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A Woman's Right to Not Be Pressured to Abort

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:33:19 -0600

A new study of women who have undergone abortions reveals what many in the pro-life movement have known for years: that “a woman’s right to choose” is more often than not no choice at all. The study was recently published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons by Bowling Green State University professor Priscilla K. Coleman. Of the 987 post-abortive women who were surveyed, 58 percent said that they had their abortions in order to “make others happy,” with over 28 percent saying they had the abortion because “they feared their partner would leave them” if they did not. In addition, almost half of the women believed that their unborn baby was indeed a “human being at the time of the abortion.” In perhaps the most heartbreaking statistic, fully 66 percent of women “said they knew in their hearts that they were making a mistake when they underwent the abortion.” This study explodes a number of myths perpetuated by abortion activists. Chief among them is that abortion must be available on demand in order to preserve women’s “reproductive freedom” and “choice.” But what is painfully clear from this most recent study is that just the opposite is true. Instead of empowering women to make their own reproductive choices, abortion on demand more often empowers men to use abortion as a kind of cudgel to hold over their wife or girlfriend’s heads and demand that they make an appointment down at the local Planned Parenthood to get rid of the unwanted baby for a quick and easy $300. In other words, abortion provides an easy way for men to avoid the responsibility that is inherent in the sexual relationship that they share with their wife or girlfriend. Meanwhile, the woman is left to pick up the pieces. As the study reveals, a majority of these women are completely unprepared for the emotional devastation that abortion causes. Only 13 percent visited a mental health professional before their abortions, but after the procedure, the percentage skyrocketed to 67.5 percent. Similarly, only 6.6 percent of women reported using prescription drugs before their abortions; afterwards, 51 percent reported prescription drug use. There are so many devastating lessons that can be drawn from these findings—the failure of men to own up to their responsibilities and show true love for their wives and girlfriends; the failure of the abortion industry to properly warn women of the psychological effects of abortion; the failure of our culture to see sex as a sacred act that should be treated with respect due to its inherent power of human procreation. One positive that can come out of this study is just the fact that it exists at all. This is precisely the kind of information that the abortion industry is desperate to cover up, because it so clearly and directly contradicts their “woman’s right to choose” mantra that they have been espousing for decades. This study is the latest example of a light of truth illuminating the darkness of abortion, and when it is shared on social media and blogged about by thousands of people (hint, hint), the darkness cannot overcome it (see John 1:5). Studies like these should strengthen the resolve of all of us in the pro-life movement, and give us an extra spring in our step as we join the March for Life tomorrow in Washington, D.C., not only to speak up for millions of tiny innocent lives, but to speak up for millions of mothers who are forced to carry the excruciating yet invisible weight of their offspring’s death on their shoulders, a weight that they will carry for the rest of their lives.[...]


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Religious Freedom Day: A Call to Action

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 13:15:39 -0600

President Ronald Reagan once said, “To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: the First Amendment to the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values, it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.” Yesterday was Religious Freedom Day, and in recognition of this important day to celebrate this indispensable freedom, FRC hosted a Washington Watch Special Report with Tony Perkins. The first guest, Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.), pointed out that it’s currently an “odd season” for Christians who want to live out their faith. “Religious freedom and the free expression of your faith has been a given throughout American history, and now for some reason, people of this country and in this cultural time are becoming afraid of faith and afraid of people of faith.” He went on to emphasize that there cannot be a “wall of separation” between one’s faith and the public square that they participate in through their job or through recreation, echoing Reagan’s proper interpretation of the First Amendment. An unfortunate tendency in our culture today is for many people of faith to assume that there must be a “wall of separation” between their public and private faith lives. But as Senator Lankford underscored, that’s not the proper understanding of a truly lived faith: “If church and faith is only something you do on the weekend, that’s not a faith, that’s a hobby … A faith permeates everything that you do.” Next, former Congressman Frank Wolf joined Tony to discuss international religious liberty issues. He declared religious liberty to be at greater risk today than it was 40 years ago, with 5.5 billion people currently living in religiously repressive nations. He also pointed out the outrageous fact that Squire Patton Boggs, one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, D.C., represents persecutors of religious freedom like Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, as well as China, which imprisons and executes Christians, Buddhists, and Uyghurs. Wolf also issued a strong challenge to pastors and churches to stand up more forcefully for those being persecuted around the world for their faith. “I think we need some men like Martin Luther King. I think we need pastors to go to jail. I am disappointed in the church. There are exceptions … but overall the church has fundamentally failed.” Wolf also mentioned the current anti-Semitism phenomenon happening on college campuses, and how the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement is in reality thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. When asked what we can all do to fight religious persecution, Wolf emphasized the fundamental importance of prayer, supporting groups like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and Samaritan’s Purse, contacting congressmen and senators about religious liberty legislation, and hosting a “religious freedom day” at your church. Dr. Alveda King was the show’s next guest, and she pointed out that religious liberty issues are particularly relevant to her personally in light of a recent incident in which Facebook blocked ads from being displayed advertising a movie about Roe v. Wade that she served as an executive producer for. She quoted her uncle Martin Luther King who said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ryan Bomberger, who is a tireless advocate for the unborn and for equal justice through his Radiance Foundation, closed out the show, noting that he himself was the target of a free speech lawsuit filed by the NAACP, who didn’t like the fact that he was unafraid to point out the organization’s support for the abortion of black children. He also underscored the need for Christians to be fearless in living out their faith: “What good is religious liberty [...]


