Religious Freedom

Punching Back: Peter Vlaming Fights for Conscience for Himself and All Teachers

Yesterday, Peter Vlaming, after having his livelihood completely disrupted last December when he was fired by the West Point School Board for not addressing a student with opposite-sex pronouns, announced he is suing the School Board for violating his constitutional rights of free speech and the exercise of his religious convictions.

You may recall that Mr. Vlaming was fired following a hearing before the Board not for what he said, but because of what he didn’t say in refusing to use male pronouns when addressing a female student who, after two years in Mr. Vlaming’s French class, decided to begin identifying as a boy.  In fact, in an effort be respectful of the student, he committed to using the student’s newly chosen (traditionally male) name, and to refrain from using any pronouns at all for the student, so as not to offend the student or anyone else.

All Mr. Vlaming did was follow his conscience, which could not permit him to speak objective falsehoods that distort the true nature of male and female as God created them. But of course, as we should all know by now, anything short of total celebration and participation in someone else’s sexual expressions is simply unacceptable to the ever-growing purveyors of sexual totalitarianism.

We stand with Mr. Vlaming who is standing up for his own conscience rights and the conscience rights of teachers across Virginia. And we are glad to see he is ‘punching back’ against the Board’s blatant and unlawful religious discrimination, by seeking $1 million in damages for current and future lost wages, benefits, loss of reputation, and pain and suffering for he and his family of six. And we’re thrilled that our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom will be representing him in this fight.

Please continue to pray for Peter as he stands in the gap for all teachers to be able to live according to their conscience and not be forced to express untrue messages which they disbelieve, but especially when it violates their deeply held religious convictions.

For more background on Peter Vlaming’s story, please read our blogs:

Join Us for a Rally at the Supreme Court Oct. 8th!

On Tuesday, October 8th, at 9:00 a.m, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in one of the most important religious freedom cases in decades, Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I will be there to speak out in defense of truth and religious freedom and to support our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who are representing Thomas Rost, the owner of Harris Funeral Homes. 

To learn more about Thomas’s story, read ADF’s post on it here.

We recently joined with other groups in submitting an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court in support of the rights of faith-based business owners. At issue in this case is whether federal law’s prohibition against sex discrimination in private employment encompasses people who self-identify as being the sex other than their actual biological sex. This case will have a significant impact on nearly every business in America, but especially for business owners whose faith is central to who they are and why they do what they do.

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You may remember the historic rally from 2017 when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Jack Philips case.  We need another strong showing this time!  The LGBTQ+ supporters consider this case their Waterloo moment and are expecting large crowds to swarm the steps of the Supreme Court.  But the voice of common-sense and faith-oriented people all across this nation must not be drowned out by those who seek to utterly destroy the very image of God as expressed through male and female, and who would take away others’ rights to privacy, free speech, and religious liberty.  

Please stand with us in this critical moment for our country on October 8th on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

New York City Council Did What?

Earlier this month the Richmond City Council approved a non-binding resolution urging Virginia lawmakers to pass legislation next year prohibiting “conversion therapy” (i.e. talk therapy) that counselors use to help minors overcome unwanted sexual desires. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) described talk therapy as barbaric, abusive, inhumane and regressive in a Twitter statement applauding the resolution, and suggested that counselors should only be “affirming the sexual orientation and identities of all Richmonders.”

This news comes as the Virginia Boards for Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have all initiated regulations that would impose penalties against counselors who engage in talk therapy, including potentially the revocation of their professional license.

Mayor Stoney and the Richmond City Council now join these regulatory boards in holding that counselors should be permitted to help a minor client to explore and facilitate same-sex feelings, attractions and behaviors, or even to “change” their sex altogether, but must be PROHIBITED from helping a minor client overcome these feelings and urges! This dangerous policy entraps minors in a lifestyle from which they desperately wish to escape and denies the fundamental free speech rights of professional counselors who legitimately wish to help them.

Compare this with the New York City Council, which recently overturned a 2017 policy that punished professional counselors if they provide biologically affirming therapy services to a minor seeking to overcome unwanted transgender feelings or same-sex attraction. The law was worded so broadly that it could apply to “any services,” including private conversations initiated by the patient.

What’s remarkable about this change is that LGBTQ advocates strongly urged the council members to overturn this law, not because they wanted it reversed, but because they fear that the courts may no longer uphold bans on “professional speech.”

Since the law’s passage, it has been challenged in court by Dr. Dovid Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist who is facing severe penalties and fines for providing talk therapy to patients, and the U.S. Supreme court has handed down a ruling that strongly indicated that these talk therapy bans are not constitutional. In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NIFLA v. Becerra – a case involving the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers – that speech isn’t unprotected because it's uttered by a professional, specifically rejecting to two lower court decisions that upheld “conversion therapy” bans.

Whether or not the New York City Council’s reversal of the 2017 law was in response to more conservative judges being added to courts or because of the NIFLA decision, the reversal is still a significant victory for many New York counselors that affirms their religious liberty and fundamental speech rights.

Let’s hope that the City of Richmond and Mayor Stoney will take their cue from New York City (just this once!) and recognize that prohibiting a counselor’s free speech is unconstitutional and rescind its misguided resolution.

VA Health Boards are Literally Banning the Gospel

The Virginia Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have recently decided to wage an unprovoked war with the object of destroying not only basic human biology and the rights of Christian professionals in these fields, but in fact the very message of the Gospel itself.

