Todd Gathje

It's a magnet for crime!

“Nothing to see here. We have this all under control.” At least that’s what Rosie’s Gaming Emporium (owned by Colonial Downs), a venue with historical horse racing machines that look and act like casino-style slot machines, is hoping you will believe.

In the past three months since it’s opened, police have been contacted 50 times about criminal and deviant behavior at Rosie’s New Kent location. And since its July 1 opening, the Richmond Police have been called to Rosie’s Gaming Emporium on Midlothian Turnpike 12 times in just the first ten days.

That’s more than one visit per day since the Richmond location opened!

The list of crimes includes: stolen wallets, assault in the parking lot, indecent exposure, harassment, intoxication, grand larceny, physical altercation, and trespassing.

Oh, but there is no need to worry according to Colonial Downs, because it has addressed safety concerns by hiring 40 security guards at the Richmond location alone, and has apparently increased its surveillance of the parking lot area.

That’s a relief. I feel so much better now.

However, while I am certain that Colonial Downs has acquired highly capable and qualified security personnel, the focus of their work is geared more towards protecting the patrons that are at the venue or preventing any disruptions to the gaming atmosphere. Let’s face it, if a casino or any other gaming establishment hires security guards to monitor the facility then their first level of interest is going to be to protect the “house.”

But we have to be somewhat fair and say that what’s happening in and around Rosie’s is not entirely their fault. If we are even a little honest with ourselves, we should admit that what’s happening at Rosie’s has less to do with their quality of security and more to do with the fact that casinos and casino-style gaming venues are a magnet for all kinds of crimes and deviant behavior.

The Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice have found significant links between gambling, crime, drug use and arrestees. According to one study, problem gamblers are 84% more likely to use hard drugs and 31% are more likely to binge drink. We also know that 3 out of 5 problem gamblers use criminal activity to fund these addictions. Gambling also leads to the human exploitation of various kinds, as problem gamblers are 260% more likely to hire a prostitute.

Those who enjoy frequenting places like Rosie’s might as well get used to the uptick in drugs, crime and prostitution, given that this is the pattern with almost all casinos. It only took the first ten days to prove true for Rosie’s.

Look no further than Atlantic City, NJ, which went from 50th to 1st in the nation in per capita crime after casino operations began in the 1970s.

Maybe this year Rosie’s should consider making a special charitable donation through its “Give Back” program to the Richmond Police and New Kent Sheriff’s Office for all of their time they will spend investigating crimes at its Richmond and New Kent locations.

The NEA Finally Admitted It!

Last month the National Education Association (NEA) adopted Business Item 56 that makes official its support for abortion – something we have suspected for years.  Once again, the NEA, and by extension the Virginia Education Association (VEA), have shown us that they are less about education and more about advancing an ideologically liberal agenda. This has become abundantly clear in their VEA fund endorsements made earlier this year, a list where you won’t find a single pro-life candidate.

Business Item 56 states the following:

“Furthermore, the NEA will include an assertion of our defense of a person's right to control their own body, especially for women, youth, and sexually marginalized people. The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.”

On average, a public school teacher pays the NEA $192 in annual dues.  In return teachers are able to take advantage of benefits like shopping discounts, life insurance plans, and student loan forgiveness programs.  The NEA, despite their best efforts to convince us otherwise, uses the dues to pay for political activities that often conflict with a teacher’s personal convictions.  Now with the adoption of Business Item 56, the NEA will use a percentage of teachers’ dues to fund its political activities to specifically promote abortion.

The NEA, the largest teachers’ union in the United States with 2.2 million members, says its mission is to “advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.”  Clearly their adoption of an organizational policy supporting Roe v. Wade and the abortion industry is inconsistent with its stated mission and elevates a liberal ideology above the interests of its members.  The position expressed by the NEA will be in direct conflict with the values and principles that many teachers hold regarding the sanctity of life.

