FRC Blog

The Duty of Parents in Education

by David Closson

July 15, 2021

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

As the nation emerges from the set of political, health, and economic crises it has wrestled with over the past year, and as children head back to school in the fall, a battle is heating up: the fight for America’s schools.

Recognizing the growing battles within education, the Associated Press published an article last Friday titled “Tears, politics, and money: School boards become battle zones.” The article highlights debates in school board meetings across the country over new curriculum, how racism and American history will be taught, mask mandates, and transgender issues. How some of these fiercely debated questions are resolved will affect the trajectory of our schools and, ultimately, our nation.

Christian parents face questions even more fundamental than any of these. Namely, what is their responsibility when it comes to their children’s education? And does it matter if said education reflects a biblical worldview?

A quality education is a good thing to desire for one’s children. Desiring good things for one’s children is not a uniquely Christian trait; it is a human one—a reflection of the heavenly Father earthly parents are meant to resemble. Jesus was addressing a large crowd when he said:

Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat. 7:9-11, ESV)

Desiring a quality education for one’s children is not a uniquely Christian trait, but Christian parents ought to combine this excellent desire with another one—that their children would learn to embrace a biblical worldview.

The process of building a biblical worldview begins in the home. However, this process is also either helped or hurt by what happens in the classroom. A person’s worldview is not merely shaped by how they spend their Sundays or whether they learn good habits and spiritual disciplines. It is also shaped when they are being taught history, science, literature, and math. Therefore, Christian parents should care deeply about what their children are being taught and who is teaching their children. Children’s worldviews are constantly being shaped, and not necessarily by a biblical one.

Let’s briefly consider the state of worldview in America. According to George Barna’s America’s Worldview Inventory, a person’s worldview (the lens through which they see and understand the world) is solidified by age 13. Although someone’s worldview may change or adjust throughout their life, the overwhelming majority of Americans have their worldview in place before high school, with little to no change afterward. Barna’s research shows that today only six percent of American adults hold a biblical worldview. Even more troubling is the finding that only 21 percent of those who regularly attend evangelical churches have a biblical worldview (despite 81 percent thinking they do).

Christian parents must consider these numbers. Simply put, most Americans—including those who attend church—do not have a biblical worldview. This means that most of our children’s educators are not teaching from a perspective informed by biblical truth. Even those with good intentions will not be able to help our children see how Scripture answers the most fundamental questions we face.

God has clearly outlined parents’ responsibility for their children. When Moses was passing down the law of God to the people of Israel at Mount Siani, God commanded parents:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deut. 6:6-7)

By issuing these commands to parents, God made them ultimately responsible for educating and instilling a biblical worldview in their children. For a variety of reasons, parents may choose to delegate some of this responsibility. If and when they do, they should be careful to do so wisely.

For some parents, ensuring their children are taught a biblical worldview might mean homeschooling them. For other parents, it might mean finding a Christian school that instructs its students from a biblical worldview and enrolling their children there. And for others, it could mean being intentionally involved in the local public school system. This involvement might look like discussing and supplementing the public school curriculum at home with your children, attending school board meetings and speaking up when appropriate, running for and serving on the school board, or even working as a teacher or principal. Regardless of what form it takes, Christian parents should be intentionally involved in their children’s education.

Active parental involvement in the education of their children is a theme found throughout Scripture. For example, parents are advised to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). The apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Furthermore, the apostle John embodied the attitude all Christian parents and teachers ought to have when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

Whether parents choose to homeschool their children, enroll them in private school, or send them to public school, they have a responsibility to raise their children in the Lord and will be held accountable for how they steward the blessing of children (Jesus gives a sobering warning in Matthew 18:5-6). What are our children learning? More importantly, what kind of people are they becoming because of their education? What virtues are they learning to cherish and embody? These considerations are at the heart of discipling our children because what happens in the classroom does not stay in the classroom—it shapes hearts and minds. Christian parents must be active participants in their children’s education as an act of obedience to God and out of love for both God and their children.

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State Round-Up: Protecting Unborn Children from Discriminatory Abortions

by Chantel Hoyt

July 15, 2021

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

Modern medical technology can detect genetic characteristics and diagnose many disabilities in the womb. Unfortunately, these scientific advancements have increased the potential for abortions that are motivated by bias against an unborn child’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, and/or disability.

Babies who are prenatally diagnosed with a disability may be the most common victims of discriminatory abortions. An international study found that 63 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida and 83 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted. Another study revealed that an estimated 67 percent of women in the United States who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose abortion. In Denmark, more than 95 percent of mothers who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort their child, and in 2019, 15 years after screening became universally available, only 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in the whole country.

State legislators across the country are becoming increasingly aware of this problem and are introducing prenatal nondiscrimination acts (PRENDAs) to protect children from discriminatory abortions. In 2019, they were emboldened when Justice Thomas penned a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential.

Much like other pro-life bills, support for PRENDAs has been growing over the past few years. From 2013 to 2020, an average of 10 state-level PRENDAs were introduced each year. In 2021, a record-high 31 were introduced. So far, two have been enacted, in Arizona (SB 1457) and South Dakota (HB 1110). Fourteen other states have enacted some version of these protections. In fact, the past three years have seen more PRENDAs enacted (seven) than in all the preceding years combined.

