Should state and local governments block Christians with a biblical worldview from adopting or fostering children?
The idea might seem far-fetched to some. After all, isn’t this the United States of America? Don’t we have a constitutionally protected right to freely exercise our religion?
Consider the Blaises in Washington State. They wanted to foster and care for their one-year-old great-granddaughter, H.V., who had been removed from her parents in Idaho.
Washington bars families who affirm a biblical definition of marriage and gender from fostering children. State licensers evaluating prospective foster parents ask a series of questions about LGBTQ+ issues: What would you do if the child wanted a romantic partner of the same sex to stay the night? Would you support the child’s decision to have hormonal therapies and sex reassignment surgery to look like to opposite sex? Would you let them dress like the opposite sex and be called by a different name?
The Blaises, who are devout Seventh-Day Adventists, answered honestly. “We would provide her with loving, medically and therapeutically appropriate care that is consistent with both accepted medical principles and our beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists and Christians,” they said. “Although we could not support [transition] treatments based on our sincerely held religious convictions, we absolutely would be loving and supportive of H.V.”
This was too much for a state government agency that demands full acquiescence to the radical LGBTQ+ agenda. The case worker informed the Blaises that their application would likely be denied because they couldn’t provide a home in which LGBTQ+ kids will be “supported.”
Fortunately, a federal judge ruled in the favor of the Blaises, determining that the Washington State policy constituted a violation of religious freedom by “disproportionately excluding” people of faith from becoming foster parents.
Sadly, it’s not just the Blaises in Washington. Many states and cities have similar policies that effectively preclude faithful Christians from fostering or adopting children.
Other places, like Massachusetts, have crusaded against faith-based adoption agencies, which operate on their conviction that children should only be placed with families consisting of a married husband and wife. Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies, decided it couldn’t comply and chose to close its doors.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two faith-based agencies chose not to place children with gay couples—and lost their ability to receive foster-care referrals for violating a city nondiscrimination ordinance. Foster parents who work with one of the agencies sued the city—and their case is now before the Supreme Court.
Considering that over 400,000 children are waiting to be fostered or adopted in the United States, the notion that the government would shut down any private adoption agency or prevent any qualified family from adopting is nonsensical.
What makes it especially tragic is that practicing Catholics are three times more likely – and evangelical Christians are five times more likely – to adopt than the general population. Disqualifying Christians from the world of adoption and foster-care leaves many vulnerable children without a family to love and care for them.
The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in the Philadelphia case early next month. Its ruling might have profound ramifications for the future of faith-based adoption agencies. Will the Supreme Court maintain the religious freedom of families and adoption agencies? Or will state and local governments deprive churches and faith-based organizations – who started the first orphanages in cities across the country – from serving children and orphans?
You’ve probably seen the news that a handful of Christians in Moscow, Idaho, were arrested last night at a “Psalm Sing” event that occurred in front of Moscow City Hall.
Three people were arrested and others were cited for failing to obey social distancing and mask mandates that are part of Mayor Bill Lambert’s public health emergency order.
To make matters worse, the Moscow Police Department made no arrests at a Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police protest this summer, and Mayor Lambert officiated a large wedding earlier this month—all without social distancing and masking. There have been no COVID-19 deaths in Latah County, and there are currently zero hospitalizations.
Gabe Rench, a candidate for Latah County Commissioner and a deacon at Christ Church, was one of the individuals arrested at the praise and worship event. When I spoke with him briefly today, I asked him what message he would want to share with Idahoans. He said:
“What happened isn’t right. This is a good moment for church to get involved and get fighting about the things that matter. The gospel is at stake. Our liberties are at stake.”
These are perilous times. Consider the words of Abraham Lincoln:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
It’s time for us to get involved. It’s time for us to pray. It’s time for us to repent. It’s time for us to seek God’s face. If we do, God will hear from Heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
That’s why I’m excited to share with you that a prayer march will be taking place in Boise this Saturday, September 26th. The event, which begins at Julia Davis Park and ends at the Idaho State Capitol, kicks off at 9am MT. Here’s the Facebook event page.
The Idaho prayer march will take place at the same time as two other events in Washington, DC., this Saturday.
