Category archives: Religious Liberty

Coronavirus and the Underground Church in Iran: An Interview with Iranian Christians

by Family Research Council

March 30, 2020

Iran is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. The Iranian regime has struggled to contain the outbreak, leading to tens of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths. Meanwhile, Iran’s religious minorities continue to face persecution during the coronavirus crisis. Christians in Iran are regularly subject to harassment by authorities or arbitrary imprisonment. Even though Iran has released many prisoners due to the spread of the coronavirus and the unsanitary conditions of the prisons, some Christians remain imprisoned, being put in danger by the virus.

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh converted to Christianity in Iran and experienced persecution at the hands of the Iranian regime. They both spent nine months in prison on charges of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-government activity because they left the state religion of Islam. Today, they live in the United States and advocate for religious freedom in Iran.

To learn more about what is happening on the ground in Iran, we asked Maryam and Marziyeh what Iranian Christians are facing during the coronavirus crisis.

FRC: What impact, if any, has the outbreak of coronavirus had on the underground church in Iran? 

Maryam and Marziyeh: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, and especially when the general population became aware of its danger and how fast it can spread, people became concerned and some started the practice of social distancing. We heard underground churches in Iran have cancelled their in-person meetings and instead they meet online either through Skype or other social media apps such as Telegram. They all join online and have their worship, teachings, and fellowship by all members participating and sharing their thoughts. 

FRC: What actions has the government taken to respond to the coronavirus crisis and what is the reaction of Iranian Christians to how the government has handled the outbreak?

Maryam and Marziyeh: Since the start of coronavirus outbreak in China the Iranian government was aware of the danger and spread of the virus but didn’t stop the flights from and to China and allowed the virus to spread all across Iran. They invited Chinese Muslims to the city of Qom and for a long time the Iranian government hid the spread of coronavirus in the country, especially at the time of parliamentary election, when they needed people to participate in voting. In some cases, regime hardliners who support the supreme leader reacted to the closure of holy places, opened the doors, and encouraged people to enter and participate in religious rituals in those places for healing. Instead of supporting doctors and nurses who have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the outbreak, the government encouraged and allowed Mullas who would spread their superstitions based on Islamic ideas—call it Islamic medicine—to visit hospitals and patients.  

The regime has handled the situation very poorly and adopted no measures to contain the spread of the virus—instead they tried to find another way to put pressure on people. For example, according to Farsi media, those who hide their symptoms would receive a one-year prison sentence. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has hoarded masks and other necessary supplies and sells them with a much higher price. Unfortunately, even the financial and medical help from the international community will not get to the Iranian people; the regime has control over all those supplies and uses them for their benefit. This week, the regime has encouraged and even forced a lot of people to participate in the funeral of Hossein Assadollahi, one of the former commanders of IRGC, at the time that most governments’ leaders encourage social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. Many Iranians, including Christians, have been very frustrated by how the regime has handled the situation. 

FRC: How are Iranian Christians feeling during the outbreak? What are they most concerned about?

Maryam and Marziyeh: Christians like other Iranians are concerned about how fast the virus is spreading across Iran and the poor handling of this situation by the regime. Christians are particularly concerned for their loved ones who are still in prisons; some of them are not known and no one knows anything about their conditions. We heard the coronavirus has spread among prisoners and there is a lot of concern that political and religious prisoners will be at higher risk if they remain in prisons. According to some news, only about seven Christians who were in prisons got released temporarily. Still, there are many more who are in prisons and at risk of getting sick.

FRC: How can the American church be praying for Iranian Christians—and all Iranians—right now?

Maryam and Marziyeh: A majority of Iranians believe that the Iranian regime is a bigger threat to the safety and security of millions of Iranians than the coronavirus. The terrible handling and poor management of the regime in this situation has led to thousands of deaths already. The regime has always been dishonest and put the regime’s supporters’ safety and security above all other Iranians. Iranians become happy these days to hear that some regime agents and Ayatollahs have died because of the virus. Millions of Iranians want to see the end of the regime that doesn’t care at all for their safety, security, and economic well-being.

The American church can unite with Iranians and pray that the Iranian regime will be overthrown and real freedom can come to Iran in the near future, because while this regime is in power, we will hear about a new crisis every day. Whether it is the regime’s mismanagement of flooding or earthquakes, shooting down a passenger airplane, killing thousands of protestors, or mismanagement of coronavirus, the Iranian people are suffering every day. Please pray for Iranians’ strength to be able to handle these difficult times. Also, please pray that the Lord will strengthen the Iranian Christians’ faith and give them courage and wisdom to share the Gospel with Iranians who need to hear the message of salvation these days. 

