FRC Blog

How Can Believers Weather the Cultural Storm?

by Molly Carman

July 24, 2020

It is no longer safe to assume that anyone has a biblical understanding or perspective of culture. The push for relative truth, cancel culture, and happy-go-lucky logic is the new normal that is being shoved down the throats of Christians and conservatives who are not “woke” enough to go with the flow. There is a gathering storm over tradition, religion, and the family. In order to be ready for this cultural storm, we must prepare an emergency response plan.

In his new book, The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church, Dr. Albert Mohler seeks to open the eyes of Christians and prepare them for the storm that is gathering in an effort to preserve the church and family. Dr. Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and his writings have appeared in a variety of journals including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

He admonishes his readers to remember that “the first task of faithfulness lies in understanding reality.” Dr. Mohler then encourages his readers to be willing to acknowledge that there is a storm gathering, to listen to wisdom about how to best weather the storm, and resolve to be faithful and courageous in the throes of the storm.

Nine Gathering Storms

Mohler presents nine different storms that are gathering—over western civilization, the church, human life, marriage, the family, gender and sexuality, future generations, pop culture, and religious liberty. These nine storms culminate into one large storm that, if ignored, will have eternal consequences. While it can be tempting to ignore these storms, or to at least downplay their threat, Mohler argues that recognition of the current cultural situation must lead to reformation.

The cultural storm began to brew over western civilization with the rise of secularization, argues Mohler. Primarily, he points to the influence of the Enlightenment and the degradation of the intellect. A large segment of today’s society pushes for total acceptance of a certain progressive ideology, and intolerant to the point that it has become unacceptable to be a believer in some circles. Politics have become the new foundation for society, and Mohler is concerned that Christians have replaced theology with politics, suggesting that we do not need another political victory, rather, “We need a theological protest.”

This storm of secularism in western civilization has seamlessly crept into the church, transforming fundamental values and beliefs. If you want to change a culture, argues Mohler, do not start with the customs, but change the values and beliefs and the behavior will follow. “The failure to teach truth eventually leads to failure of Christ’s people even to know the truth,” he argues. Mohler goes on to say, “The great threat we face is not to the church’s existence, but to its faithfulness.” Culture no longer goes to the church with questions—rather, culture has begun to question the very purpose and relevance of the church.

As the storm gathers over the church, it inevitably affects the family. Destroying the family is the quickest way to alter the morality of a society. Specifically, Mohler shows how devaluing life through abortion has become a central part of the battle for the family. This touches on questions of anthropology, which deals with the nature and purpose of humanity, and this, unfortunately, is now more divisive than ever. “[U]ltimately,” says Mohler, “every worldview must answer the question of what a human being is.”

Marriage, too, has been devalued through the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Moreover, cohabitation and divorce have wreaked havoc on families and communities. Mohler writes, “The greater tragedy is the failure of Christians to take marriage seriously.”

Incredibly, due to the moral revolution, even the terms “male” and “female” have become offensive. Personal autonomy is now the standard for ultimate meaning and satisfaction. Mohler demonstrates how the rejection of the natural created order leads to pain and confusion. The family is now one of the most broken units of society, and unless it is restored and defended daily, it will become an afterthought.

Further, the storm is gathering over future generations. Due to the collapse of the natural family, many people are marrying later and choosing to have fewer children (if any) than previous generations. Pleasure and self-fulfillment are the highest goods, and little thought is given to the future. This selfish mindset has been spread by the engines of pop culture and the entertainment industry. “The narrative we ingest,” writes Mohler, “the songs we listen to, the images on our screens have a clear, moral agenda,” and it is distorting our Christian worldview.

In addition, a storm is gathering over religious liberty. Once considered America’s first freedom, religious liberty has been reconstructed by secular and cultural elites to mean religious privilege. Mohler admonishes his readers to develop an apologetic for their faith and understand that religious freedom is the battleground for preserving the value of God, truth, and freedom.

Three Habits to Weather the Storm

So, what are the takeaways from Dr. Mohler’s new book? How do we go faithfully into the storm and weather it well?

As Christians, we have a responsibility to acknowledge why the storm has gathered—because we have forsaken God. The first step in weathering the storm is to remember the hope that is within us. Forgetting God is what got us here. Returning to God and trusting Him is the only way to restore the damage caused by these storms. This requires humility, intentionality, and endurance.

Finally, in order to go faithfully and courageously into the storm, Mohler admonishes his readers to institute three habits into their lives. First, make church the highest priority for your weekly schedule. Plan your life around the rhythms and routines of the local church. Second, take the effects and influence of technology, screens, and social media seriously. Be master of your technologies, lest they master you. Third, fill whatever home you find yourself in with the fragrance of the gospel. Promote the spiritual health of the next generation, remind yourself of God’s call on your life, and do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do.

