The Ties That Blind: More Hypocrisy on White House Access
Stop the presses. Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has just uncovered the scandal of the century: A conservative administration is consulting with conservative experts! Apparently, this is news to the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, who is outraged that a president would dare to take advice from ideologically compatible groups. (No one is quite sure where Cummings was from 2009-2016, when Barack Obama should have put half of the Left’s interest groups on the official government payroll.)
Still, Cummings is so sure that voters will be shocked that he’s filed an official complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for soliciting input on a legal document from a conservative legal group: Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Insisting that a “whistleblower” inside HHS has exposed some shameful collaboration, he fired off a letter to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan warning that he may investigate. In particular, he’s worried about ADF’s advice on President’s Trump’s latest guidance that makes it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood. As is sometimes the practice of government agencies, it sought outside counsel from a like-minded group. There’s nothing immoral, controversial or unusual about it.
Even so, Cummings, whose previous president spent eight years doing the bidding of George Soros and other far-left lobbyists, is raising a stink about ADF’s involvement, saying it points to a sinister plot of conservatives to infiltrate the government. “The documents provided by the whistleblower raise serious concerns about whether the Trump administration is now taking orders from an extreme right-wing interest group that is trying to deny American citizens the ability to exercise their right to obtain family planning services from the provider of their choice, which is guaranteed by federal statute.”
If it weren’t so astounded, ADF might have been amused. After all, it fired back, it’s “common practice for constitutional attorneys to be consulted regarding constitutional matters.” What should be common practice, the group went on, “is refusing to award Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars to scandal-ridden Medicaid providers. HHS’s recent guidance brings the agency back into conformity with decades of federal court precedent and empowers state legislatures to allocate Medicaid funding to women’s health providers not entangled in alleged fraud and abuse.” If you’re looking for the real outrage, that’s it.
The conservative movement’s influence on a conservative administration isn’t a smoking gun — or even a Nerf one. America just emerged from eight years of liberals trading influence from the highest posts in government. Perhaps Cummings has forgotten the suspicious ties of the Obama administration that at best tested the law (and at worst broke it). Over his two terms, investigations uncovered plenty of evidence of wrongdoing from the underground networks between the White House and radical groups. There was the IRS official who leaked confidential donor information to the Human Rights Campaign to smear conservatives. (Disclosing those names, incidentally, was a felony.) And there was the shady ties from Google to the Obama State Department, where Hillary Clinton’s emails “show that Jared Cohen, head of Google Jigsaw, has been acting as a secret agent for the state department, turning the world’s most powerful tech company into a private arm of the U.S. intelligence services.”
What about George Soros’s potentially criminal ties to USAID money, where it helped fund aggressive State Department tactics in places like Hungary or Macdeonia? Then there’s the question of the Southern Poverty Law Center and its obvious collusion with the Obama Department of Justice and FBI to drive conservative organizations underground — until enough people complained about the partnership. And the SPLC’s influence at the Defense Department, where trainings were tailor-made for the group’s “extremist hate list” until DOD was exposed and forced to sever ties.
Planned Parenthood’s power in the Obama administration was obvious from the president’s top-level hires (in – irony alert — HHS) to Cecile Richards’s regular meetings and fundraisers with the First Family. LGBT activists were so embedded in the Obama administration that their sex-ed and “anti-bullying” campaigns became part of the official White House education curriculum, despite evidence that both were doing more harm to kids than good. Where was Cummings’s indignation then?
The story here is that there is no story. This isn’t about impropriety on the part of ADF or HHS. It’s about liberals like Cummings identifying the groups that help shape the conservative agenda — and trying to silence them. The merits of Trump’s policy on Planned Parenthood and state sovereignty were obvious long before ADF’s involvement. Local legislators should have the authority to carry out the will of voters in their states — especially when it comes to taxpayer dollars. There are plenty of organizations who can provide safer and more comprehensive health care than a group currently under FBI investigation. Surely, Americans can find a better recipient of their hard-earned money than Planned Parenthood, a group more concerned with destroying innocent lives than caring for them. At the very least, they should have the freedom to try.
