FRC Blog

The Paradox of New Zealand’s Miscarriage Leave and Abortion Expansion Bills

by Mary Szoch

March 30, 2021

This past week, New Zealand became one of the first countries to offer paid leave to workers who have experienced miscarriage. New Zealand’s legislation offers women and couples three days bereavement leave after the loss of an unborn child through miscarriage, adoption, or surrogacy.

The legislation, which passed unanimously, was hailed by the Washington Post as “the latest in a string of policy changes that have addressed women’s rights under Ardern’s time in office. Last year, the country decriminalized abortion…”

As a woman who has had a miscarriage, I found myself both grateful for New Zealand’s acknowledgement that the loss of a child through a miscarriage is truly a loss and furious that this piece of legislation is being framed as consistent with decriminalizing abortion.

Just over a year ago, the New Zealand Parliament passed legislation that allows abortion on demand up to 20 weeks and up to birth “if the health practitioner reasonably believes that the abortion is clinically appropriate.” Somehow, the legislation legalizing the killing of an unborn child is placed in the same category as legislation providing benefits for women mourning the death of an unborn child.

Either an unborn child is a human being or not. Currently the laws in New Zealand provide for both state funds for a woman to grieve the loss of her unborn child who died through a miscarriage AND state funds for an abortionist to kill a woman’s unborn child.  

If we actually want to advance women’s rights, we must work to create a culture of life—a culture that supports women who are pregnant and facing challenging circumstances, a culture that acknowledges the true suffering that couples who have experienced miscarriages face, and a culture that recognizes the unborn child in the womb for the gift from God that he or she is.

We cannot build a society that advances women’s rights based on lies and inconsistencies. During a miscarriage, an unborn child dies, and it is tragic. During an abortion, an unborn child is killed, and it is also tragic, but there is a major difference. The tragedy caused by abortion is preventable. Affirming that the death of a child in a miscarriage is a tragedy while pretending that abortion, which also results in the death of a child, is somehow a woman’s right leads down a very dark road where an unborn child’s worth is based simply on whether he or she is wanted.

Hopefully, New Zealand’s Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill will prompt the need for pro-life legislation in that country that restricts abortion and is actually consistent with an agenda to advance women’s rights. Let us pray that this legislation will lead to New Zealand becoming a nation that recognizes inherent value in every father, every mother, and every child—including unborn children.

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You Can’t Twist Scripture to Force Women to Compete Against Men in Sports

by David Closson

March 26, 2021

On Monday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) vetoed House Bill 1217, legislation that would protect women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. In a press conference announcing the veto, Noem said she supported a bill to protect middle and high school girls but argued that extending the same protections to female collegiate athletes would prompt lawsuits from groups like the NCAA.

While most conservatives were frustrated by Noem’s capitulation on the transgender sports bill, one faith group, the South Dakota Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), actually encouraged Noem to veto it. Signed by about 30 church leaders, the short letter read:

Dear Governor Noem:

Grace and peace to you in this season of Lent. I reach out to you today on behalf of the 200 South Dakota congregations, ministry sites and organizations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). As Lutherans, baptized members in the body of Christ, we care about the actions of our government because it is a gift from God intended for the safety and flourishing of human life. Yet, as sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, the gift and power of government is abused. It is why I am urging you to veto HB 1217 that claims to promote “fairness” in women’s sports. In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus asks his disciples, “which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” After the lost sheep is found Jesus says, “rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (ref. Luke 15:4-6) Meaning that there is no rejoicing until all have found a place in the flock — including our trans siblings of faith. Policies and laws that purposely exclude trans individuals contribute to deteriorating mental health. The Trevor Project reports that 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, and that over 90% of those attempts took place before the age of 25. Looking after the lost one means inclusion and compassion. God the incarnate goes to the far stretches of the Earth to find the lost and calls them home by name, “you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) As people of faith, we are invited to do the same. Please, as a beloved child of God, do not forget about the one child, when you have the ninety-nine with you.

As Christians, it is important to think carefully about current events. When it comes to matters of public policy, there are many issues that do not have a clear-cut answer for how believers should think. This requires restraint and humility. On the other hand, there are some topics—such as abortion—where Scripture speaks clearly. Christians, especially pastors and Christian leaders must be clear about their convictions.

