The battle for freedom in America was officially launched 242 years ago tomorrow. We rightfully celebrate the landmark in human history that the signing of the Declaration represents – and the practical freedoms that we still enjoy to this moment.
But the battle has never ended.
That’s evident from just a glance at the headlines of the last week. Thankfully, we won some of those skirmishes, including these two:
- On a 5-4 opinion last week, the Supreme Court struck down California’s “authoritarian regime” (in the words of Justice Kennedy) that forced pregnancy resource centers to promote abortion.
- The Court last week also scored another victory for free speech – also in a 5-4 ruling – when it declared that public employees cannot be forced to pay union dues that fund political causes with which they disagree.
In so doing, they even quoted the author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, who said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Indeed, the battle that Jefferson launched 242 years ago lives on.
There are three lessons from those victories:
- They may be legal victories, but they wouldn’t have happened without tireless work and sacrificial investment in the political arena. Those decisions don’t happen if Hillary Clinton had made a Supreme Court nomination last year.And they don’t happen if not for the dramatic transformation of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 elections, when your support helped Family Policy Alliance send 23 million election messages, boosting the turnout of inconsistent pro-life voters by several percentage points in key states.
- These victories are 5-4 decisions. Yes, freedom won – but it’s hanging by a thread.
- The same “authoritarian regimes” that are behind the compulsion struck down by the Court are at work in a hundred other nefarious schemes all over the nation. Most notoriously, as we’ve told you about, is the California bill that would shut down a portion of the Gospel itself – the message that God can transform the lives of sinners like you and me, including those struggling with same-sex attraction and gender confusion.
So tomorrow, let’s celebrate with vigor and joyfully thank God for the blessings of freedom that we enjoy in this nation!
But then let’s get back to the battle. There’s so much to be done.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “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.”
Thank you for engaging on the front lines of that battle through your prayerful involvement and support of Family Policy Alliance.®
Standing with you for freedom,
P.S. If you would like to join in the 2018 election efforts to see godly men and women serving in public office—especially as we see the need for men and women elected to the U.S. Senate who will support placing the President’s conservative, prolife justice on the Supreme Court—please consider stewarding some of your resources to support our efforts to mobilize Christian, prolife voters in 2018!
As you know by now, our family lived for more than a decade in Washington D.C. and enjoyed all it had to offer. There are well over 160 monuments and memorials in D.C., and I have to admit we only saw a fraction of these. However, one memorial will be forever burned into my memory: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The memorial itself is very subdued, but the impact comes from the roughly 58,000 names of service members who gave their lives in service to their country during the Vietnam War. Included on the wall is the name of one of my wife’s family. We honored his sacrifice by praying as a family as we stood in front of his inscribed name.
Memorial Day was this past Monday and I hope that you honored in in some way the thousands of men and women who gave their lives defending our freedoms in this great country. We can never repay their sacrifice.
I hope you also prayed for currently enlisted members of our military. To these young men and women, I salute you, and your families. Your sacrifices are what help make this country great. The heart and soul of America is worth fighting for, whether it’s on the battlefield, in an election booth, or in our daily life experiences. Let’s treasure what we have every day and fight to protect the freedoms purchased at such high a price.
With deep gratitude and sincere humility,
President & Executive Director
Family Policy Alliance and our network of over 40 state family policy groups (check to see if you have one in your state!) care deeply about freedom. Our mission every day is to protect the freedom of families to make their own education choices for their children, to protect the right of parents (not government) to guide their children’s medical care, and to ensure parents know what’s happening in their children’s schools. We advocate for people of faith in state capitols across the country, so that every child at school, every charity and ministry, every church, every business—every person—will have the right to freely live out their faith in every aspect of their life.
Because we care so deeply about our freedoms at home, we want to pause from our mission to honor our Veterans who fight and sacrifice to protect our freedoms from external threats. These men and women, and their families, have given so much, and we are incredibly grateful.
Our team is especially thankful for the Veterans in our families. We wanted to share some of our family photos with you. Will you share some of your photos of Veterans you hold dear with us on our Facebook page?
