Statute on Religious LibertyJan. 16, 2019
Today, January 16th, is Religious Freedom Day. On this date in 1786 the Statute for Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted not far from where I’m writing this.
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.
Here in Richmond, Judge Patricia West was nominated to the State Corporation Commission, a powerful body that regulates industries like power and energy. The position on the SCC has been vacant for some time. Judge West, a law professor at Regent University, who also served both Governor George Allen and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has a long and distinguished record of service.
But for liberals, all that is irrelevant. Instead, they are going into full-blown hysterics because at some point in time Judge West expressed a belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Such a position, perhaps motivated by Judge West’s faith, should automatically disqualify her according to secular liberals in Virginia. Ignoring Jefferson’s words that “opinions in matters of religion” should not “diminish” anyone’s role in the public square, they go on the offensive against all those who hold deeply held beliefs that contradict their own, imposing a Constitutionally forbidden religious test that reeks of anti-Christian bigotry.
Not only are liberals on the offensive against Judge West, they are also attacking Vice President Mike Pence’s wife Karen for taking a job teaching at a Christian school in Virginia that requires its employees to adhere to Christian teaching on marriage and human sexuality.
You know, a Christian school, guided by Christian doctrine, hiring Christian people who at least try to live by, well, Christian teachings.
Such is just too much for the secular left and “mainstream” media in today’s Virginia.
The attacks seen today are a reminder of just how much work we have to do to restore religious freedom in our Commonwealth. Given that more than two-thirds of Americans can’t name more than one or two of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution’s First Amendment, including religious liberty, one can only imagine how few are familiar with Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom.
So, the words of the Statute follow. I encourage you to forward it to your friends and family to honor Religious Freedom Day and to help us in our effort to restore religious liberty for all:
"Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, have established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical, and even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors, for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though, indeed, those are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet, neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he, being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rules of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere, when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
"Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened, in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.
"And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that, therefore, to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind; and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."
Good and Bad News on Today's "SOGI" BillsJan. 14, 2019
Today, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-6 on a party-line vote to defeat SB 1375 (D-Favola), a bill that would have added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to a group of crimes that are given harsher sentences as being a "hate crime." While it is never okay to commit a crime against someone, it's also true that the government should never attempt to criminalize certain thoughts. If the government can criminalize some thoughts, then it ultimately has the power to criminalize any thoughts, as well the expression of those thoughts through speech. This bill's defeat was a good victory.
Unfortunately, however, the Senate General Laws Committee voted to pass two bills which directly endanger our liberty and elevate the fluid concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) as a protected class within our state law.
The Committee, by its widest margin ever, voted 13 to 1 (7 Republicans plus 6 Democrats) in favor of SB 1109 (D-McLellan), which adds SOGI to state housing laws and would especially harm religious universities that house students and faith-based charities and churches who provide housing through camps, homeless shelters, and other ministries where men and women are separated for privacy and safety reasons. Only Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) opposed the bill, despite us alerting the committee to its harms, and how there are no known examples of discrimination on these bases in Virginia. You should be able to view the entire committee hearing HERE.
The Committee also voted 11 to 3 in favor of SB 998 (D-Ebbin), which adds SOGI to the list of protected classes within public employment. Only Republican Senators Frank Ruff (R-Prince George), Dick Black (R-Loudoun), and Bryce Reeves (R-Culpeper) opposed the bill.
We informed the committee that in the eight years the Department of Human Resource Management has been collecting SOGI complaints, there has not been even one founded complaint of discrimination, clearly demonstrating that the law is unnecessary. We also told the story of Peter Vlaming, a veteran high school French teacher in West Point, Virginia, who just last month was terminated merely for being unwilling to refer to a female student by male pronouns, after the School Board amended its nondiscrimination policies to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." We told the members that if they pass this bill, we believe more situations like this will occur.
While the outcome of these two SOGI bills is incredibly disappointing, it only shows that we must keep the pressure on as more and more legislators are buying the lies of the LGBT agenda. We expect these two bills to pass the full Senate soon, but we are working hard to stop them in the House.
Thank you to all of you who contacted your legislators about these bills! We will fill you in as things progress.
Take Action Now: Religious Liberty at Stake with "SOGI" Bills This MondayJan. 13, 2019
Tomorrow (Monday), the Senate General Laws Committee will vote on three bills that directly endanger our liberty by elevating "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" (SOGI) as a special protected class within our state law. SB 998 (D-Ebbin) adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes within state hiring practices. SB 1109 (D-McLellan) and SB 1232 (D-Ebbin) add these same categories to our housing laws and would especially impact religious universities and charities who provide housing.
Please CLICK HERE to urge your Senator to vote NO on SB 998, SB 1109, and SB 1232 in committee on Monday!
When it comes to laws adding the concepts of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," we have seen full well by now that these laws have the direct effect of weaponizing governments with the ability to punish those with a viewpoint that runs contrary to its own when it comes to marriage and human sexuality.
Just two months ago, in West Point, Virginia, veteran high school French teacher Peter Vlaming was terminated for being unwilling to refer to a female student by male pronouns, after the School Board recently amended its nondiscrimination policies to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." Mr. Vlaming had a perfect record and has a wife and four young children, yet because there was no room for both his deeply held religious convictions about the nature of male and female and the full embrace of the new "SOGI" dogma, Mr. Vlaming had to go. Mr. Vlaming isn't the first example of people of faith losing their jobs and livelihoods over state and local "SOGI" policies, and there will be many more if these laws are passed.
When it comes to housing, faith-based colleges who have segregated living facilities for men and women or special married housing designations will be directly impacted if the housing bills pass. Churches who rent out spaces such as camps, and those who run homeless shelters, would likely no longer be able to separate men and women in their facilities.
Proponents, meanwhile, have offered no proof that any discrimination is even taking place. In state government, according to the Virginia Department of Resource Management, there have been ZERO cases of proven discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity since 2010, when this data began to be collected. A study of complaints to local governments that have similar provisions found no proven cases of discrimination in the same time frame.
Urge your Senator to support religious liberty and biological reality by opposing these harmful bills!
Unexpected Action on Constitutional AmendmentsJan. 07, 2019
This year is not going to be like any other.
