Right Opinion

SCOTUS Debates a Cross Country

Tony Perkins · Feb. 28, 2019

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, also known as the “Peace Cross” case, which will decide whether a World War I-era, cross-shaped veterans memorial on public land “establishes” a religion in violation of the First Amendment. The question of this memorial’s constitutionality is important for other memorials and displays of the cross, including those in Arlington National Cemetery. But the case may actually have much broader implications, as our own Alexandra McPhee has pointed out in USA Today. It stands to affect the way we analyze many other expressions of religious belief in the public square.

The case provides a rare opportunity for the Supreme Court to bring clarity to the troubling manner in which this question is often approached. For decades, the Establishment Clause has been subjected to widely varying and confusing rulings by the courts, offering local governments, officials, and others no clear path forward for determining whether a manifestation of faith in the public square will be struck down. The American Legion (represented by law firms First Liberty Institute and Jones Day), the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, and other groups are asking the Court to clarify this mess and state in clear terms that the Establishment Clause was never meant to wipe all religion out of the public square. It is only meant to prevent people from being coerced against their religious beliefs. As attorney Michael Carvin, arguing for American Legion, said in yesterday’s oral argument, “if you ban sectarian symbols, then you are necessarily banning all religious symbols, which evinces hostility and is in stark tension with the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clause.”

It’s usually fairly tough to predict the outcome of a case from oral argument (despite the attention they often receive). Yesterday’s argument was no exception. Yet the obvious presence of religion in our nation’s public life is difficult for anyone to ignore. As Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes observed yesterday, the Supreme Court sessions themselves open “with a plea that ‘God save the United States and this honorable court.’” During argument, one attorney advised the justices to “look up” at the 10 Commandments display above their heads on the wall of the court.

Today, after all is said and done, it seems that while the court is likely to rule in favor of the Peace Cross memorial, it remains unclear how broad that ruling will be. We are thankful that the Trump administration’s Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued broadly for religion in the public square yesterday. We must hope and pray that the justices see the much-needed clarity a broad ruling would bring to this area of the law.

FRC filed an amicus brief in this case not only because it has important implications for religion in the public square, but also for its role in the military. As General Boykin, who also signed an amicus brief from retired generals and flag officers (which was mentioned at argument by one of the attorneys for the memorial) can so clearly testify, faith is often inseparable from service for those who face death and hardship.

Many opponents of this memorial fail to see that their approach, which in effect stifles public religious expression across the board, actually suppresses the minority faiths they purport to help. As Alexandra has noted, “[a]ll of America’s increasingly diverse religious communities will lose out” with such an approach. That is why members of the Jewish and Muslim communities are supporting this memorial. For the sake of all who value religious freedom, let us hope and pray the Supreme Court rules broadly for the Peace Cross in the coming months.

Originally published here.

Military Spends Millions on ‘Special Operations’ for Trans

At $8 million, gender-free isn’t free. According to the Pentagon, that’s the tab U.S. taxpayers are being stuck with thanks to Barack Obama’s extreme military makeover. As of February 1, the Defense Department has forked over millions of dollars that it could have spent on equipment, salaries, and training to gender reassignment surgeries, hormones, and psychotherapy. And liberals are complaining that the border wall is a diversion of DoD funds?

In the two years since Barack Obama decided to make the military his petri dish for LGBT experimentation, the costs have been significant — and not just in dollars. More than 1,500 troops have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria in the ranks, and the latest report shows how many resources they’re syphoning away from actual warfighting. For just those servicemembers, the Pentagon says the military has paid for 22,992 psychotherapy visits, 9,321 hormone prescriptions, and a whopping 161 surgeries (ranging from hysterectomies and breast augmentation to “male reproductive” construction).

Surgeries alone racked up an eye-popping $2 million — an average of $12,422 a person. Add that to the $5.8 million in therapy, and we’re talking about a significant cash drain. Try telling that to the far-Left, who’s already planning a series of House hearings objecting to the president’s policy — which is that our military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail.” Liberals argue that his stance is “ignorant” and “mean-spirited.” But they’re ignoring the fact we’re wasting money on gender reassignment instead of the troops’ own assignment: fighting and winning wars.

“Military service is a privilege,” Rep. Vicky Hartlzer (R-Mo.) argued, “not a right. It’s predicated on the singular goal of winning the war and defeating the enemy. All decisions on personnel and funding should be made with this in mind.” The $7,943,906.75 for the existing troops is already steep. Imagine how much we’d be paying if President Trump hadn’t reversed the Obama policy! According to FRC’s Peter Sprigg, the cost of the Democrats’ plan — which would throw open the door to anyone who identifies as transgender — would be as high as $3.7 billion over 10 years. And what happens when these men and women regret the surgery (as an overwhelming number of patients now do)? Will taxpayers be on the hook for reversals too?

As it is, only 23 percent of Americans think allowing the gender-confused into the military is a good idea. Good luck finding that many who think paying for a completely elective operation is a better use of taxpayer dollars than Humvees, tomahawk missiles, or helicopters. But most congressional Democrats still don’t see the irony. They’ve spent weeks railing against the president’s decision to use some of the defense budget on the border wall — only to turn around and justify the same military spending millions on transgender therapy. At least securing the border is a legitimate national security goal — unlike this expensive war on common sense.

It’s time to tell Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to stop wasting her time on frivolous hearings for an agenda the troops don’t share — and worse, undermines national security. Americans want the military to do its job — not the bidding of the fringe Left!

Originally published here.

The Senate Votes, the House Responds

The U.S. Senate just took one of the most controversial votes in its history — but you wouldn’t know it by the media coverage. When 44 senators voted to give a green light to killing born-alive newborns, not a single major network thought it was newsworthy. ABC, CBS, and NBC didn’t pay a second of attention to the fact the Democratic Party wants to legalize infanticide for the first time in U.S. history. But they did give plenty of cover to them another way: politically.

Well, the media may not be talking about Monday’s vote — but members of Congress sure are. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) spent Tuesday afternoon at FRC explaining just how deeply stirred the GOP is on both sides of the Capitol. In a heartfelt discussion that was at times emotional, the pregnancy care advocate shook her head and said, “I never thought I’d stand before anyone and use the word ‘infanticide.’ It’s not a word that I think any of us ever thought we’d use in talking about our country… So now, as a member of Congress, I fully understand the importance of lawmakers’ decisions on issues.”

“We as a society cannot be accepting of this. It is a crisis — it’s a crisis because we’re talking about human beings. And we’re talking about the human beings allowing it to happen. And as a nation, this is unfathomable… I can’t believe we’re at a place where we have to legislate protecting a baby that is born alive. At that point, we’re not talking about abortion anymore. Even reading the comments of some of the senators who voted [for infanticide]. It’s just hard to stomach that we have leaders representing Americans in the United States Congress that are accepting of this kind of [violence].”

Like a lot of Americans, she’s been thrilled with the leadership this White House has shown in the weeks since New York and Virginia. “I don’t think I’ve ever clapped harder during a State of the Union address than when the president talked about this issue.” She also talked about how difficult it is to be in the minority of the House when the opposition is a party of such extremism.

“Two of my colleagues, who just held a press conference a few minutes ago — Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Congressman Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) — have been leading efforts day after day after day to force a vote on the Born-Alive legislation. Not being in control, not having the gavel, not being able to move these pro-life bills to the floor is our greatest challenge. But we’re going to use every opportunity we have to continue to apply pressure… They control the floor, and at this point, we have requested a vote on the bill numerous times — and each time, we’ve been blocked. Still, we will keep trying.”

Rep. Roby took the time to walk the audience through the long list of pro-life legislation the president and House and Senate conservatives have supported. “We’ve done a lot of work,” she told them. “We have a lot of work left to do.” The Trump administration is taking these views very seriously, and it is time for my colleagues in Congress to do the same.“ For Americans who want to get involved, she encouraged them to "Call the leadership in the House of Representatives and demand a vote on these measures. The American people deserve that — and the unborn babies deserve that.”

To help send that message to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), I invite you to join FRC’s End Birth Day Abortion Campaign — and send a baby hat to Speaker Pelosi. Help us fill her office with thousands of reminders that every child is priceless and worth protecting.

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.

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