Right Opinion

Rainbow Cake Cuts Both Ways for Louisville Teen

Tony Perkins · Jan. 22, 2020

The liberal media couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario. In their ongoing quest to smear Christians, they’d found the perfect martyr: a sweet-looking teenage girl, who’d been expelled from her religious school for posing with a rainbow cake. Her parents, Kimberly and Mark Kenney, helped their cause — playing dumb to reporters and insisting the LGBT symbolism was just a coincidence. The press ate up the story that their daughter, Kayla, was unfairly targeted. There’s just one problem: none of it was true.

Whitefield Academy tried to explain this, but the headlines had already been written. The press wasn’t interested in the real story — which is that Kayla, who’d already posted (multiple times) that she identified as gay, had a two-year record of disciplinary problems. She was caught cutting lunch, vaping, bullying, disrespecting teachers, and violating the school’s moral code. Her own mother, in an interview last week, admits “Kayla was no angel…” In fact, the school had met with the Kenneys multiple times — most recently in October — warning her to clean up her act. So the idea that the rainbow cake was just a fluke — when Kayla is snapping pictures of “getting a gf” and being “in her bed” — is, as Rod Dreher puts it, “almost certainly a flat-out lie.”

Dreher, the senior editor at the American Conservative, talked to people close to the situation — people who, as of last week, watched the school field over 1,000 nasty emails, death threats, and hundreds of harassing phone calls. “…[And the] account they give is not what Kimberly Alford and the mainstream media want you to believe. It seems to me that this is a situation much like the Covington Catholic smear campaign one year ago — when the media read what it wanted to read into a story involving a conservative Christian school and slandered them in the name of progressive values.”

In their public statements, Whitefield was clear that Kayla wasn’t kicked out for a single picture but for “numerous” infractions over the years. “Whitefield Academy is a Christian-based school with a 43-year history of educating students in a learning environment informed by our shared Christian values. All parents who enroll their children in our private school know up front that we ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs.” Obviously, there were expectations — understood by everyone involved — that Kimberly and Mark would talk to her about her aggressive LGBT messaging. Instead, by all accounts, they indulged her.

And in their haste to bad-mouth Whitefield to whatever outlet would listen, they didn’t even bother to get their stories straight. While Kimberly was on the phone with the Washington Post painting a tortured picture of their misunderstood daughter, Mark understood exactly why Kayla was asked to leave. In a (now deleted) Facebook post, he ranted, “Do I have to spell it out for you stick in the muds? Years ago, the gay community adopted the rainbow flag as their own. This school realized that s***! …My daughter got expelled from her church for being gay! END OF SENTENCE!”

If you want to write a story about that, Dreher points out, a Christian school dismissing a student for not abiding by their lifestyle covenant, fine. Maybe then we could have an honest conversation about religious liberty. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the liberal press is building a story to fit their biases — and ignoring basic facts in the process.

And the irony is: while the Left is busy overreacting to Kayla’s case, the real intolerance gets ignored. Where is this same concern when secular schools tell kids they can’t pray, start a Christian club, or play “Joy to the World?” The liberal media doesn’t mind flying to Kayla’s defense, but good luck finding a primetime firestorm that compares to this one. Students are threatened every other week for their faith, but it rarely makes the mainstream press. Why? Because a) most outlets don’t sympathize with them, and b) it doesn’t fit their narrative — that Christians are mean, self-righteous, pushers of outdated morals.

For the Christian community, let this be a warning. The war over religious freedom in education isn’t coming. It’s here. “This is a far deeper issue than a rainbow cake and a rainbow sweater or even a series of social media postings. This is a direct subversion of the very convictions on which this school has been established," Al Mohler warns.

FRC’s David Closson, who actually served as a deacon at Highview Baptist Church that started Whitefield Academy, agrees. "This story is important because it raises a question at the heart of ongoing religious liberty debates in this country, namely, whether a Christian school founded on Christian convictions can insist that its students and staff comply with its publicly-stated Christian values. Thankfully, Whitefield Academy’s statement of faith clearly communicates the school’s stance on issues related to sexuality.” But, he cautions, “Other Christian schools should pay attention to this and ensure their own statements of faith clearly outline what they believe about marriage, sexual ethics, and the Christian faith that grounds their worldview.” It may not change how the media writes the story, but it will change how others like Whitefield’s end.

Originally published here.

Marines’ Tag of War over Faith

Her son, Sgt. Cole Wixom, was killed on duty — almost one year ago today. His body was flown home to Michigan a week later, but along the way, his mom says, someone gave the soldier accompanying his remains a dog tag with a Bible verse on it. In a letter, she tells Kenny Vaughan, the founder of Shields of Strength, that she’s “worn it ever since, along with the dog tag that was attached to his coffin. I can barely see the writing anymore. It’s tarnished, but I know what it says. It says, ‘I will be strong and courageous. I will not be afraid. I will not be discouraged.’ You have no idea,” the grieving mom said, “what this little piece of metal has meant to me…‘”

Cole had just turned 24. Like a lot of families, the news that he’d died came as a complete shock. Robyn never expected that when her son flew out for training, she’d never see him again. This “little piece of metal,” as she called it, is one of the few comforts she’s had. But if the activists at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), other moms won’t have that same consolation. The activists there are desperately fighting to destroy the partnership between Shields of Strength and the military — one branch at a time.