These bills typically have four key provisions:

  • Prohibit anyone from knowingly aborting the unborn child of a woman who sought the abortion solely on the basis of an inherent characteristic (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity, national origin) or disability of the child.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Indemnify the mother (i.e., absolve the mother of legal liability).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion businesses who violate the law can be sued).

In addition, some bills may mandate information be provided to the mother about perinatal palliative care if the unborn child has a life-threatening illness or abnormality. This year, four out of the 31 bills introduced do this (all four are from Texas).

Of the PRENDAs introduced this year, 16 protect unborn children from abortion on the basis of sex, 11 on the basis of race, 22 on the basis of a disability or genetic abnormality diagnosis, six on the basis of ethnicity, and one on the basis of national origin.

So far, Arizona’s SB 1457 and South Dakota’s HB 1110 have been enacted this year. Arizona’s law builds on existing PRENDA law, adding “genetic abnormality” to the list of characteristics protected against discriminatory abortions (in addition to sex and race). This bill weakens the penalty from a class three felony to a class six felony. Existing law in Arizona indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action. South Dakota’s bill is strong, prohibiting abortions sought on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis and imposing the criminal penalty of a class six felony for noncompliance. Additionally, this bill indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action.

Texas introduced four strong PRENDAs (HB 3218, SB 1647, HB 3760, SB 1173) that include each of the key provisions listed above as well as provisions for mothers to learn more about perinatal palliative care. Seven statesPennsylvania (HB 1500), Massachusetts (H 2409), Michigan (HB 4737), Texas (HB 4339), South Dakota (HB 1110), Washington (SB 5416), and Arkansas (SB 468)also introduced strong bills that include each key provision. Each of these bills prohibits abortions sought because of one or more of the following characteristics of the unborn child: diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome, diagnosis of a disability, genetic abnormality, race, ethnicity, or sex.

Four states—Florida (CS/HB 1221, SB 1664), Texas (HB 1432), South Carolina (HB 3512), and Washington (HB 1008)—introduced moderate bills, missing one or two of the key provisions (a civil cause of action and/or indemnification of the mother). Florida, Washington, and South Carolina’s bills prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of a disability or genetic abnormality of the unborn child (Washington’s is specific to Down syndrome). Texas’ bill prohibits abortions based on the ethnicity or national origin of the unborn child, and South Carolina’s bill additionally prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Seven states—North Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia, and Oregon—introduced relatively weak or limited PRENDAs missing more than two of the key provisions. Some of these bills included other limitations that made them especially weak. North Carolina’s bill (H 453) adds to an existing ban on sex-selective abortions by also prohibiting abortions on the basis of the unborn child’s race or Down syndrome. This bill contains no other provisions. Arizona’s bill (SB 1381) adds to existing PRENDA statutes by adding “disability” as a protected trait for which a child may not be aborted. This bill is weakened by the fact that “disability” is not defined. Arkansas’ bill (SB 519) amends a section of law prohibiting sex-selective abortions and requires the physician carrying out the abortion to attempt to obtain the woman’s medical records to determine if she has previously undergone an abortion due to the child’s sex. This bill does not contain any other provisions. However, to Arkansas’ credit, the state already does prohibit sex-selective abortions. Illinois’ bills (HB 3047, HB 1893, HB 3043, HB 3053, and HB 3046) prohibit abortions sought solely based on the sex of the unborn child. Besides containing no other PRENDA provisions, these bills include a weakening statement that allows abortions sought because of a genetic disorder linked to the child’s sex. This goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws, to protect unborn children from being aborted due to an immutable trait. Maryland and West Virginia’s bills (MD HB 846 and WV HB 3024) prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome but include no other provisions. Oregon’s bill (SB 654) prohibits sex-selective abortions but limits this protection to the third trimester. This too goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws since the sex of babies can be determined as early as 14 weeks. In effect, this would prohibit few, if any, discriminatory abortions.

Discriminatory abortions are a grim reality in the United States and around the world, but they are not going unchallenged. Thus far, state legislators have introduced PRENDAs in over 35 states and successfully enacted them in 16. If the surge of state-level PRENDA bills in 2021 is any indication, these numbers are sure to rise in the coming years. There is cause for optimism that states’ laws will one day reflect American’s rightful opposition to discriminatory abortions, and eventually to the eugenic roots of abortion itself.

For more information on why PRENDAs are essential, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

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How California’s New Sex Ed Program Will Harm Kids

by Sophia Lorey

July 14, 2021

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

Sex education is nothing new to the public school system, though how it is being taught has changed immensely. Federally funded sex education began with good intentions by focusing on adults. After World War I, the government began an education program out of concern over so many soldiers returning home with STDs. However, a century later, the approach and depth of what is being taught to children is unrecognizable to how it began and has become quite disturbing.

