On Monday, Family Policy Alliance and 29 of our state allied organizations filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on a critical religious freedom case.
Just before the holidays, you may have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hold an emergency hearing on the consolidated case against the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate, which is being imposed on employers with more than 100 employees via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Working quickly, our alliance’s legal team – led in this case by our allied organization in Texas – put together a powerful brief for the nine justices, who will hear the case on Friday. Here is our message to them:
- The brief articulates the centrality and importance of religious freedom in the United States – and highlights the many challenges this mandate would impose on employers and employees alike.
- The brief points out that this mandate puts employers in the difficult position of determining which employees’ beliefs are authentic and which are not – which is especially challenging in a secular workplace, but also presents challenges for faith-based ministries. The mandate would essentially turn employers into enforcers of a dictatorial, overreaching federal requirement.
- The brief also recounts the history of overreach of the “administrative state” – in this case, OSHA – especially when it comes to disregard for religious liberty. The brief argues that this issue ought to be debated and worked out in Congress or the state legislatures, where religious convictions have historically been given much more respect.
Family Policy Alliance remains deeply committed to advocating for your God-given religious liberty and for settling these issues through the legislative process – just as our Founding Fathers intended. And we are thankful for you and your support that makes possible our advocacy before the highest court in the land.
Standing for the family of believers,
Joseph Kohm, III, Esq.
Director, Public Policy
© 2022 Family Policy Alliance. All Rights Reserved.
Originally Published 1/5/22 at familypolicyalliance.com.
This past Tuesday, Governor Murphy increased the indoor capacity for churches to 50 people or 25% building capacity, whichever is lower. Outdoor worship services are unlimited in size per Governor Murphy because of First Amendment protections.
Clearly, there is no greater commandment than to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. People of faith should lead by example in their practice of safe social distancing recommendations. I believe local churches have done that, thanks to the leadership of pastors from across the Garden State. However, churches in NJ continue to be held to an unfair higher standard. Essential businesses can have more than 50 employees who come into physical contact with thousands of customers to be indoors for greater lengths of time than a worship service.
Therefore, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® has been working extensively with attorney Demetrios Stratis and dozens of churches across our state to file a lawsuit against the Governor to legally deem the church as essential to protect our rights in any future crises that may arise.
You can learn more about this joint effort at these media links.
The overreach of an out-of-touch state government must be addressed. Here’s what we have been up to.
On May 13, FPA of NJ sent a good-faith letter to Governor Murphy signed by 115 pastors to allow churches to operate following the CDC guidelines.
There was no response.
On May 22, we hand delivered a second legal letter with an attached lawsuit to Governor Murphy’s office in Trenton.
There was no response.
As a result, Attorney Stratis filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Trenton on May 29. This complaint uniquely addresses the “essential” nature of the church to retain our constitutional freedoms and core mission during times of emergency. Within five days of the lawsuit being filed, Governor Murphy promised churches would have increased capacity by June 12.
His ruling this week to raise indoor worship gatherings from 25 people to 50 people is disappointing but not surprising. One month after receiving a formal request on behalf of 115 pastors, the church is allowed 50 people indoors! In a sense, there was no response. This decision justifies the lawsuit that was brought on behalf of 29 churches.
The good news is despite this legal challenge, churches are reaching more people than ever through technology, drive in services, and outdoor gatherings with PA systems that often project the gospel into adjacent communities. God uses all things for His glory!
Making NJ better,
Director of Advocacy
“Make America Great Again” (MAGA) is a slogan used not only by Donald Trump, but before him by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. But according to Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen, Trump used it the best. Schoen called Trump’s use of MAGA “the most resonant campaign slogan in recent history.” Why? Because in Schoen’s opinion, large majorities of Americans in 2016 believed our country was in decline. It seems likely that a post-COVID-19 poll would show people starting to feel that way once again.
If the MAGA message is so resonant, it’s worth asking: what does “making America great again” really mean? Is it just a campaign ad? Or can we actually achieve greatness and keep it? The answer may have been given to us in 1885 by a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville. As he toured America, he observed:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the Churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” [emphasis added]
Tocqueville recognized the strong influence of the Church in America. He was a strong supporter of the separation of Church and State, but also a strong supporter of the practice of religion. Rather than attempting to push faith out of the public sphere, he welcomed the practice of faith and its influence on the culture.