Seeking to use the coercive power of the state to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” these health boards are on a zealous pursuit to punish any licensed counselor, psychologist, or social worker merely for speaking with a minor client with the aim of helping them to reduce or eliminate unwanted feelings of same-sex sexual attractions or gender dysphoria. In other words – for aiding a young person, in a culture of unprecedented confusion, to recognize and embrace their personhood as God designed – a fully, biological, immutable, unmistakable male or female with a complementarian sexual nature and body. 

These McAuliffe-Northam appointed Boards have now made it their official position to condemn “conversion therapy” because (citing the American Counseling Association) “it does not work, can cause harm, and violates our Code of Ethics.” In doing so, they reprehensibly ignore – and even deny the very existence of – countless individuals who through counseling have found healing and transformation from their LGBTQ-defined past. Not only is change and wholeness possible for people seeking to overcome those very real feelings, but many who obtain therapy go on to lead far healthier and happier lives. That’s according to their own personal testimonies – read some of them at CHANGED, Fearless Identity Inc., and Freedom March

In spite of this undeniable proof, these Boards actually maintain that giving professional guidance to a confused and developing child towards accepting the biological realities of their unchangeable sex is categorically HARMFUL to the child! Despite having received a combined total of zero client complaints ever from this therapy, these Boards are nevertheless going out of their way to ensure that any licensed professional counselor, psychologist, or social worker who dares to assist a child in this way will face losing their state-issued license to practice altogether.

Now consider that, according to a recent Gallup poll, a full 75% of Americans self-identify as Christian. The basic message and belief of the Christian faith, boiled down to its essence is that, while every person is affected by, even enslaved to, and spiritually dead in their sinful state, God stepped in and made a way for us to be made holy and new. Through faith in His son Jesus, God makes us spiritually alive with a new nature subservient to His will for us, and no longer captives to our old inclinations or ways of thinking. That, in a nutshell, is what Christians call “the gospel.” (Gospel means “good news.”)

Yet these Boards’ new position stands in direct opposition to the central claim of the gospel, which Christians recognize as the great – and only – hope for mankind. With these policies, the Boards are actually preaching a false ‘anti-Gospel’ message to every child struggling with sexual hurt, confusion, and brokenness that:  a) There is nothing wrong with them, b) That they cannot possibly be healed, and that there is no hope for a renewed mind no matter how much they may desire it, and c) The real sin would be to seek to mend what they recognize as broken inside of them. The Apostle Paul preached just the opposite:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Note the pivotal phrase in that passage: “And such WERE some of you.” That is to say, some of them used to be characterized, controlled, or defined by those old passions and habits (including homosexuality, which was very culturally acceptable at that time), but not anymore! For those who had experienced the transformational power of the “good news” of Jesus, they were gone. As Paul reminded them, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Romans 12:2 offers further evidence of the same message: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Whether or not these Boards comprehend that they are targeting and rejecting the very essence of the Christian faith, it doesn’t change the direct impact on Christian professionals’ resulting inability to incorporate the transformational power of the Gospel into their therapy for many who need it and are desperately seeking it. Their policies effectively guarantee that countless struggling and confused children will not be able to receive that guidance from a licensed professional, making it that much more difficult for them to thrive in the body in which they were created – and at the most critical developmental time in their life for those struggles to be addressed and resolved.

Hence, for Virginia’s health regulatory Boards to ban “Conversion Therapy” is for the government to officially deny the validity and power of the Christian Gospel to transform hearts, minds and lives, AND to deny licensed professionals, by threat of force, their fundamental right to share this Gospel with clients who are open to, and even seeking it.

If the Boards are successful in their attempt to do this, it would certainly mark the beginning of a new era in our civil and political landscape. And if somehow they prevail, and the courts do not correct their error, let us pray that those licensed professionals who have themselves experienced the transformative power of the gospel will have the courage to say to those in authority, just as the Apostle Peter did in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Stafford School Board Ignores Parents’ Concerns

Late last night, just after midnight in a still-packed room, after four hours of public comments from over 100 speakers, the Stafford County School Board narrowly voted 4 - 3 to approve two nondiscrimination policies that elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a special protected class, ignoring the cries of an overwhelming number of concerned parents in attendance.  The policies give the district’s Superintendent virtually unlimited latitude to interpret and implement them as he sees fit  - including the use of bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities - without any control or approval by the Board.

Adding insult to injury, the Board voted 4-3 against a motion to allow the Board’s legal Memo from their attorney to be made available to the public for the sake of transparency. The four members clearly have something they don’t want the public to know, since the Chairwoman revealed that she was voting against the policy because she agreed with the legal advice the Board was given!

Our Policy team, Todd Gathje and Josh Hetzler, attended the meeting, along with many dozens of parents and allies in the fight against these dangerously misguided policies, and spoke to both the policy and legal consequences they will bring.

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You can watch the entire recorded meeting HERE and read the policies for yourself at the following links:

Proposed New Policy 2420 (Student Services: Nondiscrimination, Equal Education Opportunity). 

Proposed Revisions to Policy 4107 (Human Resources Services: Nondiscrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity, Anti-Retaliation).

Over and over again proponents of the policies, including some Board members, claimed that they had NOTHING to do with bathrooms or locker rooms.  And yet, they cited as their primary justification for the policy just one isolated incident last year involving a female student claiming to be “transgender” who was left in the hallway during an emergency drill instead of in the sex-segregated locker rooms with the other students.  If these policies aren’t about allowing students and staff into opposite-sex bathrooms, showers, and changing areas, what are they about?  After all, they already have policies prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student.