While the United States is occupied with news of the coronavirus at home, this health crisis is also affecting persecuted believers around the world, making their already tenuous situation more sensitive. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, we must continue to pray and advocate for religious freedom in Iran and around the world.

The Plight of Uyghurs in the Coronavirus Crisis: An Interview With Rushan Abbas

by Family Research Council

March 26, 2020

The Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs, a small religious minority in China, is now one of the world’s most well-documented human rights crises. Though the coronavirus has taken its toll on China, the government’s assault on religious minorities hasn’t stopped. As a part of a larger campaign against all religions, the Chinese government has targeted Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim community, because of their religion and culture. The unique and brutal policies enacted by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, the region where most Uyghurs live (sometimes referred to by Uyghurs as East Turkistan), have placed particular hardships on residents during the coronavirus—something FRC has covered here.

Rushan Abbas, founder of Campaign for Uyghurs, is familiar with the devastating policies of the Chinese Communist Party against Uyghurs. Her own sister, Gulshan Abbas, disappeared in September 2018, and is believed to be among the more than 1.8 million Uyghurs forcibly detained in what the Chinese government calls “Vocational Education and Training Centers” intended to “re-educate” detainees. The facts expose China’s excuses—Rushan’s sister was a medical doctor at a state hospital before she retired for health reasons and was not in need of “re-education.” The coronavirus crisis has only caused more international concern for the conditions of Uyghurs living in China, including Rushan’s sister.

We asked Rushan for her take on the unfolding situation in Xinjiang during the coronavirus pandemic.

FRC: How has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responded to the coronavirus outbreak in the Uyghur region?

Rushan: CCP’s response towards the coronavirus outbreak in the Uyghur region was and is inhumane. The CCP should have closed the camps and released all the innocent detainees including my sister. China continues to lie and claim the detainees have “graduated.” To where? To forced labor camps. Where they continue to face the same oppression, heavy surveillance, and poor living conditions. The majority of Uyghurs in diaspora still have no information on the whereabouts of their loved ones, including my husband and myself. 

According to the former detainees, the camps are filthy, unhygienic, overcrowded, and the detainees are facing malnutrition, repeated physical and mental abuse, and are therefore malnourished and have a compromised immune system. If the virus gets into the camps, the outcome would be rampant illness and an eventual death sentence. China can hardly handle their own infected population; they definitely won’t be providing medical attention to people they are trying to exterminate, and who they placed in concentration camps.

In reality, we do not know if it has gotten into the camps or not. No one knows. But it’s very likely. The CCP spews disinformation—it misleads the public, the media, and the international community. It is well known that Beijing tightly controls the information that comes in and out of the country. So, we cannot know for sure.

China’s coronavirus has spread all over the world. Most countries fighting the coronavirus are urging their citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing. In some parts of the world, countries are enforcing lockdowns of entire cities and regions. However, simultaneously, the Chinese government is relocating large numbers of Uyghur youth from East Turkistan to mainland China, where the coronavirus is spreading. Their survival is at stake. The likelihood of contracting the virus increases dramatically by the move to more infected regions of China. The CCP is giving this youth a death sentence in their effort to enslave them into forced labor facilities.

FRC: What additional hardships has the coronavirus lockdown placed on Uyghurs? 

Rushan: Not only did the Chinese government fail to release Uyghurs detained in the camps, but they left many to starve while in lockdown in their homes. Many couldn’t afford to purchase food, and some couldn’t go outside to get food. While China struggled to contain the virus in Wuhan and cancelled all the flights out of the city, the only flights that continued to fly as normal were flights to the Uyghur region. China took absolutely no precautions to protect the East Turkistan region, let alone the people they placed in concentration camps and forced labor facilities. Not only that, but they provide no medical help or attention to Uyghurs who would have contracted the virus.

FRC: What does the CCP’s response to the coronavirus say about their attitude towards religious minorities?

Rushan: I think it’s clear. There is absolutely zero tolerance to anybody not Han Chinese. The farther you are from Islam and the Uyghur culture, the more “normal” you are viewed. Islam and the Uyghur culture are viewed as a disease which the CCP attempts to “cure.” That probably best describes their attitude toward religious minorities; they are viewed as an illness.

