FRC Blog

Britain May Ban Gender Transition for Minors

by Peter Sprigg

April 28, 2020

A clinic in the United Kingdom has been the subject of controversy amid accusations that it rushes minors with gender dysphoria into gender transition medical procedures without adequate screening. Now, a cabinet minister has indicated that the government might ban such treatments for minors altogether.

Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, told a parliamentary committee that the Conservative government would propose amendments to the nation’s Gender Recognition Act. The Act, first adopted in 2004, specifies the steps a person must take in order to change one’s legally recognized gender. However, instead of loosening the requirements, as transgender activists had urged, the government appears poised to tighten them.

Truss said that one of three priorities would be:

… making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future.

I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.

Truss did not provide further details. But since relatively few minors undergo actual gender reassignment surgery, observers assume that the “irreversible decisions” the government is concerned about include the use of puberty-blocking hormones in young adolescents and cross-sex hormones in older teens.

In the U.S., efforts to ban such procedures for minors stalled this year in the South Dakota legislature after businesses and Gov. Kristi Noem expressed concern about the bill. In Alabama, a bill was advancing toward passage until the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended the state’s legislative session.

Under Britain’s system of socialized medicine, known as the National Health Service (NHS), a limited number of medical clinics provide gender reassignment services. The only clinic serving minors is the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, with offices in London and Leeds.

After a three-year trial, the GIDS decided in 2014 to significantly expand its services to minors—including giving puberty blockers to children as young as nine. Since then, GIDS has seen a considerable increase in the number of children referred to them. But the clinic is also facing heightened criticism.

An Oxford professor, Dr. Michael Biggs, says that the clinic has downplayed the negative health effects of puberty blockers. Britain’s Sky News reported late in 2019 that as many as 35 psychologists have resigned from the GIDS over the last three years, with at least a half dozen speaking out against its practices—but anonymously, for fear of retaliation.

However, one retired psychotherapist, Marcus Evans, did speak out publicly after resigning from Tavistock’s Board of Governors. Evans warned:

When doctors always give patients what they want (or think they want), the fallout can be disastrous, as we have seen with the opioid crisis. And there is every possibility that the inappropriate medical treatment of children with gender dysphoria may follow a similar path.

… Tavistock officials … [seem to] have bought into the idea that transition is a goal unto itself, separate from the wellbeing of individual children, who now are being used as pawns in an ideological campaign.

This is the opposite of responsible and caring therapeutic work, which is based on the need to re-establish respectful but loving bonds between mind and body.

Victoria Gillick, a critic of the GIDS, predicted in 2014:

There will, in the future, be an awful lot of doctors who will be sued by older men and women for having done something to them before they were of an age to understand what the significance of it was.

That prediction came true this year with the filing of a lawsuit against the clinic. Originally filed by psychiatric nurse Susan Evans (wife of Marcus Evans) and the unidentified mother of a 15-year-old autistic girl awaiting treatment at the clinic, the suit has been joined by a 23-year-old woman, Keira Bell. She received hormone treatment at the clinic as a teenager but has now “de-transitioned” to reclaim her biological identity as a female. Bell declared:

I have become a claimant in this case because I do not believe that children and young people can consent to the use of powerful and experimental hormone drugs like I did.

I believe that the current affirmative system put in place by the Tavistock is inadequate as it does not allow for exploration of these gender dysphoric feelings, nor does it seek to find the underlying causes of this condition. 

Hormone-changing drugs and surgery does not work for everyone and it certainly should not be offered to someone under the age of 18 when they are emotionally and mentally vulnerable.

The treatment urgently needs to change so that it does not put young people, like me, on a torturous and unnecessary path that is permanent and life-changing.

The U.K. government appears to agree. When state legislators in the U.S. are able to convene again, they would be wise to follow the British example and prohibit “torturous and unnecessary” gender transition medical procedures for minors.

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North Korea’s Horrifying Human Rights Record

by Lela Gilbert

April 27, 2020

In recognition of North Korea Freedom Week, Family Research Council is raising awareness about the plight of Christians in the world’s most secretive country. This three-part blog series highlights the dire human rights and religious freedom situation in North Korea.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un rules over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with an iron fist. His proudest accomplishment is ownership of a deadly nuclear arsenal. A close second may very well be his horrifying human rights record. The U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices features a nearly unbelievable catalog of the Kim regime’s abuses.

Freedom of religion does not exist in North Korea. And the regime is particularly hostile to Christianity. Year after year, Open Doors identifies the secretive “republic” as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians on its annual World Watch List. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) 2019 report:

…Anyone caught practicing religion or even suspected of harboring religious views in private is subject to severe punishment. The government has been known to arrest, torture, imprison, and even execute religious believers and their family members, whether or not they are similarly religious. There are an estimated 80,000–120,000 political prisoners currently languishing in North Korea’s notoriously harsh labor camps, as many as 50,000 of whom may be Christians….

Meanwhile, in a shameful demonstration of 21st century idolatry, North Korea’s regime demands that all spiritual devotion be directed to Kim Jong Un and no one else.

Susanne Scholte, longtime Chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, explains that the required worship of the North Korean leader is a well-organized counterfeit of Christianity, called Juche. And although the North Korean regime denies that it is a religion, it contains religious tenets, holy places, holy days—and unholy practices. 

First, if it is known that you’re a Christian,” she continues, “you will most certainly be tortured and likely executed, or sent to prison camp to suffer a slower death. We know from testimonies that if you even confess that you’ve came in contact with a Christian, you’ll likely be imprisoned.”

According to Ms. Scholte’s research, all this is because Kim Il Song, Kim Jong Il, and now Kim Jong Un have set themselves up as gods. Faith in Jesus Christ is perceived as a direct attack on the Kim family.