The first is The Return, a large gathering at the National Mall for national prayer and repentance. Speakers include James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Alveda King, Tony Perkins, Michelle Bachmann, and others. Watch the livestream here on Saturday.
The second prayer event is Franklin Graham’s Washington Prayer March, which will be hosted by Mike Huckabee and Cissie Graham Lynch and will also be livestreamed here on Saturday.
Please consider joining one of these events, either in person or virtually.
God has given all of us a biblical duty to preserve for our children the same freedoms, values, and institutions we were blessed to inherit from the generations before us. Let’s be faithful to this duty, following Paul’s advice to “be watchful, and stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Standing with you,
Director of Advocacy
Pastors have the emotionally draining and time-consuming responsibility to shepherd their flock, disciple believers into spiritually maturity, and administrate the business affairs of their local congregation. The weight of ministry only intensified during the past six months due to the coronavirus, as disagreements over masks, financial decisions regarding paycheck protection and staffing, and the quick transition to offer a worship experience through an online platform became the top priority.
Their schedule is stretched as family needs must be addressed, secular vocational jobs must be worked, and numerous meetings must be attended. Yet, their moral voice and influence is desperately needed to reverse the negative trends of societal decline that impacts their congregation.
This is where Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® steps in. We strive to help pastors navigate the urgent issues impacting the family structure and facilitate regular conversations between elected state legislators and clergy. I want to encourage you to forward this email to your pastor and let him know about three ways we can serve the church you attend.
- Statewide Leadership Video Calls
Every month we intentionally build relationships and moderate healthy dialogue between pastors and state legislators. Despite the anti-family policies that continue to be introduced in Trenton, there are elected officials that are allies in our cause to see NJ be a state where God is honored, religious liberty flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished. These elected officials must take public positions on issues that many churches are hesitant to teach on. They face criticisms and challenges for promoting strong family policies. Therefore, it is imperative for them to feel and experience the support of pastors across our state. Our monthly video meetings are structured for pastors to pray for these state senators and assembly members, and to encourage them to remain committed to biblical values. In the past three months, Senator Mike Testa (R), Senator Anthony Bucco (R), and Assemblyman Bob Auth (R) have connected with pastors through these calls.
- Regional Pastor Briefings
Each year we educate pastors on the most troubling issues that threaten the family structure in NJ. This September and October, pastors will learn the facts about the LGBT curriculum in schools, recreational marijuana, and our continued pro-life efforts. Locations for this year’s meetings include Toms River Rockaway, Mount Laurel, Egg Harbor Township, and Warren. Click here for more information.
- Church Ministry
I regularly teach a Biblical message during worship services, bible conferences, and special events regarding the Christian’s Role in Public Policy. Drawing from the scared truth of scripture, we equip Christians to engage the government, and no matter the results, make sure that God is glorified in the process.
Finally, I urge you to do three things to help your pastor:
- Pray for them more.
- Criticize them less.
- Forward them this email.
Together, let’s make NJ better!
Director of Advocacy
FOX News reported on the recent Portland unrest in all-to-familiar recent fashion. It was protestors, city police officers, some federal officers, chanting, etc. Overall, FOX headlined it as, “Portland sees largely peaceful night of protests with more than 1,000 demonstrators as feds prepare to withdraw”, which was a welcome relief to the protests not too long ago that were accompanied by looting, violence, and property destruction. But while it seemed like good news overall, something changed.
Buried inside the article was this sentence, “Later, some agitators burned Bibles and flags outside the courthouse and set a series of fires.” In fairness, it did say that other protesters helped put out one of the fires, which was encouraging. However, it may not seem like much, but I regard Bible burning as taking the protests up a notch.
Book burning has long been the mark of revolutions. There are roughly 200 recorded occurrences of book burning events since the before the time of Christ, many of them aimed at religious texts, so this is nothing new. However, the fundamental act of burning a book is censorship – that is the real problem.
Under our Constitution, anyone can burn a book, which is actually a freedom of speech. That is a good thing. But burning a Bible fundamentally says, “I reject the basis of all western culture and the Deity upon which it is based, and I reject the Christian principles upon which this nation was founded.”
