Freedom Gets Its Ambassador in Brownback
Thursday afternoon, I was honored to attend the swearing in of my friend Sam Brownback as the next Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Years from now, I believe we will look back on Thursday as a defining moment in turning back the tide on what is now being recognized as the worst period of religious persecution in world history. That’s no exaggeration, as former Congressman Frank Wolf in our special Religious Freedom Day broadcast last month explained to viewers: “We have 5.5 billion people living in repressive nations.” And Open Doors USA’s latest report finds that 215 million Christians “experience high levels of persecution” just within the 50 countries it monitors on its world watch list — representing one in 12 Christians worldwide. Over the last year, President Trump and Vice President Pence have made the issue a priority, and Ambassador Brownback is poised to lead the way in sending a message to the foes of religious freedom that America is back!
As we’ve said before, America’s silence under the last administration led to a rise in the global threat that President Trump is now diligently working to control. Congress and religious liberty advocacy groups spent the better part of Obama’s two terms pleading for the president to get off the international sidelines and do something to aid religious minorities that were facing unprecedented persecution. President Obama’s failure on international religious freedom is not a surprise given his hostility toward the First Freedom of Americans here at home. We thank God that we now have a president and an ambassador who will work to restore religious freedom to its preeminent place in both our foreign and domestic policy.
“Never before has there been more religious persecution than there is in the world today, I am sad to say that,” Brownback said upon his swearing in. “Yet this is a foundational human right. If you want more security and less terrorism in your country have more religious freedom. It’s a byproduct, a fruit of more security and peace. It’s in all the data and now we need to spread it to all the world.” Brownback also added, “We’ve got several key places that are really big problems right now. In Iraq there is genocide against the Yazidis and Christians. We have made that declaration. People know it’s going on.”
I’ve known Sam for almost two decades, and I’ve watched him champion this issue since the earliest days of our friendship. He knows that religious freedom is the foundation for all other freedoms and is prepared not just to lead a diplomatic mission to help the persecuted but a rescue mission. Moreover, he and I agree that it is a basic human right for all people of all nations.
With Congress only recently elevating the role of this ambassadorship, Sam is now empowered to help those of all faiths worldwide who are persecuted because of their religion. He will also be leading the efforts of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that “reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.” The commission is comprised of nine members. Currently there are eight representing both parties, all whose terms expire in May 2018. President Trump, Ambassador Brownback, the USCIRF, and all those involved in advancing religious freedom should have our prayers and support. The lives of millions of people targeted because of their faith around the world depend upon it.
Originally published here.
Reactions to Trump’s Policies Are Telling
Newton’s third law of motion says that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. If that’s true of the physical world, then it’s abundantly evident in the political world. If a president is gaining ground in an area, then the level of resistance from the opposition rises.
President Trump has been resisted by the Left from the outset. After all, an entire “RESIST” movement was hatched at the very beginning of his presidency. But while many thought they had a handle on the president’s personality, they didn’t expect the level of change Donald Trump would introduce in his policies.
One of the very first actions when President Trump took office was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a memorandum first issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the United Nations population conference in Mexico City. The policy halts federal funds from going to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that perform abortions or “actively promote” abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. Every Democratic president since has rescinded the policy, with every Republican president reinstating it.
But Donald Trump not only reinstated this lifesaving policy, he expanded it. Whereas the Mexico City Policy banned funding for abortion in family planning abroad (which totaled about $600 million), the Trump administration expanded the Mexico City Policy’s requirements to “global health assistance furnished by all Departments or Agencies.” Under the new Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance plan, $8.8 billion in foreign aid is subject to abortion restrictions. It’s not unusual that a Republican would turn a pro-abortion policy back to what it was, but it is unusual for a president to then expand that policy to make it even more pro-life!
And now, even the pro-abortion Left is acknowledging the effect of Trump’s new policies. Rebecca Oas of The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) notes in a column at LifeSite News that some of the president’s “harshest critics admit that his reinstatement and expansion of the pro-life Mexico City Policy has been highly effective in advancing the United States’ moral influence to curb the international abortion lobby.”
