Air Force Throttles Back War on Faith
For combat pilot Leland Bohannon, it's been a turbulent year. One promotion shy of his first general's star, the Air Force colonel watched his 24-year career flash before his eyes last May when he was asked to sign a certificate of appreciation for a same-sex couple. When his religious accommodation wasn't granted, Bohannon asked a higher-ranking officer to sign it instead. Now, months after wondering if he'd ever be able to return to the military he loved, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson gave him the answer he'd been waiting for: yes.
For combat pilot Leland Bohannon, it’s been a turbulent year. One promotion shy of his first general’s star, the Air Force colonel watched his 24-year career flash before his eyes last May when he was asked to sign a certificate of appreciation for a same-sex couple. When his religious accommodation wasn’t granted, Bohannon asked a higher-ranking officer to sign it instead. Now, months after wondering if he’d ever be able to return to the military he loved, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson gave him the answer he’d been waiting for: yes.
For Bohannon, who’d been grounded, suspended, and virtually guaranteed that he’d never be promoted for his beliefs on marriage, the news of his reinstatement was almost as shocking as his temporary dismissal. As most service members understand all too well, religious hostility in the military didn’t disappear when Barack Obama did. President Trump has had to walk a long and determined road to weed out the bureaucrats still loyal to the intolerance of the last administration. And thankfully, he has leaders like Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to help him do it.
Wilson had been clear before she was confirmed: “Air Force policy must continue to ensure that all Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion.” This week, she proved it — vindicating Bohannon and creating an important precedent for other branch leaders to follow. As our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin points out, that was no easy task. An Equal Opportunity investigator had already determined Bohannon was guilty of discrimination, even after his request for a religious accommodation.
“When you overrule an inspector general or independent investigator, that’s a big deal,” Gen. Boykin insisted. “That takes a lot of time and a lot of nerve. It’s very rare.” Still, Wilson had plenty of motivation to try. Eight senators had called on the Air Force to stop punishing Bohannon’s beliefs, along with House Armed Services members like Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO). In December, supporters of FRC and American Family Association piled on, giving Wilson 77,024 reasons to reconsider the attack on this airman’s faith. “We not only delivered 77,024 petitions,” Gen. Boykin said, “we delivered a message: We will not back down from defending the religious liberty of those in the military.”
Message received. “The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all,” Wilson explained in a letter to House and Senate leaders, absolving the colonel of wrongdoing. “… Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of an Airman in his command,” the secretary went on. “The Air Force has a duty to treat people fairly and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation and [Bohannon] met that duty by having a more senior officer sign the certificate,” she concluded.
For our friends at First Liberty Institute, which represented Bohannon, it was cause to celebrate — not just for this colonel but for the thousands of men and women who are witnessing this president’s commitment to religious liberty. “This is clear evidence that the Trump administration is helping to right the ship at the Pentagon,” attorney Hiram Sasser told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. No one should be forced to check their faith at the base’s gates.
So the next time you wonder if signing a petition or calling your congressman makes a difference, think of Col. Bohannon. You have the power to help shape the direction of this country — use it!
Originally published here.
What’s at Stake at State
Mike Pompeo’s confirmation to take over the State Department may not be until next week, but for some, the battle is already well underway. Pompeo, who’s spent the last 14 months as head of the CIA, will need every bit of his Army training to survive a fight that’s turning nastier by the day. And based on his bipartisan backing in 2017, no one is quite sure why.
When Pompeo grabbed the reins at the CIA, everyone thought he was an excellent choice. Senate Democrats, who haven’t exactly been the picture of cooperation on Trump’s hires, helped send the former Kansas representative to his new office. Fifteen voted yes on his confirmation, including some not-so-moderate fixtures like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Patty Murray (D-WA). What’s changed? Not much, unless you count a stellar first year at the helm of America’s intelligence.
