Tag archives: Family

Year in Review: 10 Stories From 2021

by David Closson

December 17, 2021

2021 has been a year full of important cultural, political, and legal developments. In a year that witnessed the inauguration of a new president, the conclusion of America’s longest war, and the ongoing fight against COVID-19, there was much to track, analyze, and discuss. Although Democratic majorities in Congress required conservative policymakers to play defense at the federal level, there were still notable (and significant) legislative victories throughout the states.

2021 was an active year for Family Research Council, and there are several new initiatives, events, and legislative victories that merit gratitude and reflection as we prepare to ring in the new year. What follows are 10 stories from 2021 that provide a summary of God’s faithfulness and kindness to us and lay the groundwork for an exciting 2022.

1. Oral Arguments Heard in Case that Could Overturn Roe

On December 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion on demand in America through all nine months of pregnancy. 

In Dobbs, the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, bipartisan legislation that prohibits elective abortion after 15 weeks gestation. The Gestational Age Act offers a direct challenge to the jurisprudence of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made legal abortion through nine months the default law of every state. Under Casey, states may prohibit abortion post-viability and restrict abortion prior to viability so long as the restriction does not place an “undue burden” on the woman. In Dobbs, the court will consider whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional. The court’s decision, which is expected in summer 2022, could return the ability to legislate abortion back to the states and will have major implications for the future of the unborn in America.

In the weeks leading up to the oral arguments, FRC provided leadership to the pro-life community in a variety of ways. First, FRC filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to overturn Roe and its companion case, Casey. Second, FRC teamed up with other national pro-life groups, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Alliance Defending Freedom, to host a “Pray for Dobbs” national webinar for pastors. Over 4,000 pastors joined the October broadcast and learned about the case. Then in November, the “Pray for Dobbs” coalition hosted a national prayer event. Over 18,000 people joined national leaders on the broadcast to pray for the upcoming case. Third, on November 28, FRC hosted a prayer rally titled “Pray Together for Life” in Mississippi. Among the national leaders who participated was Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Finally, FRC also published resources and articles about the case, and on the day of oral arguments, FRC’s Katherine Johnson spoke at a rally outside the Supreme Court.

To learn more about the case and for a list of recommended ways to pray, see my article in The Gospel Coalition.  

2. Vaccine Mandates Struck Down

On September 9, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that all employers with more than 100 employees must require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing. Noncompliant businesses could be fined. Biden’s private employer mandate came on the heels of a federal mandate requiring all federal employees to receive the vaccine, get tested weekly, or face dismissal from their job.

After the announcement, several organizations and schools (including The Daily Wire, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Asbury Theological Seminary) sued, alleging the Biden administration lacked constitutional and statutory authority to issue such a mandate to private employers. Both schools also argued that the administration lacked jurisdiction to dictate employment practices to religious institutions. On Friday, November 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order staying enforcement and implementation of the executive order. On November 16, 2021, the Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all petitions for review of the Emergency Temporary Standard (including the Fifth Circuit ruling) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Moreover, on November 29, a U.S. district court in Missouri issued a preliminary injunction for health care workers in 10 states. On November 30, the U.S. District Court of Western Louisiana issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health care workers. Additionally, on December 7, a U.S. district judge in South Georgia temporarily blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors.

President Biden’s vaccine mandate has proven to be divisive. Thus far, courts around the country have halted the implementation of the mandate. As we move into 2022, Christians will need to think carefully and biblically about vaccine mandates, as it seems they will continue to be part of the national conversation.

Concerning whether Christians should use religious exemptions, see my article “How Should Christians Use Religious Exemptions for Vaccine Mandates?

3. Off-Year Election Results

While 2021 is not a major election year for most states, a few states and cities still held important elections. The most significant of these was the Virginia gubernatorial election, in which Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin faced off against the Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Even though Joe Biden had won Virginia by 10 points the previous year, Youngkin surprised political pundits by defeating McAuliffe and becoming the first Republican to win a statewide race in over a decade. Furthermore, Republican nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general both won, and Republicans retook the majority in the House of Delegates. Many election observers cited parents’ outrage over public school officials’ cover-up of a biological male student’s rape of female students in Loudon County school bathrooms. Abortion and the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools were also motivating factors for many voters.

Elsewhere around the country, conservatives demonstrated that the political climate has soured against Democrats and their progressive agenda. For example, the Republican nominee for governor in New Jersey nearly pulled off a shocking upset against incumbent Democrat Governor Phil Murphy. In perhaps the most stunning race, New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney (D) was upset by a Republican truck driver who only spent a few thousand dollars on his campaign.  

Additionally, ballot measures to defund the police department were defeated in Minneapolis, and the mayor of Buffalo waged a successful write-in campaign against a progressive candidate endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). FRC Action (FRC’s legislative affiliative) endorsed their first candidate for school board, David Anderson, in Washington state. Anderson won the election. Only a year after the 2020 election, voters are clearly concerned about the country’s direction, and these results are encouraging for conservatives headed into next year’s midterm elections. 

4. FRC Launches Center for Biblical Worldview

In May, FRC launched the Center for Biblical Worldview (CBW) with the goal of equipping Christians to advance and defend their faith in their families, communities, and the public square. We also added researcher George Barna and Professor Owen Strachan to the CBW team.

The need for the CBW was underscored by an FRC-commissioned survey that revealed that only six percent of Americans have a biblical worldview, despite 51 percent thinking they do. Furthermore, only 21 percent of those who attend evangelical churches have a biblical worldview. Biblical illiteracy is a significant problem in America, one the CBW hopes to help counteract.

The CBW hit the ground running, publishing numerous resources in its first year, including newly re-branded Biblical Worldview Series booklets covering important topics such as religious liberty, the sanctity of life, human sexuality, and political engagement. These booklets are now available in English and Spanish. The CBW also produced dozens of articles, interviews, and other resources to help pastors, churches, and Christian laypeople think through the year’s most contentious and confusing political and moral questions.

In 2022, the CBW is planning to publish a Sunday school curriculum, a video series, and a web-based resource for parents and students to evaluate the faithfulness of every Christian college and university in America. To stay informed about all of the exciting projects we expect to release next year, you can sign up for the CBW’s monthly email here.

5. Texas Heartbeat Act Saves Thousands of Babies

The Texas Heartbeat Act, which took effect on September 1, has saved an estimated 150 babies from abortion per day. This will result in upwards of 18,000 babies saved by the end of the year. The Texas law bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, typically at about six weeks gestation. Texas’ 230 pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) have been meeting the needs of mothers that otherwise might have undergone abortions prior to the Heartbeat Act.  

