Tag archives: Federal Government

State Department Reaffirms That the U.S. Can Meet Global Health Goals While Protecting Life

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

August 19, 2020

On Monday, the State Department, in coordination with other federal agencies, released a second review of President Donald Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA), affirming its effectiveness in both protecting life and promoting global health.

On January 23, 2017, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy which restricts foreign funds from going to organizations that perform or promote abortions. This unprecedented expansion, which is now known under the PLGHA name, expanded the requirements from only applying to family planning funds to now covering all global health funds totaling nearly $8.8 billion in American foreign aid.

The outrage from pro-abortion groups was prompt, as 130 groups sent a letter to President Trump immediately following the announcement, condemning this policy for increasing unintended pregnancies and maternal deaths. The attacks on this policy have also made regular appearances in Congress as pro-abortion members have sought to delegitimize the effort and paint it as harming United States global health goals. This February, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on women’s global health, and pro-abortion members used it as fodder to attack PLGHA. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) claimed that “This administration’s unprecedented expansions [were] implemented with no analysis of the potential impacts.” She further asserted that “mass confusion about the policy has led to a chilling effect causing organizations to unnecessarily change or eliminate vital health services.” The State Department has now issued two thorough reports showing that these allegations are far from the truth.

The most recent report from the State Department analyzing the implementation of the PLGHA policy reveals that so far, only eight out of the 1,340 prime grantees of global health funds have declined to agree to the terms of the policy, two of which were the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International—two of the largest global abortion groups. That means that 99 percent of all organizations directly receiving these global health funds have agreed not to promote or perform abortions. An additional 47 subgrantees also declined to accept the terms of the policy, but in most cases the prime partner organization directly receiving the U.S. global health funds was able to take on these activities or transition them to another organization. Not everything with the implementation was perfect, as 18 of the subgrantees did report delays in health care delivery of greater than three months. In these instances, USAID stepped in to help find new partner organizations or work to provide technical assistance. Also, following the completion of the first State Department report, USAID has taken substantial action to train grantees on the implementation of the policy by providing in-person trainings and electronic guidance materials. Contradicting what Congressional opponents have claimed, the report concluded: “When organizations declined the terms of PLGHA, the transitions to alternative health providers have been, for the most part, smooth.”

Abortion providers, whether domestic or abroad, act as if they have a right to receive public funds, and any time those funds are taken away, there will supposedly be immediate consequences to public health. Time after time, this has been proven false, and the latest State Department report is further evidence of that. The other trend confirmed in this report is that when the government restricts funds for abortion providers, other willing funders will always step in to keep abortion groups supported. The report noted that in Burkina Faso and Niger, private donors stepped in to fund organizations that did not comply with the PLGHA policy.

A similar situation happened when President Trump implemented the Protect Life Rule which prohibited Title X grantees from promoting abortion. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers withdrew from the program, sacrificing over $50 million in federal funds only for it to be replaced by state revenues instead. These trends raise the debate over whether public programs should only seek to provide services in the most efficient way possible; or, should morals and ethics play a role in how programs are implemented and which organizations provide those programs. The thorough review of using taxpayer funds to promote women’s health through Title X domestically and international global health funds demonstrate that our government can do both.

President Trump and his administration have gone above and beyond any past president to implement government-wide policies that protect unborn life. The reports being released further confirm that the U.S. can have policies that seek to both protect unborn children and promote better health outcomes for women. As Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) boldly proclaimed in response to the Congressional attacks on PLGHA: “To win the future, America should be leading to affirm the dignity and value of both patients, mothers and children.”

7 Things You Should Know About D.C. Statehood

by Laura Grossberndt

June 26, 2020

The effort to make the District of Columbia a state is in the news again. D.C. statehood is often cited as a solution to residents’ “taxation without [congressional] representation” problem. But is D.C. statehood constitutional? Here are some things you should know about our capital city and the current campaign for D.C. statehood.

