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!
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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!
State Bureaucrats: 'You Can't Change'Oct. 05, 2018
“Quackery,” “fraudulent,” “dangerous,” “harmful,” “ineffective,” “no legitimate purpose,” “abuse in every way, shape, and form,” "torture."
These are some of the words used today by members of the Conversion Therapy Work Group and of the public to describe the process of licensed professionals helping children to cope with and even overcome their unwanted same-sex desires or the confusion they’re experiencing about their true gender as either male or female.
With such explosive feelings against this method of treatment – which they have termed “Conversion Therapy” – you might think they could point to some pretty shocking evidence.
As it turns out, one by one the representatives of the various medical boards openly admitted that they were not aware of ANY complaints having been received by their respective agencies about this practice. Meanwhile, they simply refuse to acknowledge the real-life examples of those who have found help and healing through these therapeutic methods – pretending, it seems, as though these people don’t exist.
Our team was there to address the work group’s proposal from a policy, a constitutional, and even a personal perspective. We also rallied counselors, pastors, and concerned citizens to show up to express their opposition.
In listening to all of the workgroup's discussion today, there were two key themes that ran throughout their remarks:
1) A licensed professional must choose between their profession or their faith, but they cannot possibly practice both at the same time. (A view that is totally misinformed and patently unconstitutional) And,
2) Parents cannot be trusted with acting in the best interest of their children. (Delegate Patrick Hope, who has patroned the “conversion therapy ban” bill in the House for several years, actually stated: “The reason I brought this bill is because I do think the government’s role is to take care of kids.”)
And then there was the unspoken but obvious implication by nearly all the members, that any religiously-motivated convictions that lead parents to seek counseling for their struggling child in this way are simply wrong, dangerous, and illegitimate.
Think about what they’re really saying through this policy to children with very real sexual struggles: You cannot change. You are what you feel, and you are destined to remain that way, unless of course you wish to modify your body or your behavior in an unhealthy and unnatural way. There is no help or hope for you, even if you desire it.
Now consider how that message flies in the face of what the Christian faith teaches:
I Corinthians 6: 9-11 – 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
By this policy, these bureaucrats directly attack the very ESSENSE of the Gospel message – the basis of the Christian faith, which declares that through the power of God, every person can actually be transformed through the renewing of their heart, mind, and soul.
Clearly, this battle is about so much more than what appears on the surface.
Today’s meeting did not take any actions, but they will recommend that several regulatory boards in Virginia do take action to ban “conversion therapy.” We anticipate that many boards will propose regulations that are a direct threat to religious liberty and parental authority. As we continue to meet this threat head on, we will keep you up to speed as things unfold. Thank you to everyone who spoke up at today’s meeting with passion and clarity. We will let you know when the next opportunity to speak comes up.
Huge Win For Christian Counselors!Jul. 06, 2018
Sometimes, victory is sweeter than we even realize. The recent major victory in the NIFLA v. Becerra case (read our blog about it here) wasn’t just great for the free speech and conscience rights of pro-life pregnancy support centers. As incredible as that was, the impact of the Court’s decision goes much further. The opinion includes strong language affirming the speech rights of all kinds of “professionals” – including counselors who are coming under increasing attacks. It’s an exciting development that we did not expect to come out of this case, and we intend to capitalize on it!
Of particular significance, the Opinion leaves little doubt that the so-called “conversion therapy” bans we see popping up in states everywhere would be declared unconstitutional if challenged. These laws prohibit licensed counselors – many of whom are also ordained ministers – from counseling a child experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion to embrace his or her true biological gender, or to overcome or navigate through their unwanted same-sex attractions consistent with Biblical precepts about human sexuality. To understand just how outrageous these initiatives are, I encourage you to read for yourself a Virginia bill that was introduced this year. We worked hard to help defeat that bill by just one vote.
Here are just a few of the strong statements the Court made about “professional speech” in its majority opinion:
“As with other kinds of speech, regulating the content of professionals’ speech ‘pose[s] the inherent risk that the Government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information.’”
“Throughout history, governments have ‘manipulat[ed] the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities: [citing as an example] In Nazi Germany, the Third Reich systematically violated the separation between state ideology and medical discourse.”
“Further, when the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to ‘preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.’ Professionals might have a host of good-faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields. Doctors and nurses might disagree about the ethics of assisted suicide or the benefits of medical marijuana; lawyers and marriage counselors might disagree about the prudence of prenuptial agreements or the wisdom of divorce;”
“‘[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,’ and the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”
“All that is required to make something a ‘profession,’ according to these courts, is that it involves personalized services and requires a professional license from the State. But that gives the States unfettered power to reduce a group’s First Amendment rights by simply imposing a licensing requirement. States cannot choose the protection that speech receives under the First Amendment, as that would give them a powerful tool to impose ‘invidious discrimination of disfavored subjects.’”
Others have picked up on this connection to conversion therapy bans, too. Read further commentary from the Ruth Institute and The Christian Post.
As more professions are increasingly being caught in the crossfire (or crosshairs) of the Gender Revolution on account of their faith-based convictions, and as too many men, women, and children are being sacrificed as pawns in its relentless ideological quest, this Opinion could not have come at a better time.
The Left's War On ConscienceJun. 11, 2018
During a congressional hearing last Wednesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, testified in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. During the hearing, Bobby Scott (D-VA 3rd District) pursued an aggressive line of questioning, which highlighted a tragic religious liberty attack that has become increasingly common in recent years.
