The Family Foundation

Restitution For Eugenics Victims Tops TFF's Legislative Agenda

The Family Foundation of Virginia today released the highlights of its 2014 legislative agenda, highlighted by joining a bipartisan effort by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Patrick Hope (D-47, Arlington County) to provide restitution to victims of Virginia's eugenics policy. Other priority legislation The Family Foundation supports includes bills protecting religious liberty, allowing homeschool student sports participation ("Tebow bill") at public schools, budget amendments to ban state funding of Planned Parenthood and to align Virginia with the federal Hyde Amendment, and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act. It will oppose Obamacare expansion of Medicaid, adding sexual orientation to Virginia's non-discrimination laws, the expansion of gambling, tax increases, attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, and the removal of religious exemptions for home schooling. Here is The Family Foundation's official statement on its legislative agenda:

"The 2014 General Assembly will be very focused on jobs, the economy, the budget, mental health reform and rightly so, but our elected officials are capable of handling both economic and social issues," said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation. "The General Assembly spends the overwhelming majority of its time on non-social issues but those don’t merit quite the attention. Our goal is to be the voice of Virginians who care about values issues and recognize that we cannot have a strong, stable economy until we renew our moral standards."

A top priority of The Family Foundation is legislation ensuring religious liberty and free speech protections for public school students at graduations and other public ceremonies. Recent incidents of speech censorship at public school graduations around the country offer evidence that religious speech is being targeted. Legislation has been introduced that is modeled after existing state law in Texas and Mississippi, neither of which have been challenged in the courts. The legislation tracks U.S. Supreme Court decision language. 

"Public school students should not be targeted for discrimination simply because their speech reflects or includes their religious beliefs,” said Cobb. "The Constitution is clear and should be applied to students when they are speaking at public school events. It is a disgrace that American students are censored by government officials from simply mentioning their faith at a graduation ceremony, and that shouldn't happen in the birthplace of religious freedom."

Another priority will be restitution for victims of eugenics. First introduced last year, this legislation would provide a small financial payment to those whom the state physically denied the ability to have children. Eugenics was practiced in Virginia for nearly two decades, resulting in an estimated 8,500 victims.

"Virginia has apologized for eugenics, but that’s little comfort to those few surviving victims who had their ability to have children taken away from them by an atrocious government act. The idea that the government can deem some worthy of life and others not should be revolting to every American. And while this small amount of money cannot begin to undo the wrong, it is one way to hold a government accountable for its actions and, hopefully, to prevent anything like this from happening again."

The Family Foundation also will again support legislation that allows homeschool students to try out for sports at the public school they would otherwise attend. Commonly referred to as the "Tebow Bill," this simple policy of fairness to families who pay taxes in support of local public schools would affect a very small number of Virginia home school athletes. Numerous other states have adopted similar policies with no negative affect on athletic programs or public schooling.

The pro-family organization will also oppose the expansion of so-called Obamacare through Medicaid. Despite promises by the federal government to pay ninety percent of the costs in future years, it is clear by the unfulfilled assurances that people would be able to keep their own insurance and doctors and that there is serious risk to future state budgets by expanding.

"There is no question that we need to figure out new and compassionate ways to deliver health care to the truly needy in Virginia," said Cobb. "But every day Virginians are seeing the abject failure of Obamacare to fix the problems that we face. We need a new national dialogue on a real fix for our health care system that provides actual care and assistance and doesn't bankrupt our economy."

"Neither political party in Virginia has a mandate on anything, which leaves all ideas up for debate, discussion and compromise," said Cobb. "Values-driven Virginians expect their elected officials to represent them and their principles, and we’ll be there to make sure they do.”

 

An Insult To Intelligent Women

On Saturday, the candidates for attorney general participated in the first debate of what promises to be a long campaign season. However, instead of focusing on kitchen table issues, the debate unfortunately turned to accusations on an issue very personal to me and thousands of women. According to news reports, Democrat candidate Senator Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg) accused Republican candidate Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) of wanting to force women in Virginia to report miscarriages to police. It's a diatribe that abortion apologists in Virginia continue to repeat, and it's one that makes me sick to my stomach. There's simply no other way to describe it than an insult to intelligent, thinking women. And as someone who understands the emotional and physical pain of a miscarriage, it is extraordinarily disgusting that Senator Herring would politicize and exploit an issue of such heart-wrenching pain. It shows to what lengths the abortion industry and its representatives will go to carry the banner of their billion dollar industry.

The truth of the story is that several years ago, after an incident in the Harrisonburg area where a newborn, full-term baby was tossed in the trash, Senator Obenshain was asked by his local commonwealth's attorney, Marsha Garst, to find a way to rightfully make such an action illegal. No one but the mother of the baby knows for sure if the baby was born alive or not so Garst could not prove foul play because the body of the baby was never recovered (see NBC29.com). At no point did Senator Obenshain or anyone ever seek to penalize women who go through the painful trauma of a miscarriage. In fact, the bill was an effort to protect newborn children. At the time, Senator Obenshain, recognizing that the bill as drafted was flawed, sought to work with abortion industry representatives, as well as The Family Foundation, to find a solution, but none could be found, so prior to any committee action, he struck his own bill (such a process is very common and rarely political).

That the abortion industry and its apologists like Mark Herring would even make such ludicrous accusations about the bill and its intent is despicable.

At the debate Saturday, Senator Obenshain stayed true to his character and took the high road, focusing on his economic vision for Virginia. But what we saw happen Saturday is simply a preview of just how disgraceful this year's election likely will become. Make no mistake — the radical abortion industry is driving the Democrat agenda and message in this year's election.