1. The seat of government of the United States cannot be part of a state.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended for the seat of the federal government (the “District”) to be contained within a state. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 states that the District was to be comprised of ceded land. This means the state(s) providing the land for the creation of the District gave up all claims of ownership and authority over said land. Soon after the ratification of the Constitution, Maryland and Virginia each ceded land that would comprise the District. (Although the land ceded by Virginia was later ceded back.)

2. Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the District. This means Congress has the authority to govern the District’s laws, including its budget. Without this authority, the federal government could be endangered or rendered ineffective in its duty of serving the entire nation.

In Federalist Paper No. 43, James Madison declared Congress’ complete authority at the seat of government an “indispensable necessity.” He and his fellow constitutional theorists knew from personal experience the dangers of the federal government being in any way dependent on a single state. At the time of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Congress was situated in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). When a mob surrounded the State House and demanded payment for the military service they had rendered during the American War for Independence, the Pennsylvania state government refused Congress’ requests for protection. This led to Congress fleeing Philadelphia and eventually choosing a locale for the national capital that would not be contained within a state or surrounded by one state.

3. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in Congress.

Because the District is not a state, nor a part of a state, it does not have voting members of Congress; it only has non-voting delegates. This means the District’s approximately 500,000 registered voters do not have voting representation in Congress. This has generated many policy proposals that seek to create voting representation. D.C. statehood is one of these proposals.

4. H.R. 51 would dramatically reduce the size of the District.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) currently being debated is one measure designed to try to make D.C. a state. It would carve out a smaller federal District, consisting of and limited to the Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, and federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall. By dramatically reducing the size of the District in this way, H.R. 51 seeks to circumnavigate the need for a constitutional amendment by only admitting part of D.C. as a state, leaving behind a District that would theoretically still be independent of a state.

However, shrinking the federal District in this way would render congressional authority over the seat of government (in the truest sense) impossible. In such a scenario, the tiny federal District would be entirely surrounded by a “state of D.C.,” and Congress would not even have authority over the streets, necessary public services, and other elements on which it is dependent. The Constitution gives Congress authority to govern the federal District’s laws, including its budget. If the majority of Washington, D.C. were to become a state, it would no longer be subject to this congressional authority. The federal government and foreign embassies would be directly affected by the new state’s budgetary decisions and dependent upon the state for public services. The state of D.C. could grow inordinately powerful and might impose an “awe or influence” over the federal government that Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 43, called “equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”

5. A constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.

Even with H.R. 51’s reinterpretation of “seat of government,” a constitutional amendment would still be necessary before admitting D.C. as a state. The 23rd Amendment (which grants the District electoral college votes) would need to be repealed—or it would simply be rendered nonsensical (if D.C. were to become a state and the federal District reduced in size, the District’s only residents, the first family, would be the only individuals represented through all three electoral college votes).

6. D.C. statehood would have legislative implications for the entire country.

Knowing what we know from past budgets and laws proposed by the D.C. City Council, a “state of D.C.” would almost certainly support policies that undermine the sanctity of human life and are detrimental to the American family. A state of D.C. would most likely contribute two more votes for such policies in the U.S. Senate (as well as a yet undetermined number of votes in the House), directly impacting millions of Americans nationwide.

7. Statehood isn’t the only possible solution for D.C. voting rights.

Proponents of D.C. statehood like to claim that statehood’s opponents are opposed to D.C. residents’ voting rights. But this is simply not the case. By supporting H.R. 51, House leadership is rejecting other possible paths to securing congressional voting representation for D.C.—ones that would honor the Founders’ intent to keep the federal seat of government non-dependent on a single state. Instead, the backers of H.R. 51 favor a statehood campaign that threatens the federal government’s indispensable authority over its seat of governance while benefitting their own progressive political ends. H.R. 51 is not a solution the Constitution permits.

USAID Tells UN That Abortion Is Not “Humanitarian Aid”

by Patrina Mosley

May 20, 2020

The United Nations (UN) has declared abortion as “essential healthcare” and intends to use humanitarian coronavirus funds to supplement abortions around the world.

