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December 12, 2015

Policy Riders in the Sky…

If there’s anyone busier than Santa, it’s Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, it’s up to him to make sure the government’s stockings get stuffed for next year. That means another working weekend for he and the budget negotiators, who’ve been plodding through hundreds of pages of spending legislation before its release next week.

If there’s anyone busier than Santa, it’s Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, it’s up to him to make sure the government’s stockings get stuffed for next year. That means another working weekend for he and the budget negotiators, who’ve been plodding through hundreds of pages of spending legislation before its release next week.

At $1.1 trillion, the bundle of appropriations bills is longer than your average Christmas list, and significantly more expensive. Thanks to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Democrats got the bump in spending they wanted earlier this fall. It’s deciding what to do with it that gets tricky. As members slog through the eleven zeros worth of taxpayer dollars, Rogers is under the gun to give members their first crack at the omnibus on Monday. “It’s all complicated. Every day is complicated,” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said.

And most of the complication comes not with the bill text itself, but the dozens of policy riders awaiting their fate. As Fox News’s Chad Pergram puts it, these are the political barnacles that sometimes latch on to massive spending bills. In this case, those riders could include some important pro-life, refugee, tax, and gun measures that could make the process a lot more explosive than the time left will allow.

“There’s a lot of unresolved issues,” Rogers admitted. “Some of them are being handled by leadership and then a whole host of others will be considered at the committee level. So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We are making progress.” Already Democrats are pitching a fit over the possibility of adding ANDA, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, to the package. While liberals are busy pretending taxpayer-funded abortion doesn’t exist in health care, one state has been quite proud to admit it: California. The country’s biggest state also took the biggest step in passing off abortion costs on locals last year under a rule that orders health insurance companies to cover it — regardless of their objections or their policy holders.‘

Several members of FRC’s pastors network have led the charge against the mandate in California, which affects everyone from religious institutions to churches and universities. And while the Golden State’s policy obviously violates federal law, the Obama administration has no interest in enforcing that law — let alone abiding by it. That’s why conservatives are doing everything they can to attach language to the omnibus that would give Californians the ability to beat back the attack on their First Amendment rights.

Now, as the calendar winds down, conservatives are intent on including ANDA to make sure the ban on taxpayer-funded abortion is permanent in every state — and to add a private right of action so it could be enforced. [Thursday], in a letter to Capitol Hill, FRC asked — not only for the inclusion of ANDA but also for language that would let states opt out of funding abortion groups like Planned Parenthood. After all the concessions on spending levels, it shouldn’t take a Christmas miracle to win these common sense protections for taxpayers.

It’s time for bold leadership. Republicans have already conceded to Democrats more than enough through the budget cap hike. The GOP shouldn’t give an inch more and instead stand firm on these routine policy riders.

Dare to Believe: January 16!

In a world where two out of every three people live in regions lacking religious liberty, America is still one of the brightest lights on freedom’s shore. But that light has dimmed of late, under the most oppressive administrations this country has ever seen. On January 16, 2016, FRC is hoping to reignite the flame on National Religious Freedom Day as part of a special Saturday broadcast event.

Live from our D.C. headquarters, the Free to Believe event will feature some of the nation’s most prominent leaders, as they explain how we can safeguard Americans’ first freedom. From 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. we’ll be sharing stories of how pastors, churches and culture impact teams have influenced their communities, changed legislation and raised up their church to pray and partner with others to make a difference on this critical issue.

We hope you’ll join with churches from across all 50 states and tune in to hear how you can protect your freedom to believe. The cost is free — all you need is an internet connection. This is also an excellent opportunity to gather a group of leaders interested in joining or forming a Culture Impact Team in your church. Saturday’s broadcast will be an inspiring, practical, hands on event that will give you the tools need you to impact the culture in your community and beyond. For more information on hosting this January 16 event, visit our website!

When in Rome…

“Under Caesar’s Sword” is probably what thousands of early Christians felt like as they lived under Roman oppression. It’s also the name of an international gathering examining the Christian response to persecution in Rome this weekend.

At the conference, an extensive study conducted by the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University will be released detailing how Christian communities around the world respond when persecuted and their religious freedom is violated. Do they flee? Do they stay put? In what other ways do they respond?

Travis Weber, who serves as Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, is meeting with experts from the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, India, Italy, and other countries. He’s listening to patriarchs and leaders of Eastern churches give reports of their flocks’ condition, and panels reporting on different regions where Christians are, in some cases quite literally, under the gun. From his vantage point in the Eternal City, Travis reports that one of the main themes of the conference is that Christians of different traditions are committed to working together and supporting each other as hostility toward and, tragically, violence against them increases.

The good news is that “Jesus’ message of love and reconciliation thrives in a climate where hostility, danger, and martyrdom are present,” as Tom Doyle, who supports persecuted believers in the Middle East, writes in his recent book, Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe. Travis is in Rome to learn how FRC can better stand with those in exactly the climate Tom describes, and we’re grateful to partner with so many other believers who are unflinching for their faith.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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