If taken to the next step, in many cases in history it has often gone hand-in-hand with saying that I reject your right to practice your faith. For example, I will find a reason to close the doors of your churches, synagogues, and mosques, so that you will experience more and more impediments to practicing your faith. That is why this is taking things up a notch.
The burning of those Bibles in Portland was simply symptomatic of the larger problem, the growing devaluation and sometimes outright animosity towards our faith in this country. We see it from some of our political leaders to “human rights” groups and the media. We know this will happen. II Timothy 3:12 states, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
So where does this leave us? It means a few things. First, we need to continue to proclaim our faith in Christ, despite those who would silence us. If the church of the first century proclaimed the gospel at risk of death, how much more should we proclaim the same when we are dealing with societal pressure.
Second, we need to fight for biblical principles, particularly in the halls of government. We need to proudly defend and advance our biblical values in public life to help reinforce the foundation upon which our nation was built.
Finally, we need to elect statesmen to all offices who will bear the cross of Christ. We need men and women who will stand for your and my foundational biblical beliefs and seek to protect and reinforce them in our nation.
If this seems like a daunting list of tasks, I am here to tell you that Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota® is standing with you to help. We proudly proclaim our Christianity, promote biblically based policy, and help elect statesmen to state and national positions who will act out their faith in the political arena.
If this is something you want to support, please consider donating to our work.We can’t stop others from burning Bibles, but together, we must not give up the fight to ensure the Gospel and the right to practice our faith remains part of our nation. Thank you.
President and Executive Director
Tall, in a crowded room, a Lincolnesque man, with oil-stained coat and hands, stands alone. He is surrounded by the finer dressed; citizens who respectfully listen, even as they disagree.
This scene, immortalized in one of my favorite Norman Rockwell paintings, was published as a series of 4, as WW2 raged across the globe. It was Rockwell’s way of reminding his generation of the great American ideals they were sacrificing their sons and daughters to protect.
That painting, entitled, “Freedom of Speech,” was based upon a true event Rockwell had witnessed as a young man and yet it resonates with us today because of the unmistakable point it was trying to make. The right to stand and respectfully speak, no matter your education, age, race, wealth or faith is a historic right for which so many Americans have died to secure for ourselves and others.
That right has rarely been acknowledged in the long history of the world. Most people simply lived under the inherited political model into which they had been born. Whether it was a monarchy, principality or oligarchy, most Christians in the past never had to think about their government much because they had very little voice in it.
The image, so ably depicted by Rockwell, could have never happened in 17th century England, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. If an oil-stained laborer would have attempted to speak out in a public forum back then, he would have been shouted down with, “Know your place,” or “mind your betters!”
In America, where we acknowledge “that all men are created equal,” we have the opportunity to participate in the governing of our lives. Yet, as Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
We must speak up, ask questions, and hold accountable the men and women whom we select from among ourselves to represent our values in government at the state and federal level. As a Christian, this is vital because we recognize our biblical responsibility to be faithful to our calling in Christ. Every generation has to engage in the great struggle for themselves. We must lift our link in the great chain of history.
The challenge for the Christian is often, “How do we find the candidate that best represents our biblical values when there are so many to consider?”
At Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming® we have worked to provide answers for you. This year, for the first time, we have had the opportunity to send questionnaires to every candidate for the Wyoming Legislature. We asked each candidate where they stood on the Sanctity of Human Life, the Value of Religious Freedom, and the importance of the Family in education.
We have compiled our scores for the Wyoming House of Representatives here.
We have also compiled our scores for the Wyoming Senate here.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” – so the saying goes. And in this case, what happened in Vegas really must stay there.
In June, Nevada’s governor extended his “Phase II” reopening order through July. The problem is that the order treats Nevada’s casinos better than its churches. Under the order, churches are only allowed to admit 50 people total — regardless of building size or precautions taken. Casinos, however, are permitted to open at 50% of their occupancy limit, so for the state’s massive casinos, that can mean thousands of patrons in a building, often in close proximity to one another.