The Army was first, announcing late last year that it was pulling its emblem from Kenny Vaughan’s products. As stunning as the news was — “They had asked us to do it!” Kenny said — the idea that the Marine Corps would follow suit was just as astounding. And yet, that’s exactly what the trademark office did after MRFF complained this year that the tags had “poison[ed] the constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State.”

“Denying our troops a source of inspiration, hope, and encouragement simply because it contains a religious message is an outrage,” Michael Berry, First Liberty’s Chief of Staff, argued. Especially since, as we pointed out when the Army withdrew its support, this isn’t being paid for by government dollars. It’s simply a nonprofit using the trademark license approval it’s been granted to print the Army emblem. So what grounds does MFRF have to say these can’t be produced and voluntarily worn by our military? According to First Liberty, none.

These questions, he explained on “Washington Watch” Friday, “are typically run by what we would all affectionately refer to as government bureaucrats in the bowels of the Pentagon. So I want to make sure our listeners know these are not uniformed people in the military who are making these decisions. These are the suit-and-tie types that that work in the Pentagon. And… each branch… has their own their own office.”

Obviously, what no one there seems to understand is that this is not an official government endorsement of religion.

“I don’t think anybody who goes into a base exchange and buys one of these thinks that somehow the United States of America and its government is telling them, 'You must believe a certain thing or you must believe a certain way or have a certain religious belief’ simply because they’re choosing to buy [these tags] with their own money,” Berry pointed out. Yet suddenly, Shields of Strength and other companies who specialize in military memorabilia are all being shut down. “It’s getting really out of hand,” he argued, and all because Mikey Weinstein and MRFF sent a single complaint.

And the real victims, Mike insists, are the individual Marines. Just a couple of weeks ago, Shields of Strength was contacted by a unit of about 2,000 Marines who all want these dog tags before shipping out to the Middle East. And Kenny had to tell them, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t fulfill your order right now because I’ve [been threatened] by the Trademark Office.”

At least for now, Mike says, the Army seems at least willing to work out some sort of agreement. It was a “lukewarm” response, he admitted, but better than the Marine’s — who’ve threatened to shut the whole operation down. To Berry (a Marine himself) and Kenny, the response is alarming. “It’s frustrating that those who are fighting for our freedom can’t [exercise it] simply because the military is afraid of an outside activist group,” Vaughan said. “I hope the Marine Corps reverses course and restores the ability of our brave military members to own a Shield of Strength.”

Originally published here.

The Lee Way on Adoption

There’s never been a more dangerous time to just “skim the headlines.” If you’re lucky, you’ll only get half the story. And in the case of the faith-based adoption debate, not even that! Just ask Tennessee, the latest state to agree that everyone has a right to participate.

NBC News framed it as an “Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill.” “Tennessee Lawmakers OK Bill Allowing Adoption Agencies to Deny Gay Couples” was USA Today’s take. Others were even more outlandish, insisting Tennessee was actively “Targeting Gay Couples.” Obviously, none of these outlets were counting on people reading past the spin to the uncontroversial point of it all — which is giving religious groups the freedom to keep placing kids as they see fit.

“Don’t get confused about what’s taking place here…” Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) has warned people in the past about adoption inclusion bills. “This is about children, and this is about putting children with loving families… And we, the faith-based community, were getting excluded.”

Fortunately, despite significant pressure (and a major misinformation campaign), Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) agreed and signed the act into law. “I think equality is important and protection of rights is important,” including, he explained, religious freedom. “[The] bill was centered around protection of religious liberty,” Lee said simply, “and that’s why I signed it.”

In more and more states, liberals have been giving faith-based agencies a choice: place kids with same-sex couples or shut down. Enter conservatives, who saw the damage this could do to Tennessee — and children in particular. So, they made it clear that “no licensed adoption agency would be required to participate in a child placement if doing so would "violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” That doesn’t mean that same-sex couples are excluded from the process. Not one sentence of the policy makes it harder for anyone to adopt. The same avenues that were available to them before are available now. The only difference is, faith-based groups won’t be forced to be a part of it.

Kelly, one of the biggest champions of religious freedom in adoption and foster care, wants people to know, “This is not a fight that conservatives or the faith-based community started… The Left’s faith-shaming cannot be permitted to close the doors of one more adoption or foster care center in our country. For all the parents and providers who have been targeted and bullied by activists both inside and outside of government, [inclusive policies] are a sign of hope.”

Originally published here.

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

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