Dr. Mohler’s book is an opportunity to teach us how to recognize the coming future storms and prepare well by responding with courage and faith. He encourages his readers to remember that while God is in control, the storm is still real. As we trust Him, let us walk faithfully and weather the storm together.

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs intern whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

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During the Pandemic, the Trump Administration Is Continuing to Protect Religious Freedom

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Jeremy Pilz

July 22, 2020

Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced further steps to protect religious freedom during the coronavirus pandemic. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the resolution of two recent complaints filed against hospitals for infringing on religious freedom.

in June 2020, OCR received a complaint from a woman named Susanna Marcus, alleging she had requested a visit from a priest for her critically injured husband, Sidney Marcus. However, Prince George’s Hospital Center of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), the hospital where Sidney Marcus was admitted, denied the request. In late May 2020, Susanna and Sidney Marcus were involved in major car accident. Due to the nature of Sidney’s injuries, the couple was separated, and Sydney was placed in the intensive care unit. As a result of Sidney’s continued decline in health, Susanna requested a visit from a local priest for prayer at the hospital. The priest, however, was turned away by the hospital, based on a visitor exclusion policy adopted in response to COVID-19, despite being willing to wear any necessary personal protective equipment. In partnership with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), OCR provided technical assistance to the hospital based on federal guidance which provides that “facilities must ensure patients have adequate and lawful access to chaplains or clergy.” Following this action by OCR, Prince George’s Hospital Center came into compliance with the federal guidance and granted Sidney Marcus’s request to freely exercise his religion by allowing the Catholic priest to visit and administer the sacraments of Holy Communion and Anointing of the Sick to him.

This is significant because it concerns the ability of clergy to continue to operate and function during the coronavirus, something the administration made sure was included in nationwide guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump should be commended for ensuring clergy and pastors can continue to operate in this way and serve their communities during the coronavirus.

That same month, OCR also received a complaint from a medical student who was participating in rotations at the Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) in New York City. As a part of their response to COVID-19, SIUH temporarily suspended medical student rotations at the hospital. To return to rotation, SIUH required students to wear N95 respirator masks while assisting patients. As a result, SIUH informed one student that he would need to shave his beard if he wanted to return to his rotation. In accordance with the tenets of his religion, this student has not shaved his beard. HHS then stepped in to provided technical assistance to the hospital, and ultimately, they granted the student an accommodation to wear alternative protective equipment in the hospital so that he would not have to shave his beard.

These actions by the Trump administration may seem like small regulatory resolutions, but what they show is a consistent and concerted effort by this administration to protect religious freedom for all Americans. Everyone’s ability to practice their faith must be protected, and the administration is accomplishing this in concrete ways with actions like what HHS did yesterday. This also demonstrates that in times of crisis like the one our country is facing now, this administration will not protect one civil liberty at the expense of another. From the onset of the pandemic, HHS and the Department of Justice have been diligent to enforce laws protecting everything from disability rights to the right churches have to freely worship. No matter the situation our country faces, the Office of Civil Rights at HHS is on duty, protecting the guard rails of civil rights like religious freedom.

If you have a been discriminated against by a healthcare provider or government agency for your religious beliefs, please visit hhs.gov/ocr to file a complaint.

Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Jeremy Pilz is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.

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Disavowing Margaret Sanger Doesn’t Change Planned Parenthood’s Culture of Eugenics, Racism, and Death

by Laura Grossberndt

July 22, 2020

By removing founder Margaret Sanger’s name from its New York City building, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York has taken a first step in acknowledging its racist and eugenic roots. However, removing Sanger’s name from a building is little more than a superficial public relations move meant to mollify the racial justice movement.

This checked box does nothing to change the day-to-day operations of the organization. Planned Parenthood would like Americans to think that its troubled history with eugenics is long over. However, the history of “reproductive harm within communities of color” cited in Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s statement is not some blemish in Planned Parenthood’s distant past—it continues in the present day. Planned Parenthood will need to do a lot more than disavow Sanger to atone for the harm it has wrought on minority communities and other discriminated groups.

Planned Parenthood paints a rosy picture of its beginnings, declaring on its website: “Planned Parenthood was founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits.” This hyper-positive interpretation deliberately neglects to mention that Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger believed birth control to be “nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit.” Articles she wrote on the subject included: “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics,” “The Eugenic Conscience,” “The Purpose of Eugenics,” “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics,” and “Birth Control: The True Eugenics.” Whatever desire she felt for women to “live strong, healthy lives” was commingled with the belief that “unfit” people should not reproduce.

Planned Parenthood’s troubled eugenic legacy does not begin and end with the personal views of its founder, however. For many years, it permeated the organization’s leadership. In 1933, Planned Parenthood (then known as the American Birth Control League) and the American Eugenics Society (AES) attempted an unsuccessful merger. Dr. Alan Guttmacher, the namesake of a leading abortion research organization the Guttmacher Institute, was a eugenicist and served both as vice president of the AES and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1962-1974.

While Planned Parenthood’s current leadership publicly disavows eugenics, the evidence indicates that the corporate practices of America’s largest abortion supplier disproportionately impact the birthrates of minority communities. Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of communities identified as black and Hispanic by the 2010 census.  While blacks currently comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, black women are 3.5 times more likely to have an abortion than white women, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Louisiana, where the total number of abortions in 2018 was 8,097, over half (4,958) were abortions of black babies, despite blacks only comprising 32 percent of the state population. And in New York City, where the building formerly named for Margaret Sanger is located, more black pregnancies resulted in abortion than live birth in 2016. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the black population “grew at a slower rate than most other major race and ethnic groups in the country” between 2000 and 2010.

Not only are Planned Parenthood’s facilities disproportionally represented in minority communities, and not only do they and other abortion suppliers abort black pregnancies at far greater rates than white pregnancies, but they also oppose legislation that seeks to prevent racial discrimination against the unborn. Planned Parenthood strongly opposes prenatal nondiscrimination legislation (PRENDA laws) that prohibit abortion on the basis of the unborn child’s race, sex, or disability. Planned Parenthood does not deny that such cases of discrimination (in their words, “reproductive coercion”) occur, but insists such nondiscrimination bills place “harmful restrictions” on women’s health care. It is unclear what steps Planned Parenthood takes, if any, to prevent prenatal discrimination from occurring at Planned Parenthood facilities. As long as Planned Parenthood champions unrestricted access to abortion, prenatal discrimination will be a reality within their facilities. In May 2019, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood, in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential:

Whereas Sanger believed that birth control could prevent “unfit” people from reproducing, abortion can prevent them from being born in the first place. Many eugenicists therefore supported legalizing abortion, and abortion advocates—including future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher—endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons. Technological advances have only heightened the eugenic potential for abortion, as abortion can now be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, such as a particular sex or disability.

Family Research Council believes human life begins at conception. Therefore, we understand abortion to be the taking of human life. We believe the surest way for Planned Parenthood to end the reproductive harm it has wrought within minority communities is to cease performing abortions entirely. We know Planned Parenthood is unlikely to ever make this decision on its own, especially since former president Cecile Richards admitted under oath in 2015 that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood’s non-federal revenue comes from abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York removed Margaret Sanger’s name from its New York City building to signal care for minority communities and opposition to racial discrimination and eugenics. But if Planned Parenthood really cared about minority communities, it would stop setting up abortion mills in these communities. If it really cared about racial discrimination, it would stop opposing and start supporting PRENDA laws. If the organization truly cared to deal with its racist and eugenic roots, the entire Planned Parenthood Federation of America—not just the Greater New York branch—would disavow both Margaret Sanger and Alan Guttmacher.

Don’t hold your breath.

For more information on Planned Parenthood, check out these FRC resources: Planned Parenthood Is Not Pro-Woman and The Real Planned Parenthood: Leading the Culture of Death.

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Christians Rejoice as Sudan Moves Toward Embracing Religious Freedom

by Arielle Del Turco

July 21, 2020

I am very pleased, God has answered our prayers,” Noha Kassa, a Christian leader in Sudan, proclaimed earlier this month in response to the repeal of Sudan’s infamous apostasy law. 

For years, Sudan had topped lists of worst violators of religious freedom in the world. But all of that changed in the spring of 2019 when the military overthrew the longstanding President Omar al-Bashir. Since then, the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council has been steadily enacting reforms, including reforms recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In July, the government repealed Article 126 of Sudanese criminal law, which prohibited apostasy and required the death penalty as punishment if the accused did not repent. Sudan is the only Islamic-majority country to repeal an apostasy or blasphemy law in the last two years.

In Muslim-majority countries like Sudan, apostasy laws are intended to keep people from abandoning Islam. Such laws are an affront to religious freedom because they prevent people from choosing and living out their faith as their conscience dictates.

