FRC Blog

Our Foster Care System Is in Trouble. Here’s How We Can Help Fix it.

by Brooke Brown

August 12, 2020

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4)

Each of us, despite maybe being older than society’s idea of a child, are still children—children of God. And for many of us, we have had or will have the gift of bringing more children into the world. As Psalm 127 states, children are a reward, a blessing, God’s prized possession. Verse four compares children to that of arrows, meaning they must be carefully shaped and formed, guided by skill and strength, and given direction. It is so important that kids are raised in a loving and affectionate home, attended to by a mother and father, and genuinely cared for.

Unfortunately, there are too many kids who grow up not knowing what affection feels like from a parent, who are abused emotionally or physically, and are given little to no direction and guidance from their parents. For some of these reasons and more, many of these children are removed from their home and placed in foster care. In the U.S. alone, there are currently more than 400,000 children in the foster care system. The prayer is that they might one day be able to return home once their parent(s) are able to take adequate care of them or be adopted into a loving family, extended or otherwise. But in the meantime, there needs to be more attention given to how the foster care system can improve in order to provide a more successful and loving upbringing for these kids.

A little-known fact about foster care is the lack of training for caseworkers working with foster care agencies. A large portion of caseworkers are not provided with professional training before being thrown into the deep end of the system. Because of this, approximately 90 percent of agencies have stated they have difficulty retaining their caseworkers. This is largely due to lack of funding and resources available to agencies and allocated by agencies to properly train their social workers. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides more than half of the federal funding for child welfare action. However, this Title does not allocate funds towards investigations of child abuse, hotlines, or other necessary outlets that would be beneficial for children placed in foster care. On top of that, most leaders of foster care programs have expressed that they are given little to no control over how they can spend the federal money, and often times it does not cover the expenses for particular services and needs the child or foster parents may request.

The funding issue creates a trickle-down effect. If caseworkers are not being trained by their agencies due to lack of funding, how then are parents expected to feel confident stepping into the role of being a foster parent for kids in desperate need of a loving family environment? And if children are placed into homes with inadequately trained parents who do not have the option of beneficial programs they can extend to their foster children, the turnover rate of children moving from home to home will increase, creating emotional hardships and attachment issues. If a child comes from a physically abusive and neglectful home, he/she will need to be given adequate attention and care both from the foster parents as well as outside resources such as counseling. Due to lack of funding, a lot of foster parents will take it upon themselves to research and learn ways to interact with a child who has come from a rough upbringing. One potential upside to this is that the child may see their foster parents’ motives in wanting to welcome them and genuinely help them adjust to the transition.

It is so crucial that a child coming into an unfamiliar home with new parents, possibly new siblings, and even a new town, is receiving thoughtful attention and love from their foster parents. The best thing a foster parent can do for a child in foster care is sincerely love them and show them the love of God through their actions and words. “Live out your Christianity in front of them. The way a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church is the greatest example to set for the child,” said David Bane during my interview with him. David and his wife are treatment foster care parents who foster children with mental deficits or that come from abusive/neglectful homes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 60 percent of children that are abused or neglected receive help. Even if a foster parent is stuck with minimal training and little funds delegated to provide resources for themselves and their foster children, they still have the ability to shape and cultivate what home environment they want their foster child to experience.

So how can we as Christians help to cultivate a healthy foster care culture?

  • If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent, look into your state’s Foster Care Agencies and how your state receives funding for their programs.
  • In order to advocate for the lives of these children, it starts with asking Congress to reconsider their financing decisions.
  • If you discern that the Lord is calling you to foster, do not be intimidated by the logistics (training, funding, etc.)—be obedient to that calling and create a safe space for a child to be loved and cared for.
  • Support those in your local churches and communities who are stepping into the foster care system by lending them encouragement and prayers.
  • If you’re not ready to become a foster parent but desire to help children in these situations, look into Big Brother Big Sister programs.

Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

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The Korean War Memorial: A Tribute to Sacrifice

by Samantha Stahl

August 11, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Joan of Arc Memorial.

The Korean War was a three-year struggle (1950-1953). North Korea, with the support of Communist China, crossed over the 38th parallel, the boundary line between the North and South, quickly overrunning South Korea. The U.S. and the United Nations came to the aid of South Korea and defended them from the onslaught of communism.

The Korean War was one of the hardest fought conflicts in America’s history. Of the 5.8 million Americans who served, 36,574 died, 8,200 were missing in action or buried at sea, and 103,284 were wounded.