There is a direct link to children being introduced or shown sexual content and increased mental health problems. According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Dr. Eileen L. Zurbriggen, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.” Research done by the APA also reveals that when girls are introduced to sexualized images at such a young age, it can result in self-image problems, eating disorders, and shame when it comes to their own body, and it affects boys as well. Exposure to sexual content for adolescents can lead to attitude changes about sex and gender, sexual activity progressively beginning at a younger age, and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents. According to American Academy of Pediatrics:

More than 100 studies have revealed links between young people’s exposure to objectifying content and their objectification of women or self-objectification. Those exposed to objectifying portrayals are more tolerant of or in agreement with sexual harassment, adversarial sexual beliefs, rape myths, child sex abuse myths, and interpersonal violence than participants without this exposure and experience greater body dissatisfaction, appearance anxiety, and disordered eating beliefs.

One of the most egregious examples of harmful sex education being implemented happened recently in California. In the fall of 2015, the California Healthy Youth Act – AB 329 was passed in the state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. This bill was proposed with the intention to “strengthen” sex education in California. According to the ACLU, it will “update and strengthen existing requirements for HIV prevention education and sexual health education to ensure that students receive education that is accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive.” However, this positive description is far from accurate.

There are five main goals to AB 329 that the California Department of Education lists. These goals include encouraging children to see sexuality as a normal part of human development, discussing gender identity and sexual orientation, and providing educators with clear tools and guidance. At first glance, these goals do not seem overtly harmful, yet they do not show the true nature of the curriculum that is provided and demanded to be taught.

The sex ed curriculum promoted by AB 329 welcomes and encourages sexual activity for minors (p. 6), teaches children how to obtain birth control (p. 17), and gives instructions on how to get an abortion without consent from a parent (p. 18). The curriculum also provides external resources to indecent websites for students to “explore” even more sexual content on their own. AB 329 also includes lessons on how people can explore different sexual orientations and includes instruction about gender expression and identity.

This new sex education recommended curriculum is going to expose children to photographs, videos, and lessons that are way too explicit for their age. Students will be shown and taught a curriculum that normalizes sexual activity by minors and takes away their innocence. It will also interrupt how a parent chooses to teach their child about sex without regard to their religious or moral beliefs. What AB 329 has implemented in K-12 public education directly challenges and goes against religious and moral beliefs that a family may hold.

AB 329 became law in January of 2016, though the State Board of Education did not adopt the framework until 2019. The new sex education was going to be implemented into schools in 2020, but due to school closures because of COVID-19, the curriculum was put on a pause until students return in person this year. It will not be long until we see the negative effects this curriculum will have on society, specifically the innocence of children.

It is time for parents to become informed and fight for the innocence of their children as AB 329 takes effect. Now that California has taken on this new sexual education curriculum, it will not be long before other states follow. As Christians, it is important now more than ever that we pray for the education system, get involved, and fight for our children.

Sophia Lorey is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

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How to Respond to Your Friend Who Is Leaving the Faith

by Molly Carman

July 13, 2021

In its annual American Worldview Inventory report, the Cultural Research Center announced the results of a nationwide survey that revealed, among other things, that only six percent of American adults hold a biblical worldview—an all-time low. For some, this statistic might be just another number. But for others, this statistic is deeply discouraging because it is indicative of their friends and family leaving the Christian faith.

Many Christians are taught how to share the gospel with non-Christians, but what’s often not taught is how to respond when those who were raised within the church, have heard the truth, and even perhaps once believed in the gospel walk away from the faith. Individuals may choose to leave Christianity for a variety of reasons, perhaps because of a painful experience (e.g., a church split or being a victim of abuse), doubts left unanswered (or feeling rejected when their doubts are voiced), or a sin they want to participate in. No matter the reason, Christians need to respond to our friends’ situations and choices with grace, humility, and compassion.

Here are four steps you can take when responding to a friend who has announced they are leaving the faith.

1. Listen and Learn

Listen to what your friend has to say. James wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). If your friend is willing to share their reasoning for leaving the faith, it is best to hear them out rather than berating them or getting defensive. Choosing to leave the Christian faith is no small decision, one your friend has most likely wrestled with in private. Your friend’s heart will likely grow harder towards Christianity if you respond to their decision with hostility and rebuke.

Listening will also provide you with an opportunity to learn any areas in which your discipleship of them or fellowship with them as believers may have fallen short. Do not assume that you already know why your friend is making this choice. If they are willing to confide in you, be fully present and listen to their story.

2. Ask Questions

After your friend has confided in you, you can ask questions. Some of the best questions to start with are:

  • What has led to this decision?
  • What has been hard?
  • What has been good?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What do you need right now?

By asking thoughtful questions, you can learn how your friend has been processing, thinking, and reasoning through this choice. Your job in these conversations is not to be right, win a debate, or convince your friend to change their mind. Instead, your job is to seek to understand how they came to their conclusions. Leaving the faith is a serious choice, and we must take our friends seriously and choose our words judiciously: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Prov. 21:23).

3. Offer Encouragement

Offer encouragement to your friend. That is to say, do not encourage them to leave the faith. Instead, encourage them by letting them know that they are not alone in struggling with their faith.

Being a Christian comes at a price. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He also said that the world would hate and despise those who love and follow Him (John 18:15-25). Being a Christian also does not mean never struggling with sin or having doubts. In Romans 7, Paul describes the struggle with sin that Christians will continue to have.