Still, the hearing is shaping up to be a heavyweight tilt, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) siding with liberals to bring the Kansan down. His stubborn crusade against Pompeo has been one of the biggest surprises of Trump’s first term — including his “no” vote on the CIA post. “I want to support the President Trump I supported during the campaign,” he told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade this morning. “So I think someone needs to speak out against having too many of these neoconservatives in the administration.” Equal to the challenge, Kilmeade surprised Paul by firing back, “So you know President Trump’s vision better than he does? You know what he wants better than he does?” Paul couldn’t give a good answer.
If there is GOP opposition to Pompeo’s nomination, Paul may be the extent of it. This week, 93 leaders of the conservative movement showed their appreciation for the Kansan’s record, dating back to his days in Congress. In a memo to the movement, they rattled off a number of reasons why Mike would be a huge asset to America’s cause.
Pompeo … reflects strong principles that will serve President Trump’s agenda in key areas. He will bring a necessary and critical eye to the ongoing discussions surrounding the Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo is already influencing the ongoing negotiations with North Korea, where reports indicate he is holding a firm line against U.S. concessions that do not achieve a direct result. He has also promoted an assertive policy against Russia efforts to undermine Western Democracies.
The coalition, which includes FRC, couldn’t be happier to have a true conservative in the role after Rex Tillerson’s roller-coaster year. Unlike Tillerson, voters never have to question Mike’s commitment to core American values. “Mike Pompeo’s career also shows a regard for the sanctity of life, the solidarity of the family, and the solemnity of marriage,” the Conservative Action Project (CAP) insisted. “These principles will be key in rebuilding a State Department that, under President Obama, actively pushed a radical social policy around the world. His belief in religious freedom as a foreign policy priority is equally important in directing the State Department’s efforts to protect the freedom of all people.”
As we’ve said since his nomination, there’s no better advocate for the persecuted church than Pompeo, who would be the perfect complement to Ambassador Sam Brownback’s global religious liberty efforts. After eight years of watching Obama drag our country’s reputation through the mud, it’s time for Trump to make American diplomacy great again. And Mike Pompeo is the best man for the job.
Originally published here.
Planned Parenthood Sex Ed? Only in La. Law Land
The last organizations any of us would trust with our children are Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. And yet, in my home state of Louisiana, that’s exactly who some legislators are teaming up with to impose a state-wide mandatory sex education policy on every school district in the state.
Louisiana’s long-standing policy has been to authorize — but not require — local school boards to teach sex education to students in grades 7-12. The instruction has to be integrated into an existing course of study like biology, science, physical hygiene, or physical education. Under the current law, all information has to be of factual biological or pathological information. It also specifies that the course can’t be used to promote or counsel for abortion or utilize any sexually explicit materials about male or female same-sex activity. Abstinence, the law makes clear, should be the major point of emphasis for unmarried persons.
That should explain why Planned Parenthood and a who’s who of liberal organizations have teamed up with State Rep. Pat Smith in introducing a model legislation that turns Louisiana’s law on its head. Smith temporarily pulled her bill, HB 499, last week from a committee hearing when opposition surfaced. But that opposition exploded before it became known that her bill is almost word-for-word the work of a coalition of Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, ACLU, and the radical Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).
The Smith/Planned Parenthood/ACLU bill turns current law upside-down, starting with how it rips the decisions out of the hands of parents and local schools and turns them over to Planned Parenthood. The instruction, as dictated by the state (Planned Parenthood), makes it clear that elementary schools and parent committees will no longer be involved in developing or reviewing the materials used in these courses. HB 499 would demand “sex education programs that are paired with broader, more comprehensive instruction.” And what is that “comprehensive” instruction? Lessons that don’t just focus on sexual activity and contraception (which is bad enough) but also double as extreme indoctrination on “gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, and sexual orientation.” (An ideology, not so coincidentally, that the American College of Pediatricians calls “child abuse.”)
A hearing is scheduled for this coming Wednesday in the House Education Committee. If you live in Louisiana, take the time to contact any of these representatives. The last thing any state should be doing is pushing an approach to sex education that even Obama’s administration admitted does more harm to students than good.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.