We have never before seen a Committee schedule a special meeting to vote on controversial legislation on the very first day of the legislative session. Yet that is what the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee has just done.
This committee will break from the tradition of putting controversial legislation off until later, and will not only vote on repealing the Virginia Marriage Amendment, but they will also vote on the so-called Equal Rights Amendment!
Voting on two very controversial pieces of legislation – and Constitutional Amendments at that!!! – on the first day of session is unprecedented. The people of Virginia deserve better than this kind of stunt.
Nevertheless, The Family Foundation will be there standing up for and testifying in support of families.
We have been clear about our opposition to the ERA. Here are ten of the most compelling reasons:
1. Women already ARE equal under the Constitution – Both women and men already have a full claim to equal rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments, since they are both “persons.”
2. Enshrines abortion! – The ERA could be interpreted as enshrining in the Constitution a right to taxpayer-funded abortions because abortions would be deemed medically necessary just like procedures sought by men, forcing the state to fund them under Medicaid.
3. Strips Churches of their tax-exempt status – Any church that has doctrines, policies, or practices for male-only clergy will likely lose their tax-exempt status because of “sex discrimination.” This will impact hundreds of churches in Virginia.
4. Jeopardizes privacy and safety – Traditional male and female domestic abuse shelters, bathrooms, locker rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes, etc. would be eliminated because under the ERA women and men must be treated as indistinguishable.
5. Increases Auto and Life insurance for women – Regardless of the statistical evidence showing that women live longer than men and have better driving records, women will have to pay the same rates as men.
6. Nullifies Title IX protections for women – The ERA would permit males and females to compete for inclusion on the same sports teams, as evidenced by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court which invalidated sex-segregated sports policies, including contact sports, citing the state’s ERA.
7. Threatens religious liberty and conscience – The courts would be empowered to define “sex” and “equality of rights,” which could grant special legal rights to people on the basis of subjective characteristics like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which have proven hostile to religious liberty and conscience protections.
8. Transfers more power to the Federal Government – Section 2 of the ERA would give extensive new powers to the federal government that currently belong to the states.
9. Requires Integrated prison system – Male and female prisons will likely become integrated, resulting in dangerous conditions and harsher discipline for women since they would be required to be treated in the same way as men.
10. Fails to prevent unfairness towards women in any new way beyond existing law - There are numerous laws in virtually all areas of American life (e.g. employment, education, credit eligibility, housing, public accommodations) that already prohibit sex discrimination.
On marriage, Virginians passed our Marriage Amendment with 57% approval, recognizing in our state constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, the will of Virginians was disregarded in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to redefine marriage, making “same-sex marriage” the de facto law of the land. Revisiting the issue of marriage on the ballot box at this point in time would only serve to ignite passions on both sides that will not promote the common good of all Virginians. It would pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, to this point, none of the roughly 32 states that ratified male-female marriage amendments has removed the definition from their constitutions. Why should Virginia be the first?
If you also oppose the ERA and the Marriage Repeal, we urge you to immediately email all of the members of the Senate P&E Committee through our Action Page.
After you send that email here are three additional steps you can take:
Attend the P&E Committee on Wednesday. You will have to show up in the morning and be prepared to stay most of the day, so bring a book and a bagged lunch. For more information about coming to Richmond on Wednesday, e-mail Sean Maguire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send Your Pastor to Pastors at the Capitol. We already have dozens of pastors coming to Richmond to attend the P&E Committee hearing on Wednesday. If your pastor isn’t already registered, they can register online here.
Send a Letter to the Editor. ERA Activists are filling local newspapers with letters supporting the ERA. You can counter their message by sending a letter explaining why the ERA is actually bad for Virginia. Click here to easily and quickly send your own letter to the editor.
The 2019 General Assembly is going to be like nothing we have seen before. You and I must be ready to do more than we have ever done before in order to preserve life, marriage, religious liberty, parental authority, and Constitutional government.
Thank you for taking more time this year to contact your legislators, go to committee hearings, write letters to the editor, and pray for The Family Foundation and for our Commonwealth.
The Danger of Federal AidDec. 19, 2018
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.
"ERA" will strip churches of tax-exempt statusDec. 18, 2018
As if abortion on demand, co-ed prisons and lower standards for military personnel were not reasons enough to oppose the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), here is another – the loss of tax exemptions for churches.
That’s right, if Virginia passes the ERA during the 2019 General Assembly Session and it is added to the U.S. Constitution, hundreds of churches in Virginia will almost certainly be faced with a dilemma: Change your doctrines, policies, and practices regarding male-only clergy, or risk losing your tax-exempt status.
Click HERE to tell your state Delegate and Senator to support religious liberty by opposing the ERA!
Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court has established different degrees of scrutiny for characteristics upon which the government may “discriminate.” Certain traits, like race, have rightly received the very highest “strict scrutiny” by courts because rarely, if ever, could a person’s race be a legitimate factor in how the government treats them. Distinctions by governments involving a person’s sex, however, have always been viewed with less scrutiny than traits like race because, as we all know, there are several important differences between males and females, some of which necessitate distinctions in the law. So things like sex-segregated prisons, sports teams, and public bathroom/changing/showering facilities, variations in physical fitness requirements for firefighters and soldiers, and maternal leave policies – these are not considered unfair discrimination because they are important to actually ensuring fairness, as well as privacy, safety, and dignity.
The ERA would force courts to consider all distinctions based on sex with the highest standard of “strict scrutiny” – the same standard as race and other traits. Why is this important? Because in 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the IRS could revoke religiously-based Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status over its policy against interracial dating because it held that the government’s interest in eradicating racial discrimination from education overrode the university’s First Amendment rights to religious free speech.
In other words, if the Constitution treats sex like it treats skin color, churches that only allow men to serve as pastors will be in trouble. Just like the government can take away tax-exempt status if a church had a policy discriminating against people on the basis of race, so too could the government take away tax-exempt status if a church holds a conservative doctrinal position on male clergy. Religious liberty will not protect faithful churches from this consequence if the ERA passes. And as the great Virginian and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, famously said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”
Of course, we know that God has created all human beings equal and in His image, and that the only truly important distinction among them is that He created them either male or female. (Matthew 19:4-5 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”) And we also know that this critical distinction does not make them less equal to one another. Equality is not sameness. God created men and women to be complementary to one another, not in competition. But if suddenly our laws enforce a rigid standard of sameness, it will only induce a relentless rivalry.