We should reassure those who are thinking of leaving the faith that it is okay to have doubts, falter, struggle with sin, or be weary or afraid. Be careful not to puff yourself up (1 Cor. 8:1). Instead, show your friend empathy, remembering that you are a human as well. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ask God for the words to say to encourage your friend.

4. Pray

Finally, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Only God can change your friend’s heart and mind. It is God who turns the heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26). Pray to have the self-control to listen, the wisdom to ask good questions and seek understanding, and the love and courage necessary to uplift your friend and speak life into their situation if invited. Do not give unsolicited advice but keep that door open and pray that the words of your mouth would be pleasing to God (Ps. 19:14). Pray for your friend’s healing and renewed trust. Pray that God would reveal Himself to your friend and that they would respond and not reject the truth. Also, invite other Christians to pray with you for those you know who are leaving the faith.

Our hearts should break for those who are discouraged, scared, or disillusioned and are considering leaving the faith. We must continuously build one another up in Christ:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)

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The Church’s Central Role in Public Health

by Damon Sidur , Sophia Lorey

July 12, 2021

In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, church doors were closed—most voluntarily in response to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation—for the sake of public health and the unknown. Unfortunately, in retrospect, we are learning that closing churches for extended periods hurt public health in some ways, even as it protected it in others. Studies by the CDC now show that depression and suicide rose dramatically for teens and young adults, an age demographic considered to be at lower risk from COVID-19.

As the pandemic progressed, churches that had closed their doors voluntarily remained closed by state and local government mandates, with the aim of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully saving lives. Although most pastors willingly cooperated at first, it was not long until they began to see the negative repercussions of a prolonged closure, and many decided to reopen in spite of government mandates.

As the media pushed their round-the-clock coverage of COVID-19 deaths, they failed to address another health crisis facing the United States: death by suicide. Due to isolation, loss of jobs, fear, and other factors, depression, anxiety, and suicide rates skyrocketed in 2020, especially in teens and young adults. CDC Director Robert Redfield discussed in a Buck Institute webinar that suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19 among high school students. However, it was not just high school students that were being affected. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that:

substance use and suicidal ideation are particularly pronounced for young adults, with 25% reporting they started or increased substance use during the pandemic (compared to 13% of all adults), and 26% reporting serious thoughts of suicide (compared to 11% of all adults).

In May of 2019, 11 percent of adults 18 and over suffered from symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder, according to the CDC. In May of 2020, this number tripled as the CDC reported 34.52 percent of adults 18 and over suffered from symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic created a secondary crisis that the church could do little to help resolve while being shut down.

In a world full of hopelessness, the Bible offers genuine hope. Churches across America provide this hope by preaching the Word of God while also providing peace, community, encouragement, and so much more. Yet, their doors were closed during the pandemic, hampering their ability to fellowship and to serve. Theologically speaking, this is why Hebrews 10:25 commands us to gather for corporate worship: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” As the pandemic and the mandatory closures stretched on, there was a need for churches to be open, and many pastors saw this and began to take a stand.

Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills addressed the increasing mental health issues as the church doors remained closed. On May 5, 2020, in a message directed towards all pastors in California, Hibbs observed that although churches can reach an immense amount of people online, “our local community has been spiritually starving.” He also underscored how the church needs to be a community again and be together now more than ever to provide prayer and hope for all those struggling. Opening his church in May of 2020 was difficult for Hibbs, as he defied California Governor Gavin Newsom’s restrictions, which were unjustly singling out churches and burdening them more extensively than their secular counterparts.

However, the response to the reopening of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills was overwhelming. His congregation grew quickly by the thousands, drawing people desperate for hope and Christ during the nationwide shutdown. While reaching people online was possible and important, our souls yearn for an in-person community. It is now clear that forcing churches to close for so long has had unintended consequences.

Thankfully, in February 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the complaints of California churches like Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena that claimed they were being unjustly discriminated against, lifting the state government’s ban on indoor worship.

While the world focused on the physical health crisis created by COVID-19, many overlooked the mental and spiritual health crisis it also created. In God’s gracious provision to His followers, He gave us the church. If the pandemic has taught us anything, surely it is that gathering for corporate worship and fellowship with other believers is essential—and a privilege we should never take for granted.

Damon Sidur is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

Sophia Lorey is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of July 4)

by Family Research Council

July 9, 2021

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

1. Update: Celebrating America’s Birthday

When was America born? Was it when Jamestown was settled in 1607? When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620? When the 13 colonies won the War of Independence from Great Britain in 1781? Today, revisionist historians and new progressive models claim that America was born when African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.

2. Update: Squad Dems: A Fourth to Be Reckoned With

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) recently used the anniversary of America’s Independence to push the 1619 Project’s false narrative of American history, claiming America is racist. But, with an elected a black president in 2008, vice president in 2020, and many members of Congress, including Cori Bush herself, can one really believe that claim?

3. Blog: This Independence Day, Let’s Recommit to Embracing Virtue

Independence Day is a time to reflect on our Founding Fathers—brave men who boldly set out to form a great nation committed to the truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though our Founding Fathers were not all Christians, they all understood the essential need for virtue.

