A Message To School BoardsSep. 23, 2016
I showed up on Wednesday night for Prince William County’s School Board meeting where it planned to vote on a proposed policy that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in the school system’s nondiscrimination policy. After more than three hours of testimony and not even halfway through the speakers list, I realized that I would not be able to stay for the whole meeting or give my prepared remarks to the Board. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary, as well over 100 parents and students signed up to speak against this terrible idea. Sometime past midnight early on Thursday morning, the Board voted to table all discussion on the policy until next summer. Had I gotten the chance to speak, here’s what I would have said to the School Board:
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Board,
By now you have all heard how this policy change is dangerous, unnecessary, illegal, and fraught with ambiguities and unintended consequences. The Family Foundation, in conjunction with Alliance Defending Freedom, recently sent each of you a joint letter explaining as much.
While recognizing that you already know or reasonably should know these things, I want to pose to you a question of a different nature – a question that is really at the heart of this whole debate.
The question is this: Is there anything that is true at all? Put another way, is there any concept or belief or reality that can be objectively known and firmly relied upon? Is there anything at all that is fixed and unchanging?
Now before you suggest to your constituents that this kind of philosophical question is “above your pay grade” or that it is somehow not a relevant matter of public policy, realize that what is being proposed here tonight directly implicates this fundamental question. Because what you are in effect saying through this policy is that there is no meaningful distinction between male and female, perhaps even that there really is no distinction at all. That despite conclusive biological evidence to the contrary, boys can be girls and girls can be boys whenever, however, and wherever they so choose, and that a person’s station as either male or female makes no difference in the way that we think, live, interact, and relate with one another. And yet we ALL know that is not true.
But your assertions do beg the should-be obvious question: If we are prepared to declare that something so basic and so clear as the biological difference between male and female is no longer so, then upon what basis can we say anything at all is true? If this Board is prepared to suggest by this policy that biology and DNA and centuries of social science no longer count for anything, then please tell us what ground is left for the Board to stand on in making any decisions about the health and well-being of Prince William County students?
Given what we already know about the circumstances surrounding this proposed change – that there have been no reports of any issues for transgender students in the past ten years, that state and federal law prohibit this policy change, that there are ongoing lawsuits at all levels underway on this issue as we speak, that there is widespread opposition to this policy among parents and community members, and most significantly, that many students will be deprived of their privacy, security, and dignity – it is clear that this policy push is primarily about one thing: undermining truth and imposing a new reality consistent with a particular ideology.
But I am here to tell you, make no mistake, there are some things which really are true, and that cannot be changed, no matter how hard this School Board attempts to make it not so. Reality can only be defied for so long before its consequences show up in force. It will be no different with this policy, should you choose to enact it.
No matter what happens, we can be sure that boys will continue to be boys, and girls will continue to be girls. And you will have to deal with all of the very predictable fall-out of your attempt to deny that reality. In the meantime, unless you maintain a policy that reflects the reality that males and females are biologically and emotionally different and should therefore be afforded privacy in vulnerable settings, a lot of kids and a lot of teachers are going to be harmed. And chaos will ensue. Maybe not today. And maybe not tomorrow. But soon, you can count on it.
Truth is a stubborn thing. It will always manifest itself in reality. I urge you to abandon any attempts to defy this incontrovertible truth. The health and well-being of our kids are at stake.
Sleeping GiantSep. 23, 2016
After hearing from parents on Wednesday night into the wee hours of Thursday morning, and following weeks of intense opposition from county residents, the Prince William County School Board voted to postpone until at least next June any further discussion on elevating the subjective notions of sexual orientation and gender identity to a special protected status in the schools’ policy.
This is a HUGE WIN for parents and students in Prince William and all across the Commonwealth!
Prince William County residents and leaders, much like Fairfax County before them, are a shining example of how concerned parents can stand up and successfully push back against dangerous and politically-motivated policies that seek to blur all lines of truth and sanity while making our children the guinea pigs for Leftist social experiments.
For over five hours, nearly 140 speakers passionately and compellingly addressed a proposed revision to the school system’s policy that would elevate the subjective notions of sexual orientation and gender identity to a special protected status. From our assessment, at least 90% of the comments were from parents, grandparents, students, pastors, and community leaders strongly opposed to the idea of putting boys in girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and bedrooms for overnight trips.
Backing them up with their support, booming applause, hand-made signs, with many wearing their characteristic red, several hundred Prince William residents – mostly parents – filled the meeting room, as well as an overflow room reserved specially for this meeting.
In fact, it was remarkable just how one-sided it turned out to be. Parents were having none of it. And as we saw, the School Board members got the message. The only member to oppose the motion to postpone discussion until the next year was Chairman Ryan Sawyers, the man singularly responsible for pushing this nonsensical policy change despite overwhelming reasons to back off.
While the School Board should have gone ahead and voted down this terrible policy, it was notable that they decided to take no action until after the courts provided more guidance on the matter. But after witnessing what parents in Prince William pulled together in just a few short weeks of learning about this policy, imagine what parents and residents can do with nearly a year’s worth of coordination!
Perhaps the School Board members are thinking to themselves, “I fear we may have only awoken a sleeping giant.”
For now, count this one as a win for parents, a win for student safety, privacy, and dignity, a win for the rule of law, and a win for sanity and common sense. In the meantime, other counties across Virginia should look to Prince William County as a great model for protecting our school children.
The Governor's Hurry Up OffenseSep. 23, 2016
Last week, when the Board of Health was forced by the McAuliffe administration’s incompetence to delay a vote on dismantling abortion center health and safety standards, pro-abortion forces argued that a “special meeting” of the Board must be scheduled to get the vote done as soon as possible.
They argued, based on a distorted reading of a Supreme Court opinion from earlier this year, that the vote must happen as soon as possible or we’ll be violating a “directive of the Supreme Court” (really, they said that) or the world will end or women will die or some such hysterical drivel.