The idea of a memorial for those who fought in Korea was supported as early as 1955 when G. Holcomb wrote a letter to the editor of The Washington Post: “Men of all races and creeds died for freedom there. Should there not be a monument showing the heterogeneous qualities of those united forces? Would not that serve to remind us and others that even the ‘little wars’ against free people (or even against unfree people) are important today?”

In 1986, Congress approved building a memorial to the Korean War, and President Ronald Reagan appointed an advisory board of 12 veterans to oversee its construction. A design was chosen from over 500 submissions, and on Flag Day 1992, President George H.W. Bush hosted a ground-breaking ceremony. When the memorial’s cost swelled to almost three times the original estimation, the design was revised—the number of statues was halved, from 38 to 19—and the building process took over half a decade to complete.

President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam dedicated the Korean War Memorial on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice. “The Korean War Memorial represents a sense of duty and simple patriotism found among common soldiers,” President Clinton said in his address to the veterans and their families. By fighting to preserve South Korean freedom from Northern oppression, the soldiers had won an important victory, even though the war never had a victor in the traditional sense.

The Korean War Memorial has four parts: the statues, the Mural Wall, the Pool of Remembrance, and the United Nations Wall. First, there are 19 seven-foot-tall stainless steel statues lined up in an entourage. The statues represent soldiers from different branches of the armed forces (14 Army, three Marines, one Navy, and one Air Force). All are carrying a weapon except the Army medic and Navy Corpsman. The soldiers are wearing ponchos billowing in the frigid Korean winds, walking over obstacles, rough terrain, and among the rice paddies of Korea, represented by juniper bushes and black granite strips. At the head of the group, where the American Flag waves, is the Dedication Stone with the inscription: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Second, adjacent to the statues, is the Mural Wall. There are 41 panels in the 164-foot-long wall, containing 2,400 pictures of the Korean War from the National Archives. Members of each branch of the military are represented. The 19 soldier statues are reflected by the granite of the Mural Wall so that there appear to be 38 soldiers, symbolic of the 38 months of the duration of the war and the 38th parallel.

Third, located ahead of the statues, is the Pool of Remembrance. The Pool encloses the wall, which reads: “Freedom Is Not Free,” and lists the cost of soldiers’ lives at the bottom, including those killed in action, wounded in action, missing in action, and prisoners of war. Soldiers who died during the war can be searched by name in the Honor Roll, an electronic kiosk located at the west entrance of the memorial.

Finally, the United Nations Wall is engraved with the names of the 22 nations who fought with South Korea in the war.

The United States and South Korea were united by similar ideals: “During the Korean War, South Koreans and Americans fought side by side to defend the values embodied in the established rules-based international order, which was then in its infancy,” Navy Admiral Philip S. Davidson said during a recent ceremony repatriating South Korean soldier remains. The relationship between the U.S. and South Korea is a special bond forged from mutual trust, shared values, and a powerful friendship, which came from the unforgettable, courageous sacrifice of American, South Korean, and many other United Nations soldiers.

The Korean War is often called the “forgotten war,” due to its unpopularity and the fact that it occurred between the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Additionally, the Korean War tends to be forgotten because it had no decisive end, but a rather unsatisfying armistice that did not seem to favor either side. We must not forget the Korean War, however. It was a crucial fight to end the spread of communism into South Korea by the North and Communist China.

Those who served and died protecting South Korean freedom mirror Christ’s sacrifice for the freedom of all mankind: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). The Korean War Memorial pays tribute to the brave men and women who fought in Korea, but it also stands as a special reminder for Christians to protect the freedom and seek the good of our neighbors, especially those who cannot fight for themselves.

The next time you visit the Korean War Memorial and take in the symbolic beauty of the place, remember the thousands of brave soldiers who gave their all so that others could be free.

Samantha Stahl is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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China Sanctions U.S. Congressmen, Again

by Arielle Del Turco

August 10, 2020

The Chinese government sought to punish 11 Americans on Monday, accusing them of “behaving badly on Hong Kong-related issues.”

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) along with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) all made the list of U.S. officials and human rights advocates targeted by the Chinese government. China’s leaders have accused the United States of “interfering” in China’s internal affairs in Hong Kong. But when a global authoritarian power swallows up a free, semi-autonomous city that longs for increased democracy, the U.S. is bound to take notice.