Even more disappointment came late Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Nevada order treating houses of gambling better than houses of worship could continue. Once again, it was Chief Justice Roberts who joined the Court’s liberal wing to reject the Nevada churches’ appeal for relief from this obviously discriminatory order.
Justice Gorsuch, one of the Court’s newest justices appointed by President Trump, best responded to the decision in a sharply worded dissent:
“In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”
The Nevada order remains in effect through the end of this month, unless extended again by the governor.
So what does this mean for other churches and pastors? What happened in Vegas must stay in Vegas.
When it comes to states reopening amidst the COVID crisis, Chief Justice Roberts has made one thing clear — that the judiciary must give significant respect and deference to elected lawmakers, like Nevada’s governor, who make decisions for their citizens, especially in times of crisis.
In other words, U.S. Supreme Court justices are not elected by the people of the United States, and therefore, they are not accountable to the people. Governors and legislators are elected by the people, so if they are making poor decisions on our behalf — decisions that harm our right to freely worship, exercise our religion, or share our faith — then we must be the ones to hold them accountable for those decisions.
Here are three practical ways the Body of Christ can work to keep what happened in Vegas, in Vegas:
- Be a light in your community. Light shines brightest in the darkness, and there is no denying the depth of darkness that exists right now. If your church can help meet community needs or find ways to provide hope, not only will you be showing the love of Christ to your community, you will also find that your local political leaders may be more willing to engage in practical conversations with you.
- Engage with elected leaders. Many elected leaders do not understand the importance of corporate worship. Some have not even considered the role of churches when making COVID-related reopening decisions. The voice of churches and pastors is critical in this process, and the only way public officials will hear that voice is if pastors and churches are willing to engage with these leaders. This can be yet another opportunity to reflect the Gospel to your community.
- Hold leaders accountable. When elected leaders make decisions that place unconstitutional burdens on our religious freedom or place greater restrictions on churches than secular entities, it is right and appropriate to hold those leaders accountable with our voices and our votes. In our system of government, the people are entrusted with the great responsibility and privilege of ensuring that their political leaders do not trespass on rights that are given not by government, but by God, including our right to worship Him. Indeed, we hope people of all faiths hold Nevada’s governor responsible for his decision to harm religious freedom in that state.
What happened in Vegas will not stay there if the Body of Christ simply places its trust in unelected judges to protect us. Instead, we must stand firm, speak up, and take action in a “manner worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Together, let us fight to preserve our freedom to worship so that many more might find their freedom in Christ!
May He find His Church worthy during these times,
Pastor Vince Torres
President, Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico
Vice President of Strategy, Family Policy Alliance
Over the past few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down three significant decisions involving the First Amendment freedom of religion.
In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court ruled that a discriminatory Montana rule prohibiting students from using tax-credit scholarships at religious schools violated the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. (5-4 decision; Roberts, joined by Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh)
In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Court upheld the “ministerial exception,” preserving the staffing decisions and rights of religious institutions to “decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.” (7-2 decision; Alito, joined by Roberts, Thomas, Breyer, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh)
And finally, in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, the Court determined that the Little Sisters of the Poor are exempt from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate so they can continue serving the poor and the elderly without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs. (7-2 decision; Thomas, joined by Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh)
What do these three recent cases tell us? – that while religious freedom is winning, religious hostility is on the rise.
Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, Senior Research Fellow at our national ally, The Heritage Foundation, pointed this out recently in response to a tweet touting 15 straight religious freedom victories at the U.S. Supreme Court this decade. Dr. Anderson replied, “The fact that there were 15 flagrant religious liberty violations that rose to the Supreme Court in a decade is a sign not of a winning streak at large, but new and heightened hostility.”
We agree with Dr. Anderson, noting that multiple defeats at the nation’s highest Court have not deterred anti-religious activists and politicians from continuing to target people of faith – whether they be single mothers (Espinoza), Catholic schools (Our Lady of Guadalupe School), or even nuns (Little Sisters of the Poor). In fact, following these recent losses, the hostility from the far-left immediately continued.
The ACLU quickly condemned the Court’s decision in Espinoza while praising the anti-Catholic “Blaine Amendment” in Montana’s constitution. Meanwhile, in response to Little Sisters of the Poor, former Vice-President Joe Biden announced his intentions to reinstate President Obama’s policy which would require the Little Sisters to provide access to birth control and abortifacients for employees.
