Author archives: Laura Lee Caum

FRC’s Efforts on Capitol Hill (Week of July 20)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Laura Lee Caum

July 28, 2020

FRC wrapped up another busy week fighting for faith, family, and freedom on Capitol Hill.

The House came together — and then fell apart

The House of Representatives returned from a two-week recess with a full schedule of legislative items. On Tuesday, the House passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes all of the major defense programs, with broad bipartisan support. Fortunately, unlike last year, this year’s bill did not include a new family planning program with pro-life concerns or language to reshape military standards to be gender-neutral. The Senate passed their version of the NDAA on Thursday, also with broad bipartisan support. The absence of progressive policy priorities allowed Democrats and Republicans to join together in support of this year’s NDAA.

While members resisted the temptation to insert partisan priorities in the NDAA, the same could not be said of the Democrats on the Appropriations committee. The House passed the first minibus appropriations package (H.R. 7608), which includes several major pro-life and pro-family concerns. Specifically, the State and Foreign Operations section of the bill included language to repeal President Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which bars funding for foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. The bill would also provide direct funding for the World Health Organization, which actively promotes abortion and a radical sex education agenda abroad. Finally, the bill would weaken a longstanding pro-life amendment that bans funding for any organization or program that promotes coercive abortions. Despite President Trump’s threat to veto any spending bills that weaken or undermine current pro-life policies, House leadership has pushed through a spending bill full of anti-life measures.

FRC priorities attacked in committee hearings

One-third of pregnancies in trans men are unintended.” That statement from the co-founder of Minority Veterans of America is just one example of the radical liberal agenda that was on full display in House committee hearings this week.

Several values issues came up in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. First, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) questioned what was included in the expansion of contraception access for veterans in H.R. 4281. The Director of Reproductive Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clarified that this would include abortifacients like the morning after pill. H.R. 3582, which would expand the scope of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT-identifying veterans, was also introduced. Promoting progressive social policies in the VA has become a new tactic in the House as they seek to sneak in social experiments on abortion, marijuana, and LGBT rights into these federal programs.

Some members used the House Foreign Assistance Budget hearing to attack the president’s appointees at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). John Barsa, the Acting Administrator of USAID, who has actively fought against the global expansion of abortion throughout the coronavirus pandemic, was questioned by members for the various pro-life and pro-family appointees at USAID. The questions the members asked were not about the appointee’s experience or credentials for the role. Instead, they raised concerns only because the president’s appointees hold a worldview with which they disagree. These types of attacks are very similar to those leveled at key White House officials, like Russ Vought, as they made their way through the Senate confirmation process. This indirect assault against people who hold a biblical worldview is greatly concerning.

Although there was a fair share of anti-life and anti-family rhetoric on Capitol Hill this week, Christians shouldn’t be discouraged. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that in God’s hand, “the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Remember, God is sovereign; nothing surprises Him or takes Him off guard. Moreover, there are actions you can take to protect the values of faith, family, and freedom. First, it is important that you pray. Scripture instructs us to pray for those who are in authority, which includes our leaders in government. Second, it is imperative that you vote and get involved in the political process. As God commanded the exiles in Babylon, we, too, should seek the welfare of our city by engaging in the sometimes messy world of politics. This is one of the practical ways we obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Thus, when we are tempted to be discouraged by the rhetoric on Capitol Hill, let’s remember the words of Winston Churchill. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

How Do We Authentically Love Our LGBT-Identifying Neighbors?

by Laura Lee Caum

July 1, 2020

Who am I to judge?” For many years, this has been the common response from well-meaning Christians in the Gen Z generation when it comes to conversations regarding the moral status of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This response should not be surprising, as it comes from those who were raised in a pluralist society heavily influenced by postmodernism and secularism.

While members of the Baby Boomer generation are generally surprised by aspects of the LGBT movement, the majority of Americans in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are quite comfortable with the moral changes happening in the country. This is in large part due to the timing of the movement. By the time those of us in the Gen Z generation were graduating high school, significant changes in law and policy had already been enacted. For example,“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been repealed, many states had already legalized same-sex partnerships/marriages, and the Senate had voted to allow those who identify as homosexual to serve openly in the military. Furthermore, Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, was decided when many of us were just beginning to pay attention to the political and public policy debates happening in our country.

In light of the overwhelming support among the younger generation for same-sex marriage, how should younger Christians respond? How should we engage on this sensitive moral issue that we believe the Bible speaks clearly to? These are important questions that younger Christians committed to the authority of God’s Word must consider and speak clearly to. What follows are my thoughts on how Christians in the Gen Z generation can provide a thoughtful yet faithful response.