4. Blog: Britney Spears and Uyghur Women Share a Terrible Burden

A recent special hearing regarding the Britney Spears conservatorship revealed shocking details about how the famous pop star has endured forced contraception. No one should be subjected to forced sterilization, even a temporary kind via an IUD. Sadly, Britney isn’t the only person suffering this fate today. The Chinese government is forcing this upon Uyghur Muslim women.

5. Washington WatchLisa McClain, Kristen Waggoner, John Bursch, Meg Kilgannon

Tony was joined by Lisa McClain, U.S. Representative for Michigan, who called out President Biden for refusing to take responsibility after he pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner lamented the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the court decision against floral artist Barronelle Stutzman. Also with ADF, John Bursch joined to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of protecting the privacy of donors to nonprofits. And, FRC’s Meg Kilgannon discussed over 5,000 teachers pledging to push Critical Race Theory (CRT) in their classrooms.

6. Washington Watch: Greg Steube, Sam Brownback, Lea Patterson, Dan Bishop

Tony was joined by Greg Steube, U.S. Representative for Florida, to discuss attempts to hold Big Tech accountable. Sam Brownback, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, previewed next week’s International Religious Freedom Summit. First Liberty Institute’s Lea Patterson applauded the IRS for reversing its decision to deny a religious organization tax-exempt status for their “Bible teachings.” And, Dan Bishop, U.S. Representative for North Carolina, urged parents to fight back against critical race theory in school curriculum.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Hope for the Persecuted

Around the globe, it’s never been more dangerous to be open about one’s faith. Ambassador Sam Brownback, Congressman Frank Wolf, and Pastor Steve Berger join Pray Vote Stand for a special look at what believers around the world are facing, and ways you can help those far away from wherever you stand.

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Olympics Foreshadow Bleak Future for Women’s Sports

by David Closson , Molly Carman

July 9, 2021

In the lead-up to this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, participating nations are holding tryouts to determine who will represent them at the 32nd Olympiad. Some of these tryouts have generated controversy, such as when American hammer-thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag during the anthem. However, the most controversial story to emerge from the tryouts so far is New Zealand’s decision to include Laurel Hubbard on the women’s weightlifting team. Hubbard, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, will compete against female athletes at the Olympics.

The Olympics are not the only sporting event where female athletes are having to compete against biological males. For example, for the past few years, high school girls in Connecticut have competed against (and lost to) biological males in track and field. Even though a handful of states have passed legislation to preserve women and girls’ sports, most Americans remain unaware of the threat gender identity ideology poses to the future of women’s athletics.

How should Christians think about and respond to storylines relating to transgenderism and the Olympic Games (and sports in general)?

First, we must recognize that the underlying issue is a rejection of reality and a denial of truth.  Allowing biologically male athletes to compete in women’s sports denies important truths for the sake of supporting personal experiences and beliefs that are not grounded in reality.

Truth aligns with reality. We can know that truth exists because the evidence is all around us. Take for example the simple mathematical equation 2+2=4. Not only is there an answer to the equation, but it is knowable—we can comprehend the answer because it logically follows. Furthermore, the answer is objective—it doesn’t matter if you want 2+2 to equal something different, the correct answer will only ever be 4. The answer is also absolute—it will not change through time or space, 2+2 will always equal 4. Finally, truth is exclusive—all other answers are wrong, no matter what.

Although we may not always know the answer, that doesn’t mean that the answer does not exist or that we should make up our own answer. Declaring 2+2=5 is wrong, regardless of how much we wish it to be true or how sincere we are in making the declaration. It is wrong for athletics to accommodate a person’s declaration that they are female when they are biologically male, even if the declarer is sincere. Research demonstrates that biological males have a significant, physical advantage over biological women, even if they have taken hormones to suppress their testosterone.

Second, we must remember that Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Our culture has told us that love accommodates, applauds, and supports individual desires over objective reality. Despite what our culture says, the Bible tells us love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). It is through graciously speaking the truth that we best love our neighbor. As Creator, God is the ultimate standard of truth (John 8:26, 17:17) and He defines what is good (Psalm 25:8, Luke 18:19). God desires Shalom for the world, where things are the way they ought to be.

Tragically, things are not how they ought to be. The world is broken due to sin (Gen. 3). Because of this brokenness, our subjective personal experiences or desires can conflict with the truth. Without a standard of truth, our experiences can deceive and mislead us. When Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was showing us that He is the objective standard of truth around which we should order our lives.

Truth can be controversial and unpopular at times, but that does not make it any less true. Because we live in a broken world, we will face challenging and heartbreaking situations. As Christians, we can take comfort that our experiences do not have the final word, our pain is never wasted, and our struggles have a purpose (Rom. 8:18-30). Without knowledge of the truth, we will not know how to respond to our experiences or process them well. So, let us live in truth and exhort those around us to abide in Christ’s word, for then we will “know the truth” and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).

