Constitutional Government

VA Health Boards are Literally Banning the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stafford School Board Ignores Parents’ Concerns

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

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

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

2019-9-10 Josh and Todd at Stafford.png.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Women’s Equality Day…Because Women Already ARE Equal!

Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment. On August 26, 1920, the Secretary of State certified the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. It was an important moment in United States history that ensured women along with men had a voice in our democratic process.

In honor of “Women’s Equality Day,” Governor Northam illuminated the Governor’s mansion over the weekend with purple, gold and white lights.

VAratifyERA held a small rally yesterday on the steps of the Virginia Capital, followed by a “party” at the Governor’s mansion, to celebrate “Women’s Equality Day” and to officially kick-off their 2020 campaign to ratify the so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

The Left is determined more than ever to make Virginia the 38th state to approve the ERA after failing ratification by one vote in the Virginia House of Representatives this year.  Last year, Illinois became the 37th state to formally approve the ERA, leaving ratification of the amendment and recognition under the U.S. Constitution only one state shy of the 38 needed.

The Family Foundation has long argued that ratification of the ERA is a moot issue because it failed to receive approval by the requisite number of states by the 1982 deadline, as ruled in the case NOW, Inc. v. Idaho.  Not only that, but the ERA is also a moot issue simply because in our current culture it is not needed.

While there are certainly women who experience inequitable treatment, these situations are nearly always instances where the culture needs to align with the law, not reasons to add more laws.  If properly brought to court under the dozens of laws, their situation should be rectified. It is unfortunate our society still devalues women in so many ways but Virginia laws do not.  In fact, most states like Virginia already have laws in place to address some of the real or perceived disparities between men and women, such as equal pay for equal work.

So, if basically everyone agrees that women and men should be, and are, equals under the law, you might ask why not just go ahead and pass the ERA, which simply states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”?

That’s because a closer examination of the ERA makes it clear that it has less to do with equality and more to do with making men and women the same, as well as enshrining abortion into the U.S. Constitution.  The reality is the ERA is a Trojan Horse intended to advance radical Left-wing objectives such as unrestricted taxpayer-funding of abortion and special legal rights based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”  Moreover, the language in ERA sets up the ability for liberal judges to interpret the term "sex" to mean something other than biological male and female, as numerous federal courts have recently begun to do with statutes with that term, resulting in special legal rights to people on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The direct effect of this has been to trample on religious liberty and conscience protections.

For more examples of the destructive outcomes of the ERA should it ever be ratified, read our blog here.

Groups like VAratifyERA are masking their effort to enshrine abortion into the Constitution and redefine the term “sex” into whatever satisfies their ideological hunger with a deceptive statement that seems innocent and reasonable.  Don’t be fooled or swayed by their tactics.

We don’t need a constitutional amendment to affirm something that is already true – that women are equal and deserving of all the rights and privileges under the Constitution of the United States.

Why We Need More “Thoughts and Prayers”

Governor Northam just unveiled his “Gun Violence Prevention” legislation ahead of the July 9th Special Session, which he called in response to the recent shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal center. In his statement, he rightly points out that “We continue to lose too many lives to senseless and preventable acts of gun violence.” But it’s what the Governor said next – as his top-line messaging, no less – that should really get our attention.  

“Now is the time to act—Virginians deserve votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” he declared.

It sounds catchy, even clever. It strikes me initially as the kind of “tough talk” one appreciates in a chief executive from time to time. The problem is, it’s not true. But not only is it not true, the exact opposite is true.

Here’s what I mean. The Governor reveals his view of the world as being that if anything bad happens in society, it’s primarily because the government wasn’t big enough to prevent it in the first place, and therefore the necessary solution to every problem is more “votes and laws.” Under his philosophy, if we can just pass some more laws, so that the state can exercise maximum control over people, we will be able to ensure peace, order, and the preservation of life. A cursory review of the 20th century amply demonstrates the tragic folly of this theory.

But his worldview doesn’t stop there. He goes even further by indicating that Virginians do not need “thoughts and prayers” as a response or solution for evil and suffering that is hard to make sense of. To him, these are meaningless platitudes void of any real power or influence. The great irony here is that these are exactly what we need more of if we are to have any hope of preventing much of the evil in our midst, while the laws he seeks to enact could never stop anyone determined to carry out destruction.     

