities have already sort of declared this mature minor act. And so Seattle and New York City and in Philadelphia, they have been inviting children without their parents’ knowledge to come and get COVID shots. This is tremendously concerning.

PERKINS: This would appear to me, as you’ve described it, Mary, intentionally designed to deceive parents. And with this being concealed, I mean, I have to think about, you know, there could be complications. You know, when you get this, let’s just take the COVID, there’s others that this would open the door to. So it’s not limited to the COVID shot. But let’s say they get the COVID shot. And we already know that there have been some health complications for some who have gotten these shots and a parent doesn’t know and all of a sudden their child could be deathly ill and they don’t know why.

HOLLAND: Tony, there have been others, over nine thousand reported deaths. There have been over four hundred thousand reported injuries. The covid shots in particular are very serious medical intervention. But every vaccine, like every drug carries potential benefits and potential risks. That’s why parents have to play a role in these decisions. These are minors. It is inconceivable to me that an 11-year-old can adequately research and understand the potential benefits risks of a COVID shot. This is nonsense. This is the pharmaceutical industry coming in and exploiting children, at the children’s expense and trying to cut parents out of the picture. That’s just unacceptable. It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it violates federal law.

KILGANNON: We’re really grateful that you filed this lawsuit. I think it’s incredible to me that a governing body, in which in this case is the school board, right and the city council, that would they would think that eleven year olds could know their medical history sufficiently to actually form intelligent consent to any medical procedure. Never mind a vaccine.

HOLLAND: That’s it, Meg. This is dangerous. Children can potentially die from this law. That’s what parents have to understand. Your child could die from getting fuor COVID shots through a school. And the kid doesn’t know what the shot was. They said, “Oh, yeah, give me the shot so our class can get the pizza party.” And then the mom or the dad take the kid to get to the COVID shot. We don’t know what that would do. It might be within a short period of time. I just can’t bring across enough how dangerous it is and how exploitative this is.

PERKINS: Well, and I would add that to add insult to injury here is that they’re going to bill the parents’ health insurer without them even knowing what the service provided was. I mean, this is incredible.

HOLLAND: That’s the point, Tony. It’s incredible. We could not believe this as this passed through the city council. And then it sat on the mayor’s desk and we tried to get people to call in to the mayor, and there were there were hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls, but that didn’t move anything. And then it went to Congress and there’s a waiting period in Congress and that didn’t do anything. So, surely, we have had no choice. And another organization has also filed a lawsuit. This one is where we absolutely have to take a stand. It is. And of course, this is specifically going against parents with religious exemptions or conscientious objections to the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. So it’s parents who already filed their religious exemptions to great extent that they’re trying to go around. So this is, of course, also violating constitutional rights to free exercise. It’s just a terrible law. In a word, it’s a just terrible law and that we’re proud to be standing together with the plaintiff and parental rights advocates.

PERKINS: Well, Mary, we appreciate you joining us. And we’re going to watch this very closely. And we’ll be getting updates from you, hopefully, so we can keep our listeners informed. This is a direct attack, Meg, on parental rights.

KILGANNON: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. They want to leave the parents out. They’re going deliberately around them.

The video of the interview can be viewed here.

How Unmet Expectations Destroy our Faith

by Joseph Backholm

July 21, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

If you are married, there’s a good chance you did some premarital counseling that included conversations about what to expect in marriage. These conversations hopefully encompassed much more than who is going to mow the lawn and manage the money. Ideally, these conversations fostered an understanding of what “in good times and bad” actually means. In marriage, as in all relationships, disappointment often results when our expectations don’t match reality.

The Christian life isn’t all that different. Many people turn to God because of problems they hope He can fix. Some of us are like the so-called “foxhole Christian” who promises to “live for God” if He will spare our lives and help us survive the battle. Of course, God can meet us in our moments of biggest need, but if we surrender to God because of what He might do for us (instead of what He has already done for us) we run the risk of our expectations not matching reality.

If we expect that serving God will make our lives easier, what happens when serving God makes life harder? Could this help explain why some Christians are walking away from their faith? Here is some research I detailed in a recent publication:

America is becoming less religious and has been for a while. In just the last decade, the number of people claiming to be Christian has declined 12 percent—from 77 percent to 65 percent. Not only is America less Christian as a percentage, the total number of professing Christians has declined from 176 million in 2009 to 167 million in 2019, even as the population increased by 23 million.

Further:

The fastest growing religious category in America is the “nones”—those who claim to have no religion at all. Over the last decade, the number of Protestants declined 15 percent and the number of Catholics declined 12 percent, while the “nones” grew 70 percent—from 12 percent of the population to 17 percent in 2019. That’s an additional 30 million people who now claim no religious faith. Of those, 78 percent grew up in the church. The church is losing its own kids.