This brings us to the recent letter to Governor Noem. One of the most important responsibilities a minister of the gospel has is caring for hurting people. As Christ’s under-shepherds, pastors are called to serve people with love and care (Acts 20:28). Thus, it is appropriate when ministers discuss legislation they believe will affect their congregants and those in their ministries. However, the recent letter to the South Dakota governor is problematic for a few reasons, chiefly its misuse and appropriation of Scripture.

But first, it is important to note their letter contains some helpful reminders. For example, they are right to acknowledge that positions of leadership, especially in government, can be challenging. They also acknowledged that man is fallen and broken due to sin. Moreover, the desire to love our neighbors who identify as transgender is commendable, as Christ has called the church to love everyone (Mt. 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36). Their reminders along these lines are helpful.

However, there are a few problems about the letter that deserve attention. First, our love of neighbor must be modeled after the pattern of Christ, not the world (Rom. 12:2). We cannot adopt the world’s understanding of love, which demands affirmation of lifestyles and actions contrary to the will of God as revealed in Scripture. According to the leaders who signed the letter, love for their friends who identify as transgender requires accepting transgender ideology which contradicts the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.

Second, the letter misuses Scripture to make its main point. In its proper context, the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7 is about salvation and pursuing lost people (i.e., those who do not have a relationship with God). The shepherd goes after the one lost sheep because it is lost; he rescues it and shows it the way of life. This parable (and the subsequent parables of the lost coin and the prodigal son) discloses Christ’s heart and His redemptive love for sinners. It encourages believers following His example to pursue those who do not have a relationship with God in order to show them the way of life.  

Clearly, Jesus’ intention in telling the parable of the lost sheep was not to make sure “all have found a place in the flock” (if inclusion in the flock means disregarding and flouting clear biblical teaching). Again, the context of the passage is about repentance and salvation. Jesus’ explanation of the parable makes it clear that He is talking specifically about sinners who repent. Moreover, Scripture is very clear about God’s design and purpose for marriage and human sexuality.  

Citing the parable of the lost sheep as evidence that Christians ought to oppose a bill that would protect women and girls’ sports is not a faithful interpretation of Luke 15. Christians are called to tell the truth, and that includes the truth that God made us male and female. It is not unloving or unkind to truthfully (1 Cor. 13:6) point out the many injustices and physical dangers associated with allowing biological males to compete against biological females. 

It is never permissible to misuse Scripture to advance a political agenda. Moreover, there is no reason for Christians to oppose commonsense legislation that protects women and girls at all levels of athletic competition. In fact, supporting legislation like House Bill 1217 is a practical way to protect female athletes. This bill deserves support, not condemnation, from Christian leaders in South Dakota and around the country.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 21)

by Family Research Council

March 26, 2021

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

1. Update: USA Today Looks to Bounce ORU from NCAA

Everyone loves an underdog. Well, almost everyone. While the rest of the country rallies around Oral Roberts University, cheering on the Cinderella of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, USA Today says the slipper doesn’t fit because of their belief in the Bible.

2. Update: Trans Debate Hits too Close to Noem

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota made a name for herself by bucking COVID restrictions and has had her eye on bigger things in the Republican Party for a long time. But with her recent decision to cave to the Left, rather than stand up for South Dakota’s girl athletes, she might be kissing those big plans goodbye.

3. Blog: Hong Kong Has Gone Dark

With dozens of the top pro-democracy political candidates now in prison, Beijing has crushed the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who took to the streets in a call for greater democracy. As Hong Kong endures political repression under the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening grasp, the freedom-loving world must act to punish Beijing.

4. Blog: Harriet Tubman: A Leader to Freedom and a Servant of God

For Women’s History Month we’re looking at the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery, she started with nothing. However, she eventually acquired her freedom and led others to theirs. Harriet’s life and legacy were marked by her trust in God to guide and protect her.

5. Washington Watch: Sen. Marsha Blackburn Unpacks the Equality Act’s Attack on Womanhood and Biden’s Border Crisis

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) joined Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss the threats posed by the Equality Act and the Fairness for All Act, and the escalating border crisis.