So, of course, Department of Health and Board leaders immediately began working toward putting this costly and unnecessary meeting together. Cause, you know, we’ll be violating the Supreme Court’s directive and women will die and the Redskins will lose (wait, they do that anyway, nevermind).
In reality, there isn’t really a compelling reason for the Department of Health to spend taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary meeting. There’s no emergency. None. Not a single abortion center in Virginia is on the verge of being closed due to the standards the Governor is so desperate to dismantle. (One recently closed after its license was suspended because it never submitted a “plan of correction” that would have gotten it off the hook.) Not a single one is going to close because of the dreaded “construction standards” because the Commissioner of Health has granted variances to those standards where an abortion center has asked for one.
So, in truth, there’s no legitimate reason to add an expensive meeting.
But there may be a political one. After all, Terry McAuliffe is Governor of Virginia for one reason and one reason alone – deliver the Commonwealth to Hillary Clinton in the election. And one group that he is trying to appease is the radical pro-abortion wing of the Democrat party. But, after coming into office nearly three years ago with repealing abortion center health and safety standards as a top priority, he still hasn’t delivered on that promise. Now, it isn’t for lack of trying. He asked Bob McDonnell appointed members to leave the Board early to pave the way, but most refused. And the regulatory process in Virginia isn’t exactly quick. Plus, the Board delayed votes on their own a couple of times, bringing us to this point. A little over a month out from the election, and abortion center health and safety standards are still in place.
So Terry has to deliver, and it has to happen before November 8. He has to make the hysterical wing of the party happy, and if it costs the taxpayers a few extra thousand dollars, so be it. He won’t be hanging around Virginia after he leaves office, so what does he care about deficits.
Remember, when you see the urgent calls for a special Board of Health meeting, the true passion behind it isn’t about women’s health or the law, its politics, plain and simple.
The "Fix" Is InSep. 15, 2016
This morning, the Virginia Board of Health decided to delay voting on amendments to the abortion center health and safety standards, much to the dismay of the abortion industry! This came after The Family Foundation urged the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to intervene after we discovered several violations of state law by the Department of Health, as I told you about last night.
But while the Board’s decision to delay their vote may give time for the Department and Board of Health to correct paperwork, the violations of state law and the damage to the integrity of the process cannot be fixed. Unfortunately, this entire episode has provided more evidence that the McAuliffe administration is simply incapable or unwilling to follow the law. Singling out citizens who oppose his agenda for censorship from the regulatory process is not just illegal it’s outrageous and cannot be corrected with a simple delay. The actions by the Department and Board make it clear that the entire process is a predetermined sham.
As Delegate Scott Lingamfelter said yesterday during the JCAR meeting, “The fix is in.” Today’s decision by the Board to postpone a vote on watering down abortion center safety standards doesn't change that fact. VDH may "fix" the documents they created that told Virginians a vote in the future had already happened and censored hundreds of pro-life Virginians, but the damage to the law and to the credibility of the process can't be fixed.
And that doesn’t even get to the other violations of state law that the Board didn’t address, specifically adding amendments to the original list that is in violation of the state’s Administrative Process Act, and even violates Governor McAuliffe’s own Executive Order regarding regulatory review. Remarkably, this Governor can’t even follow his own instructions when he’s so bent on paying back the abortion industry!
As House Majority Leader Kirk Cox said today in a press statement, “Unfortunately, this process has been rigged from the start.”
After deciding to delay the vote, pro-abortion members of the Board pushed for a “special meeting” prior to the next scheduled meeting during a tense debate between members. Several members were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to fit an extra meeting into their scheduled this late in the year. The stand-off reached no conclusion, other than the Department being tasked with trying to find a date in the next two months for an additional meeting. This despite the Commissioner of Health informing the Board that the Department of Health is facing significant budget cuts to the point they can’t even provide decent education material regarding alternatives to expensive EpiPens. Yet, they can have a special, unnecessary, rushed meeting that may end up costing thousands of dollars.
That’s the power of the $1 billion abortion industry – abortion comes before children and at any cost.
Should a special meeting be scheduled, we will need as many pro-life Virginians as possible to be there! Pro-abortion forces are well-funded and can turn out large numbers of college students to fill the rooms. We’ll keep you informed!
We are grateful to JCAR, its chairman Frank Wagner and the members who spoke so forcefully yesterday, and to the Board of Health members who continue to fight this sham process. We will continue to fight as well and will keep you updated as developments occur.
Will Board of Health Break the Law?Sep. 14, 2016
Imagine my surprise late on August 25th to receive an official document published by the Commonwealth of Virginia with the following message.
Yes, you read that correctly. An official state document, drafted by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and released in late August (and drafted on August 10), predicted the future outcome of a vote on abortion center health and safety standards and – shockingly! – the vote will be in Governor Terry McAuliffe’s favor!
Of course, we weren't the only people surprised to read this, members of the Board of Health who don’t plan to favor the Governor’s amendments were surprised as well. Incredibly, the same document did not include a legally required summary of public comment in opposition to the amendments!
When we learned of this, we had to respond quickly. But what to do? Well, we already knew.
On Monday, I told you about a little known commission of the General Assembly, the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR). We learned of this commission in recent months and knew it had already been contacted about serious problems with the regulation process so far. So, we immediately sent a letter to JCAR Chairman Frank Wagner (R-7, Virginia Beach) explaining our concerns and the importance of holding a meeting prior to the Board of Health’s scheduled vote tomorrow.
Last week, Senator Wagner responded to our concerns and scheduled the meeting for this morning.
And what a meeting it was! JCAR this morning sent a crystal clear message to VDH -
1) You broke the law, and
2) If you vote to approve the amended regulations at tomorrow’s Board of Health meeting, you will be breaking the law.
Limited in power, JCAR did what it can, voting to immediately send a letter to the Board of Health demanding that they provide an explanation for their violations and informing the Board that it cannot legally go forward with a vote it had planned for tomorrow to water down abortion center health and safety requirements.
