Wall I Want for Christmas...
When President Trump meets with Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) today, it won’t be to exchange Christmas cookies. With two weeks left on the government’s spending clock, the only thing Congress wants to wrap up is a deal on leftover appropriations bills. At this point in negotiations, though, Democrats might be hitting a wall. A $5 billion one.
Lately, the threat of a government shutdown is about as synonymous with December as figgy pudding. But this time around, liberals are in a staring contest with a president who doesn’t blink. Donald Trump wants a border wall, and if that means giving federal employees a little extra time off at Christmas, so be it. Unlike other politicians, who might quake in their boots at the thought of turning out a few lights, this White House isn’t sweating it. If anything, they welcome the opportunity for a fight over promises and principles.
“This would be a very good time to do a shutdown,” Trump has insisted. In a conversation with Politico, he made it quite clear that he was “willing to do anything” to deliver on his border wall promise. And besides, playing hardball on a campaign pledge he made to voters is exactly the sort of thing his supporters have come to expect — and admire. “I don’t do anything… just for political gain,” the president said. “People look at the border, they look at the rush to the police, they look at the rock throwers and really hurting three people, three very brave Border Patrol folks — I think that it’s a tremendous issue, but much more importantly, is really needed. So we have to have border security.” As far as he’s concerned, a shutdown over an issue this vital would be a “total winner.”
Based on history, he may be right. Back in 2013, the last real shutdown of any consequence, Americans may have blamed the GOP for closing the door on some government departments, but “by next year’s midterms,” the Washington Post points out, Republicans actually gained power. They “expanded their majority in the House and took over the Senate.” If voters held it against the GOP for going to the mat to defund Obamacare, the Post says, they “didn’t hold it against them for long.”
Part of that may be because no one is still falling for the big shutdown myth — that Great Harm that Will Come to All People. While thousands of federal workers are furloughed, they almost always get paid later. By now, most Americans realize that “just because the government ‘shuts down’ doesn’t mean everything grinds to a halt.” As the Associated Press’s Andrew Taylor pointed out at the height of the 2011 panic, the government will never really shut down. “Social Security checks would still go out. Troops would remain at their posts… And virtually every essential government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, would remain open.” The only real casualty is usually the National Park Service.
To the GOP’s credit, they already did the heavy lifting on five of the most expensive spending proposals — Defense, Labor-HHS, Education, Energy, and Veterans Affairs. That means more than 70 percent of the government’s discretionary funding is sorted out and signed into law. Of the seven remaining bills on the table, it’s mainly Homeland Security’s that’s causing all of the heartburn. As both sides will tell you, Congress has basically worked out most of its funding. Even Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said there were “very few” outstanding issues left. If leaders could come to some sort of agreement on the border wall, he thinks, the House and Senate could “wrap this up in no time.” If they can’t, it’ll be a long 14 days before Christmas.
Originally published here.
A Desert Stand on Desert Sands’s Sex Ed
It was a rainy Thursday night in Desert Sands, California, but the real storm was inside — at the district’s school board meeting. That’s where more than 200 parents packed into seats to protest the schools’ radical new sex-ed curriculum. Sound familiar? It should.
Desert Sands is like a lot of other California school districts trying to come to grips with the state’s mandate on sex education. Under the 2016 Healthy Youth Act, schools were ordered to make a lot of changes to their most sensitive subject — including controversial discussions on premarital sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. And so far, parents are beside themselves. At last week’s meeting, administrators tried to calm down moms and dads, who were angry — not only because the changes were being made, but because they didn’t have access to them! Parents demanded to see the lessons, only to be told by administrators that they were “unable” to provide them.
One after another, parents protested the changes — getting into several heated back-and-forths with district officials. “It should be up to the parents to teach kids about sex,” said one mom, Michelle Hitt. And while families can opt their children out of some of the 13 components, the ones about gender and sexual orientation are required. “We go by what the Bible says, and there [are] only two genders,” one parent shouted. Another dad insisted that this whole curriculum undermined what they were teaching at home. “I want sex to be taught to my child in the context of marriage. They teach marriage as a type of relationship. We teach marriage as the ultimate relationship.”
Marcus Wood, who’s in charge of Desert Sands’s secondary curriculum, argued that parents should be more supportive of the state’s goal to “validat[e] both traditional and non-traditional families.” That didn’t go over well either. To tamp down some of the frustration, Wood said his office would upload as many resources as it could to the website. By Friday, the Desert Sun’s Joe Hong wrote, not one of them had been.
Unfortunately, this same scenario is playing out in different cities across America. If there is a silver lining, it’s that more parents are not only paying attention to what their children are learning, they’re standing up and saying something about it. This is exactly the kind of vigilance we need to practice in schools everywhere. It’s easy to make a difference if we pay attention. To learn how you can get involved, don’t miss this important conversation from a few months ago with Elizabeth Schultz and Karen England, who tell parents everything they need to know about how to fight back against this agenda.
Originally published here.
This Holiday, a Flurry of Church Arrests
For Christians in China, no Christmas is safe. But this season has an especially dangerous feel to it, now that another hundred believers have been arrested. For the Early Rain Covenant Church, one of the congregations daring enough to practice openly, the price of faith this December is a steep one.
Dozens of Christians were grabbed from their homes in a series of raids sweeping across the Sichuan area late Sunday night. Some elders were able to escape into hiding. Others were less fortunate. Zhang Guoqing, assistant deacon of the church, said he was released from custody and went straight to Pastor Wang Yi’s home — “but the pastor and his wife were nowhere to be found.” The home, a ransacked mess, is just another indication that China’s latest crackdown is something everyone — including the international community — needs to take seriously.
Started at 9 p.m., social media channels, cell phone discussions, and personal accounts were all blocked. Even the church’s telephone line was cut. One church leader is being watched “around the clock by ‘security personnel’ in his home.” The ferocity of the attack surprised a lot of Christians, who’ve been operating out in the open for years. “This round of crackdown is unusual,” said Li Yingqiang, “as it seems that the authorities want to close the church down for good. Our social media channel accounts such as WeChat were not closed in previous rounds and they have taken a large number of our members into custody this time. The scale was unprecedented.”
FRC’s good friend Bob Fu of China Aid has been concerned for some time about the “major escalation” of religious persecution across the country this year. In 2018, Fu warns, there have been 10,000 more cases of detention of Christians this year — up 7,000 from a year ago. Churches like Early Rain, who weren’t serious targets before, are being threatened and purged. And it’s not just Christians who are suffering. At least one million Uighur Muslims are wasting away in the government’s internment camps, where they’re being “reprogrammed” to reject their faith.
President Trump, who met with Xi Jinping during the Buenos Aires summit, has a chance to apply more pressure to China during the trade negotiations. In the meantime, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Mike Pompeo, and Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback continue to call out the Chinese government for its broken promises.
Today, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s just as important for world leaders to join them in demanding better. “[E]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” the document made clear. “This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Never have those words been more critical to the survival of believers than now.
Until something changes, Li vows, “Even if we are down to our last five, worship and gatherings will still go on because our faith is real.” Persecution, he tells his friends in the West, “is a price worth paying for the Lord. We would rather live through it than to hide our faith — and we hope more Chinese churches will speak up and stand with us.”
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.