6. Washington Watch: Reince Priebus Says Everyday Conservatives are Outpacing Woke CEOs in Political Donations

Reince Priebus, President of the Michael Best law firm, former White House Chief of Staff to President Trump, and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined Tony Perkins with details on the news that a record number of individuals have been donating to the Republican Party since President Biden took office.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: KathyGrace Duncan Shares Her Detransitioning Journey

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by KathyGrace Duncan, Women’s Ministry Leader at Portland Fellowship, who shared her detransitioning journey and her testimony of finding freedom in Christ.

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FRC On the Hill (March 22-26): Senate Moves Quickly to Confirm Biden’s Radical Nominees

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Joseph Norris

March 26, 2021

Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.

The Senate Moves on President Biden’s Nominees

This week, amidst several votes and confirmation hearings, FRC was hard at work tracking nominations and informing senators on the radical positions held by many of the nominees under consideration. This week, the Senate made progress on several concerning nominees:

Marty Walsh: The Senate voted 68-29 to confirm Walsh as secretary of Labor. The former mayor of Boston has touted his credentials as a champion of the LGBT agenda and often prioritizes it over the constitutional right to religious liberty. Walsh and the Biden administration are now in a position to restrict faith-based organizations from contracting with the Department of Labor unless said organizations comply with their liberal sexuality ideology. See FRC’s blog on Walsh here.

Walsh’s confirmation also means that President Biden now has a full cabinet, with all 15 of his cabinet secretaries confirmed. Although President Trump’s nominees were confirmed earlier, Biden’s nominees have received more bipartisan support, despite being arguably the most pro-abortion cabinet of all time. The delay in confirming Biden’s nominees is likely due to the Senate taking up a second failed impeachment trial of President Trump.

Shalanda Young: The Senate voted 63-37 to confirm Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a position with significant influence on federal policy and the budget process. Representative Bob Good (R-Va.) had sent a letter to President Biden highlighting Young’s troubling opposition to the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, two longstanding federal pro-life policies. With Neera Tanden’s nomination having been withdrawn, Young could soon find herself as the director of OMB, wielding even greater influence. See FRC’s blog on Young here.

Rachel Levine: The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Levine as assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Only Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke with Republican ranks to support the nomination. Over the past several months, FRC had been actively educating senators on Levine’s concerning track record. Levine has a history of promoting abortion and actively speaking out against pro-life measures. Even more troubling are Levine’s radical stances on LGBT issues, which include advocating that children as young as five years old be allowed to change their gender without parental consent. Levine, who identifies as a transgender woman, has already announced intentions to use the position at HHS as a means of advancing this ideology.

See FRC’s resources for more information:

Vanita Gupta: The Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance the nomination of Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general at the Department of Justice ended in a deadlocked tie. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) eloquently stated how Gupta would use her new position to advance abortion while harming women’s sports and religious liberty. The committee chairman cut off Sen. Tom Cotton in the middle of his remarks in order to hold the vote. Gupta now waits to see if the full Senate will discharge her nomination in order to advance towards final confirmation.  

Cindy Marten: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing this past week to assess Marten’s qualifications to serve as deputy secretary of Education during a tumultuous time for all levels of education in our country. Marten has a history of spearheading LGBT issues in the San Diego school district, and Sen. Murray (D-Wash.) directly brought up how she would have the opportunity to break down barriers for LGBT students.

Samantha Power: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nomination hearing for Power to be the new head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). As USAID administrator, Power would have the ability to direct global health funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups, which is troubling given her past support for abortion and other anti-life policies. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also raised the issue of her troubling stance on an anti-Semitic UN resolution while serving as Obama’s UN ambassador.

Other Notable Items FRC Tracked this Week:

  • Congress passed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, even after discovering that Planned Parenthood received nearly $80 million in loans despite being ineligible for the program. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) lead efforts in committee and on the Senate floor to block Planned Parenthood from receiving these loans.
  • The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on S.1, a massive bill that would federalize elections and completely undermine election integrity. Senator Cruz introduced a letter for the record on behalf of FRC alongside letters from other conservative groups that oppose the bill.
  • Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) introduced two new bills supported by FRC. One bill would ban damages or monetary awards in lawsuits against religious monuments and religious imagery in public buildings. The other would make it illegal to transport a minor across state lines to get an abortion.
  • The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Extremism in the Armed Forces. The chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) testified. Several members of Congress, including Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.), went after the SPLC witness over their fallacious hate group designations and internal turmoil. Other members raised the shooting at FRC in 2012 as a direct implication of their targeting of social conservative organizations.