The JCAR members were outraged at how VDH and the Board of Health (now dominated by Terry McAuliffe’s pro-abortion appointees) published three weeks in advance of its public meeting that it had already voted to approve the regulatory changes! A number of them rightly asked: what’s the point of anybody who opposes the changes even showing up or giving testimony if, as Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge) put it, “the fix is already in”?
Meanwhile, like a seasoned trial attorney, Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4, Mechanicsville) nailed down the Health Commissioner on how a vote tomorrow by the Board of Health to approve the regulations would be in clear violation of the statutory requirement that all public comments must be summarized and responded to at least five days prior to finalizing the regulations. Senator McDougle literally read the Code section in question to the Commissioner, demanding to know how a vote can happen.
Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudoun) hammered home the point by asking for confirmation that the Commissioner would instruct the Board that any action tomorrow on the regulations would be illegal. Sadly, the Commissioner ultimately would not commit to making a recommendation to delay! Delegate Greason’s questioning of the Commissioner also revealed that the online version of the tainted regulatory document had still not been corrected, less than 24 hours before the Board of Health is scheduled to vote!
In the end, the decision now rests with the Board of Health: vote tomorrow and prove that this has been a sham process from the start, or delay the vote. Even then, however, the other violations of the law by the Board also talked about at today's meeting still prove the process has been a sham. More on that tomorrow.
Gov/AG Kneel Before Abortion IndustrySep. 13, 2016
This Thursday, the Virginia Board of Health is scheduled to do what Governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, the media in Virginia, and the $1 billion abortion industry want it to do – gut Virginia’s abortion center health and safety standards to ensure that people like Steven Brigham can operate abortion centers in Virginia.
The abortion industry bought this vote – and it expects to be paid in full.
But will the vote happen at all?
You see, on Wednesday, the day before the Board is scheduled to vote, a little known commission of the General Assembly, the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR), has scheduled a meeting and on its agenda are several questionable– and perhaps illegal – actions of both the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Board during this amendment process ordered by Governor McAuliffe.
By now any thinking Virginian recognizes that the Governor McAuliffe and AG Herring have had serious difficulty following Virginia law and the Constitution. Over and over again, both have ignored or been ignorant of Virginia law. In this case, the regulatory process is governed by something called the Administrative Process Act (APA), to ensure a transparent process where the public has ample opportunity to weigh in on regulations and to protect the public’s right to know what regulations a government agency is imposing on its citizens. Unfortunately, at several points in the process to amend the abortion center health and safety standards, VDH and the Board have apparently violated that law, making the entire process a sham.
But what else can we expect from the McAuliffe/Herring regime? It’s been clear from the beginning of their terms that they have no interest in the law, the Constitution, or frankly, the truth. They have a political ends – to protect abortion at all costs – that justify any means.
In addition, suggested amendments from the Attorney General released recently under the guise of meeting the requirements of the Supreme Court’s June opinion on abortion center health standards are actually in conflict with the decision itself and put women in danger. In one case, the AG has recommended that abortion centers no longer be required to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) standards to prevent infectious diseases!
Some of our politicians and Virginia’s editorial pages can continue to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to what inspections have found in Virginia’s abortion centers. They may be quite content with sending their wives and daughters to facilities that repeatedly have been found to have bloody and unsterilized equipment, untrained staffs, misused dangerous drugs, violated of state and federal laws, and a host of other deficiencies.
But take note - when and if the Board of Health votes to gut health and safety standards for abortion centers - people like Steven Brigham will be the one’s celebrating, and that tells us all we need to know about this sham vote.
Parents to School Board: No!Sep. 09, 2016
On Wednesday, the Prince William County School Board met to discuss and receive public input on its newly proposed “non-discrimination” policy that seeks to elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to protected classes within their schools.
In other words, some members of the Prince William School Board think it’s a good idea to make sure that boys, ages 5 to 18, are able to use the girls’ bathrooms, changing areas, and communal showers, to attend girls-only sex education classes, and to sleep in the same room – or bed – with other girls on an overnight field trip.
The significance of this proposal was not lost on the residents of Prince William County, who filled the large meeting room with several hundred concerned parents and citizens. After a lengthy back-and-forth from the Board about how the public comment time would be structured, the Chair made the final call by limiting the designated comment time to the first 20 speakers who had signed up online, while the several dozen remaining speakers were permitted to speak at the very end of the meeting (around midnight!).
Fortunately, The Family Foundation’s attorney on staff was among those first 20 speakers to address the Board while we had their full attention. We used our comment time to make sure the Board knew full well that:
1) The School Board is not legally required to add “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” to its policy.
2) The School Board is actually legally prohibited from adding “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” to its “non-discrimination” policy per state law, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution.; and
3) The School Board would be opening itself up to major civil liability and endless lawsuits by passing this policy that forces children into dangerous and vulnerable situations, and would also violate students’ Constitutional rights to bodily privacy and religious exercise.
Thankfully, after the public comments, more than half of the Board members expressed sincere reservations about acting on the policy so quickly and in light of all of the current legal challenges in Virginia and across the country. We feel optimistic that based upon the public’s input, the Board will most likely delay making any decisions about this policy change in the near future.
With Prince William’s 88,000 students and over 10,000 faculty and staff, the stakes could not be higher. With your help, we will continue to advocate for common-sense policies that protect all students’ safety, privacy, and dignity. As for now, we will continue doing that by ensuring that our children are not made to be a social experiment through this outlandish and politically motivated policy.
"Life-Threatening"Sep. 08, 2016
A radical Leftist group called “Campus Pride” recently published its latest version of what it calls the “Shame List”, wherein it identifies and attempts to publicly “shame” the “absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth” in the United States. The group reached its conclusions about the listed schools by looking almost exclusively at one factor: whether the college or university has requested an exemption to Title IX. (Title IX refers to the federal law most associated with federal funding of educational institutions; Schools may request a religious exemption in order to continue to make decisions consistent with their long-standing faith doctrines concerning acceptable sexual practices, and other matters.)