Cultural shifts never have just one cause, but it’s worth considering whether people leave the church because, as with many marriages, their expectations didn’t match reality.

When we become Christians, we take sides in a spiritual war that has been raging on this planet since Adam and Eve first sinned. Taking sides in a war—particularly a spiritual one—has consequences. Although this might seem obvious, it is often not highlighted when the gospel is presented.

Of course, submitting our lives to Christ does fix our biggest problem: our sin. But many people are unaware of what their biggest problem is, and in many cases, people are more interested in solving their financial, social, or marital problems than their damnation problem. It’s easy to be more interested in the gifts than the Giver, but from God’s perspective, He is the prize: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).

The Christian life is filled with joy (Ps. 16:11), but the joy of the Christian life is counterintuitive to the world’s ideas about joy. Even our suffering can be a source of joy: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2, NKJV). 

In fact, we are blessed at the moments when life might seem most challenging, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake and the gospel” (Mat. 5:11). Being misunderstood and mistreated can not only be a source of joy but evidence that we are doing exactly what Jesus wants us to do: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12).

If we come to Jesus because the Lamb is worthy of His reward, we will never be disappointed. If we come to Jesus because we were hoping He could fix a few things, it could be unsettling if our lives become temporarily more difficult.

The reward of the Christian life is not the absence of pain. In fact, becoming a Christian may introduce even more pain and persecution into your life. But one of the rewards of following Jesus is seeing that our pain—even our deepest hurt and suffering—is temporary and that what awaits us on the other side of the pain is more than worth it. This was the apostle Paul’s point when he said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Moreover, as Christians, we gain the perspective that God is at work in our sufferings and uses them to conform us into the people He wants us to be.

Many Christians did not sign up expecting a war. For many, once being a Christian became more of a liability rather than an asset (culturally speaking), they sought a discharge from the service. If we come to Jesus more focused on this life than the next, it’s possible we’ll be disappointed. Based on the numbers, many people are.

State Round-Up: Protecting Adoption Agencies and Foster/Adoptive Families

by Chantel Hoyt

July 20, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:

The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.

In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.

Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:

  • Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.
  • Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.
  • Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.

Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.

Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.

In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).

Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”

Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” 

Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.

One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service… based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.

Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.

State Round-Up: Chemical Abortion Bans

by Chantel Hoyt

July 19, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

While many states have enacted pro-life laws in recent years, the abortion industry has been searching for ways to circumvent such laws. The best way to do this, it has determined, is through risky, do-it-yourself chemical abortions, which leave mothers to endure the trauma of abortion alone in their bathrooms, with no support or medical follow-up.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone (Mifeprex®; also known as RU-486 or simply “the abortion pill”) to chemically induce abortions. Since then, the abortion industry has latched on to the abortion pill as a lower-cost alternative to surgical abortions—and one that can be carried out virtually anywhere. As a result, abortion pill usage has surged even as the overall number of abortions in the United States is in decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of early “medical abortions” (a euphemistic term for chemical abortions) increased 114 percent from 2006 to 2015. And according to statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, 39 percent of abortions in 2017 were chemical, a 25 percent increase since 2014.

Chemical abortion is praised by pro-abortion activists for expanding abortion availability, particularly for women who don’t live near an abortion business since they push mothers to self-administer the drugs at home. These activists choose to overlook chemical abortion’s higher rate of risk compared to surgical abortion and push for the removal of the FDA’s safety standards, arguing they are unnecessary and unduly limit “abortion access.” The abortion industry seems willing to gamble with women’s lives and health.

The good news is that many states are not. Since 2011, 74 bills to ban or place regulations on chemical abortion have been introduced in 29 states. Of these bills, 21 have been enacted in 14 states. These bills vary in approach. Some seek to ban chemical abortion outright, while others seek to regulate chemical abortions in an effort to mitigate its health-damaging and life-threatening risks to mothers. Bills typically include some combination of the following key provisions:

  • Require that the pre-abortion exam be performed, and the abortion pills be administered, in-person by a licensed physician. (These laws are often referred to as “Skype abortion” bans, since without them abortionists can abuse telehealth to dispense chemical abortion drugs without ever physically examining the mother.)
  • Require that physicians meet certain certification and qualification standards, including:
    • Being certified by an “Abortion Inducing Drug Certification Program” at the state board of pharmacy.
    • Being capable of performing an in-person exam to confirm the pregnancy, the absence of an ectopic pregnancy and determine the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child, as well as document said information in the patient’s medical chart.
  • Require follow-up appointments (minimum of two).
  • Require patients to be informed of the “final printed label” (FPL) of each drug.
  • Require informed consent for mothers.
  • Require reporting of Adverse Event Complications and reporting to the state board of pharmacy.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion providers who violate the law can be sued).