Unsurprisingly, Texas abortion businesses sued the state over the Heartbeat Act. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and in December issued an opinion permitting lawsuits to proceed against licensing officials but no one else that the abortion lobby had named as defendants. SCOTUS also made the rare move of dismissing the Biden administration’s suit saying they never should have accepted it in the first place. Overall, the opinion was a win for pro-lifers. Although the law is currently facing challenges from the outraged abortion lobby, it is still in effect today. 

While holding her three-month-old son, FRC’s Mary Szoch spoke outside the Supreme Court as arguments about the Texas law were heard. FRC’s Katherine Johnson also published an explainer about the law, combatting lies spread by the abortion lobby (and unfortunately parroted by many in the media). Christians must continue to pray for a favorable outcome for Texas as the Heartbeat Act continues to face litigation in 2022.  

6. Win in Congress: NDAA Passes Without Conscripting Women

Every year, Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that is required to fund the military. Legislators have managed to pass the NDAA for 60 years. However, it is not always an easy or smooth process. This year, Democrats dug in on adding a proposal to mandate that women register for the draft.

Over the past few months, as the bill moved through Congress, FRC argued that women should continue serving honorably in the military on a voluntary basis only. Including women in any future drafts would subject them to being mandated into combat roles, which is unnecessary and dangerous. It has been proven that women in combat situations have a higher likelihood of injury than their male peers and thus affect the lethality, readiness, and cohesion of certain combat units.

FRC facilitated more than 200,000 messages to Congress opposing this dangerous mandate. Pro-family leaders in the House and Senate such as Sens. Hawley (R-Neb.), Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Lee (R-Utah) and Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) led the charge. In an about-face that Politico described as a “stunning turnaround,” this mandate on women and other anti-life and anti-religious liberty provisions were dropped from the bill.  

7. Hyde Amendment Preserved

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. However, since 1976, Congress has worked to ensure that federal funding does not go toward abortion. In 1976, Congressman Henry Hyde introduced an amendment to the Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill, prohibiting federal Medicaid funds from paying for abortions. This amendment to the annual spending bill, known as the Hyde Amendment, has been approved every year since 1976 and has saved an estimated 2,409,311 lives.

However, because of the nature of federal spending, this measure must be passed annually in order to remain in effect. In recent years, Democrat lawmakers have openly lobbied to remove the Hyde Amendment. In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an HHS spending bill without Hyde for the first time since 1976. Moreover, the Senate introduced a spending bill without Hyde protections. Thankfully, despite fierce attacks from pro-abortion lawmakers, Hyde was preserved in the spending bills passed in 2021.

There are several ways in which FRC was involved in preserving Hyde. For example, FRC worked to secure 199 signatures from House members calling for the preservation of Hyde. Additionally, FRC worked to educate members of Congress about Hyde and worked with them whenever the issue was brought up in committee or came up for a vote. When the spending bill came through committee in July, FRC staff helped committee members with speeches and media interviews. Every Republican on the appropriations committee gave a speech defending Hyde and opposing taxpayer funding of abortion. While it is normally difficult for outside groups to muster five to seven members to speak out in committee on a given issue, FRC helped get 25 members to speak in favor of Hyde. Even though it remains under attack, the Hyde Amendment received more vocal support from Republican lawmakers in 2021 than in any year in recent memory.

8. Pray Vote Stand Summit

The inaugural Pray Vote Stand Summit was held October 6-8 at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia. The thousands of social conservatives who attended in-person and the tens of thousands who attended online heard from nationally-recognized religious and political leaders on the most pressing issues facing the nation, including religious freedom, abortion, national security, and education.

Speakers included Mike Pompeo, Glenn Youngkin, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, Carter Conlon, Os Guinness, Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. James Lankford, Jack Hibbs, Nancy Pearcey, Allie Beth Stuckey, Chad Wolf, and many others.

In addition to plenary addresses from speakers, attendees benefited from hearing panel sessions on topics such as abortion, worldview, Christian persecution, vaccine mandates, and keeping children safe from radical gender ideology. Coinciding with the Summit, FRC also hosted a training for those interested in running for their local school board. 

FRC’s communications team credentialed 47 members of the media from 26 outlets to cover the Pray Vote Stand Summit, including Fox News, CBN News, and One America News. Additionally, 34 media outlets published 45 articles about or referencing the conference including Fox News, Breitbart, The Blaze, CBN News, The Daily Wire, The Christian Post, and The Epoch Times.

9. International Religious Freedom Summit

On July 13-15, FRC participated in the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit. Unlike the Trump-era Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, this year’s IRF gathering was organized by private organizations, not the U.S. government. Hosted by 81 convening partners (including FRC), the summit highlighted the issue of international religious freedom, an area of increasing concern. In fact, almost 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of religious persecution, much of it perpetrated by government actors.

At the summit, participants heard reports by FRC’s Andrew Brunson and Bob Fu. FRC president Tony Perkins hosted a panel discussion and a sponsored lunch where he interviewed Grace Gao, who shared about her father, a human rights lawyer, who has been targeted by the Chinese government and whose exact whereabouts have been unknown for four years. FRC’s Lela Gilbert moderated a side event on religious freedom in Nigeria, which included two survivors of persecution.

For more information about FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, specifically its work on international religious liberty, see FRC.org/irf.

10. SAFE Act Passes in Arkansas

On April 6, the Arkansas legislature enacted House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. This made Arkansas the first state in the nation to ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment surgeries on individuals under 18 for the purpose of “gender transition.” Of the many similar bills introduced across the nation, Arkansas’ law is the most comprehensive ban addressing this issue. It initially passed the Arkansas House 70-22 and the Senate 28-7. When Governor Asa Hutchison vetoed the bill, the House voted 72-25 and the Senate voted 25-8, providing the first veto override in Hutchinson’s tenure as governor. FRC awarded Rep. Robin Lundstrum the Samuel Adams Award for State Legislator of the Year in recognition of her leading role in getting the bill passed.

For more information about FRC’s work with state legislatures around the country and some of the pieces of legislation we support, see FRC.org/legislation.

The Redeeming Gift of Adoption

by Molly Carman

December 1, 2021

The majority of individuals are blessed to be born and raised by their biological parents. However, many children across our nation are waiting for a family to welcome them home through the process of adoption. According to the Adoption Network, two percent of Americans have adopted children into their homes—roughly 140,000 children are adopted in the United States each year, with nearly 1.5 million children adopted in America today.