 

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

 

 

Delegate Todd Gilbert Named TFF’s Legislator Of The Year

On Friday, we presented Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) with The Family Foundation's 2013 Legislator of the Year Award. The presentation was made at the Valley Family Forum's annual dinner in Harrisonburg. This year, Delegate Gilbert was the House patron for one of our most consequential legislative priorities, legislation that protects the freedom of association and freedom of religion rights of student groups on public college campuses. This followed his leadership last year on legislation that protects the rights of faith-based child placement agencies to operate according to their religious beliefs. Both bills protecting our liberty have become models for the rest of the nation. About receiving the award, Delegate Gilbert said:

I was surprised and honored to be named The Family Foundation's Legislator of the Year. The Family Foundation and I have teamed up in the last few years to do some amazing work protecting religious liberty and traditional moral values, and together we have accomplished some great things for Virginia.

Delegate Gilbert's solid pro-life, pro-family voting record is complemented only by his leadership in his caucus, in committee, and on the floor of the House, where he is more than willing to stand — no doubt much to the chagrin of some around him — to defend life, marriage and religious liberty, and to take on those legislators who seek to undermine our values and principles.

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Delegate Todd Gilbert (L) receives The Family Foundation Legislator of the Year Award and congratulations from TFF Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund.

Delegate Gilbert's leadership has made him the target of the secular left, and in particular Equality Virginia. The state's largest homosexual organization has targeted Delegate Gilbert because of his strong stance on religious liberty and his opposition to adding protection for sexual behavior to the state's non-discrimination law. In an environment of hostility, where the very phrase "social issues" or "values issues" causes some of our elected officials to reflexively run for cover, the media hysteria over anything pro-life or pro-family, and the secular left's endless rhetorical assault on conservative legislators — plus a clear cultural shift away from Godly principles and a too often silent church — few legislators are willing to lead like Delegate Gilbert.

It is always an honor to present an award to legislators of conviction who put principle before politics to advance our shared values. Congratulations to Delegate Gilbert for winning this year's Legislator of the Year award. We look forward to continuing to work with him on protecting and advancing our values.

Support Governor McDonnell's Pro-Life Amendment!

Last week Governor Bob McDonnell handed down a pro-life amendment that The Family Foundation had been strongly urging. This amendment prohibits health insurance plans that are part of federal health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare from covering abortion services except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. The amendment is to HB 1900 and SB 921, bills regarding state oversight of health exchanges. Without the governor's amendment, pro-life citizens opposed to abortion will be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. The amendment simply continues what has been state law for the proposed exchanges since 2011 when the General Assembly adopted a similar amendment. Because the state has chosen not to create a state exchange but instead force the federal government to do so, the amendment is necessary. Twenty states have already taken this step and more are considering it. Despite the rhetoric of the abortion industry, private insurers can continue to offer elective abortion plans outside the exchanges if they wish.

Now the General Assembly must accept Governor McDonnell's amendment at tomorrow's Reconvened Session (i.e, the "Veto Session") where it considers amendments and vetoes by the governor. While we are confident that the House of Delegates will adopt the amendment, the 20-20 Senate is questionable.

So that is really where the battle lies. Over the last several days we have mobilized citizens across Virginia to contact their legislators — especially key senators — to make sure they know the citizens of Virginia want this amendment passed.

Please contact your delegate and senator and urge them to support Governor McDonnell's amendment to HB 1900 and SB 921. If you are not sure who they are, click here to find out. Then, or if you already know who they are, click here to look up your delegate's contact information and here to look up your senator's contact information.

Then contact the following key senators and urge them to vote YES on this important amendment as well:

Senator Harry Blevins: 757-546-2435 district14@senate.virginia.gov

Senator John Watkins: 804-379-2063 district10@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Charles Colgan: 703-368-0300 district29@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Phil Puckett: 276-979-8181 district38@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Frank Wagner: 757-671-2250 district07@senate.virginia.gov

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The Senate of Virginia yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 21-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The bill already passed the House, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia (and even more so around the country) have begun enacting the so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding from it or using campus facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bill allows student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding" (never mind that many such clubs are funded by activity fees charged to the students in addition to their tuition). Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. The win is so significant that even the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (a bipartisan group of Congressmen) took notice.

The companion Senate legislation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), should be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow.

Key Votes In House Education Committee On Monday!

Two of The Family Foundation's highest priorities this year will be voted on in the House Education Committee Monday morning. The first, HB 1442, is legislation that would assist home school students in participating in public school sports, often called the "Tebow Bill," and the second, HB 1617, is a bill that protects the rights of college student groups to organize according to their beliefs.

If your delegate is on the House Education Committee, please contact him or her as soon as possible and urge him or her to vote in favor of HB 1617 (student groups) and HB 1442 ("Tebow Bill")!

The home school sports bill, once again this year patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), would break down barriers that prevent home school students from playing public high school sports by prohibiting localities from joining the Virginia High School League, a pseudo-state/private entity that regulates public school sports. Under the provisions of the measure, localities would not be able to contract with VHSL if they don't allow home school students to participate. Half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provide opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports.

The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are home schooled. This discriminatory practice must end.

A VCU poll released just yesterday for the Commonwealth Education Policy Institute, an education think tank headed by former State Public Education Superintendent Dr. Bill Bosher, indicates that nearly two-thirds of Virginians support fairness for homeschoolers. It receives more than 60 percent support from people in all demographics, incomes, political parties and independents, education levels and regions of Virginia except Hampton Roads, where it is favored by 54 percent. Talk about bipartisanship! 