Of course, this has everything to do with bathrooms, access to locker rooms, and changing facilities!  In fact Gavin Grimm, the female student from Gloucester County at the center of a major court case involving access to bathrooms, who also spoke last night, explained in an interview that transgender students don’t deserve the stigmatism of having to use single occupant bathrooms.

The School Superintendent, who has every intention of taking this as far as possible, will now be able to establish onerous guidelines for all students, teachers and administrators to follow within every context of the public schools, with very little oversight by the Board.

These policies have opened the door for every student to have unrestricted access to all sex-specific facilities - including locker rooms, showers, or bathrooms of the opposite biological sex - so long as the student merely claims to identify as that sex.  This violates every student’s fundamental, constitutionally protected, right to bodily privacy and will force them into situations that make them feel uncomfortable or fearful.  In addition to concerns about privacy, these policies will compel students, teachers and administrators to use phrases or pronouns that conflict with their beliefs about the biological realities of males and females, or be reprimanded by the school. Many of the parents alluded of former West Point High School teacher, Peter Vlaming, who was recently fired for this very reason after that school board passed a similar policy.

All of this will happen notwithstanding the clear and vocal opposition of parents, who see their fundamental right to control their children’s education and upbringing being eroded and their children now being put in danger by people who might abuse the policies for wrong purposes.

What happened in Stafford last night could be coming to your county, as many school boards have been watching closely to decide whether to consider similar policies.  While we are saddened and outraged by what transpired last night, we will not stop fighting these horrible policies that work to destroy the very fabric of our society.

To all the parents, students, pastors, and concerned citizens in Stafford who submitted comments or spoke out last night, thank you for engaging in this critical battle! As long as this policy stands, this fight is not over.

Gov. Northam Wants to Lock Teens in Transgenderism. Stop Him.

Disgraced Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has directed his Board of Counseling to punish any counselor who responds to a teen’s cry for help to accept her own physical biology. 

That’s called putting politics in front of people. 

You have heard of these bans. They’re sometimes called bans on “conversion therapy.” LGBT activists describe nightmarish scenarios of cruel methods used on “gay” people to make them “straight,” without any real evidence, to get what they really want: sweeping bans to outlaw not only cruel methods, but all therapy. Even talk therapy. 

They are speech bans, pure and simple.

Eighteen states have already thrown their teens under the bus. Democrats in Virginia have tried and failed to impose these speech bans through the legislative process. So Northam is doing it through the back door, through executive branch planned regulations.

They ban speech about unwanted same-sex attraction, but also about unwanted transgender feelings.

The regulations would ban talk therapy that “seeks to change” a young person’s “gender identity,” including “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”

Gosh, that almost sounds like these regulations would stop Fairfax County public school “sexperts” from trying to convince little boys that they might really be girls. 

But read on. The regulations specify that the ban does not prohibit counseling “that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition” or that provides “acceptance” and “support” for a person’s “identity exploration.” 

You got that? It’s a one-way street. Under Northam’s ban, counselors are only allowed to use words that promote transgenderism—they cannot use words to help someone avoid it. 

As a philosophical matter, this is outrageous. Its legality is dubious.

But look at the real-world impact of this policy.

Say a girl suffers from gender dysphoria. Say at some point she “socially transitions” to living as a boy. Maybe she got the idea in her Fairfax County Sex Ed class. Now she wants help living as a girl. 

Governor Northam wants to make sure she can’t get it. 

Ah, but if she wants help living as a manthat she can find. 

It’s a one-way ratchet. It’s the Hotel Transgender. You can check in, but you can never leave.

If you live in Virginia, you can tell Governor Northam what you think of his proposed regulations. He is playing politics with real people’s lives. And partisan politics should not be used to ban biology-affirming counseling for patients who want it. 

August 7th is the deadline to offer comments on the initial stage of the planned regulations. 

Please go to the Virginia Town Hall website HERE, click on “Enter a comment,” and tell Northam’s Board why this counseling ban is a very bad idea!

By Cathy Ruse, Senior Fellow of Legal Studies at Family Research Council

How is this possible?

This week, Virginia politicians from both sides of the aisle and many in the media are trumpeting CNBC’s announcement that the Old Dominion is once again the “Best State for Business.” 

CNBC’s survey was based on criteria like, economy, infrastructure, quality of life, education, technology business friendliness, etc. 

But, according to many politicians – from former Governor Terry McAuliffe and current Governor Ralph Northam – to state Senators and Delegates of both political parties, and a host of special interests, quite frankly it should be impossible for Virginia to be the best state for business.

Why?

Well, according to these so-called “progressive” leaders, Virginia isn’t very “open and welcoming.”  You see, for the better part of the past decade, the media and political class have claimed that businesses and education leaders and technology gurus and everyone else it seems wouldn’t come to Virginia because the General Assembly hasn’t elevated “sexual orientation and gender identity” to protected classes.

Oh, and those anti-women “anti-abortion” laws are terrible for business, too.

Oops.

Of course, none of the rhetoric spouted by those claiming that Virginia’s economy suffers because the Commonwealth has chosen to minimally protect unborn children and religious liberty is true.  For the most part, low tax and regulation states are at or near the top of the “Best States for Business” list, while those with the most extreme pro-abortion and pro-LGBT laws tend to linger at or near the bottom.  Why? Because smart business leaders don’t base economic decisions on anything other than economic facts, not emotional hysteria (even Amazon decided to come to Virginia). 