Right now, the rest of the world is asking a few key questions about North Korea. First, how is Kim Jong Un’s health? Rumors of critical illness and even death are circulating, and not for the first time.

Second, what has been COVID-19’s impact on North Korea? The government has denied its existence in the country. But on April 17, Radio Free Asia reported, “Ruling Party Lecturers Admit COVID-19 is Spreading in North Korea, Contradicting Official Claims.” And on April 22, a New York Times op-ed stated, “There are no cases here, Kim Jong-un’s government claims, while acting as if its survival were at stake.”

Like the coronavirus, DPRK’s nuclear arms are a grave danger to the world. But the political and religious persecution happening inside North Korea are also matters of life and death. Agonizing torture and mass murder are taking place there as we speak. For Christians locked up in the gulag, the threat of annihilation is not a rumor. It is a terrifying reality they face every day.

North Korea’s Christians are members of our spiritual family. And it is high time for us to be interceding for them—for their health, their survival, and their deliverance from despotic abuse.  This week—April 26 through May 2—has been designated as a period of focused prayer for North Korea. And April 28 will be devoted to prayer and fasting.

Will you join us in prayer for North Korea’s Christians?

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Homeschooled Students Make Good, Knowledgeable Citizens, Despite What Elites Say

by Laura Grossberndt

April 24, 2020

Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet recently stirred up controversy when she suggested that homeschooling ought to be illegal. She is concerned that homeschooling poses significant risks to children, including depriving them of a “meaningful education,” and may even make them bad citizens.

Bartholet chose a curious time to try to convince the American public that homeschooling ought to be banned. For one thing, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, all schooling is currently taking place at home. And for another, there is the news that only 15 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficiency level in U.S. history on the recently released National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2018 Report Card.

What do U.S. history scores have to do with the validity of homeschooling as an educational model? A great deal. Bartholet fears that homeschooled children will not “grow up exposed to…democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.” I believe this fear is misplaced. An education in history is crucial to forming high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respecting other viewpoints. After all, how is one supposed to value our democratic republic and the ideals it embraces if they don’t know what a democratic republic is or what sets it apart from other forms of government? How is one to recognize the tell-tale signs of discrimination, and how is one to learn to sympathize with the realities and struggles of those different than them, without hearing the stories of people from the past?

Homeschooled students have higher-than-average scores in U.S. history (or “civics” or “social studies” as it is often called in curricula), and adults who were homeschooled vote and participate in community service and public meetings more frequently than their peers. If education in history is crucial to instilling high regard for democratic values, nondiscrimination, and respect for other viewpoints, then most homeschooled students would appear to be in reasonably good shape, despite Bartholet’s concerns, and public schools likely have room for improvement.

I’m not just speaking theoretically, but from personal experience. I was homeschooled from first through tenth grade. This educational decision, while financially costly to my family (my mother, who holds a master’s degree, stayed home instead of earning our family a second paycheck), afforded my family with expansive learning opportunities. Because we weren’t bound by a school calendar, our family was free to take field trips wherever and whenever we wanted. Nearly every family vacation had an educational aspect to it. We visited Boston and Philadelphia. We trekked Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. We visited presidential homesteads and slave huts. We visited museums and watched documentaries. All these experiences brought history to life for me in a way no textbook ever could. Because we lived in the eastern U.S., none of these trips even required stepping onto an airplane.

You don’t have to be a homeschool family to take these kinds of trips. But time constraints certainly make them harder. And who knows if I would have enjoyed these trips half as much if my mother and teacher (for they were one and the same) hadn’t been experiencing them with me and transforming her passion for history into a lifelong passion of my own.

My rich education in U.S. history, provided by my homeschool experience, has taught me to cherish our form of government. It has taught me to grieve injustices in America’s past (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) and motivates me to fight against current injustices (abortion, sexual exploitation, etc.). It has taught me to respect the human dignity and opinions of others, including those who think very differently than I do. It even taught me to entertain the possibility that I may be wrong or underinformed on a topic of debate.

Homeschooling may not be the right educational choice for every student or family situation, but it provided me with an exceedingly “meaningful education,” despite Elizabeth Bartholet’s concerns. It has been said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” My mother did her best to raise a child who wouldn’t be condemned to such a fate. Let us all—parents, teachers, policymakers, and community members—recommit ourselves to teaching history in every educational model—home, public, and private—so that future generations can learn to treasure the good things in our history and how to avoid the errors.

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Why We Remember the Armenian Genocide

by Arielle Del Turco , Lela Gilbert

April 24, 2020

On April 24, 1915, heavily armed troops rounded up hundreds of Armenian professors, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and other elites in Constantinople (now Istanbul). These highly respected members of the community were jailed, tortured, and massacred. That April date marks the beginning of the annihilation campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire known today as the Armenian Genocide.

The massacres were carried out in the most brutal ways.

After those first arrests and the subsequent murder of many husbands and fathers, family members who survived—mostly women, children, the ill, and the elderly—were forced to embark upon what has been described as a “concentration camp on foot.” They were told they would be “relocated.” In reality, they embarked on a death march—herded like animals, with whips and cudgels and at gunpoint.

These captives were provided with little or no food and water. Infants and the elderly were the first to die. Surviving mothers were gripped with insanity, helplessly watching their babies suffer and succumb. Eyewitness accounts and heart-wrenching photographs remain today. Corpses littered the roads; nude women were crucified; dozens of bodies floated in rivers. Soldiers proudly posed for pictures with decapitated heads or piles of skulls.

These photographs provide evidence of the gruesome reality forced upon Armenians due to their ethno-religious identity. An estimated 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians fell victim to the Ottoman government’s determination to eliminate Christian Armenians and to secure Muslim Turkish dominance in the region.

Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey from 1913-16, recounted in his memoir:

The Central Government now announced its intention of gathering the two million or more Armenians living in the several sections of the empire and transporting them to this desolate and inhospitable region… As a matter of fact, the Turks never had the slightest idea of reestablishing the Armenians in this new country. They knew that the great majority would never reach their destination and that those who did would either die of thirst and starvation, or be murdered by the wild Mohammedan desert tribes…. When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race…

Shrouded under the cover of World War I, the genocide changed the region forever. There were once over 2 million Armenians in Turkey. By 1922, only 387,800 remained.

April 24, 2020, marks the first annual Remembrance Day since the United States’ House of Representatives and Senate both passed resolutions officially recognizing that the Armenian massacres were, in fact, a genocide.

Nonetheless, remembering the Armenian Genocide remains a sensitive issue because, unlike other 20th century atrocities, that annihilation continues to be disputed by an influential contemporary government, Turkey. And today’s Turkish strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an open Islamist, adamantly claims that the Armenian deaths were simply the result of World War I casualties. When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to officially affirm the massacres as genocide, Erdogan declared the declaration “worthless” and the “biggest insult” to the Turkish people.

Some historians insist that Armenia’s murdered Christians were “enemies of the Turkish State.” However, most agree that they were not killed because they were Armenian. They were killed for explicitly religious reasons: because they were Christians.

Sadly, even now, massacres due to religious identity are taking place in our world. In Nigeria, a slow-motion genocide is unfolding as Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani herdsmen ramp up attacks against Christians. In Myanmar, the Burmese military’s brutal efforts to drive out the Rohingya Muslim minority in recent years has killed at least 10,000 people and left almost 800,000 displaced. And in 2016, the United States officially declared the 2014 Islamic State attacks on Iraq’s Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities a genocide.

Why remember genocides of the past? Because they remind us how fragile civilizations have always been. Earlier tragedies should spur us to make consistently thoughtful arguments defending the inherent dignity of all human beings. And when attacks around the world fall along religious lines, the fundamental human right of religious freedom must be articulated and protected.

Today, many people are probably unfamiliar with the tragic massacres of Armenians that took place in Turkey over a century ago. However, students of World War II may be aware of it due to an infamous quote attributed to Adolf Hitler: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” His question implies that the failure to remember atrocities of the past gives ill-intentioned leaders confidence that history will not remember their own misdeeds. Perhaps this is the most compelling reason societies should never forget the atrocities that occurred before their time—including the Armenian Genocide.

Arielle Del Turco is the Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council.

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Amid COVID-19, Keep Women Safe by Keeping Risk Mitigation for Abortion Pills

by Patrina Mosley

April 22, 2020

Pro-life groups, including FRC, recently sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging him to reject the abortion industry’s request to lift restrictions off the abortion pill.

It is no secret that the industry has long been calling for the elimination of restrictions that keep the abortion pill from being an over-the-counter drug. They are now exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to continue to pressure HHS and FDA to remove safety protocols so that women can obtain abortions at home.

The abortion pill regimen, distributed under the brand name Mifeprex, carries life-threatening and health-endangering risks such as hemorrhage, infection, incomplete pregnancy, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and death. It is currently subject to the FDA’s drug safety program, known as the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS). The Mifeprex REMS provide a way to monitor and mitigate the risks of the Mifeprex regimen while also preventing the sale and provision of abortion pills outside a clinical setting. The REMs are the lone barrier between abortion pills being sold in pharmacies or legally purchased online and received by mail.

Eliminating the REMs would mean abortion pills would be right next to Tylenol in drugstores, which would further trivialize the taking of innocent life. Making the abortion pill an easily attainable prescription or an over-the-counter (OTC) drug removes a physician from the initial process of abortion, putting women at incredible health risk. Such reckless access would also enable sexual abusers and exacerbate domestic violence that is already heightened amid the coronavirus quarantine. Prior to the pandemic, there were multiple cases of partners slipping abortion pills to women unknowingly. In a time of quarantine, we should not make it easier for unwilling fathers to harm mothers and children.

The Mifeprex REMS mandates that the drug can only be dispensed in certain health care settings and under the supervision of a certified prescriber who has the ability to properly assess a woman’s eligibility for undergoing a chemical abortion by confirming accurate pregnancy gestation and diagnosing any ectopic pregnancies in order to avoid severe complications that could lead to death.

A chemical abortion carries nearly four times the rate of severe complications as compared to surgical abortions, with the two most prevalent adverse effects being hemorrhage and incomplete abortion.

Incomplete abortion occurs up to 10 percent of the time and occurs more frequently as gestational age increases. If an abortion is incomplete, a woman is prescribed multiple doses of misoprostol, and if that fails, a physician must perform a surgical abortion to remove the fetal remains. Even the Mifeprex medication guide admits that “2-7% of women will need a surgical procedure to end the pregnancy or stop heavy bleeding.”

Even while the REMS are in place, there have been over 4,000 adverse events related to chemical abortions that have been reported to the FDA, which include 24 maternal deaths, 97 undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies, over a thousand hospitalizations, and hundreds of blood transfusions and infections. It’s important to note that these are just the adverse events reported to the FDA, so we do not have a full picture of the data.

By eliminating the REMS, the abortion industry is eliminating any direct physical oversight by a medical doctor or health care provider of the chemical abortion process. Similarly, eliminating the REMS would eliminate the physician’s ability to evaluate whether the woman is under pressure or is being coerced to abort.

Recently, 38 Senators and 121 Representatives sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., calling for “robust enforcement” of the existing REMS.