HB 1617 is a new proposal. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, some universities around the country have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which essentially eliminates these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Consequently, a student group that is recognized by the university and receives funding from student activity fees or use of facilities couldn't have any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Free association is a foundational constitutional principle, but as we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld "all-comers" policies as constitutional, though it didn't require universities to have them. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia's universities will continue.

The only opposition to this bill that we are aware of is the ACLU, which argued against the bill earlier this week in sub-committee. In essence, they view free association as inherently discriminatory. Despite that, the bill passed subcommittee unanimously. We have worked with representatives of various Virginia colleges and universities to ensure that they are not opposed to the bill.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Conservative Caucus Announces 2013 Legislative Agenda

We are the only news or commentary web site to post the Virginia Conservative Caucus' entire 2013 General Assembly Agenda news conference, held earlier today. The group of several dozen conservative legislators, chaired by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), announced its legislative agenda and highlight several bills. Members also offered several compliments to The Family Foundation and allied conservative groups who work with them to accomplish their legislative goals. This post will be updated later. See our Facebook coverage of the event here.

 Conservative Caucus members gave The Family Foundation and allied organizations a lot of love at today's Capitol Square news conference.

Too Many Aborted

Before the Christmas rush, please plan now to be in Richmond for the Virginia Stands for Life Gathering on Wednesday, January 9, the opening day of the 2013 General Assembly session. The Family Foundation is joining with more than a dozen state and national pro-life groups to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The secular left's most vulgar and hysterical attacks on pro-life advocates started here in Virginia during the 2012 General Assembly session and we want our legislators, the media and our opposition to know that Virginia truly is pro-life. We are especially excited to announce that Ryan Bomberger will be one of our special speakers. Ryan’s mother was raped and she went through with the pregnancy. After his birth, he was adopted into a multi-racial family of 15. He is making a huge impact on the culture with his TooManyAborted.com billboard/web campaign. You will not want to miss hearing Ryan's powerful testimony and the action steps he will spur you to take to stand for life.

 

 It's a fact: Too many babies are aborted each year and the General Assembly needs to know a majority of Virginians agree. Click here or the image above to see a short video and register for the Virginia Stands for Life Gathering on January 9.

This gathering is in place of our normal Day at the Capitol. Given the import of the message needed to be delivered this year, all of our resources need to be put into January 9. In this vein, we hope you will plan to prioritize this day. We need a large gathering to show that those of us who value life from conception to natural death are still engaged and still passionate for our cause. After the election last month, many pundits and consultants are encouraging politicians to abandon their pro-life positions. We need to make it clear that is not an option.

The gathering will be at the Capitol Bell Tower at 10:00 a.m. We will finish with everything by around 11:30, but we encourage you to stay and visit the House or Senate gallery to watch the session and then stop by your legislators' offices and let them know you were here for Virginia Stands for Life Day. If you are able to be here early, we will lead a prayer walk at 9:00, starting next to the Richmond Convention Center (corner of 5th and Broad Streets) and culminating at the Bell Tower at 10:00.

We have created a short video to explain the necessity of gathering in Richmond on January 9. Please take a couple of minutes to watch it and then click the link below the video to register for the event. I look forward to seeing you in Richmond!

Time For Pro-Lifers To Leave The Republican Party?

As Virginia Republicans meet this weekend for their annual "Advance," there will be plenty to talk about. From this year's election results to this week's stunning announcement in the Virginia's governor race (which we were one of the first to blog about), there's plenty of debate going on between the so-called "establishment" and the "grassroots" of the Republican Party. As usual, the primary target of some in the debate is pro-life voters. Many words have been spilled from pundits and politicians over this debate, not just this year, but in nearly every election cycle as far back as many of us can remember. It's important to recall that in 1980 the political experts told Ronald Reagan to "tone down" the rhetoric on abortion and talk only about the economy. Of course, most will remember that the 1980 election focused almost entirely on the economy, foreign policy and moral decay. Abortion wasn't a major "theme" of the election or of Reagan's agenda.

But when asked, he wasn't ashamed to be pro-life. In fact, he used the opportunities his leadership position presented to persuade people to his position — one he believed most Americans shared. Was he offensive? No. Was he restrained? Never. He simply was willing to talk and sought to convince people of the legitimacy of his position that the unborn should be protected.

Unfortunately, in our culture of "all or nothing" politics, even those seeking to be incremental and strategic in advancing conservative causes with reasoned rhetoric are labeled and attacked as "putting ideology ahead of winning."

It's time we pro-life, pro-family, pro-limited government, pro-religious liberty conservatives require the candidates we support hold strong, principled — dare I say — ideological positions, but who also are able to persuade people in a logical, approachable, reasonable way that those principles are really what is best for America and our commonwealth.

Why must we so often have to choose between angry belligerence and cowardly silence? Is there no room in the Republican Party tent for reasoned, rational and principled pro-life voters? Certainly, as evidenced by this year's Democrat convention, there's little room in that party's tent for pro-lifers.

In a recent opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a well-known political commentator made the statement that wherever I go, "a fight breaks out." Truth be told, I believe The Family Foundation has been very good at using reasonable and logical arguments to persuade people to our position, never personally attacking people or throwing "rhetorical bombs" that drive people away. After 10 years of doing this, we're still attacked by the media as the group that "picks fights," while it falls at the feet in worship of those who were arrested on the Capitol steps in violation of the law, and who daily use vile, vulgar rhetoric (click links to see examples).

