Month Archives: December 2021

Year in Review: 10 Stories From 2021

by David Closson

December 17, 2021

2021 has been a year full of important cultural, political, and legal developments. In a year that witnessed the inauguration of a new president, the conclusion of America’s longest war, and the ongoing fight against COVID-19, there was much to track, analyze, and discuss. Although Democratic majorities in Congress required conservative policymakers to play defense at the federal level, there were still notable (and significant) legislative victories throughout the states.

2021 was an active year for Family Research Council, and there are several new initiatives, events, and legislative victories that merit gratitude and reflection as we prepare to ring in the new year. What follows are 10 stories from 2021 that provide a summary of God’s faithfulness and kindness to us and lay the groundwork for an exciting 2022.

1. Oral Arguments Heard in Case that Could Overturn Roe

On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion on demand in America through all nine months of pregnancy. 

In Dobbs, the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, bipartisan legislation that prohibits elective abortion after 15 weeks gestation. The Gestational Age Act offers a direct challenge to the jurisprudence of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made legal abortion through nine months the default law of every state. Under Casey, states may prohibit abortion post-viability and restrict abortion prior to viability so long as the restriction does not place an “undue burden” on the woman. In Dobbs, the court will consider whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional. The court’s decision, which is expected in summer 2022, could return the ability to legislate abortion back to the states and will have major implications for the future of the unborn in America.

In the weeks leading up to the oral arguments, FRC provided leadership to the pro-life community in a variety of ways. First, FRC filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to overturn Roe and its companion case, Casey. Second, FRC teamed up with other national pro-life groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Alliance Defending Freedom, to host a “Pray for Dobbs” national webinar for pastors. Over 4,000 pastors joined the October broadcast and learned about the case. Then in November, the “Pray for Dobbs” coalition hosted a national prayer event. Over 18,000 people joined national leaders on the broadcast to pray for the upcoming case. Third, on November 28, FRC hosted a prayer rally titled “Pray Together for Life” in Mississippi. Among the national leaders who participated was Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Finally, FRC also published resources and articles about the case, and on the day of oral arguments, FRC’s Katherine Johnson spoke at a rally outside the Supreme Court.

To learn more about the case and for a list of recommended ways to pray, see my article in The Gospel Coalition.  

2. Vaccine Mandates Struck Down

On September 9, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that all employers with more than 100 employees must require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing. Noncompliant businesses could be fined. Biden’s private employer mandate came on the heels of a federal mandate requiring all federal employees to receive the vaccine, get tested weekly, or face dismissal from their job.

After the announcement, several organizations and schools (including The Daily Wire, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Asbury Theological Seminary) sued, alleging the Biden administration lacked constitutional and statutory authority to issue such a mandate to private employers. Both schools also argued that the administration lacked jurisdiction to dictate employment practices to religious institutions. On Friday, November 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order staying enforcement and implementation of the executive order. On November 16, 2021, the Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all petitions for review of the Emergency Temporary Standard (including the Fifth Circuit ruling) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Moreover, on November 29, a U.S. district court in Missouri issued a preliminary injunction for health care workers in 10 states. On November 30, the U.S. District Court of Western Louisiana issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health care workers. Additionally, on December 7, a U.S. district judge in South Georgia temporarily blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors.

President Biden’s vaccine mandate has proven to be divisive. Thus far, courts around the country have halted the implementation of the mandate. As we move into 2022, Christians will need to think carefully and biblically about vaccine mandates, as it seems they will continue to be part of the national conversation.

Concerning whether Christians should use religious exemptions, see my article “How Should Christians Use Religious Exemptions for Vaccine Mandates?

3. Off-Year Election Results

While 2021 is not a major election year for most states, a few states and cities still held important elections. The most significant of these was the Virginia gubernatorial election, in which Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin faced off against the Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Even though Joe Biden had won Virginia by 10 points the previous year, Youngkin surprised political pundits by defeating McAuliffe and becoming the first Republican to win a statewide race in over a decade. Furthermore, Republican nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general both won, and Republicans retook the majority in the House of Delegates. Many election observers cited parents’ outrage over public school officials’ cover-up of a biological male student’s rape of female students in Loudon County school bathrooms. Abortion and the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools were also motivating factors for many voters.

Elsewhere around the country, conservatives demonstrated that the political climate has soured against Democrats and their progressive agenda. For example, the Republican nominee for governor in New Jersey nearly pulled off a shocking upset against incumbent Democrat Governor Phil Murphy. In perhaps the most stunning race, New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney (D) was upset by a Republican truck driver who only spent a few thousand dollars on his campaign.  

Additionally, ballot measures to defund the police department were defeated in Minneapolis, and the mayor of Buffalo waged a successful write-in campaign against a progressive candidate endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). FRC Action (FRC’s legislative affiliative) endorsed their first candidate for school board, David Anderson, in Washington state. Anderson won the election. Only a year after the 2020 election, voters are clearly concerned about the country’s direction, and these results are encouraging for conservatives headed into next year’s midterm elections. 

4. FRC Launches Center for Biblical Worldview

In May, FRC launched the Center for Biblical Worldview (CBW) with the goal of equipping Christians to advance and defend their faith in their families, communities, and the public square. We also added researcher George Barna and Professor Owen Strachan to the CBW team.

The need for the CBW was underscored by an FRC-commissioned survey that revealed that only six percent of Americans have a biblical worldview, despite 51 percent thinking they do. Furthermore, only 21 percent of those who attend evangelical churches have a biblical worldview. Biblical illiteracy is a significant problem in America, one the CBW hopes to help counteract.