Any attempt to remove the REMS, particularly at a time like this, would not be alleviating the pressures on our health care system that is combatting COVID-19, and it certainly carries the potential to make things worse for women.

But all of this does not matter to the abortion industry. They abide by the leftist ideology of “never let a crisis go to waste,” so they continue abortion politics even at the expense of women’s safety. They regard drug-based abortions as the best way to get around the increasing pro-life protections around the United States. Do-it-yourself chemical abortions are primarily about making sure that abortion can survive in any future pro-life legal and policy environment, and the abortion industry is willing to even take advantage of a crisis in order to preserve the future of their business.

The abortion industry is undoubtedly anticipating an inevitable baby boom after a time of quarantining. By calling for the removal of the Mifeprex REMS with all the drug regimen’s documented dangers, it is evident that this is about the abortion industry’s political, ideological, and financial goals—not care for women.

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Online Outreach: How to Continue Fulfilling the Great Commission During the Coronavirus

by Worth Loving

April 21, 2020

Over the last month, most churches in America have been forced to cancel all of their normal services and activities due to the coronavirus outbreak and government-imposed lockdowns. Because pastors and churches rely very much on face-to-face interaction to effectively minister to their congregants, the current crisis has presented a unique challenge unlike any we have ever faced in modern times.

With most churches closed to the public, many are opting to livestream their services online through their website or through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Pastors are giving messages from their living rooms or simply broadcasting their sermon from an empty church auditorium. And while it’s certainly not the same as meeting in person, online outreach has proven to be incredibly effective.

Allow me to give a personal example. I’m privileged to attend GraceWay Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., just east of Capitol Hill. After being forced out of our rented facility due to the coronavirus, online outreach has become our only means of airing our services. Our pastor, Brad Wells, says, “The apostle Paul brought the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an ancient marketplace. So whether it’s an ancient marketplace, a modern marketplace, or a virtual marketplace, Christ’s disciples need to have the gospel prominent.”

Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed our online outreach explode. We’ve been developing our online ministry over the past few years, particularly with livestreaming services through our website and Facebook. Before the coronavirus pandemic, our livestream averaged reaching anywhere between 500-1,500 people on a given Sunday. Now, over a month into completely livestreamed services after the virus forced us to cancel in-person services, our reach has soared to 6,000 as of Sunday, April 6th! Similarly, our peak viewers on March 8th, the Sunday before the lockdown began, was only five on our Facebook page. On Sunday, March 29th, that number surged to 64! At the start of the quarantine, the livestream of our morning service was shared just eight times and received only 17 comments. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, our Facebook livestream was shared 42 times. The following Sunday, April 19th, saw 251 comments! We have received comments from people watching all over the country and around the world. We have even had people call in to request prayer.  

Another example of the effectiveness of online outreach comes from my home church, Parkers Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Like GraceWay, Parkers Chapel has been gradually developing their online ministry as well. Before the coronavirus pandemic forced them to cancel regular services, the number of people who engaged with the Parkers Chapel Facebook page averaged around 100 or fewer. As of Sunday, April 12th, that number had surged to 2,000! Similarly, Parkers Chapel’s Facebook livestream reached around 100 or fewer people before the pandemic. But on Sunday, April 12th, the reach peaked at over 12,000! Pastor Gene Williams praised the effectiveness of Parkers Chapel’s online ministry: “It has been amazing to watch the opportunity that the Lord has given to us through this adversity to reach so many. It is not the size of the audience alone, but their appetite to know the truth that has been changed. Our online platform has enabled us to stay connected not only with our church but also with our community and even beyond that.”

I share these examples to encourage other pastors and churches who may be discouraged about not being able to meet in person. Yes, our present circumstances are far from ideal, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to continue fulfilling the Great Commission. Just because we are not able to meet like normal does not mean we still cannot spread the gospel. God has provided us an incredible tool in the form of livestreaming that previous generations never had. In fact, we are likely able to reach even more people now than ever before because so many more are watching services online. Facebook usage has soared by over 50 percent since mandatory quarantines have forced so many to stay at home.

We each have our own social media networks that no one else has access to. It’s likely that many of the people in your network look up to you in some way and value what you post. What an incredible opportunity to reach them by sharing your church services on your personal page. For example, after sharing GraceWay’s services over the past few weeks on my personal social media, I’ve had numerous friends and family members, some who are unsaved, reach out to me to say what a blessing the service was to them. These are people who likely never would have been reached had I not shared the service on my own page.

Consider this also. One of the most disastrous implications of the virus is the tremendous toll that mandatory business lockdowns are taking on the economy. Some people are becoming desperate and hopeless because they have lost their jobs. In fact, the most recent numbers from the Labor Department show that more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in just the last month, likely bringing the unemployment rate close to 20 percent. Domestic violence is increasing as well. Many families that are not typically together during the workweek find themselves at home all day, which is leading to more arguments and abuse. We are also seeing an increase in drug and alcohol abuse as people become more depressed and isolated. Pornography use is up as well as many in isolation seek an outlet for their anxiety and depression. Perhaps most concerning of all is the increase in suicides.

With many people in desperate situations spending so much time online, now is the time appointed by God to develop your church’s online ministry. We are living in unprecedented times. But with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to reach thousands of unbelievers through social media with the lifesaving power of the gospel. There will be hopeless people mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed who need to hear your message!

So pastors, be encouraged. Yes, these are far from ideal circumstances, but God has provided us an incredible opportunity to spread the gospel. In fact, this is an opportunity that previous generations have not had. So take advantage of whatever God has given you this Sunday. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if you just livestream singing a few songs on the guitar with your family or giving a brief devotion from your living room, I promise you God will bless it. There are people out there who are more desperate now than they have ever been before, people longing for the hope that is found only in Jesus. God has promised that His Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), so boldly proclaim the truth that God has given you with whatever means He has given you.