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Clara Barton: Red Cross Founder and Civil War’s “Angel of the Battlefield”

by Molly Carman

March 26, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Periodically throughout the month of March, we will be sharing some of these inspiring stories. Don’t miss our previous installments on Abigail Adams, Fanny Crosby, and Harriet Tubman.

Clara Barton is primarily known for being the founder of the American Red Cross. However, she was also a pioneer for women working in the fields of nursing, government, and humanitarian aid. Throughout her long life, Clara was deeply dedicated to serving those in need. She wasted no time waiting to be told what needed to be done; instead, she took the initiative and saw to the needs of others herself. Today, she is remembered as one of the greatest humanitarians our country has ever known.

Clarissa (“Clara”) Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children by 10 years. Her two older brothers, Stephen and David, taught her mathematics and how to ride bareback and climb trees. Her two older sisters, Sarah (“Sally”) and Dorothea (“Dolly”), taught her to read and write. Sadly, the Barton home was not a happy one. Mrs. Barton suffered from a mental illness (most likely bipolar disorder) and was unkind to Clara as a child. Older sister Dolly spent most of her life locked away in an upstairs bedroom after suffering a mental breakdown when Clara was six. However, Clara’s father, Captain Stephen Barton, loved Clara and gave her an example of hard work, persistence, and compassion. This example provided a foundation for the humanitarian efforts for which she would later become famous. Clara was raised in the Universalist church, and her autobiography gives testimony to the role her faith took in her work.

When Clara was 11, her older brother David fell off the roof of the family barn. His injuries rendered him bedridden, and doctors believed that he would not survive. Clara refused to accept their prognosis and spent the next two years nursing her brother back to full health. This was her first exposure to nursing, but it would not be her last.

Clara did not initially pursue a career in nursing, as it was a predominately male profession at the time. Instead, she acquired a teaching license and worked as an educator for 12 years before furthering her education at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. In 1852, she founded the first free school in the state of New Jersey. The school was successful, so much so that when it expanded and a new building was built, the board hired a male principal to run the school instead of Clara. She continued to teach at the school but suffered from health problems and her first of many mental breakdowns, and eventually resigned.

In 1855, Clara moved to Washington, D.C., and was the first female clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, earning a salary equal to that of her male peers. The adjustment was difficult, and some of her male coworkers harassed and slandered her on account of her being a woman. Her position was later reduced to a copyist, and then her job was terminated altogether with the election of President James Buchanan in 1857. She moved home to Massachusetts but later returned to D.C. when Abraham Lincoln took office, resuming her position at the Patent Office.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Clara was extremely aggravated by the lack of care given to Union soldiers traveling from the northern states to the southern battlegrounds. Many of these men were packed into train cars and not given food, water, or shelter when they stopped in the capital. Clara went to work acquiring supplies and helping in whatever way she could when the trains stopped at the station. She became particularly concerned with the number of wounded men who had been on the battlefield for days before receiving medical attention once on the train to a hospital. Because women were not allowed on the battlefield, she worked diligently to receive permission to transport supplies and medical care herself to the front lines.

Many women served as volunteer nurses during the Civil War, but their services were generally relegated to military hospitals, not the battlefield itself. On August 9, 1862, at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Clara Barton performed her first field duty. As she carried supplies to the wounded, comforted the dying, and stayed calm and collected through it all, the male nurses and surgeons working alongside her marveled at her instincts and gentleness. Clara’s service at the Battle of Antietam earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield,” and her fame began to grow. She would go on to serve on a total of 16 battlefields, including every major battle in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. General Benjamin Butler named her head nurse of his unit in 1864, even though she had no formal medical training. She would go on to instruct other female nurses as the war continued.

