I sent it. I resent it. I tried again – still no success. The email server for the New Jersey state legislature repeatedly rejected my email as spam. This routine form of communication that I engage in daily suddenly became difficult, if not impossible. After a productive and healthy conversation with a legislative aide to a prominent state senator, I promised to email him the revised NJ Comprehensive Health Learning Standard for public schools. The Senator’s office and I could not figure out the reason this particular email was blocked after multiple attempts.

Then it hit me…

I copied and pasted the exact words of the learning standard into the body of the email. That was a tragic mistake, because the exact words and explicit sex acts required for school age children to learn in New Jersey public schools were flagged as “pornographic” by government state computers.

Think.

The government does not allow adults to discuss these pornographic acts on state computer servers because they are obscene and inappropriate, yet the New Jersey Department of Education requires 12-year-old children to define and describe the very same objectionable material.

The systematic sexualization of young children in our society must end.

But it doesn’t end there…

I had another conversation this week with a state coordinator for the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to learn how these pornographic standards got approved without a public hearing disclosing them. Unfortunately, public review and discussion are just a formality in the process. There are several bureaucratic layers within the NJDOE that are unnamed and unaccountable. They ultimately write the standards to impose their post-modern view of sexuality on young children – public comment aside.

One of our allies on the phone call asked this NJDOE staff member to define the specific act that is required by the state’s learning standard for school age children to define. It was a sincere request. We wanted to know exactly what these students will be required to learn. Embarrassed and uncomfortable, he respectfully declined. Admittedly, such conversation is rightfully awkward among adults. Imagine the conscience of vulnerable students being forced to endure this in a classroom setting.

Thankfully, legislators are taking the lead.

In last week’s email, we informed you that Senator Steve Oroho (R) and Senator Mike Testa (R) introduced SCR129 – a Senate Concurrent Resolution objecting to the obscene sex ed standards. After being involved in numerous advocacy meetings, I am pleased to announce more state senators are adding their name as co-sponsors. This week, Assemblyman Wirth (R) and Assemblyman Space (R) introduced ACR193 – an identical bill in their chamber.

As I urged you to thank our brave senators last week, please call these two Assembly members and tell their staff you appreciate them sponsoring ACR193! It only takes one call to thank both.

Assemblyman Harold Wirth and Assemblyman Parker Space: (973) 300- 0200

Thank you for taking action to protect the students of NJ!


Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy

Legislators Object to Sex Ed Standards

Last week, Senator Steve Oroho (R) and Senator Mike Testa (R) introduced a Senate Concurrent Resolution objecting to the obscene Sex Ed standards adopted on June 3, 2020 by the NJ Department of Education.  This new learning standard obligates all public schools to require 13-year-old students to define and describe several explicit sexual acts not related to intercourse. Schools have until 2022 to fully implement this new learning standard but may choose to start immediately.

Sexual activists at Planned Parenthood and Garden State Equality applaud these new standards. As they ardently celebrate the systematic sexualization of children, we must equal their energy to praise Senator Oroho and Senator Testa for their leadership in opposing this learning standard and supporting parental rights in education.

Please read Senate Concurrent Resolution 129 below and call their offices to express your gratitude. Tell their staff that you want to thank them for sponsoring SCR129!

Senator Steve Oroho: (973) 300-0200

Senator Mike Testa: (609) 778-2012

SCR129:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION opposing the State Board of Education revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education on sex education.

WHEREAS, Parents, as their child’s first and most important teachers, work hard to instill values and beliefs that will guide their children throughout life; and

WHEREAS, Even after a child undertakes formal education outside of the home, parents continue to play a key role in the child’s education, with the parents providing valuable support and guidance; and

WHEREAS, On June 3, 2020, the State Board of Education readopted the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education which include extensive changes to the standards regarding sex education; and

WHEREAS, The revised standards include certain controversial topics on various social issues that interfere with the right of parents to teach their own children about these sensitive matters in a manner that comports with their core family values and beliefs; and

WHEREAS, These revised standards further erode parental autonomy by promoting age-inappropriate sexual content which usurps a parent’s ability to determine whether a child is emotionally and intellectually prepared for instruction in sex education; and

WHEREAS, The Department of Education’s response to criticism of the standards is to note the availability of the opt-out provision, but the opt-out provision is not a sufficient protection to ensure that a student is not exposed inadvertently to graphic sexual lessons; and

WHEREAS, Any State policy governing instruction in sex education must promote parental autonomy and respect for family values and beliefs; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the State of New Jersey

The Legislature of the State of New Jersey opposes the State Board of Education’s sex education standards included in the revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education due to the significant negative impact that these standards have on a parent’s right to educate his child on sensitive sex education topics in a manner that comports with the family’s core values and beliefs.  The Legislature calls upon the State board to revise these standards.