If we want to prevent evils in society, we should start by encouraging more “thoughtful” dialogue among people, especially when it is typically those in isolation and with misguided thinking who are most prone to hurting others in the ways we too often see. And we need more prayer – both in our individual lives and corporately. We have to realize that while every one of us has so very little control over others and society, we have the tremendous opportunity to appeal to the One who has all control. We must also recognize that it will require a much greater force than civil government to make men good. Only by loving one another, learning how to walk and communicate in love, and drawing strength and purpose from the God who IS love can we actually successfully prevent such great evil acts. I can’t say what “Virginians deserve”, but I know that is what they need.

The best way for anybody to experience that kind of thoughtfulness and to learn that kind of spiritual truth is in the context of a loving family. Every person enters this world and finds his or her identity largely in the context of a family. The solution for senseless acts of violence is not more government – it’s strong families. And in order to cultivate strong families, government has to stay out of the way.

So, to Governor Northam and all Virginians, I say: Now is the time to act – Virginians need more thoughtfulness and fervent prayer, not votes and laws.

Case Closed. Decision Still to Come.

Yesterday, abortion industry and the private counsel hired to defend Virginia’s laws made their closing arguments in federal district court in Falls Church Medical Center v. Oliver, wrapping up a grueling two-week trial in which nearly all our state’s pro-life laws hang in the balance. My team and I, including our five new summer interns, were in the courtroom to witness every word.  

After failing year after year to pass legislation to achieve their ultimate goal of unfettered access to taxpayer-funded abortions performed by anyone in facilities with no oversight up until the moment of birth, the abortion industry turned to the courts – targeting Virginia to be its precedent-setting case in that goal. For a quick refresher on the overall case and some of what happened before and during the trial, be sure to look back at our blog posts. (“Surprise Miracle”, “Falls Church v. Oliver”, “The Plaintiffs Rest” and “Defense Makes Its Case”)

In yesterday’s closing statement, the lawyer for Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Whole Women’s Health gave frankly an overstated, over-confident, and oversimplified summary of the facts in this case and how the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents supposedly require the judge to totally throw out all of the following Virginia laws (some on the books since 1975):

-       “Window to the Womb" ultrasound law providing a woman the opportunity to view her ultrasound and hear the fetal heart tone if she wishes

-       Abortion informed consent materials

-       A 24-hour wait period after the ultrasound and prior to an abortion

-       All abortion center health and safety regulations

-       The requirement for 2nd trimester abortions to be done in hospitals, and

-       The requirement for having actual physicians perform the abortion procedure

Despite how reasonable these safeguards are for ensuring the health, safety, and informed consent of vulnerable women facing this permanent – and often conflicted – decision, the abortion industry has proven its willingness to sacrifice anything, and anyone, for the sake of money and power. It's quite revealing that the same industry that purports to be about women's health is doing everything it can to strip away things like health and safety standards, informed consent, and requirements that medical doctors be the ones to perform an invasive surgery. We pray that Judge Hudson sees right through the hollow (yet slick) legal arguments of the Plaintiffs. If his questions from the bench were any signal, we sense that on most of the issues involved, he does.

The attorney defending our laws kept her closing much more direct, succinct, and generally had solid legal arguments. The Defense’s closing highlighted the evidence throughout the trial, even brought forward by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses, that safety standards have greatly improved the facilities doing the invasive surgery of abortion, that ultrasound is a critical element of the abortion procedure, and that physicians are uniquely qualified to perform all types of abortion and deal with all potential complications.

Significantly, the Defense pointed out that the Plaintiffs did not put forward even a single Virginia woman of child-bearing age who could demonstrate any burden whatsoever in her ability to obtain an abortion as a result of these laws. “If there were such a woman,” said the Defense attorney, “surely the Plaintiffs, who perform abortions all across the Commonwealth every single day, would be able to provide one.” But they couldn’t. That is more than a little problematic for the Plaintiffs when the legal standard they must demonstrate is an “undue burden” on an actual woman pursuing abortion.

While some important points were omitted from her closing and several points were conceded unnecessarily (this was the Attorney General’s hired counsel, mind you), the attorney definitely put forward a laudable and even compelling defense of the laws. And that was encouraging.  

Now that the trial is over and all the documents and evidence are in, we are left only to pray for Judge Hudson’s wise discernment, his respect for our laws and the Constitution, and that he has a true appreciation for the gravity of his decision in terms of its impact on the lives and health of women, unborn children, federalism and the rule of law. Please join us in that prayer over the next several weeks.