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The Unshakable Faith of a Baker From Colorado

by Kaitlyn Shepherd

July 9, 2021

I remember when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2017. People hoping to witness the oral arguments had been camped outside the Court for days. That morning, crowds of people waited to hear how the justices would rule on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who had declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

In May 2021, Phillips published his account of what happened in The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. The book describes his split-second decision to not bake the cake, explains the ensuing years of legal challenges, and recounts the lessons he learned from the experience. His story is an encouraging testimony of God’s faithfulness to sustain His children throughout life’s difficulties.

As Legal Battles Mounted, Phillips’ Faith Only Grew

Phillips begins by recalling a life-changing conversation he had with two men, David and Charlie, who came into Masterpiece Cakeshop to ask him to create a custom wedding cake for their wedding. Phillips politely declined, stating that he could not create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding but that he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop. The conversation was brief, and David and Charlie refused to give Phillips a chance to explain his rationale further.

Phillips recalls his desire to extend the conversation so he could explain that although he will gladly serve anyone, he cannot express every message “because of the content of the message that the imagery or words on the cake might convey” (3). Since opening Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993, Phillips had adhered to this simple rule and had previously declined to make cakes featuring a variety of messages, such as obscene language, hateful rhetoric, and statements or images that “mocked or contradicted [his] faith” or celebrated events such as divorce or Halloween (61, 71).

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Phillips and held that compelling him to express messages he disagreed with did not violate his First Amendment rights. After the case worked its way through the lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case. In June 2018, the Court sided with Phillips and held that the Commission’s actions violated Phillips’ right to freely exercise his religion. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the record showed the Commission’s “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs, and he explained how the Commission treated Phillips differently than other bakers, who declined to create custom cakes that expressed messages opposing same-sex marriage.

Less than a month after this victory, Phillips faced another legal challenge. On the same day that the Supreme Court granted cert in Phillips’ case, one would-be customer, Autumn Scardina, had requested a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside to celebrate a gender transition. Phillips declined to create the cake because of its intended message. In response to charges brought against him by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Phillips and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission. In March 2019, the state’s attorneys offered to settle the case after evidence showing the Commission’s continuing hostility to Phillips’ religious beliefs surfaced. After this second victory, Phillips hoped to continue his business in peace.

That peace, however, was remarkably short-lived. In June 2019, Scardina, seeking over $100,000 in fines and damages, filed another lawsuit against Phillips in state court. On June 15, 2021, the court ruled against Phillips. The court found that Phillips’ refusal to bake the cake was based on Scardina’s transgender status, not on the cake’s intended message, and that forcing Phillips to bake the cake would not violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

Phillips concludes the book by describing the lessons he learned during the many years of legal challenges. He states that although some may have intended their attacks to destroy his faith, his faith is now stronger than ever. He expresses gratitude for having been given a platform to speak the truth. Phillips has also grown in humility and patience and has learned to be a better listener. He has gained a greater appreciation for the wise system of government instituted by the Founders. Most importantly, though, Phillips experienced God’s goodness:

[C]oming through oppressive days, enduring the death threats, the hate mail, the obscene phone calls and public demonstrations, seeing the tears of my wife and the worries of my children, hearing people call me a bigot and a Nazi, listening while elected officials openly mocked the deepest convictions of my soul—let me assure you, this is when God’s mercies abound. This is when He comforts us in the deep places of the soul that only He can reach. (188–89)

Peaceful, Unshakeable Faith in God’s Provision

Phillips’ compelling testimony is a must-read for any believer. First, Phillips’ account provides a thorough and accessible description of one of the most influential religious freedom cases of the past decade. He clearly describes the timeline of events and explains why the case was so momentous, not only for him but for all people of faith (98). Although the case concerned Colorado’s attempts to compel Phillips to speak messages that violated his conscience and to force him to choose between his religious beliefs and his business, the case has broader implications for the rights of all Americans “who share[] his biblical views on human sexuality and marriage” (194).

Second, Phillips’ story will encourage believers who may feel disheartened. Although losing 40 percent of his business, facing hateful emails and death threats, and having his reputation attacked by public officials could have caused Phillips to waver in his faith, his testimony overflows with a sense of peace and an unshakeable belief in God’s character and provision. As Phillips recalled while waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict:

You might think the long wait was especially stressful—an exercise in impatient endurance, where we gritted our teeth to get through the endless days. But it wasn’t like that at all. I genuinely felt an immense peace after our arguments. I was content in knowing we’d done everything we could do. That we’d been as faithful as possible and the outcome really was always totally in God’s reliable hands. (143)

Phillips’ faith is a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power to encourage believers throughout life’s challenges.

Finally, Phillips’ account can inspire believers to stand firm in their faith. Although his experiences could have made him retreat from his faith, Phillips viewed them as an opportunity:

What’s the point of suddenly being on so many people’s radars if you can’t use those moments to share with them your deepest beliefs? That, for me, is the best news in the whole world: the love of Jesus Christ. (11)

Unfortunately, hostility toward Christianity and toward those who adhere to a biblical worldview is only increasing. Like Phillips, may we all have faith to stand firm and to be willing to serve as God’s instrument whatever the cost.

Kaitlyn Shepherd is Research Assistant for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.