This won’t stop the rhetoric, however, or the bills.  There’s little doubt that we’ll see Delegate Kathy Tran’s infamous abortion-at-any-point-through-birth bill again in 2020.  We’ll see the dozen or so bills elevating sexual behavior to special status in our laws, threatening religious liberty and making many religious small business owners left feeling rather, well, unwelcome. 

But the line will stay the same – if we don’t pass these bills the economy will suffer. 

Except it won’t.  Virginia’s economy will do just fine as long as taxes are relatively low and the regulatory environment is somewhat less crushing than neighboring states.  Businesses go where they can make money – which for most business owners is sort of the point. 

By the way, CNBC ranked New York state, which adopted its own version of Delegate Tran’s “welcome to everyone except babies” 27th. 

The State’s New Policy on "Preferred Pronouns"

The Family Foundation has consistently opposed and successfully defeated bills each year aimed at adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to state employment matters, and with good reason. Yesterday, Governor Northam once again illustrated the dilemma with laws that sound tolerant but ignore objective realities.

Formally unveiling his “Employment Equity Initiative for State Agencies,” its stated purpose is to ensure that the “state employment application and compensation policies will promote fair and equitable pay.” Sounds reasonable enough, although one should always be wary of a government that “fixes” a problem of which no actual examples are ever shared.  This often points to a favorite expression in the halls of the General Assembly—a solution in search of a problem.

Upon closer review, one might legitimately question whether the problem to be “fixed” is not one of inequitable compensation among state employees, but the desire to advance an insidious policy shift to align with the LGBTTQQIAAP+++ agenda. The Governor’s Press Release goes on: “The streamlined application will eliminate salary history, school name, age indicator, and other fields with potential for unconscious bias; offer a preferred pronoun to highlight the state’s diversity and inclusion efforts;” (Emphasis mine.)

Preferred pronouns, of course, reflect the implicit – and now apparently, official – recognition of the erroneous notion that a person’s sex as either male or female may not actually have any correlation to what the rest of us must now be compelled to refer to them as. Under such conditions, one can NEVER safely assume that a person who looks like a man, talks like a man, identifies as a man, or even has male chromosomes (XY) should be referenced using male pronouns. If “gender” is now something entirely separate and unrelated to “sex”, then the ONLY way to avoid such the grave “error” of “misgendering” is to specifically ask each and every person right up front which pronouns he/she/it/they/etc. wish to be called (and then to keep them all straight and never forget). The Governor’s change to the state application process effectively formalizes this practice – and expectation – in all interpersonal interactions within state government. 

But as unwieldy and cumbersome (not to mention outrageous) as this may sound, it’s not nearly that simple. In today’s ever-evolving sexual paradigm, we’ve seen that pronouns will no longer be limited to the “traditional” binary and static male-female terms of he/him/his and she/her/hers. No, we will most certainly have to account for those who identify as NEITHER male NOR female, and those who identify as BOTH male AND female, as well as those who identify as one or the other interchangeably and perhaps sporadically throughout the day. And of course, we can’t forget about those who identify as having no gender at all. (What pronouns must we use for… such persons??)

And that’s just getting started. What of all of the other claimed “genders” besides male and female? What about the genderqueer, the genderfluid, the pansexual, the non-binary, the “others”, and the as-of-yet unknowns of infinite variety? Already, in common usage in some places, the following “non-binary” pronoun sets have been created: 

-          they/their/them/themself (for an individual)

-          "ey," "em," "eir," "eirs," and "eirself"

-          "zie," "zim," "zir," "zirs," and "zirself"

In theory and in principle, the list of made-up “pronoun” words could be endless. Consider this very real headline from 2016: University of Michigan student changes name to 'His Majesty' following new 'inclusive' pronoun policy  May this student, or in our case, any person applying for and working in Virginia state government insist on the right to be referred to as “His Majesty” – even when speaking of that person outside of [His Majesty’s] presence – simply because such person declares such a desire?

Some may charge me here with embellishing or claim I’m unfairly employing a “slippery slope” argument. In fact, I am only recognizing and applying the simple logic at the heart of this issue: If the only limitation on adopting an individual’s “preferred gender pronouns” (and then expecting everyone else to acquiesce in both their speech and conduct) is that each individual must merely declare them, then anyone can claim any pronouns at any time and impose their usage upon everyone.  The law, by its very essence, sets up parameters for behavior. By contrast, this policy sets up a paradigm within which there are no parameters, and is therefore the very definition of lawlessness.

We must next ask a question of even greater consequence: Can a Virginia state employee now be punished for conscientiously refusing to – or even accidentally failing to – use pronouns incongruent with their colleagues’ known biological sex? And if so, how? While it does not appear that these questions have yet been answered, we already watched a beloved West Point High School French teacher, Peter Vlaming, be fired simply for conscientiously declining to use male pronouns for a female student – even despite his efforts to avoid all conflict by not using any pronouns at all!

This termination was only possible after the School Board had passed a sexual orientation/gender identity policy. Can there be any doubt that the current and future administrations would absolutely purge anyone who would not buy into the new sexual orthodoxy to the point of speaking things they disbelieve and may even violate their conscience?

There are numerous other potentialities with this policy. For instance, will the person who identifies with different pronouns on his application but isn’t chosen for the position or even given an interview now have an easy claim of employment discrimination based upon “gender identity”? The state should expect to have to defend plenty of new lawsuits, to be sure. Moreover, which bathrooms will employees use who don’t identify as either male or female, or even any gender at all? Will new categories of bathrooms have to be installed to accommodate everyone’s use of the facilities?

