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State Dept. Has a Captive Audience in Jailed Pastor

Tony Perkins · Apr. 17, 2018

For 50-year-old pastor Andrew Brunson, the last year and a half have been like a bad dream. The North Carolina missionary and his family had built a life in Turkey, only to watch government officials tear it all apart. After 23 years of serving the Mediterranean people, he’s been thrown behind bars — left to wonder if he’ll ever see America, or his family, again.

For Brunson, who’d devoted two decades to pastoring a church in Izmir, the charges were almost unbelievable. Accused of spying, conspiracy, and terrorism, the Black Mountain native was taken to prison, where he spiraled into depression. “The start was very, very difficult,” his daughter tells reporters. Losing hope — and more than 50 pounds — Brunson had no choice but to wait for American officials to intervene. Days ticked by, then months. Andrew missed his daughter’s wedding and another’s graduation.

Back on American soil, Norine desperately worked for her husband’s freedom — a goal that seems much more realistic under this White House. Last year, the Brunsons had a major breakthrough in their case when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to meet with Norine, and then later when U.S. officials — including 78 members of Congress — personally called for Andrew’s release. Although local authorities haven’t been able to produce a scrap of evidence tying the Brunsons to a terrorist organization, he still faces up to 35 years in a Turkish jail. The concern, insiders say, is that authorities will try to keep Brunson in the country to use as a bargaining chip with the president.

In the trial that started yesterday, Brunson told the court, “I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations. I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” When Andrew did take the stand, he was almost certainly comforted by the presence of two key U.S. leaders: Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and home state Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Both men flew to Turkey to attend the trial and add to the growing international pressure for Brunson’s release.

Days earlier, a man who could be the most instrumental player in Andrew’s release was sitting in a hearing of his own. Unfortunately for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, he was being interrogated — not on his ideas for helping prisoners like this pastor but about his views on sexuality. On the eve of America’s targeted missile strike on Syria, Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) biggest concern wasn’t the threats our nation is facing but whether Pompeo shared his radical LGBT agenda. To his credit, Mike stood his ground, refusing to let the Democrats’ new litmus test for public service rattle him.

Of course, conservatives have watched this new McCarthyism evolve in confirmation hearings from Russell Vought to Amy Barrett. We’ve seen our own prophecies about the fallout over same-sex marriage come true in every public servant who’s marginalized for mainstream views. The only difference in the Left’s hostility is that now Democrats are done hiding it. As Daniel Davis points out in The Daily Signal:

In the world of Cory Booker, there is no place for Mike Pompeo — except perhaps, in a re-education class. Certainly not in the Cabinet. This sort of social ostracization and occupational discrimination was coming, but liberals long denied it. They assured us that same-sex marriage would make the world more tolerant, that conservative holdouts would have nothing to fear, and that the progressive future would have a place for everyone… These liberals either failed to see just how coercive their movement would become, or they knew better and were just placating America while cultural changes gained steam — and then jumped on board the train.

Even more amazingly, Pompeo’s views are completely mainstream. In fact, he was such a consensus choice for CIA director last year that more than a dozen Democrats voted for him. Now, those same people, like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), are using their animus as an excuse to pull the rug out from an excellent candidate that even The Washington Post urges the Senate to confirm. “I did vote him for CIA director,” Kaine said over the weekend. “He has an intel background that I thought suited him for the position. But look,” he went on. “We have a president that is anti-diplomacy. And I worry that Mike Pompeo has shown the same tendency to oppose diplomacy. He was not just against the Iran deal, when he was a House member, but he spoke about the relative ease of wiping out Iran’s nuclear capacity with a bombing run.”

Obviously, Democrats won’t be satisfied until the president’s nominees either recant their faith or insist on having none at all. It’s time for the Left to end its campaign of intolerance.

As FRC’s Travis Weber argues in his new op-ed for The Hill, “In his long history of public service, Mike Pompeo has been scrupulous to treat every human being with dignity and respect. His critics should seek to understand this, instead of resorting to personal attacks. They would find that he is a competent and principled person who is well-qualified to fill the role of our chief diplomat, and will seek to unite and serve all of us in representing our common interests on the world stage.”

Originally published here.

In Iowa, Christians Need Not Apply!

