Tag archives: U.S. Senate

Beware of False Prophets: Lessons from a “Pro-Choice Pastor” in the U.S. Senate

by David Closson

March 4, 2022

Monday night’s failed cloture vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (or, more fittingly, the “Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act”) provided an important glimpse into the worldviews of America’s two major political parties. It also elicited some revealing comments from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), an original co-sponsor of the bill. Although his staff told me they did not have an official reason for why Warnock missed the vote, the senator himself wanted to ensure everyone knew where he stood. Hours before the vote, Warnock tweeted, “I’ve always been a pro-choice pastor, and I believe a doctor’s office is too small for a patient, their doctors, and the U.S. government. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Senate should pass it as soon as possible.”

Senator Warnock’s Twitter feed routinely provides insight into how Georgia’s junior senator is thinking about various issues. Last April, Warnock (who also serves as the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta) tweeted an Easter greeting that claimed, “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” He has tweeted support for the Equality Act (legislation that would severely erode religious freedom) and previously tweeted about his support for abortion.

Although Warnock’s position is not new, his repeated claim of being a “pro-choice pastor” merits a closer look. What does it mean to be a “pro-choice pastor”? The Bible clearly teaches the personhood of the unborn, that preborn babies are made in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect. How does Warnock square the Bible’s teaching with his support for abortion? In short, he doesn’t even seem to try. In fact, since joining the Senate, he hasn’t tried to tone down his support for abortion at all. The prospect of facing voters in a very competitive state in less than a year has likewise done nothing to moderate his views. Why is that?

Well, even before joining the U.S. Senate, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (as he likes to be referred to) was staunchly pro-choice. His campaign website proudly notes, “Reverend Warnock has been an advocate for women’s health and reproductive justice his entire life and is proud to have been endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.” Moreover, Warnock is a three-time graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. As I’ve noted before, Union Seminary is theologically very liberal (for the 2021-22 academic term, students have the option to join the “Queer Caucus;” the “Seminarians for Reproductive Justice” and “Transgender Nonconforming” caucuses are inactive this semester).

Given Warnock’s liberal seminary training and membership in a political party beholden to the abortion lobby, it is no surprise that he is committed to abortion. But if it is no surprise, why is it important to draw attention to his view and public statements? Does it really matter what one liberal senator thinks about abortion? In my view, it matters a great deal because of Warnock’s role as a pastor and frequent use of the term “pro-choice pastor.”

Let me be clear. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a biblically faithful “pro-choice pastor.” Over 2,500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah addressed the people of Israel as they faced the prospect of exile because of their sin. Speaking to those who were committing intentional sin, Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). In Isaiah, “woe” connotes grief and consternation and is often directed at someone in grievous error. Calling something evil “good” is to invert the moral order and invite divine judgment.

This verse is relevant considering the heightened responsibility of pastors to provide sound teaching to their congregations. When giving instructions to Titus about the qualifications for pastoral ministry, Paul explained, “[A pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” For Paul, one of the chief responsibilities of a pastor is teaching the Bible and rebuking those who are in error. Again, on the issue of abortion, the Bible is crystal clear (see Ex. 21:22; Ps. 139:13-16, 22:10, 51:5-6; Job 3:3; Jer. 1:4-5; Isa. 49:1; Luke 1:39-45; Gal. 1:15). Thus, a “pro-choice pastor” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Of course, there are many pro-abortion advocates who hold ministerial positions in churches around the country, but I believe the Bible’s requirement of adherence to sound doctrine disqualifies anyone from true gospel work who is fervently “pro-choice.” One simply cannot condone, support, and champion the killing of preborn children in the pulpit and satisfy the requirements for pastoral ministry laid out in the New Testament.

If this is true, what does this mean for how we should think about Reverend Warnock’s ministry? To use biblical imagery, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Consider Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15-16a, where He says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” According to Jesus, false teachers will be recognized by their fruit. An obviously bad fruit is teaching that does not accord with sound doctrine. Moreover, using one’s title and position of leadership in the church to provide cover for wickedness is surely a sign of rotten fruit.