Allow me to summarily diagnose what is really going on here: Whenever the truth is abandoned, even as a result of gender dysphoria, it leads to uncertainty and chaos in real people’s lives. And when, as here, that same abandonment actually becomes incorporated into the policies which implicate everyone – not just those who’ve chosen to abandon the truth – we will experience that uncertainty and chaos on a much larger and more palpable scale. These consequences are simply unavoidable. So get your popcorn, folks, and get ready to watch some very interesting and inevitable drama.  

Religious Liberty On the Line!

The federal “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) is moving through the House of Representatives at warp speed, and is scheduled to be voted on this week!

CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act.   

You can read more about the devastating impacts of the bill here on our blog, or watch this video with testimonials of people whose lives have been wrecked by similar state laws.

Last week I told you that this bill is one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have seen in my lifetime, a comment that I do not make flippantly. And the more we learn about the potential impact of this legislation, the more my concerns grow.

The bill’s threats to religious liberty, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals are well-established, but we are learning more about how this bill will actually cause greater harm to people.  According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician and executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, H.R. 5 would force physicians to prescribe toxic hormones and drugs for adults and even children that can produce severe side effects, or even to perform serious medical procedures, all to “change” a person’s physical features to conform to their self-prescribed gender identity.

The so-called Equality Act would eliminate all parental authority related to the training and well-being of their children by prohibiting parents from ever interfering with a child’s access to transgender medical procedures.  Sadly, this is no longer a hypothetical. Recently, parents in Ohio, which has a similar state law, had their parental rights terminated for failing to approve puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for their adolescent child.

We’ve learned that the so-called Equality Act would also provide that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” cannot be treated any differently than other physical conditions.  This means all restrictions to abortion would be torn down, and anybody or any group who doesn’t want to fund or commit an abortion at any stage will be subject to punishment.

The reality is that this type of radical legislation has already permeated many state legislatures, and now the House is applying a full-court press to pass the so-called Equality Act at the federal level. 

We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs, or to usurp the prerogatives – and constitutional rights – of parents to guide the education and health of their children.

CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act.  You can also reach your Congressman and Senators at (202) 224-3121.  Don’t wait, the House plans to vote on this bill this week!

The Greatest Assault to Our Liberties in My Lifetime

The so-called “Equality Act” (H.R. 5) being debated in Congress is quite possibly one of the most dangerous pieces of federal legislation that I have encountered in my lifetime.  It would wreak havoc on religious freedom, free speech, churches and faith-based hospitals, as well as undercut all the gains made on behalf of women.

Many aspects of our daily lives - public accommodations, employment, housing, counseling, and more – would be impacted.  Here are just a few samples of its likely impact if it ever becomes law: 

  • Force young girls to dress and shower in front of boys;

  • Allow men onto women’s athletic teams and to compete against women in Olympic-style sports;

  • Require religious hospitals to provide sex-change operations;

  • Compel women’s shelters to allow men into their facilities and share housing with females who have already been subjected to trauma; and

  • Prevent couples who believe in God’s design for marriage and sexuality from adopting or caring for a foster child. 

While variations of this legislation have been introduced in Congress before, this particular version would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes all throughout the federal code.  The architects of this legislation claim it would protect people from discrimination, but in reality it forces people to deny basic biological realities and to compromise their deeply held beliefs and religious convictions in order affirm a person’s sexual behavior or preferred gender status.

Don’t just take my word for it. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), insists that "we cannot allow claims of religious freedom to be used to discriminate against an LGBT individual."  This legislation is so radical that even Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D – WV) and Gregory Angelo, former leader of the “Log Cabin Republicans,” have publicly opposed it.

While upholding justice and human dignity are essential to any thriving society, and reflective of our core American beliefs, this so-called Equality Act offers no meaningful protections for individuals, but especially none for Christians.  Instead, it removes time-honored decency protections for women and girls, violates privacy, regulates speech, and threatens the ability of every American to exercise their religious liberty – even expressly declaring that The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 cannot be used as a claim or defense against it!

We cannot allow the government to push people with strong religious convictions into compromising their beliefs – like they tried to do with Peter Vlaming, a teacher at West Point High School who was recently fired for simply refusing to use male pronouns for a biological female student.  (For a brief account of what happened you can read our blog about it here.)

CLICK HERE to contact your Members of Congress today, and urge them to OPPOSE H.R. 5, the Equality Act.  You can also reach your Congressman and Senators at (202) 224-3121.  Don't delay, the House Democrats are pushing to hold a vote on this bill soon!

HUGE Response In Defense of Faith-Based Counselors!

We recently alerted our supporters that faith-based counselors are under attack in Virginia. I asked for your help to push back against this targeted ideological bigotry by submitting a comment on the Town Hall website addressing the Board of Counseling’s proposed Guidance Document that seeks to punish licensed counselors simply for affirming biological realities and instilling a healthy sexual outlook in children. 

Nearly 600 commenters weighed in, including many Family Foundation supporters. And we were thrilled to see that, as of the close of the comment period last Wednesday, we estimate that around 75% of the comments condemned the Board’s efforts to silence counselors and deny children access to the critical counseling services they need in order to work through unwanted struggles and confusion in their sexuality. 

Thank you to all of you who took the time to weigh in and stand up for counselors and children in Virginia. In doing so, you helped advance the cause of free speech, religious liberty, parental rights, patient autonomy, and truth itself. 