Rhode Island should take note. Churches have been largely shut down for weeks, and in the meantime depression, domestic abuse, suicide, and drug abuse have all increased. This is exactly where Rhode Island churches can be most helpful – and a critical reason our church doors must be allowed to reopen more fully.
Currently, restaurants can seat 50% of capacity – but Rhode Island churches remain at 25%. When churches are not being treated equally to other entities in the state, that signals a threat to our religious freedom – and with it, a threat to the “greatness” of our state. The right to gather together for worship is one protected by our Constitution, and one that should not be taken lightly.
That’s why we are asking Governor Raimondo to welcome religion in her Phase 2 COVID guidelines, just as Tocqueville welcomed it more than a century ago. We’re asking her to allow church doors to open at 40-50% capacity, and for her to recognize churches as “essential.” If you haven’t already, will you join with us by signing this petition, and sharing it with your Rhode Island friends? There is strength in numbers, and Governor Raimondo needs to hear from you!
Post it, tweet it and forward it. Let’s make Rhode Island a state where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, life is cherished, and families thrive.
Chairman, Board of Advisors – Rhode Island
By Vince Torres, President and Executive Director
“Why did you wait so long to reopen?”
“Why are you being so reckless by opening this early?”
“COVID is just a conspiracy and by closing, you are sacrificing all our religious rights!”
“COVID is going to kill everyone in the church if you reopen!”
“I hate the web stream! I will see you in-person Sunday!”
“Make sure you keep the web stream. I won’t be back for a while.”
These statements are just a small representation of the “input” many pastors continue to receive during the COVID pandemic. For every churchgoer who is anxious to return to in-person services, there is another who is anxious about the prospect of in-person services, and so many other sentiments somewhere in between.
Over the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of speaking with pastors from all over New Mexico. They represent different denominations and lead churches of different sizes. And whether they pastor 50 people or 15,000 people, these pastors all share a common burden when it comes to addressing the challenges of COVID and safely relaunching our in-person services.
As a pastor, I understand these burdens well, and while some believe the decisions pastors face are rather easy, I assure you—they are not. Every person has an opinion about what our leaders should be doing—whether those leaders be pastors or elected officials. However, when it comes to the church, we should not treat our pastors as politicians, and rather than boosting their burdens, we should be bearing them.
Your pastor needs your prayers. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” -James 1:5
It has been written and stated many times—your pastor has never led or pastored through a pandemic before. They need wisdom, discernment, and added grace and love to effectively navigate the challenges before them. Pray for them daily.
Your pastor needs your patience. “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” –1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
The truth is, there is no perfect plan or strategy for your pastor to employ. Every decision they make will be met with approval from some and disapproval from others. They may make mistakes, and if/when they do, extend the same grace they have extended to you and honor them with patience as God’s appointed laborers.
Your pastor needs your provision. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” –Galatians 6:6
Please continue to give your time, talents, and treasure to your local church. As churches reopen, opportunities to serve will again be available and your pastor and church family need your help. As for your tithes and offerings, remember that they do not simply keep lights on in the church on Sundays—they keep food on your pastor’s family table the rest of the week; they put money and supplies into the hands of needy families in your church; and they support the furtherance of Gospel mission beyond your church doors.
Your pastor needs your protection. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” –1 Timothy 5:17
One of the ways you can best honor your pastor is to protect them from unrighteous criticisms and sinful gossip. There is a big difference between expressing disagreement and sowing discord; and even when disagreements surface, remember that your pastor is leading a diverse church with a diversity of personalities and opinions. If you feel called to address a specific concern, do so in a biblical manner by communicating with your pastor directly. Encourage others to do the same.
The writer of Hebrews instructs us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” There is an important truth here—that your pastor is responsible for your church and your people—not other churches and other people. Therefore, their decisions should not be made on the basis of what is best for the church or another church, but what is best for your church.
So, whether your pastor decides to open or delay reopening; to resume at one capacity or another; or to mandate certain restrictions or not—remember, they are doing so in a spirit of love and care for you. They need your prayers; they need your patience; they need your provision; and they need your protection—now more than ever.
On Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on what would be the most expensive bill to ever pass the House, H.R. 6800. Speaker Pelosi’s “Heroes Act” is marketed as a necessary response to COVID-19, but conservatives – who refer to the bill as “Pelosi’s Social Wish List Act” – insist it has nothing to do with responsibly responding to the Coronavirus, but instead, propping up her liberal base. With a price tag of $3 trillion, there are line items for hundreds of causes and special interests, but a couple got our attention in particular.
First, the bill excludes Hyde Amendment protections for furloughed employees’ COBRA insurance premiums. That means there are no protections to ensure federal funds are not used to subsidize abortions.
Second, the “Heroes Act” provides federal banking privileges to marijuana businesses. The bill would grant “safe harbor” to Big Marijuana for banking and investments despite the fact that it’s an illegal drug in America.
The bill includes several other non-germane, controversial items, including a mandate to collect “hate crimes” data, a “blanket release” for certain federal prisoners, an expansion of Obamacare through a “special enrollment period,” and several provisions to federalize elections.
Fiscal conservatives have a long list of concerns with the bill, chief among them the continuation of $600 unemployment insurance supplements through Jan. 31, 2021 at the earliest. The bill would also make illegal immigrants eligible for direct stimulus payments and permanently disallow SNAP rulemaking pertaining to work requirements and eligibility.
It is not an overstatement to say the bill contains a laundry list of liberal policies. Unfortunately, even in a time of national crisis, liberal forces are still very much at work to erode our freedoms and compromise our values.
The “Heroes Act” highlights the importance of legislative leadership. While the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is poised to pass the bill on Friday, it is thankfully not expected to receive a vote in the Senate led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). However, concern exists that the bill will be used as a bargaining chip to get the Senate to vote on and pass something similar in the future. For that reason and the poor merits of the bill, it is important that we let our voices be heard in Congress today!
Please send a message to your Member of Congress and ask that he or she vote NO on H.R. 6800.
Thanks for making your voice heard!
Vice President for Strategy
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO YOUR PASTOR
While Governor Murphy was initially noncommittal about when NJ businesses can reopen, he announced just yesterday that he will release his “hard dates” for the reopening this Friday, May 15th.
This is an important step as we navigate the Coronavirus, and pastors need an opportunity to tell the Governor why churches should be allowed to reopen and how they are prepared to follow prescribed safety guidelines.
Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® wants the Governor to hear from pastors before he makes this important decision. In an effort to make sure pastors can let him know their thoughts, we have prepared a letter to him from pastors.
We need your help to make sure as many pastors as possible take this opportunity. Please take a moment now and forward this entire message to your pastor so they have an opportunity to sign onto our letter to Governor Murphy.
Pastors must sign onto this letter by 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 13th.
I applaud you for your care and concern towards those within your congregation and your church’s community. There is no greater commandment than to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. People of faith should lead by example in their practice of safe social distancing recommendations. I believe we have done that, thanks in part to your leadership among your church members.
We are now approaching a crucial time in the decision-making process of Governor Phil Murphy’s reopening plan. He stated on Monday, May 11, that NJ residents should expect “hard dates” in the coming days on when the state will lift restrictions.
Please add your name to this letter that will be sent to the governor’s office on Thursday, May 14. His administration must hear from the faith leaders of NJ. Your immediate action is necessary to ensure that churches are allowed to hold safe worship services following CDC or local health department guidelines. If your congregation prefers to worship through online platforms for a longer period, please add your support for other churches that are able to safely distance congregants.
Director of Advocacy
Imagine if you could go back and prepare your future self for what was to come in March 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis. You probably would have advised yourself to stock up on household goods, invested in a higher speed internet service, and possibly sought advice from experienced homeschooling families.
But most of us would probably not have imagined how Planned Parenthood and the porn industry would pounce on the opportunity to gain virtual access to our homes. We probably wouldn’t have thought to prepare for a time when America’s churches were physically closed (though still very much doing Kingdom work in new ways).
Yet, here we all are in the midst of COVID-19, separated in our homes, yet facing the same—though increased—threats to our families, life and religious freedom.