China’s new national security law for Hong Kong has effectively eroded all freedoms that Hong Kongers enjoyed. The new law gives Chinese authorities unlimited control, and more pro-democracy activists are arrested by the day. Activists expect that the people of Hong Kong will soon endure all the same restrictions as those on mainland China, including the absence of religious freedom.

Rubio, Cruz, Smith, and the other individuals singled out by China are all outspoken supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. They called for measures including the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, intended to protect the rights of the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who spent months last year protesting China’s encroaching authoritarianism.

China’s new sanctions are expected to be similar to those the U.S. placed on several Chinese leaders directly responsible for eroding Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status, including Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, and China’s director of Hong Kong affairs Xia Baolong.

Though China is clearly issuing these sanctions in retaliation for those that the U.S. put on Chinese officials last week, there is a marked difference between the two countries’ sanctions. While the U.S. sanctions Chinese officials for violating the human rights of their own people, the Chinese government sanctions U.S. officials for pointing out those human rights violations.

The Chinese government’s boldness to issue these sanctions is cause for concern. China is increasingly intolerant of anyone who speaks out against its obvious human rights abuses, and Hong Kongers are not exempt from its wrath.

The freedom-lovers of Hong Kong now feel they cannot speak for themselves. The evidence suggests that assessment is accurate. Jimmy Lai, the publisher of a popular pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, was arrested Monday. The national security law imposed on Hong Kong made it illegal to promote democratic reform. For the people of Hong Kong, it is no longer safe to publicly disagree with the Chinese government.

The U.S. politicians and officials raising concerns about how the Chinese government treats its own people have clearly struck a nerve. Last month, Rubio, Cruz, Smith, and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback were officially banned from entering China for their work to address human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

As China seeks to crack down on international criticism, U.S. government officials and activists should stand their ground and continue to be the voice for freedom-loving Hong Kongers. Now more than ever, those in free countries must speak out on behalf of those longing for freedom who are now rendered voiceless by the tight grip of Chinese suppression.

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Vice President Mike Pence’s Visit to Florida: Life is Winning in America

by Sarah Rumpf

August 10, 2020

Mike Pence, the first sitting vice president to speak at the March for Life, achieved another milestone on August 5 by becoming the first vice president to visit a pro-life pregnancy resource center. Pence joined the Susan B. Anthony List in Tampa, Florida to begin a multistate tour called “Life Wins.” The tour seeks to draw a sharp contrast between President Trump’s pro-life record and the pro-choice stance of his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

In his remarks, Pence said that the Declaration of Independence put the right to life at the center of the American experiment. However, 47 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade fundamentally challenged the right to life. Pence said that if Biden is elected, he would “undo all the progress” the pro-life movement has made in the U.S. since the passage of Roe vs. Wade. “Now more than ever, pro-life Americans need to make our voice heard…You need to speak out and become involved,” Pence said. “The radical left wants to silence pro-life Americans.” Central to Pence’s remarks were his support for late-term abortion bans and freedom of religion. He proclaimed Trump to be the most pro-life president in the nation’s history, citing Trump’s March for Life address in January of this year. (President Trump was the first president to attend and speak at the March for Life.)

Prior to his remarks at Starkey Road Baptist Church in Largo, Florida, Pence toured a local pregnancy resource center called A Women’s Place Medical Clinic, which offers prenatal care, ultrasounds, and counseling. Pregnancy resource centers are valuable lifelines that offer abortion-free services for women facing crisis pregnancies. 

Pence reassured conservatives that, “This President, this Vice President, and this administration will always stand up for the freedom of speech for every American, and we will always stand for life.” Pence reminded event attendees that, “Because of the work that you have done, we now have a pro-life champion in the White House. We have pro-life leaders in state houses across the country, a pro-life majority in the United States Senate, and we have principled jurists in record numbers in our courts across the land. Because of what you’ve done, life is winning in America.” Pence said that conservatives should be worried about Democrats electing liberal judges who could rule in favor of abortion rights.

Pence celebrated the pro-life movement’s accomplishments and growth in the United States, especially among young people: “The rising generation is more pro-life than ever before. Young Americans are embracing the sanctity of life in record numbers – more and more every day.” The vice president stated that the pro-life movement is defined “by generosity, compassion, and love for women and unborn children.” Pence attributed the rise of the pro-life movement to pro-life organizations and from “leaders in pulpits and in public office around the country.” Pence continued by stating that the “truth of abortion is being told and this new generation is choosing life.”