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Social Conservative Review - January 15, 2018

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 13:31:04 -0600

Dear Friends, Over and over, the New Testament gives us a “simple” commandment: love one another (John 13:34, 15:12, 1 John 3:11, Romans 13:8, Ephesians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, etc.). It sounds simple, but we all know that putting this commandment into practice is anything but. When we are reminded to love one another, it’s easy to get discouraged by thinking of all the times we have failed to show love to our neighbor. C.S. Lewis provides an insightful way to think about how we can develop a habit of love by using the metaphor of mathematics. When we study math, we don’t begin by trying to understand calculus—we start with basic addition. In the same way, we learn to love by first loving our family—the basic unit of society from which we come from. This plays out in small, everyday acts of love, like forgiving your spouse for leaving the sink piled high with dirty dishes, or forgiving your child for blurting out an insult. Once we gain this habit of love in our families, we can more easily transfer the habit to everyone we meet in our everyday lives. But it is still quite difficult, as we all know, because unloving feelings seem to naturally bubble up within us out of nowhere, and they are often difficult to shake. One example is when we are driving on a highway, and we are abruptly cut off by another driver who changes lanes right in front of us, forcing us to slow down. The immediate reaction is one of resentment, and we are often tempted to react in equal measure, perhaps by speeding up to tailgate them. But this is a failure to love one another. As C.S. Lewis has written, “The feeling of resentment, the desire for payback, must be simply killed. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible.” When we feel the inklings of resentment building up within us, we must stop them before they become worse. Instead of letting your anger rise, take a deep breath and ask Jesus for the grace to forgive the person who has wronged you. Say a prayer for the person, asking the Lord to help them see the truth. When we begin to form this kind of habit of forgiveness and practice it over and over again, it will with time blossom into a way of life. When God sees our attempts at love, however small they may be, He pours His grace into our lives, giving us continued strength to persevere in love. On this Martin Luther King Day, let us be especially mindful of the importance of loving one another in order to bring about increased harmony between those of different ethnicities and cultures. Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family. Sincerely, Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council   FRC Articles Voices From The Grave Cry Out For Justice In Iran – Ken Blackwell Every Vote Really Does Count – Ken Blackwell Will Republicans Finish The Job for Seniors And Small Businesses? – Ken Blackwell Chai Feldblum Should Not Be Reappointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Peter Spring What You Can Do to Fight Sex Trafficking – Dan Hart Oregon State Appeals Court Rules Against Aaron and Melissa Klein – Travis Weber How the New Tax Bill Helps Families – Andrew Guernsey A Pastor’s Take on the Sex Abuse Scandals of 2017 – Andrew Hebert The Rich History of Christmas Traditions – Dan Hart   Religious Liberty Religious Liberty in the Public Square Is Your Church Prepared to Handle a Challenge to its Religious Liberty? – Erik Stanley, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission What the Founders Understood About Religious Freedom That We Must Recover – Michael Berry, The Daily Signal Christian school fights Michigan Township for right to operate out of a church – Joe Carter, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission FEMA to Allow Churches to Receive Disaster Relief After Key Policy Change – Samuel Smith, The Christian Post Calif. County Allows Christian Group to Display Nativity Scen[...]


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What You Can Do to Fight Sex Trafficking

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 10:22:53 -0600

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. There are an estimated 20 to 30 million human trafficking victims in the world today, with an estimated 4.5 million of those forcibly involved in sex trafficking. In the U.S., an estimated 640,000 are being trafficked for sex. These numbers are profoundly disturbing, and it can be tempting to feel discouraged that ordinary citizens like us are powerless to help these victims and to help stop the demand for paid sex. In reality, there are a number of ways that all of us can help in the fight. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Fight the New Drug have both published a list of practical ways we can all join the cause. Here is a brief summary of what you can do: 1. Do Not View or Pay for Porn As we have written about previously, porn and sex trafficking are inseparably linked. Each click of pornography creates a demand for more pornography and brings in a profit to the industry. The demand causes traffickers, pimps, and those involved in the sex industry to abuse their victims by filming them in sex acts. 2. Learn How to Identify Potential Victims and Report Suspicious Activity If you think you see suspicious activity happening wherever you are, be sure you have learned about what to look for. The Department of Homeland Security has published Indicators of Human Trafficking—be sure to look for these warning signs particularly in airports, gas stations, rest stops, and hotels. If you think you see something suspicious, call local law enforcement, or you can contact the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. 3. Use a New App to Take Pictures of Your Hotel Room Hotel rooms are a hotspot for sex trafficking. Victims are often advertised online through pictures taken of them in hotel rooms. As Fight the New Drug has written on, there is a new app called TraffickCam that catalogues details of different hotel rooms like wallpaper and furniture to help create a database of identifiers, which can then be used by TraffickCam’s algorithm to match images of sex trafficking victims that will help law enforcement identify the possible locations of victims. 4. Participate in Online Activism The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) has organized a number of ways that you can participate in online activism. Here are two: Joining NCSE’s #TACKLEDEMAND social media campaign before the Super Bowl is a way to bring awareness about the problem of large commercial sporting events being used by sex traffickers and buyers for sexual exploitation. Netflix is producing a show called “Baby” that normalizes the sexual exploitation of young teenagers by portraying it as a kind of “edgy” coming of age story. You can protest this repulsive show by sending an email or Facebook message to Netflix executives demanding that they stop producing it. [...]