The abortion industry increased its demand for virtual abortions so that a woman never even has to enter a clinic to be examined—she can visit with an abortionist via webcam and receive abortion pills by mail from home.
Churches are not meeting to help stop the spread of the virus, yet many are facing discrimination from state government officials using the virus as a convenient excuse to quarantine religious freedom.
The porn industry is hoping to move into every home during the shutdown by increasing access to its content, and Planned Parenthood has even created a “chatbot” where teens can text their sex and relationship questions from home—and receive answers without a parent ever being involved.
In other words, Planned Parenthood and Big Pornography are working hard to quietly enter your home through every device—while church buildings mostly remain closed.
These threats to the family are very real—but the closed doors of the churches don’t prevent the family of believers from joining together to advance godly values. Not even during a pandemic.
#GivingTuesdayNow offers an opportunity for us all to come together in response to the great needs caused by the pandemic. This day of global generosity will take place on Tuesday, May 5th. Together, we can stand strong against these new threats to the family.
Family is at the very heart of Family Policy Alliance. That is why we stand ready to alert the family of believers when these threats arise—and equip them to take action!
Just this week, we rallied prolife state lawmakers and likeminded family policy organizations—and joined with other national prolife allies in unity—to call on federal officials to prevent the abortion industry from skirting rules and expanding “virtual abortion” during our current crisis.
In the past month, we’ve supported churches in multiples states when government leaders have ignored or even harmed their religious freedom rights in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. We did this by equipping pastors and their congregations to work well with government leaders for the good of their communities—and calling out government leaders when they took actions that unfairly burdened churches.
None of this is possible without you. Your prayers and support for families, and family values, is felt even more deeply during a time of crisis.
Next week, on #GivingTuesdayNow, will you take a stand for life, for families, and for religious freedom?
#GivingTuesdayNow is only 4 days away—please prayerfully consider a generous gift to support the family, and we’ll make sure you have the opportunity to do so next Tuesday!
For the family,
Vice President for Strategy
States are beginning to gradually reopen their economies in line with President Trump’s recent guidance. That’s terrific news – and not just for American pocketbooks.
As states evaluate when and how to reopen their economies, some governors may be reticent to reopen because they believe the narrative that this is a question of lives versus money. One New York Times column went so far as to imply that those who want to reopen the economy view people as “disposable.” By keeping businesses closed, goes the narrative, states can protect the lives of its citizens. And that is understandable to a point. But the longer the shutdowns last, the more it becomes a matter of lives versus lives.
Every life is precious, which is why the organization I represent works hard to protect all life from conception to natural death. As a society, we must do all we can to save each individual who is sickened by this virus. Further, it is important and right that we take reasonable steps to limit the spread to others, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Indeed, we should be grateful to live in a country where life – at least after one is born – is mostly valued. And we can be thankful that, unlike many impoverished nations, we have the resources to briefly pause our economy without immediate, catastrophic consequences.
But as some leaders, including a health advisor to Democrat nominee Joe Biden, openly discuss a need for shutdowns that could last 18 months or more, some serious disconnects are coming into focus.
The original justification for the shutdown was simply to flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm our health system. But now, some seem to be moving the goalposts – saying that as long as people are dying from the virus, it would be irresponsible to reopen the economy.
That viewpoint has two major flaws. First, it implies that Americans should aspire to live lives without risk. That is not an American ideal nor a Judeo-Christian ethic, and it’s not the way any average American lives. Controlling major risks in the heart of coronavirus hotspots is one thing; keeping an economy closed even in areas where viral impact is minimal is quite another.
Second, the shutdowns themselves are already putting lives at risk, and the longer they go, the worse it will get. Already, economists have projected unemployment as high as 32 percent – just from the current shutdowns. To put that in perspective, the peak unemployment rate during the Great Depression was 24.9 percent. It’s no wonder that calls to some suicide and mental health hotlines have already skyrocketed – 25,000 per week in Indiana alone, a 25-fold increase.
Continuing the shutdowns any longer than necessary threatens to bring the American economy to its knees. The cost in lives, suffering and mental anguish would be unknown to any recent generation of American families.