Originally published here.
Prayer Shirts Get Under the Collar of Secularists
Most Americans have probably never heard of Beloit, Ohio. But this month, they’re starting to hear from them. It may a small town (less than 1,000 people at most), but it’s mighty. And in the face of the bullies at the Freedom from Religious Foundation (FFRF), that’s all that matters.
As usual, the anti-Christian activists are always on the prowl for rural areas, where they think locals can be easily intimidated on issues of faith. But the atheists at FFRF made a mistake when it picked on Beloit. As usual, the Wisconsin group is terrified of the prayers of a few believers, so it fired off a letter to the superintendent of West Branch ordering the school to stop praying before sporting events — or else. School officials were upset at the thought of ending a tradition that had gone on for years, but they agreed, admitting they couldn’t afford a lawsuit.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The community has started rallying to the side of the students, who are fighting back by selling more than 4,000 “Prayer Matters” shirts (in a town of 900 people)! “They don’t know us, have never attended a West Branch sporting event, or even stepped foot in our community,” one mom said. “Yet they believe they can tell us to stop [praying]. That just doesn’t seem right.”
At Friday’s home basketball game, fans everywhere could be seen wearing the message that atheists so desperately wants to silence. “Everybody’s really coming together in support of the prayer issue,” local pastor John Ryser told Fox News’s Caleb Parke. “[Now], we’re having more conversations about prayer and about the gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ, than we’ve ever had before.” As for the prayers, students took over, asking fans to have a moment of silence after the national anthem.
What activists meant for evil God meant for good. As we speak, our friends at First Liberty Institute are on the ground investigating. If there’s a way to restore the religious freedom of these students, their attorneys will find it. For now, we’re cheering on the hundreds of families across that small northeast town who know that no earthly power can stop God’s people — not from taking a stand and certainly not from praying!
Originally published here.
EEOC Clutch in Car Parts Dispute
Decostar sells car parts, and it certainly didn’t mind applying the brakes to religious freedom in 2014. Thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the company is almost certainly having second thoughts about that intolerance now that it’s on the losing side of an important settlement.
The controversy started in 2014, when the Georgia-based business refused to give one of its employees the Sabbath off. Dina Lucas Velasquez asked repeatedly for an accommodation between Friday and Saturday nights, when her faith bars her from working. The manufacturer agreed until a new supervisor was hired and demanded that she violate her beliefs and work. When she refused, they fired her.
It didn’t take long for Decostar to regret it. Velasquez filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, and, in a rare but encouraging sign, the state’s commission sided with her. “It is unconscionable and unlawful for employers to force members of their workforce to choose between their livelihood and their religion,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the agency’s Atlanta office. The Commission ordered the company to pay monetary damages to Dina, and, even more importantly, required it to adopt a new policy for religious accommodations along with training so that no one in the company infringes on another’s sincerely held beliefs. “This settlement shows the EEOC’s dedication to the protection of religious freedom in the workplace as well as the company’s commitment to prevent similar circumstances from arising in the future.”
The EEOC’s ruling comes on the heels of another high-profile religious liberty case involving North Carolina Magistrate Gayle Myrick, whose supervisor initially agreed to a schedule compromise so that she wouldn’t have to perform same-sex weddings. Later, a person higher up the chain of command let her go. The state was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in back pay. Obviously, the EEOC under Trump is gradually becoming a force for good in instances when faith-loving Americans are persecuted. And FRC’s Travis Weber couldn’t be happier.
“I’m glad to see the EEOC protecting religious liberty. Everyone should be free to live out their faith through their work, in the marketplace, and in the public square. That’s what a proper understanding of religious freedom is all about. For that reason, I celebrate the EEOC’s enforcement of religious freedom protections on behalf of Ms. Velasquez, who simply wanted to live out her faith by not working on the Sabbath. It is encouraging to finally to see government protect her faith, and not impose conditions on it by forcing her to either give up her beliefs or leave the marketplace.”
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.