FRC Blog

Pro-Life Title X Rule Upheld, For Now

by Connor Semelsberger , Mary Jayne Caum

June 21, 2019

On a recent humid June day in the nation’s capital, the debate over President Donald Trump’s Protect Life Rule governing the Title X Family Planning Program heated up. Led by Chairwoman Diane Degette (D-Colo.), the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to promote the continued relationship between these family planning funds and the abortion industry. Dr. Diane Foley from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defended the Protect Life Rule against attacks that this rule change will limit a woman’s ability to receive proper family planning services, by ensuring that doctors can continue to provide non-directive counseling on all healthcare options as the statute lays out.

As a key pro-life issue for the Family Research Council, we submitted a letter to the record outlining specifically how this final rule draws a clear line between family planning funds and the abortion industry without reducing the quality of care for each patient.

Dr. Foley went even further to say that the Protect Life Rule will provide a broader array of family planning services by encouraging innovative approaches for care in rural communities and removing the abortion referral requirement, thus allowing faith-based providers to apply for Title X grants, as outlined in our brief on the Protect Life Rule. Although Dr. Foley continually reminded the subcommittee that the Title X statute specifically states abortion cannot be used as a method of family planning, Democrat Members could only see the issue through the lens of abortion access. Rep. Jan Schakowky (D-Ill.) put it most bluntly when she said, “This is about abortion, this is about trying to limit women from having their full reproductive rights.”

Within 24 hours of the subcommittee hearing on Title X, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted HHS’s motion to stay the preliminary injunction, which would allow the Protect Life Rule to go into effect until the lawsuit is resolved. While this Order does not decide the fate of the Protect Life Rule, the Court’s Order was encouraging. Typically, the 9th Circuit has been critical of the Trump administration’s policies. As exemplified by the lower courts granting preliminary injunctions to halt the implementation of the Protect Life Rule, courts will often ignore the law to advance a political agenda.

Surprisingly, the 9th Circuit lifted the nationwide preliminary injunction and insisted that delaying the implementation of the Protect Life Rule would be detrimental to both HHS and the American public. Listening to the concerns expressed by HHS, the Court feared that if the preliminary injunctions remained in place, the law would be violated and taxpayer money would fund abortions. Moreover, the Court concluded that HHS would likely be victorious in this lawsuit.

Additionally, the Court reaffirmed the validity of Rust v. Sullivan (a Supreme Court case which upheld regulations nearly identical to the Protect Life Rule). Furthermore, the Court emphasized that the restrictions on abortion referrals does not violate the non-directive counseling requirement. Although Democrats on Capitol Hill continue to claim the Protect Life Rule violates existing law, the Order from the 9th Circuit states otherwise. Hopefully, this temporary win for the Protect Life Rule will be a sign of what is to come from the ongoing legal battle.

Connor Semelsberger is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council. Mary Jayne Caum is a Policy intern at Family Research Council.

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3 Religious Freedom Cases to Keep an Eye On

by Luke Isbell

June 21, 2019

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a cross-shaped memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland does not violate the Establishment Clause. The memorial honors veterans that sacrificed themselves to defend our nation, and the ruling by SCOTUS sets a new precedent for the constitutionality of religious memorials across the nation. This is a huge win for the right to religious freedom in the public sphere, but there are several other critical battles still being fought on the issue of religious freedom.

Free expression of personal beliefs in public and at work is the cornerstone of our pluralistic society, government, and free market. At Family Research Council, we actively track attacks on religious freedom in our Hostility to Religion Report, which we will be updating soon. Here are three important ongoing court cases that you need to be aware of:

1. Oregon Family Threatened and Sued for Refusing to Bake a Cake for a Same-Sex Union

Melissa and Aaron Klein owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery located in Gresham, Oregon. When they declined to bake a cake for a same-sex union, they quickly became a target of a lawsuit. The same-sex couple that requested the cake filed a complaint against the Kleins with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). When BOLI ruled against the Kleins, stating that they discriminated against the couple by not baking a cake, the Kleins were forced to pay $135,000 and closed their shop in September of 2013. Significant public backlash caused the Kleins to be fearful of their safety, especially after receiving threats against their children. The family refused to back down from fighting for their religious beliefs, and they appealed the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2016, but the court declined to hear the case. On June 17, 2019, after appealing to the Supreme Court, SCOTUS remanded the case back to the lower Oregon courts—advising them to reconsider the case in light of the decision made in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.

2. Church Sues Against Washington State Requirement to Cover Cost of Abortions

In March of this year, Washington state passed legislation that would force any insurance plan that covers maternity costs to also cover abortions. Horrified of being forced to support something directly opposed to their pro-life beliefs, Cedar Park Assembly of God filed a suit against the state’s new law. Cedar Park Assembly actively serves in pregnancy centers and assists with foster children and infertile couples, and the church’s pro-life views are directly opposed to providing staffers with insurance that would pay for abortions. No church or organization that firmly and actively believes in the right to life should be forced to pay for abortions. Cedar Park Assembly of God has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom to challenge the unconstitutional law in court. 

3. Michigan Attempts to Discriminate Against Faith-Based Adoption and Foster Agencies

For 70 years, St. Vincent has provided foster and adoption care for thousands of children in need in Michigan—and they have made a huge impact. In 2017 alone, St. Vincent performed better than 90 percent of agencies in its area with finding children a loving home. However, the Attorney General of Michigan announced in March of 2019 that they were going to permanently end the state’s relationship with faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The policy claims to be an attempt to “protect” same-sex couples that would be refused from adopting from a faith-based organization, but St. Vincent has always referred same-sex couples to other adoption agencies when approached. Ultimately, not only would the state refusing to work with organizations like St. Vincent further worsen the chances of children finding the homes they desperately need, but such a policy is in clear contradiction to religious liberty that is integral to life in the United States. On April 15, 2019, St. Vincent partnered with Becket Law to sue against Michigan’s damaging policy.