In 2021 so far, a record-high 22 bills have been introduced and seven enacted in six states. Here is a rundown of the seven bills enacted so far this year:

  • Alabama HB 377 banned chemical abortions completely and imposed a criminal penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, it prohibits any person or entity from manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring the abortion pill or any substantially similar generic or non-generic abortifacient drug in the state. This is the strongest measure to be enacted this year.
  • Oklahoma SB 778 also requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician, establishes informed consent and reporting requirements (i.e., number of chemical abortions), codifies criminal, professional, and civil penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother, father, and maternal grandparents of the unborn child if these rules are not adhered to. This bill also prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs in schools or on other state grounds.
  • Oklahoma SB 779 additionally requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician but adds that this physician must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This bill also establishes the Oklahoma Abortion-Inducing Drug Certification Program, which requires manufacturers, distributors, and physicians to be certified to manufacture, distribute, or provide abortifacient drugs, and establishes requirements for certification. This bill also requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, establishes informed consent requirements, creates a reporting system, establishes criminal penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother of the unborn child. This bill, together with SB 778, puts strong regulations in place, ensuring proper safety precautions are taken and enforced.
  • Montana HB 171 requires that abortifacients be administered in-person by a “qualified medical practitioner” and prohibits the drug from being provided through a courier, delivery, or mail service, which targets the “mail-order abortion” model that the abortion industry is moving toward. It also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the drug to verify that a pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type (since being Rh negative could cause complications), and establish the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child. This bill also provides informed consent requirements, reporting requirements, civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, a civil cause of action, and requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment. In addition, the bill also prohibits anyone from providing an abortifacient drug at a school or on school grounds.
  • Arkansas HB 1402 requires persons administering abortifacients to be licensed physicians, credentialed to manage abortion complications, or have an agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle abortion complications. The bill also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the abortion pill in order to verify that an intrauterine pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type, and establish the gestational age of the child. This bill additionally requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment (making all reasonable efforts to ensure that the mother returns) and prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs via a courier, delivery, or mail service. It did not establish any new penalties.
  • Ohio SB 260 requires physicians to be physically present when abortifacients are administered and requires the physician to perform an in-person exam prior to administering the drug. It also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the administration of abortifacients and imposes criminal penalties for noncompliance.
  • Arizona SB 1457 places leaner regulations on chemical abortion. It requires that abortifacient drugs only be provided by a qualified physician (elsewhere defined in law) and prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing an abortifacient drug via a courier, delivery, or mail service. This bill doesn’t establish regulations as robust as the others, above. However, to the bill’s credit, it establishes strong abortion regulations in other areas not related to chemical abortion, such as prohibiting an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality of the unborn child.

No other year has seen so many bills to regulate or ban chemical abortion introduced, let alone enacted. State legislators are seeing the lack of restraint and regulation of chemical abortions and taking action to establish necessary safeguards. All Americans should agree that the abortion industry should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the health and safety of mothers. States are sending a clear message that they will not stand idly by and allow abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to profit from the cheaper but riskier abortion pill regimen. Given the dramatic increase of chemical abortions over the past few years, more states are sure to respond with their own legislative efforts to reign in this growing sector of the abortion industry.

For more information on chemical abortions and why safety restrictions are necessary for the sake of women’s health, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of July 11)

by Family Research Council

July 16, 2021

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

1. Update: The Boy Scouts: A Case Study in Compromise

After 100 years of teaching future presidents, explorers, and civil rights leaders to follow their moral compass, it’s been sobering to watch the Boy Scouts lose their own bearings. And yet, the unhappy ending for one of America’s proudest traditions was easy to predict once the organization started chasing the approval of critics it could never win.

2. Update: ‘I’m from the Government, and I’m Here to Vaccinate’

Most people were shocked when the president wanted to go door-to-door with his vaccine campaign—but that’s only the half of it. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the White House is also planning to go barracks to barracks—requiring the men and women of our voluntary military to surrender their freedom and take an unproven shot some of them don’t want.

3. Blog: How to Respond to Your Friend Who Is Leaving the Faith

Many Christians are taught how to share the gospel with non-Christians, but what’s often not taught is how to respond when those who were raised within the church, have heard the truth, and even perhaps once believed in the gospel walk away from the faith. How can Christians respond to our friends’ situations and choices with grace, humility, and compassion?

4. Blog: How California’s New Sex Ed Program Will Harm Kids

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As Christians, we are called to raise our children with biblical truths and morals. However, the public education system is implementing curricula that teach children beliefs that go directly against biblical truths and create long lasting psychological problems for children.

5. Washington WatchCraig Parshall, Mo Brooks, Meg Kilgannon

Tony was joined by Craig L. Parshall, attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, to discuss President Biden’s executive order on Big Tech. Mo Brooks, U.S. Representative for Alabama, talked about the implications of a mandatory COVID vaccine for the U.S. military. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s senior fellow for education studies, gave an update on Chicago Public Schools’ new sex education policy.