Saturday, November 20th was National Adoption Day when courts across America celebrated the finalization of adoption cases. For children seeking a forever home and adoptive parents, this day is eagerly awaited with joy. This year, National Adoption Day is an especially relevant reminder that adoption may very well become even more critical if the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe v. Wade in the pivotal Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that is being argued there today. If Roe is overturned or scaled back by the Court and abortion is increasingly restricted in more states as a result, there will be thousands more unplanned babies that will be born that will be in great need of being adopted.

Family is such a blessing, and for those who have faced tragedy or unexpected circumstances, adoption is a redeeming gift and a way to find family again. Adoption is particularly significant for Christians as it is a picture of our relationship in the family of God. Just as children waiting for adoption are hoping for their forever home, Christians have been adopted as sons and daughters of God and await Christ’s return when we will be reunited and go to our eternal home of glory.

Scripture speaks frequently about God’s hearts for orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Orphans and widows were the most vulnerable individuals in the ancient world, and for the most part this is still true today. God has had a heart for the vulnerable from the founding of Israel. When Moses received the law he commanded them, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex. 22:22). In the Old Testament, Israel is often referred to as God’s son whom He cared for, saved, and redeemed.

In explaining the gospel, New Testament authors often use language that refers to believers as orphans before they were saved and adopted as sons and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). We are orphans because sin separates us from God our Father, and we are unable to be reconciled to Him in our own strength or actions. Without redemption from sin, we are condemned to eternal separation from God through death. However, Scripture reminds us, “that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) and it is through Christ’s death that we are no longer separated from our Heavenly Father but are reconciled and adopted into His eternal kingdom. John says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12). This message is reiterated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he explains, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (3:26). Christ also promised the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:8), referring to His second coming when He will fully redeem us and bring us home.

Adoption is a biblical value and is a tangible representation of God’s desired relationship with humanity. While not everyone will be able to welcome children into their homes permanently or temporarily, Christians are called to love the least of these. Christians should be intentional to promote this beautiful representation of redemption and healing, remembering that “we love because He [Christ] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 

National Adoption Day is an opportunity to celebrate children who have found loving and safe homes. The U.S.A. Coalition of National Partners, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Action Network, and the Freddie Mac Foundation all came together to found National Adoption Day. It began in 2000 when these coalition partners asked seven cities to open their courts the Saturday before Thanksgiving to finalize and celebrate adoption. The event was a huge success, and by 2014 over 400 cities were participating. By 2018, nearly 70,000 children in foster care had their adoption finalized on this day.

Anyone can participate in National Adoption Day and help raise awareness for the thousands of children who are in foster care and waiting to find their forever home. Whether or not the Lord is calling your family to adopt, Christians everywhere should remember that Christ is preparing an eternal home for all those who are redeemed by His sacrifice.

From Eating to Dining: How Shared Meals Reveal What It Means to Be Human

by Dan Hart

November 24, 2021

In 2019, a disheartening survey was released on the eating habits of Americans. It found that only 48 percent of respondents eat at the dining room table, with 47 percent saying they eat on the couch or in their bedrooms instead. Tellingly, 72 percent of respondents also said that they grew up eating in the dining room. This is the latest illustration of a trend that has been happening for quite some time in America. Families and households are putting less of an emphasis on one of the most fundamental pillars of family and communal life—a shared meal.

Social science bears out the central importance that family dinner has on positive outcomes for children, including lower rates of drug abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, obesity, and eating disorders as well as higher grade-point average, self-esteem, and vocabulary. But the benefits of family meals—or any shared meal—go much deeper than what social science can prove. Dining together fills an innate need that all human beings crave: the desire for true communion and fellowship with our Creator and with one another.

The Centrality of the Meal in Scripture

Scripture tells us a great deal about just how fundamental meals are to human flourishing. Moreover, the Bible contains many examples of how the provision of food often served as a means for teaching important spiritual truths. For example, in the Old Testament, God fed the Israelites manna in the desert. Despite their disobedience (which resulted in the people having to wander in the desert for 40 years), He fed them, teaching them to depend and rely on Him for their daily sustenance (Exodus 16). Similarly, throughout the gospels, Jesus chooses a shared meal as the context not only for building relationships but for enacting His salvific plan.

His desire for forming intimate bonds over a shared meal is shown through His dinner with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi (Luke 5:29-32), eating at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50), dining at the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:25-42), and staying at the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Strikingly, Jesus also emphasizes communal dining with His disciples in His resurrected body. He sups with two disciples that He meets on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), with His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 14:35-48), and again with His disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, sharing a miraculous catch of fish and bread over a charcoal fire (John 21:1-14).

Indeed, Christ’s plan of salvation is miraculously revealed multiple times in the context of a shared meal. It is at a wedding feast at Cana that Jesus performs His first miracle of turning water into wine, ushering in His public ministry (John 2:1-11). After feeding the souls of 5,000 men (besides women and children, which means the total number may have been as much as 15,000) by teaching them about the kingdom of God, He orchestrates a miraculous, spontaneous dinner for everybody when He multiplies a few loaves and fish to feed the entire throng, so much so that there are 12 wicker baskets left over after everyone has eaten their fill (Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-36). At the Last Supper, Christ reveals a fundamental aspect of His sacrificial mission through sharing bread and wine with His disciples (Luke 22:14-23).

It’s clear that Christ placed great emphasis on the importance of the meal as a conduit for revealing the depth of His love for His flock. But a natural question arises here—why did Christ do this? What is the true nature and potential of a shared meal?

From Eating to Dining”

Judging by the survey referenced earlier, for the most part, eating has become a pretty mundane and isolated exercise for many Americans. At the same time, the popularity of cooking shows and eating out prove that even the fragmented nature of everyday life in our culture has not fully tamped down the pleasures of a good meal. Even so, what our culture seems to lack is a true understanding of just how meaningful meals can and should be. As Leon Kass has reflected upon at length in his profound book The Hungry Soul, the ordinary nature of eating takes on a whole new meaning when we intentionally make an effort to move “from eating to dining”—from eating for the primary purpose of satisfying a grumbling stomach to instead dining with others through a shared experience of food and conversation.

Human instinct tells us that there is something unparalleled and intangibly communal about a dinner table filled with delicious food to share and enjoy together. This is illustrated by the fact that a shared meal is the only human activity that engages all five of our senses at once. We see the food spread out before us and the people we are sharing it with, we smell the aromas which heighten and anticipate our appetites and enhance our eating experience, we touch our forks and knives to eat and pass around the dinner rolls, we taste, relish, and consume our meal, and we listen to the merriment and clinking dinnerware and partake in conversation.