These three cases exemplify the attacks on religious liberty that are becoming increasingly frequent. The right to freedom of conscience—the ability to not be forced to do something that is against your religious beliefs—fundamentally defined the founding of our nation. Religious liberty fosters the ideological plurality that allows people of all faiths to find solidarity in the United States, and the pluralism that religious liberty creates forms the groundwork for our society.

Tragically, in the name of “non-discrimination,” these fundamental rights are now being strategically stripped away. Ironically, policies intending to be non-discriminatory can be the most discriminatory policies of all.

If laws are passed to prevent people from living and working according their personal religious beliefs, the only result will be discrimination against all in favor of none.

Luke Isbell is an intern at Family Research Council.

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Prostitution: Women Deserve Better (Part 1 of 3)

by Patrina Mosley

June 20, 2019

One woman described her experience of the sex of prostitution very succinctly when she referred to it as: ‘Paid rape.’ … . another woman described it as ‘like signing a contract to be raped’ … I described prostitution as ‘being raped for a living.’” (National Center on Sexual Exploitation report)

In places like D.C. and New York, the possibility of decriminalizing prostitution has come back on the horizon. Activists are now referring to prostitution as “sex work”—a deceptive term used to label the buying and selling of human beings for sex as a legitimate profession. This concept was even being promoted to teenage girls in Teen Vogue, with the headline “Why Sex Work is Real Work.” To legitimize men buying women for sex is to say that men have a right to women’s bodies by default. This should enrage every feminist to the core and cause them to come clawing in like a mama bear on anyone who tells teen girls that “men buying your body is a legitimate profession for your future.”

The commercial sex trade is sexual exploitation—it should never be somebody’s job to be exploited by another human being.

That being said, we should not discount the various factors that play a part in leading some women to the commercial sex trade. Often, these women have been sexually abused, come from broken homes, face drug and alcohol addiction, and have been emotionally comprised, manipulated, lured, coerced, or forced into prostitution. To glamorize a system that preys upon these vulnerabilities and is only sustained by dehumanizing the individual is inherently evil.

In reality, there are no good arguments for why it is okay to buy and sell women, girls, boys, or persons who identify as LGBTQ for sex. In 2013, Business Insider published an article advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution in the United States. None of the arguments made back then have changed significantly to this day, and they are still used to spread current misconceptions about prostitution.

Would Legalizing Prostitution Reduce Violence Against Women?

No. A study published in the Journal of Trauma Practice indicates that violence is prevalent within the world of prostitution and tends to be multi-traumatic. The study contained 854 individuals (women, girls, and transgendered people) currently or recently in prostitution in nine countries (Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United States, and Zambia). According to the study (as reported by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation):

Some of those interviewed had been trafficked for the purpose of prostitution and were engaged in legal prostitution. Types and amount of violence experienced in prostitution are as follows:

  • 71% physically assaulted;
  • 57% raped; of those raped, 59% were raped more than 5 times;
  • 64% threatened with a weapon;
  • 88% verbal abuse;
  • 49% had pornography made of them;
  • 47% were upset by attempts to coerce them to perform something a sex buyer had seen in pornography;
  • In Germany, where prostitution is legal, 59% responded that prostitution is not safer with legalization;
  • 89% wanted to exit prostitution.
  • Equating prostitution with death, one woman stated, “Why commit suicide? I’ll work in prostitution instead (p. 53).”

The same study reported that 68 percent of women in prostitution met the criteria for PTSD.

Here are some more disturbing statistics from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s report:

  • Interviews of 100 individuals (females (42%), males (32%), and transgender males (26%)) involved in street-based prostitution in inner city Washington, D.C., found high incidents of violence. Since entering prostitution, 61% reported being physically assaulted, with the majority being perpetrated by sexual buyers (75%).”
  • A study of 106 women involved in street-based prostitution conducted in New York City reported types and amounts of violence experience while in prostitution included: Physical abuse (45.3%), Sexual abuse (34.9%), and Physical and sexual abuse (50.0%).”
  • An investigation into the mortality rate of women in prostitution revealed that the leading cause of death was homicide (19%) and found that actively prostituting women were nearly 18 times more likely to be murdered than women of similar age and race during the study interval.”

Dear Teen Vogue, does this sound like the type of “purchasing intimacy” you want girls to go into?

The Business Insider piece was shockingly written by a female who even acknowledged the violence perpetrated on women in prostitution by citing two studies, one from San Francisco where it was found that 82% of prostitutes “had been assaulted and 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes,” and another study in Colorado Springs that found prostitutes were “18 times more likely to be murdered than non-prostitutes their age and race”—yet the argument is made that because prostitution is illegal, these women can’t call for help when their hazardous “work” conditions are too dangerous.

The answer is not to legitimize something bad so less bad things will happen, but to confront injustice with justice.

Do any of these statistics sound like proper “work” for any individual? Why are women allowing other people to tell them that they should settle for this as “work”?

Prostitution clearly isn’t work, it’s paid violence against women.

Even a self-identified former prostitute and D.C. activist for legalizing prostitution shared her story of violence in the trade: “I myself am a former sex worker and faced violence that I couldn’t report to anyone. I have been stabbed several times, beaten and chased by a car. There were times I could have remembered license plates or at least reported the incidents; but because sex work is criminalized, these dangerous people, they’re still out there.”

Wrong. These people are still out there because we fail to prosecute buyers of sex and pimps as much as we do the women who prostitute.