John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), recently sent a letter urging the UN to stay focused on saving lives rather than taking them. As we previously noted, it has been apparent that world abortion leaders, like the World Health Organization, have been using the current pandemic to push abortions now more than ever before as “essential.” Unfortunately, the United Nations is one of those leaders that is willing to use billions of U.S. dollars to deliver abortions as a part of coronavirus humanitarian aid.

USAID’s letter reminds UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the U.S. is the “the largest donor of global health and humanitarian assistance” and emphatically states that the UN’s $6.71 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Global HRP) “must remain focused on addressing the most urgent, concrete needs that are arising out of the pandemic.”

Barsa further noted that the U.S. alone contributed half of this amount—just in fiscal year 2019—at $3.5 billion. As President Trump stated in his address to the 74th UN General Assembly, the U.S. will “never tire of defending innocent life.” We have a vested stake in protecting our sovereignty as well as standing with those who wish to protect their sovereignty in accepting aid without strings attached. The letter reemphasized Trump’s statement that the UN simply has “no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

The United Nations has acted as the global enforcer of liberalism, disregarding the national sovereignty of nations by withholding aid to nations that do not support their abortion agenda. For far too long, developing countries that desperately need basic necessities have had to choose between their national sovereignty in holding values like the sanctity of life or accepting UN food and water that come with contraceptives and abortions. So much for the UN being “humanitarian.” Now that we as a global community are confronting something we have rarely faced before with the current pandemic, it should not be controversial to collectively say: Abortion is not humanitarian aid.

The USAID letter is unprecedented in that it brings attention to the UN’s twisted supposition that abortions are on the same critical level as “food-insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation.” It is a rebuke to the UN not seen from a world leader like the United States in some time. 

The letter states that unity can be found if the controversial abortion funding is avoided, and the “sexual and reproductive health services” provisions as part of the COVID-19 response are removed.

Furthermore, the USAID letter calls attention to what is “most egregious”: the Global HRP call “for the widespread distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion supplies, and for the promotion of abortion in local country settings.”

Abortion inducing drugs, like the abortion pill, are extremely dangerous, yet they are the go-to method universally for abortion advocates. As we pointed out here, the global abortion industry favors the abortion pill especially in areas they deem as “low-resource settings.” This means that the industry expects women to self-manage her own abortion by self-administering pills and expelling the child in her own home. The abortion pill regimen has been known to cause severe hemorrhaging that requires blood transfusions and incomplete abortions that can incur severe infections and the need for follow up surgery. Many women have died.

Sadly, just this month, a 32-year-old woman in India died at her home after suffering severe blood loss from taking abortion pills. During the police investigation, they seized a bloodstained bedsheet, abortion-inducing pills, and painkillers.

She is survived by her one-year-old daughter.

How this could ever be described as “humanitarian aid,” no one with a conscience will ever know. What we do know is that the U.S. is becoming more watchful and is giving teeth to the values we claim to have by being consistent with them around the world.

This is quite noteworthy and displays the seriousness of the Trump administration’s intention of being the leader in protecting the sanctity of life, at home and aboard. This follows the Trump administration’s success in restoring integrity back to the domestic Title X family planning funds where abortion will no longer be considered a method of family planning, expanding the Mexico City policy in what is now known as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (where U.S. funds will be restricted from supplementing oversees abortions), and defunding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which actively contributes to international abortions.

As an active partner of the UN and the leading contributor of humanitarian aid, we are confidently displaying continuity in our pro-life policies, thereby encouraging other sovereign nations to do the same.

Congressional Support for Communities of Faith Pays off for Churches

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

May 12, 2020

Congressional programs designed to help the faith community rarely work as intended. But the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), one of the signature policies in the CARES Act, appears to be one of those rare successes.