Thank you for taking action to protect the students of NJ!

Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2020

BREAKING: Pastors Sue Governor Murphy for Not Deeming Churches Essential and Preventing Them from Immediately Reopening

Lawsuit comes after Governor Murphy failed to respond to two letters asking to responsibly reopen churches

TRENTON, New Jersey – Today, 27 churches sued New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, in District Court, over his failure to deem churches as essential, which prohibits them from reopening, even under CDC guidelines. The complaint argues Governor Murphy is unconstitutionally preventing the free exercise of faith of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey citizens by keeping church doors forcibly closed.

As of this week, New Jersey church doors have been closed for more than nine weeks. While Governor Murphy had initially named a variety of other entities in his reopening plan – including restaurants and entertainment – he had not included churches with the exception of “drive-in” services, where congregants must remain in their vehicles with doors and windows closed or with vehicles six feet apart, a requirement that effectively prohibits many worshipers from gathering. Though today, Governor Murphy projected lifting the current restrictions on indoor religious services on Friday, June 12, he failed to define these limits.

The lawsuit comes after Governor Murphy failed to respond to two separate letters from pastors throughout the state respectfully requesting the Governor deem churches as essential so believers throughout the state can begin to freely worship together again while following all CDC guidelines.

The first letter, sent two weeks ago, was spearheaded by Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey and signed by 100 pastors who reminded Governor Murphy being permitted to gather together was an absolute essential aspect of their faith. They implored Governor Murphy to trust churches to exercise their faith “responsibly and compassionately” as they serve the needs of communities in crisis.

When the Governor failed to respond to the first letter, 67 pastors sent a second letter last week, once again asking Governor Murphy to include churches in his reopening plan by this past Wednesday or face this lawsuit.

As of this writing, Governor Murphy has not directly responded to either letter.

Demetrios Stratis, the attorney representing multiple churches who are now plaintiffs in the lawsuit, offered the following statement:

“Today we filed a Federal lawsuit seeking the courts to override the Orders of the Governors which restrict our House of Worship and citizens of this State from going to church to pray and worship Almighty God.  Most importantly, if our Governor will not declare that churches are essential, we ask our Federal Courts to do so for him.  Our President has done so, but unfortunately, our State Governor does not believe in what our New Jersey Constitution says, that ‘No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience… .’ (N.J. Const. Art. I, par. 3.) The language in our Constitution could not be more clear. That churches are not deemed to be essential is a terrible statement about the Governor’s priorities being in the wrong place.”

Rev. Walter E Nistorenko of Abundant Life Church in Ocean View, New Jersey, one plaintiff named in the lawsuit, offered the following statement:

“The freedom to exercise our faith is a right given to us by Almighty God and protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution.  I have been quite saddened that Governor Murphy has chosen to ignore this right during the pandemic.  He has chosen to keep open the liquor stores and abortion clinics, calling them essential as he has governed this crisis, yet has chosen to keep houses of worship closed.  We know that churches are beyond essential. It is where hope, encouragement, and a Divine solution can be found, especially during this challenging season. As the church, we minister to every soul, including those who contracted the COVID-19 virus and those who are struggling in various other ways because of the lockdown. If a second wave reemerges this fall or if another future crisis appears, our essential right to function should not be encumbered again.  I am asking Governor Murphy to recognize the value of churches as essential by opening them immediately, and in doing so, providing a critical solution to help New Jersey residents navigate these pressing times.”

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey applauds the courage of the pastors as they stand up for their fundamental right to freely exercise their faith by worshipping together. Though we are disappointed churches had to sue to have their fundamental rights protected, there’s still time for the Governor to do the right thing and protect the First Amendment rights of all New Jerseyans.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey is not party to the lawsuit.

The complaint is available for download here.