Let's face it: We live in a commonwealth where those who believe that women making the sad choice of abortion should enter sanitary facilities with emergency equipment are attacked by the media and secular left as "extreme" and "out of touch." All the while, those who support abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy (as our president does) are considered "centrist." That's the environment, that's the playing field. We can whine all we want about how unfair it is, or we can do something about it.

We live in a culture of cynicism and skepticism making it even more difficult to persuade. But giving up is not an option, and neither is compromising our principles. We, the whole of the conservative movement — not just social conservatives — must figure out a way to improve our message. Then, perhaps more importantly, find new ways to go around the Mainstream Media to get our message out. Blogs aren't enough. Social media isn't enough. Cutesy Facebook posters won't cut it.

Could the answer be going back to the basics (and hard work) of grassroots organization and mobilization? It's how conservatives changed the course of the nation before. Its successes are proven.

So, back to the question at the top. Is it time for pro-lifers to leave the Republican Party? Frankly, trying to answer that question is a colossal waste of time. While many are debating it, secularist liberals are unified and mobilized to take our state. Let's stop arguing about 30-year-old partisan struggles that may never be resolved. Let's start telling others about our principles, and let's put together the plan that will save our commonwealth.

Tomorrow Is Almost Here: The Election Is In Your Hands

What seems like one of the longest presidential campaigns in history comes to a conclusion tomorrow (we hope!) as Americans go to the polls. Pundits and prognosticators are predicting a close election, with Virginia being one of the states that the experts believe is still hanging in the balance. As national Christian leaders remarked last week, one state — Virginia — can determine the outcome of the entire country's future. Does that motivate you to vote and get others to the polls? I know I don't have to tell you about the importance of tomorrow's vote. Obviously our nation is in a tenuous place, morally and economically, and whether or not one election can change our course or not remains to be seen, but we have a clear choice between presidential candidates on both moral and economic issues. For weeks, The Family Foundation Action has worked to ensure that pro-family, pro-life voters are identified, educated and mobilized. I know pastors around Virginia have been encouraging their congregations to vote the principles of life, marriage and religious liberty when they make their decisions tomorrow.

If you haven’t yet, please review our 2012 Presidential and U.S. Senate Voter Guide at vavotes.net and be sure that your friends and family have seen it as well. I believe it presents very clearly where the candidates for President and the U.S. Senate stand on issues that are important to you and me.

Please remember the new voter ID requirements in Virginia. You can learn more about what you need to bring with you to vote at the State Board of Elections website. Also, if you have any doubt about your polling station's location, please click here to find it. It's important that you show up at the right place! Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Remember also that there are two state constitutional amendments on the ballot. The Family Foundation Action supports both. Question 1 would protect property rights and limit the government’s power of eminent domain. You can read more about this amendment by clicking here and here.

Question 2 is a technical change to the constitution regarding when the General Assembly’s veto session is held during years when veto session falls on a religious holiday.

Everyone who walks into a voting booth tomorrow will "vote values." The question is whether they will vote for the things they value or the things God values.

The answer is now in your hands.

 

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

 

Faith Leaders: Nation's Destiny Hangs In The Balance

Need a reason to vote? You can always check this out to understand a few of the reasons why this election is important. Last week, though, several Christian leaders, including senior leadership from The Family Foundation, met in Northern Virginia to discuss the election, its importance and the role of the Christian vote (see CBN.com). Focus on the Family vice president Tim Goeglein told the meeting that this election could impact the nation's destiny as much as Abraham Lincoln's victory in 1860 or Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1980, and that evangelical Christians — who practice their faithful citizenship and vote — had the opportunity to affect that destiny. He said:

What is the future of marriage? What is the future of the sanctity and dignity of every human life? And what is the future of religious liberty and our rights of conscience? Those are giant issues and they're all at play in this election.

In the American experience and currently in the 21st century, men and women of faith constitute a very large percentage of successful candidates.

Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb noted that conservative Christians were responsible for Governor Bob McDonnell's historic landslide in 2009, leading a conservative sweep of traditional values candidates across the state and in the legislature. As she told CBN:

Exit polls from that election revealed that more than half his supporters were self-identified evangelicals. If they show up in those same kind of numbers this year in such a crucial swing state, they could be the Americans who determine who's president.

Is that not enough of a reason to vote? That conservative, family values, Christian voters could tip one of the most important swing states and therefore the election — and therefore America's destiny? Then again, you can always watch this.

Here's the CBN News video report on the meeting, which features TFF President Victoria Cobb:

America's destiny will be determined by Christian values voters. Will you be counted on elections day? (Notice our voter guides in the frame!)

Vote For Question 1! New Ad, Editorials In Favor Of Property Rights Amendment!

On November 6, Virginians have a lot of important decisions to make at the ballot box. There are choices for President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In some cities, there will be choices for mayor, city council and school board. But there is another important decision to make that does not involve a candidate: Virginians will have an opportunity to amend the Virginia Constitution to protect private property rights. Protecting private property rights has become an urgent and priority issue for The Family Foundation and other concerned organizations since 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court incredibly ruled in Kelo v. New London, Conn. that the U.S. Constitution did not protect one's private property rights in the case of a taking by a locality. (Funny, other protections, such as free speech, seem to trump state and local laws.)

Since then, state after state has enacted constitutional protections. Virginia, meanwhile, dragged its feet for seven years as the General Assembly, session after session, found ways to deny and delay its citizens' the opportunity to speak on this vital issue — and by the trick of a parliamentary maneuver came within a vote of killing it again this year.