There are over half a million Uyghur children placed in government-run orphanages. Their parents are very much alive, and they are not orphans. This is CCP’s effort at reengineering the youth. They’re a target because their minds are still pliable and can be pumped full of Chinese propaganda and brainwashing.

China’s authoritarian reaction is what created this global pandemic. China has taken steps to deny, keep quiet, misinform, punish whistle blowers, and take a security crackdown approach. Their lack of transparency about the truth of the virus is what let it spread so rapidly and so vastly across the globe. This goes beyond their intolerance to religious minorities—it just shows blatant disregard to human life, regardless of who you are.

FRC: Some Uyghur activists have expressed fear that the mass detention of Uyghurs in “re-education” camps poses a unique risk to those detained in light of the highly contagious coronavirus. Do you share those concerns?

Rushan: I definitely share the same deep concern for the Uyghurs placed in the camps. More so now with the virus than before. Previously, the issues were the horrid conditions, the abuse, the rape, the organ harvesting, the absolute lack of information about your loved ones. Now, it’s a fight not only against the Chinese government, but this virus. A virus for which there is no cure. A virus for which we know those in the camps aren’t going to be getting medical attention for.

The dire situation that Uyghurs in China continue to face demonstrates that crises can often be used to further oppress religious minorities, even when society should be more united than ever before. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, we must continue to pray and advocate for religious freedom in China and around the world.

China Uses Coronavirus to Oppress Religious Minorities

by Arielle Del Turco

March 2, 2020

Do you want to kill me? Just kill me.” This is the cry of one Uyghur man in Xinjiang, China, where the government has instituted a strict lockdown due to coronavirus concerns. Unable to help his starving family, the man begged for death in a recent viral video experts say is authentic.

One might have thought that things couldn’t get worse for the oppressed, mostly-Muslim, Uyghur minority concentrated in the northwestern Uyghur region. Yet, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) found a way to manipulate a health crisis and add to it a humanitarian crisis for the beleaguered Uyghur minority.

Local authorities began to impose a strict quarantine in parts of the region at the end of January, and reports suggest the locals were given no notice before the lockdown. Without advance warning or time to store food or other supplies, residents are still forbidden from leaving their homes. Now, they are running out of food and medical supplies.

One Uyghur woman anonymously described her family’s situation to Radio Free Asia, saying, “[The adults] are only eating one meal a day from morning to night” since the lockdown started. “Every morning, we just worry about the children having something to eat.” Without enough to eat, her eight-year-old daughter “became dizzy and passed out,” injuring her head when she fell.

This is just the latest in a long list of China’s abuses against Uyghurs. The Chinese government operates what it calls “Vocational Education and Training Centers” across the Xinjiang province, where an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are forcibly detained, mistreated, pressured to cease their religious practices, and indoctrinated with communist propaganda. 

Recently leaked internal Chinese government documents reveal that Uyghurs can be sent to these re-education camps for just about any reason—including following religious traditions, growing a beard, having too many kids, or owning a passport without having traveled.

Now, Uyghurs fear that breaking quarantine will get them immediately detained in a camp. Even those with serious health problems unrelated to coronavirus are too afraid to violate the quarantine and leave their house to seek medical care.

While the government might insist that the sudden and strict lockdown is meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has caused at least two deaths in the region, an effective medical response does not require creating a new humanitarian crisis of mass hunger among residents. The answer to the threat of a dangerous new virus cannot be to starve people under implicit house arrest.

In responding to this crisis, time is of the essence. The Uyghur Human Rights Project has called upon the Red Cross of China, the International Red Cross, and the Red Crescent to request access to the Uyghur region so that they can conduct investigations and provide basic humanitarian relief such as food and medicine to residents who have been trapped.

It’s clear the Chinese government will use any excuse it can to further oppress this small religious group. The U.S. should continue to criticize China’s abuses against Uyghurs and other religious minorities. It’s unacceptable that any country would treat its own people this way—and the Chinese Communist Party must be made to understand that.

The Atrocity of Forced Marriage in Pakistan

by Arielle Del Turco

February 20, 2020

A tragic situation has ended in the best possible way for one Pakistani Christian girl who had been kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to marry a Muslim man in January. Fourteen-year-old Sneha has been recovered by authorities and reunited with her family, but not before enduring a traumatic abduction and being raped multiple times.