The CBW hit the ground running, publishing numerous resources in its first year, including newly re-branded Biblical Worldview Series booklets covering important topics such as religious liberty, the sanctity of life, human sexuality, and political engagement. These booklets are now available in English and Spanish. The CBW also produced dozens of articles, interviews, and other resources to help pastors, churches, and Christian laypeople think through the year’s most contentious and confusing political and moral questions.

In 2022, the CBW is planning to publish a Sunday school curriculum, a video series, and a web-based resource for parents and students to evaluate the faithfulness of every Christian college and university in America. To stay informed about all of the exciting projects we expect to release next year, you can sign up for the CBW’s monthly email here.

5. Texas Heartbeat Act Saves Thousands of Babies

The Texas Heartbeat Act, which took effect on September 1, has saved an estimated 150 babies from abortion per day. This will result in upwards of 18,000 babies saved by the end of the year. The Texas law bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, typically at about six weeks gestation. Texas’ 230 pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) have been meeting the needs of mothers that otherwise might have undergone abortions prior to the Heartbeat Act.  

Unsurprisingly, Texas abortion businesses sued the state over the Heartbeat Act. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and in December issued an opinion permitting lawsuits to proceed against licensing officials but no one else that the abortion lobby had named as defendants. SCOTUS also made the rare move of dismissing the Biden administration’s suit saying they never should have accepted it in the first place. Overall, the opinion was a win for pro-lifers. Although the law is currently facing challenges from the outraged abortion lobby, it is still in effect today. 

While holding her three-month-old son, FRC’s Mary Szoch spoke outside the Supreme Court as arguments about the Texas law were heard. FRC’s Katherine Johnson also published an explainer about the law, combatting lies spread by the abortion lobby (and unfortunately parroted by many in the media). Christians must continue to pray for a favorable outcome for Texas as the Heartbeat Act continues to face litigation in 2022.  

6. Win in Congress: NDAA Passes Without Conscripting Women

Every year, Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that is required to fund the military. Legislators have managed to pass the NDAA for 60 years. However, it is not always an easy or smooth process. This year, Democrats dug in on adding a proposal to mandate that women register for the draft.

Over the past few months, as the bill moved through Congress, FRC argued that women should continue serving honorably in the military on a voluntary basis only. Including women in any future drafts would subject them to being mandated into combat roles, which is unnecessary and dangerous. It has been proven that women in combat situations have a higher likelihood of injury than their male peers and thus affect the lethality, readiness, and cohesion of certain combat units.

FRC facilitated more than 200,000 messages to Congress opposing this dangerous mandate. Pro-family leaders in the House and Senate such as Sens. Hawley (R-Neb.), Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Lee (R-Utah) and Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) led the charge. In an about-face that Politico described as a “stunning turnaround,” this mandate on women and other anti-life and anti-religious liberty provisions were dropped from the bill.  

7. Hyde Amendment Preserved

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. However, since 1976, Congress has worked to ensure that federal funding does not go toward abortion. In 1976, Congressman Henry Hyde introduced an amendment to the Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill, prohibiting federal Medicaid funds from paying for abortions. This amendment to the annual spending bill, known as the Hyde Amendment, has been approved every year since 1976 and has saved an estimated 2,409,311 lives.

However, because of the nature of federal spending, this measure must be passed annually in order to remain in effect. In recent years, Democrat lawmakers have openly lobbied to remove the Hyde Amendment. In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an HHS spending bill without Hyde for the first time since 1976. Moreover, the Senate introduced a spending bill without Hyde protections. Thankfully, despite fierce attacks from pro-abortion lawmakers, Hyde was preserved in the spending bills passed in 2021.

There are several ways in which FRC was involved in preserving Hyde. For example, FRC worked to secure 199 signatures from House members calling for the preservation of Hyde. Additionally, FRC worked to educate members of Congress about Hyde and worked with them whenever the issue was brought up in committee or came up for a vote. When the spending bill came through committee in July, FRC staff helped committee members with speeches and media interviews. Every Republican on the appropriations committee gave a speech defending Hyde and opposing taxpayer funding of abortion. While it is normally difficult for outside groups to muster five to seven members to speak out in committee on a given issue, FRC helped get 25 members to speak in favor of Hyde. Even though it remains under attack, the Hyde Amendment received more vocal support from Republican lawmakers in 2021 than in any year in recent memory.

8. Pray Vote Stand Summit

The inaugural Pray Vote Stand Summit was held October 6-8 at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia. The thousands of social conservatives who attended in-person and the tens of thousands who attended online heard from nationally-recognized religious and political leaders on the most pressing issues facing the nation, including religious freedom, abortion, national security, and education.

Speakers included Mike Pompeo, Glenn Youngkin, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, Carter Conlon, Os Guinness, Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. James Lankford, Jack Hibbs, Nancy Pearcey, Allie Beth Stuckey, Chad Wolf, and many others.

In addition to plenary addresses from speakers, attendees benefited from hearing panel sessions on topics such as abortion, worldview, Christian persecution, vaccine mandates, and keeping children safe from radical gender ideology. Coinciding with the Summit, FRC also hosted a training for those interested in running for their local school board. 

FRC’s communications team credentialed 47 members of the media from 26 outlets to cover the Pray Vote Stand Summit, including Fox News, CBN News, and One America News. Additionally, 34 media outlets published 45 articles about or referencing the conference including Fox News, Breitbart, The Blaze, CBN News, The Daily Wire, The Christian Post, and The Epoch Times.