To be sure, a shared meal gives us arguably the richest opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation that has the potential to draw us closer to one another. Aristotle once wrote about how “the truest human intimacy takes place in good conversation.” And as John Cuddeback has observed, “[G]ood conversation … does more than give seasoning to life. It is the beating heart of a real communion of persons, of a happy life-together with those we love.”

Of course, meaningful conversation doesn’t always happen on its own. The best way to facilitate true fellowship is to pray for those who will dine with us and for uplifting conversation that leads to greater intimacy with each other and the Lord. When we fully invest ourselves in a meal shared with others, it has the power to nourish the mind, body, and soul all at once. Because God created us as embodied beings comprised of both bodies and souls, nourishing our physical hunger through eating naturally nourishes our minds and hearts. As we engage in rich conversation, we draw closer and grow in intimacy with each other. Our souls are in turn nourished by this communion we achieve with others during the meal. Since our minds, bodies, and souls are in union with each other, when one is nourished, they are all nourished. It is in this act of dining that we can harness the true communal potential of shared meals that our Creator intended them to be.

It is in this way that a meal shared with others can become a taste of the divine feast in heaven where we will be in total communion not only with all the redeemed but with the communion of love found in the Holy Trinity.

Practical Ways to Enhance a Shared Meal

At this point you might be thinking, “It’s all well and good that meals have such great potential to be so meaningful, but how can we expect to have this kind of experience consistently?” It’s true that we can’t expect every meal to be a profound experience, but there are a few simple, practical ways we can be more intentional about making a shared meal a truly communal and edifying experience for all.

1. Spend a little extra love and care preparing everyday meals.

Anyone who has prepared an elaborate meal for a dinner party, a family reunion, or Thanksgiving knows how much work it can be but also how rewarding it is to experience the appreciation guests express over a well-received meal. This experience can not only be immensely rewarding for the host, but also for the guests: who can’t help but feel well cared for after being served a delicious meal?

In the same way, parents or anyone else cooking for others can make dinnertime consistently special by preparing healthy, hearty meals that aren’t elaborate and time-consuming. The Family Dinner Project has some great tips on how to do this.

2. Start dinner earlier in the evening.

When possible, try to start dinner or appetizers as early in the evening as you can. When everyone has their hunger nourished earlier in the evening, it will set the tone for a better overall mood and will allow for a more extended time of fellowship after the meal.

Social science has also found strong benefits for earlier dinners for families. A recent study found that “‘parents who eat dinner before 6:15 p.m. … spend 11% more quality time with children, and spend 14% more overall time with children’ in the evening than those who eat later.”

3. Say a prayer of thanksgiving after the meal.

Most believers pray a blessing over meals before digging in, but less common is the traditional Christian practice of saying a prayer of thanksgiving afterward. Saying a post-meal blessing can help set a grateful tone before partaking in an extended time of fellowship after a meal and serves as an acknowledgment that what everyone just took part in was a sacred experience. While there is always the option of spontaneous prayer, here is a simple, common prayer of thanksgiving.

***

For Americans, Thanksgiving has the most potential to be the ultimate dining experience—it has remained the most popular holiday next to Christmas. This speaks to the power that is inherently present in a shared meal with loved ones—our human natures are drawn to celebratory feasts like a moth to flame.

This Thanksgiving, may we reach for ever greater heights of communion with our family and friends, and in so doing strive for greater communion with our Creator, the master of the eternal, heavenly banquet.

Women Must Be Protected in the NDAA

by Mary Beth Waddell, J.D. , Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin

November 12, 2021

As the Senate prepares to take up the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA, S. 2792), hundreds of amendments to the bill have been offered. One of the most crucial for senators to support is the amendment which removes the provision changing registration for the Selective Service to require young women to register alongside men.

Introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), this amendment is cosponsored by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). Each of these senators, and others, like Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) who has an identical amendment, and SASC Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who opposed this change in committee and supports this amendment effort, understand that requiring women to register for the Selective Service means that women will be mandated into front line combat roles should we employ the draft again.

Women are an asset to our military and serve with great honor, courage, bravery, and distinction. They bring unique and valuable skills and perspectives to their service. There is nothing hindering women’s ability to volunteer and serve, so there is no need for this dangerous and unnecessary mandate contained in the NDAA.

Requiring women to register for the Selective Service and thus be subject to the draft is dangerous and unnecessary. As Senator Hyde-Smith, Ranking Member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the Selective Service, noted, “I have great admiration for the women who serve in our Armed Forces, and every opportunity to serve should be available to women. I do not, however, see any compelling reason to expand the Selective Service System.”

Should we ever need to employ the draft, women would be placed in front line direct combat roles—if Sen. Hawley’s amendment is not adopted. No “modernization” of the Selective Service is going to change this fact. When the draft was employed in 1973, it was not to solely replace combat arms but to increase the force structure generally, yet most draftees went to combat arms. Since that time, the lines between combat and non-combat roles have become even more blurred. Just because a role is in information technology, cyber security, or other such “non-combat” sounding role does not mean that it will be removed from the battlefield and away from immense danger and risk.

Women in combat have a higher likelihood of injury, leading to non-deployability and the compromising of lethality, readiness, and cohesion of certain combat units. While some women are able to meet the demands of combat, the physical differences between men and women cannot be ignored. Fewer women than men can meet these demands and the random nature and the lowered fitness examination parameters of the draft are insufficient to ensure that only such highly-qualified women would be selected for combat roles. A three-year long study by the Marine Corps found that, in tasks resembling requirements of infantry, armor, and artillery units, all-male teams outperformed co-ed units in 69 percent of ground combat tasks.

This, along with the menstrual cycles and potential for pregnancy for women, has led to unit cohesion and readiness issues which should be avoided if a draft is needed. This same Marine Corp study found that sex-related physical differences negatively affected co-ed units’ speed and effectiveness in simulated battle tasks, including marching under heavy loads, casualty evacuations, and marksmanship. During the Persian Gulf War and the large-scale deployment of military servicewomen, some deploying units reported that non-deployable rates for pregnancy were as much as 30 percent of those assigned.

Not only is this requirement currently in the NDAA dangerous, it is numerically unnecessary. If the armed services needed to be more than doubled to five million with maintaining the 16.5 percent female service members, only 1.4 percent of the male population would need to be added to the 1.1 percent of males who currently serve.