After the war, Clara coordinated efforts to locate lost soldiers. She and her colleagues received over 63,000 inquiries and were able to locate 22,000 soldiers, bringing closure to their families. The D.C. boarding house that she lived in is now home to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum.

The stress of the war and recoveries of missing persons caused Clara to suffer a second mental breakdown, and she traveled to Europe for rest. While in Europe, she was exposed to the work of the organization that would become known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. Determined to provide similar humanitarian relief in the United States, Clara would later found the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. The organization’s first relief operation was in response to the Great Michigan Fire of 1881, and it received its first congressional charter in 1900. Clara remained president of the Red Cross until 1904. She would then go on to found the National First Aid Society.

Clara Barton died of pneumonia on April 12, 1912, in Glen Echo, Maryland. Despite suffering from depression and physical and mental illnesses for most of her life, her pioneering work as a nurse and the immense compassion she showed for those in need inspired a wounded nation and continues to be a shining example of selfless love.

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Arkansas Moves to Protect Children from Gender Transition Procedures

by Chantel Hoyt

March 25, 2021

The Arkansas Senate is currently considering HB 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. This bill aims to protect children from invasive and untested procedures associated with “gender transition,” as these types of procedures pose serious health risks and cannot be fully reversed. Such drugs and procedures are based on the unscientific theory that some individuals can be born in the “wrong” body. Eighteen states have introduced similar legislation so far in 2021.

The Arkansas SAFE Act prohibits health care professionals from performing gender reassignment surgeries or providing puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones for the purpose of gender transition to individuals under the age of 18. Health care professionals found to be in violation of this policy would have their medical licenses revoked. The bill also prohibits medical insurance from covering such treatments for minors. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum of Arkansas’ 87th district (Benton and Washington counties) and recently passed the House floor with a vote of 70-22. It is currently awaiting action in the Senate. 

The liberal news media has decried this legislation’s so-called “assault” on transgender rights.  Back in January 2020, when only six states had introduced such legislation, CNN quoted Ryan Thoreson, a Yale law school lecturer and LGBT rights researcher, as saying, “There are alarming signals that this could pass in conservative states.” Thoreson also referred to these bills as part of a series of “attacks on transgender youths” by lawmakers and said that the proposed laws would restrict young people’s access to “basic health care.” The CNN article also insisted that bills like these could “prove devastating to transgender children” and suggested that children who cannot obtain such procedures are more likely to commit suicide.

You don’t have to be a physician to know that describing gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy as “basic health care” is ludicrous. In what other instance would the suppression of natural bodily development and removal of healthy or non-diseased body parts from children (or anyone for, that matter) be considered permissible, let alone essential health care? 

Transgender activists typically argue that securing access to gender transition procedures is really about the child’s mental health, theorizing that these procedures are the only thing that will cure their gender dysphoria and reduce their distress. This idea might be more compelling if it had any scientific evidence to back it up. We currently have no good evidence that these procedures even accomplish their stated purpose—improving children’s mental health. FRC argues that such evidence would be “absolutely necessary to justify such radical and unnatural physical intervention.”

This lack of evidence, combined with the fact that most children with gender dysphoria will outgrow their condition and not identify as transgender adults, makes the legality of performing gender transition procedures on children and activists’ advocacy for said procedures even more troubling. For most kids with gender incongruity, puberty is the cure, not the disease.

The number of proposed bills aimed at protecting minors from the harmful effects of gender transition procedures has seen a sharp rise in the past two years. This trend, combined with conservative wins in state legislatures in the most recent election, is cause for optimism. Hopefully, states will be able to pass common-sense legislation that protects children from such harmful practices, nurturing them rather than sacrificing their health and well-being on the altar of unscientific transgender ideology. 

Based on its recent success, the Arkansas SAFE Act could very well be the first bill of its kind to pass a state legislature, but it needs your help! If you (or your family and friends) live in Arkansas, please speak up now and ask your elected officials to protect minors from the growing pressure to treat puberty like a disease.