Property rights are vital because without the guarantee of private property, there is no check on government's ability to grow in size or power. Without private property, you have nowhere from which to speak, worship or work. Without it, government is unchecked in its ability to do anything it wants, including taking property only after you have increased the value of it, as has happened time after time across Virginia.

The amendment specifically prohibits what happened in Connecticut — perhaps the most blatant abuse of governmental power in recent years — when New London took private property (in this case homes) and not only did not use it for a public purpose, such as a school or road, but gave the homes to a private company!  New London said the company could do something better with the property and create more tax revenue for the city. It's always about revenue to the government, isn't it?

So, who could be against this amendment? Precisely! Local governments, which use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights. They claim this amendment will prohibit economic development. That's a peculiar argument because securing private property is the best way to promote economic development. What entrepreneur wants to build a business if he or she knows the city or county will decide it can do something better with that land and take it for themselves?

Only local government can think this way because local government bureaucrats think their job is to run their county or city as their own powerful, controlling entity, and not as stewards of your money and rights. This amendment — which among its guarantees provides that government can only take the amount of land it needs when it truly has a public use; and that it must provide just compensation for that land, including for lost access to the property and for lost business profit — will be a necessary brake on that attitude. It will foster true economic growth by guaranteeing property rights as well as limiting government power. It will be another stroke for the liberty intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

We urge a vote for Question 1, to protect our basic liberty and rights to own property and to check the growth and power of government.

We're not alone. The amendment was put on the ballot by a bipartisan vote in the General Assembly. A coalition of organizations, including The Family Foundation, The Virginia Farm Bureau, Americans for Prosperity, The Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Forestry Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and the Virginia Property Rights Coalition all are working hard for its ratification. In addition, two major papers, which typically have different editorial views, recently endorsed Question 1: The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Click on the image to hear this radio ad by the Virginia Farm Bureau. Then spread the word about Question 1, Virginia's Property Rights Amendment, by sharing this post, logo and radio spot!

There has only been one public poll released on Question 1, and it was done by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat polling firm based in North Carolina. While its results were favorable, it is from September and the local government opposition has been working in high gear ever since. (The Castle Coalition, a national property rights group, has a take on the poll here.)

Perhaps the biggest opponent of the amendment is unawareness. With the presidential and senate campaigns sucking up all the political oxygen this fall, most Virginians are not aware the question is on the ballot. When they find out, they are supportive. So the mission is to get the word out! Above is a radio ad released yesterday by The Farm Bureau. Please share it and this link with as many people as you can by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. After seven years, this is our one and only chance to protect our property rights in Virginia and to further secure our liberty and restrain government growth and power.

TFF Action Launches VaVotes.net, Be Committed To Vote!

The Family Foundation Action today launched VaVotes.net, a voter education website that provides voter registration and candidate education materials to assist Virginians in voting in November's crucial election. VaVotes.net provides links to information on how to register to vote, how to verify your current registration status, where to vote, how to vote absentee, important registration and election dates, and much more. You can also order a free voter registration kit so you can register voters at your church.

Click here or on the image to visit the new site.

In addition, the Family Foundation's Presidential and U.S. Senate Candidate Voter Guides also will be available through the site soon. Currently, the site links to the Family Research Council Action's Presidential Candidate Voter Guide. It's a one-stop-shop for all the voting resources and information you need and it makes it easy to help others register and vote. Simply forward this link or VaVotes.net to friends and family or share it on your social media sites.

With our religious liberty at stake, a federal government that has made access to abortion its number one priority instead of protecting our freedoms, voting our values this November is absolutely paramount. With Virginia being a top battleground state, the commonwealth could very well determine who the next president will be and which party will control the U.S. Senate. We need to ensure that we are all "Committed" to voting, registering others to vote, and educating Virginians on where the candidates stand on our issues.

Please visit VaVotes.net, take a look, forward this link to your friends and family, and share it on your social media sites.

 

Paid for by The Family Foundation Action.

Pro-Lifers Rally, Board Adopts Regulations!

The Virginia Board of Health Friday voted to adopt strong abortion center safety standards after a long day of competing protests, debate and tension. An estimated crowd of 500 people lined up at the building where the board met, evenly divided between pro-life Virginians and abortion supporters. It was a stark contrast to the June meeting where more than 100 abortion protestors dominated the day and where the board voted to water down abortion center regulations to exempt existing centers from important building standards required by the Code of Virginia. Because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify those regulations — they didn't meet the demands of the code — the board had to revisit the issue Friday. For weeks both pro-life and pro-abortion groups encouraged people to attend, and hundreds did, in addition to several dozen uniformed and plain clothes police who where there to ensure security.

The day began early, as Family Foundation staff began lining up outside the building at 6 a.m. to ensure we would be in the meeting room to testify. Only 100 seats were available in the room, and only those in the room could testify. After going through security checks, including metal detectors, we settled into the room for a long day.

The difference between this meeting and the one in June was remarkable. That day, the room was dominated by radical pro-abortion protestors and, quite honestly, it was a very spiritually dark day. Friday was radically different. In the room were dozens of pro-life supporters, including several pastors. Those who attended both meetings could feel the difference in the atmosphere. A few pastors who attended our Pastors Summit in Richmond Thursday were there, as were several from the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists.

We could feel the prayers of pastors and pro-life Virginians! I cannot express enough of my gratitude for all of you who attended today's meeting, or who prayed for us. The support was incredible, and I have no doubt it made an impact on the results. During a year where elected officials and others have been viciously attacked by the abortion industry and media, and abortion supporters have mobilized in large numbers, pro-life Virginians needed to show up and prove again that we are the dominant voice in Virginia . . . and show up we did!