The Senate could take up the NDAA as soon as next week. We applaud the efforts of these senators supporting Senator Hawley’s amendment to protect both women and our military. We encourage other senators to support this amendment, and we encourage the American people to let their senators know how they feel about this issue. Thank them if they are supporting these great efforts and, if not, ask them to do so here.

For more information on this issue, see Women Should Not Be Drafted into Selective Service.

Retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin is the Executive Vice President at Family Research Council. He formerly served as the commander of Delta Force and the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2002 to 2007. 

Mary Beth Waddell, J.D. is Director of Federal Affairs, Family and Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

How to Prevent Divorce Before It Happens

by Dan Hart

August 25, 2021

There are close to 800,000 divorces every year in America, which is roughly one every 36 seconds. About 74 percent of divorced or separated adults are Christian.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to think about this. Despite the clear teaching of Christ against divorce (except in the most serious of circumstances) in Mark 10:2-12 and Matthew 19:3-9, divorce is astonishingly common among believers.

It’s safe to say that when it comes to divorce, Christians have let American secular culture take root in their own homes. After no-fault divorce laws became the norm nationwide beginning in the 1960’s, the divorce rate more than doubled over a 20-year span from 1960 to 1980. While the rate has fallen in the decades since then, America still has one of the highest rates of any country in the developed world.  

As social science has found, divorce negatively impacts almost everything that matters, including family relationships, religious practice, education, the marketplace, government, and overall health and well-being.

What is most tragic is how divorce has affected our nation’s children. By the 1970s, about half of all children born to married parents witnessed their divorce. While this figure has improved somewhat since then, there are still over 5.8 million children currently living with single divorced parents in America, with millions more adult children of divorce currently going about their lives with a hidden and deeply embedded wound within their souls. In the book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, one adult child of divorce said this:

For a long, long time, I felt like a tree that was uprooted with its roots dangling above ground. I can even remember saying it aloud to people. I had deep-seated feelings of low self-worth and fell more deeply into sin … Words that are, for me, synonymous with divorce [are]: major upheaval, trauma, destabilization, departure, heartbreak, and bad example.

As this quote illustrates, a child of divorce often feels rootless and torn “between two worlds.” Since the child is the literal incarnation of the union of their mother and father, when the union is severed, the child feels interiorly split. The effect that divorce has on children is profound, and the wounds can last a lifetime. Thankfully, there are both evangelical and Catholic ministries focused on healing for adult children of divorce.

But what if there was a way to preempt divorce before it happens?

The Crucial Importance of Marriage Preparation

In the church, a certain “hands-off” approach has seeped its way into the ministry of preparing couples for “the single most important human relationship,” as Dr. Pat Fagan has written. This unfortunate pattern, which is a byproduct of secularization, gives dating and engaged couples the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the couples’ actual readiness to vow themselves to each other for the rest of their lives before God, their families, and their friends. In our current culture of dwindling marriages, many churches are thrilled just to have a couple—any couple—come to them asking to get married in their church. In their eagerness, it’s understandable that pastors and church leaders are hesitant to require these couples to complete a rigorous marriage preparation program that may scare them off.

Nevertheless, when we consider what is at stake with marriage and the tragic consequences and prevalence of divorce, it is clear that churches must prioritize the essential ministry of marriage preparation.

Why is marriage preparation so important for engaged couples? A primary reason is that, if done effectively, it can help uncover deep-seated tendencies and familial wounds that may not be fully known to one or both partners. If the couple is not, at a minimum, aware of these tendencies and wounds in each other before tying the knot, they can easily negatively manifest themselves in the first few years or even many years into the marriage and blindside the couple, potentially causing serious conflict that can increase the likelihood of divorce.

Additionally, as Alan Hawkins and Tiffany Clyde have written, it is particularly important for the current generation of young adults to receive effective marriage preparation. This is because millennials and Generation Z have grown up in a culture of rampant individualism, commitment ambivalence and devaluation, premarital sex, and pornography to a degree that was not experienced by prior generations. These negative tendencies lead to marital dissatisfaction and increase the risk of divorce, making it all the more imperative for currently engaged couples to unlearn cultural influences before matrimony.

The Advantages of Couple-to-Couple Mentorship

While there are many evangelical and Catholic marriage preparation programs out there that churches can follow, one of the best and most proven methods is for the engaged couple to be actively mentored by a veteran married couple, ideally from their own church congregation. There are several distinct advantages of couple-to-couple mentorship:

  • When an engaged couple is able to spend quality time with a veteran married couple (ideally a couple that they already know and admire from their church congregation, as pioneered by the Witness to Love program), they can develop a comfortable rapport and build trust with each other, which will lead to more fruitful, deeper, and more practical conversations about the challenges, joys, and expectations of marriage.
  • An additional benefit of couple-to-couple mentorship is the possibility of the veteran couple hosting the engaged couple in their home for their marriage prep sessions, which gives the engaged couple an inside look at married life and is a great way to demystify it and build realistic expectations.
  • This kind of couple-to-couple mentorship is also ideal for ongoing discipleship after the wedding day. In the words of one pastor, mentorship “connects [newlyweds] not only to the [church], but also to a support system that basically fosters ongoing activity in the [church] long after we do marriage preparation.”
  • Mentor couples can also become “first-responders” if the couples they mentor are struggling in their marriages. As believers, we all have this same duty to support marriages that may be in crisis in our circles of influence.

Let’s Renew Our Focus on Marriage Ministry

Effective divorce prevention is rooted in top-notch marriage preparation, but it doesn’t end there. Crisis marriages that are at their breaking point don’t have to result in divorce, contrary to what the culture might say. There are a host of programs, retreats, and resources offered by  Live the Life, Focus on the Family, Retrouvaille, and many more which can be implemented at or facilitated by your church that can help couples on the brink of divorce save their marriages.

The bottom line is that the church can and does help lessen the scourge of divorce in America, but it can always do better. As believers, we can be the catalysts for a marriage ministry revival in our churches. If you are happily married, talk to your spouse and prayerfully consider becoming a mentor couple for engaged couples at your church. If your church doesn’t have a formal marriage preparation program or resources for marriages in crisis, talk to your pastor about providing them.

As Christians, let’s renew our focus on ministering to marriage—the single most important human relationship.