9. International Religious Freedom Summit

On July 13-15, FRC participated in the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit. Unlike the Trump-era Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, this year’s IRF gathering was organized by private organizations, not the U.S. government. Hosted by 81 convening partners (including FRC), the summit highlighted the issue of international religious freedom, an area of increasing concern. In fact, almost 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of religious persecution, much of it perpetrated by government actors.

At the summit, participants heard reports by FRC’s Andrew Brunson and Bob Fu. FRC president Tony Perkins hosted a panel discussion and a sponsored lunch where he interviewed Grace Gao, who shared about her father, a human rights lawyer, who has been targeted by the Chinese government and whose exact whereabouts have been unknown for four years. FRC’s Lela Gilbert moderated a side event on religious freedom in Nigeria, which included two survivors of persecution.

For more information about FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, specifically its work on international religious liberty, see FRC.org/irf.

10. SAFE Act Passes in Arkansas

On April 6, the Arkansas legislature enacted House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. This made Arkansas the first state in the nation to ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment surgeries on individuals under 18 for the purpose of “gender transition.” Of the many similar bills introduced across the nation, Arkansas’ law is the most comprehensive ban addressing this issue. It initially passed the Arkansas House 70-22 and the Senate 28-7. When Governor Asa Hutchison vetoed the bill, the House voted 72-25 and the Senate voted 25-8, providing the first veto override in Hutchinson’s tenure as governor. FRC awarded Rep. Robin Lundstrum the Samuel Adams Award for State Legislator of the Year in recognition of her leading role in getting the bill passed.

For more information about FRC’s work with state legislatures around the country and some of the pieces of legislation we support, see FRC.org/legislation.

Fact Check: 5 False Claims Corrected in the Dobbs Oral Arguments

by Mary Szoch

December 14, 2021

On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that poses the best chance in over a generation to overturn Roe v. Wade. Julie Rickelman, senior director of U.S. litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that the Court should strike down Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act—the bipartisan legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks that was at issue in the case.

Although Rickelman’s arguments occasionally aligned with the truth, the majority of what she said does not pass a fact check. Let’s examine several of those claims.

Claim #1: Justice Roberts questioned whether a 15-week ban on abortion, as opposed to a ban at the point of viability (generally set at 22-24 weeks gestation), would have a severely negative impact on women in their place in society. Rickelman responded by stating, “People who need abortion after 15 weeks are most often in the most challenging circumstances… In fact, the data has been very clear over the last 50 years that abortion has been critical to women’s equal participation in society.”

  • The Truth: In Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a publication of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the authors acknowledge that women seeking late-term abortions do so for the same reasons women receive earlier abortions—“stressful circumstances of unprepared pregnancy, single-motherhood, financial pressure, and relationship discord.” Killing a child is not the solution to challenging circumstances.

Claim #2: Justice Roberts mentioned that the list of countries that do not ban abortion prior to viability includes North Korea and China. Rickelman responded, “First that’s not correct about international law. In fact, the majority of countries that permit legal access to abortion allow access right up until viability… So, for example, Canada, Great Britain and most of Europe allows access to abortion right up until viability…”

  • The Truth: Across the globe, only six countries allow abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy—North Korea, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Canada, and the United States. While Rickelman was correct that Canada and the United Kingdom offer abortion up until viability, she was wrong in characterizing that as typical for Europe. In fact, only two countries in Europe (the United Kingdom and Finland) allow abortion for “broad social reasons” or “socioeconomic reasons.” Around the world, 100 countries completely outlaw abortion or only allow abortion to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.

Claim #3: Justice Gorsuch asked Rickelman whether the “undue burden” standard is unworkable. Rickelman replied, “The only thing that’s at issue in this case is the viability line, and the viability line has been enduringly workable. The lower federal courts have applied it consistently and uniformly for 50 years. And the Fifth Circuit here below had no difficulty striking down this law unanimously, 3-0. So it’s been an exceedingly workable standard.”

  • The Truth: The viability line has shifted from 28 weeks when Roe was decided in 1973 to 22-24 weeks today. Multiple babies have even survived at 21 weeks. Viability is not a standard that can be uniformly applied because it varies from person to person. Characterizing viability as an “exceedingly workable standard” is either wishful thinking or willful ignorance.

Claim #4: Justice Alito questioned Rickelman about her defense of the viability line. He asked, “The fetus has an interest in having a life, and that doesn’t change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?” Rickelman ultimately responded, “It [the viability standard] is principled because, in ordering the interests at stake, the Court had to set a line between conception and birth, and it logically looked at the fetus’ ability to survive separately as a legal line because it’s objectively verifiable and doesn’t require the Court to resolve the philosophical issues at stake.”

  • The Truth: The matter of an unborn child being a human being is not a “philosophical issue”; it is a scientific fact. Furthermore, at no point in time do babies—born or unborn (or countless fully grown adults)—have the ability to “survive separately,” so if Rickelman actually believes that the Court’s line where a person has the ability to “survive separately” is the logical point before which a person can be killed—she is endorsing abortion, infanticide, and the right to kill anyone who cannot survive on their own.

Claim #5: In an exchange with Justice Alito, Rickelman claimed that access to abortion is part of the American tradition. She said, “At the founding, women were able to end their pregnancy under the common law. And, in fact, this Court… specifically called out and relied on Roe’s conclusion that at the time of the founding and well into the 1800s, women had the ability to end a pregnancy.”