Oas observed that at a panel hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health on the issue, pro-abortion speakers lamented the impact of Trump’s new policy. Elisha Dunn-Georgiou of Population ACTION International said that it had a “huge, huge chilling effect” on the global pro-abortion movement. Duff Gillespie, a Gates Institute fellow, admitted, “It’s not irrational, the behavior that the Mexico City Policy has caused … and I would say, yeah, unfortunately, it does work.”
And in the case of abortion funding abroad, it’s a life-or-death matter for the unborn. And if you don’t take my word for it, listen to the anti-life Left!
Originally published here.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Should Treat the Law Equally
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a decades-old agency first created to enforce federal employment nondiscrimination laws — which have extensive authority in public and private employment. Much of its work concerned the proper enforcement of civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination because of one’s race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
However, as time wore on, as is often the case, the corridors of federal power were infiltrated by those not merely interested in evenhandedly enforcing the law but changing it as activists. Unable to accomplish changes to the law through the proper authority — Congress — they resorted to sneaky tactics in memoranda, legal slights-of-hand, and the courts. In the short term, it may accomplish what the activists want, but the price is trust in the system. In the long term, their legal activism causes damage to the public trust, rule of law, and our constitutional order.
Though beginning long before, such activism has spiked and most recently came home to roost at the EEOC under the Obama administration, with its aggressive tactics and strategy to force change upon the law in the area of LGBT issues. The EEOC had taken it upon itself to presume to make law, claiming in its Macy and Baldwin rulings that the Title VII sex discrimination prohibition it is charged with enforcing actually includes “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” too. While several courts have abandoned reason and accepted this legal weaseling, many have shot it down. Yet several unlawful and dangerous court opinions on this issue — and the even more absurd administrative rulings of the EEOC — are still out there in the minefield the EEOC has created.
Now, FRC’s Travis Weber has catalogued some of the EEOC’s damaging work in a new publication, “The EEOC’s Ever-Expanding Definition of Sex Discrimination,” focusing on the EEOC’s efforts to force private companies to pay out settlements and judgments as a result of its reinterpretation of the law in this area. Indeed, the scope of cases addressed by Travis is actually quite narrow; the EEOC’s activism in this area has many more casualties.
Thankfully, President Trump appears to recognize the problem of legal activism more broadly and has taken steps to correct it. His federal judicial appointments have been rock-solid, filled with legal minds who fairly interpret the law and don’t twist it to suit their own ends. His Department of Justice under Attorney General Sessions has similarly proceeded, ending Obama-era DOJ activist interpretations of Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition to include “gender identity.”
Yet the EEOC remains untouched. It is continuing its troubling strategy of legal activism instead of fairly and objectively enforcing the law, most notably by claiming in the courts that sex discrimination includes “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” On its website, the EEOC still claims it is “responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” It brags about its activism and has a whole Web page dedicated to how it has used the law to its own ends. Yet its strategy is without legal authority and is solely a creation of legal activists within the federal government and executive branch.
As he did with DOJ, President Trump should directly address the problems with the EEOC. There are limits to his ability to do so, given the authority of the EEOC, but there are some things he can do. For example, he has control over nominations. At least one liberal activist Chai Feldblum — who President Obama nominated to the EEOC — has been re-nominated by President Trump’s administration. There’s no good reason for this re-nomination, as Feldblum has been a foe of religious freedom, even at one point stating: “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win… In fact … I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” This is disastrous for religious freedom.
To top it off, Feldblum has unacceptably, openly, and blatantly disrespected the president. As has been standard practice for years, all government officials have photos of the president and vice president installed on their office walls in an administration transition. The standard-issue photos of President Trump and Vice President Pence were placed on EEOC commissioners’ walls, including Feldblum’s. Yet Feldblum took down the photos, thumbing her nose at Trump on what typically is not a partisan issue. Even some liberal career employees — no doubt not fans of Trump — are apparently uncomfortable with such an inappropriate, blatant act of disrespect. Maybe Feldblum is ultra-confident her nomination will be confirmed. Yet I’m not sure why President Trump would re-nominate someone who is openly showing distain for him and the office he holds.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.