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Do Gender Transition Procedures Prevent Suicide?

by Family Research Council

March 24, 2021

Transgender advocates often claim that gender transition procedures are the cure to suicide risk among transgender-identifying youth, and that legislation restricting gender transition procedures on minors causes suicide. But a closer look at suicide studies (see pp. 11-12) reveals several problems with those claims:

  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey published by the National Center for Transgender Equality did find elevated risk of suicide among people who identify as transgender during their lifetime:
    • Forty percent (40%) have attempted suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).
    • Seven percent (7%) attempted suicide in the past year—nearly 12 times the rate in the U.S. population (0.6%).
  • However:
    • This did not account for untreated mental illness, perhaps because transgender advocates resist any association between gender incongruity and mental illness; and
    • This was drawn from a “convenience sample” (an online poll of volunteers).
    • A survey that used more scientific methods, the California Health Interview Survey, found that among “highly gender non-conforming” youth, only 3% of girls and 2% of boys reported having attempted suicide.

Furthermore, although such statistics are often cited as evidence that minors should pursue gender transition, these numbers do not prove causality. Even if the elevated rates are legitimate, the data often do not indicate when the suicidal thoughts or actions occurred—before or after gender transition.

  • For example, a 2020 article in the journal Pediatrics examined the link between taking puberty-blocking hormones and nine different mental health outcomes. Although it found that those who received puberty blockers had a lower rate of “lifetime suicidal ideation,” it also found that those who received puberty blockers were twice as likely to have had a suicide attempt resulting in inpatient care (i.e., hospitalization) in the last 12 months as those who did not (45.5% vs. 22.8%). (Neither finding rose to the level of statistical significance in the study.)
  • A 2011 Swedish study (in which the authors were able to examine the medical records of every person in Sweden who underwent gender reassignment surgery over a 30-year period) found a number of physical and mental health problems were elevated among this population, including a rate of completed suicides among those who completed transition that was 19 times higher than the general population.
  • A comprehensive review of the literature on the subject by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declared about the Swedish study that “we cannot exclude therapeutic interventions as a cause of the observed excess morbidity and mortality.” In other words, not only does gender reassignment surgery (and other “therapeutic interventions” such as hormone therapy) not demonstrably benefit those who identify as transgender (including by reducing their risk of suicide)—it may actively harm them, and increase that risk instead.

When you combine these facts with findings that the “desistance” rates (the rate at which transgender-identifying adolescents cease to identify as the opposite sex) range from 70 percent to 97.8 percent in biological males, and from 50 percent to 88 percent in biological females, the picture becomes clear. For most transgender-identifying youth, puberty is the cure, not the cause, of gender incongruence. Even among those who continue to identify as transgender, there is evidence that transitioning causes more harm than good, at least as measured by rates of suicide attempts resulting in hospitalization and rates of completed suicide. Furthermore, these studies include populations from Sweden and California, two jurisdictions that are arguably very supportive of gender transition policies.

For a full report on the dangers of gender transition procedures, see FRC’s Do Not Sterilize Children: Why Physiological Gender Transition Procedures for Minors Should Be Prohibited

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Thinking Biblically About Courage

by David Closson

March 24, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety, “Christian Nationalism”, and Love.

As cultural winds blow ever stronger against biblical orthodoxy on human sexuality, some states are pushing back by passing bills protecting youth from harmful gender transition procedures and protecting women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. One such piece of legislation, South Dakota House Bill 1217, was recently approved by the state legislature and sent to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk. However, Noem shocked conservatives by vetoing the bill.

Noem suggested revising the bill to support protections for middle school and high school girls but not extending the same protections to older women, specifically collegiate athletes. This attempt to craft a “win-win situation” in the face of opposition might seem courageous to some. But the mere presence of opposition from some quarters does not automatically mean you are being courageous—or are doing what is right. A biblical and philosophical examination of courage requires us to dig deeper.

What is courage? The philosopher Aristotle, who believed that moral behavior was found in the mean (or moderate position) between two extremes, argued in his ethical treatise Nicomachean Ethics that courage is the mean between the feelings of fear and confidence. Merriam-Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” In other words, the courageous person has poise and the fortitude to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Despite potential blowback, the courageous person stays the course and pursues what they know is right.