The PPP was created to provide financial relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations (with fewer than 500 employees) whose finances have been strained by the economic fallout of the coronavirus. With most in-person church services temporarily suspended due to social distancing requirements, 40 percent of pastors report decreased giving, and 18 percent say donations have been cut in half. But now, thanks to the PPP, many churches—as well as small businesses and other nonprofit organizations—are able to keep the lights on and employees paid.

Initially, there was some concern that existing small business loan regulations (which excluded religious-based organizations) would render churches ineligible for the PPP. Thankfully, a bipartisan group of members of Congress led by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) sent a letter to the Departments of Treasury and Labor and the Small Business Administration (SBA), clarifying that Congress intended to allow churches and religious nonprofits access to these loans. Subsequently, SBA issued guidance to ensure that lenders would not discriminate against the loan applications of faith-based organizations. The guidance also clarifies that churches would not be sacrificing their autonomy or First Amendment-protected religious freedom by accepting government funds.

Shortly after the PPP’s second round of funding commenced, it was discovered that thousands of churches had applied for and received these loans. Out of the roughly 12,000 Catholic parishes that applied for the PPP loans, an estimated 9,000 received funds. In a recent LifeWay survey, two in five Protestant pastors said they applied for loans, and approximately 59 percent of them were approved. Additionally, the Jewish Federations of America announced that 573 Jewish organizations, including 219 synagogues, received loans.

The efforts by members of Congress and the Trump administration to ensure churches have access to essential financial assistance—thereby saving some of them from laying off employees or closing altogether—should not be overlooked. When crafting the largest economic relief package in American history, instead of forgetting about churches or actively trying to exclude them from economic relief, these political leaders prioritized faith-based organizations. They realized that churches, in addition to running religious services, often employ staff to operate schools, food banks, and other services that play a vital role in American society, especially during a crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic.

This is one more item on the ever-growing list of actions the Trump administration has taken to promote religious freedom.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 2)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

March 23, 2020

Things are moving rapidly in our nation’s capital as our government attempts to respond to the coronavirus. On March 18th, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is the second phase of coronavirus response legislation. Here is a look at how this legislation will impact you and your family.

Testing: One of the main legislative requests, both from President Trump and Congress, was to speed up testing across the country. This bill directly addresses that need by appropriating $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of coronavirus testing. With this new funding, access to coronavirus tests will increase dramatically while costs will come down to zero. If you are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, consult the CDC website to see testing protocols.

Food Assistance: The second piece to this bill is providing necessary food assistance to those affected most by this virus, mainly schoolchildren and senior citizens. This package includes an additional $500 million to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is a critical program that helps low-income women and their children access healthy and nutritious food. The bill also sets aside funding to ensure that children from low-income families can receive a meal from the school lunch program if their school is closed longer than five days due to the coronavirus. State agencies will be responsible for administering these meals to schoolchildren.

This bill also contains $200 million for senior nutrition programs, including extra money for home delivered-meals and meals at senior centers. Since the elderly are most at risk of dying from the coronavirus, it is important that the government provides specific funding to ensure that the elderly can still access food in this difficult time.

Medical and Sick Leave Expansion: The major point of contention in H.R. 6201 was how to tackle medical and sick leave requirements.

First, H.R. 6201 expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to require employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide family leave for those needing time off to care for a child because their school or childcare provider closed due to the coronavirus. The legislation mandates 10 days of unpaid leave, and any remaining leave after 10 days must be paid. There are caps to limit paid leave to $200 a day, and these requirements do not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Second, this legislation requires all employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to any employee who has been advised to self-quarantine, is recovering from symptoms of the coronavirus, or is caring for a family member who has symptoms of the coronavirus. Paid leave is capped at $511 a day, and this coverage includes part-time and hourly employees. To ensure that small businesses are not disproportionately affected by this mandate, the Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt certain small businesses if this requirement would jeopardize the viability of the business. There are also tax breaks to help employers cover the cost of this paid leave requirement.