Sneha had refused the proposal of a Muslim man, who later kidnapped her with the help of six other men. The men beat her and forced her to sign blank sheets of paper on which they later forged a fake marriage certificate and certificate of conversion to Islam.

Sneha’s family continues to receive threats from the kidnappers, who pressured the parents to withdraw their legal case. In response, the family has moved to an undisclosed location for their own safety. 

Unfortunately, Sneha was lucky compared to the hundreds of other Christian and Hindu girls that are kidnapped and forced to marry Muslim men in Pakistan every year. Not all the girls who face this situation are rescued, and not all the families of these victims find sympathy with the authorities or in court.

Just a few weeks ago, a Pakistani court ruled against the family of another 14-year-old Christian girl, Huma Younus, who was taken from her home and forced to marry a Muslim man on October 10, 2019. The Sindh High Court in Karachi ruled on February 3, 2020 that the forced marriage of this underage girl wasn’t against the law.

Christians face widespread persecution and discrimination in Pakistan, and young Christian women are among those most harmed by it.  

In its 2019 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recognized that approximately “1,000 young women are forcibly converted to Islam each year; many are kidnapped, forcibly married, and subjected to rape.”

Pakistan’s culture and legal system create an environment that leaves religious minorities particularly vulnerable to abuse. Christian communities are among the poorest in Pakistan and are often geographically segregated from the larger Muslim population. Christians are often resigned to take menial jobs which carry heavy social stigmas in Pakistani culture. These factors leave Christians without many resources to stand up to discrimination and violence.

The stigmatization and marginalization of Christians has consequences in the legal system as well. When a case is brought before authorities, the courts are often reluctant to help Christian victims. USCIRF’s report noted that the Pakistani government “has not adequately prosecuted perpetrators of violent crimes against religious minorities.”

Furthermore, USCIRF reports that local police and political leaders in Pakistan are often accused of being complicit in forced marriage and conversion cases by refusing to investigate them. In some cases that are investigated by authorities, young women have been questioned in front of the very men who they were forced to marry, creating environments that intimidate women into lying for their abusers. Pakistan’s legal system has proven itself unwilling and unable to ensure justice is served for the perpetrators of these crimes, and that needs to be met with strong international criticism. 

Pakistan’s failure to enshrine religious freedom and protect its own religious minority groups leaves innocent girls and young women vulnerable to forced marriage and the unspeakable abuses that entails. The government’s unwillingness to bring those who perpetrate crimes against Christians to justice only compounds the problem.

These human rights abuses shouldn’t be met with silence from the rest of the world. The U.S. government should take every opportunity to pressure Pakistan to protect Christians and other religious minorities and bring the perpetrators of crimes against religious minorities to justice. Until real legal protections are enforced on behalf of everyone in Pakistan, including religious minorities, this issue will only get worse.

Susan B. Anthony Advocated for “Natural Rights.” We Must Carry On Her Work.

by Adelaide Holmes

February 15, 2020

Today is Susan B. Anthony Day, so it’s a perfect time for Christians to learn from the life and activism of Susan B. Anthony. Although she had a diverse and at times unorthodox Christian background, she believed that all of humankind was equal under God. This inspired her activism. Anthony’s life reflects a belief that our culture desperately needs to hear from Christians that the value and natural rights of every human being comes from God and deserves to be protected.

It’s imperative that Christians understand that the idea of God-given rights and equal value are not merely human inventions. While both Anthony and the Founding Fathers claimed that all of mankind was created equal by God, this idea was not unique to them. Instead, it derives from biblical principles of justice.

Anthony claimed that mankind received their rights from God rather than the government. In her speech “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” she says, “Before governments were organized, no one denies that each individual possessed the right to protect his own life, liberty and property.” Anthony believed that mankind had these rights long before there was a government.

But if the government didn’t give us our most basic rights, where did they come from? Anthony believed that these rights are natural, meaning they are given by God. Thus, a just government should protect them, not create them. She asserts, “The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several states and the organic laws of the territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights.” Anthony further quoted from the Declaration of Independence to prove her point in her speech: “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

If Anthony is right that mankind was endowed with rights by God, we should see something in Scripture about it. While the language of “natural rights” is not explicitly stated in scripture, we can see that the principles of rights are supported in the commands given by Jesus and Moses.

In Mark 12:31, Jesus instructs his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This confirms what is expressly stated in Matthew 7:12, that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. This means that if you love your life, liberty, or property and desire for those things to be respected, you should love and respect your neighbor’s life, liberty, and property as well.