You don’t have to be a Trump nominee to face the Christian inquisition! Just ask Iowa conservatives. The bad blood that’s turned the hearings of Mike Pompeo, Russell Vought, and Amy Barrett into anti-faith slugfests seems to be spilling over into state politics too. And at least one military wife is out of a job because of it.

By every other measure, Katherine Asjes was “more than qualified” to join the Iowa Board of Medicine. With a strong background in hospital PR and the support of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, most people thought Asjes was a shoe-in. So, when her nomination failed to get the 33 votes she needed for confirmation, the one question most people had was: Why?

According to the liberals who opposed her, it was simple. She was too religious for the job. Critics, including liberal ringleader state Sen. Tony Bisignano (D), urged his party to reject Asjes because of a single comment she made on a Catholic World Report post. The article, “Re-Rebuilding a Bridge: The Connection between Contraception and the LGBT Community,” raised “red flags,” Democrats said. Although Katherine didn’t write the column, she did tell the author that she agreed with it. And that single act, Bisignano insisted, disqualified her from the state’s Board of Medicine.

The governor’s office was stunned. “Senate Democrats voted down a well-qualified nominee who wanted to give her time and talents to the State of Iowa,” a Reynolds’s spokesperson said. Sen. Brad Zaun (R), who’d been one of Asjes’s most outspoken defenders, was outraged by the other side’s bias. “I am disgusted by what has been done,” he fumed on the floor of the Senate. “She made a comment on a blog. One comment… So we bring her down, her whole family down.” Apparently, he fired back, “Freedom of speech only works on this side of the aisle.”

For Asjes, whose husband is a NATO flight officer, the decision stung. She’s never shied away from her conservative roots, explaining that her “beliefs on marriage are in line with traditional mainstream views” and Catholic teaching. None of that, the Constitution would argue, should disqualify someone from public service. “I think that this speaks to a lack of open-mindedness and the intolerance of Democrats,” Asjes said after the vote.

For hundreds of years, we’ve been a country that’s not only been proud of our differences but thrived off them. Now, as far as these liberals are concerned, believing as almost half of Americans do can cost you a seat at the government table. It’s time for the Left to stop penalizing people of faith! No one should be required to choose between their career and their convictions.

Originally published here.

Judge’s Rule Is Over the Illegal Limit

America may be the land of opportunity — but not for illegal, taxpayer-funded abortion. Unfortunately, an activist judge in the U.S. district court doesn’t see it that way. She ruled that our government shouldn’t just harbor children who cross the border but help them destroy their unborn babies while they’re here.

Judge Tanya Chutkan has hardly made her personal politics a secret. In the ongoing battle to keep illegal minors from killing their children on U.S. soil, her bench continues to be Planned Parenthood’s dream. First, she certified a class-action suit against HHS for daring to uphold American law (and President Trump’s pro-life policy) on the matter. Now, she’s taking things a step further, ordering that notices be immediately posted in the dorms where “Unaccompanied Alien Children” are staying. The signs, which she ordered in English and Spanish, tells girls:

If you are pregnant, you have the right to decide whether to have the baby or to have an abortion. No one who works for the government or the shelter can force your decision either way. No one who works for the government or the shelter can tell anyone about your pregnancy or decision to have an abortion if you don’t want them to do so.

If pregnant girls feel as though they’re being pressured to keep their babies, they’re encouraged to call the ACLU (number provided).

Never mind that there is no “right” to abortion for people who aren’t lawful citizens — or that this flies in the face of the “basic health care” offered by the U.S. HHS, which has been the ongoing target of groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, has taken its responsibility for these minors very seriously. Under Scott Lloyd’s leadership, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has done everything it can to keep these moms from becoming pawns in a high-stakes abortion game — including enlisting the support of the Department of Justice to fight back.

“Federal law is very clear on giving the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement the legal responsibility to decide what is in the best interests of a minor in the unaccompanied alien children program…” the Trump administration has said. “We cannot cede our responsibility to care for minors and their babies by releasing them to ideological advocacy groups.”

America isn’t a sanctuary nation for abortion. But unfortunately, a handful of judges put our country on the path toward that when they granted a young 17-year-old’s abortion. Thank goodness for a president who recognizes the importance of balancing these benches. While HHS officials go to bat for these innocent unborn lives, we applaud the White House for confronting the problem another way: with a record-setting number of strict constructionist judicial nominees. Black-robbed activists like Chutkan remind us every day how badly we need them.

Originally published here.

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

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