How the “Infrastructure” Bill Is a Trojan Horse for a Leftist Social Agenda

by Family Research Council

August 6, 2021

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure “deal” that is being floated in Congress right now is very bad news. It not only increases the national budget deficit (which has already ballooned to three times the level seen in 2019), but it also contains a “poison pill” that advances an aggressive leftist agenda on marriage and human sexuality. It is effectively a steppingstone to achieving the Equality Act’s ultimate goal—a total overhaul of our federal civil rights framework to mandate special privileges based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI).

Congressional Democrats are pairing this infrastructure “deal” with an additional piece of legislation championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—a $3.5 trillion bill that reportedly includes the following items from the Left’s wish list:

  • Universal pre-Kindergarten, which would take children out of parents’ care and enroll them in public education even earlier.
  • Free two-year community college for everyone, including illegal immigrants, which would further incentivize academic institutions over personalized choices for successful career paths.
  • $1.6 billion for teacher certification programs that can be used to exclude any teachers that do not want to promote Critical Race Theory and gender ideology.
  • A nationally-mandated paid leave program that allows employees to take paid leave for almost any reason given, rather than for specific family reasons like caring for a newborn child or taking care of an elderly parent. A national mandate on paid leave may also disincentivize employers to offer their own more flexible parental leave plans that fit their employee’s needs.
  • A permanent expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies that will directly fund health plans that cover abortion.
  • The potential for either a public option or a side-by-side Medicaid program that will sidestep the Hyde Amendment and fund abortions directly with taxpayer dollars. (See frc.org/families to learn about our concerns with Biden’s anti-family plan.)

Many of the specifics contained in the infrastructure bill and the Sanders bill were released back in the spring as part of one comprehensive $4 trillion economic plan that President Biden positioned as one of his signature progressive priorities. It was released in two parts:

  1. The American Jobs Plan totaling $2.3 trillion, released March 31
  2. The American Families Plan totaling $1.78 trillion, released April 28

From the outset, all of the polices in these two bills have been sold as one comprehensive plan to “build back better.” As these plans got worked into legislation, most of the American Jobs Plan ended up in the current infrastructure “deal.” Then, all of the Families Plan, the remaining parts of the Jobs Plan, and some additional proposals were swept into the $3.5 trillion reconciliation blueprint the Senate has committed to take up immediately after passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

President Biden and Democrat congressional leadership are hoping to pass as much of the president’s $4 trillion policy dream from the spring and whatever other liberal goodies are feasible. Whether that comes in two bills (one bipartisan the other partisan), or one partisan reconciliation bill, they will pass as much as they can. That sets up two scenarios:

  1. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill succeeds, it frees up a full $3.5 trillion that can be used completely on progressive priorities, since the $1 trillion in infrastructure spending is already taken care of.
  2. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill fails, the entire infrastructure bill will most likely be rolled into the broader reconciliation bill, making it more challenging to convince moderate Democrats to sign off on major progressive priorities in a bill that could swell to over $5 trillion.

Why defeating the infrastructure bill is important:

  • If the infrastructure bill is defeated, the infrastructure spending in reconciliation would become a top priority for moderate Democrats. This would make it more difficult for the more liberal Democrats to cram radical policies into reconciliation. Although the majority party can set a topline spending number as high as they want, for reconciliation, they will have to choose a number the most moderate members are okay with. If a higher topline number is agreed to, it will force Democrats to pick and choose which programs they include, increasing the likelihood that we will see fewer bad programs overall if the bipartisan deal is defeated.
  • It will be really hard for Senators Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sinema (D-Ariz.), and some others to justify voting for over $5 trillion in direct partisan spending—which they would be doing if all this is crammed into one bill. Known for working across the aisle, both Sinema and Manchin have expressed concern with a $3.5 trillion price tag for reconciliation, making it hard for them to accept an even higher price tag on a purely partisan deal.
  • We should remember that anything in the reconciliation package would be subject to the Byrd Rule (allowing senators to block unrelated provisions), so Republicans helping Democrats pass their infrastructure priorities is saving Democrats from having to make all those provisions compliant to this rule.

Some Senate Republicans insist the two are separate bills, but President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have already promised to pair them. Given the limited amount that Democrats can pass in reconciliation without Republican votes, every vote for this bipartisan “deal” creates room for more liberal wish list items in reconciliation.

In short, paying for roads and bridges in the infrastructure “deal” clears the deck for Democrats to focus on the radical policies in reconciliation. If this deal fails, Democrats will have to do roads and bridges in reconciliation. Since the reconciliation process is limited, there’d be less room for their partisan pet projects.

Thus, in this case, a vote for “infrastructure” is a vote for Biden’s entire progressive agenda.

**To tell your Senators to reject this bad bill, go here: frcaction.org/infrastructure

Mary Holland On the Dangers of Removing Parental Protections from Children’s Medical Decisions

by Family Research Council

July 21, 2021

Below is the transcript of an interview with Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, during the July 16, 2021 edition of Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.

***

TONY PERKINS: Welcome back to Washington Watch. I’m Tony Perkins, your host, along with Meg Kilgannon, our co-host today. On Monday, Parental Rights Foundation and Children’s Health Defense filed a lawsuit against Washington, D.C., arguing that a 2020 law permitting minors to obtain vaccinations without parental consent is unconstitutional. The D.C. Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 allows minors eleven years and up to consent to vaccines, including the COVID shot without parental knowledge or consent, if the health care provider believes the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard. Wow. Well, joining us to talk about this is Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense. She is also the co-author and co-editor of the books Vaccine Epidemic and the HPV Vaccine on Trial: Seeking Justice for a Generation Betrayed. Mary, welcome to Washington Watch.

MARY HOLLAND: Thank you so much for having me.

MEG KILGANNON: Mary, can you tell us about what prompted you to file the lawsuit?

HOLLAND: So this is a very dangerous law that the Washington, D.C. City Council passed and Congress did not override it. We were sort of watching this process. This is potentially precedent setting. The pharmaceutical industry had tried this in many states, but they have bicameral legislatures and they did not succeed because both parents opposed it. But in D.C., with only a unicameral legislature, they were able to get this through. This is dangerous for children because parents won’t know what vaccines their children get. It goes beyond just the parents don’t know. This is active concealment required by this law that the parents who filed a religious exemption will not know that their children got vaccines. Whether it’s the human papilloma virus vaccine or whether it’s the COVID shot or whether it’s a meningitis shot, the kids allegedly can consent to any federally recommended vaccine on their own and the parents won’t even find out about it from their health insurer. It will be concealed from the parents who will have access to information and the health care practitioner. But the health care practitioner and the school are disabled from giving that information to the parent. This is unconstitutional. It also violates the federal statute that put in place the vaccine program that we have today. So we strongly oppose it. We believe that we will prevail on this. We have four parents on behalf of their children who are enrolled in the D.C. public school system. And we think that, we feel that, this is an incredibly important law to challenge because it is so potentially precedent setting. Let me just add that four cities have already sort of declared this mature minor act. And so Seattle and New York City and in Philadelphia, they have been inviting children without their parents’ knowledge to come and get COVID shots. This is tremendously concerning.