6. Washington Watch: Andy Harris, David Curry, Grace Chao, Andrew Brunson

Tony was joined by Andy Harris, U.S. Representative for Maryland, to discuss the situation in Cuba among other topics. David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, shared Open Doors’ recent report on religious liberty in India. Grace Gao, Daughter of Gao Zhisheng, shared her story of the Chinese government targeting her father, who has been missing for the past four years. And, Andrew Brunson, FRC’s Special Advisor for International Religious Freedom, gave highlights from this week’s IRF Summit 2021.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: America’s Crime Wave

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rep. Mary Miller, Wiley Thompson, and Pastor Phil Hotsenpiller to discuss and pray about the rise in crime around the country and what we, the church, can do.

California’s Latest Travel Ban Should Be a Teachable Moment for Conservatives

by Damon Sidur , Gabby Wiggins

July 16, 2021

On June 28, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that California will add five more states to its travel ban. State-funded travel will no longer be permitted to states on this list because they passed bills that California considers “discriminatory.”

The number of states on California’s anti-travel list has been growing over the years and has now reached a total of 17, with this new addition of Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The ban will have an impact on public school trips, universities, teacher conferences, and any other business that public employees of the state of California may need to attend around the country.

Bonta justified the additions to the travel ban by claiming the moral high ground. “The states [banned] are a part of a recent, dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills signed into law in states across the country that directly work to ban transgender youth from playing sports, block access to life-saving care, or otherwise limit the rights of members of the LGBTQ community,” Bonta’s office explained in a press release. However, these laws are necessary to (1) preserve fair competition in women’s sports by requiring that athletes who identify as transgender participate in sports according to their biological sex, and (2) to prevent youth from making drastic, permanent life-altering decisions (like taking puberty blocking drugs) until they reach adulthood, such as Arkansas’ SAFE Act.

The first travel ban from California was introduced in 2017. Then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra signed into law Assembly Bill 1887, which prohibited a state agency, department, board, or commission from requiring any state employees, officers, or members to travel to a state that has so-called “discriminatory” laws against gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation. The first state it applied to was Oklahoma.

Oklahoma had signed into law Senate Bill 1140, which allowed private foster care/adoption agencies to use their own discretion when placing children into homes. For religious organizations, it meant that they could continue to place children only into families with a mother and a father. Neither adoption nor foster care by those identifying as LGBTQ is banned in Oklahoma; the bill simply upholds that private organizations are allowed to operate in accordance with their beliefs. However, according to advocates of the LGBTQ cause, SB 1140  discriminated against those identifying as LGBTQ. Allie Shin, the External Affairs Director of ACLU Oklahoma, stated that “Rather than stand up to religious fanaticism, the Governor has chosen to reinforce the delusions of those who confuse discrimination with liberty.” Shortly after, California enacted AB1887.

However, Becerra didn’t stop at just Oklahoma. Over the course of the next several years, he signed laws prohibiting state-funded travel to Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. All of these states have passed laws similar to Oklahoma’s or that fall under the category of LGBTQ issues.

Blocking state-funded travel to a third of the country comes with consequential economic impacts. Lisa Hermes, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in McKinney, Texas, said that “the state could lose out on as much as $1 billion dollars of economic impact if the NCAA canceled its events currently slated to take place in Texas — such as the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship game set for Houston and the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas.” In Louisville, Kentucky, the city lost over $2 million in revenue after two companies canceled events they were going to hold there. Even Nashville, which is a left-leaning city, was impacted after the American Counseling Association canceled a meeting they had scheduled, which would have brought 3,000 visitors to the state (and business to hotels and restaurants to boot) and would have brought in $4 million worth of tax revenue.

While these new bans by California are obviously more harmful than helpful, they are also a dangerous example of the level that the Left will stoop to in order to make a large statement. It’s hard to argue against the fact that by shutting down state-funded travel to 17 states, California’s stances on issues like transgenderism are getting lots of attention. This travel ban is one of many ways that the Left is forcing culture to align with their agenda. There’s also issues like the MLB moving its All-Star Game out of Georgia because of pressure from the Left.

With all of this happening in the culture around us, what is our role as Christians and conservatives? The Left is following through on what they say they’re going to do, and it’s having an economic impact. How should we respond? We need to follow through on our beliefs as well and use God’s word as the basis for our decisions and actions. As Christians, we need to firmly take a stand not just with our words, but with our actions by using our hard-earned money to make an economic impact for biblical values just as the Left is making an economic impact with their policies. As believers, we can do this by supporting companies and organizations that align with our biblical values.

Gabby Wiggins is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

Damon Sidur is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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