But there are several alternatives to the NEA without the political agenda.  That’s right, a public school teacher doesn’t have to join the NEA to receive helpful benefits and be part of a network of likeminded teachers dedicated to teaching our youth.

Instead public school teachers should consider joining one of the following groups:

1.    American Association of Educators (AAE) - AAE is a non-profit professional association that serves thousands of teachers across the country.  They describe themselves as a “national, non-union, professional educators' organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to teacher representation” that seeks to promote professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.” (Emphasis added.) 

As a member of AAE, a teacher will receive many of the same benefits that the NEA “promises,” including liability insurance, shopping discounts, scholarships, grants, and legal services, but with a lower annual membership fee.

2.    Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) – A teacher interested in being part of a Christian-based organization should consider CEAI, which offers many of the same benefits but with a missional component.  In addition to membership benefits such as legal services, insurance and store discounts, CEAI provides a ministry to equip teachers to be “missional educational leaders.”

3.    Virginia Professional Educators - VPE is a nonprofit professional group for Virginia teachers that also provides many of the same benefits the VEA offers, but at a lower cost and without the “partisan politics and controversial social agendas of teacher unions.”  VPE is a growing professional group for teachers with several thousand members.

It’s time to dismantle the illusion that the only professional group for teachers is the NEA.  Teachers should be made aware that there are other groups that offer professional development without the stress of being connected to political positions that may conflict with their personal beliefs.

Changing Hearts and Minds About Abortion

A majority of Americans are decidedly not “pro-choice.”  This is according to a recent Gallup poll  in which 49% of respondents reported that they consider themselves pro-life, compared to 46% who identify as “pro-choice.”  This marks the first time since 2013 that a majority of survey respondents in a major poll identify as pro-life.

The notable shift in polling shows that hearts and minds can be and are being changed, which is arguably more important than any law we could pass.  You see, we don’t have to wait until the legislature passes laws that limit abortions or until Roe v. Wade is overturned in order to end this scourge on our society, though we should still work diligently to make those happen.  We can actually have an immediate impact in our communities by changing the hearts and minds of people on this issue.

That being said, public opinion on abortion has no doubt had a significant impact on abortion policies across the country, resulting in a flurry of laws aimed at either curbing abortion or expanding it.

The ideological Left and abortion advocates nationwide are going crazy over new laws in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri that establish important restrictions on abortion in those states.  So much so, that they are passing their own radical abortion-on-demand bills in states like Illinois and New York that will allow abortion for any reason up until the moment of birth.

The issue of abortion has become so heated of late that in response to Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill”, Hollywood is actually boycotting the state.  Hollywood elites and abortion proponents seem to be concerned about the strong possibility that a case will come before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges its current Roe v. Wade precedence, especially as the makeup of the Court is trending more and more strict constructionist.

Last month we concluded our “No Pink Lights Over Richmond Tour” around the Commonwealth in which we discussed legislation concerning the sanctity of life.  We were encouraged to receive positive feedback and great participation.  During the Q&A Session following one of the presentations, a participant asked what our thoughts were on the recent heartbeat legislation being pushed in other states and whether we could expect something like that here in Virginia.  Given what transpired in Virginia this year, it would not be surprising to see “Heartbeat” legislation introduced next year.  But let’s more fully unpack the context of the heartbeat legislation.

In an attempt to start the process of challenging Roe v. Wade, Alabama passed a law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion except in cases when the mother’s life is in danger, effectively eliminating the practice of abortion in the state.  Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 15, 2019 and issued the following statement:

"No matter one's personal view on abortion, we can all recognize that, at least for the short term, this bill may similarly be unenforceable.  As citizens of this great country, we must always respect the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court even when we disagree with their decisions.  Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973.  The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur."

