Left Coast Rallies for Freedom to Change
It’s been two full years since it happened. People were still dancing at a nightclub on the south side of Orlando when a gunman walked through the doors and brutally ended the lives of 49 people. India Goodman says she can still feel the body slumped against her in the dark, shielding her from bullets. She’s just one of the survivors who says their story changed forever.
Luis Javier Ruiz is another. Like so many others in the Pulse nightclub that night, Luis thinks a lot about what could have happened. He looks back on his struggles then, identifying as a gay man, and believes — without a doubt — that it was the lowest point of his life. “I should have been number 50,” he posted after the tragedy. An emotional Ruiz talked about how difficult things had been, even before the horror that June night.
Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ… I’ve grown to know His love in a deeper level. Two out of the 49 were my close friends and are no longer with us. They lost their life that night. I should have been number 50, but now… I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I use to be — but who Christ Jesus says I am.
Luis went public with his story, joining the Freedom March in early May with other people who’ve walked away from a lifestyle that brought nothing but pain. “It’s not a gay-to-straight thing,” he tells reporters, “but a lost-to-save[d] thing.” During his recovery, he remembers, members of a local church came in and prayed with him. They shared portions of Scripture and told him about the love of God. Through that, he says, “I was able to not only just be free of the lifestyle but be free of me in general — from every type of sin.”
Two years later, he wants others to find the same freedom he has. But in places like California, opponents are doing everything they can to keep people from experiencing the healing Luis knows. Under a bill that’s working its way through the not-so-Golden State legislature, it would be outright illegal to offer the kind of help or counseling that changed Luis’s life. LGBT activists, the same ones who used to plead for the right to live any way they pleased, are trying to take that freedom away from others by making it a crime to offer paid counseling to people who are voluntarily seeking help. And that includes pastors or other faith-based therapists!
At a committee hearing for the measure, AB 2943, Luis had an opportunity to share his story and how unfair it would be to rob others of that same second chance. “The Pulse nightclub shooting was a very tragic event, and I lost many friends… And I don’t feel that someone should dictate and tell me that I can’t go seek help for any of that. I think we should vote ‘no!’” he told the rally beforehand.
And he wasn’t alone. Three hundred fifty people — from all across the state and from all walks of life — testified against AB 2943, including our good friend, Pastor Jack Hibbs. Even pro golfer Kris Olsen has opened up about how dangerous the bill would be.
I fell into the world of homosexuality … [and] eventually I found help — a faith-based group of people like me who wanted their feelings to come into alignment with their faith… It was the beginning of the freedom that I stand before you with today. I am now free from my former feelings of same-sex attraction and lesbian behavior that warred in my soul. AB2943 violates my right to choose. It is a blatant violation of my First Amendment rights…
Activists like State Sen. Scott Wiener (D) who openly identify as gay take personal offense to the idea that anyone would want to change. “Conversion therapy is psychological torture,” he argued without a scrap of evidence to prove it. “There are people who want to erase people like me… It is shocking in some ways that in 2018 that this is still happening.” Obviously, that’s ridiculous. No one wants to erase anyone! Nor is this “conversion therapy,” as he called it, torture! Opponents want you to believe that counselors hook people up to electromagnetic shock machines or some such nonsense, when actually, this is voluntary counseling — which, for the most part, consists of a pastor or licensed psychologist talking through the very personal struggle of sexuality.
As the co-founder for Voice of the Voiceless says, “We made a conscious choice to leave homosexuality, and we should be able to do that without being mocked.” Unfortunately for him, the same LGBT activists who said we should all “live and let live” have moved on. They’re on a march to force every American to celebrate and affirm what they do under the penalty of law. And, like so many on the far Left, they have a selective view of “choice.” They’re in favor of it — only if you choose their side. What happened to the “Q” in LGBTQ? Wasn’t that was supposed to represent “questioning”? Isn’t there room for people in the movement who may be questioning whether this is still the best decision?
So far, not in California. The committee voted to move the bill to the full Senate by a 4-2 vote. Hopefully, there’s enough outcry to force state senators to think twice before passing it. If you’re a Californian, take the time to contact your state senators and remind them that religious liberty and free speech is for everyone! For more information, check out “The Hidden Truth About Changing Sexual Orientation” by FRC’s Peter Sprigg.
Originally published here.
VP Pence: When Push Comes to Pulpit…
One of the first promises Donald Trump made to evangelicals as a candidate was to the pastors of America: We’re going to get rid of that [Johnson Amendment],“ he promised. Now, a year and a half into his administration, it’s somewhat fitting that he and Vice President Mike Pence have made a priority of keeping their dialogue with churches going.
Vice President Pence did that in spectacular fashion at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The largest evangelical denomination in America, the SBC hosted as many as 11,000 delegates in Texas. And to them, the administration’s second-in-command had a simple message: We "will always stand with you.”
The vice president took the opportunity to talk about the progress the Trump administration has made on issues of importance to the SBC — and evangelicals in general: protecting life, preserving religious liberty, helping the persecuted church, standing with Israel. But those gains, he reminded them, can’t be sustained without engaged, churchgoing Americans.