Whatever the outcome of this case, The Family Foundation will remain ever-vigilant on behalf of Virginia families for the protection and promotion of every human life, and especially those most vulnerable among us. As soon as we learn of a decision in this case, we’ll let you know.

Abortion Trial: Defense Makes Its Case

This week, the Commonwealth is making its defense of Virginia’s common-sense pro-life laws under siege from the abortion industry in federal court in the high-stakes case of Falls Church Medical Center, LLC v. Oliver.  Today marked the end of Day 2 of the Defense’s case, as so far six expert witnesses have taken the stand.

Yesterday, four separate respected and long-time employees of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) (all of whom, it should be noted, serve within the administration of pro-infanticide Ralph Northam, and all of whom served under former Governor Terry McAuliffe) hammered home their belief that the health and safety standards for abortion facilities through regulations first initiated in 2012 are reasonable, helpful, and clearly necessary for patient safety and care.

The witnesses included two experienced inspectors of the abortion facilities since 2012 who have personally witnessed and cited many of the 500+ horrific abortion facility violations, including those of the former Virginia Health Group in Fairfax, whose license was immediately and indefinitely suspended in April 2016 by Gov. McAuliffe’s own Commissioner of Health after a 70-page inspection report revealed violations so gut-wrenching that it was deemed to be an immediate danger to patient safety.

When the witness inspector recounted first entering that facility for an inspection that was triggered by a patient complaint, she described how “When we walked in, the things that we observed were very concerning to us.” She described a dirty patient waiting area, with furniture that was all stained and in disrepair, “filthy” carpets, and holes and graffiti on the walls. “And that was just the waiting area,” she remarked.

Other violations included dirty, unsanitized equipment, dried blood on surfaces, dust and debris on machines, stopped up toilets (where a nurse walked out into the hall with a plunger in her hands and then immediately went to begin a procedure without washing her hands), boxes of patient files stacked in the patient bathroom, poor infection control procedures, unmarked syringes laid on dirty desks and contaminated from one surface to another, and general failure of employees to wash hands before or after procedures. At one point, the physician, without washing his hands, put on gloves to perform a procedure, then came back to his office, took off the gloves, and immediately reached into a box of donuts with his unwashed hands. (And this is just what they do when the state inspectors are watching!)

One of the patient records that had been randomly pulled for auditing purposes showed that the patient had to be rushed to the emergency room because the physician had caused a laceration of her cervix while performing an abortion. The facility did not even have sutures on the premises to help stop the bleeding! This was just one abortion facility, on one occasion. But it really drove home the point about why regulatory oversight of these facilities is so critical. It really blew wide open the Plaintiffs’ attempt to claim that all of these health and safety oversight policies are burdensome and unnecessary.

Day Two of the Defense’s case showcased a Board Certified OBGYN, who laid out the strong case for why a 24-hour wait period prior to an abortion, a required ultrasound and informed consent procedures, and the limitation on performing abortions to physicians only are all well-justified laws for securing patient safety, care, and medical best practices. She also explained the serious potential complications of abortions at various stages of development, and why it was so important that later-term abortions be performed only in a hospital setting rather than a typical abortion facility patient room. The Plaintiiffs’ lawyer did everything she could to discredit her by targeting her Christian faith and life-affirming personal beliefs, including her associations with a CareNet pregnancy resource center, where she serves as the volunteer Medical Director, having performed over 1000 free ultrasounds in the past three years alone. They also took issue with her membership in AAPLOG (American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists). Sad, but not surprising.

Finally, an economist discredited the abortion industry’s expert testimonies which attempted to imply that these laws had somehow caused an undue burden on some Virginia women seeking abortions. The economist analyzed their testimonies and clearly showed how they had not shown any causal link between the laws and women’s ability to access abortion facilities, which is their burden to prove in this case, and the central issue in the case.

On Thursday, the Defense will wrap up it’s case, and the Plaintiff’s will bring in a few rebuttal witnesses on Friday. Then it’s on to closing arguments. Judge Hudson seems to be asking all the right questions throughout the trial, which indicates that he really gets what’s going on. Overall, I’d say the Defense has really, as they say, shown up ready to fight. And, well, that is much more than we expected. There is much reason for optimism, but cautious optimism to be sure.    