These increased sick leave requirements are prudent measures to help workers affected by the virus. However, in the original bill and throughout negotiations, Democrats made several attempts to include controversial language that radically expands access to leave benefits in a way that alters longstanding social policy and weakens the family.

The term “domestic partnership” was inserted in several places throughout this bill, including in the definition of the word “spouse,” which should be reserved strictly for marriage. The injection of this term into federal statute in this manner takes advantage of our emergency posture and is unnecessary now that marriage has been redefined by the Supreme Court to include same-sex couples. It also further erodes marriage and family, the foundation of society, by equating a “domestic partnership” with the time-tested social building block of marriage.

Domestic partnership” is also defined here to include a “committed relationship.” While we have nothing against the idea of “committed relationships” in general, the way that term was defined here—to include those 18 years or older who “share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare”—would expand the benefits under this bill in a way that waters down the significance of the family structure and renders it virtually meaningless. The rushed nature with which these serious changes to family structure were considered for codification into federal law was further cause for concern for us.

The FRC team identified this problematic language and worked with key negotiators to make sure it was removed from the House-passed bill. However, removing this language did not sit well with the Democrat leaders, so when the bill was considered on the Senate floor, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) offered an amendment to re-insert this dramatic expansion into the medical and sick leave provisions. Our team alerted key senators about the damaging effects of this amendment, and fortunately, it was defeated by a vote of 47-51. H.R. 6201 passed absent the anti-family provisions, and was signed into law by President Trump on March 18th.

The federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been swift, and for good reason. As these large spending packages continue to move through Congress, the FRC team will continue to remain vigilant and work to ensure they support faith, family, and freedom.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 1)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

March 20, 2020

As the coronavirus has spread across the nation, our federal government has responded in a number of ways to address the damage inflicted by it. Part of that response has been legislative. This series will examine the different coronavirus response bills coming out of Congress, and how FRC has worked to advance faith, family, and freedom in this process.

On March 6th, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the first in what has become a series of measures addressing the growing coronavirus crisis. This bill’s $8.3 billion price tag might seem steep, but it is the first major step in increasing funding for critical health care services and developing a vaccine. 

The largest pot of money, $3.1 billion, was appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for testing and treatments for those affected by the virus. It also invests in vaccine development so that scientists can develop a good vaccine in a shorter amount of time. Of this funding, $100 million will be directed to Community Health Centers (CHC). CHCs are critical components of our health care system, specifically designed to care for low-income families. These centers receive federal funding that cannot go toward abortions and therefore are an excellent pro-life alternative to Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.

H.R. 6074 also directly provides $950 million to state and local governments to help slow the spread of this virus and treat those in need. A key provision states that half of these funds must be allocated within 30 days. There can be lots of requirements that slow the use of funds transferred from the federal government to the states, so this 30-day provision is critically important. As we have seen, the ways to effectively respond to this virus change so rapidly that states and local governments must be equipped to provide the necessary health care needs to combat this virus. The more the federal government can assist and bolster local and state response, the better. Governors and mayors will have the best insight into how the coronavirus has affected their local community and how additional funding can be used to stop the spread of this virus.

Lastly, H.R. 6074 includes a provision that allows HHS Secretary Alex Azar to make any vaccine that is developed or purchased with these funds affordable for all Americans. With a coronavirus vaccine in such high demand, there is a concern that the developer could price the vaccine in such a way that it is unaffordable for the average American. This provision ensures that no matter your family’s economic situation, you will have access to this potentially life-saving treatment.

As the federal government continues to act quickly in response to the spread of the coronavirus, the FRC team will continue to track and monitor legislation related to this rapidly-shifting threat to ensure that human life and dignity are valued, the family is supported, and religious liberty is protected.

Be Not Afraid”: How Christians and Church Leaders Can Respond to the Coronavirus

by David Closson

March 19, 2020

At Family Research Council, our mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. This mission guides all our work, including our advocacy for religious liberty, life, and biblical values. It also informs our response to the coronavirus, which, as we are well aware, is now a pandemic.