  • The Truth: Multiple amicus briefs were filed proving the opposite. The Thomas More Society noted that English common law originally followed in the American colonies considered abortion after “quickening” as a serious crime, and early state laws made abortion throughout pregnancy criminal. As Josh Craddock pointed out in his seminal piece, “Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?” published in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, “quickening” was used to protect prenatal life as soon as it could be discerned—not to exclude life prior to that moment. In other words, at the time of the American founding, once there was evidence of life in the womb, it was protected. Professors Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead echoed this argument.

    Craddock also noted that by the time of ratification of the 14th Amendment, which is used to justify the “right to privacy” under which abortion is legalized, not only did common-law and state practice protect the unborn, but dictionaries used “person” and “human being” interchangeably, and the authors of the 14th Amendment expected it to especially protect the weak and marginalized. Esteemed legal scholars John Finnis and Robert George, as well as Lee Strang, submitted amicus briefs arguing along the same line of thought.

As we pray for the outcome in Dobbs, let us also pray for Julie Rickelman—that this brilliant woman will seek the truth and one day use her God-given gifts to defend life.

Amid the Push for Faux “Rights,” Human Rights Day Reminds Us of What Matters

by Arielle Del Turco

December 13, 2021

On December 10, President Joe Biden followed in the footsteps of his predecessors by recognizing Human Rights Day, an oft-ignored date commemorating a critically important event in world history: the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Unfortunately, mission creep has plagued U.S. human rights advocacy in recent years, undermining the international human rights standards we have been blessed to inherit. Human Rights Day deserves to be acknowledged because the history of human rights is worth remembering, and its integrity is worth preserving.

The brutality and horrors displayed in World War II and the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany—most notably the Holocaust—demonstrated the need for a widely agreed upon understanding of the ways in which the human dignity of all people must be protected. And so, UN delegate Eleanor Roosevelt led a team of scholars and experts to draft a list of human rights, with regular input from the 58 member states.

This list needed to be such that all reasonable people—from the diverse cultures and norms represented in the UN—would agree to it. In the end, 30 rights and freedoms were agreed upon as being fundamental to humanity, and the UDHR became the guiding force for human rights advocacy.

Christian theologian Albert Mohler points out that the understanding of human rights inherited from Western civilization was “established upon the fact that we know from scripture that every single human being is made in God’s image and thus we are to recognize a dignity in every single human being. And we are to understand that that dignity implies certain God-given rights.”

The inherent worth of humans is what makes human rights important, and according to a Christian worldview, humans are important because they are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Christians understand that the capacity to reason is evidence of this. Article 1 of the UDHR complements this view and lays the groundwork for the rest of the document this way:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Among the rights listed in the UDHR are the right to life, liberty, and security of person (Article 3); the prohibition of slavery and servitude (Article 4); the freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile (Article 9); the right to own property (Article 17); and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Article 18).

Human rights are not granted by governments—they belong to everyone by virtue of their unalienable human dignity. Similarly, international human rights treaties and documents do not bestow rights. They merely reflect a commitment from party countries to respect those rights.

Thus, whenever a government violates human rights, it is acceptable for other governments to use persuasion and pressure to stop that country’s human rights violations. Doing so is not only right but also contributes to “freedom, justice and peace in the world,” as stated in the preamble of the UDHR.

When the U.S. government speaks up on behalf of Christians imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges or Uyghur Muslims detained in China on the basis of their religious and ethnic identity, this advocacy is not “interference” in the domestic politics of these countries. Rather, it upholds basic human rights—the same rights that all people are owed and all governments are obligated to respect.

Sadly, the international human rights project is in crisis. Ever-growing demands for the inclusion of additional “rights” muddle the priorities of human rights advocacy. These new “rights” often compete or conflict with others. And illegitimate claims to human rights have been used to push harmful policies. As former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback recently said, when “everything’s a human right, then nothing’s really a human right.”

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly noted, “The bottom line is that more so-called ‘rights’ does not mean more justice. The constitutions of some of the most repressive regimes in history, such as the Soviet Union, promised a multitude of rights to their citizens while the regimes produced ever-climbing death tolls and daily deprivations.” The invention of new “rights” makes human rights advocacy incoherent and distracts from the fundamental rights laid out in the UDHR—the kind that the American Founders might have called “self-evident.”

The UDHR, in addition to founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, should anchor the U.S. State Department’s human rights advocacy. Invented “rights” motivated by partisan social agendas cause confusion and untethers U.S. human rights efforts from international human rights law. Instead of looking for new faux rights, the State Department should focus on addressing the multitude of fundamental human rights violations occurring around the world right now.

The “struggle for human rights” that Eleanor Roosevelt referred to is far from over. Just last week, an independent people’s tribunal in the United Kingdom issued a formal judgment finding the Chinese government guilty of crimes against humanity, torture, and genocide. Although the Uyghur Tribunal might have echoes of the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, the judgment of the Uyghur Tribunal concerns crimes that are ongoing, not yet relegated to the past. This is a significant moment that will test the free world’s commitment to human rights and the 1948 Genocide Convention that calls parties to the dual responsibility of preventing and punishing genocide.

With the monumental challenges occurring around the world, the stakes are too high to get this wrong. The Biden administration must focus on the rights laid out in the UDHR and avoid distractions. The United States’ leadership on human rights has made a difference in the past, and it still can.