While Mark 12 does not contain the language of rights, the Ten Commandments show that God expects His creation to respect the life, liberty, and property of others. In Exodus 20, the second table of the Ten Commandments directly command us not to end another person’s life or to steal their property. While the specific language of “rights” is not present here, violating someone’s life or property was considered a serious moral failing under the law and subject to governmental punishment. By putting these commands in the moral and legal law for the Israelites, God set an example for just government that the Founders reaffirmed through the protection of these natural rights in the Constitution.

Not only is there biblical support for the idea of natural rights, but there is also a case for equality in how we respect other’s rights. In Leviticus 24, the Mosaic law requires that the laws of restitution and penalties for murder and stealing are to be the “same rule for the sojourner and for the native.” God is perfectly just, and justice requires that the protection of natural rights be unbiased towards external factors like one’s nationality.

While there is strong biblical support for the principles behind natural rights and equal respect of other’s rights, there are times when our natural rights are not adequately protected in the U.S. When this happens, Christians need to go a step further. It happened in Anthony’s day with the unequal protection of women and African Americans. But she refused to sit by apathetically and watch injustice occur around her. Instead, she took action to advocate for their rights. Whether or not she realized it, Anthony acted out the command in Micah 6:8 to “do justice.” Every Christian should do the same today.

In America, Christians can advocate for the rights to life, liberty, and property of their neighbors. Every day in America, preborn children are killed because of “choice,” women and children are enslaved in sex-trafficking because of other’s “pleasure,” and Christians lose their jobs or are forced to close their businesses because their consciences aren’t “tolerant.” We have the opportunity and duty to love these neighbors around us and advocate for the protection of their rights, just as Susan B. Anthony did.

Religious Minorities in China Are Losing a Deadly Game of Hide and Seek

by Samuel Lillemo

January 16, 2020

Open Doors released its 2020 World Watch List report yesterday, highlighting the fact that the most populated country in the world has now become a surveillance state, and this widespread invasion of privacy is being used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities in China.

The report details the massive expansion of a facial recognition software used to track people’s movements. Independent reporters also released an article describing the systematic monitoring of social media by police forces, often resulting in raids and spontaneous interrogations of students and public servants. The implications of such developments, however, cut more deeply than merely having a Beijing helicopter parent.

A systematic ethnic cleansing campaign, mounted by the communist party against ethno-religious groups it feels threaten “national unity,” has brought many vulnerable minorities (Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, other Muslim minority groups, and practitioners of Falun Gong) into the crosshairs of one of the 21st century’s most brutal regimes. The expansion of technological tracking makes the Chinese authorities nearly inescapable. Robbed of their ability to hide, and with both ancestral ties and economic needs tying them to the region, China’s minorities now have little recourse but to brace for the onslaught of state-sponsored deprogramming.

Recent revelations of living conditions for ethnic and religious minorities under China’s current communist regime, especially for Uyghurs, suggest that, for some, death may be preferable to what they endure. Either violently abducted or coerced by threats against family members, individuals born into these groups are often forced into vehicles and taken to what the Chinese government cheerfully calls “re-education camps.”

Sayragul Sauytbay (pronounced Say-ra-gul Saut-bye) was a prisoner in one of the camps who managed to escape to Sweden. Her testimony was summarized in an article in The Week:

Twenty prisoners live in one small room. They are handcuffed, their heads are shaved, every move is monitored by ceiling cameras. A bucket in the corner of the room is their toilet. The daily routine begins at 6 a.m. They are learning Chinese, memorizing propaganda songs, and confessing to invented sins. They range in age from teenagers to elderly. Their meals are meager: cloudy soup and a slice of bread. Torture — metal nails, fingernails pulled out, electric shocks — takes place in the “black room.” Punishment is a constant… [t]hey are the human subjects of medical experiments… Women are routinely raped.

While Sayragul’s experience hopefully represents only the extreme of camp brutality, Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, explains, “I think it’s fair to describe everyone being detained as being subject at least to psychological torture, because they literally don’t know how long they’re going to be there.” Such is not merely the fate of a few thousand dissidents or “terrorists,” as the communist government of China has grown fond of calling them. Scholars estimate that at least 1 million people have been kidnapped into brutal conditions after the communist Chinese regime felt threatened by their religious beliefs. 