The Alabama law sets in motion what will inevitably become a contentious and long legal battle that will take years to traverse the court system.  Only time will tell if the case ever makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Regardless, this law was clearly a bold move to return the issue of abortion back to the states by forcing the Supreme Court to finally reconsider (and overturn) the landmark 1973 decision.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced the “Abortion is Not Health Care Act”, which could disincentivize some abortions by disallowing taxpayers from deducting abortion costs from their taxable income.  Under Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code, abortion expenses paid during the taxable year that were not covered by insurance, by the taxpayer, his/her spouse, or a dependent may be deducted from income if they exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income.

These legislative actions represent two important approaches to policy-making with slightly different intended purposes.  The first approach, which is the primary purpose of the Alabama law, is to impose certain restrictions on abortion that would trigger a legal challenge that is intended to reach the Supreme Court.  The second approach is a pragmatic form of policy-making meant to restrict, defund, and limit abortions.  While the later approach doesn’t strike at the heart of the abortion issue like the Alabama law, it is extremely valuable for keeping an abortion industry that desperately wants conduct its activities uninhibited in check. 

For example, the legislature in Virginia has incrementally imposed vital protections for mothers, such as informed consent, 24 hour waiting periods, requirements that second trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals, and ultrasound requirements, to name a few.  These pragmatic laws force abortion providers to follow strict rules so as to at least ensure the safety and informed consent of vulnerable women considering such a consequential decision.  For the abortion industry, however, they are seen as an impediment to more profit.  These achievements didn’t happen overnight, and they could easily be eliminated if legislation like Delegate Kathy Tran’s bill (HB 2491) is ever passed. 

We know these vital protections and safety standards work because they were vigorously challenged by the abortion industry in Falls Church Women’s Center v. Oliver.  For a summary of this case and what happened during the bench trial, you can read our blog posts “Falls Church v. Oliver", "The Plaintiffs Rest",  "Defense Makes Its Case", and “Case Closed”.

The reality is that until the Supreme Court is filled with the right-minded judicial philosophy necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade precedence, we must continue to share our hearts for the unborn and exercise compassion for mothers struggling with this decision.That’s where the greatest change is going to happen.

Primaries are Over, Now the Fun Begins!

Last weekend the Republican Party of Virginia officially ruled Scott Wyatt the winner of the highly publicized 97th House District nomination contest between him and Delegate Chris Peace, seemingly concluding what has been a heated primary season in Virginia all-around.  Several incumbents faced stiff competition from primary challengers, jockeying over who could appeal to their political base the most.  While most incumbents survived their contests, others, like Chris Peace, Bob Thomas and Roslyn Dance, were defeated by their challengers.

 The biggest story of this primary season, however, isn’t so much which candidates actually won or lost, but how the family values and limited government principles we believe in and fight for dominated many of the races.

Last year we warned lawmakers that expanding Medicaid would create a giant and ever-expanding budget expense, largely dependent on matching federal funds, and allow for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to expand their reach to more low-income Medicaid recipients.  In the 97th District, it appears that Medicaid expansion inspired many Hanoverians to use a convention to select Scott Wyatt as the Republican nominee over the incumbent Chris Peace, who strongly supported Medicaid expansion in 2018.  Similarly, voters in the 28th House District also displeased with Medicaid expansion chose Paul Milde over incumbent Bob Thomas.

In Southwestern Virginia, casino gambling proved to be a major issue as it inspired Michael Osborne to challenge (unsuccessfully) Israel O’Quinn for the 5th District seat in the House of Delegates.  O’Quinn carried legislation this year to allow the city of Bristol to hold a referendum to approve casino gambling.  On the Senate side, Delegate Todd Pillion secured the Republican nod for the 40th Senate District, as Ken Heath decided to run as an independent rather than a Republican.  While we’re not sure about Heath’s position on casino gambling, it is reasonable to suspect that Delegate Pillion – endorsed by retiring Senator Bill Carrico – will at the very least be supportive of legislation to approve government endorsed casino gambling in Virginia. 