PERKINS: This would appear to me, as you’ve described it, Mary, intentionally designed to deceive parents. And with this being concealed, I mean, I have to think about, you know, there could be complications. You know, when you get this, let’s just take the COVID, there’s others that this would open the door to. So it’s not limited to the COVID shot. But let’s say they get the COVID shot. And we already know that there have been some health complications for some who have gotten these shots and a parent doesn’t know and all of a sudden their child could be deathly ill and they don’t know why.

HOLLAND: Tony, there have been others, over nine thousand reported deaths. There have been over four hundred thousand reported injuries. The covid shots in particular are very serious medical intervention. But every vaccine, like every drug carries potential benefits and potential risks. That’s why parents have to play a role in these decisions. These are minors. It is inconceivable to me that an 11-year-old can adequately research and understand the potential benefits risks of a COVID shot. This is nonsense. This is the pharmaceutical industry coming in and exploiting children, at the children’s expense and trying to cut parents out of the picture. That’s just unacceptable. It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it violates federal law.

KILGANNON: We’re really grateful that you filed this lawsuit. I think it’s incredible to me that a governing body, in which in this case is the school board, right and the city council, that would they would think that eleven year olds could know their medical history sufficiently to actually form intelligent consent to any medical procedure. Never mind a vaccine.

HOLLAND: That’s it, Meg. This is dangerous. Children can potentially die from this law. That’s what parents have to understand. Your child could die from getting fuor COVID shots through a school. And the kid doesn’t know what the shot was. They said, “Oh, yeah, give me the shot so our class can get the pizza party.” And then the mom or the dad take the kid to get to the COVID shot. We don’t know what that would do. It might be within a short period of time. I just can’t bring across enough how dangerous it is and how exploitative this is.

PERKINS: Well, and I would add that to add insult to injury here is that they’re going to bill the parents’ health insurer without them even knowing what the service provided was. I mean, this is incredible.

HOLLAND: That’s the point, Tony. It’s incredible. We could not believe this as this passed through the city council. And then it sat on the mayor’s desk and we tried to get people to call in to the mayor, and there were there were hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls, but that didn’t move anything. And then it went to Congress and there’s a waiting period in Congress and that didn’t do anything. So, surely, we have had no choice. And another organization has also filed a lawsuit. This one is where we absolutely have to take a stand. It is. And of course, this is specifically going against parents with religious exemptions or conscientious objections to the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. So it’s parents who already filed their religious exemptions to great extent that they’re trying to go around. So this is, of course, also violating constitutional rights to free exercise. It’s just a terrible law. In a word, it’s a just terrible law and that we’re proud to be standing together with the plaintiff and parental rights advocates.

PERKINS: Well, Mary, we appreciate you joining us. And we’re going to watch this very closely. And we’ll be getting updates from you, hopefully, so we can keep our listeners informed. This is a direct attack, Meg, on parental rights.

KILGANNON: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. They want to leave the parents out. They’re going deliberately around them.

The video of the interview can be viewed here.

God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

by Mary Szoch

May 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. The Brookings Institute has predicted that in 2021, Americans should expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births, a 12-14 percent decline from 2020.   

The social and economic impact of the rapidly falling birthrate cannot be overstated. Fewer children means rising loneliness, fewer consumers, isolation in old age, a dwindling economy, and overall, less happiness. Americans recognize this and actually want more children. Forty-one percent of Americans say three or more children is ideal, while just 1 percent say zero, but in reality, the fertility rate for American women is just 1.7.

Around the world, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing an even more drastic trend with experts predicting as many as 23 countries will find their population has halved by 2100.

Many blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the dramatic decline in births, arguing the 14 percent decline predicted in America for 2021 is the result of the pandemic. This decline is much steeper than countries have seen before, but it would be naïve to think that this decline is more than an exaggerated data point in a general trend.

Currently, government leaders around the world are working to reverse this trend. China expanded their one-child policy to a two-child policy in hopes of increasing the population, but it has failed to do so. Various countries have implemented maternity leave and childcare policies but failed to find a panacea. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, efforts to correct it will continue to flounder.

Without a doubt—the conditions created under the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic decline in births. Throughout American history, during times of economic decline, the fertility rate has also dropped. Fewer births in 2020 are attributed to the instability caused by COVID-19. But an examination of what happened during the lockdowns across the country points to another, major cause.

During the pandemic, in the name of keeping people safe, weddings were postponed, couples decided not to have children, students did not go to school, loved ones died alone, ICU patients were denied the presence of a priest, multiple churches were ordered to close or limit attendance—even at Christmas. Of course, in many cases, precautions were prudent and, in some cases, necessary. Still, the message “Be afraid of yourself and be afraid of others. Do not make any commitments or take any risks—even for the sake of love (especially not love of God)” was incredibly damaging. 

Sadly, this message was just a magnified version of what society has been preaching for years: “Be afraid. Don’t commit. Don’t take any risks—even for the sake of love.”

Today, the world is one where technology allows us to cancel plans even minutes before they were scheduled; where it is possible to find out everything about a person before going on a first date; where instead of committing to marriage, the norm is to “try things out” by moving in together; where commitment to moral principles has been replaced by a “commitment” to whatever makes people feel good; and where instead of practicing a religion, people identify as “spiritual” but not religious or as “nothing.”

The inability to commit points to an inability to love, which requires commitment, vulnerability, and risk taking. Ultimately, the inability to love indicates a rejection of God who is love. As the birthrate has declined in the United States, so has Christianity. In fact, among Millennials, four in 10 people identify as religious “nones.” It is not surprising that the rejection of God and the rejection of the self-sacrificial love required to fall in love, get married, and bring a child into the world go hand in hand.

The pandemic and the restrictions implemented as a result proved many things—human beings need social interaction; in general, people follow rules; work is a huge source of self-esteem; fear motivates drastic actions; and most importantly, spending time with God is essential for human flourishing.

Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed. The antidote to this instability is a return to God. He is the only being not surprised by anything in the future. In Him is ultimate stability—and with that, the courage to fall in love, get married, and have children.