Now the Board will have to provide some form of written response to all of the comments. Whatever the Board of Counseling ultimately decides to do, they will at least have to contend with and answer to hundreds of compelling comments as to why they should not – and by law, cannot – implement this policy. 

We’ll keep you posted on what happens next. Thank you for your valuable help on this!

Faith-Based Counselors Under Attack

Faith-Based Counselors Under Attack

A few weeks ago, I told you about an attempt by a state agency to target and punish faith-based counselors who would simply help a minor work through struggles with unwanted sexual attractions or gender dysphoria. Now, there are several state licensing boards with clear ideological motives that are aiming to do the very same thing. This time, it’s the Board of Counseling, and they need to hear from you!

Action Alert: Proposed Regulations to Punish and Silence Faith-Based Counselors

Since the radical Left has tried and failed year after year in the legislature to silence counselors from sharing with clients the self-evident realities of human identity and sexuality, the current administration is now eyeing an alternative path to accomplish this censorship: administrative regulations. The state Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work have now begun the process of adopting Guidance Documents and full-scale regulations to stifle licensed professionals’ free speech rights, with the direct consequence of denying patients their basic right to direct the objectives of the counseling they seek. 

ACTIONClick HERE to enter a comment on the townhall.gov website, and tell the VA Board of Counseling not to punish licensed counselors for helping patients overcome their unwanted sexual feelings by affirming biological realities concerning male and female. (Click on “Enter a comment”) 

To learn more about the context of the issue, read our blogs about it here and here

The public comment period to weigh in on this ideologically-driven movement officially begins today and will end on 4/17/19. The Board of Counseling members need to hear from the public about why this action would be wrong, dangerous, and unconstitutional

The health regulatory boards have labeled the practice of helping someone overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria as “conversion therapy,” when in reality it should more rightly be characterized as “Biological Affirmation Counseling.” Notice how extreme the Board’s definition of “conversion therapy” is in its draft Guidance Document and how much of an obvious double standard it sets up: 

“For the purposes of this guidance ‘conversion therapy’ … is defined as any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of any gender.” 

BUT THEN, the Board continues… 

“’Conversion therapy’ does not include counseling that provides assistance to a person undergoing gender transition or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of a person or facilitates a person's coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual-orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as such counseling does not seek to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity in any direction.” 

In other words, counselors are ALLOWED to help a minor client to explore and facilitate same-sex feelings, attractions and behaviors, or even to “change” their sex altogether, but they are strictly PROHIBITED from helping a minor client struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions from developing a natural and Biblical sexual ethic, or aiding a child dealing with gender dysphoria in learning to embrace his or her biological status as either male or female. So, children can change in one direction, but not the other. 

The Board’s “guidance” to counselors is clear and simple: If you hold to the natural, biological, historical and/or Biblical understanding of human sexuality, be prepared to lose your professional license. 

We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Please CLICK HERE to leave your comment to the Board of Counseling!

More Threats to Religious Freedom Than Ever [General Assembly Update Part 3]

More Threats to Religious Freedom Than Ever [General Assembly Update Part 3]

This year we faced a record-setting 32 bills aimed at advancing the “LGBTQ” agenda, which not only has a corrosive effect on the family and society, but always inevitably leads to conflicts with religious liberty and conscience rights. These bills included attempts to add special rights for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) to virtually every area of the law. (e.g. in housing, employment, businesses, public accommodations, health insurance benefit requirements, apprenticeships, hate crimes, assisted conception/surrogacy, etc.)

This Is Bad News for Faith-Based Counselors

On Monday, we were elated to watch the Senate pass SB 1778 patroned by Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) – a critically important bill to protect the free speech and religious exercise rights of counselors – only to see Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) on Tuesday make a motion to bring the bill back up on the Senate floor and kill it. 

And just like that, a historic win for religious liberty became a devastating loss. 

The bill would have added clear protections for the free speech and religious liberty of licensed counselors (many of whom are pastors) in helping minors work through and overcome unwanted feelings or confusion about their sexuality – or, what some have labeled “conversion therapy.” The need for this legislation became urgent in light of recent announcements from five state regulatory boards of their intent to promulgate regulations to prohibit all such counseling efforts. (despite the fact that they have received ZERO complaints over such counseling EVER) 

The major problem the bill sought to address is that, under the announced regulations, counselors will be prohibited from even engaging in talk therapy to assist a young person in overcoming same-sex attractions or gender identity disorders and to instead embrace God’s natural design for human sexuality. This effort is part of an insidious national movement to convince young people that: “There is nothing wrong with you. You cannot overcome your struggles and temptations. You must be defined by them. There is no hope for change, and seeking help to do so would only harm you.” For Christians, we understand this for what it is: A direct attack on the Gospel itself. 

“This hits at the core of our values,” said Senator Steve Newman. “Are we fine with Christians, Jews, and Muslims being forced by this state into being an advocate for the LGBT movement or lose their professional license?” 

Throughout the entire process, Senator Newman was a true champion for the fundamental rights of all licensed professionals, and especially faith-based counselors who hold to the historic, natural, and Biblical view of the nature of male and female. (Watch Senator Newman’s phenomenal testimony in the subcommittee hearing.) Now our culture, plagued by the fallout of the Sexual Revolution, appears to be experiencing a contagion of young people declaring themselves to be homosexual or “transgendered.” These counselors who are willing to help kids align their often-volatile feelings with biological and moral realities are needed more than ever. Unfortunately, this bill's effort to ensure those opportunities for counselors and kids was thwarted at the last moment, but we will continue to fight and keep you updated as this battle develops.  