Today, we only ask the men and women of this convention to continue in your calling with renewed energy. Stand and go and speak. Stand in the gap. Because in these too-divided times, I believe that your voice, your compassion, your values, and your ministries are more needed than ever before.
But you should also know that we recognize that the most important work in America doesn’t happen in the White House or anywhere in Washington, DC, for that matter. We know the most meaningful work, the most transformative work, happens where you live, where your ministries impact: in the hearts and minds of the American people.
The truth is no podium that President Trump and I will ever stand behind will be of greater consequence than the pulpits you stand behind every Sunday morning. [Applause.] No policy we enact will ever be more meaningful than the ministries you lead. And no action we take will ever be more powerful than your prayers.
As he touched on the country’s divided times, several in the room probably thought about the division right there in that room. One SBC messenger made a motion to disinvite the vice president, insisting, “By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members, suggesting that to be faithful to the gospel, we ought to align with a particular administration.”
Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, soundly defeating the ill-conceived resolution. But it is a clear indication that there are some within the church who are either too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced, or — as Jesus described in John 17 — being in the world but not of it. We can’t influence if we retreat. We don’t have to agree with everything this president has said or done, and we don’t, but it is foolish and even detrimental to persecuted believers around the world to fail to acknowledge that this administration is being used to set the table for the church to do its work unhindered. The vice president, Mike Pence, is an unabashed believer who’s championing their cause in the White House. Look at the doors this administration is opening for religious liberty and free speech. Now is not the time for shutting doors — now’s the time to rush through and seize this moment of opportunity.
Originally published here.
Trump Hits a Graham Slam With N. Korea
The world’s biggest meeting in decades is a wrap, but the analysis is ongoing. What are people saying about the first president to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? Plenty.
While several people don’t know what to make about the specifics of the agreement the two men signed, there is one growing consensus — simply having a face-to-face conversation was a victory for everyone. In successfully arranging this summit, Donald Trump accomplished more with North Korea in one day than any president has in 40 years. On “Washington Watch,” Sen. Lindsey Graham sat down to talk with me about his take on the historic event and what it could mean not just for relations with Kim Jong-un but our dialogue with other tyrannical foes.
To those who think you can contain North Korea, you’re making a mistake. President Trump made a decision early on in his presidency that I’m not going to live under the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea. I’m not going to allow this man to have a bunch of nuclear weapons and a bunch of missiles — because he’ll sell or give them away. I’m going to bring this program to an end, and I’d like to do it through a peaceful resolution that’s a win-win. To those who want containment, you don’t understand the proliferation problem, so I applaud the president for reaching out to North Korea… And time will tell if this works.
In the meantime, Sen. Graham has a suggestion for his friends across the aisle: Do your part. “If we don’t convince North Korea and China that the military option is real, we’ll never get a good deal.” That’s why he believes that the next act of Congress should be authorizing the president to go to war — if, and it’s a big “if,” diplomacy fails. While minority leaders continue to hammer away at the president, sending letters about how he should handle the situation, Graham says the best thing they could do is communicate that the president has the backing of Congress. “Let [other countries] know that we’re serious about going to war to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” It would help, he went on, if Congress spoke with one voice.
The Iranians are watching. And if we blink in North Korea, Iran is going to march toward a nuclear weapon because they don’t believe we’re serious. If Trump can have a breakthrough with North Korea, end their nuclear weapons program peacefully… then you’ve got Iran in a box. Donald Trump is playing this very, very well. To my Democratic friends: I know you hate him. We’ve got a lot to disagree on. But help him on North Korea. It will help you politically, and it will help the world as a whole.
Of course, one of our greatest hopes is that this meeting also pierces the North Korean conscience on issues like human rights and religious liberty, which Kim Jong-un has notoriously abused. So it was no small coincidence that Tuesday was also the inaugural meeting of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, where I now serve as a commissioner.
The sobering reality is that religious persecution is at historic levels around the globe. While our First Freedom has faced increasing assaults in recent years, the oppression that many face in various parts of the world is horrifying. Religious minorities of every faith are being denied the most basic of human rights, the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. But while the magnitude of the situation is sobering, the significance of the opportunity we currently have because of the commitment to protect and promote religious freedom by the Trump administration is inspiring.
I want to invite each of you to join me in seizing this moment in advancing true religious freedom for all people in all parts of the world. I’ll be sharing more in the days ahead how you can be a part of the effort by praying for and advocating for prisoners of conscience. And please pray for the commission. It is a bipartisan commission currently comprised of five commissioners appointed by Republicans and two named by Democrats. There will be two more commissioners appointed, one by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and one by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It was the stated goal of the seven current commissioners to rise above partisanship for the greater good of religious freedom. As evidence of that commitment, the commissioners unanimously selected Democrat appointee Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, one of just two returning members to the commission, as chairman.
Please join me in praying for all the members of the commission: Chair Dorjee, Kristina Arriaga, Gary Bauer, Nadine Maenza, Gayle Manchin, Johnnie Moore, and myself.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.