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Sunday that would otherwise have forced Christian organizations and institutions to face a devastating choice: Betray your faith or be prosecuted by the state.
Jonathan Keller, president of California Family Council, explains to Stuart Shepard in the Family Policy Briefing why AB 569 would have brought so much trouble to the state. Specifically, it aimed to criminalize any contracts or employee codes of conduct related to abortion and sex outside of marriage.
“Every organization that promotes a pro-life message must be able to require its employees to practice what they preach,” Keller said. “The right to freely exercise one’s religion is enshrined in our Constitution, and has always protected every American’s ability to freely associate around shared beliefs and practices.”
This past Tuesday we celebrated Independence Day – the day commemorating our country throwing off the yoke of England’s rule. I hope all of you had the opportunity to spend the day celebrating our country’s freedoms with family and friends. Our freedoms need to be cherished and preserved so the memories of America’s hard-won liberties are never forgotten.
My family had the opportunity to live for over a decade in the Washington D.C. area. When we first arrived, it was often a moving experience being close to so much of our country’s history. For example, we were able to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. However, like many other aspects of our lives, we began to take these opportunities for granted over time.
That was until my wife’s sister visited us. She had never been to D.C., so we took her on a tour of the city and her reaction was priceless. Instead of the humdrum attitude we had adopted, every monument and document marking the founding of our country and its freedoms was awe-inspiring to her. I’m certain that we received as much from her visit as she did.
It’s easy to become comfortable and complacent when it comes to our freedoms. We mistakenly assume that they will always be there. As we’ve seen over the past few years, our freedoms can be eroded by everything from Executive Orders to Supreme Court decisions. While we’ve thankfully never had to fight for our freedoms like the brave troops during the Revolutionary War, we still need to fight in other ways. Our fight is now in the halls of Congress and even sometimes in our state capitol.
Let us never forget the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota fights for our freedoms every day. We do this by advancing legislation, supporting candidates for office, informing you about key issues that threaten our liberties and many other ways. Won’t you consider joining us in these efforts through your financial support? Let’s protect the freedoms that have made our country the beacon to the free world!
P.S. I am pleased to announce that Concerned Women for America has joined our Family Leadership Team, which I described in a recent weekly email. Concerned Women for America is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with over 35 years of helping bring biblical principles into all levels of public policy. We are honored that they have decided to join our Family Leadership Team and we look forward to working with them to preserve and advance pro-family and pro-life policy here in North Dakota!
From playgrounds to wedding cakes to something called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” religious freedom has been winning lately in the courts.
Stuart Shepard asks Ashley Shaw, Family Policy Alliance’s new legal expert, to explain the nuances of these court actions and how they impact Christians across America.
Texas Values is one of 40 state allies that Family Policy Alliance is proud to work alongside.
Legislation designed to allow faith-based foster homes and adoption agencies to keep operating according to their faith-based principles (HB 3859) was signed today by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The new law, called the Freedom to Serve Children Act, protects faith-based providers from being targets of discrimination or litigation if they do not refer girls for abortion or if they only place children in homes with a married mother and father.
One-fourth of all foster care agencies in Texas are faith-based, but there has been a trend nationally of religious placement organizations closing as the result of being forced to deny their beliefs. Because of the crisis in state-run foster care, faith-based providers have been asked to do more to help care for foster children. Many faith-based providers want to do so, but Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said state law previously did not protect them from being targets of grant discrimination or litigation.
“The signing into law of the Freedom to Serve Children Act is a major victory for children and for religious liberty in Texas. Faith-based providers across Texas are now free to recruit foster families and place children with loving families,” he explained. “HB 3859 ensures that there’s a place at the table for everyone at a time when Texas children need everyone at the table.”
Learn more about Texas Values.
by Stuart Shepard
So, I flew to North Dakota. First time ever.
I learned something that they all know that we would all do well to know.
Took an Embraer 145 up from Denver. One of those tiny regional jets that makes us all tilt our heads to the left as we single-file down the narrow aisle. It has a single column of seats on the port side and two on the starboard. I like having an aisle and a window at the same time, so I settle into 19A.