Attitudes of Male Buyers Towards Prostitutes

After interviewing 16 women (aged 20-38) incarcerated for prostitution-related offenses, the authors noted:

Once a prostitute has consented to any exchange of sex for money, these women see many men as assuming that she has given up the right to refuse consent in any situation. Once her sexuality has been ‘purchased,’ her body ‘belongs’ to the purchaser to use. This was the constant theme in the interviews. Many women encountered men who treated their agreement to engage in some form of sex as permission to abuse the women’s bodies in any way they wished, as long as they gave the women monetary compensation.”

The study “Deconstructing The Demand for Prostitution: Preliminary Insights From Interviews With Chicago Men Who Purchase Sex” interviewed 113 self-reported male buyers face-to-face, recruited in advertisements in free publications and on Craigslist. Here are some of the findings:

  • 46% “purchased sex in order to obtain sex acts they either felt uncomfortable asking of their partner or which their partner refused to perform,” including oral and anal sex.
  • 43% said if they pay for sex, the woman should do anything they ask.
  • 13% “would rape a woman if they knew they could get away with it.”
  • 19% admitted to raping a woman.
  • 57% “believed that the majority of women in prostitution experienced some type of childhood abuse.”
  • 32% thought the majority of women had entered prostitution before the age of 18.
  • 20% “thought that they had bought sex from women who were trafficked from other countries.”
  • 75% have seen women with a pimp.
  • 40% knowingly bought a woman in prostitution who was under pimp/trafficker control.

Here are some verbatim comments from buyers:

She has no rights because you are paying for a sex act- she gives up the right to say no.”

…she gave up her rights when she accepted my money.”

Prostitutes are like a product, like cereal. You go to the grocery, pick the brand you want, and pay for it. It’s business.”

I almost killed a hooker because she tried to run off with my money and I wasn’t going to let her. I used the blunt side of the knife. She tried to leave the car. We struggled for awhile. I wanted to scare her, so I put the blunt side of the knife to her throat. Somehow there was blood, and she gave the money back. I left her lying down in the street. I didn’t even want the money no more.”

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 to see how prostitution is linked to sex trafficking and the path forward for going after the perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

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Is the Pro-Life Movement Truly Pro-Life or Just Pro-Birth?

by Alexis Stefani

June 18, 2019

The anti-abortion movement pays lip service to caring for women, but there is only one thing they care about: the unborn. I care about all lives.” (USA Today op-ed – May 14, 2019)

With abortion legislation in the news every day, the country is once more debating the issue of life. One recurring point brought up by politicians, celebrities, and pro-choicers is that the pro-life movement doesn’t truly care about life at all stages—only unborn lives.   

In their opinion, pro-lifers are not worthy of the “pro-life” label unless they also support single-payer healthcare. They argue that once a child is born, pro-lifers are nowhere to be seen. They also point to a ridiculously expensive and long adoption process and broken foster care system to prove the neglect of children once out of the womb. In their eyes, the mere fact that many pro-lifers support the second amendment and oppose single-payer healthcare disqualifies them from really being “pro-life.”

However, these accusations are unwarranted and do not discredit the central premise of the pro-life movement: fighting for the lives of unborn babies by opposing abortion.

In fact, there is a wide array of diversity within the pro-life movement. There are pro-life groups for Democrats, secularists, feminists (here and here), and many other demographics of people that do not fit the stereotypical “pro-lifer.” The pro-life movement is about stopping abortion. There is room within the movement for differing beliefs on other issues that are not tied to abortion.

Let’s take a look at three common objections to the pro-life label being used for those who oppose abortion.

1. “You’re not pro-life if you oppose single-payer healthcare.” Many in the pro-life movement have been attacked for opposing single-payer healthcare. However, this is not an indicator of how much the pro-life movement cares about life. The pro-life movement can oppose abortion without having to take a stance on how best to solve our nation’s healthcare problems.

There are a variety of proposals to address access to quality healthcare, and people of good faith can disagree which one is best. But, no one who considers herself or himself “pro-life” can do so in good faith while also supporting a healthcare system that funds the destruction of life in the womb.

The pro-life movement does offer an enormous amount of support for mothers and their children through a wide array of pregnancy care centers and homes for mothers in need. There is still work to be done and improvements to be made, but in no way does the pro-life movement need to advocate for socialized healthcare to be considered “pro-life.”

2. “If you’re really pro-life, you would foster and adopt.” The assumption that pro-lifers don’t foster or adopt is untrue. In fact, the pro-life community has long taken adoption and foster care seriously. Many pro-lifers want to give kids in need of loving homes a family. Christian organizations are responsible for many adoption agencies and orphanages.

Alabama is a great example of this. After passing one of the strongest pro-life laws in the nation earlier this year, they set a record for the highest adoption rates in the country. This shows that the accusation that those who are pro-life don’t care about babies after they are born is not reflected in reality.

Please don’t misunderstand me—there is still much to be done to ensure children are put in loving foster and adoptive homes. But, as someone who has an adopted brother, my family and I can personally attest to the beauty of adoption and the ways that God has used it to form our family.

The pro-life movement should flatly reject any insinuation that simply because there are children in need of loving homes or that the adoption system needs improvement, that they don’t care about children after birth. While it is true that there are many injustices that need to be addressed in the world besides abortion, abortion remains the most fundamental injustice because without the right to life, no other rights are even possible.

3. “If you’re pro-life, then you can’t support unrestricted gun rights.” Guns themselves are amoral—they can be used for good or for evil. I have never met someone who supports the second amendment because they want more gun violence. It is always because they think that gun control is not effective for those who already clearly disregard the law.