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Oregon State Appeals Court Rules Against Aaron and Melissa Klein

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:11:56 -0600

On December 28th, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against Aaron and Melissa Klein, upholding a determination under state law that forced them to create a cake for a same-sex wedding against their consciences. The court threw cold water on the Kleins’ First Amendment defenses, claiming that if it allowed them to proceed, then others seeking to defend racial discrimination through religious freedom claims would also be allowed to prevail. The Court also goes overboard by accepting and recounting wholesale the feelings and perceptions of the upset same-sex couple, coloring bias into the entire narrative—while failing to do the same courtesy for the feelings and perceptions of Aaron and Melissa, who no doubt have been seriously harmed throughout this case. Moreover, Aaron and Melissa had to endure a barrage of hateful rhetoric directed at them as this incident developed, yet none of this is built into the court’s recounting of events, which ultimately supported highly excessive damages against the Kleins built on nothing more than the couple’s flimsy emotional narrative. Yet there were a couple of bright spots in the opinion. The one finding the court reversed was the part of the administrative ruling which acted as a “gag order” on the Kleins being able to speak about what happened to them. This finding was outrageous, and rightly reversed by the court of appeals. Second, even though the court ruled against the Kleins’ freedom of expression claim, it recognized that to the degree such cake creations are artistic, they are very likely protected. Noting that “[i]t appears that the Supreme Court has never decided a free-speech challenge to the application of a public accommodations law to a retail establishment selling highly customized, creative goods and services that arguably are in the nature of art or other expression,” the court said that “[i]f BOLI’s [Bureau of Labor and Industry—the administrative entity which ruled against the Kleins] order can be understood to compel the Kleins to create pure ‘expression’ that they would not otherwise create, it is possible that the Court would regard BOLI’s order as a regulation of content, thus subject to strict scrutiny, the test for regulating fully protected expression.” This also “would be a different case if BOLI’s order had awarded damages against the Kleins for refusing to decorate a cake with a specific message requested by a customer (‘God Bless This Marriage.’)” Well, the Supreme Court is about to decide this very issue in Jack Phillips’ case—Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—in the upcoming months. When his case is decided, the Kleins’ case may be too. Indeed, at oral argument in Phillips’ case, the exact message “God Bless This Marriage” was mentioned by the justices as implicating protected expressive conduct (one wonders if the Oregon Court of Appeals specifically cited it in order to leave itself an “out”). Finally, in another bright moment in its opinion, the Oregon Court of Appeals observed that the Kleins’ case (and therefore many of these wedding vendor cases) are unlike FAIR v. Rumsfeld, in which the Supreme Court said law schools must allow military recruiters (the military was under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the time) access to campus if they wanted to continue to receive federal funds. Opponents of the Kleins and others often claim their cases are like FAIR, and it was good to see the Court here dismiss that notion, observing that the law schools never objected to being forced to speak a message with which they disagree, while the Kleins and other wedding vendors do. Despite these few promising points, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling is a blow to freedom for all, and will only perpetuate the current cultu[...]


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How the New Tax Bill Helps Families

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 09:30:50 -0600

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1 “TCJA”), signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, provides numerous provisions that benefit working families. Child Tax Credit The Child Tax Credit (CTC) has a positive impact on individual families and the economy as a whole and helps parents bear the costs of raising their children. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the CTC for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by: Increasing the CTC to $2,000 for children under 17; Making the CTC refundable up to $1,400 (indexed for inflation) for low-income working families based on 15 percent of earned income in excess of $2,500; or (if greater) the amount of payroll taxes in excess of the earned income tax credit, for a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children; Removing the CTC marriage penalty for the income phase-out, and increasing the income threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly; Providing a $500 non-refundable Family Care Credit credit for dependents who don’t receive the CTC; and Requiring a qualifying child to have a Social Security Number for a taxpayer to claim the CTC Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Penalty Starting in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. This helps many working families obtain relief from being forced into an Obamacare health insurance plan. Repealing the individual mandate penalty also allows individuals to forgo purchasing coverage if doing so violates their conscience. This is especially relevant for individuals who live in the states where there are few or no pro-life health insurance plans that exclude coverage of abortion. Marriage Penalties Marriage penalties exist in the tax code and also in welfare programs. The penalty generally applies in the tax code when a tax deduction or credit applies to single and married persons based on income, but a married couple is eliminated from receipt of the benefit making less than 200 percent of an eligible single person’s income. Income Tax Brackets The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has no marriage penalties for five of seven tax income brackets for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it). Marriage bonus in the 22 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent lower rate than single filers for the first $25,000 they make over $140,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $500 bonus, decreasing income taxes by up to 1.41 percent. Small marriage penalty in the 32 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have an 8 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $5,000 they make over $315,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $400 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 0.61 percent. Large marriage penalty in the 37 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 2.59 percent. Alternative Minimum Tax The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces marriage penalties for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by removing the marriage penalty for the AMT income phase-out ($500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married couples filing jointly). TCJA retains the marriage penalty for the AMT exemption ($70,300 for single filers and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly). Due to the marriage penalty in the AMT exemption, Married couples filing jointly are taxed at 26 percent higher rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $109,400 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,112 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 22.19 percent. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher AMT tax rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make [...]