Elected Leaders Are Moving to Protect Children and Religious Freedom

by Chantel Hoyt

March 22, 2021

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would allow faith-based child welfare agencies to operate in line with their convictions and protect their religious freedom. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) while Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the House. Speaking about the bill, Scott said, “At a time where religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [CWPIA] is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions.”

Several states have also recognized the need for such legislation. In recent weeks, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Kentucky have all introduced legislation that aims to provide the same protections to faith-based child welfare agencies. Specifically, this includes the freedom to place children in homes consistent with their beliefs on biblical family life and sexuality.

While it is the first time this type of legislation has been introduced in these three states, their introduction, as well as the introduction of the federal CWPIA, signals broader concern around the country about the Biden administration’s focus on LGBT issues and how it will impact religious liberty. With President Biden’s support for the Equality Act—a bill that would negatively impact these faith-based agencies (and many other groups)—the future of faith-based child welfare agencies is uncertain. But those committed to preserving religious freedom aren’t likely to go down without a fight.

Legislatures in eight different states have felt the need to pass legislation to protect foster and adoption care agencies, beginning in 2012 (Virginia) and most recently in 2020 (Tennessee). Such legislation allows these agencies to operate in a way consistent with their religious beliefs, without suffering from license revocation, contract termination, or other adverse action from the state. This growing threat has already been seen in Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. In many of these instances, faith-based foster and adoption care agencies have been forced to forego their religious beliefs, serve in a severely limited capacity, and even close their doors because they were not willing to compromise on their principles regarding marriage and sexuality.

Although such discriminatory actions harm the children these agencies serve, opponents of faith-based organizations tend to only focus on LGBT couples who are ‘turned away,’ supposedly limiting the pool of parents willing to help children in need. However, this logic makes two false assumptions.

The first is that faith-based child welfare agencies are LGBT couples’ only option to become parents. This is simply not the case. The majority of agencies in the country are more than willing to work with same-sex couples. Only about 25 percent of agencies are faith-based and have narrow criteria potential parents must meet. For example, in Philadelphia in 2018, only two out of the nearly 30 child welfare agencies were faith-based. The city terminated these agencies’ contracts anyway. The lawsuit filed against the city by foster parents who worked with Catholic Social Services has shown that the agency had not denied service or turned away anyone because of their LGBT status. Further, it showed that should they be unable to partner with a couple that approaches them, they would help that couple connect with one of the other 29 agencies in the city. This is not enough for the activists. Clearly, they were sued because of their religious belief. The picture of a same-sex couple being turned away from a faith-based agency and having nowhere else to turn is simply inaccurate.  

The second false assumption is that more children will receive homes and much needed care if faith-based agencies are forced to make the choice between their beliefs and continuing to help those in need. The reality, though, is that fewer children will receive the care they need because some of the highest performing and longest serving agencies will be shut down or sidelined simply because they’re faith-based. Illinois’ foster and adoption system, for example, seems to still be suffering after the closure of Catholic Charities in 2011. Sadly, Illinois has seen a 14 percent decrease in the number of non-relative foster care beds or homes from 2012 to 2017, and the state lost 1,547 foster homes during that same time period—homes that could have been available to serve foster children in need. It should go without saying that this will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems.

Protecting the ability of faith-based child welfare agencies to continue operating in accordance with their religious beliefs is good for everyone. It helps more children receive care by increasing the number of agencies able to serve them. Allowing religious organizations of any kind to operate alongside non-religious ones is crucial to preserve freedom of religion in our society and to ensure that we are able to serve as many children in need as possible.

We are thankful for the many states and those in Congress who are taking steps to protect this crucial area of religious freedom.

The Crisis of Fatherlessness and the Opportunity of Mentorship

by Grant Elledge

March 12, 2021

One in four.

It’s hard for many of us to grasp the extent of the silent social crisis of fatherlessness, but in the United States almost exactly one quarter of all children are growing up without a dad. This fraction doesn’t include children growing up with a stepdad, living in a co-parenting arrangement where dad is present at least a few days a week, living with adoptive fathers, or in any other non-traditional family structure—over 20 million U.S. kids are living without a man they can point to and say, “That’s my dad.”

The natural question that flows from this is, “Does it matter?” Both the research and anecdotal evidence shout a resounding “yes.” To take just a few examples, we know that fatherless individuals are:

And beyond this, the issue is itself cyclical and generational. Over 70 percent of unplanned pregnancies involve at least one parent who is themselves fatherless, and the vast majority of fatherless children are born out of unplanned pregnancies.

And so another natural question arises, “How do we break this cycle?” And this is where hope enters an otherwise-dismal picture: mentorship has been proven to have a categorical impact on fatherless individuals.

Thanks to a doctoral thesis from 2003, we can demonstrate just that based on a somewhat unusual metric: homicide rates. The only external context you need is what the author refers to as “old heads”—these are older individuals invested in their community and the lives of the young adults they’re connected to.

The thesis points out that the rate of male homicide is much higher than the rate of female homicide. Also, the influence of old heads (mentors) is relatively small on people growing up with dads, but significant on people growing up without dads. As a result, we can see that:

  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide without the presence of old heads is six compared to only four for females.
  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide with high presence of old heads is one—no more likely than their fathered counterparts—compared to two for females.

Combining these insights is dramatic: the influence of mentorship on fatherless males is significant, even significantly greater than the influence of mentorship on fatherless females. And combining this observation with the much higher homicide rate committed by males leads us to something incredible: effective mentor presence just for fatherless males (one in eight people, half of the one in four fatherless kids) may significantly reduce the homicide rate, perhaps cutting it in half—not to mention helping to reverse the myriad other trends we sampled earlier.

And so we arrive at the burning need: committed, loving men to support young dads. I’ve been blown away by the immediate connection in my personal mentorship relationship. The first time we spent meaningful time together in person (admittedly, after a long period of time pursuing him), he remarked, “I’ve never had someone who knows me so little care about me so much.” What a profoundly kind and encouraging statement! This young man is wrestling through the prospect of going to college while supporting a young family after graduating near the top of his class. It’s been a thrilling opportunity to support this young man who lives just three blocks from me.

How encouraging, how surprising, how exciting to have the prospect of this breadth of impact within all of our reach!

Grant Elledge is the CEO of fathering.me, a growing nonprofit committed to mentoring young fathers of unplanned babies and meeting the needs of those new dads with accessible online resources. He lives in Harrisburg, Pa. with his wife, Elaine, and their precocious 2.5-year-old, Peter.

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