State Round-Up: Restoring the Balance of Religious Freedom

by Nicolas Reynolds , Ben Householder

December 13, 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 free exercise of religion is fundamental to American law, having been enshrined within the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution since 1791. As our society becomes more hostile to religion and fewer Americans identify with an organized religion, it is becoming more common for today’s courts to question the “first” freedom’s preeminent place in society. State legislators can take proactive steps to reverse and prevent further erosion of religious liberty, in part by enacting legislation that affirms this fundamental right. FRC actively supports efforts to pass Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), which provide state courts with the same legal balancing test that federal courts use to protect free exercise of religion.

When a state legislature passes a law restricting a constitutionally protected right, the courts will deem that law unconstitutional unless it passes the “strict scrutiny” test, which requires the state to demonstrate that the law promotes a “compelling governmental interest” and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest in the “least restrictive means” possible. However, in the 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws restricting religious liberty need only pass the “rational basis” test—demonstrating a “legitimate interest” and a neutral application of restrictions. By applying the lowest of the three levels of legal scrutiny, rather than the highest, the U.S. Supreme Court denied religious liberty the legal status a constitutionally protected right deserves.

Congress responded to this injustice by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which required courts to use the strict scrutiny standard in religious liberty cases. The strongly bipartisan measure passed unanimously in the House, was supported by all but three senators, and was signed by President Clinton. However, in the 1997 case City of Boerne v. Flores, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had no power to apply this standard to state and local legislation. This Court decision made it vital for each state to pass its own RFRA.

Between 1997 and 2015, 21 states passed RFRA legislation: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. In 2015, serious resistance emerged for the first time due to fears that RFRAs would allow discrimination against individuals who identify as LGBT. Since then, 61 state RFRAs have been proposed across the nation, each requiring strict scrutiny to be applied to all laws and regulations that burden a person’s free exercise of religion. (It’s important to note that some states’ high courts apply a similar “strict scrutiny” standard due to state court precedent; depending on the politics in such a state, it may or may not be advisable to statutorily strengthen that court precedent.)

2021 has been a revolutionary year for RFRAs. Not a single RFRA was passed between 2016 and 2020, but this year has given the movement new life. Three states—Montana (S.B. 215), North Dakota (H.B. 1410), and South Dakota (S.B.124)—have already successfully enacted RFRAs. In New Hampshire, H.B.542 awaits the signature of Republican Governor Chris Sununu. Once New Hampshire’s bill is signed, the United States will be more than halfway to attaining nationwide RFRA coverage.

The Religion … of every man,” according to James Madison (the primary author of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights), “must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it.” States should follow the federal government’s lead and ensure that religious liberty retains the legal status and protections that the Founders originally ascribed to it. Twenty-four states have already done their part—the remaining 26 must quickly follow in their footsteps.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of December 5)

by Family Research Council

December 10, 2021

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

1. Update: Senate Strikes Funding Deal in the Saint Nick of Time

No one is turning off the government’s lights any time soon, thanks to a deal struck in the Senate recently. With a shutdown deadline breathing down Democrats’ necks, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for his party to preside over another disaster and finally caved to the conservatives’ demand: a vote on the vaccine mandate.

2. Update: Republicans in Top Form on Draft Day

In a Congress run by Democrats, it’s not every day that conservatives can celebrate a common-sense victory. So, when word leaked that there’d been a dramatic change to the military spending bill, most Republicans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. The rumors turned out to be true: language forcing women in the military draft has been completely eliminated.

3. Blog: The Trend Toward Normalizing Pedophilia Must Be Halted

Americans are awakening to the call to protect children from being sexualized. Following the national news coverage of local school board meetings, U.S. citizens are shocked to learn that taxpayer dollars have been used to make sexually explicit materials available in school libraries and attendance to pornographic sex-ed lessons mandatory.

4. Blog: Listen to the Young, Female Voices of the Pro-Life Movement

On the day of the oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, thousands of advocates flocked to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to vocalize their convictions about abortion. The pro-life side featured a diverse crowd, but one of the most numerous demographics in attendance at the pro-life rally was one for which the pro-abortion side claims to speak—college-aged women.

5. Washington Watch: Jerry Boykin, Lela Gilbert, Chip Roy, Chuck Grassley

Tony Perkins was joined by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC’s Executive Vice President and former commander of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, who discussed President Biden’s call with Vladimir Putin. Lela Gilbert, FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, talked about the letter signed by religious freedom advocates calling for the Biden administration to put Nigeria back on the list of Countries of Particular Concern. Chip Roy, U.S. Representative for Texas, gave an update on what’s happening in Congress after the NDAA provision forcing women to register for the military draft was removed. And, Chuck Grassley, U.S. Senator from Iowa, discussed the status of Biden’s vaccine mandates.

6. Washington Watch: Michael Waltz, Jeff Barrows, J. Marie Griffin-Taylor, Meg Kilgannon

Tony Perkins was joined by Michael Waltz, U.S. Representative for Florida, who discussed the Biden administration announcing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Dr. Jeff Barrows, with Christian Medical & Dental Associations, detailed what is known about and the proper response to the Omicron variant. J. Marie Griffin-Taylor, of Truett McConnell University, talked about the crime wave sweeping California and the policies that led to the lawlessness. And, Meg Kilgannon, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, shared about the push back by state chapters against the National School Board Association (NSBA) for accusing parents of “domestic terrorism.”

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: The Hope of the World

On this episode of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins reflected on the hope that believers have through Christ and how we can be confident that all things work together for good.