The Plaintiffs' Rest

Earlier this week, we told you how the abortion industry’s lawsuit challenging all of Virginia’s pro-life laws kicked off in what has been scheduled for a 2-week trial in federal court. The Plaintiffs continued their lineup of “expert” witnesses, including staff from Planned Parenthood and Whole Women’s Health.  Again, the plaintiffs and their witnesses spent much of the time avoiding anything that might reveal to the Judge or the media present in the courtroom that a human being was in the womb whose life is taken when these abortions occur.  Terms like “voluntary pregnancy interruption” replaced abortion in some exchanges.  Interruption usually implies something will resume later, except, apparently in this usage of the word.

Courtroom exchanges also revealed that the Hampton abortion clinic has no doctor on site and performs chemical abortions by telemedicine.  As described, a doctor advises a nurse by video conferencing, who then administers the abortion pill.  While we’ve known that there is no doctor practicing at this abortion facility, it was unknown how they were administering chemical abortions.  It has seemed that in the past, legislators have been under the impression that abortion was not happening by telemedicine, despite our concerns. 

Witnesses on the stand included the both Medical Director and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and the founder of Whole Women’s Health, LLC.  Each of these individuals testified that routine biennial inspections are burdensome and unhelpful.  Thankfully, after much advocacy for no oversight, Judge Hudson asked the abortion staff in a very perplexed manner, “You’re not saying you want no oversight, right?” to which the abortion industry response was that they would still be governed by OSHA and CLIA.  OSHA regulations are designed simply to protect any business’ employees from safety risks, like construction site falls, etc.  CLIA regulations are specific requirements for handling laboratory test results, etc. Neither of these would guard against infection and ensure abortion complications are handled appropriately. 

Sadly, the CEO of VA League for Planned Parenthood (including several locations) assured the court that this entity alone had taken well over 50,000 lives just in the last 12 years.  Of course, it was not phrased in that manner.  As a mom, I realized that those were classmates and teammates of my four children, the oldest of whom is 12 years old.   It was likely friends and neighbors of mine, unaware of the support for their pregnancy, adoption or motherhood that was  available to them, who made the  decision to end those lives.  Heartbreaking.

The court also heard from Dr. Karen Remley, a former Commissioner of Health, who attempted to paint a picture of how the safety standards she helped put together with a group of doctors would have been valuable but that the process was corrupted by politics.  The problem with her argument (that hopefully the Judge recognizes) is that all regulations go through a political process.  Not all recommendations given by experts during the regulatory process are included in the final product when voted upon by the government entity making the final decision. This is not abnormal, but in fact, is practically guaranteed due to the lengthy regulatory process.  In many places, her testimony inadvertently helped the defense. Here are a few of Dr. Remley’s other notable statements:

  • She noted that, in forming the group of experts to give recommendations on standards, they had gotten the advice from the heads of the various medical school OBGYN departments. She highlighted how the McDonnell administration suggested she include Dr. John Seeds, then Chairman of the OBGYN department at VCU.  This was supposedly her evidence to show that the administration forced a doctor onto the panel who was likely initially excluded because he is known to be in favor of the preservation of unborn life. 

  • She repeatedly confirmed that many of the components of the safety standards are “medically optimal.”  These included the CDC guidelines for infectious disease control and life-saving equipment.  Her concern wasn’t directed at unnecessary safety guidelines, but simply that all outpatient surgery does not receive equal oversight.

  • As she called the regulation of physicians’ offices the “wild west” and admitted that the state knows nothing about the safety of those practices, you could almost hear the Plaintiff lawyers gasp, since this is their desired level of standards  they need to convince the Judge is sufficient.  She did note that the building construction guidelines were not part of the original recommendations, but omitted the fact that they were added because the Code of Virginia has a law requiring them. 

  • She sited that, in addition to the building code requirements, the doctor panel never recommended that an abortion facility have a Transfer Agreement with a hospital, which was included in the Board’s final recommendations.  Unfortunately, she grossly mischaracterized that safety requirement as the physician having to be “on staff” at a hospital, which is not the same as having  Admitting Privileges. The Commissioner is fully aware that the safety standards are meant to govern the facility, and that they cannot and do not govern the doctor.  Regardless of her misrepresentation, she must not have been aware that part of the previous Abortionist’s testimony about handling complications included the fact that if it were severe enough, they would transport the patient to a hospital.  I suspect a Judge would naturally conclude that such a connection between facility and hospital would be valuable in that case. 