This primary season, pro-life values were not only an issue in key Republican districts, but also some Democratic districts as well.  On the Republican side, incumbent Senator Emmet Hanger in the 24thDistrict had to fend off a challenge from Tina Freitas (wife of Delegate Nick Freitas), who criticized Hanger for his votes on Medicaid expansion and the “LARC” program –which funnels public dollars to Planned Parenthood, as well as his opposition to the Hyde Amendment (until this year)

Ironically, the most intriguing primary race may have been in the 16th Senate District between incumbent Roslyn Dance, a staunch pro-choice supporter, who was upended by former Delegate and self-proclaimed pro-lifer Joe Morrissey.  Though his past record doesn’t quite reflect his current “pro-life” rhetoric, it is interesting that he was able to win the primary with a position that is in stark contrast given his party’s progressive agenda on this issue. Of course, the race may have been more about a popularity contest as Morrissey was hardly a no-name challenger and carried a very flavorful past.

With the primaries behind us, no doubt the hot days of summer will be even hotter as the general election contests kick off into full swing.  There is only one certainly this November - the General Assembly, notwithstanding the new district lines, will have a lot of new faces in both the House and the Senate who are filling vacancies left by retiring legislators.  Here’s the list of retiring legislators whose seats will be filled with a new face in 2020:

  • Del. Dickie Bell (20th House District)

  • Del. Gordon Helsel (91st House District)

  • Del. Brenda Pogge (96th House District)

  • Del. Riley Ingram (62th House District)

  • Del. Matthew James (80th House District)

  • Del. David Toscano (57th House District)

  • Sen. Bill Carrico (40th Senate District)

  • Sen. Dick Black (13th Senate District)

  • Sen. Frank Wagner (7th Senate District)

Delegates Todd Pillon, Debra Rodman and Cheryl Turpin’s seats will also be filled with a new face now that they are running for the Senate this fall.

All of this shows how important it is for voters to be aware of their state legislators and what they will do if elected (or re-elected).  A great way to learn more about your state Delegate and Senator is by reading The Family Foundation Action’s nonpartisan General Assembly Report Card, which shows you exactly how legislators voted on specific legislation that has a significant impact on families.

To order the 2018-2019 Report Cards for your church or community group, click HERE.

In addition to the Report Card, this fall we will also be distributing our non-partisan Voter Guides that compare the positions of candidates on important issues such as life, marriage, parental rights and religious liberty. Just like the Report Card, these Guides do not endorse or oppose any candidate or political party, but are meant to help voters learn more about where candidates stand on these important issues.

 This is a critical election, with pro-life and pro-family policies hanging in the balance.  Make no mistake, the ideological Left has already planned what they intend to accomplish if they have progressive-minded legislators elected into office.  According to Blue Virginia, here are the progressive policies modeled after New York that they plan to advance here in Virginia:

  •  Ratify the so-called Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), which would enshrine abortion into the U.S. Constitution;

  • Pass strict anti-sexual harassment laws (which we now always worry about their initiatives involving “sexuality”);  

  • Ban biologically affirming counseling, or so-called “conversion therapy,” for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, as 14 other states have done;

  • Decriminalize marijuana for recreational use; and

  • Codify Roe v. Wade into state law, guaranteeing women’s “right” to an abortion even after the 24th week of pregnancy, up until birth.

This is only the start of what they’ll do if legislators without conservative, family values are elected to office.All of this is to implore you to remain engaged, and use this time to encourage neighbors and friends to support candidates that will uphold our sacred and deeply held values.

IRS Deems Anti-God Satanists a "Church"

If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was hoping to improve its image after the recent controversy that involved delaying the tax-exempt status to certain qualified conservative groups, it certainly didn’t help its cause by giving The Satanic Temple (TST) tax exempt status under the category of “church” last month

 One would think that a government agency in charge of collecting taxes form hardworking citizens – and is not exactly a favorite of most Americans – would steer away from avoidable controversy or at least exercise more caution in its decision-making.  Yet, last month the IRS issued a ruling letter that grants 501c3 tax exempt status to TST located in Salem, Massachusetts, historically recognized for the famed “Salem Witch Trials” that took place there.  Now TST will be able to receive tax-deductible donations in the same way that churches and other charitable organizations do.