The pro-life movement is a big-tent movement. All pro-lifers can agree that taking innocent life in an abortion is morally wrong; the extent to which the second amendment rights of Americans ought to be protected is another matter entirely.

The gun control debate is not about how highly we ought to value life; rather, it is about how to best preserve life. Policies regarding gun control are complicated because they are not only about ideology—they are also about enforcement and practicality. Thus, opposing gun control is not a hypocritical inconsistency for a pro-lifer.

Defending Those Who Have No Voice

By arguing that the pro-life movement isn’t really “pro-life” unless it also embraces a wide swath of the progressive agenda, pro-choicers avoid a real discussion about what abortion really is. All of the issues we’ve discussed are post-birth. None of these issues would even be worth discussing if life itself wasn’t valuable and worth fighting for.

The pro-life movement is not one that wants to control women’s bodies or take away healthcare or any other sort of nefarious motivation. Rather, the pro-life movement seeks to defend the lives of babies in the womb who have no voice.

Let’s not treat abortion the same as these other issues. Abortion is literally a matter of life or death for innocent babies. While important, these other issues are secondary because they are all in regard to life that is already outside the womb. Each of these concerns deserve our thoughts and attention, but they must not be equated or treated with the same level of urgency as abortion.

It should go without saying that the most foundational right of any society is the right to life. Healthcare, the adoption and foster care system, and the second amendment aren’t concerns for the 60 million children who have died from abortion.

Ultimately, it’s not an “either-or” issue. I have yet to meet a pro-lifer who advocates for unborn babies but who has no regard for other lives. We can do both.

I strongly believe that abortion is wrong, but that does not mean that I care any less for mothers or children who have been born. In fact, I believe that mothers are also victims of the abortion industry and that we must do all we can to love and support them. One reason I feel so strongly about the pro-life movement is because I have personally seen the way that abortion hurts mothers and families. My mom is one of those mothers and my family is one of those families.

When we fight against abortion, we are also fighting for mothers and families. Let’s not lose sight of what’s truly important and get bogged down in a war of words about who is really “pro-life.” Now is the time to make a difference and be the generation that ends the tragedy of abortion.

Alexis Stefani is an intern at Family Research Council.

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While the World Closes Its Eyes, a Genocide Against Christians is Happening in Nigeria

by Luke Isbell

June 17, 2019

I attended an event at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, June 11, where Nigerian witnesses spoke about their first-hand experiences with Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. You can watch the full hearing here

I was sitting about ten feet away from witness Rebecca Sharibu as she walked to the podium. Boko Haram, a radical jihadist organization in northern Nigeria, kidnapped Rebecca Sharibu’s daughter over a year and a half ago, and she was never returned. Rebecca could barely start before becoming overwhelmed with tears. The room fell silent as the mother struggled to make a simple plea, “Help me bring my daughter back. I need my daughter.”

Rebecca’s daughter, Leah Sharibu, was 14 years old when she and 110 of her classmates were kidnapped from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in February of last year. Two months after they were kidnapped, 110 of the girls returned to their families. Yet, because Leah is a Christian and refused to convert to Islam, Boko Haram singled her out to be kept as a slave.

Boko Haram’s stated goal is to eradicate Christianity, and the militant group has killed tens of thousands of Christians and civilians since 2009. Frank Wolf, author of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act, stated that more people have died at the hands of Boko Haram than ISIS. “Boko Haram is guilty of genocide,” Wolf forcefully insisted.

But Boko Haram is no longer the only terrorist threat to Christians in Nigeria. Semi-nomadic Islamic herdsman known as the Fulani armed with AK-47s frequently attack communities, burn homes, and inhumanly maim their victims. Mercy Maisamari, a witness at the event, described how Fulani would mock their Christian victims and taunt, “Call your Jesus to come and save you.”

Another thing [the Fulani] do is to cut limbs and they cut open pregnant women and remove the babies and cut them. And they try their best for the woman not to die,” she said.

The words of Alheri Magaji rattled in my ears as I listened to the horrors she relayed to the audience. She recounted the story of a mother of four children who was nine months pregnant. In the middle of the night, 400 Fulani militants rushed her village, and some of the men entered her home. In front of her eyes, they executed three of her children. They repeatedly kicked her stomach. When she awoke in a hospital, she was told that her unborn child had not survived. 

Nobody will take our story,” Magaji said. “We paid people, no one will take our story…so we’re here to beg you—to beg the U.S. government to take our story.”

The five Nigerian witnesses described how the world is incorrectly framing the ongoing genocide in their country. To Western governments, the Fulani attacks are simple ethnic struggles “between farmers and herdsman.” And Boko Haram only terrorizes Nigeria and other small African countries—why should the world leaders and Christians around the globe care?

Here are three reasons:

1. Praying and advocating for persecuted believers is not optional for Christians.

The body of Christ is wounded, and that affects all Christians. Our fight is against spiritual forces, and we must band together to protect the church wherever it is attacked—otherwise we compromise the present ground we stand on. It’s a simple remedy: speak boldly at church about those who are persecuted, tell your friends, and pray with your family. God’s heart breaks for His children—let ours break also.

2. The United States plays a key role in promoting religious liberty across the globe, so our stance on foreign policy is critical.

The United States advocates for religious freedom around the globe, but there is a desperate need for more advocates speaking on behalf of the voiceless. Whether with the Uyghurs in China, the violence in India, or the persecuted in Nigeria, people of all faiths across the world live under dire circumstances. While praying for the present and long term, let us respond vocally and through voting—sending the message that Christians require their political leaders to support religious liberty.