To comprehend the magnitude of these internments, briefly consider that the U.S. population in 2015 included 1.1 million medical doctors. Now imagine every physician across the nation being rounded up and sent into prison camps, and you have an idea of the raw scale of China’s program. In the name of “fighting terrorism,” the current Chinese regime has abandoned the role of guardian and become a tormentor of its own people.

Governments, by nature of their authority and scale, have the unique ability to create an organized system of protections for their people. This same power corrupted, however, allows a regime to coordinate its hulking machinery for large-scale atrocities against truly helpless citizens. The evil we confront today is not simply the lawless violence of sectarian warfare across the plains of Kenya and Nigeria, but also technologically advanced regimes like China that have become factories of human suffering, churning out organized misery upon those proclaiming religious faith.

Religious Freedom Day, recognized on January 16, marks the 234th anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, wherein Thomas Jefferson took up a cry that was soon after echoed by every other American state: “No man shall… suffer, on account of his religious opinions or beliefs.” In a masterful brushstroke, Jefferson lead the Founding Fathers in establishing the absolute necessity of equal rights for all people under the state, regardless of their faith tradition.

This protection embodies one of the foundational virtues of the Western democratic tradition, but is far from the norm for people of faith across the world. As the U.S. celebrates its fundamental commitment to religious liberty, we must work harder than ever to raise awareness that the need for freedom of conscience still exists in the world.

Don’t miss our Speaker Series event today at 12 p.m. as we host Jewher Ilham, the daughter of a Uyghur scholar and social advocate who is tirelessly working for her father’s release from China’s prisons.

Samuel Lillemo is a Policy/Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

FRC’s Top 5 Blogs of the Year

by Family Research Council

December 31, 2019

In the Year of Our Lord 2019, FRC’s blog covered a wide range of topics that have impacted the sanctity of life, the family, religious freedom, and the culture here in America and across the globe. Listed below are the five blogs that received the biggest response from you, our readers, as well as some other honorable mentions. Thank you for reading our blog! We greatly appreciate your interest in and passion for these vital issues that are shaping the moral character of our nation. We hope that these articles inspire you to stand for biblical truth, whatever your walk of life may be.

1. 75 Years Ago Today: A D-Day Prayer by Chris Gacek

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

2. Should Christians Recognize “LGBT Pride?” by Peter Sprigg

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

3. Basic Human Decency Starts with Protecting Babies on Their Birthday by Caleb Seals

When it comes to abortion, the political Left always trots out the same line: ‘It’s the woman’s right to choose whatever she wants with her own body.’ Pro-lifers respond to this by speaking up for the rights of the unborn baby’s body. But after the recent passage of New York’s extreme abortion law and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s pro-infanticide comments, we are no longer talking about defending the unborn, we are talking about defending the born. Let that sink in.”

4. How Game of Thrones Mainstreamed Sexual Exploitation by Laura Grossberndt

Movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones enjoy a patina of respectability due to their complex plots, extensive viewership, and numerous awards—making them more palatable to a wide audience than a pornographic film would be. However, by treating human sexuality as a commodity, Game of Thrones and its ilk are just another incarnation of the commercial sex trade.”

5. Boys Competing Against Girls Steal Another Win by Cathy Ruse

When men who identify as women compete against women, they’re not achieving a sports victory. They’re just lying, cheating, and stealing.”

 

Honorable Mentions

Last year, my brother Josh, a 37-year-old married father with five kids under the age of 9, announced he was becoming a woman …

Thus, my tall, handsome, muscular brother began taking strong female hormones that transformed him into a different person. His facial hair stopped growing. He grew breasts instead. As part of his ‘social transition’ he began wearing dresses, wigs, heels, and makeup in public. He will have to stay on female hormones until the day he dies. He refuses to answer to the name Josh now—the only name anyone’s known him as for almost four decades. He says Josh is dead. There was even some type of symbolic ‘burial ceremony’ to say goodbye to Josh once and for all. Unfortunately, I didn’t get invited to that. Nor did my parents. No one sent us flowers. No one dropped off a casserole.”

It’s common wisdom to teach kids to respond to a fire or active shooter. They need the same ‘fire drill’ for pornography. Thankfully, most children won’t deal with a fire or a shooter, but all of them will need to escape from pornography.

The ‘escape’ plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is simply ‘Turn, Run and Tell!’ Turn away from the bad picture, hurry and get away, and go tell a trusted adult what you saw. The CAN DO Plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures helps kids not only turn away from it, but to label it by saying ‘That’s pornography!’ This allows kids to have more control over their thoughts by engaging their thinking brain.”