Abortion remains a significant feature in our political discourse, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will not be the final word. And although Christians must continue to pray that the Court will make the right decision and overturn Roe v. Wade, pastors and Christian leaders must remember their sacred duty to lead God’s people to think faithfully on these issues. In the Great Commission, Jesus famously commissioned His disciples to “make disciples of all nations.” He also instructed them to teach people “all that I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:19-20). Included within the “all that I have commanded you” is everything Jesus taught concerning the value and dignity of human life. Thus, rather than follow Senator Reverend Warnock’s lead, faithful undershepherds must recommit themselves to the task at hand, which is not abortion advocacy but contending for the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

The Filibuster: Guardian of the Republic

by Worth Loving

January 31, 2022

Many items on President Joe Biden’s agenda have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives only to be dead on arrival in the Senate. This is due to the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to move any piece of legislation. Recently, many Senate Democrats have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster in the hopes that some of Biden’s more partisan agenda items will finally reach his desk. But because two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have refused to go along with their party’s prevailing narrative, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cannot get the 50 votes he needs to change the Senate rules and do away with the filibuster.

What follows is a brief explanation of what the filibuster is and why it is so important.

Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House and Senate the broad authority to “determine the rules of its proceedings.” This allows the House and Senate to determine how bills will be voted on, how committees will be assigned, how long a bill may be debated, and much more. Although the House does not allow for unlimited debate on a bill, the Senate does through a tactic known as the filibuster.

In its early days, the filibuster manifested itself through long speeches from senators on the floor. As long as a senator could stand and talk, voting on a bill or nomination would be delayed. The filibuster was used in the very first session of the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay wrote that the “design of the Virginians was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.”

It wasn’t until 1917, at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that the Senate adopted a formal process for a majority to end debate and force a vote, a concept known as cloture. Senate Rule 22 required a two-thirds majority to invoke cloture. In 1975, the threshold was lowered to three-fifths (i.e., 60 votes of 100).

Fortunately, the legislative filibuster has been preserved so that a simple majority cannot ram through legislation from the House. Last week, thanks to the efforts of Senators Manchin and Sinema bucking their party leadership, the filibuster lived to see another day. But you can count on Democratic leadership to continue berating these senators with the hopes of breaking their resolve so they can change the rules and push their agenda through the Senate with the barest of majorities.

America has a bicameral (i.e., two-chambered) legislature in order to protect two valid, competing interests. The House allocates representation based on population in order to reflect the will of the majority, while the Senate gives each of the states equal representation so that larger, more populated states would not have complete control of the legislative process.

The U.S. Senate is a fundamentally different body than when it was created in 1789. In a conversation with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington reportedly said that the Senate was intended to “cool” legislation from the House of Representatives, just as a saucer cools hot tea. The Founders realized that the directly-elected House of Representatives would be subject to sudden changes from the will of the people every two years. Therefore, they set up the Senate differently in order to “cool” those passions. Senators were originally selected by state legislatures for six-year terms with the intent that they would thoughtfully deliberate legislation to come up with something mutually beneficial to all the states rather than constantly focusing on reelection. That process lasted for over 120 years until 1913, when the ratification of the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of senators. With the 17th Amendment, the U.S. Senate was fundamentally changed and began to resemble the House of Representatives more and more. Yet the filibuster remained as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Senate.

The Senate has long been described as the world’s greatest deliberative body. The Founding Fathers never intended legislation and nominations to be rushed through. Rather, they envisioned a body of thoughtful and deliberate debate, a sometimes long and arduous process that would prove frustrating for both political parties but nonetheless a process that would eventually produce a mutually beneficial result for the entire country. It might be tempting for a majority party to eliminate the filibuster for short-term political gain, but to do so would remove one of the last tools that makes the Senate different from the House.

In 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville took a nine-month trip to the United States to discover what made America unique from other nations. He compiled his observations in his book Democracy in America. In it, de Tocqueville spoke highly of the American form of government and the national culture. However, he warned of what he called the “tyranny of the majority,” the inclination of whatever political party happens to be in control to push their will on the entire country. For 233 years, the U.S. Senate has mitigated the tyranny of the majority. And although the 17th Amendment significantly diluted the uniqueness of the Senate, it still remains distinct from the House, in part because the minority are given a voice through the filibuster.