President Trump has declared a national emergency and released new guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding discretionary travel, discouraging eating out at restaurants, bars, and food courts, practicing good hygiene, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less. We believe if the steps recommended by the CDC and the White House are followed, there is a good chance we can “flatten the curve” and lessen the impact of the spreading virus on our health care system.

Over the past week, Christians from around the country have asked important questions about how to respond faithfully to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Specifically, many are wondering how churches should respond to the ongoing crisis. We believe there are a few appropriate responses to all of this.

First, Christians must pray. On Sunday, March 15, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the calls of evangelical leaders. We must continue praying that God’s grace and mercy would fall upon us and that we would turn our eyes toward Him in this time of great need. To guide our prayer (which should be ongoing), FRC’s President Tony Perkins outlined several ways we can pray for the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage everyone to read these prayer points and use them to guide your own prayers.

Specifically, Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Congressional leadership
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • Other officials in the administration and those at all levels of government who are dealing with this crisis
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Second, we should comply with mandates and recommendations from those in authority. Under normal conditions, it would be impermissible under our laws and the Constitution for the government to tell a church when it can or cannot meet. But certain emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics, do present temporary but substantial risks to public health and safety. As long as the government is not singling out and targeting religious gatherings for restriction (while permitting non-religious gatherings to take place), it is allowed to enact policies restricting all gatherings of a certain size in cases like this.

Biblically, Romans 13 reminds us that God instituted the governing authorities whom we should obey so long as they do not require us to disobey God. And while gathering for regular worship is not an optional part of the Christian life (Hebrews 10:25), FRC does not believe it is wrong to temporarily suspend corporate in-person meetings if the authorities believe it is in the community’s best interest. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and Aaron detailed instructions about quarantines in cases of infectious disease (Leviticus 13-14). When there were outbreaks of disease, the priests served as public health officials and imposed guidelines for quarantining people, infected garments, and even houses. In the New Testament, Jesus called us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and we believe in a case like this, the best way to practice neighborly love is by following the guidance of health and public safety experts.

The church can still meet and gather together in different ways. While not every church need adopt all these practices, there are ways we can still “gather” in the days ahead while ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of the virus:

  • Encourage church members to drive to a parking lot, but stay in their cars and tune into shortwave radios used to broadcast church services.
  • Meet in small groups instead of one large gathering.
  • Suspend larger gatherings but keep the church office open.
  • Livestream services or other church gatherings and use texting or online chat groups to stay connected (churches with more advanced technological assets such as teleconferencing capabilities or other established systems to livestream events may partner with other churches to help them stay connected to their congregants).

Here are some ways churches can think about serving in the current times:

  • Offer benevolent funds to those facing financial hardship.
  • Provide housing for students who are being required to vacate school housing.
  • If possible, keep food pantries well stocked and include cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Think of creative ways to serve older members, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Establish a way to check in on those who may be living alone, the elderly, or other vulnerable people.

Here are some practical tips that churches can implement, and educate their members on, to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide and require members to use hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol while on church property.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean high-contact surfaces and objects.
  • Encourage sick or at-risk members to stay home and seek medical care.
  • Minimize panic by educating members and preparing for disruptions in service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also released a list of Recommended Preventative Practices for faith-based and community leaders, which we encourage you to read.

We also encourage you not to neglect your regular financial offering to your place of worship. The church as an institution is always crucial to society, but at times like these, its care for communities in need is especially needed. Your financial support helps do that. If you don’t have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Finally, followers of Jesus should maintain a posture of trust while taking appropriate precautions. In times like these, when anxiety, misinformation, and uncertainty abound, it is tempting to become fearful. But while it is important to take all precautions and follow the latest updates from the authorities, Christians should not panic. During this time of increased fear, we must remember that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Our God is sovereign. The coronavirus did not take Him by surprise. He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Human tendencies naturally pull society’s discussion of all this in the direction of panic and fear. But the Scriptures are clear: “Be not afraid.” Bible-believing Christians can model a spirit of trust as they remind each other of God’s promises and character. This grounding will enable us to care for and serve those around us.