Two Virginia institutions made the list – Liberty University and Virginia Baptist College. And of the 102 total institutions listed, every one of them is distinctively centered on the Christian faith.
For merely requesting a lawfully permitted religious exemption to certain federal requirements that may directly conflict with the schools’ faith-based mission (an express exemption which they never needed until now), Campus Pride contends that the 102 “colleges & universities listed have chosen to openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and have requested Title IX exemptions to perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry.” Well isn’t someone being just a tad presumptuous?
But in case that characterization wasn’t preposterous enough, Campus Pride took their rhetoric to a whole new level, declaring that the schools’ request for religious exemptions is “careless”, and even going so far as to call it “life-threatening” to “LGBTQ” youth.
“Life-threatening”, they say? Okay, surely this can’t be for real. Either that, or they must be getting desperate. At first glance, it seemed to me absurd that such a thing could even be suggested. But then it hit me: in at least one very real sense, they have a point.
It was no coincidence that Campus Pride singled out only Christian schools, while issuing its public warning call that these schools are potentially “life-threatening” to “LGBTQ” youth. Its list represents many schools whose gospel-centered mission penetrates, permeates, and illuminates everything they do. The Gospel forms the backdrop for their whole existence as a place of learning and is itself the basis for understanding life’s purpose and value in the context of God’s design.
More than likely, whether intentionally or unwittingly, Campus Pride has rightly recognized and is now attempting to expose a radical and unassailable truth: that the Gospel is indeed the most life-threatening message these youth could possibly encounter. That is because the Gospel will necessarily confront, disrupt and threaten everything about a person’s life and will call upon that person to relinquish every sinful passion with which they identify or indulge in order to follow Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, and mind, wherever He leads them. It may very well cost them everything they have. If that’s not “life-threatening”, then I don’t know what is.
The fact that so many of those colleges and universities make the Christian message of the Gospel integral to their mission makes them a valid threat to all who would reject the Gospel’s call. Campus Pride clearly knows this.
Yet Campus Pride misses the other – and arguably more incredible – half of the Gospel paradox. Namely, that in addition to being “life-threatening”, the Gospel is ultimately “life-giving” to those who embrace it.
Jesus himself says it best in Matthew 16:24-26, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. For what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
If this profound message underlies the mission of the schools on Campus Pride’s “Shame List”, then every one of them who made the cut should consider such a designation a badge of honor rather than an insult. As for my alma mater, Liberty University, I know that’s how I feel about it.
Quick, Run to Your Safe Space!Aug. 26, 2016
A leading psychiatrist with Johns Hopkins published a study recently that calls into question the veracity of the claim that homosexuality and gender identity confusion (SOGI) are biologically intrinsic or unchangeable.
Que the moral outrage and personal attacks.
Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and for twenty-five years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, has already been the target of vicious, hateful attacks from the tolerant left. He, after all, refuses to base his science on cultural whims and subjective feelings. Consequently, he’ll be attacked as:
- A buffoon
- Names I can’t write on a family-friendly blog
Mostly, his study will be completely ignored by the so-called “mainstream media,” and simply dismissed as “widely debunked” by those who refuse to allow for a rational debate.
If nothing else, research by such esteemed scientists should call into question the progressive-secular left’s absolutism when it comes to sexuality. But then again, their scientism allows for no debate, no challenges, no assertions contrary to theirs. After all, the “science is settled” as they say, despite the fact that such a statement is contrary to the very nature of real science.
Debate is welcomed by those who are intellectually and emotionally strong enough to accept challenges to their beliefs; that are confident that what they believe is true. In a nation of people who need “safe spaces” to be protected from debate, reports like those of Dr. McHugh likely have many secular-progressives running for cover, and others hurling bigoted insults. Not exactly an environment for rational conversation.
Study Challenges SOGI AssumptionsAug. 26, 2016
A landmark report on the science behind “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) was released recently by The New Atlantis Journal of Technology & Society. Compiled by two leading researchers – one an eminent psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins University – the report looks at data derived from nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies on these topics and finds that many, if not most, of the widely repeated claims about SOGI have no basis in science.
Among the main conclusions the report drew, it was found most notably that:
i. The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are “born that way”—is not supported by scientific evidence.
ii. Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body”—is not supported by scientific evidence.
iii. Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.
iv. Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.
What makes this report so compelling was that it reviewed research that has already been available, and then simply stated the reasonable conclusions based on the findings therein.
Already widely accepted among many diverse faith communities who have accepted these findings to be true all along, such a reputable scientific report supporting that knowledge can be powerful in shifting the momentum of the larger societal and policy debate on these issues. The data is also valuable in helping us to most successfully address the difficult struggles of the individuals who experience feelings of confusion in their sexual desires and their birth sex.
Frankly, the findings of this report were not unexpected – just perhaps long overdue.
Hopefully in light of this evidence, more reasonable minds will begin to consider the actual biological, psychological, and sociological science when it comes to matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. Perhaps then, we can dispense with the sly pretenses of “discrimination” claims traditionally associated with immutable traits. Something tells me, however, this is wishful thinking, since it is clear that the SOGI movement has always really been about ideology over biology/science. So if nothing else, this hard-hitting report just exposes this agenda that much more.
Court Slams Obama Potty PolicyAug. 22, 2016
As our children prepare to return to school, another federal judge just slapped down the Obama Administration’s attempt to use its May 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter to force virtually every school in the country to implement its radical bathroom/locker room/ shower policies; policies that would force school age girls and boys into vulnerable interactions with children of the opposite sex in locker rooms and showers.
The federal district court sided with Texas and 12 other states in their lawsuit challenging the administration’s directive. But unlike the Gloucester County case here in Virginia, the court granted an injunction stopping the policy not on the grounds of students’ rights to privacy or safety, but rather on the basis that the federal government failed to follow its own rule-making procedures required for valid regulations.
