Religious Freedom

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.

BREAKING: Teacher Refused to Lie About Gender - Fired from West Point High School Tonight

BREAKING: Teacher Refused to Lie About Gender - Fired from West Point High School Tonight

In all of this, we can clearly see that the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to nondiscrimination policies is not an innocuous move that will merely protect vulnerable students. These policies are being used to punish anyone who does not agree with the ideology of the day and to coerce good people to speak a message they fundamentally disagree with at the threat of their livelihood.

While Mr. Vlaming lost his job tonight, this fight is far from over. He may have many long years of appeals in this case. At the same time he, his wife, and their four children between the ages of 1 and 10 have just lost their sole source of income.

Please pray for the Vlaming family.

Virginia Teacher Suspended for not Using Male Pronouns for Female Student

Have you heard about the West Point High School teacher who has been placed on administrative leave because he refuses to sign a paper promising to refer to a female by the student's preferred male pronouns?

Mr. Peter Vlaming is the French teacher at the High School, where he has taught for seven years. He inadvertently referred to the student as “her” on two occasions. The student prefers to be called by male pronouns.

In response, the School Administration put Mr. Vlaming on administrative leave and has told him he must never refer to the student as a female. The Administration told him to sign a paper stating that he would never refer to the student as a female – a directive that would violate his religious convictions. Mr. Vlaming said he is more than willing to use the student’s newly adopted name and to avoid pronouns that would be offensive to the student, but says that he cannot in good conscience use male pronouns in addressing the student. For that, he is now facing a public hearing where he may be fired!

If you are able to, please attend the public hearing to support Mr. Vlaming tomorrow. Your peaceful presence will be a comfort to him as he faces this attack for simply following his conscience.

Thursday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m.
West Point High School chorus room
2700 Mattaponi Ave, West Point, VA 23181

Please sign this petition in support of Mr. Vlaming, and in support of the right of all teachers to obey their conscience. No School Administration should be able to compel teachers to violate their religious convictions.

Sign the petition today to support Mr. Vlaming!

State Bureaucrats: 'You Can't Change'

“Quackery,” “fraudulent,” “dangerous,” “harmful,” “ineffective,” “no legitimate purpose,” “abuse in every way, shape, and form,” "torture."

These are some of the words used today by members of the Conversion Therapy Work Group and of the public to describe the process of licensed professionals helping children to cope with and even overcome their unwanted same-sex desires or the confusion they’re experiencing about their true gender as either male or female.

With such explosive feelings against this method of treatment – which they have termed “Conversion Therapy” – you might think they could point to some pretty shocking evidence.

As it turns out, one by one the representatives of the various medical boards openly admitted that they were not aware of ANY complaints having been received by their respective agencies about this practice. Meanwhile, they simply refuse to acknowledge the real-life examples of those who have found help and healing through these therapeutic methods – pretending, it seems, as though these people don’t exist.

Our team was there to address the work group’s proposal from a policy, a constitutional, and even a personal perspective. We also rallied counselors, pastors, and concerned citizens to show up to express their opposition.   

In listening to all of the workgroup's discussion today, there were two key themes that ran throughout their remarks:

1) A licensed professional must choose between their profession or their faith, but they cannot possibly practice both at the same time. (A view that is totally misinformed and patently unconstitutional) And,

2) Parents cannot be trusted with acting in the best interest of their children. (Delegate Patrick Hope, who has patroned the “conversion therapy ban” bill in the House for several years, actually stated: “The reason I brought this bill is because I do think the government’s role is to take care of kids.”)

And then there was the unspoken but obvious implication by nearly all the members, that any religiously-motivated convictions that lead parents to seek counseling for their struggling child in this way are simply wrong, dangerous, and illegitimate.

Think about what they’re really saying through this policy to children with very real sexual struggles: You cannot change. You are what you feel, and you are destined to remain that way, unless of course you wish to modify your body or your behavior in an unhealthy and unnatural way. There is no help or hope for you, even if you desire it.        

Now consider how that message flies in the face of what the Christian faith teaches:

I Corinthians 6: 9-11 – 9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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.

By this policy, these bureaucrats directly attack the very ESSENSE of the Gospel message – the basis of the Christian faith, which declares that through the power of God, every person can actually be transformed through the renewing of their heart, mind, and soul.

Clearly, this battle is about so much more than what appears on the surface. 

Today’s meeting did not take any actions, but they will recommend that several regulatory boards in Virginia do take action to ban “conversion therapy.” We anticipate that many boards will propose regulations that are a direct threat to religious liberty and parental authority. As we continue to meet this threat head on, we will keep you up to speed as things unfold. Thank you to everyone who spoke up at today’s meeting with passion and clarity. We will let you know when the next opportunity to speak comes up.