As trade talks between the U.S. and China continue, China’s human rights violations need to be at the forefront of the discussions. China’s organ trade isn’t a minor violation—it’s indicative of systematic harassment, abuse, and even murder of its religious minorities.”

What America needs today is citizens who strive for personal responsibility and service to others and leaders who are looking first to serve, to imbibe the spirit expressed in the faded, worn out words of the Washington Monument—Laus Deo. We need leaders who serve God (Joshua 22:5; 1 Samuel 12:24; Hebrews 9:14) and their fellow citizens (Luke 6:38; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10). Jesus himself said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). We as citizens need to renew our commitment to being responsible for ourselves but also to serve those in need, and our government officials need to rediscover their true vocation: to be public servants.”

Entering the New Year, Religious Minorities Across the Globe Face an Uncertain Future

by Arielle Del Turco

December 30, 2019

A recent Washington Post article highlighted some of the concerning trends in international religious freedom in 2019.

Most prominent is the attack on religious freedom in China, which is especially apparent in the Uyghur crisis. Uyghurs are facing an extremely advanced and well-planned scheme of cultural genocide by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At least 1-2 million Uyghurs are detained in “re-education” camps intended to strip them of their unique religious and cultural identity. Over the last year, China has only dug their heels in to defend their actions in the Uyghur region.

But it’s not just Uyghurs. Those of all faiths are targeted by the Chinese regime. For CCP leaders, any claim to a higher authority—including God—is a threat to the rule of the Party, and one that must be eliminated or subdued.

The Post piece also featured anti-Christian violence in Sri Lanka. On Easter in 2019, almost 300 Christians were killed at church services in bombings across several cities. This tragedy was a result of a growing militant Buddhist nationalist movement. Christians in Sri Lanka are increasingly at risk of attack, and the world needs to become more aware of their plight.

A third religious freedom concern is the treatment of Muslims in India. The Hindu nationalist-led government has found numerous ways to antagonize this religious minority over the past year. The political party currently in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party, seeks to solidify India as a country for Hindus only—and this is a problem for all of India’s religious minorities, including Christians.

The Post article also points out the uncertain future of Turkish Christians. In a story that’s becoming disturbingly common in the Middle East, the percentage of the population that identifies as Christian in Turkey has dropped from almost 25 percent in 1914 to less than 0.5 percent today. This reflects similar trends across the Middle East as Christians flee persecution. The Middle East was the birthplace of Christianity, and the ancient Christian communities who have maintained a presence there for thousands of years are increasingly at risk.

If you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal to protect Christian communities in Northeast Syria and other parts of the Middle East—it’s because they’re disappearing from this region altogether.

Lastly, the article recognizes Burma—an area that also should not be forgotten. Burma is a Buddhist-majority country, and religious tensions spilled over when the Burmese military massacred thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. Many Rohingya still live in refugee camps in Bangladesh and are vulnerable to human trafficking. The consequences of this event are still dire, and the victims are still hurting.

Going into 2020, all of these religious minority groups don’t know what the future holds. As Christians, we can pray for these people who have inherent worth and are made in the image of God. As people who care about the fundamental right to religious freedom for everyone, we can spend the next year advocating on behalf of these oppressed people.

For Some Christians Around the World, Celebrating Christmas is Dangerous

by Arielle Del Turco

December 24, 2019

As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, many are forced to do so in secret. Arrest and punishment at the hands of the government or violence at the hands of extremist groups plague many around the world who simply try to celebrate the birth of their Savior.

In Iran, the government takes advantage of Christmas celebrations in their effort to crackdown on the spread of Christianity. Dabrina Tamraz has been a victim of religious persecution herself in Iran. She is reporting that authorities began to arrest Christians in the last few weeks. She says, “Christmas celebrations make it easier for Iranian authorities to arrest a group of Christians at one time.”

The Iranian government’s main targets are converts to Christianity from a Muslim background and evangelicals. The regime feels threated by Christians who would evangelize and share their faith. Christians who stay home might avoid being targeted by authorities, but any expressions of faith—including Christmas celebrations—can be dangerous.

Christians in India are also bracing themselves amid a new wave of persecution this December. According to International Christian Concern, at least 10 Christians were arrested on trumped-up criminal charges, clean drinking water was cut off for 25 Christian families, and several churches have been shut down just this month.