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech is additional evidence of the Trump administration’s pro-life record. He concluded his remarks by telling the audience, “With your continued support, with your dedication of the cause of life…We’ll continue to see pro-life men and women of principle elected and reelected from the White House to the statehouse.”

Sarah Rumpf is a Development intern at Family Research Council.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of August 2)

by Family Research Council

August 7, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: ”Amazon Calls Them Like They SPLC Them”

We can’t continue to have four of the biggest companies in the world picking and choosing winners in a marketplace where they have unlimited power. At the end of the day, these platforms have a choice. They can start acting in good faith—or they can watch as both sides of Congress unite with one target: them.

2. Washington Update: ”Polling on Girls’ Sports Starts a Racket”

In Bostock, the Supreme Court redefined human history’s understanding of sex. Not every ruling at the Supreme Court is personal. But five of the justices have daughters—and three of them went home one night in June knowing they’d destroyed their chance, and every girl’s chance, at sports.

3. Blog: “Remembering ISIS’ Yazidi Genocide, Six Years Later”

Six years ago, ISIS invaded the quiet homeland of the Yazidi people. It only took a few hours for ISIS to seize their city and kidnap or kill all who were unable to flee in time. Those who did manage to escape ran to Mount Sinjar without food, water, or medical care, with ISIS hot on their heels.

4. Blog: ”Coronavirus, Education, and Tofu: Why Choice is the Solution to the Education Conundrum”

The coronavirus has been disruptive to our politics, our economy, and even our decency, but perhaps nothing has been disrupted as significantly as our education system. If the education market worked like any other market, our present dilemma would still be challenging, but it would be solvable.

5. Washington Watch: Pastor Jack Hibbs blames two colliding worldviews for the unequal treatment of churches in Calif.

Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, joined Tony Perkins to discuss California Governor Gavin Newsom’s overreaching restrictions on churches.

6. Washington Watch: Doreen Denny cheers the polling that shows a huge consensus on protecting women’s sports

Doreen Denny, Vice President of Government Relations for Concerned Women for America (CWA), joined Sarah Perry to discuss Title IX in a post-Bostock age, CWA’s work to protect Title IX, and CWA’s letter to the NCAA Board of Governors.

7. Washington Watch: Brandon Showalter applauds J.K. Rowling for sticking to her guns on the harms of the trans agenda

Brandon Showalter, reporter for the Christian Post, joined Sarah Perry to discuss J. K. Rowling’s continued pushback on the transgender ideology and Facebook’s censorship on the topic of gender dysphoria.

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

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FRC on the Hill (July 27-August 7)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

August 7, 2020

Whether in the appropriations process or coronavirus relief discussions, issues of life, family, and religious freedom continued to be debated in Congress in recent days, and Family Research Council wrapped up a busy few weeks fighting for faith, family, and freedom in our nation’s capital. Here are the two big items from the past two weeks:

The House Continues its Spending Spree

The House of Representatives passed the second spending package (H.R. 7617) for fiscal year 2021. This package includes several measures that block some of the president’s pro-life and pro-family policies. Among other things, H.R. 7617 would:

  • Allow D.C. funds to be used for abortions;
  • Grant the marijuana industry banking access and prevent the federal government from enforcing federal law in states that have legalized recreational marijuana;
  • Force private schools participating in the D.C. voucher program (including faith-based schools) to abide by the same federal restrictions as public schools;
  • Cut private schools from COVID-19 relief funding;
  • Lock in Planned Parenthood as a Title X family planning grantee;
  • Eliminate funding for Sexual Risk Avoidance Education, a program that teaches children that avoiding sexual activity before marriage is the surest way to avoid its risks;
  • Stop efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services from working with faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that operate in accordance with their faith;
  • Stop efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that science and biology remain the cornerstone of health care, not gender ideology;
  • Gut Department of Defense policy regarding the service of individuals with gender dysphoria despite the policy’s basis in promoting military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion over social experimentation; and
  • Allow men who identify as women into battered women’s shelters.

With this package passed, only the spending bills for Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch remain outstanding in the House. However, the Senate has not begun working on their spending bills, and there are only 14 legislative days left before federal funding runs out on September 30. The appropriations process in the House has been nothing but partisan politics by liberals to advance their priorities and does not reflect a good faith effort to pass spending bills that will actually be signed into law.