3. Boko Haram’s actions in Nigeria are genocide, and world’s governments are turning a blind eye.

Boko Haram actively kills, tortures, destroys villages, and kidnaps Christians in Nigeria with the intention of wiping out the Christians in Nigeria. This meets the definition of genocide established in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

We have a museum not very far from here saying never again,” said Frank Wolf, referring to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Yet, genocide is taking place in Nigeria. Tens of thousands have already perished because of Boko Haram’s systematic strategy to eliminate Christians.

Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi closed the event with one final plea:

I can’t find any other country that will stand up for justice. That will stand up for the way you have always stood up for the oppressed. Please, please don’t disappoint the people of Nigeria. Please don’t disappoint the people of West Africa. Please don’t disappoint the people of Africa. And, please—don’t disappoint yourselves.”

Luke Isbell is an intern at Family Research Council.

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The Heart of a Father

by Daniel Hart

June 14, 2019

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

When my firstborn son was a few months old, it was clear that he was not gaining weight like he should be from breastfeeding due to an undiagnosed condition. My wife and I felt helpless and were wracked with constant worry. As a father, I felt desperate, and longed to do anything in my power to help my suffering child. By God’s grace, we were eventually able to find the professional help we needed through lactation consultation, and our baby began a healthy weight gain.

I am reminded of this time when reading of desperate fathers in the Gospels who, at their wits end, lay their suffering children at Christ’s feet, begging Him to help them. Although my own experience pales in comparison to the severity of the problems these biblical fathers faced, I can still identify with a father like Jairus frantically elbowing his way through the crowd and throwing himself before Jesus, beseeching Him to help his dying daughter (Mark 5:23-43). Or the father with the demon-possessed son, who kneels before Jesus and implores Him, “Lord, have mercy on my son…” (Matthew 17:15-18).

I can picture the sweat on the brows of these fathers as they strenuously assert themselves for the sake of their children. With all their options exhausted, they make one last ditch attempt—some would have said foolhardy attempt—to save their offspring at the feet of Jesus. How does He respond?

Jesus, in full union with His Father, reveals the true nature of God the Father’s heart in His response: mercy, compassion, and healing. We read that at the moment He speaks the word of healing, the afflicted are indeed healed: “…the boy was cured instantly” (Matthew 17:18); “And immediately the girl got up and walked” (Mark 5:42). What’s more, physical healing is just the beginning of God’s tender care for the welfare of His children.

Caring for Our Children’s Spiritual Welfare

Christ does not stop at mere physical healing; His mercy extends to great concern for our spiritual health as well. When the father of the possessed child pleads with Jesus to heal his son, Christ’s first response is to teach him the power of belief: “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). And for those who ask for the Spirit, Christ assures us that God cannot help but give more than merely “good” gifts: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

In the same way, fathers who have a full understanding of love are just as concerned about their children’s spiritual welfare as for their physical health. As I try to teach my 2 ½-year-old son his prayers and speak to him about the love of God, I often find myself wondering about what kind of faith he will have by the time he leaves the house. Becoming a father has given me an expanded appreciation for all those fathers out there who worry about their sons and daughters losing their faith after they have struck out on their own or are in college. While I know it’s second nature for a parent to worry about their children, I also know that all God needs is an open soul, not a wise or mature one—He will fill that openness with His grace.

Indeed, a father’s longing for his children’s physical and spiritual health is an image of the purest longing that God has for us.

We Need a Renewed Emphasis on Fatherly Compassion

Having a father who passed the love of God on to me, and knowing that I will strive to do all I can to pass this faith on to my own children, my heart aches for those who have not had a father in their lives who has shown love to them. I have personally known those who have been deprived of the love of their fathers and have seen the spiritual wounds that this profound absence can cause.

Tragically, there are many in our society who have difficulty relating to God as the merciful and healing Father that He is because of the lack of a loving earthly father in their own lives, whether from outright absence or from emotional/physical neglect or abuse that they experienced from their fathers.

This lamentable state of affairs gives Christian fathers all the more motivation to exemplify and live out the true heart of our heavenly Father. Much has been said and written about how fathers must be strong leaders and firm maintainers of discipline in their families. This is certainly true, but it only tells half the story of the true heart of God the Father, and therefore the heart that all fathers must strive for.

The tender care that Christ manifested through His merciful and healing touch and through beautiful parables like the prodigal son (Luke 15) are stirring examples of what a truly loving father must be: a clear reflection of God the Father’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion—guiding and nurturing his children towards discipleship in God’s kingdom. This requires what may seem on the surface to be a paradox: Fathers must have the manly courage to be vulnerably compassionate with their children in order to more fully exemplify the compassionate love of our heavenly Father.

A Full Heart

One of the first instincts of a father is to provide for the physical needs of his children. This is natural and good—it clearly fits our nature as men. Vulnerability and tender care for the spiritual needs of our children may not come as naturally to us, but it is just as important. In order to impart the full heart of God to our children, we must be willing to stretch ourselves and exemplify both physical and spiritual nourishment to our children, just as our Heavenly Father gives abundantly to all who ask Him (Luke 11:11-13).

This Father’s Day, may we all find true rest and comfort in the healing and merciful embrace of our true Father in heaven, who unreservedly pours out His fatherly mercy, healing power, and grace to all His children each day.

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Pastors Lead the Way in… Harming Life?

by Hugh Phillips

June 13, 2019

In the failed bid by the North Carolina House of Representatives to muster the 3/5ths majority necessary to override Democrat Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the North Carolina Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, four pastors were the difference in the deciding vote. The failed veto override effort in North Carolina came up short because of their four votes.