Is courage a virtue Christians should pursue? Yes. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to trust Him and obey His commandments, regardless of the consequences. Psalm 27:14 reminds us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” and again in Psalm 31:24, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” We are exhorted to be courageous not because the things we are called to do are easy, popular, or will make us successful in the earthly sense, but because God has commanded us to fear Him rather than men (Acts 5:29).

When Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, he was understandably overwhelmed. Yet God charged him to be courageous: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). The pressure facing Joshua was immense. Leading the quarrelsome and obstinate Israelites into the Promised Land was no small task. Thus, as Joshua stepped into his new role, God called him to be courageous, to exhibit strong moral and mental fortitude as he took on the mantle of leadership.

Queen Esther also had to choose to do the right thing in her time, at great personal risk. Encouraged by her cousin Mordecai, Esther approached the Persian king to petition that her peoples’ lives be spared from genocide. Although nervous, she understood the gravity of the situation and was willing to lay down her life for a noble cause. “If I perish, I perish,” she said before venturing into the king’s throne room (Est. 4:16). By God’s grace, her courage was rewarded, and both she and the Jewish people lived.

Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by the pagan king of Babylon to bow down to a golden statue and worship. These men knew that it was a sin to worship any man or image other than God, so they refused, and the king commanded that they be burned alive. Before they were led to the furnace, they expressed their belief that God could deliver them. But they told the king, even if God allowed their death, “be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:18). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to die obeying God rather than sin in order to avoid death.  

The example of these Jewish exiles is instructive. We are called to do the right thing and be courageous not because God will necessarily save us but because it is what is right and honors Him. Many brothers and sisters in the faith have lost their homes, family, friends, possessions, jobs, and even lives because they chose to be courageous and obey God. Although that was the price their courage required, their reward is much sweeter (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Christ is our ultimate example of courage. Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He never sinned (Heb. 4:15). Despite constant rejection, criticism, and unbelief, He poured Himself out and ministered to sinners. He exemplified the greatest act of courage when He went to the cross and paid the price for our sin.

Courage requires that we fear God above man, know His word, obey it, and practice wisdom and discernment. Paul exhorts us to take up the whole armor of God so that we will be able to stand firm in the evil day (Eph. 6:13). The late preacher Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” He’s right. Courage is contagious, and even though most of today’s politicians lack courage, Christians should strive to be courageous because God “gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). As we seek to be more like Christ, we can all start by being courageous and doing the right thing for its own sake and thereby encourage others to pursue the virtuous life.

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Yet Another Christian Teenager in Pakistan is Trapped in a Forced Marriage. It’s Time to Act.

by Arielle Del Turco

March 24, 2021

When 13-year-old Shakaina Masih’s mother arrived to take her home from the job at which she helped with housework, she was informed that her daughter had already left. When Shakaina never showed up, concern soon became alarm as her parents urgently filed a missing person report. After initially delaying to respond, police informed Shakaina’s parents that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man last month.

Devastated to learn that their teenage daughter was supposedly married to a man whose name they had never even heard, Shakaina’s parents believe she was abducted. “Shakaina is just a kid,” Shakaina’s father, Johnson Masih told Morning Star News. “She was kidnapped and taken to Okara, where they forcibly converted her and conducted the fake marriage to give it a religious cover.” Many Christian parents in Pakistan fear exactly this occurrence—and it is all too common.

Hundreds of girls from Christian and Hindu backgrounds are kidnapped each year and forcibly converted before being raped and often forced to live as their abductor’s wives. Widespread discrimination and the government’s failure to protect religious freedom creates an environment that enables this horrific practice to thrive. Islamic clerics who solemnize underage marriages, magistrates who make the marriages legal, and corrupt authorities who refuse to investigate all contribute to the problem.

Huma Younus, a Christian girl kidnapped at 14 years old, also remains trapped. In October 2019, three men waited until Huma’s parents left their home before barging in and taking Huma by force. A few days later, the kidnappers sent Huma’s parents copies of a marriage certificate and documents alleging her willing conversion to Islam. 

Now 15 years old, reports indicate Huma is confined to one room in her abductor’s house and is now pregnant from repeated rape. Though a judicial magistrate in East Karachi issued a warrant for the arrest of her kidnapper last September, police have reportedly delayed acting upon the warrant.