Congressmen Defend Federal Role in Blocking D.C. Marijuana Legalization

by Nick Frase

December 17, 2014

Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) has been blacklisted from a local Washington D.C. bike shop, at least according to the sign in their window reading “Andy Harris Not Welcome.” For those planning to visit who want to avoid a similar fate, the cautionary tale here is don’t expect to uphold federal marijuana laws in the District if you want to get your derailleur adjusted.

Earlier this month, Rep. Harris successfully attached bipartisan language to the omnibus spending deal designed to block enactment of a marijuana legalization initiative that the District passed in November. Pot activists have decried the action as an example of an outsider meddling in local affairs. “You don’t serve us, we don’t serve you” is the tagline to their blacklist sign, a reference to the fact that Rep. Harris’ district is in Maryland and not in D.C.

What’s going on, aren’t Republican’s for self-government and local control?

It’s a fair question to ask and one that Rep. Harris along with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) have addressed in a Washington Post op-ed. I won’t attempt to repeat it here but the thrust of the argument is: yes, Republicans are the party of self-government and local control, but they’re also the party of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law.

Federal law is explicit, under the Controlled Substances Act it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. Furthermore, Article I, § 8, cl. 17I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over the District of Columbia. The charge that Congress is somehow treating the District unfairly or in a way they would not treat another city ignores the fact that the District is unlike any other city.

Every year, the Appropriations Committee, on which Rep. Harris sits, provides federal payments to the tune of $500,000,000 to the District of Columbia for the cost of judges, court personnel and defendant representation. They provide payments for programs in areas like education and security. The Department of Justice provides payment for federal attorneys to prosecute local crimes and house prisoners. Federal taxpayers do not fund similar activities in any other city.

As Reps. Harris and Pitts rightly point out in their op-ed, if marijuana laws aren’t confusing enough, nearly a quarter of the District is federal park land and is policed by 26 different enforcement agencies—places and personnel that would still answer to federal law, not D.C. legalization.

Congress has a direct responsibility over the District of Columbia. One that apparently gets you kicked out of bike shops.

A Contract Job Worth Keeping

by Leanna Baumer

October 17, 2013

After a mad scramble to pass legislation resolving the government shut down and extending a cap on federal borrowing authority, the House quickly agreed to one additional resolution late last night. In a nod to a lingering shutdown-related question pertaining to the role certain contract ministers and religious services employees play in our military, the House agreed unanimously to an amended version of H. Con. Res.58. This concurrent resolution expresses the hope of Congress that the Department of Defense (DOD) will categorize contracted priests and religious services providers as necessary for maintaining troop welfare and morale during any lapse in federal funding.

Almost two weeks ago, news broke about believers, including many Catholics, within the military lacking access to traditional religious services, religious facilities, counseling, and the Sacraments. Though legislation enacted at the beginning of the shutdown saga (Pay Our Military Act, Public Law No: 113-39) had instructed the DOD to pay active duty military personnel and to ensure that all services necessary for troop support were made available, DOD did not designate contracted religious service providers as essential for those support services. Because many installations rely on contracted ministers to meet the Constitutional requirement of providing for the free exercise rights of troops, this lapse by DOD meant that some soldiers had no way to practice or adhere to the confessional obligations of their faith.

As others have pointed out, the DOD’s failure to recognize contracted religious personnel as important for troop welfare is troubling since it seems to ignore the role religion plays in the daily life of many soldiers— while elevating access to base leisure facilities and entertainment options as more significant for aiding troop morale.  In the high pressure environment of the military where unique stresses and challenges are faced on a daily basis, it’s critical that military personnel have access to the unique support structures of their faith. In fact, courts have held that in order to protect the First Amendment rights of military personnel to exercise their religion, chaplains must be furnished by the military. In cases where an active duty chaplain is not available, contracted religious staff help meet this obligation.