We cannot allow the government to erase all meaningful distinctions between men and women, and in the process, strip countless churches of their tax exemptions!
Without their tax exemption, many churches across the country will find it even more difficult, if not impossible, to afford to pay their staff, fund important outreach programs in their community, and provide a place of worship for their congregation.
Please call, write, email, or visit your legislators today and tell them to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, which will jeopardize the tax-exempt status of so many churches.
Click HERE to email your legislators to let them know that you oppose the ERA!
If you would like a representative from The Family Foundation to come to your church, community group, or other organization to provide education on the ERA or other policy issues, please contact our Director of Grassroots, Sean Maguire, at email@example.com.
We're Living in a Different WorldDec. 17, 2018
“We are living in a different world.” Yep, that just about sums it up.
This was a statement made by Delegate Sickles during a panel discussion on gambling at the Virginia Press Association last week. His comment was part of an effort to explain how certain gambling activities that used to be frowned upon by society for decades are now tolerated and even considered as normal entertainment to many.
While Delegate Sickles admitted that he himself does not gamble, and finds no interest in this particular activity, he felt compelled to introduce a bill to legalize sports betting in Virginia for those who do find it entertaining, and all because, apparently, we just live in a different kind of world now.
Let me share some of the other comments offered by the panelists that did seem to lend merit to this idea that “we are living in a different world.”
“If we legalize gambling, researchers can begin to learn more than they do now [about gambling].” (No, this was not Nancy Pelosi.)
“There is always going to be negative impacts associated with gambling,” but we should still pass sports betting.
“We need to legalize sports betting to capture the illegal wagers and keep revenues in Virginia.”
“We have a program that allows problem gamblers to self-impose a ban on themselves, whereby a person who fears he or she is gambling uncontrollably can ask to be “banned” from the gambling floor.”
These bewildering comments offered by the panelists at the VPA conference sounded like something from a parallel universe.
Only in this world can someone say ‘let’s expand gambling to give researchers the opportunity to study it more, and to learn more about its negative impacts.’
Only in this world can someone suggest that we should expand gambling in Virginia despite the fact that casino gambling and sports betting are accompanied by a wide range of social problems like addiction, bankruptcy, crime, and human sex trafficking.
Only in this world does one say that we should legalize sports betting because it will somehow cause people currently finding unregulated and untaxed ways to make sports wagers to begin making legal wagers that are regulated and taxed.
And only in this world can an off-track betting establishment tell us they are concerned about problem gambling (with a straight face) and that they are attempting to correct the issue by offering a program in which the problem gambler asks to be banned from betting floor.
By contrast, The Family Foundation offered several important facts about gambling during that same panel discussion. First, gambling is regressive, in that it extracts money from the people who can least afford it. Second, gambling can have a destructive impact on marriages and families, as problem gambling leads to financial stresses, divorce, and in some cases suicide attempts. Third, casinos and sports betting establishments will drive up bankruptcies, reduce property values, and hurt local economies, because people will spend more money at these places instead of the local shops and restaurants. And fourth, there will be at least a 10 percent increase in crime, from larceny and robbery, to human trafficking. The FBI has been monitoring human trafficking along the I-81 corridor, which is where the proposed Bristol casino would be developed.
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.
Yes, we are living in a different world, alright. But you don’t have to only look at comments made by proponents of gambling to prove that point. There is evidence all around us. Consider only a few of the recent headlines:
Is this the kind of world you want to live in? I imagine you don’t, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Even if bad policies are passed, we still have the opportunity to change the world around us. We can disciple that young woman to choose life for her unborn child rather than getting an abortion. We can invest time into a young person’s life and help them realize that what brings true joy and happiness is God, not changing their bodies or going by different pronouns. And we can help our neighbors struggling with gambling addictions find more rewarding ways to build financial stability and to find entertainment.
It is important to know that the people, not the government, determine the type of world we live in.
The Firing of Peter VlamingDec. 13, 2018
Last week I watched as the West Point School Board voted unanimously to fire their French teacher, Peter Vlaming.
After teaching for six and a half years with an unblemished record, Peter Vlaming was fired for one offense.
What was Peter Vlaming’s one offense? What was it that the school’s Principal described as so awful that, in his words, “I can’t imagine a worse way to treat a student.”
What did this beloved and devoted teacher do that was so terrible?
Literally. He didn’t do anything. He was fired not because of something he did, but because of something that he refused to do, or rather, to say.
Peter Vlaming had his livelihood taken from him because he refused to use the male pronouns “he,” “him,” and “his” to describe a female student (who decided to begin identifying as a boy) in his class.
He wasn’t maliciously calling the student cruel names. He wasn’t intentionally “misgendering” the student (that is, using the biologically correct pronouns to describe her). In fact, he had committed to use the student’s chosen name and to not use female pronouns at all when addressing the student so as not to offend. He was simply following his conscience, which could not permit him to use male pronouns to describe a female student.
The reason he was fired for this was because it was interpreted as being a violation of the school’s new non-discrimination policy that protects people from discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.”
When I watched this happen, I assumed that the firing of Peter Vlaming was a sad, but unintended, consequence of the well-intentioned non-discrimination policy.
I was wrong.
The firing of Peter Vlaming wasn’t an unintended consequence. It was the goal.
I realize now that those pushing for the inclusion of “gender identity” in the non-discrimination policies want to rid schools of good teachers like Peter Vlaming all over the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On Tuesday of this week the Stafford County school board was considering a similar policy. One board member, Dr. Sarah Chase, said,
Quite frankly, it’s really not okay with me for a teacher to refuse to call a student by the name they wish to be called and by the pronouns they wish to be called. I actually consider that bullying. I am absolutely opposed to our students being bullied by our teachers.
It is clear that there is absolutely no room for religious conviction or conscience protections in these policies.
If the Stafford County School Board passes this proposed policy at their January 22nd meeting, good teachers like Mr. Vlaming will be fired. Teachers who follow their conscience will be fired. Teachers who don’t use “him” to describe “her” and vice versa will be fired.