Media Contact:

Robert Noland, (719) 308-2822, Media@FamilyPolicyAlliance.com

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Family Policy Alliance works to advance biblical citizenship and promote good public policy that protects religious freedom, families, and life.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 22, 2020

 

Pastors Ask Governor Murphy to Let Them Reopen – or Face a Lawsuit

TRENTON, New Jersey –Today, 67 pastors signed a letter to Governor Phil Murphy asking him to let churches reopen in some manner by next Wednesday – or face a lawsuit. The letter, which includes the prospective lawsuit, was a partnership between Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey,  attorney Demetrios Stratis of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and Pastor Walter Nistorenko of Abundant Life Church in Seaville who mobilized pastors from across the state to add their name to this joint good-faith appeal.

This is the second letter pastors have sent to Governor Murphy asking for permission to reopen. In the first letter, sent last week by Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, 100 pastors expressed their commitment to follow CDC and local health guidelines and asked to be included in Phase 1 of New Jersey’s reopening plan. The Governor did not respond to that letter.

Shawn Hyland, Director of Advocacy for Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, reacted to the Governor’s silence: “It is disappointing that Governor Murphy has disregarded the request of 100 pastors who respectfully requested to be treated equally in reopening and who have committed to following CDC guidelines in caring for their community. New Jersey would not be alone if it were to allow churches to safely reopen. Many states across America, including most recently Massachusetts, acknowledge that houses of worship can safely practice their faith with more than 10 people present.”

The new letter asks for a special designation separate from for-profit businesses. “As a threshold matter,” the letter reads, “houses of worship such as churches should not be relegated to the category of ‘business’ – essential or not. Houses of worship warrant separate and independent consideration given the sacred constitutionally protected activity that takes place inside.”

It stands out that churches were not named in the Governor’s reopening plan. “The Governors Phase reopening plan listed libraries, museums, indoor restaurants and entertainment, but not churches,” said Hyland. “We hope the Governor does not deem tax paying businesses more essential than charitable organizations that are ministering to the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health of their members. That would be religious discrimination.”

Mr. Stratis, the attorney representing the pastors, elaborated on the constitutional claims.

Governor Murphy has violated the First Amendment of our US Constitution and our New Jersey Constitution, two documents he swore to uphold when he took office.  Freedom to exercise our religion does not take a vacation during a pandemic and, in fact, is needed even more so during those times.  We can debate whether Governor Murphy should dictate business closures, but the First Amendment protection of religious liberty is not debatable.  No one, including our Governor, can dictate to churches and their congregants when and how they choose to worship.”

The pastors’ full letter is available for download here.

Media Contact:

For general media inquiries:  Robert Noland, (719) 308-2822, media@FamilyPolicyAlliance.com

For legal inquires: Demetrios Stratis, dstratis@stratislaw.com

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Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey is a Christ-centered organization whose vision is a nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 14, 2020

New Jersey Churches Ask Governor Murphy to Include Houses of Worship in Phase 1 Reopening

100 pastors signed a letter asking to be included in the forthcoming reopening plan

TRENTON, New Jersey – Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey – a public policy partner of Focus on the Family – on Wednesday sent a letter to Governor Phil Murphy, signed by 100 pastors who expressed their commitment to follow CDC and local health guidelines, and who asked to be included in Phase 1 of New Jersey’s reopening plan. The signatures were gathered in less than 24 hours in response to Governor Murphy’s announcement that he will begin to release “hard dates” for reopening by the end of the week. This follows the Governor’s initial reopening plan, which some viewed as noncommittal due to its lack of specifics.

To obtain signatures, Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey – a Christian advocacy organization – contacted pastors to communicate their shared commitment to exercise extraordinary care and precaution in protecting congregants who attend services.

Shawn Hyland, Director of Advocacy for the organization, offered the following statement:

“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.”

The letter cites both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the preamble to the New Jersey Constitution as evidence of the “essential” status of houses of worship.

On this point Hyland added, “Temporary restrictions upon Constitutional rights in times of emergency are allowed, but the government must restrain its own power by ensuring these limits are the least restrictive means possible. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Until today, churches have been prohibited from holding drive in services, where congregants remain in their car, separate from all person-to-person contact, while other business entities continue to serve customers. We are thankful for Governor Murphy’s decision today to lift restrictions concerning drive-in worship services, but we urge him to allow the churches to open following the same safety guidelines as essential businesses.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey hopes Governor Murphy will honor the respectful request of these pastors and allow them to safely reopen their doors when other essential “Phase One” reopenings are permitted.