There was also considerable focus on the 24-hour delay and the ultrasound requirement, and the supposed burden these place on women seeking abortions.  The Plaintiffs even brought in a bioethicist to suggest that even merely offering a woman the option to view her ultrasound or to hear her baby’s heartbeat – as required by law - violated the woman’s autonomy and decision-making capability.  Yes, you read that right. You just cannot make this stuff up. According to this “expert” bioethicist, less knowledge for a woman equals greater autonomy. So much for “a woman’s choice.”

The trial so far has clearly placed the abortion industry in the role of Chicken Little, effectively claiming“the sky is falling” with each and every requirement, no matter how minor.  According to the Plaintiffs, the regulations are overly burdensome, the safety standards are unachievable, the waiting period is unhelpful and unfair, and women will be unable travel to obtain their abortion, etc., etc..  One wonders what nominal requirement the abortion industry would consider not be an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion. I can think of one very effective way the government could ensure women’s easier access to abortion: slash the industry’s prices for abortions in half. Somehow I’m certain Planned Parenthood would draw a line on that one.

Now the Plaintiff’s case has been fully presented. Next week it will be the Defense’s turn to argue their side, and hopefully make a compelling case for upholding these important protections for health, safety, and life.   We will be in the courtroom following this case closely, so stay tuned.    

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 Governor Couldn't Resist!

The state budget process is finally over, and with it came some big wins and also disappointments.  Last week Governor Northam submitted his final actions on the budget to the House of Delegates. They included leaving in place the federal “Hyde Amendment” language, which ensures taxpayers will not be forced to pay for abortions of babies with supposed disabilities, and vetoing a modification to the existing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) program that would have stopped nearly $2 million from being funneled to the abortion industry.

For more details about these budget provisions, you can read about them here on our blog.

We cannot overstate how important of a win it is for the protection of pre-born babies to have the Hyde Amendment language included in the budget, especially given the complete disregard for human life that was on full display during session this year.  This achievement is the result of strong legislators willing to stand firm for the protection of pre-born babies, as well as the unwavering resolve of The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Society for Human Life (VSHL) to push for these types of protections year after year.

In the end, the Governor did not accept the Hyde Amendment language willingly, since he was actually prohibited by the Virginia Constitution from vetoing that particular type of budget amendment. Of course, he couldn’t let the Hyde language stand without offering this hypocritical comment indirectly criticizing pro-life conservatives: "the General Assembly's action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face."   Remember, this is the same Governor who tried to explain that leaving a baby on a table after a failed abortion while the parents and physician had a discussion over whether or not the baby should live or die, was somehow morally acceptable.

The Governor’s actions also demonstrated his total commitment to Planned Parenthood by vetoing an amendment introduced by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen) to limit “LARC” funds to only the purchase of IUD devices.  His veto, which will continue to allow millions of dollars in grants being allocated to the abortion industry, was simply a ‘wink and a nod’ to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to say “I’ve still got your back.” 

All of this goes to show how elections have consequences, and how important it is for voters to be aware of the values that their legislators espouse.  That’s why The Family Foundation Action works so hard to create a General Assembly Report Card to show 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.

HUGE Response In Defense of Faith-Based Counselors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT THEN, the Board continues… 

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

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

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

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

URGENT: Oppose the Extraordinary Rule Change

URGENT: Oppose the Extraordinary Rule Change

It's not just the radicals from New York and California who are desperate to pass the ERA even after it has been defeated time and time again. Delegate Hala Ayala has now introduced an "extraordinary measure" to try to pass this amendment. Delegate Ayala was one of those who supported the radical abortion bill that Delegate Tran introduced this year.

Statute on Religious Liberty

Statute on Religious Liberty

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

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

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.

Great Hopes For New Supreme Court

With the big news of President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the possibility of a conservative majority on the Court (i.e. 5 of 9 Justices who attempt to read and apply the Constitution as written) is now within reach. This opens up exciting possibilities for the years ahead. We remain prayerful that whoever the next Justice is, he or she will faithfully uphold the Constitutional rights and protections of all people (no matter how small or weak), while vigorously reinforcing the Constitutional constraints on government (no matter how big or powerful).

In many ways, it seems as if there was never so much on the line as in this cultural moment. And here we are, about to witness the biggest political fight of a generation unfold before our eyes over the confirmation of a single judge who could tip the balance of the highest court in the land. And while we should never be fooled into thinking that any one governmental official is the answer to solving all our problems, we should also never underestimate the impact of just one person, used of God for His purposes and in His timing, appointed to a place of influence within government. (For some good Biblical examples, see Esther, Daniel, Joseph, Nehemiah, etc.)