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In Pakistan, Economic Pressure Can Make a Difference for Persecuted Christians

by Arielle Del Turco

July 8, 2021

A Pakistani court has sent 13-year-old Nayab Gill back into the custody of a Muslim man who her parents claim kidnapped her. Ignoring documents that prove Nayab was underage, the court’s decision broke the hearts of the Roman Catholic parents. Her distraught father, Shahid Gill, say “My child then left the courtroom in front of our eyes, and we could do nothing.”

On May 20, Nayab went missing. An alleged Islamic marriage certificate was produced to the court baring the same date. Several problems are apparent in how the case was handled, and the decision to allow a minor to marry goes against Pakistani law. Unfortunately, instances of kidnapping of Christian girls, forced conversion to Islam, and forced marriage is not as uncommon as it should be in Pakistan.

The Continued Persecution of Pakistani Christians

Nayab is a Christian in a country where Christians make up a small minority—just 1.27 percent of the population. They are a marginalized group. Many are illiterate and undereducated. These social factors make the Christian community particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

The forced conversion and forced marriage of Christian girls by Muslim men is an unfortunately common problem. Many estimates suggest that around 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls and young women are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and forced to marry their abductors each year.

While many Pakistanis are disgusted by this practice—just like many were grieved by the reports about Sunita Masih—Islamist mobs and a failure by Pakistan’s government to secure the rule of law enable this problem to continue. When extremist mobs form outside courthouses and threaten judges who might rule in favor of a Christian or Hindu victim, judges often relent and send the victims back to live with their abductors. This capitulation does an immense disservice to Pakistani minorities who seek justice.

When an investigation or court case involves a religious minority victim and a Muslim perpetrator, Pakistani radicals often view the cases as a challenge to Islam, rather than a question of criminality. Due to this dynamic, perpetrators may target Christians or Hindus as victims to hide their crimes behind religious tensions.

Attacks on Pakistani Christians are brutal. In April, seven houses belonging to Christian families were set on fire by Muslim extremists trying to take their land, according to International Christian Concern. In May, reports surfaced that a mob of over 200 Muslim men had attacked a Christian community in a small village, harming Christians and destroying property. The incident was reportedly sparked by a disagreement between teenage Christian workers and a Muslim man.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most recent report from the Pakistani government indicates that the Christian population has declined over the last two decades. Christian leaders say that intense discrimination has sent Pakistani Christians to seek better lives in other countries across Asia.

Economic Pressure Provides a Ray of Hope for the Persecuted

Promoting religious freedom in Pakistan is extraordinarily challenging. Yet, a major recent victory indicates that international pressure can make all the difference for religious minorities.

In June, the Lahore High Court acquitted Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who had been on death row since 2014 for supposedly sending a blasphemous text message. The couple is illiterate and claim the text came from a SIM card registered by someone using a copy of Shagufta’s national identity card. Imprisoned since 2013, the couple were separated from their four children and lived in fear of attacks from fellow prisoners.

After years of delays, the court’s decision to acquit the couple finally came just weeks after the European Parliament highlighted their case in a recent resolution against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. But the resolution did not just condemn blasphemy laws. It also called for a review of Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in light of current events. This is a tariff preference that benefits developing countries, and losing it would have a significant economic impact.

Maybe it is a coincidence that this couple was acquitted following the European Parliament’s resolution calling for their release, but after appealing the decision for years, the timing is hard to ignore. And the threat of economic pressure has proven to be effective at moving governments to change tack on their human rights violations in the past.

Most notably, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was freed from his imprisonment in Turkey after the U.S. Treasury Department issued Global Magnitsky sanctions on Turkish leaders. These successes should encourage Western countries to utilize the economic leverage they have to uphold internationally recognized human rights standards.

Pakistan is a young democracy, and to secure a peaceful and prosperous future, it is essential that the government work to eliminate religious persecution and discrimination. The international community must also do its part to hold Pakistan to a higher standard of human rights.

We live in a time where hatred directed at religious believers is flaring across the globe, often with violent consequences. International religious freedom is not a feel-good issue that can be relegated to the sidelines of foreign policy. The promotion of religious freedom across the globe is critical to peace, security, rule of law, and development. For the sake of innocent victims like Nayab, American leaders must take it seriously.

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State Round-Up: Protecting Access to Counseling

by Chantel Hoyt

July 8, 2021

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

Most Americans would support passing laws that seek to protect minors from harm. However, the question of exactly how we should go about protecting minors and what we should be protecting them from is a bit more contentious.

This year, 21 states have introduced bills seeking to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or what its detractors call “conversion therapy.” In actuality, what these bills ban is patient-directed counseling and talk therapy. Specifically, they prohibit licensed mental health care professionals from counseling individuals to help them cope with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues. Although eight states have introduced legislation to protect patients’ right to access the therapy of their choice, more needs to be done to stop the spread of counseling bans in the United States and protect the freedoms of counselors and their patients.

Counseling bans have almost always applied only to minors and typically define SOCE or “conversion therapy” as “any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity…” Most often, they incur professional penalties for mental health care professionals who fail to comply. Some may contain exceptions for pastors or other religious clergy, but these exceptions do not extend to licensed professionals who are also pastors or people of faith. Some of these bills also prohibit expending public funds for “conversion therapy.”