Public testimony was extended to one hour (normally 20 minutes) in an attempt to accommodate the crowd. In my testimony, I told the board that after the uncovering last week of more than 80 health and safety violations in nine abortion centers, the industry, which has claimed for years to be safe and in no need of oversight, was not in a position to be trusted and therefore should have no say in how it is regulated. Several other pro-life organizations also testified including the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, Family Research Council and the Rutherford Institute. Others attending included the Virginia Society for Human Life, Students For LifeAmericans United for Life and Concerned Women for America Virginia. Our special thanks to Alliance Defending Freedom, which sent a letter to members earlier this week to clarify the board's legal authority and to other groups who encouraged the turnout.

In addition, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) testified that the General Assembly did not intend to exempt any abortion centers. In 2011, Delegate Byron amended SB 924 to include abortion centers. She said that during the legislative debate, the intent was clear and that the bill was passed by chambers controlled by different parties. Her testimony was crucial to clarify some misunderstanding on the board over whether the General Assembly wanted existing abortion centers to be "grandfathered in" without the building standards. We so appreciate Delegate Byron's willingness to once again stand up for life in a hostile atmosphere, as she did time and again during this year's General Assembly.

Representatives of the abortion industry continued their pattern of deception. Incredibly, one person testified that the industry “supports regulations” but just opposed the building standards. The same individual has testified several years in a row at the General Assembly against bills that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment!

They also attacked The Family Foundation's release this week of inspection records showing widespread health and safety violations, saying that the centers inspected had received their licenses anyway and that the violations were minor. We don't consider a bloody patient table minor. We don't consider a freezer two-thirds filled with fetal remains and blood minor! But they do. The fact is, however, that those centers were not licensed until after they submitted plans to correct the violations and those centers are now subject to unannounced inspections. For years, they fought against the very inspections they now say they support and that uncovered the problems listed.

But the primary target of the abortion industry was, and still is, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They continued their assault because he made the decision to uphold the law of Virginia and not certify the regulations in June. Of course, I'm sure they'd rather pick on the AG and cry "politics" instead of having to answer to questions about bloody patient tables, frozen fetal remains and untrained staffs.

The board, however, was not fooled. By an overwhelming vote of 13-2 it rejected several more attempts by one board member to water down the regulations and then voted to adopt the standards by the same vote.

While a major victory, the process to finalize these standards is not finished. They must go through several more steps in the next several months, including two lengthy public comment periods. It is crucial that pro-life Virginians make their voice heard once again during that time. If you spoke or wanted to speak Friday, please write your comments down and hold on to them for submission during the public comment period. We will provide ample notice.

Thanks again to everyone who attended Friday's meeting, testified or prayed. A special thank you to those post-abortive women who attended, some speaking publicly for the first time. We are so grateful and encouraged by your support, and I know the Board of Health members were as well. To get a feel for what it was like at the meeting, please click here for a series of photos.

Pro-life Virginians were not out manned at the crucial Board of Health Meeting Friday. For more scenes from the historic vote, click here or the image above.

When A $15,000 Government Bill Costs Taxpayers $505,000

"We're from the government and we're here to help." Usually used as a line in a joke, that expression actually applies far too often — as in the government trying to help, but instead turning a situation pear-shaped. A recent example involving VDOT and a Wythe County farmer is the latest example, for only In Virginia can a government agency turn a $15,000 cost into a $505,000 bill for the taxpayers. But it's not simply the money. We often lose rights in the process, which makes perfect sense of  these situations to government bureaucrats.

This issue resulted from the Virginia Department of Transportation's refusal to pay a landowner $15,000 to clean up debris from construction work on property it seized with the power of eminent domain to expand a highway (see Roanoke Times). Years later, a court decided in favor of the property owner, a decision that ended up costing Virginia — that would be you and I, the taxpayers — more than $500,000 in attorney fees, reparations to the property owner and other costs.

This November, you can help address this major problem by voting YES! on Question One, a constitutional amendment protecting your property rights, as well as your wallet.

The government's power to take property for "public use" was expanded by the U.S. Supreme Court, in its deplorable 2005 Kelo decision, to include increasing tax revenue — a threat not only to private landowners but also to churches and religious institutions. After all, religious organizations don't pay property taxes. Replacing those buildings with strip malls or big box retailers that pay taxes and feed local coffers is a temptation some local government officials simply can't control. In addition, government often doesn’t compensate landowners for their actual financial loss when their property is seized or when access to their property is infringed upon.

The court inflated the legal term "public use," meaning a school or other necessary facility used by the public at large, to a new term,  "public purpose." This new term gives state and local governments wide latitude for concocting reasons for which it could seize private property — including, mist commonly, turning one's property over to a corporation that will develop it to increase tax revenue for the government to use for whatever broader purpose it wants under the guise of "economic development."

To address this, after seven years of debate, effort and inaction, even as many states rectified Kelo within a year, the 2012 General Assembly finally passed legislation putting a property rights constitutional amendment on the ballot. While support for property rights is strong, a coalition of organizations that support property rights, including The Family Foundation, the Virginia Farm Bureau, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and others, are working to make sure Virginians understand how important it is to support this crucial ballot initiative.

The protection of property rights was a principle critical to our Founders' vision of America. Unfortunately, as with many of our Founding Principles, it's up to the citizens to remind government that we still believe in and want those principles to be enforced.

