Keeping Watch in Washington
Hundreds of pastors descended on our nation’s capital [yesterday] for FRC’s annual Watchmen on the Wall conference, representatives of what we believe is the determining edge of the future of our nation. “The mission of our Watchmen on the Wall ministry is simple,” said Dr. Kenyn Cureton, FRC’s Vice President of Church Ministries, “We champion pastors to transform America … because the problems we face in America today … are spiritual at their heart and core, and the demand of the hour is for spiritual leadership to step up and engage.”
With 60 percent attending for the first time, we’re encouraged that so many of our nation’s spiritual leaders are engaging on the important spiritual and cultural issues of our day. Author, professor, and systematic theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem encouraged these ministers with a charge to exert significant Christian influence on government. Offering a biblical and historical overview, Grudem reminded pastors “from the earliest days of the Christian church, Christians have influenced government for good.”
The biblical call to be salt and light and to seek the good of our city demands we engage boldly, gracefully, and with conviction in the public square, but that engagement requires true religious freedom. “Religious liberty is the foundational liberty upon which this nation was built,” shared Senator Ted Cruz, while noting that in locations as far apart as Houston and Syria, religious liberty is under attack. Sharing the stories of Sgt. Monk and Chaplain Wes Modder, FRC’s Lt. General Jerry Boykin warned the gathering that “the infringement on religious liberty is hurting our military readiness” and added that “when a man or woman is facing the uncertainty of combat they need the strength of a spiritual underpinning.”
If chaplains are penalized for providing that spiritual foundation in accord with the teaching of their endorsing church, then religious freedom is a thing of the past. Fox News columnist and author Todd Starnes quipped, “Gatherings like this are forward operating bases in the war on religious liberty. We come here to be equipped…make no mistake brothers and sisters, they are coming after our churches.” FRC’s Travis Weber agreed with Starnes, noting that in oral arguments over state marriage amendment cases before the Supreme Court, “the tax exempt status that the Solicitor General admitted was going to be an ‘issue’ for religious schools is only one step removed from churches.”
As Weber put it plainly, the conflict between the teachings of the church and the sexual revolution is unavoidable. You can view any of these great speakers along with best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg, Act for America’s Brigitte Gabriel, the Benham brothers, and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on our Watchmen Pastors website. Please join us in praying for these pastors, that they may be strengthened to stand, and for the Spirit of God to move among us.
Class Warfare? Schools Bans ‘God’ from Homework
Mackenzie Fraiser may be a sixth grader, but she knows more about her constitutional rights than Somerset Academy. The Las Vegas school took a big gamble when it told a 12-year-old girl to drop God from a paper for leadership class — despite the Education Department’s own rules allowing it. For a project on self-esteem, Mackenzie wanted to use John 3:16 to explain how her faith affects her identity. Since she was required to include an “inspirational statement,” Mackenzie turned to what inspired her most: the Bible. Before she could finish, the teachers ordered her to strip any reference to Scripture or God, claiming that it violated a government policy.
When Mackenzie got home and told her father (a pastor) what happened, he was rightfully upset. The family contacted our good friends at Liberty Institute, who gave the school 10 days to issue a written apology to Mackenzie. “Government officials telling little girls they can’t mention God is not the law,” wrote Liberty President Kelly Shackelford. “It’s religious discrimination, and it’s morally wrong.”
The Assistant Principal tried to justify the ban, claiming (wrongly) that the Department of Education prohibits religious expression in class. And while it sounds like something the DOE would do, the reality is that no such guidelines exist. In fact, what does exist is a defense of students’ rights!
These children “should never be intimidated into feeling like their faith is bad or something they have to hide,” said Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. “The Supreme Court and the United States Department of Education repeatedly recognize that ‘students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.’ Banning students from expressing their religious beliefs in class assignments teaches students that religion is bad. The school officials at Somerset Academy must apologize and affirm her right as a student to express her faith in a school assignment.” Let’s hope the administrators listen — and right this horrible wrong.
In Epps Analysis of Executive Order
Governor Jindal’s attempt to protect individual rights from government intrusion has received the now all-too-familiar slander and cranky response from those who don’t like anything that stops marriage from steamrolling all individual liberties in its path. After the legislature refused to act on the Marriage and Conscience Act — not because of legitimate policy reasons, but simply because of “perceptions” about the bill — Governor Jindal took the step that is within his power, issuing an Executive Order to protect the rights of those who dissent from the State’s view of marriage vis a vis executive branch authority.
That’s too much for some, like Garrett Epps writing at The Atlantic. Epps probably knows he has no legitimate reason to oppose protection for such dissenters, so he resorts to the typical public characterizations of any individual rights protections in the face of the same-sex marriage onslaught — slander, distortion, and misrepresentation. You have to wonder whether Epps would consider Jindal an “amateurish salesmen” had his Executive Order rammed a Left-wing cause through the legislature without even considering any reasonable religious exemption, as President Obama’s Executive Order 13672 did last year.
But Epps can’t contain himself, and must try to denigrate Governor Jindal as a “kid” in order to distract from the laudable substance of what his Executive Order actually does. When one can’t address the arguments, slander the person! Clarity on religious freedom laws isn’t Epps’s strong suit. He compares Louisiana’s Marriage and Conscience Act to the Indiana and Arkansas Religious Freedom Acts, the latter which he characterizes the same way.
First, Louisiana’s law would have protected vulnerable religious nonprofits and charities from having their tax-exempt status revoked because of their beliefs. The Indiana and Arkansas RFRAs would apply to religious beliefs more broadly. Finally, Arkansas retained stronger RFRA language like the federal RFRA which has existed since 1993 (without the horrible effects Epps cries about), while Indiana gutted its law to make it not even apply to certain situations involving same-sex marriage.
Apparently Epps believes it’s a “homophobic state policy” perpetuated by “wretched jack[s]” to not penalize private nonprofits because they believe in traditional marriage. According to Epps and people who think like him, such Bible-believing Christians are literally afraid of people with same-sex attraction. Not only does he distort the policy behind the Executive Order, but also he doesn’t even understand Bible-believing Christians.
All the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act would have done is protect those that believe in natural marriage from being penalized by the state government. Stymied by a scared legislature, Jindal acted to do what he could within the limits of executive authority — the same authority exercised, and it could be said, abused in brazen manner — by President Obama in a number of areas. He should be commended for doing what he can to protect religious believers, schools, nonprofits and others who do great work for their communities but could be forced out of existence if their tax-exempt status is revoked.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.