This is not the unintended consequence of these new non-discrimination policies. This is the goal.
I am planning to attend the Stafford County Public School meeting on January 22. Please email me right away if your school board is considering including “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policy. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medicaid is Crowding-Out Free ClinicsDec. 11, 2018
For several years I have been a member of a board for a free clinic, and during my time as a member we have persevered through a number of legislative changes, including the federal Affordable Care Act, or more popularly referred to as “ObamaCare.” Last week I learned that our free clinic, along with other free clinics across Virginia, will be experiencing a sharp decline in the number of patients as a result of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. In fact, some clinics could experience a reduction in patients of up to 80%.
What’s going on is that Medicaid expansion is crowding-out the market for free and charitable clinics by qualifying more patients for a government-run medical insurance program.
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. The expansion will provide government sponsored health insurance to Virginians with a household income of up to 138% of the poverty level, which equates to roughly $16,800 for an individual and $28,700 for a family of three this year.
Prior to Medicaid expansion, many low-income, uninsured Virginians relied on the medical services provided by volunteer physicians, nurses, dentists and other health professionals at numerous free and charitable clinics across the state. They build relationships with patients and provide comfort and hope when they feel like there is no other place to go for help. Free clinics have also become a valuable place for health professionals to apply their skills and train medical and dental students. They are indeed one of the cornerstones of a caring and charitable society, and without them some of the most disadvantaged people suffer.
Virginia has found free medical clinics to be so valuable to our communities, that it has appropriated close to $6 million to support their mission.
Now that Virginia has expanded Medicaid, free medical clinics from around the state will have to decide if they want to expand their operations and become providers starting January 1, 2019. But becoming a Medicaid provider is not an easy process, and the free clinics will need to decide if they should spend the money and time to satisfy program requirements or cut ties with long-time patients.
This is the direct result of big government.
Ronald Reagan famously stated: “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
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.
According to the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, between 90,000 to 100,000 people whose incomes fall between 139 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will not qualify for Medicaid, which means there will still be a need for free clinics. But only time will tell if big government will encroach upon the free clinic market again to provide more government funded health care.
Virginia is Leading the Way in Protecting Faith-based OrganizationsDec. 07, 2018
I was proud of the Commonwealth of Virginia last week. Unfortunately, we don’t get to say that a lot these days.
During a panel discussion on religious liberty protections for faith-based foster care and adoption placement agencies in Washington D.C., a representative from Kansas said they used Virginia’s religious conscience statute as a model for their own legislation to provide religious protections for organization’s and allow them to continue placing foster and adoptive children with a mom and a dad who share their beliefs about marriage. The Family Foundation played a central role in helping lawmakers pass Virginia’s religious conscience legislation in 2012.
Virginia’s conscience clause for foster care and adoption placement agencies allows private agencies to deny or approve placements based on religious or moral reasoning, and it prevents the state from rejecting the private placement agency’s license because of its religious or moral positions (see § 63.2-1709.3 of the Code of Virginia). Without these protections, organizations with deeply held religious convictions would be excluded from Virginia’s foster care system.
More importantly, without these protections 5,370 children in Virginia’s foster care system, including over 700 children ready for adoption, could be without a home because exclusion of these faith-based agencies dilutes the pool of available foster parents who can provide a loving home.
Many states do not have religious liberty protections for these types of organizations, and as a result they are faced with a dilemma - either ignore their religious convictions and continue operating, or stop contracting with the government to provide foster care and adoption placement services and close their doors for good.
This is exactly what occurred in the City of Philadelphia, formerly a beacon of independence and religious liberty, which terminated the contracts of two prominent faith-based agencies on the grounds that their traditional Christian values violated the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination by contractors on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The decision to terminate the contracts was in response to a complaint filed by a same-sex couple that was denied a placement by one of the agencies because their lifestyle was deemed to be contrary to the organization’s deeply held religious beliefs on marriage, which ensures children will have the benefit of a married mom and a dad.
A U.S. District Court Judge in Pennsylvania upheld Philadelphia’s decision, ruling that “DHS and Philadelphia have a legitimate interest in ensuring that the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents and resources.” In other words, the court favored the diversity of the foster parents more than respecting the constitutionally protected religious beliefs of qualified foster care and adoption organizations, even though its decision would actually guarantee fewer foster parents, fewer resources, and a less diverse pool of caregivers.
So much for the free exercise of religion…and common sense.
Thankfully, cases like this have been prevented in Virginia because of its strong religious conscience protections for faith-based foster care and adoption placement agencies. However, this will not likely stop the ACLU and other left-wing groups, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, from collectively seeking to remove any barriers they deem to be a threat to their efforts to redefine the family unit. Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director for ACLU of Virginia, makes this clear when she wrote that all foster children deserve forever homes regardless if it is with a “single parent, two moms or two dads, or another kind of family unit.” Ergo, a family with one mom and one dad is now viewed as just “another kind of family unit.”
For the time being, let’s take delight in knowing that there is religious liberty in Virginia, but let’s also remain vigilant in our defense of it.
BREAKING: Teacher Refused to Lie About Gender - Fired from West Point High School TonightDec. 06, 2018
Tonight, after an open hearing lasting more than 5 hours before the West Point School Board, Peter Vlaming was fired from his job. The five member school board, without comment, rubber-stamped the superintendent’s recommendation that he be terminated.
What did this beloved High School French teacher of seven years do to warrant this decision?
He dared to stand on his deeply-held convictions by not complying with the school administration’s directive that he refer to a female student by male pronouns.
It's unfortunate that those who demand tolerance the loudest want to punish anyone who does not conform. The West Point School Board has introduced a brand new ideology about human nature and insisted that Mr. Vlaming embrace it by setting aside his deeply held - and constitutionally protected - faith.
While Mr. Vlaming was willing to use the student's preferred name and avoid referring to the student with female pronouns, that did not satisfy the school administration, who told him that he MUST affirmatively use male pronouns for the female student.
The administration insists that by not using male pronouns, Mr. Vlaming violates school board policy and cited the Office of Civil Rights policy regarding gender discrimination. However, the school failed to inform the teacher that this federal administrative guidance was rescinded in 2017, prior to the current situation.