In Virginia, there are many issues at stake, chief among them life and marriage. Given that President Obama packed the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals with far-left leaning judges over the course of eight years, the need for another chance at a fair hearing on important cases is critical. Take, for example, the major lawsuit the abortion industry filed last month challenging the constitutionality of basically all of Virginia’s laws putting common-sense restrictions on abortion. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are planning to undo with a few judges what The Family Foundation has fought for decades to implement and defend in the legislature. With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, not only could that be prevented from happening, but the so-called “right to abortion” could actually be overturned altogether.

Virginia is also facing a significant campaign this coming year to remove from the state constitution our Marriage Amendment declaring that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. But now with Justice Kennedy gone (he authored the 5-4 opinion three years ago redefining marriage), the game has changed, and that opinion is ripe for being challenged and overturned. If that happens, Virginia’s Marriage Amendment would immediately go into effect once more – but not if it’s removed before then. And keep in mind, it is the redefinition of marriage by the Court that has driven most of the religious liberty conflicts popping up all across the country.   

Even in a political environment where hyperbole is the new norm, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that this Supreme Court appointment may be the most consequential political decision in decades and for several decades to come. If ever there was a time for fervent prayer, it is now. 

The Family Foundation has a weekly prayer focus through Team Timothy. Please consider joining us in prayer every Tuesday morning by contacting Sean Maguire at sean@familyfoundation.org or 804-343-0010 ext. 240.

Huge Win For Life, Pregnancy Centers, and Free Speech

Yesterday, we received great news! The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers and Free Speech in the case NIFLA v. Becerra.

In a huge win for pro-life pregnancy centers and free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California state law that would have forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion services and to express a message that conflicts with their fundamental beliefs. For medically licensed pregnancy centers, the law required them to post or distribute a statement pointing the way to abortion. For unlicensed pregnancy resource centers, the law required them to post signs and state in all their digital or print advertising they are not medically licensed clinics – squelching their ability to get their own message out.

It is refreshing to hear the U.S. Supreme Court affirm the rights of conscience and free speech for pro-life pregnancy resource centers over the government’s unconstitutional law targeting these centers in order to compel them to advertise for the abortion industry.

Justice Kennedy used incredibly strong language in condemning the California law in his concurrence:

“The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of ‘forward thinking.’ But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to ‘be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.’ It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come. Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”

Given the way the abortion industry appears to be directing Virginia's top officials, we hope Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring are paying attention. Long before he became Governor, then-Senator Northam tried to compel Virginian pro-life pregnancy centers to speak in similar ways to what California has tried. The Family Foundation defeated that effort with your help.

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has stood up for free speech, and our team at The Family Foundation will use these same arguments to protect Virginians from future unconstitutional speech codes that imperil our liberties.

ACT NOW: House Vote on Medicaid Expansion THURSDAY!

This week, the House of Delegates released its two-year budget proposal, and unfortunately, the House budget includes the abysmal Obamacare plan to drastically expand an already unsustainable Medicaid program. The House will be voting on this budget proposal tomorrow - Thursday - on the Floor!

URGENT ACTION: Email your Delegate and urge him or her to Vote AGAINST Medicaid Expansion TOMORROW!

After eight years of holding the line and refusing to "take the bait" for this massive federal power grab, all while witnessing significant spikes in healthcare costs in the states who did take it, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of "free money" from the federal government to pay for healthcare.   

If the House goes through with this plan, we can be sure of one thing: the size of government (and the federal government's reach into this state) will grow substantially. Medicaid already eats up 30% of our state budget (it was around 5% when it began) and already covers 1.1 million Virginians. Adding up to 400,000 more able-bodied Virginians to our Medicaid rolls, without adding a single doctor, clinic, or hospital to treat them, will only make the program even more unsustainable than it already is. And, we know from experience that every time the government grows, our liberties and our wallets shrink with inverse proportionality. 

We believe there are steps the General Assembly can take to ensure that more Virginians who need healthcare can get it and keep it. There are countless people who have real needs, and we should be looking for meaningful ways to help them meet those needs. But drastically expanding an already out-of-control federal program is not the right answer, and worse - it will leave us bankrupt in the end, or leave our kids and grandkids strapped with debt they cannot repay. Obamacare Medicaid expansion has never worked, and it won't suddenly start working now, even with the House budget's attempt to mitigate some of the problems. 

CLICK HERE to contact your delegate and urge them to reject a budget that expands Medicaid TOMORROW on the House floor!