Huge Win For Christian Counselors!

Sometimes, victory is sweeter than we even realize. The recent major victory in the NIFLA v. Becerra case (read our blog about it here) wasn’t just great for the free speech and conscience rights of pro-life pregnancy support centers. As incredible as that was, the impact of the Court’s decision goes much further. The opinion includes strong language affirming the speech rights of all kinds of “professionals” – including counselors who are coming under increasing attacks. It’s an exciting development that we did not expect to come out of this case, and we intend to capitalize on it!

Of particular significance, the Opinion leaves little doubt that the so-called “conversion therapy” bans we see popping up in states everywhere would be declared unconstitutional if challenged. These laws prohibit licensed counselors – many of whom are also ordained ministers – from counseling a child experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion to embrace his or her true biological gender, or to overcome or navigate through their unwanted same-sex attractions consistent with Biblical precepts about human sexuality.  To understand just how outrageous these initiatives are, I encourage you to read for yourself a Virginia bill that was introduced this year. We worked hard to help defeat that bill by just one vote. 

Here are just a few of the strong statements the Court made about “professional speech” in its majority opinion:

  • “As with other kinds of speech, regulating the content of professionals’ speech ‘pose[s] the inherent risk that the Government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information.’”

  • “Throughout history, governments have ‘manipulat[ed] the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities: [citing as an example] In Nazi Germany, the Third Reich systematically violated the separation between state ideology and medical discourse.”

  • “Further, when the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to ‘preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.’ Professionals might have a host of good-faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields. Doctors and nurses might disagree about the ethics of assisted suicide or the benefits of medical marijuana; lawyers and marriage counselors might disagree about the prudence of prenuptial agreements or the wisdom of divorce;”

  • “‘[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,’ and the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”

  • “All that is required to make something a ‘profession,’ according to these courts, is that it involves personalized services and requires a professional license from the State. But that gives the States unfettered power to reduce a group’s First Amendment rights by simply imposing a licensing requirement. States cannot choose the protection that speech receives under the First Amendment, as that would give them a powerful tool to impose ‘invidious discrimination of disfavored subjects.’”

Others have picked up on this connection to conversion therapy bans, too. Read further commentary from the Ruth Institute and The Christian Post.

As more professions are increasingly being caught in the crossfire (or crosshairs) of the Gender Revolution on account of their faith-based convictions, and as too many men, women, and children are being sacrificed as pawns in its relentless ideological quest, this Opinion could not have come at a better time.

The Left's War On Conscience

During a congressional hearing last Wednesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, testified in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. During the hearing, Bobby Scott (D-VA 3rd District) pursued an aggressive line of questioning, which highlighted a tragic religious liberty attack that has become increasingly common in recent years.

Scott repeatedly pressed Secretary Azar in regards to Christian adoption agencies and their placement policies. Essentially, the issue involves the question of whether Christian adoption agencies should be coerced into violating their consciences by being forced to place children with same-sex couples. The hearing revealed Scott’s alignment with the increasingly mainstream Left on this issue, who are actively striving to force Christian adoption agencies to compromise their religious beliefs by allowing the placement of children to same-sex couples.

Sadly, many Christian adoption agencies have been given the choice between violating their most deeply held religious convictions and shutting down. As a result, several faith-based adoption agencies have already closed their doors, including the Catholic Charities in Boston, San Francisco, and Illinois. Among the frequent attempts by the Left to strip religious liberty away from Christians, this is one of the most damaging examples. Not only is the Left harming the Christians who are losing their religious freedom, but also the thousands of children who receive life-changing aid from these organizations. As Secretary Azar accurately pointed out in the hearing, faith-based adoption agencies “have a long history of providing social services to poor and underprivileged children as well as families, and if we take steps to exclude faith-based groups from our programs, it will harm them and harm efforts to support our programs.”

Indicative of the Left’s movement as a whole, they have chosen to place their radical ideology ahead of the well-being of these children. Unfortunately, the stories of Christian adoption agencies closing down is only a small piece of a much larger picture: the Left’s relentless attack on the religious liberty of faithful Christians. The battle against Christian adoption agencies is not about an attempt to ensure that same-sex couples can adopt children, for there are already numerous adoption agencies that are willing and happy to place children with same-sex couples. Instead, it is simply about the Left’s continued attempt to ram their radical ideology down the throats of faithful Christians.

As we witness time and time again, in the great irony of our age, a war of intolerance is being waged against Christians under the banner of “tolerance.” In this unique moment of history, Christians have to decide whether to obey the truths of their faith and the judgements of their conscience or bow down to the altar of tolerance.

By James Rossi

James is a 2018 Summer Policy Intern at The Family Foundation and a student at Christendom College.