The public hearing was held in the Chorus Room, only allowing 38 members of the public to sit in on the meeting. There were well over a hundred people who tried to attend the meeting in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. Students and parents sat in the hallway watching a live-stream of the hearing when they learned they could not get into the room.
The support for Mr. Vlaming was inspiring.
Several students testified passionately about the way Mr. Vlaming shows genuine care and respect to all the students in his classroom. He had a spotless record with West Point High School to substantiate their personal testimony.
In all of this, we can clearly see that the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to nondiscrimination policies is not an innocuous move that will merely protect vulnerable students. These policies are being used to punish anyone who does not agree with the ideology of the day and to coerce good people to speak a message they fundamentally disagree with at the threat of their livelihood.
While Mr. Vlaming lost his job tonight, this fight is far from over. He may have many long years of appeals in this case. At the same time he, his wife, and their four children between the ages of 1 and 10 have just lost their sole source of income.
Please pray for the Vlaming family.
We at The Family Foundation will continue to fight tirelessly in Richmond to ensure that the General Assembly does not pass these coercive and destructive nondiscrimination policies.
Legal Abortion and Limited GovernmentDec. 05, 2018
This is a Guest Blog by The Family Foundation friend, Mark Shepard. Mr. Shepard is a former state senator from Vermont, and now resides in central Virginia with his family. This article previously appeared in various publications, and is reprinted with permission.
In an October 27 debate for the U.S. Senate seat in Vermont, current Senator Bernie Sanders, an unapologetic self-avowed socialist, made the following statement (go to minute 23:45):
I must tell you that I get tired of many of my conservative colleagues who talk about getting the government off the backs of the people. They want to deregulate everything. But when it comes to a women's right to control her own body, well they think that state government and federal government should be right in there telling every woman in this country how she can control her own body or whether she can control her own body.
Sanders' comment went unchallenged during the debate; yet the limited-government case against legalizing abortion is solid.
Before making that case, it is important to note that Sanders does not present the situation with any intellectual honesty. First, there are at least two lives in every abortion and they must both be considered. Second, framing the right to abortion as solely a women's freedom issue is disingenuous. Plenty of data makes the case that abortions are pushed far more by men, who want sex without responsibility, than by women wanting to abort their children. Threats and abuse toward women, already trying to navigate a stressful situation, are both real and widespread.
While Sanders' focused on the "hidden" lives of the unborn, the real issue is: where does human life get its value? Abortion supporters give the state the greatest power possible, which is setting the scale that determines the relative value of human life. While the state may not be "pulling the trigger," the state is removing itself from its most important duty to protect innocent human life and thus is fully culpable. Moreover, often the state encourages the killing by paying the killer.
Ensuring government does not have the power to choose what innocent lives are and are not expendable is very much a limited-government position. It is keeping the ultimate power over life and death out of the hands of government. In terms of our federal government, setting the value of innocent human life is not among its enumerated constitutional powers. By contrast, a government empowered to arbitrarily legalize killing of innocent life is an unlimited-government.
Our aim should be that our government equally protects all people, which is in keeping with our national creed, "... that all men [people] are created equal, ...." Let that be the goal we strive for, rather than Sanders' low view of humanity, where some people are created more deserving of "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness [truth]" than other people, as determined by those wielding the power of government.
Once the door is opened to treat some lives different than others, there is nothing holding that line in place. It is all arbitrary.
Five state governments have now taken on the power of determining when a person's life is of such little value that suicide, with the state's blessing, is promoted. To see where this road can lead, we only need to look at the Netherlands and elsewhere, where the practice of euthanasia is decades old.
Consider the implications of Sanders' dream of government-controlled healthcare with healthcare being a "human right." Unlike the right to own property, which is limited by availability and personal finances, Sanders' healthcare right is being sold with no such limitations. Government will pay for everything. Yet raising taxes enough to cover unlimited access to healthcare will never be politically or economically viable. How will that right be reconciled with the reality of a limited budget?
Real pressures will force real solutions, and while suicide might start as an option for those whom government deems low-value, as pressures build, that option will turn into the "responsible" choice. What keeps the line from moving from the "terminally" ill to the disabled or any other group deemed to be more of a liability than an asset to the state? Who defines disabled? What about people who challenge the direction of the state or those who do not stick to "politically correct" scripts?
Giving government the awesome power to set value to human life undoes the very concept of unalienable human rights. Rights become totally at the will of those wielding government power. Government can do no wrong because government is the definer of right and wrong. There is no higher authority. The concept of innocent until proven guilty and due process are a façade, used when it serves those in power, and otherwise disregarded. There no longer is a rational case for the Second Amendment. Government is supreme and we made it that way by elevating the state above individual human life.
While the limited-government case against legalized abortion is solid, getting to that point from where we are is no small task. It requires a fundamental cultural shift toward valuing the individual person regardless of his or her station in life. While government can force behavior to a large extent with its use of force, it cannot move hearts and a cultural shift is truly a heart shift. A heart shift comes from the free market place of ideas.
Political campaigns and debates, like where Sanders expressed his confusion, can be a great place to stir deeper thinking. But the level of change needed requires all of us that value human life to help those within our sphere of influence better understand how elevating government above individual human life truly undermines all human rights.
If you would like to publish a guest blog on The Family Foundation website, please email Sean Maguire at email@example.com.
Virginia Teacher Suspended for not Using Male Pronouns for Female StudentDec. 05, 2018
Have you heard about the West Point High School teacher who has been placed on administrative leave because he refuses to sign a paper promising to refer to a female by the student's preferred male pronouns?
Mr. Peter Vlaming is the French teacher at the High School, where he has taught for seven years. He inadvertently referred to the student as “her” on two occasions. The student prefers to be called by male pronouns.
In response, the School Administration put Mr. Vlaming on administrative leave and has told him he must never refer to the student as a female. The Administration told him to sign a paper stating that he would never refer to the student as a female – a directive that would violate his religious convictions. Mr. Vlaming said he is more than willing to use the student’s newly adopted name and to avoid pronouns that would be offensive to the student, but says that he cannot in good conscience use male pronouns in addressing the student. For that, he is now facing a public hearing where he may be fired!