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A Pastor's Take on the Sex Abuse Scandals of 2017

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 12:22:09 -0600

Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Matt Lauer. Charlie Rose. Al Franken. What do these men have in common? They, along with over one hundred others, were accused in recent months of sexual misconduct. The list of names spans the east and west coasts, the media and politics, Democrats and Republicans. The revelation of widespread sex abuse was one of the most important developments of 2017. It brought darkness to light and uncovered a societal cancer that has been kept secret for far too long. Some have expressed shock that people can indeed be so evil. Some wonder if this kind of depravity has always happened but remained concealed. Is the extreme nature of this abuse a new phenomenon? As Christians, what are we to say about these things? Who’s to blame? And more importantly, how do we get out of this mess? For Christians, none of this twisted sexual behavior should come as a surprise. Humanity has been this broken all along. The Bible gives both a framework for understanding why all of this is happening as well as a clear way out of the mess. Christians have believed for a long time in the depravity of mankind, that every human person is sinful and broken. This view of depravity does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly can be, but rather that any one of us is capable of doing anything. Of course, this theological understanding of mankind does not in any way excuse the behavior of these men, any more than a compulsive liar’s proclivity to tell untruths justifies the lies he or she tells. We believe in protecting the innocent, fighting injustice, and guarding those who are most vulnerable in our society. We also believe that the government’s job is to punish evildoers, as the Apostle Paul states in Romans 13. If any of these men are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But while justice must be done, to what extent does our society also share some of the blame? Since the sexual revolution, American sexual mores have been alarmingly and harmfully fluid. Coupled with the moral relativism that has been espoused in many public forums—especially the media, the arts, and the classroom—the sexual revolution effectively taught boys and girls that personal expression supersedes “restrictive” traditional ethics. Those boys and girls grew up to be some of the same men and women who decided that love of self-expression is to be valued more than love of neighbor. Currently, even our elementary aged children are exposed to sexual education where traditional sexual boundaries are pushed. Whether it is the issue of gender identification, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, or polyamory, the culture has enabled the sexual confusion and dysfunction we are experiencing. There is little doubt as to why we are where we are. Ideas have consequences. Failing to recognize any moral absolutes, society has left the door open for a host of unethical behaviors. It is time for our society to look in the mirror when leveling blame for these tragedies. These scandals simply reflect the outcome when a society rejects the Christian notion of moral absolutes, which are grounded in the creative design of God. The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once famously remarked, “If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Hefner.” In this cultural moment, we are seeing what happens when people try to fill the void in their lives that is left when there is no room for God. We are sex-obsessed. Sex has become a god, and as all idols do, it has left us hurting and broken. So, amidst the very apparent brokenness we are experiencing as a society, how should we respond, particularly from a Christian perspective? Scripture calls us to hu[...]


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The Rich History of Christmas Traditions

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 07:29:00 -0600

Have you ever wondered why it became such a common tradition for Christians to bring a tree into their homes for Christmas? Or why certain plants like holly and mistletoe are often used as Christmas decorations? As it turns out, there is a rich history behind many of the Christmas traditions that seem so common to us now. Christmas trees St. Boniface traveled to Germany from England in the eighth century to try and convert the pagans that lived there. He discovered that many of the people there were open to his message of Christ’s salvation, but still insisted on worshipping their pagan gods, including an oak tree that they considered to be sacred. Boniface was uncertain about how he could convince the people that the tree was not a god; finally, he decided to cut the tree down. The people were angered by this, so he gave them a young evergreen tree instead. Unlike the oak tree which lost its leaves each year, the evergreen tree kept its green needles all year around. Therefore, the evergreen tree is richly symbolic of the everlasting life that Christ offers us. Christmas plants Holly, ivy, and mistletoe are often used as decorative ornaments for Christmas. So how did these traditions originate? Holly has been used for hundreds of years for making wreaths and for decorating tables and mantelpieces. The sharp, thorny edges of holly leaves are a reminder of the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head, and the red berries symbolize drops of his blood. Ivy was once used by pagan religions to form crowns that were placed on the statues of pagan gods, but has since been adopted by Christians for use in wreaths and ornaments, with the white berries of some varieties of ivy representing purity and innocence. Before Christianity arrived in Ireland, mistletoe was once used by Celtic Druids (pagan priests) in their ceremonies. It was eventually adopted by Christians to decorate their homes and to act as a symbol of marriage. This is how the custom of kissing a person standing under the mistletoe began. Christmas cards The earliest forms of Christmas cards date back to the fifteenth century, when sheets of paper were used to print the Christmas story on. The first Christmas cards to appear as we know them today were made by Henry Cole in England in 1843. The cards featured scenes of Christians doing acts of charity, and said “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to you.” In the U.S., Louis Prang of Boston was one of the first to produce Christmas cards in 1875, and they proved to be very successful. Today, over two billion Christmas cards are mailed in the U.S. each year. Christmas Day The exact date of Christ’s birth was not known by the early church, but one of its earliest traditions is that the Annunciation of Mary (when the Archangel Gabriel appears to her with the news of her motherhood of God) happened on March 25th. It is believed that since December 25th is exactly nine months later, the church decided that this would be the appropriate date of Christ’s birth. Another possible reason why this date was chosen was that in Rome during this time, the pagans celebrated December 25th as the birth of the sun (the winter solstice) with a large feast. As a way to persuade the pagans to become Christian, the Christians decided to celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th as well. This was also very appropriate since Christ was prophesied in Malachi 4:2 as the “sun of righteousness”: “But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go forth leaping like calves from the stall.” The Christmas traditions that we often take for granted do indeed have a rich history grounded in the traditions of many different peoples and cultures. As the Lord of history and the Savior of all mankind, Christ has and continues to transce[...]