Congress Negotiates Next Round of Coronavirus Relief

The Senate unveiled their long-awaited proposal for further medical and economic relief for Americans hurting from the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), which includes a wish list of liberal policy priorities, the Senate proposal (HEALS Act) seeks to spend money responsibly and tailor aid specifically to those most in need.

Among other things, the Heroes Act would:

  • Provide bonus pay for essential workers, which could include those working at abortion facilities;
  • Provide tax subsidies for health care plans that cover abortion;
  • Redefine sex in non-discrimination language to include sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Create legal protections for banks who do business with the marijuana industry.

The HEALS Act, however:

  • Provides financial help without subsidizing abortion or health plans that cover abortion;
  • Puts most of its funding towards schools, virus testing, and the small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program;
  • Includes liability protections for nonprofits and churches so that they can reopen safely without fear of frivolous lawsuits;
  • Includes Emergency Education Freedom Grants, which would send money to states in the form of scholarships to be used for private schools and even homeschooling expenses.

Negotiations over the next round of coronavirus relief legislation are still ongoing and major disagreements between the two sides have threatened to stall any compromise solution. However, it is encouraging to see the Senate sticking up for life, family, and religious liberty.

Other Notable Items

  • Senator Josh Hawley has stated that he will only support Supreme Court nominees who are on the record against Roe v. Wade.
  • The CEOs of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook testified before the House Judiciary committee. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) directly called out big tech censorship of conservative voices and Amazon’s use of the SPLC hate groups list in the Amazon smile program.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department budget, discussing religious freedom among other things.
  • Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to repeal the longstanding Helms Amendment, a bipartisan policy that bans taxpayer funding for abortion abroad.

We hope this is a helpful roundup of developments connected to faith, family, and freedom on Capitol Hill. Please stay tuned for our next update.

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The Joan of Arc Memorial: A Tribute to Courage and Faith

by Molly Carman

August 7, 2020

The history of the United States is preserved in archives, books, and the collective memory of the American people. It is also preserved in monuments, memorials, and statues made from marble, granite, bronze, or plaster.

Our nation’s capital is home to some of the world’s most recognizable and frequently visited monuments. This blog series will explore the events and people they commemorate, devoting particular attention to the spiritual themes depicted. By shedding light on our nation’s deep religious heritage, this series aims to inspire the next generation to emulate virtues and merits from America’s past that are worth memorializing.

FRC’s blog series on monuments is written by FRC summer interns and edited by David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview. Be sure to read our previous posts on the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial.

In a city filled with monuments to America’s presidents, generals, soldiers, and statesmen, a statue to a French teenager might seem out of place. But the Joan of Arc Memorial in Washington, D.C. pays tribute to a fascinating story of courage and faith that Americans have long admired.

Joan of Arc was born in Arc, France in 1412. When she was 13, she believed she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret telling her to fight for France during the Hundred Years War. Joan answered the call, helping the French drive the English from Orleans in 1429. During the battle, she was captured by the Burgundians and tried in a French ecclesiastical court that had pro-English sympathies. After a sham trial, she was convicted of heresy and deemed a witch by the counsel. In 1431, she was burned at the stake—when she was only 19 years old.

The first memorial to Joan of Arc was erected in Orleans, France in 1456. Today, there are 22 memorials and statues of Joan of Arc worldwide; five are in the United States. Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C. is home to one of the five. The D.C. memorial was erected in 1889, and is an exact replica of the “Jeanne d’Arc” statue that stands outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims in France. Sculptor Paul Dubois (1829-1905) designed both statues.

D.C.’s Joan of Arc statue stands a little over four feet tall and 11 feet wide. Joan is mounted on her horse in full armor. While there are other memorials to women in our nation’s capital, the Joan of Arc Memorial is the only equestrian statue of a woman and the only statue that depicts a woman going into battle.

Joan’s right hand is raised and holding her drawn sword; her left hand holds the reins of her horse. The visor of her helmet is open, and her eyes gaze heavenward. The sword is five feet long and weighs 30 pounds. Vandals have stolen the sword on multiple occasions, most recently in September 2016. The sword was replaced, and the memorial was rededicated in March 2018.

The bronze statue rests on a three-tiered granite pedestal engraved with the words “Aux Femmes d’Amérique Les Femmes de France,” which means, “To the Women of America, The Women of France.” The statue was gifted to the United States by a group of women known as the Society of French Women of New York—Le Lyceum Societie des Femmes de France—and was dedicated to the women of the United States. President and Mrs. Harding and Ambassador Jules Jusserand of France attended the memorial’s dedication on January 6, 1922.