The media’s portrayal of “conversion therapy” often evokes images of electroshock or other pain-inducing methods. However, there is no evidence that a single practitioner of SOCE is using these methods today. Counseling bans rarely, if ever, mention such methods but instead use expansive language that sweeps up mere talk therapy. (Indeed, the SOCE ban in Washington state was held up for years because Democrats there refused to agree to language outlawing these specific practices.)

Virtually every counseling ban today applies to both sexual orientation and gender identity. A counseling ban that includes gender identity is especially harmful, as it mandates that mental health care professionals use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients. This makes it unlawful for a therapist or psychiatrist to do anything other than affirm a minor’s gender identity, even if said identity does not align with the minor’s biological sex, and even if that’s the kind of counseling the patient wants.

These bills are harmful for three reasons:

  1. They place content and viewpoint-based restrictions on constitutionally protected speech,
  2. They undermine the autonomy of individuals and their parents to choose the therapy that is right for them, and
  3. They harm minors who are struggling with these issues by making the counseling they need unavailable.

Since 2011, 265 counseling ban bills have been introduced in 43 states. Twenty-four of these bills have been enacted in 18 states.

Currently, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place. Counseling bans have been prevented from taking effect in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida due to court injunctions. Based on U.S. census data on the populations of these 20 states, it is estimated that about 41 percent of minors living in the United States today live in a state with a counseling ban in place.

From 2011 to 2019, the number of counseling bans introduced each year rose steadily, peaking in 2019 at 57. This number dropped to 28 in 2020 but has since risen again in 2021 (43 in 21 states). Fortunately, none have been enacted yet. Thirteen of the bills introduced this year applied not only to minors, but also to adults. Two bills introduced in North Carolina extended counseling bans to adults with disabilities, while Minnesota and Alaska introduced bills that applied to minors and “vulnerable adults.” Bills introduced in Kentucky and Texas apply the ban to individuals of all ages. This is somewhat of a recent development, as in years past, few of these bills applied to adults.

Six bills this year also prohibit advertising for “conversion therapy” (again, this is really talk therapy) or related goods and services. Florida’s bills even impose a criminal penalty (a felony of the third degree) for violating such prohibitions. Such dangerous penalties have become more prevalent in the past two or three years. This raises questions about what constitutes an “advertisement” and how this could affect churches and other faith-based institutions. If anything, counseling bans have gotten even more expansive this year, with more bills applying to more individuals and imposing new penalties.

Apart from simply opposing counseling bans and stopping them in their tracks, some states have taken a more proactive approach by introducing legislation to protect counseling. These bills vary widely in terms of specifics, but many include two key provisions:

  1. Prohibit the state from restricting the rights of mental health professionals to counsel patients with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, as well as the right of patients or their parents to choose such counseling.
  2. Provide that individuals may give or receive counsel in accordance with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In addition to these two provisions, some bills may create a civil cause of action for practitioners or patients who feel that their freedom of speech was unjustly violated.

About half of the 21 Counseling Protection Acts introduced since 2015 take the general form described above. However, the following states have taken a different approach:

  • Massachusetts introduced a bill in 2021 that would amend a section of law banning SOGI “change efforts,” adding a section specifying that SOGI change efforts do not include practices that “utilize discussion alone.”
  • Wisconsin introduced two bills in 2021 that would prohibit state regulatory boards from promulgating rules that establish that employing or promoting a treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unprofessional conduct.
  • North Dakota (2021), South Dakota (2020), and Kansas (2019) each introduced bills that would preempt the state government from endorsing or enforcing certain policies, including policies banning “conversion therapy,” on the novel theory that to do so would be to establish a state religion. (None of these bills has passed, so this reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause has not been tested.)
  • Virginia introduced two bills (one in 2019, one in 2020) that would have given state regulatory boards the right to ban electroshock therapy or “similar non-speech therapy” but specifically prohibited such entities from violating an individual’s “fundamental right” to engage in the talk therapy of their choice, including counsel to assist in “reducing or eliminating unwanted attractions or concerns about gender identity.”
  • Tennessee introduced two bills in 2016, both of which would have protected licensed counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral to another professional willing to provide such counseling.
  • Oklahoma introduced a bill in 2015 that would have prohibited the government from restricting SOCE but specified that this protection would not extend to “aversion therapy” (electroshock, electroconvulsive therapy, vomit-induction therapy, etc.).

Since 2015, at least 20 Counseling Protection Acts have been introduced in at least 12 different states. 2021 has been the biggest year for these types of bills, with a total of eight being introduced. So far, only one Counseling Protection Act has been enacted in Tennessee in 2016. This bill protected counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist willing to provide the counseling or therapy. This bill also provided that a refusal to provide the counseling/therapy described will not be the basis for a civil cause of action, criminal prosecution, or any other action by the state to penalize or withhold benefits.

This year, some states have recognized the importance of standing against counseling bans. But more still needs to be done. Twenty states currently have counseling bans in place for minors, meaning children and teens in those states cannot legally access therapy to address unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, even if they want to. Some states are trying to take this right away from consenting adults as well. More states need to step up and protect access to such counseling.

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