It is also worth observing that two Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court dissented in all three cases – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. So, while the First Amendment may have survived another term at the U.S. Supreme Court, the effort to defend our first freedom – the freedom of religion – is more critical than ever.
Together with our state and national allies, Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico® will continue to defend our constitutional rights so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can continue to be proclaimed and lived out in our homes, churches, schools, and places of employment. Our vision is a state and nation were religious freedom flourishes, and with your partnership and support, we will preserve that freedom for generations to come.
Financial Update: Given the unprecedented times in which we live, one of the encouraging stories has been the faithfulness of local Ministry Partners like you. Though COVID impacted our giving in the Spring, we wrapped up the month of June in a much better financial position than expected and, believe it or not, we are now on track to meet our target for the fiscal year ending September 30!
Entering the month of July, we had just $35,000 left to raise and thanks to your generosity, we have already raised $13,500 in the past three weeks. If you have not yet given this year, or if you would like to further help us reach our goal, I invite you to do so today by becoming a monthly Ministry Partner or by making a one-time gift of $100, $250, or $500.
Thank you for your prayers and support!
President and Executive Director
Cancel culture have you down? Whether it’s a cancelled event due to COVID-19 or a “cancelled” public figure, 2020 has certainly been the year of the cancellation. But here’s one thing that hasn’t been cancelled: the fight to protect families and freedom across our nation. In spite of the difficulties of COVID-19, we praise God for some amazing victories for religious freedom and the family.
Today, here are 7 victories people of faith can celebrate during COVID-19:
1. The Trump Administration included non-profit and faith-based entities in COVID relief.
In the thick of the pandemic’s economic fallout, it would have been easy for leaders to forget about – or intentionally ignore – non-profit and faith-based entities in their financial relief response. Thankfully, leaders made sure to include them, with even President Trump himself tweeting out, “The Paycheck Protection Program is up and running! The program is open to nonprofits as well, so banks be sure to sign up our Great Religious and Veteran Organizations that need help!”
2. Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey led a coalition of pastors to get churches on the Governor’s reopening plan.
As states began to reopen after initial closures, many included provisions for houses of worship. But not New Jersey! Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey joined with other local leaders and pastors to persistently ask Governor Murphy to allow churches to reopen. It’s a stunning story – but the good news is that thanks to the work of citizens, the Governor ultimately allowed churches to open on a limited basis.
3. The Supreme Court handed down three wins for religious freedom in recent decisions.
Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue: The Supreme Court affirmed that families in Montana should be free to choose the education that best suits their children—including in faith-based schools, that the old Blaine Amendment used to invalidate the scholarship program is bigoted and discriminatory, and that faith-based schools can’t be disqualified from a school choice program just because they are faith-based. Thanks to our friends at Montana Family Institute for their great work in making this win possible!
Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru: Our Lady of Guadalupe centered around a Catholic school that simply made an employment decision about one of its teachers – and got sued for it. The case asked whether the First Amendment prevents courts from interfering in situations like the one faced by the Catholic school. Ultimately, the Supreme Court took a stand on the side of freedom for religious institutions.
Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Pennsylvania: The Little Sisters of the Poor are a group of nuns who take a vow of chastity and provide care to the elderly poor. When Obamacare regulations would have forced them to pay for contraception (to which they objected on religious grounds), the nuns were faced with a choice to pay a large fine or violate their consciences. They chose the third option: go to court. After an extended series of lawsuits, the Supreme Court’s recent decision hopefully settled the nun’s case for good. And it’s good news: they don’t have to pay for contraception to which they have a religious, or moral, objection!
4. COVID ChurchAid proved a fantastic resource for pastors and churches navigating COVID’s uncharted waters.
Thanks to our friends at Florida Family Action for creating COVID Church Aid, a website filled with COVID-19 resources for church leaders, including resources on the Paycheck Protection Program. It was invaluable as pastors and churches made decisions about finances, reopening, and pastoring during a pandemic.