Intense social hostility to religious minority groups can make doing the right thing dangerous for judges and officials. Nothing makes this reality more clear than the situation surrounding the country’s blasphemy laws.

Conviction on a blasphemy charge in Pakistan can mean life imprisonment or a death sentence. Even if the court acquits someone, violent mobs may form to take the punishment into their own hands. In 2020, an Ahmadi Muslim man who was accused of blasphemy was dramatically shot and killed in the courtroom.

Pressure from Islamists to punish non-Muslims is intense. Just this month, one Pakistani Christian’s sentence was made harsher following an appeal filed by the Islamist legal group Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Forum (KNF) who were seeking the death penalty over the Christian’s blasphemy charge. When Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, publicly defended Asia Bibi in 2011, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, he was assassinated at a public market.

The social hostility surrounding court cases that involve non-Muslims make it more difficult for religious minorities to receive justice—even when the victims are vulnerable young girls. In response, the Pakistani govnerment should be taking steps to secure the rule of law and protect its Christian and other minority citizens.

The scope of the issue and the heinous nature of the crimes make forced marriage in Pakistan an issue that deserves to be addressed by the international community. A new publication by Family Research Council offers several recommendations for how U.S. officials can combat the practice of forced marriages in Pakistan.

First, State Department officials should prioritize the issue of forced conversions and marriages in diplomatic relations. This issue should also factor into considerations of whether Pakistan should be designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) on religious freedom by the State Department.

Second, Congress should pass a resolution urging that forced marriage and forced conversion of religious minorities in Pakistan be addressed by both the U.S. govnerment and Pakistani government. Resolutions do not carry the force of law, but they communicate issues about which Congress is especially concerned.

Third, the United States should apply targeted sanctions on Pakistani officials responsible for committing or tolerating human rights abuses. This is an effective way to let corrupt officials know that their complicity in human rights abuses will have international consequences.

Raising the issue of forced marriages of minority girls in Pakistan is especially important because these communities are marginalized and ill-equipped to publicly defend themselves. By advocating on their behalf, the United States can uphold its role as a leader on human rights and raise awareness on a grave problem that receives scant attention.

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Biden’s Cabinet (Part 6): Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh’s Fixation on the LGBT Agenda

by Joseph Norris

March 23, 2021

This is Part 6 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read previous posts on Antony BlinkenXavier BecerraJennifer GranholmMarcia Fudge, and Shalanda Young.

Confirmed by the Senate 68-29, Marty Walsh, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), will have to choose between advancing the LGBT agenda and protecting religious liberty. Given the policies of past Democratic administrations and Walsh’s own track record, it is safe to assume that he will advocate for policies that favor the LGBT agenda to the detriment of religious liberty.

Walsh served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives before serving two terms as the mayor of Boston. During his confirmation hearing on February 4, Walsh highlighted his status as a labor union member and advocate. A closer analysis of his background reveals a long track record of prioritizing the LGBT agenda. As a Massachusetts state representative, Walsh argued in favor of same-sex marriage bills. As Boston’s mayor, he intentionally hired several LGBT employees as a political statement, not based solely on their merits for the job, and made the bathrooms in City Hall gender-neutral. Walsh also sought to ensure that city employees had access to “transition-related healthcare services.” Walsh seems set to continue his LGBT activism at the DOL.

The policies of the Obama-era DOL severely limited the religious liberty of faith adherents that sought to contract with DOL. As a result, religious individuals and non-profit organizations were less likely to seek government contracts or utilize government services. Seeking to reverse this trend, the Trump administration’s DOL finalized a rule encouraging “the full and equal participation of religious organizations as federal contractors.” Family Research Council had submitted comments in support of this rule change, which ensured that people would “be free to believe as they engage with the government and in the public square.” This rule change is one of the policies that is likely in danger with Walsh at the helm of the DOL.

As FRC’s David Closson has noted, there is a growing perception in America that religious liberty is merely an excuse for bigotry. We must tactfully and graciously contradict this misconception, explaining that religious liberty—freedom of belief—is good for everyone, not just people of faith. Christians should also pray that Walsh and the DOL will seek the good of all American workers while still respecting the religious freedom protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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