We have not been given the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), so may we always be able to give a reason of the hope that is within us! (I Peter 3:15)

If you need help developing your church’s online outreach, here are some practical guides and websites to help you get started:

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Religious Freedom Concerns in India Rise Amid Coronavirus Crisis

by Arielle Del Turco

April 21, 2020

During what was expected to be a normal worship service on the first Sunday in March, one pastor in India was dragged out of his church mid-service by a mob of Hindu nationalists, tied to a tree, and beaten for hours. The police arrived afterward, only to take Pastor Manju Keralli to the station and charge him with violating India’s blasphemy laws. Pastor Keralli recounted to International Christian Concern, “Even the police threatened me with foul language, saying that I don’t have right to live in this country as I am practicing foreign faith.

Pastor Keralli, like many other Christians and Muslims in India, is a victim of India’s growing Hindu nationalist movement, which asserts that India is a nation for Hindus only. This ideology inspires mob violence against religious minorities who already occupy a vulnerable place in society.

The coronavirus pandemic further exposes the cultural discrimination Christians and others endure in India. Reports have surfaced that government officials choose to send Christian nurses to tend to the most contagious patients. Reportedly, this selection is due to Christians often being viewed as “expendable.” While many Christians happily serve coronavirus patients, the fact that officials reportedly choose to send Christians to dangerous places before others shows that religious discrimination is alive and well.

India is still a developing country, and its societal problems are complex. However, as India is the second-largest population in the world whose global influence is growing, it is important to understand what is happening there and how it affects the most vulnerable.

Here are three facts you should know about the status of religious freedom in India.

1) Rising Hindu nationalism breeds intolerance against religious minorities.

Hindu nationalism has been on the rise in India. This movement claims that “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” This exclusionary narrative marginalizes religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims.

The concept of “Hindutva,” meaning “Hindu-ness,” has been around for about a century, and it was intended to forge a stronger Indian identity in the face of British colonialism. Yet, this idea lives on in contemporary Hindu nationalism, a movement which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has proven is politically palatable in India today.

Yet, Hindu nationalism is not just an ideological danger; it is a growing physical threat to religious minorities. Violent mobs inspired by these ideas often target Christians, and the attacks include brutal beatings and sexual assault against women. Since Modi and the BJP came to power in 2014, Open Doors reports that “incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequence.”

Muslims are also at risk of increased mob violence in India. Earlier this year, Muslim protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act widely deemed to be discriminatory against Muslims devolved into violence. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said, “reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.” The government’s failure to protect Muslims and Christians who are assaulted by Hindu mobs is a serious problem, and one that the government has an obligation to address.

2) The legal system does not always support religious minorities.

Religious minorities who are attacked by their fellow citizens via mob violence often do not find sympathy with authorities or in the court system. After mobs violently attack Christians in India, police or local officials sometimes compound the problem by allowing charges to be placed against the victims of attacks rather than the perpetrators.

On January 19, 2020, a group of Hindu nationalists interrupted the worship service of a small Christian congregation in Karnataka state. The Christians were harassed, threatened, and assaulted, leaving believers in the village afraid to leave their homes. Afterward, the congregants learned that their attackers had filed criminal charges against them. Such stories are all too common.

3) India still has anti-conversion laws.

In the world’s largest democracy, anti-conversion laws are still on the books in several states. These laws prohibit conversion from one religion to another. India’s laws mainly intend to discourage conversions away from the majority faith, Hinduism. Christians are intimidated from sharing their faith out of fear they will be accused of “false conversions.”

Draconian anti-conversion laws should not be on the books in any country that wants to be a global leader in the contemporary world. These laws are an affront to human rights because they restrict a fundamental element of religious freedom—the ability to change one’s faith.

India’s strict coronavirus lockdown has limited the number of physical attacks against Christians as the country follows social distancing measures, International Christian Concern reports. Yet, the overall trend indicates violence against Christians is on the rise in 2020.

As long as religious tensions continue to heighten, persecution is not going away in India. Even as religious freedom is declining, the Indian government is looking to secure a friendship with the United States. This presents U.S. leaders and advocates with an opportunity to encourage India to share one of our core values, religious freedom. For the sake of vulnerable religious minorities in India, let us pray that their government is receptive to that message.

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World Abortion Leaders Exploit Pandemic to Advance Self-Managed Abortions

by Patrina Mosley

April 20, 2020

As part of their COVID-19 response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared abortion as an essential service. The U.K. has now issued temporary approval for chemical abortions to be completely done at home. The U.S. abortion lobby continues to call for the FDA to lift restrictions (REMs) off the abortion pill (U.S. brand “Mifeprex”), making way for complete “self-managed” abortions. Unfortunately, this is what the abortion industry all over the world has pursued even before the current pandemic—for abortions to be unrestricted, unregulated, and do-it-yourself.

The abortion pill is a two-drug regimen that is basically a do-it-yourself method anyways, but normally, the woman would have some type of interaction with a physician by taking the first pill (mifepristone) under their supervision at the clinic (although this is no longer a requirement in the U.S. since 2016) and then going home to take the second drug (misoprostol) 24-48 hours later.

Gone are the days of abortion activists calling for abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare” to protect against desperate women performing their own “back-alley” abortions. Now, abortion pills are the new back-alley method, credentialed by the world’s most prestigious medical institutions.

By placing the burden of inducing abortions completely on women—despite the fact that the health complications that often result from an induced chemical abortion are eerily similar to those of “back-alley” abortions—it is evident that the abortion industry has no regard for human dignity whatsoever—for the child or the mother.