We land in Bismarck at the municipal airport. I pile into a rented Chrysler van with my colleagues, and we drive to the Ramkota Inn. It’s a sprawling, well-worn hotel. On this day, the long hallways are dotted with clusters of teenage Future Business Leaders of America. Their faces reflect that giddy, sparkling expression of every-moment-of-this-day-is-a-totally-new-experience. And every-person-in-the-hall-is-a-potentially-new-friend.
I help unpack and set up displays for our Family Policy Alliance conference in a utilitarian ballroom: Two widely placed projection screens, a wood-veneer podium with chipped edges, and 40 round tables with carefully placed dessert plates of cheesecake, chocolate cake and what appears to be lemon cake.
I’m not on the program this time around. I’ve got my black Amazon Basics camera bag hanging from my shoulder with one Canon DSLR for still shots and another for video. On this night, I’m just that guy with a camera.
But I’m also an observer of the room.
Finding their numbered tables are hundreds of people still guided by Christian values and principles. When a volunteer prays aloud before the event, her friendly, casual cadence suggests that, to her, God is right there in the room listening and nodding his head with the rest of us.
And I realize that He is.
And I realize that this is America.
And I realize that though I’m a thousand miles from home in a place I’ve never been, these are my people. My family.
Over here, the new state senator, wearing the obligatory suit-and-tie uniform common to the 21-story, no-nonsense capitol building. He’s pinned a custom-made name badge to his lapel. Over there, a guy in jeans and a flannel shirt. I don’t need to look in the parking lot to know he drove here in a muddy pickup truck. Next to him, a young family with several blonde-haired children. It’s hard to tell how many. They keep moving.
Woven into the idle chatter, I hear the occasional, telltale “you betcha” and “dontcha know” of the Dakotas.
Sitting with the AV guys surrounded by electronics in the back of the room, I learn that in NoDak, when drivers pass on the lonesomely long, endlessly straight stretches of highway, it’s common to raise two fingers from the steering wheel as a greeting – the automotive version of “Hey der.”
I realize, and the audio guy next to me affirms, that underlying the gentle friendliness is a cold reality: Should you, in the dark and at 30 below zero, slide off an icy highway and spin into a snow bank with a muted crunch and explosion of white powder – that last wave may well be the person who interrupts his own plans that evening and stops to rescue you from hours stranded in the dark and cold.
Perhaps your last-ever hours in the dark and cold.
He stops, because the next time it may be him and his wife and several blonde-haired kids stuck in the frozen ditch.
If you fetch your nylon ND State wallet and offer to pay him for the trouble, he’ll say “Don’t worry about it.”
In a place where the population is sparse, the winter nights are long, and any random person can describe, in detail, being startled awake by the sound of a frozen lake cracking, there is an unspoken, underlying, unmistakable bond. A real sense that we need each other up here. We can’t go it alone. If we’re going to make it to next summer, we need reliable strangers.
I think our nation’s Founders understood that. Given the historical context of their lives, they must have had their own horseback-version of the two-finger wave. They knew the importance of having neighbors with a shared set of moral values and principles. And they understood the mortal danger if those values were lost.
It’s true for the rugged, self-reliant North Dakotans.
It was true for our farsighted Founders.
And it is true for America, today.
We need reliable strangers.
People guided by Christian values and principles. Allied in all 50 states. Working together to pull America out of the snowy ditch.
Sometimes it’s cold and dark out there, dontcha know.
Consider yourself waved at.
There’s a huge life lesson playing out right in front of us. It’s right there in the headlines if you can see it for what it is. It involves how best to help families in need of jobs.
In his Stoplight® commentary, Stuart Shepard explains how it’s larger than the elected officials involved as individuals. It’s about their worldview, their philosophy and their approach to nation-sized problems.
This is a perfect Stoplight to share with the young people in your life, so you can talk about how government can best help families.
What if the First Amendment locked your faith inside a box? Some public officials apparently would like to keep you and your Christian ideas squirreled away where they won’t have to hear you.
In his Stoplight® commentary, Stuart Shepard explores this issue using his favorite artistic medium: cardboard and duct tape.