Sudan’s apostasy laws became famous around the world, thanks to the case of Mariam Ibraheem. In 2014, Mariam was sentenced to death for apostasy. With a toddler at home, she gave birth to her second child in jail. Mariam had been raised by her Christian mother, though her father was a Muslim. Before marrying her Catholic husband, Mariam joined the Catholic Church in 2011.

Mariam’s case prompted an international outcry, and pressure from foreign governments eventually prompted the Sudanese government to release her. Now, the law that once sentenced her to death has thankfully been repealed.

While repealing such an oppressive law may seem like an obvious move to those of us in the West, this act required Sudanese leaders’ courage. There are radicals in Sudan who did not want to see this change happen and would prefer to see Sudan’s legacy of religious repression continue. The current Sudanese government should be applauded for its efforts to create a freer society for its people.

Apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws continue to plague religious minorities in many parts of the world. As a part of the State Department’s effort to prioritize international religious freedom in its foreign policy, U.S. diplomats should consistently urge every government who maintains one of these laws to repeal them in diplomatic meetings.

Sudan’s move toward embracing religious freedom is worth celebrating. However, it also reminds us that apostasy laws are still on the books in several countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Mauritania. Sudan’s example proves change is possible, and it should encourage us to advocate for the repeal of laws oppressive to religious liberty everywhere they remain.

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Loosening Abortion Pill Restrictions Sends Women Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

by Laura Grossberndt

July 20, 2020

On July 13, a Maryland district judge granted a preliminary injunction that waives the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety limitations on administering abortion pills for the duration of the present health crisis. These limitations, part of the FDA’s drug safety program called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), require women to visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office in person in order to obtain abortion pills. By waving these requirements, the preliminary injunction allows providers to mail abortion pills directly to women without an in-person visit. This contact-free process allegedly mitigates risks to women’s health by making them less likely to be exposed to COVID-19. However, loosening the FDA’s risk-mitigation requirements merely substitutes one health risk for another, effectively sending women out of the frying pan of COVID-19 and into the fire of severe abortion complications.

Abortion advocates have argued that the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements place a significant burden on women seeking abortions, particularly during the present health crisis. District Judge Theodore Chuang agreed, saying, “By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the in-person requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients.”

Judge Chuang continued, “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”

Such a decision fails to consider the irreparable harm that can befall women who take abortion pills. The abortion industry markets the abortion pill as straightforward and safe. However, there are over 4,000 documented cases of abortion pills endangering the lives and health of women. The pills can cause extensive physical trauma, including severe bleeding, infection, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death. And that’s with the FDA’s risk mitigation requirements in place. Imagine how much more harm abortion pills could cause now that the safety restrictions on them have been temporarily waived.

There are two general types of abortion: surgical and chemical. The act of taking abortion pills is a chemical abortion. Abortion providers and activists like chemical abortions (often called by the more palliative name “medication abortion”) as an option because they require less overhead for the clinic and can be performed virtually anywhere. But this locational flexibility is precisely what makes chemical abortions so incredibly risky. While surgical abortions are performed in a clinic, chemical abortions take place at least partially at home.

Under the FDA restrictions, a woman seeking a chemical abortion would visit a physician in-person. In order to be a certified prescriber, the physician must have the ability to 1) assess the duration of pregnancy accurately; 2) diagnose ectopic pregnancies, and 3) provide surgical intervention or ensure necessary care in the event of severe complications. The woman will then take the first pill (mifepristone) in the two-part regimen. The physician would give her instructions on when to take the second pill (misoprostol). Ideally, there would be a follow-up in-person appointment to ensure the abortion was completed without any serious complications for the woman.

This process is already risky, but it at least involves a local physician in the process. Under the preliminary injunction, a woman would merely need to complete a virtual consultation in order to be mailed abortion pills. The injunction does not even specify if the prescribing physician must be local or not.

It can be difficult for the woman to know if her life or health is seriously at risk during a chemical abortion. The abortion pill’s medication guide brushes off the following types of physical trauma as normal, even a sign that the treatment is “working”:

Cramping and vaginal bleeding are expected with this treatment. Usually, these symptoms mean that the treatment is working…Bleeding or spotting can be expected for an average of 9 to 16 days and may last for up to 30 days…You may see blood clots and tissue. This is an expected part of passing the pregnancy.

In the event of severe complications from the chemical abortion, it is entirely the woman’s responsibility to get herself to a hospital. Furthermore, the cost of this emergency care is assumed by the patient, who may or may not have health care coverage.