 In a day and age when businesses - and even some government agencies - allow people to choose from a multitude of gender options, the IRS decided in this case to ignore the alternative tax-exempt categories and treat TST as a church.

Up until the tax-exemption was issued, TST was actually categorized as a “religious organization.”  Unlike a bona fide church, a religious organization doesn’t necessarily have an established place of worship or the characteristics of a traditional church like a formal religious doctrine or regular religious services and education programs.  It may have as one of its principle purposes to advance religion, but that alone does not automatically qualify it as a church.

Churches have been, and should continue to be, treated as a special protected status in significant part because they have for centuries proven to make contributions to our communities through their moral teachings and charitable actions, which go far beyond what any government is capable of offering.

However, by awarding federal tax-exempt status to TST by designating it as a “church” like any other, the federal government gives credence and a greater societal platform to a group of rebel-rousers who are decidedly “nontheistic” with no regard for traditional religion, and who actively engage in political activism for the primary purpose of disrupting American piety and its social mores. That’s the complete opposite of what churches have historically existed to accomplish.

Once again, another unaccountable administrative agency goes rouge in its decision-making.

All of this underscores the necessity for citizens to keep a watchful eye on the actions of federal and state government agencies.  It’s why The Family Foundation is committed to following Virginia’s administrative rulemaking process and publicly commenting on regulatory actions that will restrict religious liberty, take away parental rights, or diminish the role of churches in our Commonwealth.

If left unchecked, administrative agencies will continue to make poor decisions - like the IRS did - that jeopardize the effectiveness of churches and threaten religious liberty.

The Danger of Federal Aid

This year Virginia took the proverbial “carrot on a stick” and accepted federal aid to expand Medicaid. This aid was promised through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obamacare. What would happen if that federal aid were no longer available?

Before you say this is impossible, you should remember that a legislative repeal of Obamacare was just one vote away in the U.S. Senate, and that some courts have already ruled Obamacare to be partly or entirely unconstitutional. A legislative repeal of Obamacare or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling finding Obamacare to be unconstitutional is not out of the realm of possibility.

In fact, last week U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor issued another crucial blow to the legitimacy of Obamacare. In a case brought by twenty state Attorney Generals, Judge O’Connor ruled that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which repealed the individual mandate penalty, rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional.  According to Judge O’Connor, removal of the individual mandate would cause the entire law to be invalidated because the individual mandate is so intricately interwoven within all of the provisions of the law.

If this ruling makes its way to the Supreme Court and is upheld, then a number of provisions within the law would be invalidated, including: coverage of pre-existing medical conditions; children staying on the insurance plan until the age of 26; expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income persons; and the mandate that employers with a staff of at least 50 workers provide coverage or pay a penalty.

So what impact would this ruling have on Virginia’s Medicaid expansion if it were upheld by the Supreme Court?

In May 2018, Virginia lawmakers passed a budget that expanded Medicaid starting in January 2019, adding an estimated 400,000 new patients to the Medicaid rolls.  Under the ACA, states that expanded Medicaid (including Virginia) pay 7 percent of the expansion costs while the federal government pays 93 percent.  Come 2020, Virginia will be responsible for 10 percent of the costs while the federal government pays for the remaining 90 percent. In terms of dollars, Virginia is expected to receive approximately $2 billion from the federal government for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to cover the cost of Medicaid.

A repeal of Obamacare would leave Virginia on the hook for all of these costs and create a substantial hole in the state budget!  If that’s not bad enough, Virginia also faces a $462.5 million shortfall in existing Medicaid funding, unrelated to expansion, as a result of underestimated expenses related to treatments for elderly and disabled people.