If you are able to, please attend the public hearing to support Mr. Vlaming tomorrow. Your peaceful presence will be a comfort to him as he faces this attack for simply following his conscience.
Thursday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m.
West Point High School chorus room
2700 Mattaponi Ave, West Point, VA 23181
Please sign this petition in support of Mr. Vlaming, and in support of the right of all teachers to obey their conscience. No School Administration should be able to compel teachers to violate their religious convictions.
Sign the petition today to support Mr. Vlaming!
Sports Betting - It’s All About Tax RevenueDec. 04, 2018
The constant barrage of casino news was complicated further last month with news that there is some interest in legalizing sports betting in Virginia. Delegate Marcus Simon (D – Falls Church) told Fox 5 news that he will be introducing legislation to legalize sports betting in Virginia, and believes that there is some openness to it within the General Assembly. To facilitate the sports wagering, Delegate Simon is exploring the possibility of using historical horse racing machines, which were legalized in Virginia this year.
The Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, which held that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violated the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, has made it possible for states to legalize, regulate, and tax sports betting. Before this decision, a person seeking to make a sports wager had to visit Nevada, wager with an offshore gambling website, or call a local bookie to place an illegal wager.
Of immediate concern is the potential for more unethical and illegal bribery within professional and collegiate athletics. Remember the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal or Pete Rose? Maybe you are more familiar with the FBI investigation into NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who bet on games he was actually officiating? There are also numerous instances of bribery within college athletics, one of the more infamous examples being the Boston College point shaving scheme that involved mob bosses. An impressionable 18 to twenty-one year old college athlete could easily be swayed to drop a pass, fumble the football, strikeout, or miss an easy lay-up in exchange for a thousand dollars.
According to Delegate Simon, the reason behind his sports betting legislative proposal is to capture the lost tax revenue incurred when Virginians cross over to Maryland to gamble at MGM. This sentiment was affirmed by Secretary of Finance Aubrey Lane, who commented at a State Lottery meeting back in July that there will be a big push among some General Assembly members to legalize sports betting “[b]ecause, as you all know, there are significant monies involved in [sports gambling] – very significant.”
When it comes to sports betting, as well as casino gambling and historical horse racing machines, it seems the primary rationale for its legalization is more tax revenue. In other words, some policymakers are hoping to collect additional tax revenue from Virginians to spend on various government programs and, therefore, expand an already bloated state budget.
Lawmakers who are sympathetic to sports betting (and other forms of gambling) in Virginia argue that it would generate additional tax revenue that is lost when Virginians travel to other states to indulge their proclivity for gaming activities. Yet, Virginia resident gamblers are already expected to report all of their gambling winnings on their federal and Virginia tax returns (see Tax Ruling 14-73).
What’s really going on here is that some elected officials are envisioning hitting the “revenue jackpot” from new out-of-state gamblers who would visit potential sports betting and other gambling establishments in the Commonwealth, as well as Virginians who are otherwise new to the gambling scene. While this would result in an initial positive revenue impact, there is no guarantee this would produce the significant tax revenue they are promising, and here are some reasons why:
Based on casino history, consumer demand for gambling is fairly static and is less likely to create new gamblers.
Gamblers are a creature of habit and may continue wagering in another state.
If a competitive tax rate is not selected, then gamblers will resort to illegal methods of gambling. Many sports gamblers will likely continue using untaxed ways to make their wagers.
Sports leagues will eventually want a piece of the profits, which will impact the odds and cause legal sports wagering to become less appealing.
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.
SOCE Witch Hunt - Is Your Pastor the Target?Dec. 03, 2018
“Help Us Uncover Hidden Conversion Therapy Programs” is the call to action in a recent article about Sexual Orientation Change Effort Bans. It is a call for children and students to report parents and pastors to the LGBTQ watchdogs so they can “scrutinize” the conduct in question and work toward “stronger oversight” of church activities that might be “conversion therapy” in disguise.
Excuse me for having images of Communist leaders using children to spy on Christian parents come to mind. That’s exactly what this sounds like.
The LGBTQ community despises “conversion therapy” in any form. They blame conversion therapy programs for causing emotional trauma. Conversion therapy is even blamed for suicides. Support for conversion therapy is viewed as wishing that certain people were dead. If you support conversion therapy, you are, at best, considered indifferent about whether “LGBTQ children” live or die.
Seen as a matter of life and death, no wonder many hate it.
What is it that is being hated?
That is my question.
What is “Conversion Therapy?”
Failed legislative language in Virginia defined “conversion therapy” 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 the same gender.”
That definition includes the reprehensible practice of electrocuting children to create an aversion to certain images. (Which is already illegal.) The definition also includes a youth leader who teaches Biblical Sexual Ethics and urges his listeners to avoid all sexual immorality. (That would be an effort to change behavior.)
I went to a Christian University and joined a support group for young men who are attracted to the same sex. We gathered together under a campus pastor to study Biblical Sexual Ethics and to encourage one another to walk in holiness.
My experience there was like any other Bible study with a focus on sexual purity. I didn’t feel any pressure to “change” my “sexual orientation or gender identity,” but I was exhorted to avoid sexual sin and to follow Christ with my whole heart.
I would never have thought to call my experience “conversion therapy.” Those meetings do fit the legislative definition, though. There was an effort by the leaders to change behavior.
One man who was at my side at these meetings has changed his mind about pursuing the Biblical Sexual Ethics taught there. As he walked away from that understanding, he also adopted a different position about the Bible study. He now calls it “conversion therapy,” and condemns it.
Hearing someone use the label “conversion therapy” to describe this group was shocking to me. This wasn’t the nasty and cruel emotional manipulation that pushes people toward suicide! It was a gentle older pastor who simply cared for these young men and pointed us to the truth of what the Bible says.
That pastor was engaged in “conversion therapy” according to the political forces trying to ban the practice and root it out from every corner of the church.
Now those political forces want you to report any “hidden” conversion therapy programs that might be taking place in youth groups or churches. They warn that the programs might be “masquerading as innocuous religious youth groups or family counseling programs.”
Is it really a masquerade, or is it honestly just an innocuous religious youth group?
The group I was part of was not evil. Its purpose was not to push young people to “change” their “sexual orientation.” The call to sexual purity promoted in that group was the exact same call made to any students: remain sexually pure and obey Scripture.