Good News: Ohio Is Strengthening Protections for Abortion Survivors

by Chantel Hoyt

December 10, 2021

On Wednesday, the Ohio House passed Senate Bill 157, a bill requiring that health and life-preserving care be rendered to infants who are born alive after an abortion and that incidents of infants being born alive following an abortion must be reported to the state’s department of health. The bill passed with a 61-35 vote along party lines.

SB 157 will now be sent to the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine. If he signs it, Ohio will become the 10th state in the nation to require the reporting of infants born alive after an abortion attempt (click here to see how your state ranks on FRC’s Born Alive Protections map).

Ohio Representative Gary Click recently tweeted about SB 157, saying, “This is one of the most important bills I have had the pleasure to support!”

Reporting requirements like the ones contained in SB 157 are an often-overlooked component of born-alive protection bills in the United States, but they carry great importance. Without these requirements, the number of abortion survivors in the United States remains unknown. This makes it easier for abortionists to operate in the shadows, without accountability for infants born alive for whom they fail to provide care. Much of the American public is left believing the lie that abortion survivors do not exist and that babies are never born alive following abortion attempts.

Although we lack the full picture of the data due to the lack of reporting requirements, we know that abortion survivors exist. Reports from the CDC; known cases of abortionists Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen snipping the necks and spines of babies born alive; and the stories of abortion survivors like Melissa Ohden, Gianna Jessen, Claire Culwell, and Josiah Presley prove that these events do indeed occur.

Legislation like Ohio SB 157 is critical for attaining a more accurate estimation of the number of abortion survivors in the United States and to hold abortionists accountable for how they treat these infants.

If you live in Ohio, please click here to send a letter thanking your state officials for passing this legislation and urging Governor DeWine to sign it once it reaches his desk.

Wisconsin’s Gubernatorial Election Cannot Come Soon Enough for the Unborn

by Chantel Hoyt

December 9, 2021

This past Friday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed five pro-life bills that had aimed to protect unborn children and their mothers. This move came just two days after oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that could overturn Roe v. Wade and return the ability to restrict abortion to the states.

While the country anxiously awaits the Court’s decision in Dobbs, Tony Evers has once again shown himself to be pro-abortion. In his three years as governor, he has vetoed legislation to protect born-alive abortion survivors twice. Even a bill requiring that parents be given informational materials when their child (born or unborn) is diagnosed with a congenital disability could not survive Evers’ pen.

Evers announced the vetoes on Twitter: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again today, as long as I’m governor, I will veto any legislation that turns back the clock on reproductive rights in this state—and that’s a promise.”

Here are the bills that Evers vetoed:

  • SB 16 – This bill would have required that practitioners exercise professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life of infants who survive abortion, required that the infant be immediately transported to a nearby hospital, and imposed a criminal penalty against those who fail to comply (Evers vetoed a similar measure in 2019). (Click here for more information on Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Acts.)
  • SB 503 – This bill aimed to prevent Medicaid funds from going to abortion businesses by prohibiting the Department of Health Services from certifying such businesses. (Click here for more information on defunding abortion and abortion businesses in the states.)
  • SB 591 – This bill would have required that a woman planning to undergo a chemical abortion be informed of the possibility of reversing the effects of the first pill in the event she changes her mind. This bill would have also added to existing abortion reporting requirements by requiring abortion businesses to report the number of previous abortions each woman has had; whether the abortion was paid for by private health coverage, public assistance coverage, or self-pay; and the reason for the abortion.
  • SB 592 – This bill would have required physicians to provide certain educational resources to parents whose child (whether born or unborn) receives a positive test result for a congenital condition (e.g., Down syndrome). This would have included information on the congenital condition, possible outcomes of the condition, the child’s life expectancy, and supportive resources and organizations.
  • SB 593 – This bill would have prohibited an abortion sought solely on the basis of the unborn child’s race, sex, skin color, national origin, ancestry, or disability. It provided a civil penalty for those who fail to comply, indemnified the mother (i.e., absolved her of legal liability), and created a civil cause of action for any individual directly harmed by a violation (Evers vetoed a similar measure in 2019). (Click here for more information on Prenatal Nondiscrimination Acts.)

State Senator Julian Bradley, one of the primary sponsors of SB 593 (the bill prohibiting discriminatory abortions), released a statement saying, “Killing an unborn baby because of their race, sex or disability is not healthcare. This is a radical, pro-discrimination veto from Governor Tony Evers. Wisconsinites deserve to know life is valued whether they are a man or woman, white or black, or have a disability.”

Senator Chris Kapenga, one of the primary sponsors of SB 16 (the bill requiring that medical care be given to abortion survivors), tweeted, “the Gov’s track record makes it clear he doesn’t have a problem with discriminating against some of the most vulnerable women—the ones still in the womb…” Senator Kapenga went on to say that by vetoing the bills designed to allow women to make informed decisions, Governor Evers was clearly trying to “limit knowledge,” causing more women to choose abortion.

As Governor Evers is up for reelection in 2022, the people of Wisconsin should remember his track record regarding the unborn and vote accordingly.

For more information on pro-life laws in the states, see FRC’s pro-life maps.

The Public Is Being Primed To Feel Groovy About Psychedelic Drugs

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

December 9, 2021

Right now, there is a concerted effort to change the American public’s attitude towards psychedelic drugs. Turn on Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services, and you’re likely to find shows and documentaries on the usefulness of drugs like LSD (acid), DMT (spirit molecule), MDMA (ecstasy or mollies), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). These shows are the first public signs that we are being primed to accept the recreational and “prescription” use of psychedelics to solve both our mental and spiritual ills.