The full letter is available for download here.

Media Contact:

Robert Noland, (719) 308-2822, Robert.Noland@FamilyPolicyAlliance.com

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Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey is a public policy partner of Focus on the Family. As a Christ-centered organization, our vision is a nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Pray for them more.
  2. Criticize them less.
  3. Forward them this email.

Together, let’s make NJ better!

Blessings,

Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 24, 2019

Watchung Hills Teacher Pushed for Pornography in School Curriculum; Arrested for Soliciting Child for Sex

 

WATCHUNG HILLS –The Watchung Hills School District has been under fire for over a year for promoting pornography in its curriculum, despite a lawsuit and requests from concerned parents and community groups to remove the material.

Earlier this month, the school district found itself embroiled in a different matter after a teacher allegedly sent obscene images of himself to a student and then allegedly solicited that student for sex. Sean DiGiovanna, a high school social studies teacher and sponsor of the gay and lesbian student group on campus, was arrested on October 10. DiGiovanna had, as recently as last summer, advocated for the use of pornographic curriculum in the school.

DiGiovanna is seen on a YouTube video from June of 2018 advocating for the use of Fun Home: A Tragicomic in the school’s LGBT curriculum. Fun Home includes explicit images of gay sex and nudity, and DiGiovanna stated that he had talked to students about the content of the book. The author of Fun Home has alluded to the power of the images featured in her book stating, “[I]t’s all about the power of images . . . I can understand why people wouldn’t want their children to accidentally think this was a funny comic book and pick it up and see pictures of people having sex . . . drawings are very seductive and attention catching,” (emphasis added).

We know that pedophiles are opportunistic and seek to groom their victims. This begs the question whether DiGiovanna was grooming victims, in part, through the use of school-approved pornographic curriculum materials. The Watchung Hills Board of Education, the governor and the legislature need to ask themselves if the use of such material in school curriculum is prudent and safe.

Statement from Shawn Hyland – Director of Advocacy for Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey:

“The Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education has ignored red flags all along the way in this situation. They have discounted for over a year the grave concerns Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey has been sharing with them and they have turned a blind eye to concerned parents. The Governor and legislature only made the situation riskier for students with the approval of troubling new LGBT education mandates earlier this year, which some schools think is an open invitation to graphic and explicit sexual content like Fun Home. This mandate also erodes parents’ ability to protect their children by denying them the right to opt their children out.”

The governor and legislature must face the fact that placing curriculum containing pornographic material in the classroom, without the option for parents to opt-out their children, opens the door for more of DiGiovanna’s type of victimization.

For media inquiries or to schedule an interview with Shawn Hyland, contact Robert Noland at: 719-308-2822 or media@familypolicyalliance.com.

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Politics is nothing more than the art and science of winning an election. Akin to contact sports as football and hockey, it can at times become personal and painful as passionate players are striving for dominance and success in their position and for their team. There is a strategy to win and rules and regulations the teams must abide by or be disqualified. Politicians are on the offense when they accuse their opponents, but then quickly pivot to defense to explain their record.

The Democrats and Republicans held their conventions over the past two weeks. The mainstream media has attempted to frame the narrative in their follow up TV interviews by asking pundits and politicians their views regarding the polls, postal service, and pandemic – but not policy. We must not forget that governing, legislating, and implementing public policy is the endgame of politics in a constitutional democratic republic. Presidents and governors are much easier to remove from office than repealing or replacing the laws that were enacted under their administrations– especially those instituted by activist judicial appointees. Even more troubling is the historical reality that individual rights once lost are nearly impossible to get back.

What is the responsibility of Christians in politics and policy making?

Drawing from the truth of sacred scripture, we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), submit to the civil lawunless it violates biblical commands (Romans 13:1-2) and pursue good public policy that will benefit the city, state, and nation where we live (Jeremiah 29:7).

Unlike Christians suffering in China, North Korea, and under other tyrannical forms of government, we have the privilege to choose the individuals that make the laws that govern our families. Elections matter because public policy matters.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey® will be endorsing and recommending candidates this election cycle based upon their views and voting record concerning the sanctity of human life and religious liberty. Please check our Elections page for regular updates on the congressional and state legislative candidates that reflect your values.

Serving you,

Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy