Unsettled: The Refugee Question
“I had a small hope that maybe ISIS would not come,” Thabet says, remembering, as he and the reporter drove the long road toward Mosul. But within hours, everyone he loved and knew had fled. Thirteen thousand Christians vanished, scattered miles from the Nineveh Plain, in hiding. They slept in courtyards, unfinished apartment buildings, churches, camps — while waves of terrorists burned their way through their towns.
In cities like his, the nights often went like this. Priests would climb the sanctuary steps to ring the bells, sounding the alarm that fighters were on their way. Moms and dads shook their kids awake, gathered what they could, and left. It was the last time most of them would ever see their homes again. Even now, after the region was recaptured and secured, the Christians brave enough to stay don’t have an easy life. There’s oppression, isolation, and violence. Families keep their daughters close, worried about rape and abuse.
But leaving, for some, is just as difficult. In the United States, asylum can be hard to come by. After eight years of watching “refugees” stream across our borders unchecked, President Trump is processing these applications with an abundance of caution. Under the previous White House, too many foreigners were gaming the system, slipping into lines where they knew they couldn’t be scrutinized. This administration has been trying to clean up that mess, putting procedures and screenings in place to guarantee that anyone who steps foot on our soil doesn’t pose a threat to the American people.
That new vigilance has paid off. There’s more balance in the faith groups entering the country, for one thing. Under Obama, 97 percent of the Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. were Muslim, while Christians would dribble through one or two at a time. President Trump is trying to give other believers, especially those targeted for persecution, the fair shake the last administration didn’t. Although there’s been a dramatic decrease in the number of refugees, Christians, as of last year, made up 82 percent of them.
But the system isn’t perfect. And that’s one thing evangelicals have struggled with, especially as the global horrors keep growing and pool of victims gets larger. When the White House announced in September that it was cutting its refugee ceiling from 30,000 to almost zero, there were some conservatives who, fed up with Obama’s dangerous policy, thought this was a positive step. Others, like myself, were instantly concerned. As we speak, there’s an unprecedented number of believers — from all faiths — being kicked out of their homelands and displaced. Whether they’re being killed or driven out or put in concentration camps, the survival of entire populations is at stake.
Now, there are some evangelicals who agree with liberals and think America should open its arms to everyone. Obviously, that’s created some friction inside the church and conservative circles — because on one hand, we want to be a place of last resort for the vulnerable. But on the other, we don’t want our country taken advantage of by those who are not interested in being a part of America, rather they want to pull America apart. Ideally, we insisted at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the administration would never let the number of refugees drop below 30,000 — which is already a historic low.
“So long as refugee numbers are low,” Mark Krikorian pointed out on NRO, “and not drawing disproportionately from the Islamic world, even governors with pretty hawkish constituencies may well feel free to accommodate the… lobby for continued resettlement.”
Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) agrees and even took some flak for defending his governor, who, like a lot of Republicans, is giving the green light to refugees resettling in his state. On “Washington Watch,” Lankford explained that it all goes back to the core values that created America. “Dating back to the 1700s, our framers decided that our nation was going to be founded on a different kind of principle: that we’re going to honor people of faith to be able to not only have a faith of their choosing — but to be able to live that faith out or to be able to have no faith at all. And many of the refugees that are fleeing from around the world are fleeing religious persecution, in particular, and running from places around the world where they cannot survive based on their faith, whether that be Kurds… Christians, Yazidis, or other faiths. And so America, as a beacon of place where we honor religious liberty, we should continue to be able to practice that as well in receiving refugees, especially those fleeing religious persecution.”
As he and I talked about, these people are looking for a safe haven. And while the Obama administration didn’t do a very good job screening these people, President Trump changed that. These aren’t unvetted terrorist wannabes who want to destroy America. They’re hurting survivors with no place to go. Our faith leads us to be a place of refuge. That doesn’t mean we blindly embrace anyone who shows up at our borders. But it does mean we’ve got to keep the door open for the victims who truly need it.
Originally published here.
America’s Next Top Model Legislation
What in the world is a “gender snowperson?” Ask your fourth grader. In Massachusetts, that’s how schools are teaching nine-year-olds to “never assume boys have penises.” Welcome to sex education, Planned Parenthood-style. And, if the state’s extremists get their way, Frosty’s friend is just the beginning.
“Is it age-appropriate to introduce twelve-year old children to anal sex?" the New Boston Post asks. "Is it medically accurate to encourage students to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by using Saran Wrap as a prophylactic during oral sex?” The state department of education thinks so. And so do its pals at Planned Parenthood.
Thanks to our friends at the Massachusetts Family Institute, parents are getting quite a sneak peak of the “pornographic content” their kids are about to learn if the Healthy Youth Act passes the state house. Until now, sex education has been optional for local districts. That will all change if HB 410 and SB263 make their way to the governor’s desk. From normalizing abortion and gender confusion to jaw-dropping descriptions of various acts, Planned Parenthood’s “Get Real” curriculum is so controversial that parents are furious it’s even being considered. When they found out that the country’s largest abortion provider might be put in charge of their kids’ sex education, they pitched a fit. And if it’s anything like the uproar in other communities, the Massachusetts legislature is about to have a bigger debate than it bargained for.
And now that the legislative calendar is heating up again, they aren’t the only ones. States across the country are kicking off their sessions with a jam-packed slate of proposals — good and bad. Monday, on “Washington Watch,” FRC’s Quena Gonzalez, director of state and local affairs, joined me to highlight some of the big-ticket items that conservatives need to be monitoring in their own backyards. With most state legislatures just meeting from January to April, there’s a small window where you can have a big impact.
Believe it or not, 80 to 85 percent of the legislation we track this year will be introduced in the next few weeks or months. “One thing we continue to tell people,” Quena said, “is that they can do more in their states than they realize — and certainly have more effect than they do federally as a grassroots activist.” One of the examples of that is the huge wave of bills moving forward to protect the unborn if they survive a botched abortion. This is all in response, Quena explains, to what happened a year ago in New York with Governor Andrew Cuomo. “We’re still trying to get a response at the federal level — and [with the Democratic House], we can’t get anything done. But there are many, many states moving forward addressing the issue… I’m very excited to say that both West Virginia and Ohio have very good born-alive bills that would bring them in line with seven other states that have top-of-the-line protections for the unborn.”
In fact, FRC developed its own interactive pro-life map, so that people can click on their state and see what kind of laws — if any — the unborn have. Hopefully, they’ll help us contact their legislators and demand those protections in more than just Ohio and West Virginia. As Quena says, “We’d like to see that moving in a lot more states as an answer to the abortion radicalism that we saw last fall.”
And if you’re a state legislator — or want to contact a state legislator — FRC has copies of model legislation on a variety of issues, but two in particular that Quena emphasized. “One is on the issue of fetal dignity, or the dignity of the unborn. After the David Daleiden videos broke about four years ago, we designed legislation that would prevent the double dipping that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are doing by not only charging for the abortion — but then reselling the baby body parts on the market. And we have some excellent bills, a couple of them already moving in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We think they should be moving in a lot more states. Virtually no state,” Quena points out, “has full protections against that black market. And we’d like to see that change.”
Another area of concern that FRC is trying to address are the minors who are being pressured to identify as transgender — even being pressured into hormone treatment and premature surgical alterations that have profound effects on their emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing for the rest of their life. “Quite a number of states are taking up legislation this session to address this issue of providing transgender services to minors. And I’m proud to say that FRC’s right at the forefront of that. We’ve developed model legislation that addresses virtually every aspect of that very complicated, very sensitive issue. We’ve worked with doctors and policy experts from across the country and are really proud of what we’ve come up with.”
Let me emphasize that this isn’t just conceptual legislation. It’s legislation based on serious research. If you’re interested in seeing these proposals and forwarding them on to your lawmakers, contact us. The best way you can start moving the needle on life, religious liberty, sex education, and other issues is by getting involved on the local level!
Originally published here.
A Cornhusker’s Stand for Freedom
Religious Freedom Day isn’t until Thursday, but Governor Pete Ricketts (R-Nebr.) is getting a head start on the celebration. The longtime conservative didn’t waste any time promoting the occasion, which marks the date that Virginia passed its 1789 statute that laid the foundation for our First Amendment.
Ricketts already made fans out of pro-lifers after declaring this year’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade a statewide day of prayer for the unborn. But apparently, he wasn’t done yet. The Nebraska leader had conservatives cheering again this week when he held a special ceremony with state senators, faith leaders, educators, and representatives from the Nebraska Family Alliance and Nebraska Catholic Conference.
“Religious freedom is the first freedom listed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Ricketts said. “That’s no accident.” It’s “the cornerstone of a free society. The Founders of the U.S. recognized the importance of religion to the health of our republic. They also knew that religion flourishes best when practiced without coercion. Nebraskans are blessed with religious liberty, and they exercise this freedom by standing up for the most vulnerable, serving the disadvantaged, and seeking the well-being of their neighbors.”
Ricketts, who’s personally championed legislation to protect religious expression, explained that the attacks on men and women of faith continue. But, he said, “Our ancestors came to this country in part to have religious freedom” — and it’s up to us to defend it. Public statements like his certainly help. We applaud the governor for taking a stand and serving as a model for other leaders to do the same!
If you’re looking for ways to observe Religious Freedom Day, join FRC for a special live event highlighting religious liberty around the world. Jewher Ilham, whose scholar father has been held in a Uyghur prison camp, will give a first-hand testimony of what America’s example means to the world. To register or watch online, click here.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.