First, it is important to realize that many supporters of the LGBT movement are not strangers to the church. In fact, many of them sat under biblical preaching for years. One could then raise the question: why would faithful churchgoers readily neglect the truths of the Bible? While each situation is unique, allow me to suggest two reasons.

First, they may have watched media coverage of a number of spiritual leaders march with hateful signs or yell hateful things at those who identify as LGBT. Those few spiritual leaders who take such action twist Scripture to their own liking. Thinking they are advocating for morality, these spiritual leaders are actually failing to act with love toward those who identify as LGBT. This failure can lead to the hearts of many LGBT supporters to degrade into resentment, creating a separation between themselves and the church.

On the other side of the spectrum, the second reason faithful churchgoers are now readily neglecting the truths of the Bible is that some spiritual leaders have taken a “love everyone” approach. This approach is radically different from the “fire and brimstone” style but has the same damaging affect. The blanket statement of “love everyone” neglects the justice and truth that Jesus taught. It instead teaches the young member that their only role is to “love” their friends who identify as LGBT. The young member then concludes that they can love without the guidance of the church, and their place in the pew eventually sits empty. What then should the church do to retain these members and speak the whole message of the gospel?

The most compelling example of combining love and justice is found in John 8. For those unfamiliar with this story, this passage tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders of the day bring her before Jesus and proudly proclaim, “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Those who preach a fire and brimstone message would applaud this dedication to the law. The religious leaders then ask Jesus his opinion on what should be done with the woman. Obeying the Proverb to be slow to answer, Jesus eventually replies, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

If the story ended here, spiritual leaders who preach a “love everyone” message would be ecstatic. But the story doesn’t end here. As the religious leaders slowly walk away, Jesus asks her if there is anyone left to condemn her. No one is left. In a brilliant moment of combining the truth of God and the grace he offers, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” That is the approach spiritual leaders should take. God is both just and merciful, and both must be preached. A sermon that follows this guideline condemns homosexuality for what it is, which is a distortion of the good gift of sexuality. This same sermon, however, should encourage a peaceful and loving attitude towards those in the LGBT movement.

To Christians who are tempted to sacrifice morality on the altar of supporting the LGBT movement, take a moment and reevaluate what love actually is. Though our culture has tried to combine the two, love and lust are radically different. One is selfless and live-giving while the other is selfish and destructive. Truly loving someone means instructing them in the way of truth. Jesus prevented the woman in John 8 from being stoned, but also instructed her to leave her life of sin. That is love. Love is not changing your social media profile picture to a rainbow flag, or marching during “Pride Month.” Examine the love that Jesus expressed, and do the same.

Pride Month forces Christians to examine themselves. Are we actually preaching the gospel, which combines truth and love? Ask yourself: Am I reaching out to those who struggle with homosexuality and loving them as Jesus does? How will I advocate for legislation that defends natural marriage and the family? We must answer these questions. We must act. Love requires that of us. Christians have no excuse to passively sit back and say, “Who am I to judge?”

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

For the Fourth Time, HHS Defends the Elderly and Disabled

by David Closson , Laura Lee Caum

June 29, 2020

After weeks of significant societal upheaval, there is finally some good news out of Washington D.C. On June 26, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it had resolved a complaint against Tennessee after the state updated its medical triage plans to ensure that the elderly and disabled are not discriminated against in the event of scarcity or high demand for medical resources.

This is OCR’s fourth resolution with a state regarding disability discrimination since their March 28 bulletin reminding states of their responsibility to abide by civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in the provision of health care services during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OCR resolved similar cases with Alabama, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Commenting on the resolution, Roger Severino, OCR’s Director, said, “We commend Tennessee for updating its policies to ensure that hospitals do not deny life-saving care during a crisis based on stereotypes about disabilities or other impermissible factors. Our civil rights laws reflect the principle that we are all created with equal dignity and worth.”

Prior to this decision, concerns were raised about Tennessee’s emergency health care guidance, specifically that those with advanced neuromuscular disease, metastatic cancer, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and other disabilities could be excluded from use of a ventilator in times of scarcity. The HHS determined this was in violation of numerous health laws, including Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The June 26 resolution between HHS and Tennessee should be applauded for its recognition of the human dignity of the elderly and disabled. All Americans, but especially Christians, should be grateful for this announcement because it affirms one of the most basic tenets of the biblical worldview which is that all people are made in God’s image and possess inherent value and dignity. Laws or health care plans that allocate resources based on a perceived quality of life devalue one’s fundamental right to life and ought to be rejected.