Carlo Polifeme, the president of the Society of French Women of New York, officially dedicated the memorial, and Mrs. George Maynard Minor, president of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), unveiled the statue on behalf of the women of the United States. Ambassador Jusserand presented a medal from France to Polifeme for her work towards getting the statue erected in Washington, D.C.

Memorials commemorating the life of Joan of Arc, including the one in D.C., represent the legacy of a young woman’s devout faith, obedience, and courage. Although she was young, she was bold. Christians can learn three lessons while reflecting on the life of Joan of Arc and her memorial in Meridian Hill Park.

First, we can be encouraged that our abilities, age, or experience are not what qualifies us for the work God intends for us to do. This is the encouragement Paul gave to his protégé Timothy when he said, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Joan did not shrink back from the dangers of war, rather she led the French army to battle, even though she knew it could cost her life. Likewise, Christians should not shrink back from the callings God has on our lives, even if we “feel” unqualified.

Second, the Joan of Arc statue depicts her with her helmet’s visor open and her eyes looking toward heaven. Christians are called to keep “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christians are called to have our focus on Christ and not the fears that threaten to overwhelm us. Just as Joan is portrayed looking up to heaven, we, too, must look up as we prepare to contend for the faith.

Finally, the monument depicts Joan’s horse in a full charge into battle. Even though she may have been afraid, Joan did not back down when the battle raged. By depicting Joan with her sword drawn, the memorial communicates her courage. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul speaks of putting on the full armor of God. Christians must always be prepared for the battles of life, but, like Joan, we must keep our focus on the Lord, who will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

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The NBA Stays Silent on China’s Atrocities While Raking in Billions

by Blake Elliott

August 7, 2020

I grew up playing basketball and have always been a huge fan of the NBA. However, I have recently become extremely disappointed in the NBA and its players for their appalling silence on how the Chinese government is treating Uyghur Muslims.

China’s atrocities against its Uyghur population are nothing new; they have been going on for a while. But the situation has just recently begun to pick up global attention after videos of hundreds of Uyghurs being blindfolded and forced onto trains, presumably to be sent into forced labor and camps, have leaked. This isn’t the only human rights issue on which the NBA has been conspicuously silent; it has a pattern of silence on human rights issues abroad. For example, it has been silent on ESPN’s recent report suggesting that the NBA’s China Academies (located in Xinjiang, where most Uyghurs live) abuse their players. The NBA has also been silent while its business partner, Nike, uses Uyghur forced labor to produce shoes. The NBA’s sudden emphasis on “social justice” issues begs the question: why has the organization been silent for so long, and continues to do so, on human rights violations in China?

There are several likely reasons why the NBA has chosen to remain silent on these issues. One is how much money it makes in China. According to recent reports, around 800 million people in China watch the NBA, and the league earns an estimated $5 billion per year in China. The NBA has also signed a $1.5 billion agreement with a Chinese internet company. There is serious money to be made in China, as it is estimated that nearly 20 percent of the league’s revenue will be coming from the country by 2030.

These figures do not even account for the NBA’s business dealings with Nike. In 2015, the league signed a $1 billion deal with Nike, allowing its logo to be on all NBA uniforms. In addition, nearly 300 players have signed agreements with Nike.

Nike’s ties to China are particularly troubling. It is estimated that the Chinese government has forced at least one million Uyghurs into what are essentially labor and “re-education” camps. Leaked Chinese government orders have shown that these camps are meant to break Uyghur lineage, roots, connections, and origins and essentially eradicate them as a people. It has been reported that survivors were electrocuted, waterboarded, beaten repeatedly, and even injected with unknown substances. These atrocities cannot be denied, yet China continues to force Uyghurs to produce nearly eight million Nike shoes in these camps each year. Clearly, Nike is silent on China’s treatment of Uyghurs because they are cheap labor, allowing them to continue profiting billions of dollars each year.

Some United States senators have been attempting to draw attention to this issue. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently had a Twitter exchange with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in which he asked Cuban if he would condemn China’s treatment of Uyghurs. Cuban refrained from condemning China and opted to change the subject. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also has been advocating for this issue. In May, he cosponsored the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, but even more recently, he sent a letter to the NBA asking how it would protect its players and employees who choose to speak out against the actions of the Chinese government. The NBA responded to Hawley’s letter simply by saying that it was “unable to respond to this hypothetical question” and that it has long held values of “equality, respect, and freedom of expression.”

