Trump to HHS: Proceed With Conscience
You’d have to look long and hard to find a more universally despised idea than Obama’s HHS mandate. In one of the most clarifying moments of his presidency, the order went out: everyone, regardless of their beliefs, would become unwilling partners in the president’s culture of death. If your employer performs abortion, you’ll participate. If your business sells contraception or pregnancy-ending drugs, you will too. And if you’re an employer, church, monastery, or school, you’ll cover both — even if you morally oppose it.
The outcry was swift. If women have a “choice,” then nurses, nuns, companies, pharmacists, and colleges should too. Unfortunately for them, the 44th president didn’t see it that way. And in 2011, he started defending the rule that would be freedom’s undoing.
Through it all, the simple fact remained: Regardless of what Americans think of abortion, only the true extremists argued that people should be forced to participate in them. Seven years ago, those extremists were in charge of the government. And they tried to make sure that a pesky little thing like the First Amendment wouldn’t get in the way.
They failed. Even in activist courts, the HHS mandate was a political loser. A wave of lawsuits poured in, overwhelming the Obama administration and setting it on the path of defeat in what would be one of the most personally damaging decisions of the Obama years. In near unanimity, judges on all levels dealt blow after blow to the mandate. Despite losing 90 percent of their cases — including two embarrassing rebukes from the Supreme Court — the president wouldn’t relent. Pushing what was probably the most unconstitutional, unsuccessful, and unpopular agendas of his two terms, Barack Obama was determined to see this payoff to his abortion friends through.
Now, more than 100 cases later, Donald Trump is closing the chapter on one of the worst assaults on religious liberty in a generation. “President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom. That promise is being kept today,” announced acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan. On the eve of the March for Life, the administration took steps to end the war on conscience rights. Thursday morning, the agency announced a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). There, the government will work to protect Americans’ beliefs, not punish them.
Under my administration, President Trump has said, “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced.” Unfortunately, OCR Chief Roger Severino told reporters, “these protections have been under-enforced in the past.” Today, “we are back in business.” Until President Obama, the freedom to believe was never a controversial idea. It was such a consensus issue, in fact, that after the Supreme Court invented legalized abortion in 1973, Congress responded by passing a law to protect health care workers from the very discrimination they’re facing today. Even Sen. Ted Kennedy defended the bill’s “full protection to the religious freedom of physicians and others.” Only two members objected.
We used to be a nation of consensus on conscience. Now, the same Left that demanded compromise and coexistence has dropped its sham of tolerance in favor of full-blown coercion. We watched the same bait-and-switch with marriage. “Give us what we want, and it won’t affect you.” Today, “affected” doesn’t begin to describe what happens to conservatives who think differently than the radical elites driving the Left. Fired, fined, sued, harassed, or jailed does.
Planned Parenthood complained that an office like this would “impose a broad religious refusal policy that will allow individuals and institutions to deny basic care for women and transgender people. We know from experience that denial of care compromises care.” Killing a child isn’t care. And while Cecile Richards’s group might be quite comfortable in its moral vacuum, most Americans are not. The freedom to believe is for everyone — or it isn’t freedom at all.
President Trump understands that — and he’s spent the last 12 months proving it. This White House knows as well as we do: Religious liberty isn’t found in political proclamations but in the policies they inspire. Yesterday was yet another example of this president keeping his promises. And not just any promise, but his sworn oath to the American people. Our deepest thanks to an administration who is not wavering in its determination to protect our most sacred property, conscience.
Originally published here.
Pence’s Diplomacy Takes Off
A trip to the Middle East is always fraught with risk. For Vice President Mike Pence, the stakes are even higher. Less than a month after the Trump administration announced its intent to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the region’s leaders are — if not angry — certainly reluctant. And it will be up to the greatest stabilizing force in the White House, Pence, to smooth the waters.