That call to remain sexually pure and obey Scripture is exactly what is being attacked by a conversion therapy ban.
What a Difference Showing Up MakesNov. 28, 2018
Does it really matter if people show up to government meetings to make public comment?
Sometimes it is hard to see the difference it makes when people speak up at school board meetings, County Board of Supervisor meetings, or in the General Assembly. Does it really matter if anyone speaks in support or opposition to a policy during public comment periods? Can those few minutes really make any difference?
I assure you, it does.
Over the past two weeks I have seen what a difference public testimony can make.
National organizations pushing for the passage of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment have been trying to get county Board of Supervisors to pass resolutions supporting their legislative agenda. They have had significant success.
Despite the fact that the ERA is a moot issue (having failed to meet the 1982 deadline), and despite the fact that no one can point to any positive legal change that the ERA would accomplish (since women and men are already equally protected under the 14th amendment), this effort to pass county resolutions has been very effective.
In the 17 jurisdictions that have been targeted to pass these resolutions, 14 have passed them (or added the issue to their legislative agenda), 2 are considering the resolutions, and only 1 decided not to pass such a resolution.
That one jurisdiction that decided not to pass the ERA resolution was Prince William County.
What makes Prince William County different from Powhatan County and all the others that passed the ERA resolution?
In Prince William County, there were dozens of women who spoke up in opposition to the ERA. Those voices made a difference. The Board of Supervisors chose to reject the ERA resolution after hearing that testimony.
Your voice makes a difference.
Where speakers spoke up in Prince William County, the ERA failed without getting anyone to second the idea. But when six people spoke up in support of the ERA without opposition in the city of Chesapeake, the resolution passed unanimously.
Speak up. You can speak at your local county or city leadership meetings, your school board meetings, and here in Richmond during the General Assembly.
If you want more information about speaking up in your local government meetings or in Richmond, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (804) 343-0010 ext. 240.
P.S. Here is another example of the power of speaking up. Last night so many people spoke up at the Loudoun County School Board on the question of the religious exemption for homeschooling that that Board was moved to reconsider the question they had already decided.
Virginians Need Tax Relief More Than Amazon DoesNov. 21, 2018
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? What does the Governor and the General Assembly intend to do next year to provide much needed tax relief to many hard-working Virginia taxpayers all across the Commonwealth who will likely see an increase in their income taxes this year?
While the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) jump-started the national economy by cutting individual and corporate income tax rates, increasing the standard deduction, and making numerous other adjustments, it inadvertently created a tax disparity for Virginians by eliminating or reducing certain federal exemptions and increasing the federal adjusted gross income (AGI) for many taxpayers, which is the starting point for the Virginia tax return. The TCJA compensated federal taxpayers for these adjustments by nearly doubling the standard deduction, but Virginia made no such changes to its own tax code, including its own standard deduction which is not even half of the new federal standard deduction.
What does this mean for individual and married couples when they file their Virginia tax return in 2019?
Since Virginia requires taxpayers to follow the same filing statuses they use for the federal return, and it is likely that more taxpayers will switch from itemized deductions to the higher standard deduction, many Virginians will be forced to use a much smaller state standard deduction. So, while federal taxes may be lowered for many Virginians in 2018, a portion of that relief could be offset by an effective increase in state taxes from unadjusted state tax provisions.
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne is projecting that this will lead to a tax surplus of $594 million in 2019, and growing to nearly $1 billion by 2024. Policymakers are now trying to decide what to do with this anticipated windfall. The Governor’s plan is to use the additional revenue to make the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable, but that would only benefit a very small portion of Virginians, specifically ones who currently pay little to no income taxes. Not surprisingly, some members of the General Assembly want to use the additional revenue to pay for increased Medicaid costs, education and other programs.
The obvious solution should be tax reform measures that would benefit all Virginians!
The Family Foundation believes that the fair and equitable decision should be to return the “windfall” back to all Virginia wage-earners who helped create it. Let’s reform an antiquated tax code and eliminate the tax disparity that is likely to impact many Virginians this year. We believe the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s (TJI) tax reform plan released yesterday offers the commonsense adjustments to Virginia’s tax code that will provide needed relief to many individuals and small businesses across the Commonwealth.
Here are the primary reform measures that the TJI tax plan proposes: i) conform Virginia’s tax code to the federal tax code and the TCJA; ii) increase Virginia’s standard deduction from $3,000 to $6,000 for individuals and from $6,000 to $12,000 for married couples filing jointly; iii) reduce the corporate tax rate from 6% to 5.5% beginning in 2019; and iv) indexing Virginia’s individual tax brackets, personal exemptions and standard deduction to increase with the rate of inflation.
We strongly support this tax reform proposal because it will allow Virginians to keep more of their own money to use in the way that makes the most sense for themselves and their families.
If politicians recognized that an incentive package with tax relief was needed to lure a TRILLION dollar company like Amazon to Northern Virginia, then they should also recognize that hard-working Virginians are also in need of some tax relief to lessen their financial burdens.
The Future Looks MadNov. 20, 2018
Western society is quickly moving towards complete madness. The effort to celebrate absolute self-determination is out of control. Our neighbors are now demanding that courts overthrow reality in order to protect feelings.
We were all shocked when the argument was first made that “gender” is a social construct and so birth certificates can be changed to reflect the internal feelings of the individual, regardless of whether it matches their biological makeup.
Most recently, in the Netherlands a man, Mr. Ratelband, is demanding that a court change the age on his birth certificate to reflect the age he feels.
How could Mr. Ratelband, who is 69, defend this outrageous demand?
“Because nowadays, in Europe and in the United States, we are free people,” Ratelband said in an interview. “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”
Are we the “free people” that Mr. Ratelband claims we are?
He is right that we are free to change our names. There are plenty of cases throughout human history of people changing their names. (Abram and Sarai had their names changed to Abraham and Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul, Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict, etc. etc.) Does the ability to change our names mean we also can change our gender and our age?
No, of course not. A name is a human construction for identifying an individual. A name is given and can be changed by individuals.
Changing one’s name is completely different from “changing” one’s biology or age. There is an obvious difference between what a person or thing is called and what a person or thing really is.