The Future of Abortion

The abortion industry has favored dispensing abortion pills due to how easy they are to distribute and their ability to lower overhead costs of in-clinic surgical abortions. Chemical abortion is a way to shift costs and patient oversight from the surgical provider to the patient herself, particularly for use in “low-resource settings.” Thus, it is not surprising that world abortion leaders like International Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes, and Doctors Without Borders have already made extensive use of  “medication” or “medical” abortion, a shift that has been supported by WHO.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion industry views the drug-based method as the future of abortion, so as they are expanding telemed activities they are actively experimenting on women in Burkina FasoColumbia, Mexico, and Vietnam to perform chemical abortions in the second trimester. Currently, this method has only been approved universally for first trimester pregnancies only.

The once abortion-neutral humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders (DWB) has now launched online instructional videos, credentialed by WHO, to train their “humanitarian” workers on how to use the abortion pill. Shockingly (or perhaps not), DWB acknowledges that they expect vulnerable women to use the site in order to learn how to induce their own abortion, with instructions for self-managing an abortion up to 22 weeks!  

The Unique Trauma of Chemical Abortion

A chemical abortion is a multi-day, traumatic process of cramping, contractions, and bleeding which culminates in the uterus expelling the embryo or fetus, and it comes with four times the risk of complications compared to surgical abortions. The risks of life-threatening and health-endangering complications only increase as the gestational age of the pregnancy progresses.

What makes chemical abortions uniquely traumatic is that a mother sees and must dispose of the remains of her aborted child. The psychological trauma of abortion on women cannot be underestimated, especially the trauma from of undergoing a chemical abortion. Mifeprex has been approved for inducing abortion on babies up to 10 weeks gestation, at which point the baby already has a head, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. For a woman to take in the visual devastation of a child that is half-way developed at 22 weeks is severely distressing, especially for women who thought they were getting care from “humanitarians.” Instead, they walk away with more trauma. In reality, they can’t walk away at all—they are left alone to “self-manage” the abortion.

For the WHO and DWB to endorse drug-induced abortions on women up to 22 weeks is bordering considerably on medical malpractice. The two most prevalent complications observed for chemical abortions comparatively, were hemorrhage and incomplete abortion. An incomplete abortion means there needed to be surgical intervention to extract any remaining parts of the unborn child from the woman’s uterus. Prolonged hemorrhage requiring blood transfusion can occur. It’s already been reported to the FDA that over 500 blood transfusions, over a thousand hospitalizations, and 24 deaths have taken place as a result of Mifeprex. And that is just what’s been reported.

In 2015, a peer-reviewed study to test the safety and feasibility of self-administered over-the-counter abortion pills found that when women take the pills past 63 days gestation, 62 percent of participants had incomplete abortions resulting in surgical intervention. Nearly 13 percent required surgical evacuation with blood transfusion. Yet in 2016 under the Obama administration, the FDA extended Mifeprex eligibility from 63 days to 70 days gestation and altered the drug dosage to make chemical abortions even more dangerous.

An “Essential” Medical Service?

Telemed abortion trials are currently taking place in 13 states to test the viability of women self-managing abortions through mail-order abortion pills. The FDA must be held accountable and not approve any drug trials and studies that intentionally destroy human embryos or fetuses.

Planned Parenthood has also announced plans to expand their telemed services to all 50 states, which would include pick-ups for contraceptives and abortion pills. This comes on the heels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit decision in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott granting Planned Parenthood approval to proceed with chemical abortions even though abortion has been deemed non-essential in the state of Texas.

Even apart from the question of caring for the life of the unborn child, abortions require a high level of physical interaction between the mother and a physician who can examine, diagnosis, evaluate, and treat her.

Abortion activists routinely compare inducing a chemical abortion to taking Tylenol, but a chemical abortion involves heavy bleeding and cramping and carries life-threatening risks, so pretending for ideological reasons that chemical abortions can be done remotely (commonly using Skype) or even as a do-it-yourself, over-the-counter regimen is extremely dangerous and negligent. Furthermore, telemedicine is not suited to the provision of immediate emergency care.

We are now likely to see scenarios where women who have taken the abortion pill regimen will need blood transfusions, treatment for infections, and possible follow-up surgery to complete the abortion, which means they will need to go to the emergency room and wait for treatment next to possible victims of COVID-19. This does not conserve medical resources and puts the safety and health of women at risk. In addition, the woman, who may or may not have health insurance coverage, is expected to bear the additional cost of these complications of “self-managed” abortions.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and their allies put out a statement complaining that abortions are being left out of essential health care services that need to remain open at this time. Some more liberal-leaning states have deemed abortion as “essential,” but fortunately the U.S. currently has strong pro-life leadership from the top down, so at a national level it is unlikely that we will see abortion declared as an “essential service” at a time like this. But that will not stop the abortion industry from taking advantage of the pandemic to ramp up progression to their desired future of total “self-managed” abortions.

Encouraging women to self-manage an abortion and calling it a “paid” service is a dangerous practical joke the abortion industry is playing on women.

Thankfully, there are still some reputable medical leaders, such as the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), who refuse to put women in this type of danger by categorizing abortion as an “essential service.”

Though the abortion industry markets itself as a champion for women’s reproductive rights, there is no way that professional medical institutions should willingly put women in the “back-alley” of their own bathrooms to induce their own abortions with drugs at the risk of death and call it “health care.”