In other words, not only is the administration’s compulsion of school “transgender” policy disastrous and wrong – it is lawless, and therefore unenforceable. This sidestepping of the law and regulatory process so often done by the Obama administration is trickling down into states and counties. Here in Virginia we’ve seen the Fairfax County School Board attempt an end run around parental involvement – and legal process – on the same issue.
In this case, the federal court merely gave expression to what the rest of us already knew: that the Executive branch doesn’t make laws. These days, it is again necessary for that message to be reinforced.
The States’ Complaint summed it up well:
“Plaintiffs include a diverse coalition of States, top State officials, and local school districts, spanning from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, and from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Isle, that stand behind the singular principle that the solemn duty of the Federal Executive is to enforce the law of the land, and not rewrite it by administrative fiat.
“Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights. Defendants’ rewriting of Title VII and Title IX is wholly incompatible with Congressional text. Absent action in Congress, the States, or local communities, Defendants cannot foist these radical changes on the nation.”
Thankfully, the court here had the good sense to agree. We can count this one another small, but important, win for freedom.
The ABA's FollyAug. 15, 2016
The American Bar Association (ABA) is the nation’s principal professional institution for members of the legal profession. According to the ABA, its mission is “to serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.” With its nearly 150 years of history, 400,000 active members and 3,500 entities, the ABA wields incredible influence over the legal profession.
One of the most notable roles the ABA has assumed is creating the “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” for lawyers and judges. Although these model rules are not themselves binding on all lawyers, they are very significant because most states have enacted these Model Rules – or else a slightly modified version – as their own standards of professional conduct for licensed attorneys in that state. State policymakers don’t like to reinvent the wheel, so they invariably draw heavily from the standards of the ABA.
It is troubling, then, to learn this past week that the ABA added a new so-called "non-discrimination" provision to its Model Rules which, among other things, elevates certain sexual proclivities to a privileged status in the context of professional misconduct. According to the new Rule 8.4:
"It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: ... (g) engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of...sexual orientation, gender identity, [o]r marital status...in conduct related to the practice of law. …"
“Comment ” supplements this provision of the rule, adding:
“ Conduct related to the practice of law includes representing clients; interacting with witnesses, coworkers, court personnel, lawyers and others while engaged in the practice of law; operating or managing a law firm or law practice; and participating in bar association, business or social activities in connection with the practice of law.”
What all this means in practice is that for attorneys, like myself, who practice law in states that adopt the ABA’s misconduct language – and many states soon will – practicing law in a way that is consistent with your faith or personal convictions may cost you your law license, and therefore your livelihood.
This “misconduct” rule – just like every other “sexual orientation/gender identity” law or rule we’re seeing governments and other institutions adopt in recent – has the direct result of setting up a collision course for sexual “freedom” and conscience rights. These provisions are designed to ensure that when such conflicts inevitably arise, sexual freedom always wins. And since there can only be one winner, religious freedom by default must lose.
In the relevant part, Comment  of the revised rule provides that “discrimination includes harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice towards others.” Viewing this definition in conjunction with the virtually all-encompassing standard of “knows or reasonably should have known”, it is not hard to imagine the myriad of ways a person may target an attorney and hit them with Bar complaints, which can lead to professional reviews, sanctions, and eventually disbarment.
Under this rule, an attorney who declines to represent a same-sex couple in an adoption may be reported and disciplined for professional misconduct. An attorney who declines to represent a client who wishes to obtain a court order to alter the person’s sex as reflected on their birth certificate could now be subject to professional discipline for “discriminating” on the basis of “gender identity.” Refusal to perform a same-sex “divorce” could now cost an attorney big time.
Bringing things a little closer to home, an attorney who regularly advocates for traditional values may be accused by opponents of engaging in “harmful verbal…conduct that manifests bias or prejudice towards others.” The list goes on. And it is worth noting that the merit of these potential (and inevitable) complaints makes little difference to the attorney who now has a series of complaints for unethical conduct filed against him on his record. To add to his misfortune, that attorney, having become ‘damaged goods’ on account of his remaining consistent in his guiding principles, is ironically unlikely to be recommended for any judicial appointments.
When we leave the conceptual and enter the real world, we see that it isn’t just “religious freedom” that loses, because religious freedom is nothing if not the expression of real-life decisions by a real person with a real family who relies on them, and who is filled with real hopes and dreams and gifts and passions. It is people who lose; in this case, mostly attorneys whose faith and conscience influence their daily conduct. It also includes, by the way, every attorney who believes in objective facts – like the biological reality of male and female or the complementary nature of male and female in marriage. These are the people who some will insist be driven out of the profession.
It does make me wonder, as someone who’s heard a thousand times how crooked and deceitful lawyers are, why anyone would want to rid the profession of those few who are actually motivated by a sincere faith? One would think we should be clamoring for more conscience-driven professionals to guide and influence our legal system. Yet this rule has the potential only to drive them away.
Meanwhile, among the most disastrous consequences of the ABA’s decision, this rule effectively eviscerates one of the most sacrosanct and inviolable tenets of the legal profession – namely, that a lawyer cannot be compelled to represent or advocate on behalf of a client whose objectives are “repugnant” to the lawyer. It’s inherently a ‘conflict of interest’ – something an attorney is ethically obliged to avoid whenever possible – to pursue a client’s objective zealously and persuasively when the advocate personally opposes that interest to his very core.
More than simply not wanting to force an attorney into that ethical dilemma, we have always recognized that the client’s interests are much better served by having someone else represent them who is not similarly conflicted. The greatness of this recognition is that it applies equally and at all times to all attorneys, no matter their belief. It is obvious to the reasonable practitioners among us that, far from causing lawyers to be more “ethical” within their profession, this rule only bursts open Pandora’s Box from which endless new and irreconcilable ethical dilemmas will flow.