This bold action by the Office for Civil Rights continues a pattern of respecting and protecting life by the Trump administration. Since his inauguration, President Trump and his administration has consistently defended human rights at home and abroad. This is especially seen in the administration’s defense of the rights of the unborn. For example, The Office of Civil Rights at HHS alone has already enforced conscience protection laws in California to ensure that health care plans are not required to provide abortion coverage, and in Vermont to protect the conscience rights of a nurse who was forced to participate in performing abortions. In 2019, the administration ensured that Title X family planning funds do not include abortion providers. Then in 2020 President Trump spoke at the March for Life rally, becoming the first sitting president to ever do so.

The decision on June 26 by HHS is the latest example of the administration’s commitment to protecting all Americans, regardless of age, disability, or other subjective factors. All Americans should be grateful for this resolution, and hope it sends a clear message to the other states that when it comes to human dignity, cutting corners is not an option.

David Closson is FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview.

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

Governments Are Allowing Unrestricted Protests. So Why Are Churches Still Restricted?

by Laura Lee Caum

June 11, 2020

Since March, churches all over America have suspended in person worship services to comply with social distancing guidelines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For nearly three months, churches have adapted to alternatives including online services and drive-in services. Surprisingly, a few state and local governments punished those participating in drive-in services by handing out tickets. Despite the challenges, the vast majority of worshippers have abided by social distancing restrictions, longing for the days when they can worship together again.

The same cannot be said of many of the protestors in recent days. After the unjust death of George Floyd in Minnesota, many protestors flooded the streets demanding justice. However, these large gatherings of protestors were in direct violation of CDC guidelines. At the height of the protests, Minnesota’s Department of Health was still officially encouraging its citizens to go out only to “buy food, medicine, and other needed items.”

Since the mass protests, there has been a spike in new coronavirus cases in Minnesota. Violence has greatly increased. A number of businesses in Minnesota have been destroyed and one of their police stations was torched. Around the country, several policemen—both black and white— were assaulted and some even murdered while attempting to maintain order. Despite the public health risks of large protests, government officials throughout the country have allowed the protests to continue (and in some cases participated themselves). And while it is important to underscore the justifiable outrage over George Floyd’s death, the acquiescence of authorities to these protests while churches remain shuttered raises the question of a double standard.

In short, if governors allow thousands of protestors to march in cities around the country, when can churches have in-person services? The CDC has cleared churches to hold services in their buildings. The issue seems to be with some state governments who are explicitly discriminating against churches. One example is in Nevada where Governor Sisolak is restricting church gatherings to 50 or fewer people while permitting casinos and restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity; in some of the larger casinos this means allowing hundreds of people to gather at one time. According to these government mandates, church gatherings must abide by restrictions while secular businesses can serve many guests. Clearly, these decisions violate the religious freedom of worshippers.

Freedom of speech is a cherished principle that must include even unpopular views and opinions. If protestors are permitted to chant, “I can’t breathe,” churchgoers should be allowed to sing, “Amazing Grace.” Protestors should be free to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and churchgoers should be treated no differently.  

Any worshipper will readily admit that church in recent weeks has felt a little different. Church members do not wish to break the law or endanger anyone. They simply wish to worship together. Some outside the church may marvel or be confused about why Christians are so adamant about meeting for corporate worship. The reason is that for followers of Christ, gathering for worship is not a preference, but a command that Christians must obey. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Though the church is commanded to gather together, government restrictions in many places continue to prevent this from happening. So long as government restrictions are applied equally to all sectors of society, these orders should be followed. After all, Romans 13 teaches that government has been ordained by God. However, it is clear now that the government’s orders are not being applied equally as protestors have been permitted to voice their grievances and stage large gatherings without CDC health guidelines being enforced. Let us meet in the middle: allow protesters to voice their opinion while at the same time permitting church goers to worship together in person.

Finally, churches who dare to open are bending over backwards to abide by and even exceed government guidelines. Pastors are commissioned by God to care for those in their church. State governors should be assured that pastors will take care of their members just as well as a restaurant owner will take care of their guests. To help pastors care for their churches, FRC released a resource titled “Guidelines for Reopening Your Church.” If we are going to protect the right to freedom of speech for protestors, let us safeguard the freedom of religion for those who want to gather for public worship. Only when both free speech and freedom of religion are protected for all will we have a functioning and whole society.

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

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