Perhaps the league’s biggest star, Lebron James, summed the situation up best by stating that players have freedom of speech, but they have to be careful because of the negative impact that can result from speaking out. It is interesting to note that while Lebron claims that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted in support of Hong Kong protestors, was not “educated on the situation at hand,” he is evidently not educated on his own sponsor Nike’s practices or what is going on in China.

Clearly, money is more important to the NBA than speaking out against human rights violations in China. The NBA has set a precedent that no one involved in the organization may criticize China. This was made clear when they silenced Daryl Morey’s attempt to offer support to the Hong Kong protesters, and it continues to be made clear by the organization’s silence on the modern-day atrocities that China is committing. It recently came out that NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, donated the max contribution to Joe Biden’s campaign. One can only hope that Biden would not share Silver’s stance on being silent on these atrocities.

It is essential that people understand the atrocities and human rights violations being committed against the Uyghur Muslims in China. People are being sent to what many have called “concentration camps,” and one former NBA employee compared the atmosphere in Xinjiang to “World War II Germany.” Yet Nike, the NBA, and its players continue to be silent on the issue, doubtlessly due to the income they receive in China. This is wrong, and they need to continue to be held accountable.

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USAID Does a World of Good for Religious Freedom

by Arielle Del Turco , Arielle Leake

August 6, 2020

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator John Barsa knows the importance of religious freedom firsthand. Barsa is half Cuban, and his Catholic family fled Cuba for reasons which included religious repression under communism. As a result, he knows how detrimental it is when a country suppresses religious belief.

At a recent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) event, Barsa made clear that promoting religious freedom is a priority for USAID. He boldly stated, “We will not shy away from calling religious persecution for what it is. No one gets a free pass for this.”

The USCIRF event explored how USAID plans to implement President Trump’s recent executive order on advancing international religious freedom. The order established a strong stance on furthering religious liberty around the world and laid out a concrete plan for progress.

USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin noted that “Since 2017 the Trump administration has made religious liberty one of its highest priorities.” Tony Perkins, USCIRF Vice Chair, added that he is “very encouraged by the people he [the president] has put in place to enforce the order.”

The order expands mandatory international religious liberty training to include more government officials, ensures the integration of religious liberty into American diplomacy, and requires the utilization of economic tools to promote religious liberty, among other provisions. It also requires the State Department and USAID to provide comprehensive action plans within 180 days of the order’s issuance.

USAID has already done much to further the cause of religious liberty. This order and the minimum of $50 million it allots will assist them in furthering that goal. Examples of USAID’s work include everything from partnering with the Greek Orthodox Church to provide job training for religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, to protecting minority religious groups in Nigeria from the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.

In Iraq, many Yazidis and Christians who were targets of religious persecution are still reluctant to return home. This week marks six years since the ISIS genocide against the Yazidi people, and many Yazidis remain displaced, living in crowded refugee camps because they do not feel safe enough to return home. USAID is committed to the vital work of ensuring these religious minorities are safe in their own homeland, eliminating the need for them to flee again.

USAID programs are aimed at preventing mass atrocities such as genocide and empowering “countries along their journey to self-reliance.” Barsa said that USAID recognizes “when governments suppress freedom of religion, they prevent entire segments of society from making meaningful contributions to their country’s political and economic development.”

USAID has begun a new partnership initiative bringing a positive change to their approach. The goal of this initiative is to expand the organization’s base by working with more community-based organizations. This involvement with organizations at the grassroots level will allow USAID to gain more of a cultural understanding of the best ways to promote religious liberty in each area. Barsa calls this approach “good government” because it allows USAID to work with people in the community who know what is going on. In the end, it will lead to more effective assistance and hopefully yield significant results.

The American people can be proud of the generous aid we provide to communities in need around the world. Money is a powerful tool, and when used for good, it can make a world of difference.

The good work that USAID is doing is rarely reported in the media, but it deserves attention and appreciation. President Trump’s executive order on advancing religious  freedom, in addition to the new programs being implemented, such as the partner initiative, will make USAID’s work more potent and will promote the freedom for all people to believe as they choose.

Arielle Leake is a Policy & Government Affairs intern focusing on religious liberty.