This heartbreaking result shows us that we cannot be complacent in the fight for life. What made this vote even more heartbreaking was that four pastors rejected the biblical view of life’s sacredness and voted against a bill to require physicians to save the lives of infants born alive after a botched abortion. Thus, pastors were some of those who stood against the sanctity of life in North Carolina.

For example, take Pastor and state representative James D. Gailliard. Gailliard labels himself a “Whole Life Democrat” and claims to be against abortion. Yet, he voted against the born alive bill arguing that “current law is sufficient” to protect infants who have survived an abortion. However, a staff assessment by an attorney for the Senate Rules and Operations committee clearly shows that while infanticide is technically classified as murder under the law, the legislature has never taken a stand on born alive protections. NC S.B. 359 would have made clear that North Carolina does not tolerate infanticide in any form and would have given teeth to the law by creating an affirmative duty to protect these innocent and helpless infants. This should have been an easy decision for any representative, let alone pastor, who claims that they support life.

Gailliard, along with pastors Paul Lowe, Amos Quick, and Ray Russell, all voted against the born alive bill in North Carolina and have therefore rejected the Bible’s basic theological assumption, first introduced in Genesis 1:27 and historically held across every creed and denomination, that man is special because “God created man in his image, in the image of God He created them.” Pastors should be the first to preach and defend the sacredness of humanity. Yet, in rejecting this standard, these pastors are showing that their lives are governed more by the postmodern worldview and a fear of Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby than by the word of God. These foundational secular assumptions held by such pastors put their congregations and constituents at risk because these pastors seem more likely to make decisions based on subjective morality and outside pressure rather than making objective ethical decisions based on the eternal moral law and God’s truth.

If a pastor cannot even agree to increase restrictions on an act as morally repugnant as infanticide, they are not worthy of holding any elected office in the State or position of trust within the church. This is such a basic tenet of human decency that all North Carolinians, regardless of party, should be appalled and outraged by the cowardly act of these pastors.

The flood of pro-life legislation passing in legislatures across America shows that Americans are demanding that the sanctity of human life be protected. As candidacies begin to be announced for the 2020 elections, voters should have one thing foremost in their minds: will this candidate fulfill the basic role of government and protect life? Republicans are feeling the swelling support of American opinion as they advance the pro-life cause through state legislation. Despite the deplorable attempts of Democrats, and even pastors, to stop the pro-life agenda, we will vote out those who oppose life and advance the pro-life cause to victory with the help of average North Carolinians and the citizens of every state!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation. 

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A Survivor of China’s “Re-education” Camps Exposes Atrocities in Xinjiang

by Arielle Del Turco

June 12, 2019

Mihrigul Tursun is a survivor of a “re-education” internment camp in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

It’s incredibly rare to hear from a survivor of one of the camps. Detainees are rarely released. And when they are, they are closely monitored and intimidated by the Chinese government.

The camps appear to be designed to force Uyghur Muslims—an ethnic and religious minority residing in northwest China—to adopt the norms, language, and non-religious tendencies preferred by the Chinese Communist Party. Detainees are subjected to daily communist party indoctrination sessions, inhumane living conditions, and torture. It is estimated that China currently detains at least one million Uyghurs in these facilities.

A Uyghur Muslim originally from Xinjiang, Mihrigul was living in Egypt with her husband following her education. When she had triplets in 2015, she took her babies back to China so that her parents could help her care for them.

When she arrived at the airport in Xinjiang with her two-month-old triplets, Chinese authorities seized her children from her while she was questioned and beaten. Authorities then took her directly to prison where she was held without any idea if or when she might be released.

Following her release from prison two months later, she rushed to pick up her children from the hospital where the authorities had kept them. Upon her arrival, she was informed that operations had been performed on all three of her children. A day later, it resulted in the death of one of her sons. Despite her pleas, she was denied the request to see her son.

Mihrigul was again taken into custody—this time to a “reeducation” camp. There, Chinese authorities repeatedly tortured her. They put a metal device on her head which transmitted electric shocks sending a searing pain which could be felt even in her veins and bones. The pain was so great she begged the guards to kill her—convinced that death would be better than enduring more torture.

She was placed in Cell 210, a small room that held 68 women. One woman in the cell hadn’t been allowed to leave the room in 13 months—not even to shower. Occasionally, women were taken from the cell and never heard of again.

Mihrigul witnessed nine women die in the cell due to the brutal conditions of the camp over the course of her detention. When the police came to remove a body of the deceased, all the women were instructed to lie down on the floor. The police didn’t enter the room to pick up the body. Rather, they used a metal contraption to pick the body up by the neck and drag it out of the cell, as if trash was being picked up off the ground.

At one point, Mihrigul was sentenced to death and the police asked her how she wanted to die.

Thankfully, Mihrigul was released in April 2018 after having been detained for 10 months in total, and she was allowed to return to Egypt to seek medical treatment for her two remaining children who had Egyptian citizenship.

Even today, the nightmare hasn’t ended for Mihrigul. She can’t sleep at night. The images of the nine women who died keep coming to her mind. In her dreams, Chinese authorities want to kill her.

As I write this now, Mihrigul is living in the United States and speaking out on this issue, though recounting these memories is difficult for her. I had the opportunity to hear her tell her story at a conference held by the World Uyghur Congress in Washington, D.C. last week.

It was sobering to hear this testimony. The room was in tears over Mihrigul’s story. Over 1,500 Uyghurs reside in the Washington, D.C. area, and many of them have family members in China who have disappeared and are thought to be in “re-education” camps. Mihrigul’s testimony points to a terrifying possibility of what might be happening to their own family members in China.

China continues to shamelessly deny the true nature of these camps. Chinese leaders try to sell the narrative that these camps are merely “free vocational training” centers. One Chinese leader claimed the camps are “the same as boarding schools.”