Since the Nixon years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has marked psychedelics as schedule 1 substances because they lack clinical value, can be addictive, and hold the potential for long-term physiological and psychological damage, including schizophrenia-type symptoms.

Given this classification, how does one change public opinion about a class of drugs associated with images tucked firmly in the American consciousness of spun-out flower children whirling around the grass at Woodstock or loitering aimlessly on the streets of Haight-Ashbury?

According to Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and nephew to Sigmund Freud, in order to “manipulate the public to think a certain way, it needs to be taught how to ask for what it [the manipulator] wants.” Robert Worchester, a political analyst, described public opinion by making a distinction between attitudes, opinions, and values. He noted that a person’s values are the most impervious to change; however, through continued exposure, thought, and discussion, these too can be shaped.

When it comes to influencing our view about psychedelics, what could possibly compete with the images of dancing hippies? What about a growing body of scientific literature that claims the use of these drugs can help resistant anxiety, posttraumatic stress, depression, alcohol, and tobacco abuse?

For the past 30 years, research studies involving psychedelics were not backed by public funds—until recently. Studies have been popping up in clinicaltrials.gov. There have even been several reports, with small sample sizes, touted as “success stories” for reducing mental health symptoms by microdosing these drugs.

Mental health is certainly a concern for Americans. This week, a Gallup poll found that Americans rated their mental health at an all-time low, with only 34 percent giving themselves an excellent score. Aside from this poll, we know that our society is facing significant mental health challenges, with nearly 20 percent of the population suffering from anxiety disorders and suicide ranked as one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

The media is not the only group riding high on our mental health problems. Groups like Mind-Medicine, a pharmaceutical start-up, are seeking FDA (national) approval for psychedelics, under the expectation that the drugs will provide an alternative treatment to the aforementioned mental health conditions. Veterans and first responders have already been enlisted in these studies.

The co-founder of Mind Medicine stated their goal is to “get the average person to realize that these are not evil drugs—they can be used as medicines and be successful at treating unmet medical needs.”

Aside from the attempt to lend credibility to these drugs through science, there has already been a push to legalize psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Some states and cities have already moved to legalize these substances for recreational use. These places include Denver, Colorado; Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, Michigan; Somerville, Cambridge, and Northampton, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; and Oregon. Seattle is the largest city to decriminalize all psychedelic plants and fungi for religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices.

California is currently proposing its own measures to legalize psilocybin mushrooms, truffles, sclerotia, and mycelium. Iowa is following suit, but with an additional bill that would reclassify psilocybin, ibogaine, and MDMA for medicinal purposes.

The real goal here is to nationalize the use of these drugs, which have the potential to significantly alter our society and offer bad treatment for those suffering from trauma, anxiety, and depression. The strategy we are seeing to promote psychedelics has been taken right out of the playbook of Big Marijuana. Rather than fight the arduous battle of changing the schedule 1 designation at the federal level, there’s a major push to make these drugs respectable. Research studies and popular media will continue to promote medical benefits associated with these drugs, but the endgame is for psychedelics to be legalized at every local and state level for recreational use.

Fighting major pharmaceutical and research industries may seem like an uphill battle. However, there are important steps that we can take to slow this fast-moving train:

  • First, it is critical that the research community engages in truthful scientific research and is aware of the increasing push to medicalize these drugs.

  • Second, there needs to be greater accountability regarding the influence and financial benefits enjoyed by the Big Pharma industry in pushing these drugs. Organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana have been pushing back on the financial and political influence of Big Marijuana. We need more groups to give oversight to the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Finally, the church has an important role to play in offering true healing and answers to people who might otherwise try to find comfort in marijuana or psychedelic drugs.

The Trend Toward Normalizing Pedophilia Must Be Halted

by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.

December 8, 2021

Americans are awakening to the call to protect children from being sexualized. Following the national news coverage of local school board meetings in Virginia, many U.S. citizens are shocked to learn that today’s elementary school lessons include material that would make most adults blush. Whether or not you are a parent, it is stomach-turning to learn that our taxpayer dollars have been used to make sexually explicit materials available in school libraries and attendance to pornographic sex-ed lessons mandatory.

The alarm rang even louder when we found out that government officials were willing to assign weighty terms like “terrorist” to parents wanting to protect their children from being sexualized. When a government is willing to use labels that pack the capacity to bypass our liberties while giving tremendous latitude to authorities to investigate a supposed threat to the homeland, it begs the question: Why is propagating sexual material to children so valuable to the government? Why do these officials remain recalcitrant to the rebukes from their historically favored voting block? Most importantly, where does this slippery slope end?

Until this past month, most of the public could only speculate where the institutionalized sexualization of our children would lead. In case you missed it, in November, we got a peek into some of the current academic discourse when a professor from Old Dominion University in Virginia, Allyn Walker, suggested that having sexual desire for children isn’t wrong. Rather, Walker suggested we should use a less stigmatizing term such as “Minor-Attracted People” (MAPS) instead of the word “pedophile.”

As someone who worked in a clinical setting with people who were sexually abused and some who went on to act out that same abuse, I know the importance of providing a place to talk without affirming thoughts that could prove detrimental to a child. This is a boundary that should not be moved, not even in theory. It is troubling that any serious academic institution would be willing to diminish, even in terminology, the horror that should be associated with any expression of violation against a child.