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Pakistan’s Religious Injustice: Prayers and Pressure Needed

by Lela Gilbert

August 5, 2020

Once again, Pakistan is in the news. Unsurprisingly, the news is bad. And even less surprisingly, the latest news from that troubled country centers around religion—more specifically the lack of religious freedom in Pakistan.

This past week, an American citizen was shot dead in Peshawar, and he didn’t die in a dark alleyway or in a terrorist attack. No, according to CNN, “Tahir Ahmed Naseem, 47, died on Wednesday… after a member of the public walked into the courtroom and opened fire in front of the judge, according to officials.”

Naseem, who belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect, had been charged with blasphemy, a crime punishable by death under the Pakistan penal code. And before a judge could decide on his fate, he was assassinated by an Islamist thug.

Clearly, blasphemy certainly isn’t a deadly crime in North America. Indeed, during recent violence across the U.S., relentless insults have been hurled at Christians and Christianity, whether in word or deed. Statues of priests and missionaries have been toppled, sanctuaries and religious schools vandalized, and at least one historic mission torched. Meanwhile, verbal abuse of God-fearing Jews is common parlance in anti-Israel protests and on social media.

However, blasphemy in Pakistan is another story. Blasphemy has become a deadly preoccupation of the country’s radical Muslims, whose constitution provides them full opportunity to incite violence and when possible, to imprison or kill anyone accused—most often falsely—of insulting Allah, the Prophet Mohammad, or the Koran, Islam’s religious holy book.

A former member of the Pakistani parliament and my courageous friend and journalist, Farah Ispahani told me,

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become more pernicious and dangerous as the society at large has become more extremist and unwilling to share space with those of other beliefs like Pakistan’s Christians, Hindus and Sikhs – and even those of the same faith, but of different sects like Ahmadi and Shia Muslims. There is still a majority of Pakistanis who will not kill someone who believes or practices differently, but those of other faiths have become fearful of armed jihadi groups, and the madrasahs the killers come from.

Her statement has been confirmed by an article in the New York Times with the headline, “Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By.” According to the story, in June dozens of Hindu families converted to Islam in a mass ceremony. “What we are seeking is social status, nothing else,” one of the new converts candidly told a reporter.

In an interview for the Times report, Ms. Ispahani explained, “The dehumanization of minorities coupled with these very scary times we are living in — a weak economy and now the pandemic — we may see a raft of people converting to Islam to stave off violence or hunger or just to live to see another day.”

Most Christians in Pakistan are unlikely to convert to Islam, but they are more than aware of the risks they face every day. This, not only thanks to the dehumanization they experience, but also in dread of false blasphemy accusations.

Blasphemy accusations can result if a non-Muslim speaks an unkind word against a neighbor or posts a careless insult on social media. But more than often, there’s no real offense to begin with. Such charges can emanate from the lies and libels of jealous neighbors, or from false statements made by mocking adolescents, or even from winning the jackpot at a card game.

Meanwhile, winning a case against false accusations in Pakistan is another story. As the story of Tahir Naseem makes clear, the legal system provides no protection nor opportunity for a fair trial. How did an armed fanatic find his way into Naseem’s courtroom and manage to shoot him dead? It was possible because vigilantes have virtually free reign in Pakistan. Christians accused of blasphemy have as much to fear from fanatical mobs as from unjust judges.

Who can forget the tragic story of Asia Bibi? A simple farmworker whose initial offense was drinking water from a common cup with other berry-pickers, she ended up on death row for nine years on false blasphemy charges. She was eventually freed and fled the country, thanks to a widespread international outcry.

Yet even though she escaped, Asia Bibi’s life was destroyed and her false charges ended up costing the lives of two government officials who tried to defend her. Both prominent politicians, Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for Christian minorities, and Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, were assassinated in 2011 for opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and for speaking out in Asia Bibi’s defense.

Pakistan is, indeed, a “country of particular concern,” as re-designated by USCIRF in December 2019, “for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).” Meanwhile, Open Doors listed Pakistan as #5 on its 2020 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians in the world.

So what can we do? We need to make our voices heard. Let’s encourage our legislators, the State Department and the White House to take a firmer hand in negotiating with the radicalized state of Pakistan. Let’s share the facts on social media. Let’s alert our pastors and our Bible study groups.

When it comes to religious freedom, let’s keep the old saying in mind: “Act as if everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God.”

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