Given that it is now only a matter of time until the ABA’s new “misconduct” rule is introduced across the land, attorneys of conscience in each state need to be prepared to make the case as to why and how this new standard demeans the entire profession while subjecting faith-driven attorneys to its most direct harms. And if and when state Bars fail to see the folly of this rule and adopt it anyway, faith-driven attorneys licensed in those states should be prepared to make a decision about how they will respond on that soon-coming day of conflict. As for me, that decision is already made.
Joshua A. Hetzler, Esq.
Life Not Dependent on PollsAug. 12, 2016
According to WRIC Channel 8 News, a new Harvard poll shows “most Americans approve of late-term abortion if a woman’s fetus is threatened by the Zika virus.” Six in ten respondents, according to the poll, thought women should have the right to end a pregnancy after 24 weeks “if testing shows a possibility the fetus has a birth defect” caused by the mother’s Zika infection.
Thankfully for now, the question posed is only a hypothetical for Americans, as the total number of Zika cases in the U.S. is less than 20. Still, the polling data, assuming its methodology can withstand scrutiny, reveals a troubling belief about the value of human life.
It is and must be true that an unborn child with a disability deserves the same protection as anyone else, including their non-disabled counterparts. After all, disabled persons possess the same worth and contain an equally-present soul. Yet according to this poll, Heaven forbid a child be born with a disability! I’m not sure where this idea comes from because, in reality, just about every disabled person I’ve ever known or heard about has been a great source of inspiration, a true blessing, and a beacon of hope and joy to those around them. Meanwhile, providing care to our loved ones with disabilities evokes in us so many of the things that are most enriching to our lives. Things like sacrifice, unconditional love, commitment, grace, empathy and compassion. Given this common experience, it wouldn’t be bad at all if we had a few more of these folks around.
Moreover, a person’s right to life, regardless of any “possibility” that he or she may become disabled, is not dependent on opinion polls. Which makes Harvard’s poll, well, absolutely pointless. A person either has a right to life or they don’t. It’s no matter of public opinion. Isn’t that what we have a Constitution for – in part at least to safeguard our unalienable rights to “life, liberty and property” in the midst of the changing public opinions of a pluralistic society?
As Americans, we can be immeasurably grateful that the architects of our government made clear that each person is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these [is] Life” and “That to secure [that] right, Governments are instituted among Men.” Democracy has no power over some things. Indeed, there are some rights, like our right to life, which can never be voted away.
Surely, unborn children with disabilities are every bit as precious and valuable as those with none. And their right to life is every bit as robust. Zika is a scary phenomenon. And let’s be honest – so is the thought of bringing a disabled child into the world. And yet all of our fears, our personal inconvenience and our public opinion polls can never be enough to outweigh the intrinsic value of every precious child who enters this world. The fact that a majority of people on any given day think otherwise is simply of no consequence.
Protecting Religious SchoolsAug. 08, 2016
Throughout the 2016 legislative session, we cautioned religious schools were at risk. We warned about the impending threats to Christian and other faith-based colleges from government as a result of those institutions’ contrary stance to the now-prevailing sexual dogma of “the only fixed standard is that no one may adhere to any fixed standards.”
We raised the issue of how much religious schools stood to lose in the volatile post-Obergefell environment – like the potential for losing licenses, accreditation, tax-exempt status, TAG grants for Virginia students, etc. – all for merely staying true to long-established and fundamental religious doctrines.
We urged the Governor to sign legislation passed by both the House and the Senate that would prevent an imminent Hobson’s Choice for religious schools across the Commonwealth. He declined, somehow chalking up the bill as being “bad for business”.
Now only a few months removed, in exactly one of the main ways we predicted, already one state – California – is poised to put into law a bill (SB 1146), which would prevent a student from otherwise receiving state-awarded “Cal Grant” funds toward the cost of their education at institutions that do not hire employees or accept student applicants whose “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” would violate the schools’ religious tenets. The bill also provides a basis for those individuals to file lawsuits against the institution, potentially costing them millions.
We can be confident that it’s only a matter of time until a Virginia legislator puts forward the same bill. I’d be shocked if there wasn’t one already in the pipe for the upcoming 2017 session.
For reasons that should be obvious, it is critical that we protect the right of religious schools to carry out their mission without being unfairly targeted and discriminated against by their government. In Virginia, that includes 27 religiously affiliated colleges and universities like Liberty, Regent, Patrick Henry, Christendom, Bluefield, and others. Virginia also has 968 private primary and secondary schools educating 136,323 students, 51% of which are religiously affiliated.
Hopefully, with California likely to begin putting its religiously affiliated schools on the chopping block, Terry McAuliffe will readily see that the only thing “bad for business” in this equation is the very real possibility of 27 colleges and roughly 494 K-12 schools in Virginia (read: 500+ businesses) closing their doors rather than bowing down to the king’s golden “statute”.
Lawmakers Feel Sting of ParentsAug. 08, 2016
Barbara Loe Fisher, believes her son, Chris, developed a brain injury from a vaccine.
On Wednesday, Fisher, as a mom and as head of the National Vaccine Information Center, received a standing ovation from a standing room only crowd after testifying at a meeting of a Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) subcommittee that has been asked to consider removing Virginia’s religious exemption for mandated vaccinations.
“In 1980, my oldest child suffered a brain inflammation encephalopathy within hours of his fourth DPT shot. He was left with minimal brain injury that required him to be in a self-contained classroom for the learning disabled for the entire 12 years in a special education classroom in Virginia,” said Fisher.
Parents showed up in droves – virtually all of them dawned from head to toe in red (red signifying support for the current exemption) – with most of them bringing their young children along. The roughly 300-seat room overflowed with easily 400 or more highly motivated and obviously well-informed activists. The murmur of babies and toddlers filled the chambers for a full hour and a half, as they all seemed to stand or sit patiently and attentively in the hot and crowded room. How that was possible, I will never know!
Lesson for Virginia legislators: don’t mess with parental rights or religious liberty.