Population Control Is the True Objective of World Abortion Leaders

World abortion leaders are not concerned about women, they are concerned with population control. That concern is undoubtedly heightened amid a pandemic that could produce a baby boom. The legacy of abortion is rooted in eugenics, and when defending “abortion access,” proponents will consistently dog-whistle about how any pro-life protection or common-sense abortion restriction will hurt “low-income people,” “people of color,” and those in “rural” or “underserved” communities. It is not a coincidence that abortion is promoted in predominantly African-American and Hispanic communities and promoted and performed in undeveloped countries. Elites like Bill Gates who heavily finance Planned Parenthood and the Population Council support abortion as a mechanism of alleviating poverty by eliminating the children of those who are impoverished. Interestingly, the Population Council was the lead sponsor in getting the abortion pill (RU-486) approved in the United States.

As of late, President Trump has decided to halt funds to the World Health Organization as an investigation takes place to assess their mishandling of the coronavirus. However, further concern is warranted when it comes to U.S. tax dollars being entangled with WHO’s pro-abortion agenda amid the reinstatement of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Act, formerly known as the Mexico City Policy, which bans taxpayer funds for promoting or performing overseas abortion. The United States is the largest contributor to the WHO’s budget, providing “between $400 million and $500 million per year to the WHO.”

Over two-thirds of Americans continue to oppose taxpayer-funded abortions, and Trump’s election was super-charged by pro-life voters who continue to be a base of support. Assessing whether U.S. dollars should go to conflicting interests should be heavily weighed moving forward.

As world abortion leaders aggressively pursue “abortion access” at any cost, the U.S. is currently in a strong position to ensure that it is not a part of the population control agenda and to continue putting women and human dignity first.

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In This Season of Loss, God Wants to Hear Our Hearts

by Adelaide Holmes

April 17, 2020

With lockdowns and stay at home orders in place, the coronavirus is affecting everyone’s life, and Christians are not exempt from the sorrows that the world is experiencing. Ever since the fall into sin in Genesis 3, death, loss, and grief have been a common human experience.

Even so, many Christians are hesitant to admit their disappointment or sorrow. This is because we often believe that grief shows a lack of faith in God. But the lamentations throughout Scripture disprove this misguided perception. In fact, the Bible contains many examples of people lamenting. Even Jesus wept openly over the death of his friend Lazarus (Luke 10:35). Experiencing grief reminds us that this world is not as it’s supposed to be. But Scripture also teaches that everything—including our grief—can work together for good (Rom. 8:28). In this coronavirus season, it’s time that Christians learned how to lament and embrace their sorrow as a way to hope in God.

Death, sickness, and suffering afflict everyone: Christians and unbelievers alike. But as Christians encounter afflictions, their grief should be different than an unbeliever’s. In Mark Vroegop’s article “Dare to Hope in God” he says, “To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.” Lamenting is different than natural grief because it turns grief into a prayer. Through the three stages of a lamentation—crying out to God, asking for help, and responding in trust and praise—Christians learn to be real with God about our pain, rely on Him, and acknowledge our trust in Him.

In the first step of lament, God invites us to cry out to Him. This is difficult for some Christians who believe we must approach the throne of God in a put-together fashion. This most certainly excludes deep grief. But we forget that God knows our every thought, and our darkness is not dark to Him (Ps. 139:2, 12). God is not put off by our grief or the possible doubts that accompany it. He wants to hear our heart. In this season, almost everyone is experiencing loss: loss of a loved one, a job, not being able to visit sick or elderly family members, loss of wedding plans, graduation ceremonies, and sport seasons for athletes and spectators. Everyone is affected in some way by this virus, and it is painful. No grievance is too little or big for God. We can tell God we’re frustrated, deeply hurting, or angered by changes or loss.

A biblical example of someone honestly voicing their aching heart to God is found in Psalm 10. In this passage, the psalmist boldly asks God, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). Clearly, the writer feels abandoned by God and candidly tells Him: I don’t feel You here. This cry—and the affirmation of God’s goodness expressed at the psalm’s conclusion—demonstrate an important truth: God can handle our strongest emotions, even when we struggle to believe His promises.

Second, a lament’s raw cry to God is followed by a request for help. Sometimes we are uncomfortable with being needy towards God. But this is the foundation of the gospel: that we need Jesus to restore us to God. Paul reminds us that if God did “not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God is a good Father who encourages us to ask (Matt. 7:7-11). Whether we are asking God to provide the means to pay for groceries during this economic recession, asking for healing for a dying family member, or asking for a way to see college friends or a significant other, we do not need to be ashamed of the request, regardless of its perceived importance. He promises that He will supply every need of ours (Phil. 4:19).

This truth is evidenced again by the psalmist when he pleads with God: “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted” (Ps. 10:12). Evidently, there were times in the writer’s life when he needed help. He knew that God was able to rescue him from any situation, so he persisted and didn’t hold back in asking his Creator for help.

The final stage of a lamentation focuses on expressing praise to God and declaring our trust in Him. Despite our feelings, God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When we praise God for how He specifically provided in our personal lives or praise Him for the promises that He gives us in His Word, we shift our minds from our changing and uncertain situations to the unchanging, faithful Savior. While God wants to hear our worries about the coronavirus or hear about what is breaking our heart in this season of loss, His deeper desire is to see us learn to rely on Him, regardless of our situation.

Despite the psalmist’s own feelings that God had abandoned him, he ends by saying, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (Ps. 10:17-18).

As the coronavirus continues to rage around the globe, Christians must remember that we can grieve the losses in our lives. Whatever the loss, God wants to hear our hearts. In this stretching and trying time, it is important to be honest with God about our pain and learn to rely on Him for help. As we do this, we can say with David, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6).

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Ways to Read the Bible (Part 3): Inductive Bible Study

by Patrina Mosley

April 16, 2020

Read Part 1 and Part 2

Now, finally, we will take a brief look at how to study the Bible using the inductive method. Bible study, particularly with the inductive method we will be learning here, is where you are spending time looking into the Bible to see what it says about itself, God, and humanity. You are letting the word of God speak for itself. We accomplish this through tools and learning skills to help us “observe the text, dig out the meaning, and then apply it to our lives.” The three basic steps of the inductive Bible study method are: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.