We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” said Pastor Raja Bhovi from in India’s Karnataka State, “There is a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals.” 

If last year is any indicator, these fears may be justified. Just before Christmas in 2018, a mob attacked a small church in India’s Maharashtra state, leaving many injured.            

Some countries go so far as to openly ban the celebration of Christmas. In Brunei, a small country on the island of Borneo, Christians found celebrating Christmas illegally could face a 5-year prison sentence, a $20,000 fine, or both.

Brunei instituted this policy in 2015, while its Ministry of Religious Affairs released a statement expressing concern that any public Christmas celebrations might “damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community.” 

In North Korea, those who celebrate Christmas can be imprisoned, tortured or put to death. North Korea is a communist country where the only gods allowed are the Kim family dictators. Christmas is not widely known, and certainly not celebrated publicly. Yet, the North Korean regime has seemingly tried to replace Christmas altogether. 

North Koreans are encouraged to celebrate the birthday of Kim Jong-Suk, the deceased grandmother of Kim Jong Un. Her birthday, which falls on Christmas Eve, is even marked by pilgrimages to the town of her birth. The empty substitute religion centered on the Kim family ultimately won’t satisfy the human soul. Open Doors USA estimates that there are approximately 300,000 Christians in North Korea—quite an accomplishment for the most closed country in the world. 

In countries across the world, any expression of the Christian faith leaves Christians vulnerable to arrest from the government or even attacks from their neighbors. Christians are often forced to either cancel their celebrations or gather in secret. Yet, the price for getting caught at such clandestine events can be costly.

As Christians in the West openly celebrate the Christmas season with friends and family, we should pause and pray for the Christians who will celebrate in secret. We can be thankful that Christ was born over 2,000 years ago to bring us the Gospel. And that hope is a light that no force of darkness can extinguish.

Trump Administration Closes Out 2019 by Protecting Life and Religious Freedom

by Connor Semelsberger

December 20, 2019

Since taking office, President Trump has become known for his determination to protect life and religious freedom. Now, he has further strengthened his record with new regulatory actions. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a finalized regulation that protects taxpayers from paying for abortion, and yesterday, the comment period closed on HHSproposed rule revising its grants process. Family Research Council has voiced support for this proposed rule because it would protect the religious freedom of adoption and foster care providers.

Towards the end of his administration, President Obama mandated that adoption providers and other organizations working with HHS must accept same-sex marriage and an individual’s professed gender identity. This mandate’s infringement on religious freedom was so severe that South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster had to ask HHS for a special waiver from this regulation so that Miracle Hill, the state’s largest provider of foster homes, could remain open.

South Carolina was far from being the only state or locality in which adoption providers encountered religious freedom hardships on account of the Obama-era regulation. Now, President Trump is seeking to remedy the existing regulation’s problems with this newly-proposed rule. Now that the comment period on the rule has closed (FRC’s comment is available here), we hope to see protections for adoption and foster care providers finalized soon.

When Obamacare was passed in 2010, it circumvented the longstanding Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funds paying for abortion. Obamacare allowed plans to cover elective abortions so long as payments for abortion coverage were collected “separately” from those paid for with federal subsidies. Not only was this policy an inadequate means of protecting taxpayers from funding abortion, but the Obama administration also issued a regulation skewing the word “separate.” As a result, many of the payments meant to be collected separately are instead collected together. Under the current regulations, a single notice about the abortion surcharge or an itemized surcharge on the bill would satisfy Obamacare’s requirement for separate abortion payments.

Because this implementation is so obscure, many Americans are unaware that they are paying for abortion coverage in their health plans. This is one reason why FRC has partnered with the Charlotte Lozier Institute to create Obamcareabortion.com, which provides much-needed transparency concerning which Obamacare plans cover elective abortion.

As 2019 comes to a close, we can be thankful we have an administration that seeks to enforce the law as written—not skew it. The newly-finalized regulation will force insurers to collect two distinct payments, one for elective abortion coverage and one for all other covered health services. This separate collection of payments will serve to alert consumers when their plan covers elective abortion, thereby allowing them to make an informed decision on whether to select a plan that covers abortion or not. The setup of Obamacare still subverts longstanding protections against taxpayer funding for abortion; therefore, it is essential that the administration enforce the separate payments provision the way Congress intended.

Whether on religious freedom or life, President Trump continues to deliver on the promises which got him elected.

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