Please Click HERE to thank Senator Newman and those who voted for this important legislation.

Please also consider reaching out to Senator Jill Vogel to express your disappointment of her defeating the bill, after initially voting for it, and urge her to fight for the rights of counselors and kids who need professional guidance to address serious struggles. Her email address is district27@senate.virginia.gov, and her Capitol office phone number is (804) 698-7527.

Statute on Religious Liberty

Statute on Religious Liberty

The statute, which remains in effect today (theoretically, at least), says that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

It’s probably no news to you that modern progressive liberals reject the concept expressed so beautifully by Jefferson.In fact, just today, progressives showed their disdain for not just the spirit of religious liberty, but the law itself.

Good and Bad News on Today's "SOGI" Bills

Today, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-6 on a party-line vote to defeat SB 1375 (D-Favola), a bill that would have added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to a group of crimes that are given harsher sentences as being a "hate crime." While it is never okay to commit a crime against someone, it's also true that the government should never attempt to criminalize certain thoughts. If the government can criminalize some thoughts, then it ultimately has the power to criminalize any thoughts, as well the expression of those thoughts through speech. This bill's defeat was a good victory.  

Unfortunately, however, the Senate General Laws Committee voted to pass two bills which directly endanger our liberty and elevate the fluid concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) as a protected class within our state law. 

The Committee, by its widest margin ever, voted 13 to 1 (7 Republicans plus 6 Democrats) in favor of SB 1109 (D-McLellan), which adds SOGI to state housing laws and would especially harm religious universities that house students and faith-based charities and churches who provide housing through camps, homeless shelters, and other ministries where men and women are separated for privacy and safety reasons. Only Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) opposed the bill, despite us alerting the committee to its harms, and how there are no known examples of discrimination on these bases in Virginia. You should be able to view the entire committee hearing HERE.

The Committee also voted 11 to 3 in favor of SB 998 (D-Ebbin), which adds SOGI to the list of protected classes within public employment. Only Republican Senators Frank Ruff (R-Prince George), Dick Black (R-Loudoun), and Bryce Reeves (R-Culpeper) opposed the bill. 

We informed the committee that in the eight years the Department of Human Resource Management has been collecting SOGI complaints, there has not been even one founded complaint of discrimination, clearly demonstrating that the law is unnecessary. We also told the story of Peter Vlaming, a veteran high school French teacher in West Point, Virginia, who just last month was terminated merely for being unwilling to refer to a female student by male pronouns, after the School Board amended its nondiscrimination policies to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." We told the members that if they pass this bill, we believe more situations like this will occur. 

While the outcome of these two SOGI bills is incredibly disappointing, it only shows that we must keep the pressure on as more and more legislators are buying the lies of the LGBT agenda. We expect these two bills to pass the full Senate soon, but we are working hard to stop them in the House. 

Thank you to all of you who contacted your legislators about these bills! We will fill you in as things progress. 

Take Action Now: Religious Liberty at Stake with "SOGI" Bills This Monday

Tomorrow (Monday), the Senate General Laws Committee will vote on three bills that directly endanger our liberty by elevating "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" (SOGI) as a special protected class within our state law. SB 998 (D-Ebbin) adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes within state hiring practices.  SB 1109 (D-McLellan) and SB 1232 (D-Ebbin) add these same categories to our housing laws and would especially impact religious universities and charities who provide housing.

Please CLICK HERE to urge your Senator to vote NO on SB 998, SB 1109, and SB 1232 in committee on Monday!

When it comes to laws adding the concepts of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," we have seen full well by now that these laws have the direct effect of weaponizing governments with the ability to punish those with a viewpoint that runs contrary to its own when it comes to marriage and human sexuality.  

Just two months ago, in West Point, Virginia, veteran high school French teacher Peter Vlaming was terminated for being unwilling to refer to a female student by male pronouns, after the School Board recently amended its nondiscrimination policies to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." Mr. Vlaming had a perfect record and has a wife and four young children, yet because there was no room for both his deeply held religious convictions about the nature of male and female and the full embrace of the new "SOGI" dogma, Mr. Vlaming had to go. Mr. Vlaming isn't the first example of people of faith losing their jobs and livelihoods over state and local "SOGI" policies, and there will be many more if these laws are passed. 

When it comes to housing, faith-based colleges who have segregated living facilities for men and women or special married housing designations will be directly impacted if the housing bills pass. Churches who rent out spaces such as camps, and those who run homeless shelters, would likely no longer be able to separate men and women in their facilities.   

Proponents, meanwhile, have offered no proof that any discrimination is even taking place. In state government, according to the Virginia Department of Resource Management, there have been ZERO cases of proven discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity since 2010, when this data began to be collected.  A study of complaints to local governments that have similar provisions found no proven cases of discrimination in the same time frame. 

Urge your Senator to support religious liberty and biological reality by opposing these harmful bills!

"ERA" will strip churches of tax-exempt status

As if abortion on demand, co-ed prisons and lower standards for military personnel were not reasons enough to oppose the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), here is another – the loss of tax exemptions for churches

That’s right, if Virginia passes the ERA during the 2019 General Assembly Session and it is added to the U.S. Constitution, hundreds of churches in Virginia will almost certainly be faced with a dilemma: Change your doctrines, policies, and practices regarding male-only clergy, or risk losing your tax-exempt status. 