Yet, the lies of Chinese government officials will not shelter them from the truth and their false narratives will not absolve them of their human rights violations.

There is ample evidence to prove what is really going on in Xinjiang. Satellite images, Chinese government budget reports, and witness testimonies such as Mihrigul’s reveal the truth of China’s brutal oppression of religious minorities.

The Western world cannot continue to treat China just like any other nation. The blatant lack of respect for human life and freedom is something that can’t be ignored.

The Trump administration has prioritized religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy—that’s something that needs to be taken seriously. The U.S. government must make it clear that there are diplomatic and economic consequences for China’s crackdown on religious minorities.

Americans benefit immensely from the religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. In contrast, the Chinese government views the beliefs of religious minorities as a threat to the ideology of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Thus, China sends Uyghur Muslims to “re-education” camps to be indoctrinated and tortured and arrests Christians for attending unapproved house churches. As Christians in the United States take notice of the victims of religious freedom violations around the world, such as Uyghur Muslims, we must advocate on their behalf.

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Should Christians Recognize “LGBT Pride?”

by Peter Sprigg

June 11, 2019

June is back, and with it “LGBT Pride Month.” Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender celebrate in June because it marks the anniversary (this year, the 50th) of the “Stonewall Riots,” which are generally cited as the beginning of the modern “gay liberation movement” in the United States. It was in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 that patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, rebelled against what they saw as persistent police harassment by rioting during a police raid on the facility.

What, exactly, is “LGBT Pride” about? Some offer a limited, and relatively benign, description. The Library of Congress, for example, says, “The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.” President Trump recently became the first Republican President ever to recognize (on Twitter) LGBT Pride Month, but did so in similarly limited terms, saying that “we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation . . .”

But the LGBT movement is talking about much more than “contributions” to our nation when it promotes “LGBT Pride.”

Defining “LGBT

First of all—who exactly are “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals?” The answer is not as obvious as it seems. Both “sexual orientation” (“LGB”) and “gender identity” (“T”) are terms that describe a mix of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification. “Lesbians” and “gays” may refer to people who experience sexual attractions toward persons of the same sex (feelings); and/or engage in sexual acts or sexual relationships with persons of the same sex (behaviors); and/or self-identify as such. (Similarly, “bisexuals” are attracted to, and/or have sex with, people of both sexes, and/or identify as bisexual). “Transgender” persons, on the other hand, experience a disconnect between their biological sex at birth and their psychological “gender identity” (feelings); and/or present themselves publicly (in their dress, etc.) as the opposite of or different from their biological sex (behaviors); and/or self-identify as transgender, or as something other than their biological sex.

Exactly which of these things are LGBT people expressing “pride” in—their feelings, behaviors, or self-identification? Or is it all three?

Some may argue that it is not about pride in their sexuality, as such, but instead pride in their “impact” or “contributions.” Such a sharp separation, though, would implicitly suggest that they are proud of what they have accomplished in spite of being “LGBT”—not because of it. It’s highly unlikely that most LGBT advocacy groups would embrace such a defensive—almost apologetic—framing of “LGBT Pride.” They are not simply proud of their accomplishments in the arts, business, sports, etc.—they are expressing “pride” in being LGBT.

But again, which aspect? Are they proud of their feelings of same-sex attraction or “gender incongruity?” To accept “LGBT Pride” is to accept the assertion that these feelings are a normal and natural variant of human sexuality. That is an ideological assertion, not a scientific one, and the high rates of mental illness that accompany such feelings is strong evidence against the idea that homosexual and transgender feelings are “natural.” (Evidence does not support the widely-argued theory that such problems are caused by societal discrimination, because they are widespread even in the most LGBT-friendly of countries, such as in the Netherlands or in Scandinavia.)

Are they proud of their behaviors—of being men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, men who dress up like and pretend to be women, or women who dress up like and pretend to be men? Men who have sex with men, in particular, have high rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases as a direct result of that sexual behavior—so is it something to be “proud” of? Some individuals who identify as transgender ask surgeons to mutilate or remove otherwise healthy body parts—often with serious long-term consequences—in order to make their bodies resemble more closely their desired sex. Is this something to be proud of?

The tendency of many straight “allies” of “LGBT Pride” is to avert their eyes from these actual behaviors. Instead, they define such individuals by their feelings, and then accept the argument that because these feelings are not a “choice,” they must define the person’s innate identity. This is a mistake. Just because feelings are not chosen does not mean they are inborn—they may result from developmental forces in childhood and adolescence. And while feelings are not chosen, both behaviors and a self-identification are chosen.

It is a virtual certainty that LGBT advocacy groups—the people who conceived of the idea of “LGBT Pride” in the first place—would be unwilling to separate their feelings, behaviors, and self-identification as sources of pride. To endorse “LGBT Pride” is to endorse all three—to affirm that LGBT feelings are normal and natural (which is untrue), that LGBT behaviors are harmless or even admirable (also untrue), and that their LGBT “identity” is innate (untrue as well).

Political and Legal Agenda

Implicit in LGBT Pride is thus a mistaken view of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” themselves. It also, however, involves a radical political and legal agenda.

The 2015 Supreme Court decision ordering every state to offer civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples (thus overturning the constitutions of thirty states) hardly marked the end—or even a pause—in the demands of the homosexual movement. Instead, those demands merely became more aggressive.

Having eliminated virtually all distinctions under the law between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, gay activists began fighting more vigorously against private individuals or entities that might dissent from the new liberal orthodoxy, even on grounds of conscience or religious conviction. Some of those attacks have been rebuffed, albeit at great cost—such as that upon Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who gladly served openly gay-identified customers, but declined to participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding by designing a custom wedding cake. Although Phillips won his case in the Supreme Court in 2018, the decision was on narrow grounds.

