Right Opinion

More Than a Motto

Tony Perkins · Feb. 24, 2018

Nothing we do will ever bring back the 17 bright lights of Parkland. Children, coaches, lifetimes of promise — all lost, too soon. As parents, we’ve watched moms and dads in communities all across America experience an agony we can’t fathom. We’ve cried at the photos of smiling teenagers who will never have another school picture. And we wonder: When will we make it stop, or at least lessen?

The faceless, nameless crisis that leads people to murder innocent people — is there a cure? More Americans than ever are desperately seeking one. “What’s gone wrong with our culture that produces such atrocities?” Peggy Noonan asked before answering her own question. “It’s a very long list.” In a country so numb to violence, what happened in Florida feels different. Gun control is back on the table, but so is the longing for something deeper.

“It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed,” said Florida Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat, “but the real thing that needs to be addressed are the issues of the heart.” Following nearby Arkansas, she is sponsoring a bill to bring the conversation back to what matters: God. This week, her legislation to require “In God We Trust” in every school shows how quickly the environment is changing. By 97-10, state leaders agreed it’s time to address the real problem. Daniels was just as heartbroken as any American when she heard the news of the school shooting. But she believes God spoke to her and said, “Do not politicize what has happened in Florida, and do not make this a thing of division.” So she worked on a different solution — reminding people to do good. “God is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light and our schools need light in them like never before.”

What’s wrong, Noonan writes, deep down we all know.

The family blew up — divorce, unwed childbearing. Fatherless sons. Fatherless daughters, too. Poor children with no one to love them. The Internet flourished. Porn proliferated. Drugs, legal and illegal. Violent video games, in which nameless people are eliminated and spattered all over the screen… The abortion regime settled in, with its fierce, endless yet somehow casual talk about the right to end a life… So much change, so much of it un-gentle. Throughout, was anyone looking to children and what they need?

The questions after Parkland are the same ones we’ve had since Columbine. But now is the time for honesty. We can harden the targets, but we need to soften hearts too. Nothing we do will matter if we don’t acknowledge that America has lost its way — that we’ve reject the Creator, and Creation has turned on itself. Our children are our future, and they’re far too valuable to keep drawing political lines and standing on one side or the other. If we want to talk about access to guns, we’ve got to talk about access to God. And it’s not happening in our schools today.

We need Americans from both sides of the aisle who are willing to look for real solutions that fill the cracks in our families and our hearts. I’m willing. “It starts,” Ken Blackwell told me on “Washington Watch, "with how we value life. I know there are a lot of intellectuals on the political Left who don’t see the connection, but when you start to destroy innocent human life because of unwantedness, you in fact begin to cheapen the value of life. As a consequence, it’s been manifested in our culture, and it makes it easier for people to become insensitive to the loss of innocent life… As we’ve all said for decades, you can’t run God and faith out of the public square and not expect to have these sort of consequences.”

Noonan, who sees the world crumbling all around us, thinks our kids are watching.

I’ll tell you what I think a teenager absorbs about [abortion], unconsciously, in America. He sees a headline online, he passes a television in an airport, he hears the quick story and he thinks: ‘If the baby we don’t let live is unimportant, then I guess I am unimportant. And you’re unimportant too.’ They don’t even know they’re breathing that in. But it’s there, in the atmosphere, and they’re breathing it in. And it doesn’t make you healthier.

Originally published here.

HHS: Moving Rights Along…

Conservatives don’t need to prove the existence of the war on faith anymore — HHS did it for them! After years of pooh-poohing the crackdown on Christians, the other side will have a much harder time now thanks to the agency’s new division in the Office for Civil Rights.

After eight years of weaponizing the government against men and women of faith, President Trump is demanding a unilateral disarmament — starting with one of the leading offenders, Health and Human Services. In January, it wasn’t just the start of a new year but a new era in protecting religious liberty. The administration announced a bold new initiative, aimed at turning the government from an enemy of freedom to an ally. Starting in 2018, it would open an office dedicated to stopping the assault on conscience.

Two months into the idea, the job is turning out to be bigger than anyone envisioned. Now that Americans have a president they can trust and a place to confide, more victims are stepping out of the shadows to tell their stories. Complaints are pouring in to the agency about violations across a full spectrum of services: health care, medical care, adoption, child care, and more. Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is surprised but encouraged. At least the system is working.

“We have made a commitment to vigorously and fairly enforce laws protecting conscience and religion that had been given second-class treatment for too long,” he told CQ. “The surge in complaints shows that the American people are responding to our new openness.” It also shows something else: The problems are deeper than people thought. “Less than two months into 2018, OCR is already nearing the total combined conscience and religion complaints in all of 2017.” Last year, before a special division was established, OCR was on the receiving end of 464 conscience and religious-related complaints. Right now, that number has already hit 345! (And, one official points out, that doesn’t include any filed by mail.)

Obviously, the hostility toward religion is so deeply engrained that it will take years to weed out the abusers and clean up the toxic environment that has stunted our First Freedom. And here’s the ironic part: 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.

Suddenly, under the Obama administration, that all changed. Instead of demanding compromise and coexistence, the other side exchanged its sham of tolerance for full-blown government-forced coercion. Now, almost a decade later, the mess is titanic. Longtime grievances can finally be aired. Before Trump, most people who were affected by Obamacare, taxpayer-funded abortion, or gender identity knew that if they complained it would only make them bigger targets. What a refreshing change for them to know that the government that was once their oppressor can now be their defender.

Let’s hope the White House recognizes the good work of OCR and moves to replicate it in other places across the administration. Until then, this is another important reminder that elections have consequences. In this case, positive ones.

Originally published here.

Fostering Freedom for Foster Parents

First, the LGBT lobby tried to take away custody from parents. Now, it wants to stop people from becoming parents altogether! That’s the goal in South Carolina, where some extremists are trying to shut down a religious adoption service for trying to place kids in Christian homes.

“For 29 years,” attorney Betsy Tanner wrote, “Miracle Hill has gladly served all foster children of any race, national origin, religious beliefs, sex, disability, or political belief. And for 29 years, Miracle Hill has recruited foster families who share its nondenominational Christian religious belief. Miracle Hill has always been clear regarding its religious identity and conviction that all staff — paid and unpaid — are followers of Jesus Christ.”

That was never a problem until last year, when the state’s Department of Social Services insisted the organization doesn’t have the right to make religious beliefs a requirement of foster parents. That was devastating news to the leaders at Miracle Hill, who had probably watched this controversy play out with other Christian agencies in places like DC, Illinois, and Massachusetts and knew the ending wasn’t a happy one. Faced with the choice of closing its doors or violating its convictions, Catholic Charities chose the former.

Fortunately for Miracle Hill, it has an advocate in South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who’s promised to fight for a waiver with federal officials. “The licensing and participation of faith-based entities in the state foster care system is a constitutionally-protected practice,” he argued. “It is important that religious organizations not be required to sacrifice the tenets of their faith in order to serve the children of South Carolina.”

For now, Miracle Hill will hold its breath and wait. But it certainly appreciates the governor’s support for religious freedom. “I think he’ll get a clarification from Washington that our practice is not illegal,” CEO Reid Lehman explained. “And then we just ask that the state recognize that as well.” Thanks to the Trump administration, there’s already a year’s worth of precedent defending organizations like Lehman. Maybe eventually the other side will get the message: Fighting the First Amendment is a losing battle!

Originally published here.

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

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