At issue was a study initiated to consider whether the religious exemption in the law for mandatory childhood vaccinations should be removed. If the crowd was any indication, a good number of parents believe it should stay – citing any number of reasons including parental authority, bona fide religious objections, and the risk of serious complications and even death to the child.
The designated speaker in favor of removing the religious exemption expressed concerns that not having some children vaccinated could put all children at risk of contracting certain preventable diseases. Though well-spoken and professional, her remarks were met with silence.
What we do know is that Virginia has a high rate of vaccination and a very low rate of infectious disease. There is no health crisis and there is no compelling reason to remove the longstanding exemption. One speaker noted that only 1.1% of all kindergarten students in Virginia request any exemption – including for religious and medical reasons. The law of Virginia already allows for the state to suspend the exemption in case of an epidemic, so the fear mongering by opponents of the exemption that it is a health risk are unfounded.
The subcommittee took no action at the meeting, but the JCHC will ultimately make a recommendation to the General Assembly based on their findings. We have to hope that the fact that so many concerned and knowledgeable parents made a strong appearance, the Commission will get the message that parents are better equipped to make these decisions for their children than the government.
SCOTUS IntervenesAug. 04, 2016
For the time being, the Supreme Court got one right. Yesterday, the Court voted 5-3 to hit the pause button on a lower court’s order requiring the Gloucester County School Board to allow a biologically female student to use the male facilities for the upcoming school year. The “stay” of the lower court’s order will remain in place until the Court decides whether to hear the case.
That means that for now, students in Gloucester won’t be able to use the bathrooms reserved for members of the opposite sex. It also means that boys and girls in public schools may continue to have their safety, privacy and dignity respected when they enter the bathroom, locker room or shower.
This comes as refreshing news in a long saga of litigation that began in October of 2015, when a female high school student, “G.G.”, sued her school board in Gloucester County after it created a policy to accommodate her condition by providing access to several single-stall bathrooms but declined to let her use the male facilities. A number of other cases involving similar issues have been playing out across the country at the same time – most notably in North Carolina. Complicating matters further, the Obama Department of Education and Department of Justice sent a joint letter this past May threatening to withhold all federal funding to any school that did not allow students to gain full access to facilities and sports teams of the sex with which they “identified”, regardless of the students’ biological status.
Yesterday’s decision may perhaps be a signal from the Court that it will agree to hear the case on appeal and potentially rule in favor of the school board, but it’s still anybody’s guess. The Court will make a decision on whether to hear the case in the next few months.
Overall, this is a positive step in our continuing battle to protect kids and restore sanity. We will continue to keep you updated as things unfold.
Moral Cowardice Yields Political PalatabilityJul. 28, 2016
Last week, Democratic Party Nominee Hillary Clinton announced the selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is, by most estimations, a safe choice for Clinton, as he helps her with a swing state while retaining a guise of moderate liberalism. The Senator has often described himself as “personally”, but not politically opposed to abortion. Clever wordplay, which allows him to seem individually moraled yet governmentally removed from an issue on which the American public is split down the middle. It is this brand of cowardice that creates a candidate who is ethically reprehensible and also tolerable for a considerable portion of the public.
The words of anyone who holds this position immediately raise more questions than they answer. Namely, the individual's reason for personal opposition, to the moral proposition that is abortion. Why does Kaine believe that abortion is wrong in the first place? The pro-life movement, which diverts heavily from Kaine’s application of his views, fervently asserts that, from the moment of conception, the human life has value. Regardless of circumstance, age, or development, this principle of inherent worth is one that must be applied to all humans. If selectively distributed, the aforementioned absolute becomes self defeating, and useless. Therefore, Kaine cannot cite this reason as the cause of his “personal” tension with abortion. That would mean his governmental view would need to follow, in order to avoid an obvious philosophical inconsistency.
And Yet, millions of Americans sympathize with the Senator’s sentiment, and toe the line whilst living in obvious contradiction. For the average citizen, intellectual laziness of this order is actually a convenience. They can preach the pro-life message at their church or in their home, and espouse the woman’s “right to choose” if surrounded by liberal colleagues. The cop-out allows for conflict to be avoided, and, even though its side effect is turning the user's moral philosophy into an amorphous blob indistinguishable from self-serving nihilism, many find it preferable to, God forbid, disagreeing with someone.
In the political landscape however, views such as Kaine’s serve another benefit altogether. The reason these ideals, which in reality raise more questions than they answer, retain popularity among American politicians, is because they are intended to do just that: muddy the waters. Regardless of philosophical inconsistency, a skilled politician is able to turn ambiguous morals into lucid pandering, hopping from one side of the fence to another, garnering as many votes as possible. Believing everything and nothing all at once.
As principled citizens, we must demand that politicians take a true stand on consequential issues. As American voters, we must ensure that our leaders views are brimming with clarity and truth. As people of intellect, we must be appalled by those who insult our intelligence by pleading that we look past their disheveled philosophy.
By Cameron Dominy
Cameron Dominy is a 2016 Summer Intern at The Family Foundation of Virginia, and the Governor of the South Carolina Student Legislature.
Gender Confusion in FairfaxJul. 28, 2016
You may have heard in recent weeks some of the noise coming out of Fairfax County and its school board’s ongoing attempts to impose the full gamut of “transgender” policies on all 186,714 of its public school kids at its 196 schools.
In an ongoing effort to assist concerned moms and dads and grassroots leaders in Fairfax, we helped mobilize parents there to oppose these dangerous policies that would place every child’s safety, security, privacy and basic dignity rights in jeopardy while at school. A little over a week ago, those efforts paid off in a big way when the heavily liberal Fairfax School Board relented, at least temporarily, announcing abruptly that it was reversing itself and would not take further action to implement their planned regulations, at least until the courts could sort it out.
There is no question that the calls, emails, and attendance at meetings, and prayers of parents and concerned citizens of Fairfax and people all across Virginia played a pivotal role in the Board’s decision. Since Fairfax County, with its more-than 1.1 million residents, is seen as a model for the rest of the Commonwealth in many ways, it was all the more critical to ensure that these policies be prevented.