"Vote YES!" yard signs will be available soon at our field offices. Contact a field representative in your area to reserve a sign today:

Fairfax/Alexandria

William Zimmerman: (T) 703-568-4093 (E-Mail) william@novafamily.org

Edward Newland (T) 515-505-5383 (E-Mail) Den81590@alumni.marymount.edu

Prince William

Willie Deutsch/Bill Pfister (T) 515-505-5209 (E-Mail) willie.deutsch@gmail.com

Metro Richmond

Ron Gallagher (T) 804-591-5909 (E-Mail) FFA.Gallagher@gmail.com

Greg Culbertson (T) 505-515-5280 (E-Mail) greglc7@gmail.com

Peninsula

Tim Pogge (T) 515-505-5224 (E-Mail) timpogge89@gmail.com

Urgent: Prayer Request For Shooting At Family Research Council

We have just learned that a security guard at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., was shot this morning. Few details have been made available, but several media report that the guard is in stable condition. Please pray for the security guard, his family and the staff at FRC, and give thanks for the first responders who have professionally and securely handled the situation.

You can read more about this incident here at the Washington Post.

The Family Foundation is proud to be a partner with FRC, one of the premier pro-family organizations in the nation.

General Assembly Votes to Ensure Judicial Integrity

Tuesday morning with the clock approaching 2:00, the House of Delegates voted to not appoint to a judgeship Tracy Thorne-Begland (see roll call vote). After spending more than twelve hours debating and voting on budget amendments and discussing issues in their respective caucuses, retired military members of the House led the charge during debate over Mr. Thorne-Begland, expressing serious concerns over his actions while a member of the U.S. Military. As we posted late last week, Mr. Thorne-Begland has a long history of political activism and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy after going on national television to announce that he had violated federal law, the so-called "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy enthusiastically signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in the early 1990s. More recently, he has made public statements that reveal a personal political agenda that runs contrary to the Virginia Constitution and statute. Many of these concerns did not come to light until after he had been deemed qualified to be a judge by the General Assembly's Courts of Justice Committees.

Today, Virginia Democrats and Equality Virginia lashed out at General Assembly members and The Family Foundation for last night’s votes. Unable to answer the concerns about Mr. Thorne-Begland’s statements, they have predictably resorted to name-calling. Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran said:

It is difficult to consider last night's vote without using the word "bigoted," just as it's difficult to consider this period of unified Republican government without using the word "disaster.”

Senator Donald McEachin (D-8, Richmond), who put forth Mr. Thorne-Begland's name to be a judge in the first place, said:

The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s.

Delegate Mark D. Sickles, (D-43, Fairfax) said in a statement:

And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond's District Court.

Equality Virginia also took aim at The Family Foundation, saying:

(The legislature) allowed fear mongering and shrill personal attacks by the Family Foundation … to derail Richmond lawyer Tracy Thorne-Begland’s election to the bench simply because he is an out gay man.

Of course, our position since this was first brought to our attention last week has been concern about public statements and political activity, and a violation of the military oath, that demonstrate a willingness to put a personal political agenda above all else. That was our concern. On Friday, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) also announced public concerns over the nomination and spoke in opposition to it during last night's debate.

Former military members of the House of Delegates, led by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), Rich Anderson (R-51, Woodbridge) and Mark Dudenhefer (R-2, Stafford), spoke passionately during the House floor debate about their concern over Thorne-Begland’s violation of his military oath. Each made the case that the real issues here concerned integrity, truth, duty and an oath of office. The integrity of the courts was at stake with this vote, they argued.

Several legislators worked for several days to bring to light the concerns over this nomination. We thank each of those legislators who worked both behind the scenes and took strong public stands in the face of vile attacks by liberals.

As has been the case almost since the day after conservatives won majorities in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate in November, Virginia liberals have been on the rhetorical attack. Regardless of the issue, they resort to mean-spirited name-calling, misinformation and bullying. They redefine issues and assert false motivations to their opponents. After losing election after election, you would think Virginia's Left would finally figure out that they are on the wrong side of these issues, but with the help of some in the Mainstream Media and the editorial pages, they continue to attack pro-family legislators simply for standing up for the truth. Their hope is, of course, that Virginians will be bullied into silence on these important issues.

The General Assembly is tasked with reviewing and certifying judges. If that is little more than a rubber stamp, it means nothing. It has a duty to block judges deemed unqualified or unfit for the bench. Last night, legislators simply did their job.

Governor McDonnell Signs Religious Liberty Protections

Governor Bob McDonnell yesterday signed into law one of The Family Foundation's highest legislative priorities for 2012 — conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies (SB 349 and HB 189). With the governor's signature the bill becomes law on July 1. The law provides strong, explicit conscience protections for adoption and foster care agencies, ensuring those agencies cannot be forced to violate their beliefs, nor punished for following them when placing children. It also means that birthparents and prospective adoptive parents can continue to choose agencies that share their values.

Please click here to thank Governor McDonnell for signing the legislation.

Also, please send a note of thanks to the patrons of the legislation. Both Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach) and Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) withstood the hysteria of the homosexual lobby, its defenders in the legislature and their bullying tactics to see this legislation through. They deserve a great deal of appreciation for standing firm during a difficult battle — one where opponents attempted dozens of amendments that would have watered down the bill and used misleading rhetoric to describe the legislation. These are not easy battles to fight, and legislators who are willing to stand tall and carry these important pro-family bills must receive our gratitude (not only now, but during the session, as well, when the heat is the hottest). It's not easy to pass a bill of this magnitude, much less in its first year, but 93 out of the General Assembly's 140 legislators voted for legislation.