Loosening restrictions on chemical abortions does not protect the health of women. Rather, it plays into the abortion industry’s long-term strategy of making abortions “self-managed.” Why do they want abortions to be self-managed? Because it makes abortions more commonplace and readily available—which is better for their business and bottom line. But the ready availability of abortion pills has the potential to expose women to a whole host of problems. As Patrina Mosley writes:

Making the abortion pill a “self-managed” over-the-counter (OTC) drug product has radical implications for women’s health and safety, especially as it pertains to intimate partner violence, sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and accurate patient assessment. Furthermore, it would also dangerously bypass state laws governing parental rights and informed consent on the issue of abortion.

Abortion advocates once claimed that legalizing abortion would eliminate life-threatening risks to women. Now they are attempting to make abortion completely “self-managed” despite the abortion pill’s life-threatening and health-damaging risks to women.

Judge Chuang took what ought to have been a regulatory decision (i.e., does the FDA have the authority to regulate this drug?) and turned it into constitutional privacy question based on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He also attempts to be a medical doctor who would know the ins and outs of what is medically necessary, instead of leaving that to the health experts—specifically, those at FDA—who wrote the regulations. Judge Chuang’s opinion sets a dangerous precedent for where the courts could go on this question in the future.

Judge Chuang made an ill-founded decision. Citing the current public health emergency as a reason for loosening the FDA’s medically justified risk-mitigation requirements for the abortion pill is not in the best interest of women’s health. Rather, it sends women out of the frying pan and into the fire.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of July 12)

by Family Research Council

July 17, 2020

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

1. Washington Update: “Enroll Models: Parents Explore Schooling Options”

With an intense battle raging over whether to reopen schools or not, more parents aren’t waiting to see what their districts decide—they’re taking matters into their own hands. A whopping 40 percent of families have been looking at homeschooling this fall.

2. Washington Update: “The Monuments Men: Trump Taps Cabinet to Guard History”

Extremists like to say that the violence we’re seeing is about justice. That somehow by attacking our past, they’re improving our future, but the administration is coming after anyone who defaces, damages, or tries to remove any monument by force.

3. Blog: “Cruz, Rubio, and Smith Are Banned From China”

A handful of U.S. congressmen recently woke up to an angry slap on the wrist from the Chinese government—they are now banned from entering China because of their work addressing China’s human rights violations.

4. Blog: “Christians Must Not Be Afraid of Being Controversial”

To be controversial is to intentionally turn in the opposite direction of one thing and turn towards another. Being controversial is not always a bad thing because, especially for Christians, we are called to stand counter to the ways of the world and turn towards truth.

5. Washington Watch: Abigail Shrier shares the heartbreaking stories that led her to write on the teen transgender craze

Abigail Shrier, regular writer for the Wall Street Journal, joined Sarah Perry to discuss her new book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters,” and Amazon banning advertising for the book.

6. Washington Watch: Mark Hemingway insists the cancel culture will twist any issue to serve its anti-American goals

Mark Hemingway, Senior Writer for Real Clear Investigations, joined Sarah Perry to discuss the liberal elites’ open letter against cancel culture, and the fragility of the woke.

7. Washington Watch: Rushan Abbas applauds Trump’s decision to make Chinese officials pay for Uyghur abuses

Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director for the Campaign for the Uyghurs, joined Sarah Perry to discuss the U.S. sanctioning Chinese officials in charge of the forced sterilization of Uyghurs.

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

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What Are “Human Rights”?

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

July 17, 2020

Seeking to address what U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called a “moment of crisis” for human rights, the newly-created Commission on Unalienable Rights yesterday released a draft of its inaugural report—a report which articulates and unpacks the link between America’s founding and the very idea of human rights.

It is no secret that human rights advocacy has lost its way. The term “human rights” is often used today to refer to any number of desirable social programs or preferences—basically, anything anyone wants to cloak in noble terms. Yet such an approach strays far from the core human rights the movement sought to address in its earlier years. Hence, the new State Department commission will aim to bolster the modern human rights project initiated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in light of our founding, and recalibrate the United States’ approach to human rights promotion abroad.

Divided into three sections, the report explores the origin of America’s human rights tradition and the ways in which these rights are under threat.

First, the report provides a careful review of the country’s founding principles. It argues that America has a distinctive rights tradition, grounding the origin of an individual’s unalienable rights—rights that are unable to be taken away or given away by the possessor.

Second, the report discusses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a momentous document outlining a comprehensive view of human rights following World War II and the Holocaust. It describes how this document provides a standard of achievement for all people from all nations.

Finally, the report outlines new challenges to human rights internationally, concluding with 12 pertinent observations.

Despite all the modern talk of human rights, we face a world in which authoritarian regimes increasingly perpetuate injustices, and international human rights organizations are continually ineffective in addressing them. Human rights advocacy groups are quick to reject fundamental rights grounded in an ordered human nature in favor of a newly imagined, culturally popular set of “rights.” To the contrary, the very definition of human rights is tightly bound to the qualities and shared traits that make all of us human. This idea—though imperfectly implemented—permeated our nation’s founding, as well as subsequent human rights developments.

Yet today, the unalienable rights that founded our nation and lay at the heart of the original international human rights project are frequently attacked as “discriminatory” and “outdated”—and modern social preferences take over in the guise of “human rights.”

Meanwhile, others try to portray a moral equivalence between the United States and other human rights violators. Yet the very existence of debate domestically should help us see we are still free—compared to places that lack a debate (China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc.). It is there that opposition, dissent, and human rights are truly being suppressed.

The State Department is right to evaluate the scope of human rights at a time when human rights are widely championed and rarely understood. This report lays the groundwork for foundational questions to be asked and a thoughtful assessment of human rights going forward.

An understanding of what is innate to each person must inform such an assessment. Only then could the mass of humanity, with all its vast differences, even begin to agree on certain unchanging moral principles as the basis for human conduct. Moral objectivity is required in any shared endeavor to protect human rights for all human beings around the world.

For human rights work to endure, we must be able to agree on a shared definition around which we can unite and guard the term from becoming meaningless. As the report observes, the “enduring success” of human rights efforts “depends on the moral … commitments that undergird them.” The alternative is the status quo, represented by the “sad irony” that “the idea of human rights—which reflects the conviction that the positive laws of nations must be accountable to higher principles of justice—[is] reduced to whatever current treaties and institutions happen to say that it is.”

One way out of this is what the commission—whose diversity of different backgrounds and faiths should give us hope—proposes: identifying and substantively defending our shared unalienable rights. If it succeeds, we can perhaps begin reclaiming a true understanding of human rights for all, and not a moment too soon.

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Transgenderism is Now Rated G

by Arielle Leake

July 17, 2020

The Baby-Sitters Club is a new Netflix series based on the popular children’s books by the same name published in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The books—and now the television series—follow the lives of four 12-year-old girls and their entrepreneurial babysitting endeavors. Unfortunately, parents who fondly remember the books from their own childhood should think twice before allowing their impressionable children to watch this G-rated show.

Transgenderism is brazenly presented, unchallenged, and actively celebrated. The fourth episode of the show “Mary Ann Saves the Day” prominently displays the show’s cultural indoctrination. One of the four main characters, Mary Ann, is tasked with babysitting Bailey, a young boy who firmly believes he is a girl and lives a transgender lifestyle. The episode is fraught with highly concerning dialogue and messaging. For example, Mary Ann’s friend explains Bailey’s lifestyle to her by saying, “We all want our insides to match our outsides.” This explanation clearly illustrates the two-story dualism underlying the transgender movement or, as Nancy Pearcy puts it in her book Love Thy Body, “the idea that your brain can be at war with your body.”

The scriptwriters are so committed to the idea that your feelings control who you really are that they cannot even promote healthy encouragement. When Mary Ann, who struggles with self-confidence (as most tween girls do), exclaims that she is “a pathetic cry-baby,” the only help her friend can offer is to say, “If you believe you are a pathetic cry-baby who am I to tell you otherwise.” It could have been a moment used to show young girls how to support and encourage one another while not affirming a lie someone believes about themselves. Instead, all the show can muster is a weak statement meant to shove forward the philosophy that how you feel dictates who you are.

Mary Ann finally finds her “confidence” when she takes it upon herself to reprimand the doctor and nurse who dare to address Bailey by his biological sex. Mary Ann instructs them that “from here on out,” they should “recognize her for who she is.” Further, she requests that they bring Bailey something other than the standard blue hospital nightgown, which he evidently finds highly offensive.

Even more appalling, those in the position of authority—both the medical professionals and the child’s parents—willingly go along with the young child’s whims. Instead of helping him see who God created him to be, they encourage his harmful fascinations and reinforce the idea that fitting a certain “stereotype,” whether it be wearing blue or playing tea parties, is what makes you a male or female.

As a young woman, I am disappointed to see a show that will be viewed by many young and impressionable girls espousing such harmful views—without so much as a question about the consequences of these ideas. Instead of giving young girls a proper view of what it means to be a woman, The Baby-Sitters Club presents womanhood as something that is merely a product of your feelings and not a God-given identity.

In a world that is becoming increasingly accepting of transgender ideology, parents should be cautious about the ideas being espoused in the media their children consume. Christians have a role to play in restoring an understanding that humans are a unique combination of both body and soul, which equally make up who we are and are not at war with each other. Nancy Pearcy defines the Christian’s role as being “the first in line to nurture and support kids who don’t ‘fit in’ by affirming the diversity of gifts and temperaments in the body of Christ.” This is exactly the opposite of what is done in The Baby-Sitters Club.

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

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Christians Must Not Be Afraid of Being Controversial

by Molly Carman

July 16, 2020

Last week on Washington Watch, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins observed, “We often avoid controversy, because we associate controversy with things that are wrong. But if you read the New Testament, controversy surrounded Jesus, controversy surrounded his disciples, controversy was a way of life for those who follow Jesus.”

Tony is right, and his call for Christians to take a stand on issues that may be perceived as controversial is needed more than ever. As Christians, we know that nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Although our beliefs are routinely labeled as too controversial, old fashioned, or even extreme, we know that we are called to stand for truth in the public square.

The term “controversial” comes from the Latin root contorversia. When broken down, the word is a combination of contra—turning in an opposite direction—and versus—turned toward or against. In other words, to be controversial is to intentionally turn in the opposite direction of one thing and turn towards another. Being controversial is not always a bad thing because, especially for Christians, we are called to stand counter to the ways of the world and turn towards truth.

To be controversial often means to be countercultural. Christ did not call His disciples to conform to the world but to be transformed (Romans 12:2). Moreover, Jesus warned His disciples that taking a stand for truth would bring about judgment from the world: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John encourages the church later in I John 3:13, “Do not be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” The same truth applies to Christians today.

This is not to say that Christians should intentionally incite controversy by becoming public provocateurs or scornfully dismiss those who disagree with us. But what it does mean is that when we as Christians face opposition or are in a situation where standing for truth is frowned upon, we take a stand. We do not go along with progressive and destructive thoughts, ideas, or institutions that subvert the truth. And, as Peter reminds us, “yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Bible is full of examples of people who faced opposition and controversy who had to decide how and when they would take a stand. Today is no different. As we read Scripture, we can be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to Moses when he spoke before Pharaoh (Exodus 6-11). Likewise, we should take heart when we read of the courage and strength God gave to Esther when she spoke up for her people or the wisdom and clarity God gave Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Joel, Malachi, Micah, and many other Old Testament prophets. This theme of the faithfulness of God when His people faced opposition continues into the New Testament when many of the new converts to Christianity were forced out of their synagogues. Jesus Himself was killed on the cross because the priests and leaders said that He was too controversial and was changing people’s way of thinking.

Truth is expensive—when we intentionally choose to stand for truth, it may cost us relationships, jobs, or even our lives, as those Christians being persecuted by authoritarian regimes around the world can attest to. Jesus warned of this at Caesarea Philippi when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24-26).

To conclude his radio show last week, Tony Perkins quoted the Apostle Paul and gave these words of encouragement from Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” In a world of opposition that seeks to make its own truth and abandon morality, Christians must remember that we must turn from worldly ways and instead turn towards “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Inevitably, this means we will be controversial.  

Molly Carman is a Policy and Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council whose research focuses on developing a biblical worldview on issues related to family and current events.

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The Media Attacks Churches for Getting PPP Loans, But Ignores Planned Parenthood

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Samantha Stahl

July 15, 2020

As reports began trickling in last week about which organizations received coronavirus relief funds, it became known that Planned Parenthood received at least $150 million in funds, and several businesses connected to Members of Congress also received funds. Despite this controversy over which organizations received relief funds, the media has singled out the church as being the most egregious recipient of them all.

The AP recently reported that the Roman Catholic Church lobbied the Trump administration to receive $1.4 billion in coronavirus relief funds and Reuters revealed that several evangelical churches with ties to the Trump administration also received funds. With targeted attacks on faith-based organizations, the media missed several marks about how the program operates and further demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of how religious institutions operate. 

The Media Ignores the Details

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), first passed in the CARES Act, is designed to grant forgivable loans to small businesses and nonprofit organizations specifically to keep employees on their employers’ payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. These loans are administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and because of that it has led to confusion that nonprofits including churches are not eligible. However, the legislation explicitly allows nonprofit organizations to be eligible for the program. The text of the legislation was not initially clear on whether religious nonprofits were eligible or not, so at the request of several Members of Congress, the SBA issued an FAQ document clearly stating that faith-based entities can receive PPP funds.

The program is also very clear on how the funds must be used for forgiveness eligibility. The funds must be used on payroll, mortgage payments, rent, or utilities to qualify for forgiveness; otherwise the funding acts as a normal loan complete with interest and other obligations. This ensures that the funds are directly used to help employees from being furloughed, and that funds are not used on expressly religious activities. Furthermore, this program is open to all faith-based entities regardless of religious affiliation. It does not provide special treatment for Christian or Jewish organizations; even the stridently atheist advocacy group Freedom From Religion Foundation received a PPP loan. This fact alone should help alleviate concerns that the government is somehow violating the establishment clause of the Constitution by unfairly favoring specific churches and religious groups.

The Unique Structure of Churches

However, the main point of contention comes with the affiliation rule that Congress included in the CARES Act. This rule was included so that small businesses or nonprofits that have the same ownership, management, finances, or identity of a larger organization will have their total employees counted together to exclude small organizations that may already have the necessary financial help from a larger umbrella organization. This is the provision which gave the SBA the authority to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving PPP loans, yet it was not enforced, which lead Planned Parenthood to be given $150 million in funds. It’s also the same provision which some have argued should exclude churches which are affiliates of a larger entity like the Catholic Church.

However, this concern reveals a basic misunderstanding of the structure of religious organizations and has unfortunately led to attacks on churches for supposedly violating this rule. For the most part, churches affiliated with larger entities like the Southern Baptist Convention or the Catholic Church operate independently. They raise their own money, take out their own loans, pay their own utility costs, and hire and manage their own staff. In many respects, these churches operate as independent organizations to best serve their local community, resembling the operations of a small business. For example, within the Southern Baptist Convention—the largest Protestant denomination in America—each church is considered autonomous. This is a basic tenet of Baptist ecclesiology; churches can give a percentage of their undesignated receipts to their state convention to support missions and ministries through the Cooperate Program if they choose to, but are not punished or removed from the convention if they do not.

These considerations show that the media’s narrative on churches and the PPP program is not accurate, especially when it comes to churches that are connected to larger affiliate organizations for specifically religious reasons like directing religious teachings or assigning pastors to minister to specific churches. The SBA recognized this in their guidance for faith-based organizations applying for coronavirus relief funds. In fact, the SBA FAQs clearly applies the First Amendment to the program, noting:

If the connection between your organization and another entity that would constitute an affiliation is based on a religious teaching or belief or is otherwise a part of the exercise of religion, your organization qualifies for an exemption from the affiliation rules. For example, if your faith-based organization affiliates with another organization because of your organization’s religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs, your organization would qualify for the exemption.

While it may seem like Planned Parenthood and large religious affiliate organizations like a Catholic diocese have a similar structure and both should be ineligible for PPP loans, only these faith-based institutions are eligible for the religious exemption that is consistent with constitutional and statutory religious freedom protections.

Religion as an Important Public Good

Churches have employees they must continue to pay during the pandemic just like any other for-profit business. In addition to taking care of their workers, churches must also pay interest on mortgages or rent for the space they use as well as utilities to keep the lights on. These requirements have been met by the churches that have lawfully been granted a PPP loan.

Moreover, it is important to realize that churches also play an essential role in ministering to people’s needs. With the shutdown of churches due to COVID-19, many of these mercy ministers have been affected. Outside of the government, the Catholic Church supplies a huge portion of the social services in America, serving millions of people who are suffering now more than ever. In response to the targeted reporting on churches receiving PPP loans, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called the loans an “essential lifeline” for employees and their families. The PPP loans play an important part in the ability of churches to continue their support of their brothers and sisters in Christ, especially during this time of financial instability.

While it is understandable to raise concerns about certain organizations improperly applying for a PPP loan, media hit pieces like the AP article are nothing more than attacks on people of faith and religious organizations. Tragically, lies and falsehoods have a price; in the last few days as the mainstream media has singled out faith-based organizations in their reporting, religious statues have been vandalized and churches have been burned.   

Not only are attacks on churches lawfully applying for aid appalling, the comparative lack of media attention to the fact that Planned Parenthood improperly applied for the PPP loan is astounding. Planned Parenthood is not even remotely close to a small employer since its number of employees dwarf the 500-employee limit for eligibility for the PPP loan, yet they applied for and received millions of dollars in aid while also continuing to lobby for further financial assistance in future coronavirus relief legislation.

This whole situation makes it clear that the media and ruling elites of our country find churches and religious organizations, which often labor quietly for the common good for all of society, more abhorrent than abortion facilities designed specifically to end the lives of innocent human beings. Now is the time for the church and people of faith to stand for what is good and right and push back against a worldview which values the destruction of human life over the salvation of souls. 

Connor Semelsberger is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Samantha Stahl is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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