The Virginia state budget does contain a mechanism known as the “kill switch” that would end Medicaid expansion if federal funding is ever stopped.  But would Virginia really end Medicaid after it has been fully expanded and stop coverage for 400,000 low-income people depending on it? Or would lawmakers deem the program “too big to fail” and increase taxes to keep it afloat? 

Medicaid expansion was made possible because of the promise of federal funding to help states afford the additional costs with increased patient enrollment. Promises of funding from the federal government can easily be broken. But because Virginia’s expanded Medicaid is dependent upon this promise, we are forever beholden to federal stipulations and mandates, and are also at risk for Grand Canyon-sized budget shortfalls should the funding ever go away.  

Perhaps this recent ruling on Obamacare could serve as a wake-up call to Virginia lawmakers when they are faced with future opportunities to take the bait of federal aid, especially as we move into the 2019 General Assembly session.

Over-dependence on federal funds can make it difficult to determine who should be held accountable for the actual spending and policy outcomes. Reliance upon federal aid also makes it difficult to implement fiscal policies that reflect the socio-economic disposition of the state. If lawmakers no longer feel the constraints of only having state revenue to spend, they are more likely to increase spending without restraint.

Remember what Milton Friedman famously said, “nobody spends somebody else’s money as wisely as he spends his own.” It is therefore important to remind our elected officials to be good stewards of the tax revenues generated from the hard-earned income of Virginians.

We're Living in a Different World

We're Living in a Different World

Can’t we just say that there are enough negative outcomes associated with gambling to not legalize casinos and sports betting?  Shouldn’t Virginia be trying to address all of the social ills associated with gambling rather than attempting to legalize the very thing that will cause them to escalate even further?

Of course not, because we are living in a different world in which we have to pass more government sponsored gambling in order to learn more about its harmful effects. In this world government is presumed to be omniscient, so we are to just trust it to always act in accordance with our best interests.

Medicaid is Crowding-Out Free Clinics

Medicaid is Crowding-Out Free Clinics

The Family Foundation consistently warned that government expansion of Medicaid would increase in demand and cost.  But it is also clear now that government expansion of Medicaid is crowding-out charitable and nonprofit organizations currently providing the same service.  As more Medicaid eligible patients register, the less patients that free and charitable clinics will have to serve. And without a steady number of patients to serve, free medical clinics will ultimately experience a decline in state and private funding.   

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.

Sports Betting - It’s All About Tax Revenue

Sports Betting - It’s All About Tax Revenue

It’s safe to conclude that sports betting will most likely not generate the large sums of tax revenue for the Commonwealth that some are expecting.  That being said, we should not risk creating more ethical problems for professional and college athletics, increasing crime rates, and further tempting gamblers struggling with addiction for the sole purpose of generating more tax revenue.

It’s my hope that policymakers will ultimately come to this same conclusion, and recognize that sports betting and other forms of gambling are just simply bad for Virginia.

Virginians Need Tax Relief More Than Amazon Does

Virginians Need Tax Relief More Than Amazon Does

Many Virginians are learning they will likely see an increase in their state income taxes when they file their 2018 tax returns, while we learned last week that Amazon will begin receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in public incentives to move part of its headquarters to Northern Virginia.

 

Eight hundred million dollars ($800 million) in public incentives, to be exact. 

 

That is how much it is costing Virginia to bring Amazon and part of its anticipated $2.5 billion headquarters to Crystal City in Northern Virginia.  It was announced last week that Amazon and the Commonwealth agreed to an incentive package that is filled with all sorts of grants and tax breaks in exchange for promises to build a 4 million square foot facility and create at least 25,000 new jobs.  This is welcome news for Northern Virginia and those 25,000 new employees who are promised to earn at least $150,000.

 

But what about the rest of Virginia?