Click here to send a thank you note to Senator McWaters (SB 349).

Click here to send a thank you note to Delegate Gilbert (HB 189).

Faith-based child placement agencies do incredible work helping children and families, and have done so for decades.  Unfortunately, because of these ministries' belief that children should have both a mom and a dad, homosexual activists unsuccessfully tried to shut them down last year through the state's regulatory process. This tremendous victory for religious freedom comes as we witness the Obama administration's unprecedented attack on the free exercise of faith in the public square and, in fact, is forcing religious institutions into actions contrary to their beliefs. As a result of this legislation, Virginia has shielded regulations with a stature and will be one of only two states to provide conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies. We hope that our victory will serve as a model for other states.

We also would like to express our appreciation to our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference for their tremendous advocacy on this issue, as well as leaders from numerous faith-based organizations across Virginia who came to Richmond multiple times to testify, strategize and provide wise counsel regarding their marvelous work.

Governor McDonnell's signing of this important legislation is a tremendous victory for religious liberty and an affirmation of the critical role faith-based organizations play in providing hope and security for thousands of children and families in Virginia. The governor and the General Assembly have recognized the importance of ensuring these agencies continue to do the marvelous work they have done for decades.

Regardless of the assertions of opponents, this legislation does not in any way change current law regarding who can adopt in Virginia; it simply confirms that faith-based agencies will not be discriminated against by the state simply for acting according to their faith principles. While the media will likely parrot the false claims of legislators and opponents to this new law, the truth is that this bill simply protects the status quo. We thank Governor McDonnell for his support of this legislation throughout the process and for signing it into law (click here to send him a note of thanks).

 

Good Friday Today, Then "Christ Is Risen" Sunday

Among Arabic-speaking Maronite Catholics, primarily in the Middle East and especially Lebanon, there is no "Happy Easter." It's not what you may think. In their language, they use the literal meaning of the word, which is good news, actually, because "Happy Easter" lends itself to a non-recognizable commercialism and secular neutering, almost as Christmas has become. Instead, they wish people the literal meaning of "Easter"  . . .

"Christ is Risen!"

Imagine saying that! What great news to greet people with on Easter Sunday! Imagine if that was the lingual tradition in the English language. It is more joyful, more in the moment — and it is, for Christ is risen and with us still today and forever more.

Before we celebrate Easter, though, it is necessary to commemorate why He had to rise — His death for our sins: past, present and future. Indeed, Good Friday is good; the event itself and its meaning, great in magnitude. But it is somber and time for reflection on our lives individually and on our culture in general, and how to reconcile both with His Truth. It is easy, in its unbridled joy, to celebrate the miracle of the Resurrection to rejuvenate the soul; difficult and painful to recollect, consider and contemplate the debt we owe in the unmeasurable pain and sacrifice of the Crucifixion — to unite ourselves to the suffering of Christ.

Below is a striking image and an indelible video to remind us of Christ's humility and sacrifice for our salvation. Always a good reminder for us to remember our debt to Him. From the staff, Board and volunteers of The Family Foundation, "Chris is Risen!"

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"Tebow Bill" Fails In Senate Education And Health Committee

The Senate Education and Health Committee this morning voted 7-8 (see vote) to defeat HB 947, a bill patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), which would have removed a significant barrier preventing home school students from trying out for public school sports teams. Senator Harry Blevins (R-14, Chesapeake) joined the seven Democrats on the committee in opposition to the bill. The bill, which became known in the media as the "Tebow bill," was a top legislative priority for The Family Foundation. More than half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provides opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports, but at this point Virginia will not join that league.

Delegate Bell eloquently presented the bill, anticipating opponents' arguments and masterfully debunking them. He explained that homeschoolers were not looking for a guaranteed spot on the team, but rather the ability to tryout. They were not looking to school shop, but rather tryout for their local high school team. They were not looking to participate for free, but rather pay any expenses the coach deemed appropriate. Additionally, the bill included the right for localities to add requirements of their own as well as a four year sunset. Nothing in the bill was an earthshaking change.

Opponents claimed homeschoolers want it both ways and that they know the rules when they make their choice. But Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8, Virginia Beach) countered that some students are caught in a trap of staying in public school just to play sports when their educational needs are better served in a home school environment.

After his presentation, numerous homeschoolers testified to their own academic prowess and athletic ability. One boy spoke of his participation in rowing. He rows with his team at many regattas, but is barred from rowing with his teammates when VHSL facilitates the competition. He expressed his frustration with his "second class citizenship." A public school student from Godwin High School in Henrico County, who plays on the junior varsity basketball team, told committee members that there was a shortage of students interested in playing girls basketball, so she and her teammates had to recruit players. She said that homeschooler participation would be a welcomed addition.

However, the  educrat establishment (Virginia Education Association, Virginia High School League, Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Superintendents Association, the Parent Teacher Association, etc.) turned out in full force to oppose the bill. Perhaps the most enlightening comment came from the PTA. Its lobbyist stated that 98.4 percent of high schoolers are public school students, which would mean 1.6 percent of students are either in private school or homeschooled. While that number seems a bit inflated, if so, it's ironic that so much panic has ensued from the public education lobby over a mere 1.6 percent of students!

The good news is that this is the farthest in the legislative process that this bill has traveled. For the first time, the bill passed out of the House of Delegates and made it to the Senate. We must continue to press forward, educating others on the fairness and importance of this legislation. The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, yet continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are homeschooled. This discriminatory practice must end. Just as we said with school choice, the day will come when homeschool kids are treated fairly and allowed to try out for sports teams!