In the current Senate, the legislative filibuster is the one thing preventing a radically different America. It is the one thing that will keep President Biden from signing key parts of his radical agenda. It will continue to block Democrats from passing the Equality Act, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and codifying Roe v. Wade. In short, it will stop Democrats from fundamentally transforming American government, which could then fundamentally transform America. If minority voices are to continue being heard and respected in the U.S. Senate, we must protect the filibuster at all costs.

Illiberal Liberalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 21, 2014

Last week, we witnessed the Left’s determination to enforce abortion-on-demand as the highest good of American society. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) held a hearing on his legislation that would “make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children,” writes Thomas Messner. “In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

The Left has been losing the battle for the sanctity of life and the well-being of their mothers. Repeatedly, state and federal courts have upheld the right of states to limit access to elective abortion according to legal precedence, the Tenth Amendment, and simple decency.

Enraged, liberals like Sen. Blumenthal are seeking to vitiate entire bodies of law so as to impose their radical agenda of sexual autonomy and abortion at any stage of pregnancy (subsidized by the federal government, no less) on the American people.

This mentality informs not only the Left’s approach to abortion; it is much broader than that, sweeping across the political horizon: Liberalism’s illiberalism, its insistence on a program of extreme social change through whatever means — the courts, legislation, regulatory and tax policy, etc. — can achieve it, regardless of the will of the people or their elected representatives.

Following are some compelling quotes about illiberal liberalism, about the Left’s tantrum-like emphasis on coercing their fellow citizens into a regime of profound social transformation.

Government leaders routinely ignore laws they are sworn to uphold. This is more than intolerant. It is illiberal. It is a willingness to use coercive methods, from government action to public shaming, to shut down debate and censor those who hold a different opinion as if they have no right to their views at all.” Kim R. Holmes, Distinguished Fellow, Heritage Foundation

In some respects the Obama Democrats want to go further — and are complaining that they’re having a hard time getting there. Their form of liberalism is in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom, for government coercion of those who refuse to behave the way they’d like.” Michael Barone, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Why are you expected to abandon your conscience the moment you step into the commercial world? Why is it mandatory to violate your liberty in order to protect the wishes of others? Indeed, why would a gay couple want, say, a Christian opposed to gay marriage to photograph their wedding or prepare their cake? It hardly seems the best way to ensure a satisfactory job. One suspects that it is an exercise in humiliation, an attempt to force those with unfashionable scruples to affirm what they reject. It is, in short, a calculated effort at intolerance.” Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Conservatives are put into awkward positions of critiquing liberal ideas on grounds that they are impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Yet rarely, at least outside the religious sphere, do they identify the progressive as often immoral. And the unfortunate result is that they have often ceded moral claims to supposedly dreamy, utopian, and well-meaning progressives, when in fact the latter increasingly have little moral ground to stand upon.” Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Blumenthal Pro-Abortion Bill: Going Backward at Full Steam

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 15, 2014

Various Supreme Court rulings have said that limitations can be placed on access to abortion in the states.

Over the past few years, especially, states have taken the Court up on their offers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, so far in 2014 13 “states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion.” Since the beginning of 2011, no less than 226 measures hemming-in elective abortion have been enacted at the state level.

Most of the new laws relate to things the majority of Americans agree are necessary: Sanitary and other health regulations for abortion clinics; requiring that abortion doctors have access to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics in case of a medical emergency during an abortion; parental notification (note: that’s notification, not consent); requiring that women be shown ultra-sound images of their unborn children prior to having an abortion; bills that prevent abortion once a heartbeat is detected or once we know an unborn child can feel pain.

There is nothing radical about these measures. They better ensure safety for women and provide them with solid medical information concerning what an abortion really is. And they affirm the dignity of the unborn child, among other things recognizing that dismemberment without anesthesia is barbarity.

Now, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wants to stop the progress, turning the clock back on common-sense protections for women and their unborn children. His “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013” (S.1696) — an Orwellian title if ever there was one — would in a single scythe-like sweep eliminate hundreds of protections for women and their unborn babies. As Thomas Messner, legal policy fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, says, the Blumenthal measure “would make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children. In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

Increasing abortion and destroying humane safeguards for the unborn are retrograde actions. They pull our culture back toward a darker era when human life was considered cheap and the powerful exploited the weak. Sen. Blumenthal’s march backward is also a march into darkness. Those claiming to be children of the Light should fight it.