And that’s exactly what happened. Common sense and decency prevailed – for now.
This is proof positive that much of the secular left’s rhetoric on this issue is little more than empty talk. In reality, most Americans and most Virginians are opposed to permitting boys and men to use girls’ bathrooms, showers, and changing areas and to play on their competitive sports teams. Most people recognize that these kinds of separation of the sexes are in place for good reasons and in fact have always worked fine with little incident. And everyone, regardless of how they feel personally about the idea of “transgender bathroom” policies, should at least realize that there are a number of serious and valid concerns arising from these policies that have to be addressed before plowing forward into uncharted territory.
Each county and city in Virginia has to continue to hold the line on this issue with its local school boards, city councils, and boards of supervisors. It’s important that parents and citizens across Virginia apply the same pressure in their own communities to protect their children in school. The good news is several have – including Grayson and Gloucester.
This issue is far from settled, and now is not the time to let up! Just yesterday, in the case out of Gloucester County that has gained national attention, the ACLU asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a female student to be able to use the male facilities. Other related cases are going on across the country.
As this issue unfolds, we will continue to do everything we can to preserve the meaning and status of male and female while protecting the privacy and dignity rights of our children. We are indebted to local leaders who are taking up this fight in their communities!
Please continue to join us in this important fight. With your help – just as we saw with parents in Fairfax – we can and must prevail.
Big Abortion's Compromised DataJul. 27, 2016
In the waning quixotic campaign to compromise principle for the sake of convenience, the American Medical Association (AMA) has reaffirmed a 2005 study challenging the capacity of babies to feel pain at twenty weeks. Of particular significance is the fact that a former lawyer for NARAL, a former medical director for a Hospital in San Francisco that provides abortions, and a former consultant for Planned Parenthood contributed as three of the five authors to the study. In a recent letter in answer to an inquiry filed by James Agresti, the president of Just Facts, the AMA Journal’s Editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner diplomatically explained that the study would not be retracted because, according to him, the study’s authors complied with the AMA’s conflict of interest requirements and had accumulated all of the data without falsification or fabrication.
Although the study suggests that twenty-week-old babies cannot consciously perceive pain due to a still developing cerebral cortex, several studies have demonstrated that the lack of a cerebral cortex does not ensure the lack of pain receptors. A study in 2012 proposes that while the dispute over conscious and emotional perception of pain in twenty-week infants remains in the air, there is no shortage of evidence demonstrating that babies have a nervous system sufficiently developed to drive responses to tissue injury as early as sixteen weeks into gestation. According to a 2013 expert testimony before Congress by Dr. Maureen Condic, Director of Human Embryology instruction for the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, “Multiple studies show that ‘the human fetus from 18-20 weeks elaborates pituitary-adrenal, sympatho-adrenal, and circulatory stress responses to physical insults.’” In order words, the baby responds to pain in several of the ways that humans normally do. Because recent studies demonstrate at least motor faculties at that stage in development, it is unrealistic to propose that the matter is certain. The Kennedy Institute for Ethics Journal in 2012 states, “when a doubt of fact bears on settling whether an alternative under consideration should be excluded, one should presume one will cause the harm until the fact has been settled.”
Christian Communicators of the South East, a debate league that hosts rhetoric tournaments in the Virginia/North Carolina area, trains young homeschooled high school students to research and argue with professional poise. Novice debaters are taught from the beginning to avoid noncommittal modifiers like “could,” “might,” and “may” when researching for a topic. Lines such as: “[b]ecause pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester, discussions of fetal pain for abortions performed before the end of the second trimester should be noncompulsory […]”(emphasis added), would be enough to declaw the study. And yet publications by New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Live Science refer to the study as an authoritative source proving beyond a reasonable doubt that babies cannot experience pain at 20 weeks. Such blind adherence to outdated claims only proves one thing: the pro-abortion argument is starving for support. Those in favor of abortion, a group that likely includes members of the AMA, are at their wits end in the fight against the quickly growing Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. But there’s still work to be done. Fourteen states have passed the legislation, although the legality of the law in some states has been challenged. Virginia has yet to pass the act through the General Assembly, although it was proposed in 2015.
Richard Wiley is the 2016 Policy Intern for The Family Foundation, and law student at Liberty University School of Law.
Not Quite a Slam DunkJul. 25, 2016
Last week, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that it will be changing the location of its 2017 All Star Game. The contest, which was originally scheduled to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, has not yet had a new location decided upon. The company’s decision comes as a long expected response to the NC legislature's refusal to repeal or amend HB2, a bill which prevents the installment of androgynous bathroom use as well as the elevation of sexual behavior to a protected class.
Of course, the NBA is a private corporation, and as such has every right to act in a manner that coincides with its collective conscience. Perhaps though, if they don’t wish this action to be seen as a pandering, political stunt, they should distribute their “morals” with a bit more philosophical consistency. For example, 21 additional states across the country have joined North Carolina in actively opposing much of the current federal push for DNA-denying bathrooms. And yet, the NBA has made no effort to prevent contests in any of these areas. Considering that nearly half the country is a considerable portion of the basketball market, I suppose that makes some sense.
More directly, the National Basketball Association has explicitly reached out to China over the last few seasons, in an attempt to globalize the reach of the company. Games between NBA teams have been held in China itself, without so much as a whisper from the leadership about the moral implications of holding competitions in a country that has, time and time again, been cited as a haven for human rights violations. China doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, and yet, the NBA is silent. Just last year China jailed a LGBT activist for organizing a pride parade, and yet, the NBA is all too happy to continue to profit from the emerging market. It would seem then, that the only morality the NBA adheres to is the one that produces the most cash, which is fine, they are a company after all. However, this makes political pandering rather unnecessary, and incredibly disingenuous.
By Cameron Dominy
Cameron Dominy is a 2016 Summer Intern at The Family Foundation of Virginia, and the Governor of the South Carolina Student Legislature.