There are a range of questions to ask the Scriptures throughout these steps, but this will be an overview to help get you started. If you’re looking to deepen your grasp of the three steps, I would highly encourage you to read Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible: Discover the Life-Changing Approach to God’s Word. She is a prolific author, speaker, and teacher of the inductive Bible study method and President of Precept Ministries that teaches people all over the world how to study and know the Bible for themselves.

Let’s get started!

Prayer: Pray “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalms 119:18).

Tip: If you are new to this method, it is recommended you start practicing this method with a short book of the Bible, like the Book of James, for instance.

Step 1: Observation (What does this passage say?)

This is the foundation. This is where we are not only reading the Bible with our eyes, but also with our minds. Here you are reading and re-reading (repetition is the key to observation and understanding) to observe the context, discovering what the biblical author intended to communicate to their original audience. Understanding the context is key before making an interpretation and application. Without establishing proper context, we can easily read into the text what we want it to say based on our assumptions and experiences. This can (and unfortunately throughout church history has) lead to unbiblical and heretical applications of the text. The inductive Bible study method has developed some categories and questions to help you look more closely at the text and establish an accurate context that will serve as the basis for your interpretation and application: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  • Who: Who is the author? Major ideas?
  • When: When was it written?
  • Where: Where was this done?
  • Why: Why was there a need for this to be written?
  • How: How was it done? How did it happen?

You are also observing:

  • Words that are repeated multiple times in a passage
  • Anything written as a list
  • Words that indicate a change in topic or time
  • Words that contrast one thing against another
  • Words that indicate cause and effect

Here you are learning the historical background, dates, key people, and whatever information the text plainly gives. This helps in setting up the context for accurate interpretation. This is where a good study Bible comes in handy because they often provide summaries at the beginning of each book that details a lot of this information.

More on step 1 can be found here.

Step 2: Interpretation (What does this passage mean?)

Here you are seeking to understand what the biblical author meant to communicate to his original audience by understanding the historical and cultural background of the text.

This may mean looking up words you do not understand in a good “Bible Dictionary” or using a “concordance” to cross-reference to other passages for better clarity and understanding. Again, this is where having a good study Bible that combines all these tools is helpful. The best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture means considering the passage in light of the surrounding verses and chapters, the book in which it is found, and the entire word of God.  If you’ve already taken the step of reading the Bible from start-to-finish, you will already have a fuller understanding of God’s over-arching story, which is the context needed to interpret the Scriptures. You will find yourself remembering themes, characters, references to things in the past, and more. You will simply have a more complete context before digging into the nitty-gritty of a specific passage. Therefore, when seeking to know what something means, ask yourself (as Kay Arthur has written): “Is my interpretation consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found? Is it consistent with other scriptures about the same subject? Am I considering the historical and cultural context of what is being said?”

To gain an “interpretation” of the text, you are using the understanding you have gained from “observation” and the examination of the context to interpret the plain meaning of scripture, not a hidden meaning. I found these questions used in this article to be helpful:

  • What did the author intend for his readers to understand?
  • How does this passage unfold a broader theme of this particular book of the Bible?
  • What doctrinal or moral problem was he addressing?
  • What action did he want readers or listeners to take?
  • What is still unclear? (Are the confusing terms or phrases used elsewhere in this book, or elsewhere in the Bible?). Before reaching for your dictionary, allow Scripture to define its own terms contextually through cross referencing.

Bible Translations: Remember that when you read the Bible you are reading a translation (the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (most of the Old Testament; although a few portions were written in Aramaic) and Greek (the New Testament). Here is a short list of some easy-to-read versions of the Bible: English Standard Version (ESV), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), New International Version (NIV), and New Living Translation (NLT). Any of these Bible translations strike a good balance between literal word-for-word translation and contemporary phraseology.

Study Bibles: All of the aforementioned translations are available in study Bible versions. Study Bibles typically include extra materials for greater understanding of the text by providing historical context, geographical information, character profiles, word dictionaries, commentary, etc. Some even provide book introductions for each of the 66 books, so the reader gets an overview of what they are about to read. I cannot overemphasize the advantages of having a good study Bible. There are libraries full of resources to help you study the Bible. You can pull out several  different kinds of books, commentaries, maps, and concordances to study God’s word, but for the average individual person who is not writing a theological doctoral thesis, a simple study Bible that combines several of these tools into one volume is a sufficient tool for better understanding God’s word.

You can find more on step 2 here.

Step 3: Application (How does this apply to me?)

The goal of Bible study is not merely knowledge, but to get to know God and apply his truths to our lives. Once we know what a particular passage means, we are now responsible for putting it into practice in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Kay Arthur has written, “When you know what God says, what He means, and how to put His truths into practice, you will be equipped for every circumstance of life.”

More on step 3 is available here.

Tip: Designate a study time once a week. Studying takes time. We don’t have to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves about studying the Bible by saying we are going to do it every day (even though we should make reading God’s word, even if it is just a chapter or a few verses, a daily goal). The goal is not how fast or how much ground we cover but that we habitually do it. The point is to get close to God by knowing, understanding, and applying his word.

Write it down: Certainly, all of this should warrant you to write it down! Either by notebook, computer, or even app—keep track of what you are learning!

During this time of isolation and quarantine, getting closer to the one who created us is a great use of our time. This life comes with so many distractions that can take our eyes off of who and what matters most. Let us see this time as a gift and use it to receive comfort and truth from God.

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