Opt-Outs are Unreliable: Part 2

Opt-Outs are Unreliable: Part 2

Instead of exercising the discretion afforded by the County’s policies, the teacher decided  to eliminate all religious themed music from the production because parents of students simply did not find the opt-out accommodation adequate.  That means that students who wanted to sing songs containing religious overtones were denied that opportunity.

What happened at Robious Middle School actually rendered the opt-out policy null and void.

Opt-outs are Unreliable: Part 1

Opt-outs are Unreliable: Part 1

The Family Foundation has consistently argued that opt-out policies fail to provide parents a reliable means for ensuring that their children are excused from school activities and curriculum that conflict with their worldview without the potential for ridicule, embarrassment, or unwarranted questions.   

Consider opt-out accommodations for family life education (FLE). We have long articulated that parents have the primary responsibility of teaching their children values and morals about human sexuality, not school administrators.  However, opt-out policies give the false impression that the school is the best environment for teaching on this subject, and that parents can only exercise their parental authority by electing to excuse their child from such sensitive FLE instruction.  Further, opt-out options only subject students to embarrassment and ridicule by having them leave the classroom, in front of their peers, before FLE instruction begins.

Planned Parenthood’s Stealth Accounting Practices

It is widely understood that Planned Parenthood’s primary funding source, close to $500 million, is derived from Medicaid reimbursements.  Abortion supporters attempt to make the argument that, under the law, Medicaid reimbursements can only be used for “family planning” services.  While that may be the case, it does allow Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to divert funds otherwise used for family planning toward abortion services.  It’s nothing short of devious accounting.

During the Medicaid expansion debate in Virginia this year, we warned legislators that Medicaid expansion and other grant programs would permit Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to line their pockets with state funds in order to help them carry out their abortion practice.

Last month, the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood announced that it is planning to open a new abortion center in the East End of Richmond, which is projected to double the number of Richmond clients to 20,000 visits per year.  In fact, the abortion provider has already purchased property and plans to invest upwards of $5 million in its renovation.  The location of the new Planned Parenthood is in one of Richmond’s more impoverished areas, and will seek to exploit and misguide new Medicaid enrollees.  

What gave Planned Parenthood incentive to establish a new abortion center in Richmond you might ask? Simple: Medicaid.  In the Richmond Times Dispatch article announcing the new facility, the CEO of The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, Paulette McElwain, stated that they were motivated by the General Assembly’s passage of expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals.

In addition to expanded Medicaid, there have been two Planned Parenthood affiliates approved for the LARC pilot program, a two year, $6 million pilot program approved through the budget to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) to its clients.

While the Medicaid dollars and LARC grants will not fund abortions directly, it will allow Planned Parenthood to redirect non-Medicaid funding streams to support their primary mission – performing abortions.  Money is fungible, and Planned Parenthood has learned how to cleverly use this to skirt federal and state laws in order to use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

Some states, most recently South Carolina, are taking direct action to thwart this devious accounting practice.  This month the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to uphold the Governor’s line item veto of a budget measure that would have funneled about $15.8 million in state “family planning” funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.  Last year the South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also boldly issued an executive order disqualifying abortion facilities from being Medicaid providers (that executive order has been challenged in court by Planned Parenthood).  Governor McMaster said in a statement: “[t]here are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women's health and family planning services without offering abortions.”

South Carolina has stood up to the powerful abortion industry and its lobbyists to cut off its funding, which ultimately support abortion practices.  It is time for Virginia to do the same, and disqualify any health care clinics that carry out abortions from becoming eligible for Medicaid reimbursements.

As we unwrap Medicaid expansion that was delivered to Virginians through the biennium budget this year, we are now beginning to see some of our predictions related to the abortion industry come to pass.  Nevertheless, we will remain steadfast and diligent in our defense of the unborn and the protection of all women who are being influenced by Planned Parenthood and its abortion cohorts.