While last night’s reinstatement of federal funding has resolved the immediate issue of access to military installations for contract employees, a legal inquiry into the DOD’s designation may continue. What should guide lawmakers and Defense officials moving forward is a renewed commitment to protecting the totality of troop welfare and wellbeing—including safeguarding the ability of military personnel to live out their personal religious belief and practice by having continuous access to ministers, priests, and religious staff. 

Amid Capital Folly, Some Good News from Washington

by Robert Morrison

October 4, 2013

One of our friends teaches at a government institution. When the sequester came, some of the professors and staff were furloughed. Our friend said he could work around the sequester because all of his classes are on one day. He could take his furlough day on another day of the week, he volunteered. He was told, in no uncertain terms, you will now rearrange your schedule to work through this. This has got to hurt. Cancel all your classes and take a furlough.

I’m reminded of the cynical view that H.L. Mencken took of democracy a hundred years ago. The man they called “The Sage of Baltimore” said democracy was the theory that the people should get what they want — and get it good and hard.

Such cynicism was clearly behind the decision to close down the National Mall at the time of the government shutdown. It is good to have knowledgeable guides from the Park Service to help interpret the monuments, to be sure, but many of us have led tours of the Mall ourselves and would be honored to pitch in. I know I will be happy to volunteer.

Closing the Mall was sparked by the same age-old tactic of entrenched bureaucrats called “Closing the Washington Monument.” That tactic says that whenever Congress fails to cough up as much dough as the bureaucrats want, they can respond by closing down the capital’s most popular tourist attraction. But now, of course, the Washington Monument is already closed. This is because of earthquake damage, not bureaucratic bloody-mindedness.

The White House, too, has been closed. President Obama’s administration made that decision for reasons that are hard to recall. We’re sure that his many guests and campaign donors will be able to access the historic halls of what Harry Truman called the People’s House.

My favorite tour guide for the National Mall was the man who starred in the first presidential inauguration to be held on the West Front of the Capitol. In Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981, he pointed to the vast expanse and the impressive monuments laid out before him and showed the country and the world what being American means.

I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.

This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Hearing Washington thus described as a man of humility “who came to greatness reluctantly,” we are led to wonder how things have come to this sad day. We have been told that our current president is one who “hovers over the nations, like a sort of god.” (Newsweek editor Evan Thomas) He is, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the smartest man ever to occupy the White House. So how did we get in this mess?

With all the folly evident in Washington, D.C. these days, we can use some good news from George Washington. There’s at least one historic site is still open and welcoming Americans: George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. This stately mansion is about twenty miles from downtown Washington and it’s one of the best investments you will ever make.

The estate is the property of The Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. It’s been privately owned for its entire existence. Several years ago, a new $187 million Visitors Center was opened that houses theaters, exhibits, gift shops and dining. Most recently, Mount Vernonadded a new feature, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Now, scholars will be able to access old and new materials on the life and influence of George Washington. The George Washington Library cost $106 million — all privately funded. Another great feature is George Washington’s own handsome leather-bound copy of the Constitution with the Bill of Rights. In the margins of this 222-year old document you can see Washington’s neat, handwritten notes on the powers and the duties of the President. This volume cost $9.8 million at auction and was purchased for Mount Vernon, again using all private funds.

Another piece of good news from Washington is the forthcoming (Oct. 23-26) Hillsdale Hostel conference on “The Character and Statesmanship of George Washington.” With lectures, discussions, and presentations, Hillsdale College’s Alan J. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship will work to inform and inspire attendees about the life and work of our first president. I’m planning to attend this event and to report on it.

In 2009, The New Yorker published a most interesting cover portrait for President Obama’s First Inauguration.

It remains my favorite portrait of Barack Obama. It reminds us of the great promise and the greater responsibility that rests on the shoulders of every man who has stood in the place George Washington stood. It shows us how Washington was and remains the model for what a President of the United States should be. For liberals and conservatives, it’s a sobering thought.

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