Despite the fact that a majority of states have rejected the idea of treating sexual orientation and gender identity as the equivalent of race under their civil rights laws, LGBT activists are pushing a federal bill, dubbed the “Equality Act,” that would enshrine these as specially protected categories under virtually every federal civil rights law. The Equality Act was already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in late May, and LGBT Pride Month will undoubtedly be marked by efforts to give it momentum in the Senate.

As if persecuting small businesses weren’t enough, homosexual activists and their allies in the states have even been invading the privacy of the relationship between mental health providers and their clients, by passing laws to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE (which critics refer to as “conversion therapy”) with minors. Ironically, this takes away the freedom of people with same-sex attractions—if they experience those attractions as unwanted. People who are “proud” of being LGBT have nothing to fear from such therapy, because it isn’t for them. Yet such prohibitions (which are likely unconstitutional) are part of the “LGBT Pride” political agenda.

Since the judicial battle over same-sex marriage ended in 2015, we have seen an explosion of attention to the transgender movement. Although both the homosexual and transgender movements involve an attack upon the natural understanding of sexuality, the transgender issue is even more radical. While some have argued that homosexuality merely involves people’s conduct in private, the same cannot be said about the transgender agenda, which explicitly demands that people give public affirmation to the way people who identify as transgender present themselves in public.

Transgender activists are upset with the Trump administration for reinstating longstanding restrictions on military service by those with gender dysphoria, even though mental and physical health concerns clearly justify such a policy. They also object to the administration’s common-sense conclusion that laws protecting against discrimination on the basis of “sex” should be interpreted to protect on the basis of biological sex, not “gender identity.”

The threat to the safety, privacy, and hard-won accomplishments of women and girls is particularly prominent, since transgender activists demand the right for biological males to appear nude before females in locker rooms and showers, and to compete with females in athletic competition despite having inherent physiological advantages.

These concerns have led even some radical feminists to join in opposing the transgender movement. Is invading women’s privacy and destroying a level playing field for women’s sports something to be “proud” of?

A Christian Perspective

The critiques of “LGBT Pride” offered above should be persuasive to thoughtful, honest people of any religion or no religion. But are there specific reasons why believing Christians should be concerned about “LGBT Pride Month?”

Thomas Tobin, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, thinks so. On June 1, he issued the following caution on Twitter:

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.

The comment sparked online outrage, triggering angry responses from a member of Congress and Hollywood actresses, among others. They seemed particularly incensed by the remark about harm to children. It is unclear whether Bishop Tobin was referring generally to the ideological indoctrination children might receive at such events, are whether he was concerned about the appropriateness of what is often found in LGBT Pride parades—such as scantily-clad men, simulated sex acts, and drag queens. The former tennis star and self-identified lesbian Martina Navratilova said, “Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT” (apparently without irony, since there is reason to believe that most of the Catholic priests who have molested children are themselves homosexual).

In an older commentary (2009), Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler expressed a similar view:

There is no way that biblical Christians committed can join in the chorus of gay pride. The Bible is straightforward in its consistent identification of homosexual acts as inherently sinful.

Some people may see supporting LGBT Pride as an act of Christian love. Tim Barnett, of the apologetics ministry Stand to Reason, has explained the fallacy in this argument:

They conflate acceptance and affirmation with love. Therefore, the people who do not affirm LGBT values are, by definition, unloving. But this is clearly mistaken.

It is possible to truly love someone, but not accept and affirm their ideas or behavior. We do this all the time. We all have friends and family members that we love dearly even though we disagree with—and even oppose—their behavior or ideas.

Barnett cites Romans 12:9-10:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

In the middle of commending “love” and “honor” to the Romans, the apostle Paul says that we must “abhor” evil—the two are not contradictory. Likewise, in the famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “Love … does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6, ESV).

While LGBT conduct is one problem with “LGBT Pride,” the concept of “pride” itself is another. Writer Avery Foley has pointed out how Scripture often describes pride as a sin, declaring that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6, ESV). And Christian Concern, a British organization, cites 1 John 2:16, which juxtaposes “the desires of the flesh” with “pride”:

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (ESV)

Insidious”

The most interesting piece I came across in researching this piece online was an interview that a British podcaster had with Craig Schoonmaker, who claims that he coined the term “gay pride” in New York in 1970, during planning for an event to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Schoonmaker said that someone else had proposed the term “gay power,” but he proposed “gay pride” instead:

I proposed “gay pride,” because there’s very little chance in most of the world for people to have power. Gay people did not have power then; and we only now have some. But anybody can have pride in themselves . . .

Interviewer Helen Zaltzman actually asked about the moral implications of promoting “pride”:

HZ: But the word pride carries negative connotations too, of conceit or vanity - pride is one of the seven deadly sins.

CS: Oh, no, this is not that kind of pridefulness; it’s more like self-esteem. That was sort of hackneyed even then. The poison was shame, and the antidote to that is pride.

Later, Schoonmaker made what I consider a Freudian slip:

HZ: Do you still think the word ‘pride’ is necessary?

CS: Oh, definitely. Absolutely. See, because it works—I don’t want to say insidiously—it works internally, and it makes people more self-assertive.

The word “insidiously” was absent from the transcript of the interview provided online; I transcribed it myself from the original recording. According to the dictionary, “insidious” means “awaiting a chance to entrap; treacherous,” or “harmful but enticing; seductive.”

Given the radical agenda that is attached to such a positive-sounding word, “insidiously” may be the best word for how “LGBT Pride” affects the values of American society.

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