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Social Conservative Review - December 15, 2017

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:58:06 -0600

Dear Friends, For many Americans, the time off from work and school that Christmas allows is a wonderful opportunity to reunite with family and friends. It can be a joyous time of catching up on new developments and accomplishments that have transpired over the last year, exchanging gifts, and partaking in delicious Christmas hams and cookies. As we enjoy this delightful time of year with our loved ones, let us not forget the true reason for why we gather and make merry: the coming of God into our lives. Since many of us have family and loved ones that do not share our faith, Christmas provides us with an invaluable opportunity to witness to the faith that God has gifted to us through the person of his Son Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we need to try and proselytize, which can easily cause tension and conflict and distract away from the spirit of the season. Witnessing to our faith should instead take the form of invitation. For example, simply invite a non-practicing loved one to come with you to your Christmas Eve church service without any expectations or obligation. Another option could be to invite them to join in singing Christmas carols with a group in the local neighborhood, or you could simply make it a fun family activity and sing carols as you sip hot chocolate and munch on cookies. It can be easy to slip into the habit of thinking that we have to organize an elaborate intellectual argument in order to witness to our Christian faith. But that’s not how God invites us into His divine life. Think of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew—when he comes upon Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee, he doesn’t launch into a philosophical discourse about the reasons why the two men should follow him. Instead, he offers them a simple invitation: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). Let us imitate Christ by inviting our loved ones to join us in a joyful spirit of love, free from expectation and obligation. For it is only in true freedom and joy that hearts are truly and joyfully converted. Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family. Sincerely, Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council   FRC Articles The ‘War on Christmas’ Is Real – Travis Weber Sessions’ First Year: A Breath of Fresh Air After Years of Obama Scandals – Ken Blackwell In Masterpiece, the Supreme Court Grapples With a Problem of Its Own Making – Travis Weber Supreme Court Justices Grill ACLU and Colorado in Christian Baker’s Case – Travis Weber Franken’s Senate Replacement is a Former Planned Parenthood VP – Kelly Marcum Kicking Jesus Off the Bus? – Travis Weber A Three-Dimensional Case for Masterpiece Cakeshop — from Justice Kagan, No Less – Peter Sprigg 5 Great Resources That Help Kids Keep Christ in Christmas – Peter Witkowski 5 Great Resources that Help Keep Christ in Christmas – Peter Witkowski Planned Parenthood’s Tacit Support of Physical Assault – Kelly Marcum Can American Higher Education Be Salvaged? Will the Supreme Court Recognize Consumable Beauty in Wedding Cake Case? – Peter Sprigg Remembering Mike Penner – Peter Sprigg   Religious Liberty Religious Liberty in the Public Square Here's why I can’t custom-design cakes for same-sex weddings – Jack Phillips, USA Today Religious Exemptions Aren’t Special Privileges – Stephanie Barclay, Public Discourse Judge Denies FEMA Relief For Three Texas Churches – Brien Straw, Houston Public Media DC buses can ban ‘religious’ Christmas ads, judge rules – Doug Mainwaring, LifeSiteNews Liberals attack doughnut shop's good deed – Todd Starnes, Fox News Religious Freedom in 2018: Wh[...]


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Franken's Senate Replacement is a Former Planned Parenthood VP