Vice President Pence’s skills of diplomacy will never be more important than today, when his tour through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel kicks off. As someone who was just in those same countries, I can tell you that the need for American leadership is great. This White House has shown flashes of that, most noticeably cutting the UN out of the dysfunctional and ineffective aid process. “America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID… The United States,” the vice president promised, “will work hand in hand … with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith.”
In a new column for Fox News, I explain how critical that relief is in the region Pence will visit. While ISIS fighters may have left, many Christians are still concerned about their security if they return to their homes, which currently remain in rubble. If that weren’t bad enough, if Christians don’t return soon, Iran may acquire de facto control over a territory it has never held heavy sway in before, allowing it an iron grip on a corridor of geopolitical influence all the way to the Mediterranean — and straight to Israel’s borders.
As former Congressman Frank Wolf said at a hearing last October, “I am sad to say that if bold action is not taken by the end of the year, I believe a tipping point will be reached and we will see the end of Christianity in Iraq in a few short years.” ISIS, he said soberly, “will have been victorious in their genocidal rampage unless concrete action is taken.”
With nothing to show for Pence’s policy change, it’s obvious that USAID, a longtime ally of liberal extremist George Soros, needs to feel the heat. Hopefully, Pence’s visit will result in the action most people in the area have been waiting for. Part of the U.S.‘s success in the region also depends on the surrounding nations. America needs to realize what a critical partner we have in Egypt. President Abdel el-Sisi wasn’t thrilled by the embassy move any more than other Arabs. But he’s one of the few leaders in the region even talking about protecting religious liberty — let alone doing something about it. To show his commitment to the issue, the el-Sisi administration embarked on a concerted government effort to help rebuild churches that were destroyed or bombed by extremists. Over Christmas, one of the most dangerous times of the year for Christians, he made sure police were dispatched to protect local congregations.
Hopefully, Vice President Pence will be able to build on the good faith shown by leaders like el-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan. The persecuted across the Middle East are depending on it.
Originally published here.
London Bridges to SPLC…
The State Department has been a thorn in the side of conservatives for years. And despite all President Trump has done to clean up the mess Barack Obama left behind, the liberal holdovers at Rex Tillerson’s agency continue to be a huge nuisance where it matters. Just this week, The Washington Free Beacon exposed part of the deep state at State when it reported that the anti-Christian Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is playing a supporting role in an agency project.
The grant, called “Youth Exchange on Social Cohesion,” is a two to three week exchange program run out of the U.S. embassy in London. According to the funding announcement, the point is to show young people the importance of cracking down on “hate crimes.” And while SPLC isn’t eligible for the money (and to our knowledge, no tax dollars have been doled out to the group connected with at least two incidents of domestic terrorism), its radical ideas are featured as a guiding force for anyone considering the application.
In a surprising turn, the agency lists SPLC as “an organization of interest,” along with the radicals at George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Of course, the irony of that designation is that the whole purpose of the grant is to stop “violent extremism” — the very thing Morris Dees’s organization inspired in the shooting at FRC and a Virginia baseball field. Both gunmen, Floyd Corkins and James T. Hodgkinson, were fans of SPLC, Corkins even going so far as to use the group’s “hate map” to find us. After being linked to FRC’s shooting in federal court, even the Obama government started backing away from Dees’s organization. The FBI, U.S. Army, and Obama Justice Department all distanced themselves from the dangerous rhetoric of SPLC.
To see Rex Tillerson’s State Department using the group as a resource of any kind is absolutely unconscionable. Let’s not forget: SPLC is the one that classified Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) an extremist — a label that may have influenced Hodgkinson to seek out the Republican baseball team and mow down the House Whip, along with others. Imagine the outcry if the State Department listed FRC or another socially conservative entity an “organization of interest”? Liberals would object on purely ideological grounds. With SPLC, it’s a lot more than ideology. It’s a pattern of inspiring hate and criminal baggage that ought to disqualify it from every government partnership — let alone this administration’s!
More importantly, why would Congress appropriate money for a project that connects people to the same group that helped inspire a shooting on its own members? If the State Department wants to end violent extremism, here’s an idea: Stop promoting the people who encourage it!
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council.