That’s why the outlook for states pursuing an imminent and responsible reopening of the American economy is good news indeed for the life of our nation.
Senator Mike Doherty (R) of District 23 that includes parts of Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties, has been vocal in his support to allow churches to assemble if they follow safe and reasonable precautions such as outdoor services, social distancing guidelines and limitations of the size of gatherings. He has initiated a petition on the senatenj.gov website to encourage Governor Murphy to deem churches as essential operations.
“When many of us could be at Sunday services today replenishing a much-needed sense of hope in these uncertain times, we instead remain separated in our homes from the communities of faith that sustain us in good times and bad,” Doherty said in a release on Sunday. “Our new online petition will allow people of faith to share with Gov. Murphy their belief that religion is an essential service and constitutionally protected right that should be allowed to resume immediately.”
To add your name to Senator Mike Doherty’s petition, click here!
Governor Murphy stated that businesses such as liquor stores can operate because according to him, there would be “unintended mental health and addiction consequences” if they were closed. Recently, I asked to you sign a letter to the NJ Commissioner of Health, Judith M. Persichilli requesting her office enforce social distancing guidelines at abortion clinics. Why are liquor stores and abortion centers considered crucial to the health of New Jerseyans, but church doors are shuttered? I know many churches across our state that are operating drive thru food pantries but are unsure if they will face legal charges if they gather these same cars for a drive-in worship service.
According to the 10th Amendment, police power belongs to the states to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public. This is seen most clearly in sanitary laws for restaurants and state licensing for many careers. Therefore, the governor has the power to prohibit rights on a temporary basis in times of war or disaster. However, these rare restraints are legal if they further a clear government interest – such as saving lives, are narrowly tailored to the incident at hand – coronavirus, and are the least restrictive means possible.
As Christians, we are commanded to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We dare not put in jeopardy the health of another, especially the most vulnerable and at-risk people within our communities. As our state safely follows President Trump’s three phase gated criteria for reopening, we encourage Governor Murphy to name churches and all houses of worship as “essential”.
Making NJ better for families,
Director of Advocacy
Earlier this month, a successful entrepreneur with an incredible personal story and a likeable persona announced his intentions to devote his company’s resources to aiding in the current crisis facing our nation…
And, he was hated for it.
The talking heads and the liberal media vilified this patriotic American, Mike Lindell (aka “the My Pillow guy”), because he dared to use his platform to talk about his faith, to thank the Lord for President Trump, and to call for spiritual renewal. Quickly, he became the target of the never-ending supply of venom from the Left.
We see it all the time, though, right?
President Trump himself was quite popular with the media while he was a playboy, entertainer, and mogul. Then, he became a pro-life, pro-freedom candidate and leader. And, now they hate him – despite his stellar leadership of our nation to new heights and then through this horrible crisis.
We see it time and again. Those – even those doing great things from a secular perspective – become hated for standing for Christ.
So, how should we view this?
First, we shouldn’t be surprised. Matthew 10:22 promises that we will be hated for Christ’s sake, knowing that persecution comes from being different than the world. Second, we should live with love, knowing that our persecution isn’t being directed because of something inherent about us – instead it comes because of He who is being shown through us. And third, we should be comforted to know that going out-of-our-way to avoid the hatred will only result in denying what makes us worth hating: Christ.
If even a man providing aid during a time of crisis is hated because he wears his love for Jesus on his sleeve, we should feel emboldened to let our light shine. If you live out your faith, there is nothing you can do to make the world not hate you. So, embrace that fact. Live in love, kindness, and compassion, but let your light shine in the knowledge that the promised persecution is a sign of your faithfulness.
As we enter this election season, we are looking for candidates willing to be hated for the right reasons – willing to be hated for His name’s sake.
Please keep our state and national leaders in your prayers. Our President and Vice President, Representative Cheney and Senators Enzi and Barrasso as well as many of our state leaders are leading us incredibly well despite the venom being thrown their way. Please keep our organization in your prayers as our stand for Life, Religious Freedom and Families will bring forth hostility from those opposed to these core American values. And, please keep great Americans like Mike Lindell in your prayers as these leaders form the backbone of our society while also bringing glory to Him.