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:20:36 -0600

NOMINEE: Tina Smith BIRTH DATE: March 4, 1958 EDUCATION: B.S. in Political Science, Stanford University, 1980. M.B.A. from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, 1984. FAMILY: Lives in Minneapolis with her husband of thirty years, Archie Smith. They have two grown sons, Sam and Mason, who also reside in Minnesota. EXPERIENCE: Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota (2015-present); Chief of Staff to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (2011-2015); Chief of Staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (2006-2011); Vice President of External Affairs, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota (2003-2006); Involved with Minnesota’s Democratic-Famer-Laborer (DFL) party since 1998; Founded a political and campaign consulting firm, Macwilliams, Cosrove, Smith, Robinson, (1992); General Mills’ marketing department (1984-1992)   Abortion Planned Parenthood connection: Smith’s abortion advocacy runs in the family. Her father, Harlan Flint, was a board member for Planned Parenthood Ohio. In 2003, Smith became the Vice President for External Affairs, at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, functioning as their lead registered lobbyist.  Smith has said that Planned Parenthood provides “critical care” and that she is “proud of that work.” During her tenure at the organization, it had an increase in abortions by 22 percent, performing 9,717 abortions in Minnesota. 1,892 of these abortions were performed on low-income women, allowing the organization to be reimbursed $458,574.74 by Minnesota taxpayers. In 2004, Planned Parenthood became the state’s largest abortion provider, a title it maintains to this day. Between 2003 and 2005, Planned Parenthood Minnesota received $12.65 million in government grants. As a Planned Parenthood Vice President, Smith lobbied against pro-life legislation, including informed consent laws for mothers and one-day waiting periods for abortions. Specifically, she led the organization’s fight against the Woman’s Right to Know Act in Minnesota, which became law in 2003. The Act requires women to be informed of the gestational age of their child as well as of the associated risks with any procedures, and it requires the physician to provide information to the mother on resources for available prenatal, childbirth, and neonatal care, as well as resources for financial support. The Woman’s Right to Know Act also requires a 24-hour waiting period after the woman has been properly informed before she can give consent to undergo the abortion. Smith also lobbied against the Positive Alternatives Act of 2005, which provided state grants to nonprofits that supported women who chose not to abort by providing services such as housing assistance, adoption services, child care, parental education, and employment assistance. The purpose of an eligible grant applicant had to be to “maximize the potential” of the mother and support her after childbirth. Despite Smith’s efforts to convince legislators that pregnancy care centers that don’t refer women for abortions should not be eligible for state grants, the law passed in 2005. Smith continues to have the political support of her former employer. In 2012 the Planned Parenthood Action Fund honored Smith “for her passion and commitment to Planned Parenthood.” Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota stated: “[Tina Smith] really built our education and outreach efforts. She’s got a pretty strong legacy around here.” When asked about Congress’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, Smith replied: “I think it’s almost totally political...It’s just a bad idea.” Following Governor Mark Dayton&r[...]


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Kicking Jesus Off the Bus?

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 07:16:31 -0600

Last week, a federal court ruled that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was permitted to reject an ad (pictured above) that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of D.C. wanted to run on the sides of area buses during the Christmas season. Now why would such an ad be excluded? In holding that WMATA’s commercial advertising guidelines (under which the ad was excluded) did not violate the First Amendment and could be permitted to stand, the court reviewed the guidelines under a standard for speech in nonpublic forums (which public buses are generally considered to be). For nonpublic forums, the government can discriminate based on content but not on viewpoint, and here, WMATA has a policy of not allowing certain types of content on its buses, including religious content. While WMATA would be able to eliminate religious content from its buses, the Archdiocese had argued that WMATA was discriminating based on viewpoint because it was happy to have other Christmas ads which are religiously related and which convey the view that Christmas is a commercial holiday, but that WMATA didn’t want to accept the Archdiocese’s view that Christmas is noncommercial and should be focused on the gift of Christ (as the above poster does). The court rejected this view, ruling that the bus guidelines did not discriminate based on viewpoint but only on content—noting that “religion is excluded as a subject matter.” But is all of “religion” really being excluded? It doesn’t seem so. WMATA permits Christmas-related ads from the Salvation Army, and ads from a religiously-focused yoga group. Yet, as the court recognizes later in its opinion, the guidelines prohibit ads that “promote” or “oppose” religious beliefs. The court relies on these guidelines to distinguish the Archdiocese’s proposed ad from ads by the Salvation Army and a yoga studio, which WMATA permitted despite their religious overtones, claiming they don’t promote specific beliefs. So it is not religion per se that WMATA wants to prohibit, but rather messages opposed to or promoting religious belief. And since the Archdiocese is understandably seeking to promote its own religious belief in its own ad which it would be paying for, WMATA declared it off limits (thus, the court’s comment that “religion is excluded”—seeming to refer to religion generally—isn’t even correct). We should be especially wary of government restrictions on one’s viewpoint. They are the most dangerous at their core, and go to the heart of why we have the First Amendment. In ruling for WMATA here, the court observed that under the lower standard of scrutiny applied, the government could rely on administrative convenience and the avoidance of controversy as a legitimate basis to exclude ads—as it and other authorities have done in response to Islam-related ads (indeed, the whole reason WMATA and other authorities have chosen to lower the level of scrutiny they have to meet and eliminate whole areas of discussion from their buses is to avoid legally having to host controversial Islam-related messages—now, the same ad which has run in years past in the D.C. metro system is not being permitted on buses). But suppressing a message for fear of the response is the essence of the heckler’s veto, and is no way for a free country to act. If for no other reason, this is perhaps why the courts should be inclined to rule for the Archdiocese here, and be loath to affirm any policy which could be used to justify views the government doesn’t like.[...]