Gender is a product of biology, and age is a product of time. We do not control our own biology and we do not control time.
This frantic effort to conform reality to our feelings is leading us to chaos.
When courts began to allow people to “change” the legal recognition of biology, they opened the gates for people like Mr. Ratelband to demand a change to age. Where will this end? Can we legally demand to be recognized as taller than we are? Can we have a court decree that we have a higher IQ? That we are wealthier? That we run faster than we do?
Reality is under attack. We’re entering a mad age where reality will be denied by our neighbors, and where insisting upon reality will be considered a hate crime.
Don’t live up to those labels. Even as we stand for the truth, we should never hate any of these individuals. Everyone who is denying reality is motivated by something. Very often it is a deep confusion and pain that we can’t begin to comprehend.
We must love these, our neighbors, even when they deny reality. When they claim that our loving insistence on the truth is hatred, we must continue to stand for truth in love.
Opt-Outs are Unreliable: Part 2Nov. 08, 2018
In a previous post I provided an example of how there are inherent administrative pitfalls that make “opt-out” policies simply unreliable.
Now it appears that an opt-out policy is unsatisfactory because it doesn’t go far enough for those it was designed to benefit. Last month, parents of students at Robious Middle School in Chesterfield County heard that the school had decided not to sing certain songs at a Christmas concert because a few students complained that the songs contained references to Jesus. Aside from the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that religious songs are permissible in public schools, what’s puzzling about this instance is that the County considers religious music to be an appropriate part of a school’s overall education enrichment. Their policy on religious beliefs and customs provides the following:
This policy recognizes the pluralism of religious beliefs of citizens and the significance of religion in Virginia's history. The historical and contemporary values and the origin of religion may be explained in an unbiased and objective manner without sectarian indoctrination.
Music, art, literature, history, world language and drama, among others, having religious themes or bases are permitted as a part of the curriculum for school‑sponsored activities and programs if presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage.
The use of religious symbols that are a part of a religion may be permitted as a teaching aid or resource provided such symbols are displayed as an example of the cultural and religious heritage and are temporary in nature.
Within the County’s religious beliefs and customs policy is what amounts to an “opt-out” accommodation, which states:
[i]n that spirit of respect, students and staff members may be excused from participating in activities that are contrary to their religious beliefs unless there are clear issues of compelling public interest that would prevent it. [Emphasis added]
Under the current mechanics of an opt-out policy, a student is afforded the opportunity to be excused from an activity or curriculum that conflicts with his or her beliefs, while still permitting the other students to continue to participate.
That’s not what happened at Robious Middle School.
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.
Using this same rationale, it would be like saying that if one or more students who object to the human sexuality component of FLE instruction on religious or moral grounds and elect to opt-out should result in the school’s decision to eliminate all materials dealing with human sexuality for all students.
It appears that the County would have been much better off with an “opt-in” policy, whereby parents could have made their decision to allow their children to participate in the production based on the types of songs that were going to be performed.
We Voted! Now What?Nov. 07, 2018
Another election has come and gone. Virginia is among the states that saw a noticeable shake-up.
Virginia will be sending three new Democrat Representatives to Washington. Unfortunately, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton, and Abigail Spanberger have all expressed support for efforts to keep abortion funding, and will advance the radical “LGBTQ+” ideology that undermines truth and religious liberty. Despite appealing to voters as moderates, all three received hearty endorsements from The Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading organizations promoting the radical LGBTQ agenda.
Notably, defeated Republicans Scott Taylor (VA-2nd) and Barbara Comstock (VA-10th) had both supported different liberal agendas in Washington, and yet that clearly did not appease the liberal voters who replaced them yesterday. On the other hand, Dave Brat lost his seat even though he tirelessly supported life, marriage, families and freedom throughout his two terms. It’s hard to say what factors all played into these different outcomes, but it is clear that Republicans appeasing a liberal agenda does not secure victory. We encourage newly-elected 5th District Representative Denver Riggleman to never attempt to appease liberal factions as he takes votes on matters of life and marriage. If you are in the 5th District, today might be a great day to congratulate him and send him a note about how he can represent you best!
We want to congratulate one candidate who never tries to appease a different agenda. Former Chairman of the Conservative Caucus Delegate Ben Cline won the election to replace Bob Goodlatte in the 6th Congressional District! This election, and the election of Jennifer Wexton, trigger two special elections to replace them in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the Senate, respectively.
In the U.S. Senate, the Republican Party actually picked up a several seats, further solidifying its control. Some suggest that confirmation of Justice Kavannah was a decisive factor in those outcomes. Democrat Senators who voted not to confirm Kavanaugh faced a backlash, losing several seats. Democrat Senator Manchin, who defied his party to uphold the Kavannah confirmation, won. These results should mean that qualified and honorable Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges will be easily confirmed in the years to come.
The divided party control of Congress, with Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and Republicans controlling the Senate, will likely stymie any major legislation from passing over the next two years.
Last night also brought one new addition to the Virginia House of Delegates, Joe McNamara in the 8th district special election. To learn more about his positions on issues, check out our voter guide for that race.
One outcome from yesterday worth celebrating is that West Virginia and Alabama both passed Constitutional Amendments stating clearly that there is no right to abortion in their state and that no state funds will be used for abortions! These are among the growing number of states working hard to protect unborn children and defund the abortion industry. Unfortunately, national funding for the abortion industry will likely continue because of yesterday’s Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives. Barring a miracle, no budgets that defund Planned Parenthood will pass under their control.
So what now?
Keep all of our Representatives and our Senators in your prayers.
Support good candidates in these special elections coming up. The Family Foundation will be keeping you updated on all the developments as they come very quickly.
Contact your Delegate and your Senator in Richmond to let them know you support life, marriage, parental rights, and religious liberty. They will face a heavy onslaught from the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Virginia, Planned Parenthood, the Equal Rights Amendment supporters, and many others. They need to hear from you now and all throughout the General Assembly session.
The Family Foundation will be here every step of the way. We appreciate your support, and look forward to seeing you during the General Assembly in January.
P.S. Pastors Day at the Capitol will be on January 9th. Pastors, Save the Date and plan to join us on the first day of the session to pray for civic leaders and learn more about the policies coming up in Richmond.