Blumenthal Bill: Bringing medicine back to the dark ages

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

July 15, 2014

S. 1696, the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” is anything but. Indeed, such a title perhaps would have been more apt (though still laughable) many years ago, before technological advancements made it possible to view, and impossible to deny, that little baby struggling for life in the womb. Now, such a title is a complete sideline, a distraction of advocates of death who grasp at straws and try to block all images from sight and mind of a helpless baby growing and grasping at life as she is about to be delivered onto its stage. No, S. 1696 is not about “health.” It is but the latest ploy in an attempt to deny what is increasingly becoming more undeniable — the life of the baby in the womb.

How does S. 1696 attempt this ploy? By trying to interfere in the regulation of the health and safety of citizens — areas of general authority constitutionally left to the states. The bill doesn’t even attempt to hide this interference, explicitly stating in its findings: “Though described by their proponents as health and safety regulations many of these abortion-specific restrictions do not advance the safety of abortion services and do nothing to protect women’s health.”

The bill would prohibit specific tests or medical procedures in connection with the provision of an abortion. It would also prohibit limits from being placed on an abortion provider’s ability to delegate tasks, ability to prescribe or dispense drugs based on her or his good-faith medical judgment, and ability to provide abortion services via telemedicine. It would also bar states and localities from determining how equipment, staffing, credentialing, privileges, and transfer arrangements would work at facilities providing abortions, and from restricting abortion training. In all these matters, state and local governments may only regulate the health and safety of their citizens regarding abortions if they do so through generally applicable regulations or also regulate medically comparable fields. In addition, S. 1696 would bar state and local governments from requiring women to “make one or more medically unnecessary visits to the provider of abortion services or to any individual or entity that does not provide abortion services” before “obtaining an abortion.” Aside from the overt intrusion into areas of power clearly left to the states, the federal government is now going to tell the states what is and isn’t “medically unnecessary.” The brashness of this power grab is hard to ignore.

As if this wasn’t enough, the bill continues: “[a] measure or action that restricts the provision of abortion services or the facilities that provide abortion services that is similar to any of the prohibited limitations or requirements described [above] shall be unlawful if such measure or action singles out abortion services or make abortions services more difficult to access and does not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services.” Well that’s nice. How is any of this defined? “[A] plaintiff shall demonstrate that the measure or action involved — (A) singles out the provision of abortion services or facilities in which abortion services are performed; or (B) impedes women’s access to abortion services based on one or more of the factors described in paragraph (3)” (emphasis mine). One such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action is reasonably likely to delay some women in accessing abortion services.” So a lawsuit may be brought under this bill by merely showing that it takes longer to get an abortion (please pay no attention to the state’s serious health concerns). Under this theory, one could introduce legislation mandating “immediate medical treatment” of certain conditions because the diagnosis period is “too long.” Another such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action requires, or is reasonably likely to have the effect of necessitating, a trip to the offices of the abortion provider that would not otherwise be required.” Who determines what is “required.”

At this point, S.1696 should just stop pretending it is not intruding into areas of state authority. Other “factors” are laid out in the bill. But the last one is a doozy: “[t]he cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Thus, according to S. 1696, a plaintiff can make out a prima facie case by showing that a law “impedes women’s health” through the “cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Obfuscate. Muddle. Then go for the power-grab. On top of all this, the bill would require a state to show there is no “less restrictive alternative measure or action” to accomplish regulation of abortion—thus clearly interfering with the rational basis standard typically used to measure state regulation of citizens’ health and welfare. If S. 1696 isn’t an attempt to rip from state control the power to regulate the health and welfare of their citizens, I don’t know what is.

Adding insult to injury, the bill’s authors pretend to care about minorities by claiming that the “harms” they claim to fix “fall especially heavily on low-income women, women of color, and women living in rural and other medically underserved areas.” If they so cared about minorities, this bill’s supporters would look to restrict abortion generally, as abortion providers have been shown time and time again to profit off killing minority babies. Such purported minority rights advocates would have come to the defense of the Arizona law banning race-based abortions, yet they were silent there. Indeed, the NAACP and others actually opposed the law and sued to have it blocked! Yet, abortion must be advanced at all costs. Such is the sentiment of S. 1696.

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