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A Three-Dimensional Case for Masterpiece Cakeshop -- from Justice Kagan, No Less

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:49:15 -0600

I am not generally a fan of liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. But after reading the entire transcript of the December 5 oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (in which a Christian baker was found guilty by Colorado of discrimination for declining to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple), I thought one question she asked was especially insightful. Most of the discussion on Jack Phillips’ free speech claim centered on a question distilled by Justice Stephen Breyer. Baker Jack Phillips argues that his First Amendment right to be free from compelled speech was violated by Colorado’s application of its public accommodations law to him, but Breyer asked, “[W]hat is the line? . . . [W]e want some kind of distinction that will not undermine every civil rights law.” Kagan elaborated on that concern in a question posed to U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who was arguing in support of Phillips: JUSTICE KAGAN: General, it -- it seems as though there are kind of three axes on which people are asking you what’s the line? How do we draw the line? So one axis is what we started with, like what about the chef and the florist - GENERAL FRANCISCO: Speech, non-speech. JUSTICE KAGAN: -- and -- and, you know, everybody else that participates in a wedding? A second axis is, well, why is this only about gay people? Why isn’t it about race? Why isn’t it about gender? Why isn’t it about people of different religions? So that’s a second axis. And there’s a third axis, which is why is it just about weddings? You say ceremonies, events. What else counts? Is it the funeral? Is it the Bar Mitzvah or the communion? Is it the anniversary celebration? Is it the birthday celebration? So there are all three of these that suggest like, whoa, this doesn’t seem like such a small thing. 1. “Speech” vs. “non-speech” in the wedding industry The core of the argument made by Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing Phillips, related to the first “axis” Kagan mentioned. The courts have previously found that under the First Amendment’s free speech protections, not only may the government not punish an individual for speaking his own opinions, but the government also may not compel an individual to communicate a message he disagrees with against his will. Using his talents to create a custom wedding cake is a form of artistic expression which is protected as “speech” under the First Amendment, Waggoner argued. Doing so for a same-sex wedding would constitute a message of endorsement of a homosexual relationship and of same-sex marriage, which violates Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs. Therefore, the state of Colorado may not compel Phillips’ to create such a cake without violating his First Amendment rights. The justices demanded to know what other vendors providing goods and services for a wedding would or would not enjoy similar free speech protections. What type of commercial conduct constitutes “speech,” and what is “non-speech,” as Francisco put it? Waggoner suggested that the exemption would apply to a baker, florist, or calligrapher creating invitations; but might not apply to a hair stylist or makeup artist (more on that later). Yet I think Kagan’s other two “axes” (plural of “axis,” not “ax”) are also significant. Unlike Kagan, however, I think they make the case easier to decide, not harder. 2. “Why is this only about gay people?” The second axis of line-drawing has to do with any distinctions between various protected categories. Is there a difference between “discrimina[...]


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5 Great Resources That Help Kids Keep Christ in Christmas

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 07:39:51 -0600

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung Kevin DeYoung covers the entire Bible in ten amazingly succinct and beautifully illustrated chapters. DeYoung created the book to be the one resource you use to tell your family about how Christ came to us as a baby to bring us back to Eden by dying on the cross. I encourage you to read this book with your young children during the days leading up to Christmas. You could also cuddle up by the fire and read the entire volume in one sitting with kids of all ages. All members of your family will enjoy reading The Biggest Story. And if you want to watch the story, you can buy the animated video of the book. A Family Christmas Treasury by Adrian Rogers Adrian Rogers desires for everyone to experience the joy of Christmas found through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He begins each devotion with reflections on a Bible verse and ends each devotion with a family activity such as writing a Christmas card to someone you love or creating a jar to collect money for church. Each devotion is designed to engage both you and your children. If you are looking for a Christmas devotion for you family, I encourage you to try A Family Christmas Treasury. The Expected One by Scott James Scott James wrote this great little book specifically with your kids in mind. Each devotion contains a Scripture passage, a small explanation of the verse(s) and 2-3 questions (with answers) to prompt some family discussion. The chapter also features a small question to help you apply the passage to your life. This book begins on December 1st and ends on December 25th so it does not follow the traditional Advent calendar and does not come with song suggestions. But if you are a touch creative and have young children with short attention spans, I think you will really like The Expected One. Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski Marty Machowski shows your kids the beauty of the Christmas story by having you light candles, look at nativity scenes, and reflect on Scripture. He built each week’s devotion around key passages from the Christmas story. He placed a chapter from his original Christmas story about the orphan Bartimaeus at the end of each Advent week. In addition to being biblical and easy to understand, the devotions are also infused with object lessons, Christmas carols, and crafts. Marty Machowski has helpfully planned out your entire family’s Christmas devotional calendar. Moreover, you can download the music mentioned in the book here. And you can buy a teacher’s guide here if you want to bring this study into your Sunday school class room. If your family likes Christmas traditions, grab a copy of Prepare Him Room. All Is Bright by Nancy Guthrie Nancy Guthrie created a devotional that your kids can do. Each day features a one page devotion and a coloring page that accents the lesson. If you have a child who loves to color and who wants to explore the Christmas season on their own, you will want to grab a copy of All Is Bright. Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.[...]