5. A federal judge recently ruled in favor of churches in New York
When houses of worship were targeted with capacity restrictions in New York, a federal judge disagreed – and prevented the targeting from being enforced. He noted that while New York Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio have both supported protest gatherings, they continued to restrict religious gatherings. We’re glad the judge saw the irony!
6. Family Policy Alliance of Kansas played a key role in three major wins for religious freedom in the state.
In the words of Advocacy Director Brittany Jones, “During height of the impact of COVID-19, Family Policy Alliance of Kansas never stopped working to protect the God-given freedoms of Kansans. We worked with legislative, grassroots, and policy leaders to push back when Governor Kelly targeted churches for unfair treatment. Her actions were eventually strongly rebuked by a federal judge. We were a key part to standing alongside legislators as they worked through an all-night session to correct Governor Kelly’s overreach into schools, businesses and churches and rein in her power as we continue to deal with COVID-19. Further, we worked with legislators and grassroots leaders to defeat multiple Medicaid expansion attempts that did not include important pro-life protections.”
7. In Wyoming, the Governor changed his public health order to allow churches to fully open despite COVID.
For freedom-loving people, this is a big win: churches are fully open in Wyoming! Of course, no one’s being forced to go to church or encouraged to not take important precautions. But we are glad that the state’s governor recognizes the importance of religious freedom, and your support of Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming helped make this possible!
We were encouraged by these wins, and hope that you are, too. Most importantly, we hope that you’re encouraged to keep up the fight. Many of these wins were not easy – for instance, getting the New Jersey Governor to put churches in the reopening plan at all. And we know that we have future battles to fight: The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and their political allies continue to push their radical abortion and transgender agendas with no regard for people of faith. We’ve seen it even in places like North Dakota, where the legislature has defeated three religious freedom-threatening bills in two legislative sessions!
But when that happens again – as we know it will — we’ll keep fighting so religious freedom never gets cancelled.
Policy and Communications Strategist
Family Policy Alliance® applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and Little Sisters of the Poor. Both cases dealt with the freedom of religious institutions to follow their convictions, and in both cases the Court dealt strong rulings in support of religious freedom. The two cases asked can courts interfere with the employment decisions of religious institutions and can the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) force religious employers to cover contraceptives in their health plans? In both cases, the answer was a resounding “no.”
Here are our takeaways.
- Religious institutions, such as faith-based schools, are protected from court interference in their employment decisions.
Our Lady of Guadalupe centered around a Catholic school that simply made an employment decision about one of its teachers – and got sued for it. The case asked whether the First Amendment prevents courts from interfering in situations like the one faced by the Catholic school. Yesterday, the Court took a stand on the side of freedom for religious institutions.
Courts have often recognized the freedom churches have when they make employment decisions, particularly about those positions that include teaching or more public aspects to them. It’s a concept known as the “ministerial exception,” that ensures religious institutions are free from court interference in their constitutionally protected operations. As yesterday’s majority opinion described the exception:
“Without that power, a wayward minister’s preaching, teaching, and counseling could contradict the church’s tenets and lead the congregation away from the faith. The ministerial exception was recognized to preserve a church’s independent authority in such matters.”
Yesterday the Court extended that exception to apply when a religious institution makes employment decisions about staff who may not be labeled as “ministers” but who are otherwise involved in teaching or sharing the faith. In the case of the Catholic school, it affirms their freedom to make employment decisions about their teachers, who are vital to sharing the faith in the school’s ministry.
The Court explained the importance of this ruling as it relates to schools:
“When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”
This is a major win for the First Amendment freedoms of religious institutions!
- The government can’t force employers to cover contraception on their health plans when they have a religious or moral objection to it.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an order of nuns, who take a vow of chastity, who serve the elderly poor, and who believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life. Under Obamacare, the nuns would have been forced to pay for contraceptives in deep violation of their beliefs. When faced with the decision to pay a steep fine or compromise their beliefs, the nuns sued over the Obamacare regulations. The Court ruled in their favor twice and required the Obama administration to find a solution that recognized the nuns’ religious beliefs. The Obama administration failed to do so.