Public outrage over the comments resulted in Walker’s resignation. Pressure needs to remain high on any institution willing to relax the stigma of pedophilia and lead us down the slope to its acceptance.

Although Walker’s story might be new to the public at large, it’s important to keep in mind that the road to normalizing pedophilia is, unfortunately, not a new discourse in the institutions of higher education. For years, many have turned a blind eye to the pedophilia of scholars like Michael Foucault, who had exploits with minors in Northern Africa and was also a proponent of lowering the age of consent.

And then there was Dr. John Money, the academic psychiatrist whose work added to the current conceptualization of gender roles and transgender theory, which influenced diagnostic terms in the manual for mental disorders (DSM). Let’s not forget his therapeutic methods, which are best known in the case of David Reimer and his brother. Money’s supposed clinical acumen involved simulating and photographing sex acts with the brothers. At Money’s recommendation, David’s family was counseled to raise him as a girl and “reassign” his sex, but David never felt like a girl and later chose to live with his biological sex. In the end, he committed suicide. By all accounts, this decision was influenced by the early therapeutic endeavors of Money. 

If no other moral standard exists within the research community, at minimum, one would hope that academics could hold fast to the edicts contained in the Nuremberg Code or the Research Act of 1974, which outline the conduct for a humane class of researchers engaged in the scientific method for the betterment of society. Both include special protections for children. Instead, what we’ve learned is that unbridled curiosity has mostly remained unchecked in the ivory tower, and some scientists are exploring lines of inquiry about children that should remain unthinkable.

By the way, this is not a uniquely North American trend down the slope to pedophilia. More recently, it was revealed that the German government had doled out funding to the Kentler Project. This study began in the 1970s with a 30-year agenda that placed homeless children with known pedophiles. Helmut Kentler, the chief scientific investigator of the project, held that sexual interactions between children and adults were benign and perhaps even beneficial to the homeless youth.

Thankfully, in this recent debacle with the defamed professor, we have one instance where the slide down the slope was quickly stopped. Let this case serve as a wake-up call and an alarm that keeps us awake. This kind of discourse must not germinate in the darkness of academic silos. It must be called out into the light.

Listen to the Young, Female Voices of the Pro-Life Movement

by Joy Zavalick

December 8, 2021

Last Wednesday, on the day of the oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, thousands of advocates flocked to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to vocalize their convictions about abortion. Even though a fence was eventually erected between the pro-life and pro-abortion supporters, the chants and cries of speakers and crowds could still be heard from either side. The pro-life side featured a diverse crowd of women and men of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. But one of the most numerous demographics in attendance at the pro-life rally was one for which the pro-abortion side claims to speak—college-aged women.

According to one female student in attendance on Wednesday, “I thought the Dobbs rally was an amazing representation of what the pro-life movement truly is. Not only was the pro-life crowd energetic, enthusiastic, and united through the goal of saving innocent lives, everyone was excited, peaceful, and encouraging!” She went on to emphasize, “I was surrounded by young women and college students who all desire to see Roe v. Wade overturned and are willing to make a collective effort to stand for what is right. My generation wants to see change in abortion laws, and the rally was evidence of that.”

Pro-lifers’ hopes that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade have only grown since the Dobbs oral arguments, due to multiple justices indicating an openness to reconsidering the legal precedent set by Roe that allows elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. As Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out, this precedent puts the United States’ abortion jurisprudence on par with that of notorious human rights violators North Korea and China and out of step with most of the world.

Another young woman in attendance at the rally outside the Supreme Court commented, “A constant theme throughout the many wonderful speeches was how the pro-life movement supports and empowers women. Every baseless stereotype about pro-lifers was completely and utterly shattered. No one could walk away from this rally believing that the pro-life movement is about forcing religion on people and controlling women.”

These comments resonate with statements Justice Amy Coney Barrett made during the oral arguments, when she suggested that adoption and safe haven laws have equalized the burdens of parenthood that Planned Parenthood v. Casey had relied so heavily upon to reaffirm Roe in 1992.

Given her status as the youngest justice, only the fifth woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court, and a successful mother of seven—including two adopted children—the pro-life movement has hailed Justice Barrett as living proof that embracing motherhood does not have to preclude a woman from also pursuing a career. This is a message that young women across the country desperately need to hear.

Recent legislative initiatives from Republicans have sought to stop the abortion industry from marketing to college women through their campus health centers. Given that 42 percent of abortions are carried out on women between the ages of 18 and 24, it is clear that the pro-abortion lobby is working to coerce women in this vulnerable stage of life to believe that abortion is their only option, rather than providing resources to allow them to flourish both as mothers and in the career of their choosing.

The rally for life at the Dobbs oral arguments, however, demonstrated that many young women are not taking the bait and are fighting to protect their peers from the abuse of abortion—something that the all-male Supreme Court failed to do in 1973 when they fabricated the “right to abortion” in Roe v. Wade.

I noticed a drastic difference between the two sides,” one female student reflected. “The pro-life movement is one full of love, laughter, respect, prayer, and worship. The pro-abortion movement was overflowing with anger, hatred, and intense darkness. I don’t know how people can look at the two groups and choose to make their tent amongst such devastating darkness.”

Although the results of the Dobbs case will not be revealed for several months, its influence has galvanized the pro-life movement and elevated the voices of young women who refuse to accept the standard of Roe v. Wade any longer. As one of the abortion industry’s favorite target demographics increasingly rejects their lies, it becomes clear that the pro-abortion lobby rests on sinking sand.

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