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5 Great Resources that Help Keep Christ in Christmas

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 07:45:08 -0600

The Christmas season can be a stressful time filled with a barrage of parties, shopping trips, and community events. Christmas is often crazy busy for families, but it can and should also be a time of great refreshment. Is there better news than Christ has come to save us from our sins? If we hope to focus on spending quality time with our families and reflecting on the gospel this Christmas, we must first focus our hearts on the beauty of Christ. We must first bolster our walk with the Lord and then bolster our family worship times. In Deuteronomy 6:1, parents are told to keep God’s word in their hearts. To teach our kids about God, we must be learning about God and growing in our faith. Finding good devotional resources for Christmas can be taxing. Below are five great options. While not an exhaustive list, I hope my reviews will get you started in the right direction. If you have a favorite Christmas devotion, I encourage you to mention it in the comment section below. Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp Paul David Tripp masterfully interacts with the Christmas story, providing his readers with a wealth of practical applications. His book seeks to help keep us from losing sight of Jesus during the holiday season. Derived from a series of Christmas tweets, each devotional includes a scripture reference and ends with a parent’s section that will help mom and dad bring the devotional into family worship times. If you are seeking to warm your heart and your family’s heart towards the gospel, I encourage you to grab a copy of Come Let Us Adore Him. From Heaven by A.W. Tozer A.W. Tozer’s book reflects on his love for the Lord and for poetic expression. The author masterfully paints pictures and shares illustrations that help readers understand that the Scriptures associated with Christmas are plum with meaning. The devotions which have been compiled from Tozer’s sermons and editorials cover all 28 days of the Advent season. I encourage you to read From Heaven this Christmas. Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller Timothy Keller beautifully reveals how the Christmas story pierces our dark and broken world with the light of the gospel. Though not designed as a devotional, the 145-page book will help you grasp the major themes of the Christmas story and will fit nicely into your devotional life with heartwarming reflections on the gospel. If you want to refocus your heart this Christmas or desire to be a better witness during the Christmas season, I encourage you to read Hidden Christmas. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper John Piper helps his readers grasp the important themes of the Christmas story by focusing on the secondary or theological texts of Christmas found in Acts, Hebrews, and the Pauline Epistles. It is a great resource, highlighting the beauty of our savior in short, two to three-page devotions. My wife and I have found Piper’s works encouraging and thought provoking. You will greatly benefit from reading The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer Dietrich Bonhoffer’s words point the readers’ hearts to the true meaning of Christmas. Featuring the martyr’s sermons, poems, and personal letters, the book challenges readers to grapple with the Christmas story for the purpose of knowing God more. Arranged according to the traditional church calendar, the first four weeks are devoted to the themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. The final section features devotions for the twelve days of Christmas. If you are looking for a new and thought-provoking devotion, I encourage you to grab a copy of God is in the Manger. Peter Witkowski is the Associa[...]


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Planned Parenthood's Tacit Support of Physical Assault

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 09:31:11 -0600

Planned Parenthood, much like the Left in general, has always had a problem with consistency. Call it a professional hazard of purporting an ideology that relies on feelings rather than reason. Here are some examples: A child is a “clump of cells.” Unless it’s wanted, then it’s a baby. A woman is empowered to make her own choices, unless she makes the wrong one; then she’s coerced, misguided, or manipulated. A woman’s rights are to be protected zealously, unless those rights conflict with Planned Parenthood’s prized cash cow of abortion on demand; then they’re to be silenced at all costs. Hitting a minor is never okay, unless that minor is protesting abortion outside one of their clinics. Then it’s fair game to punch her in the face. Admittedly, that last one sounds far-fetched. But, alas, that’s precisely what occurred outside of Planned Parenthood Roanoke this past Saturday. Purity Thomas, a local pro-life high school student, was standing on the public strip of land across the street from the clinic with students from nearby Liberty University. The group frequently congregates outside the clinic on Saturdays, when most such centers perform their surgical abortions, to provide prayerful witness and counseling outside of the clinic. Shortly into their vigil, a woman approached and began heckling the group. That heckling escalated until she stole a sign bearing the claim that “All people are made in the image of God.” Thomas called out to the woman, saying that she would pray for her. That proved too much for the abortion vigilante, who turned and walked back towards the group, this time attempting to rip Thomas’s sign out of her hand before striking her across the face, knocking her down. When a minor is punched by an adult, it should not be a difficult action to condemn. Unless of course, you’re Planned Parenthood, and thus privileged with the ability to turn any situation into a rabid defense of a woman’s right to have her unborn baby killed. Planned Parenthood put out a statement clarifying they were not affiliated with the woman. However, at no point did they condemn the violence inflicted against Thomas, a troubling—though not surprising—inconsistency given their determination to paint themselves as heroes of downtrodden women everywhere. Instead they wrote: “Planned Parenthood adheres to a strict non-engagement policy in the presence of members of the opposition. Consistent with that policy, the person involved in the December 2nd incident was not a Planned Parenthood staff member. Oppositional protests are designed to intimidate the many patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood...” (emphasis added) Thank goodness they were here to clarify that the 15-year-old girl, who suffered a concussion from the blow, was an “intimidat[ing]” “member of the opposition.” In other words, she had it coming. Planned Parenthood doesn’t make the claim that they adhere to a policy of respect or non-violence (except of course the violence inflicted on the children in the womb). They only have a policy of “non-engagement.” They fail to mention that the so-called intimidator was holding a sign that called for a prayer to end abortion. Apparently they’d already determined that simple prayerful request to be more offensive and insidious in nature than the woman telling Thomas and her peers that she would “f*** them up.” Planned Parenthood may not be directly responsible for what happened to Purity Thomas last Saturday, but if the situation were reversed,[...]


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