When President Trump came to office, his administration quickly used a regulation to temporarily solve the problem the Little Sisters faced under Obamacare. However, some left-leaning leaders couldn’t let the nuns have any peace, and tried to block the Trump Administration’s regulation.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court hopefully settled the nun’s case once and for all by affirming the Trump administration’s regulation protecting religious freedom for the Little Sisters. Because of yesterday’s ruling, people will not be forced to pay for contraception against their moral or religious convictions.
Once again, it’s a huge win for Constitutionally-protected religious freedom. And it affirms that President Trump is thoroughly pro-American. After all, America ceases to be America without religious freedom – and the Trump administration understands that.
After mixed news from the Court the last few weeks, we are grateful for the good news yesterday!
Over the last couple of weeks, the General Assembly has been discussing a “hate crimes” bill with varying language being thrown around until passage of a final version on Tuesday.
Reasonable people can come to differing opinions on such a bill. As believers, we see the heinousness of the acts associated with hate crimes, and there is an undeniable urge to do something. Yet, when we yield to government the power to judge someone’s thoughts we are handing over a weapon that can be used to one day targets beliefs – not rooted in hate – that a powerful government would seek to attack, namely Christianity.
Because I believe hate crimes legislation sets us on this dangerous trajectory and codifies into law our differences over our sameness, I was the lone testimony in opposition to this proposal in Senate committee last week. While recognizing that this is a tough issue, I’m proud that our organization took this stand, even though it ran counter to the demands of the media elite.
Others, however, opted to support the measure, and they did so for reasons that I respect. My former State Representative, Chuck Efstration, and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan had a greater hand in shaping the language of this bill than anyone, and I consider them both to be friends and allies. While we disagree on the solution, I believe they both supported this bill because they share our vision for a Georgia where all life is cherished.
Yet, as Senator Bill Heath spoke in opposition to the bill during floor debate on Tuesday, I saw a different side of this bill. As he referenced pastors that may be targeted for their beliefs, lobbyists – primarily associated with the Chamber of Commerce – that gathered around the screen to watch the proceedings openly mocked him. As this lone, brave voice standing for freedom spoke up for people of faith, the crowd that spends more money to influence policy under the Gold Dome than anyone, laughed. They scoffed. And, they declared his reference to Scripture to be ridiculous.
As some talk about turning Georgia purple, the need to moderate, or the sole focus of keeping Georgia the best place to do business, this is the crowd they want to turn our state over to. A group that mocks and ridicules faith. A group for whom our values are something to be scoffed at. There is no compromise but bending to their will at the altar of financial gain.
I want Georgia to remain #1 for business, for our people to thrive, prosperity to abound, and opportunity to be there for all. Yet, it’s imperative that our state never sacrifice our values for wealth.
In 2018, we supported Brian Kemp because of his commitment to making Georgia #1 for our values while also maintaining the conditions to keep us #1 for business – never selling out who we are yet keeping our state attractive to job producers. We’ve never regretted that decision for a minute, and we’re proud to call our Governor a close ally.
Yet, there are some that – in the face of liberal opposition – believe the prescription for Georgia is to moderate. My caution to any who would consider that approach, however, is to understand that this approach isn’t a move to the center. It’s a selling of our state to those who would openly mock all we hold dear.
My friends, I’m so grateful for bold leaders like Senator Heath – willing to stand alone, if necessary, to speak truth. I’m also grateful for Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan and the bold leadership they’ve provided our state. But, with election season upon us, the pressure on our legislators increasing, and a counter-vision for our state that involves us selling out to those who are hostile to our values, it’s up to us to continue on this course.
As believers, we know what the world really thinks of us. Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to shrink away from the fight. We all must stand firm and take action.
President and Executive Director
PS. While I saw some despicable behavior from these lobbyists, I continue to see commendable behavior from our Lt. Governor and many other legislators (I often remark that some of the finest people I know serve in the Georgia General Assembly). Even though Bill Heath – known for voting no most frequently in the Senate – opposed this bill and many others, Geoff Duncan turned the gavel over to him so that he could preside over the Senate briefly as his time in office comes to a close (pictured here with Heath standing next to Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller. This act of civility between two statesmen is just one of many I have the privilege to witness at the Capitol.