Click HERE to tell your state Delegate and Senator to support religious liberty by opposing the ERA! 

Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court has established different degrees of scrutiny for characteristics upon which the government may “discriminate.” Certain traits, like race, have rightly received the very highest “strict scrutiny” by courts because rarely, if ever, could a person’s race be a legitimate factor in how the government treats them. Distinctions by governments involving a person’s sex, however, have always been viewed with less scrutiny than traits like race because, as we all know, there are several important differences between males and females, some of which necessitate distinctions in the law. So things like sex-segregated prisons, sports teams, and public bathroom/changing/showering facilities, variations in physical fitness requirements for firefighters and soldiers, and maternal leave policies – these are not considered unfair discrimination because they are important to actually ensuring fairness, as well as privacy, safety, and dignity. 

The ERA would force courts to consider all distinctions based on sex with the highest standard of “strict scrutiny” – the same standard as race and other traits. Why is this important? Because in 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the IRS could revoke religiously-based Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status over its policy against interracial dating because it held that the government’s interest in eradicating racial discrimination from education overrode the university’s First Amendment rights to religious free speech. 

In other words, if the Constitution treats sex like it treats skin color, churches that only allow men to serve as pastors will be in trouble. Just like the government can take away tax-exempt status if a church had a policy discriminating against people on the basis of race, so too could the government take away tax-exempt status if a church holds a conservative doctrinal position on male clergy. Religious liberty will not protect faithful churches from this consequence if the ERA passes. And as the great Virginian and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, famously said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” 

Of course, we know that God has created all human beings equal and in His image, and that the only truly important distinction among them is that He created them either male or female. (Matthew 19:4-5 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”) And we also know that this critical distinction does not make them less equal to one another. Equality is not sameness. God created men and women to be complementary to one another, not in competition. But if suddenly our laws enforce a rigid standard of sameness, it will only induce a relentless rivalry.

We cannot allow the government to erase all meaningful distinctions between men and women, and in the process, strip countless churches of their tax exemptions!

Without their tax exemption, many churches across the country will find it even more difficult, if not impossible, to afford to pay their staff, fund important outreach programs in their community, and provide a place of worship for their congregation. 

Please call, write, email, or visit your legislators today and tell them to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, which will jeopardize the tax-exempt status of so many churches. 

Click HERE to email your legislators to let them know that you oppose the ERA! 

If you would like a representative from The Family Foundation to come to your church, community group, or other organization to provide education on the ERA or other policy issues, please contact our Director of Grassroots, Sean Maguire, at sean@familyfoundation.org.

Virginia is Leading the Way in Protecting Faith-based Organizations

I was proud of the Commonwealth of Virginia last week.  Unfortunately, we don’t get to say that a lot these days.

During a panel discussion on religious liberty protections for faith-based foster care and adoption placement agencies in Washington D.C., a representative from Kansas said they used Virginia’s religious conscience statute as a model for their own legislation to provide religious protections for organization’s and allow them to continue placing foster and adoptive children with a mom and a dad who share their beliefs about marriage.  The Family Foundation played a central role in helping lawmakers pass Virginia’s religious conscience legislation in 2012.

Virginia’s conscience clause for foster care and adoption placement agencies allows private agencies to deny or approve placements based on religious or moral reasoning, and it prevents the state from rejecting the private placement agency’s license because of its religious or moral positions (see § 63.2-1709.3 of the Code of Virginia).  Without these protections, organizations with deeply held religious convictions would be excluded from Virginia’s foster care system.

More importantly, without these protections 5,370 children in Virginia’s foster care system, including over 700 children ready for adoption, could be without a home because exclusion of these faith-based agencies dilutes the pool of available foster parents who can provide a loving home. 

Many states do not have religious liberty protections for these types of organizations, and as a result they are faced with a dilemma - either ignore their religious convictions and continue operating, or stop contracting with the government to provide foster care and adoption placement services and close their doors for good.  

This is exactly what occurred in the City of Philadelphia, formerly a beacon of independence and religious liberty, which terminated the contracts of two prominent faith-based agencies on the grounds that their traditional Christian values violated the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination by contractors on the basis of “sexual orientation.”  The decision to terminate the contracts was in response to a complaint filed by a same-sex couple that was denied a placement by one of the agencies because their lifestyle was deemed to be contrary to the organization’s deeply held religious beliefs on marriage, which ensures children will have the benefit of a married mom and a dad.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Pennsylvania upheld Philadelphia’s decision, ruling that “DHS and Philadelphia have a legitimate interest in ensuring that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents and resources.”  In other words, the court favored the diversity of the foster parents more than respecting the constitutionally protected religious beliefs of qualified foster care and adoption organizations, even though its decision would actually guarantee fewer foster parents, fewer resources, and a less diverse pool of caregivers. 

So much for the free exercise of religion…and common sense.

Thankfully, cases like this have been prevented in Virginia because of its strong religious conscience protections for faith-based foster care and adoption placement agencies.  However, this will not likely stop the ACLU and other left-wing groups, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, from collectively seeking to remove any barriers they deem to be a threat to their efforts to redefine the family unit.  Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director for ACLU of Virginia, makes this clear when she wrote that all foster children deserve forever homes regardless if it is with a “single parent, two moms or two dads, or another kind of family unit.”  Ergo, a family with one mom and one dad is now viewed as just “another kind of family unit.”

For the time being, let’s take delight in knowing that there is religious liberty in Virginia, but let’s also remain vigilant in our defense of it.