Scott repeatedly pressed Secretary Azar in regards to Christian adoption agencies and their placement policies. Essentially, the issue involves the question of whether Christian adoption agencies should be coerced into violating their consciences by being forced to place children with same-sex couples. The hearing revealed Scott’s alignment with the increasingly mainstream Left on this issue, who are actively striving to force Christian adoption agencies to compromise their religious beliefs by allowing the placement of children to same-sex couples.
Sadly, many Christian adoption agencies have been given the choice between violating their most deeply held religious convictions and shutting down. As a result, several faith-based adoption agencies have already closed their doors, including the Catholic Charities in Boston, San Francisco, and Illinois. Among the frequent attempts by the Left to strip religious liberty away from Christians, this is one of the most damaging examples. Not only is the Left harming the Christians who are losing their religious freedom, but also the thousands of children who receive life-changing aid from these organizations. As Secretary Azar accurately pointed out in the hearing, faith-based adoption agencies “have a long history of providing social services to poor and underprivileged children as well as families, and if we take steps to exclude faith-based groups from our programs, it will harm them and harm efforts to support our programs.”
Indicative of the Left’s movement as a whole, they have chosen to place their radical ideology ahead of the well-being of these children. Unfortunately, the stories of Christian adoption agencies closing down is only a small piece of a much larger picture: the Left’s relentless attack on the religious liberty of faithful Christians. The battle against Christian adoption agencies is not about an attempt to ensure that same-sex couples can adopt children, for there are already numerous adoption agencies that are willing and happy to place children with same-sex couples. Instead, it is simply about the Left’s continued attempt to ram their radical ideology down the throats of faithful Christians.
As we witness time and time again, in the great irony of our age, a war of intolerance is being waged against Christians under the banner of “tolerance.” In this unique moment of history, Christians have to decide whether to obey the truths of their faith and the judgements of their conscience or bow down to the altar of tolerance.
By James Rossi
James is a 2018 Summer Policy Intern at The Family Foundation and a student at Christendom College.
Victory: Cake Artist Prevails 7-2Jun. 04, 2018
We are thrilled today to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court has sided 7-2 in favor of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who was penalized by the government for declining to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony because it violated his deeply-held religious conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman.
If you aren’t familiar with the details of the case, I encourage you to watch this video. This case is fundamentally about the role of government vs. freedom. Do you believe that we should empower our government to force people, particularly those whose occupations require creative speech, to speak in a way that violates their deeply-held beliefs? This is not an issue of a business owner having to “accommodate” anyone who walks in their door. Jack Phillips did that for any individual who entered his cake-making business – including homosexual people. However, he politely declined a message – in support of so-called same-sex marriage – that violates his conscience, as he had done previously by declining to make cakes celebrating Halloween and in various other instances.
Religious hostility has no place in a pluralistic society like ours. The Court rightly saw religious bigotry and named it as such. Just because it comes from the government, it is still not acceptable to banish Americans from the marketplace because they apply their beliefs – popular or not – in their workplace.
The case of Jack Phillips is illustrative of how governments can inappropriately use nondiscrimination laws to weaponize government against people of faith. While non-discrimination laws based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity may sound tolerant, they most often result in intolerant applications that punish people of faith who have sincerely-held religious views on marriage and sexuality. The practice of Jack Phillips to serve all customers but decline to celebrate events that violate his beliefs would have never had to be reviewed by the Supreme Court if the state of Colorado did not have a dangerous law to wield against Jack.
The Family Foundation will continue to protect Virginia by preventing the adoption of laws that are used by governments to drive people of faith out of the marketplace simply because they hold an unpopular view of marriage or human sexuality.
Shields not SwordsMay. 07, 2018
Seldom do I find myself in agreement with James Parrish, the Executive Director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Virginia, yet I have to applaud his characterization of The Family Foundation’s position in a recent speech he gave at the group’s annual dinner.
Speaking about two recently defeated bills that would have introduced the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (or “SOGI”) into state law, according to The Washington Blade, “Parrish said the ‘only objective’ of the bills’ opponents — the Family Foundation of Virginia . . . — was ‘to keep sexual orientation and gender identity out of the code.’ ” He’s exactly right.
In opposing these recurring SOGI bills, making sure our laws are left alone truly is our “only objective.” Hence, he won’t hear us asking the legislature to direct the policy decisions of private companies, many of whom — as Equality Virginia is keen to point out — have adopted various internal SOGI policies relative to employment. He won’t find us disregarding the dignity of anyone, or seeking to inhibit any person from receiving what they are due. Our conviction about the sanctity and intrinsic value of every life compels our recognition that every individual is entitled to equal justice under law.
At the same time, we’ve noticed that whenever and wherever governments create special legal protections for traits that are neither static nor readily apparent to others (and therefore, impossible to define) — such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” — the only effect has been to create an open invitation for unnecessary and often-unfounded accusations, litigation, and discrimination against those who hold a different viewpoint. Nondiscrimination laws were designed to act as a “shield” of protection for those who, as members of a distinct class, experience widespread invidious discrimination and yet are politically-powerless so as to be unable to rectify societal mistreatment through other means. Unfortunately, the addition of SOGI to these laws has instead created a “sword” for some to attack others who disagree with their beliefs on human sexuality.
Since issues of sexuality so often carry deep and profound moral, ethical, and religious implications — particularly for followers of most of the major faith traditions — every place where SOGI has been given special legal status, people of deep religious faith become the flashpoint of a serious conflict and find themselves faced with the loss of their jobs, businesses, livelihoods, reputations, and more.
Just as Parrish stated, “[Equality Virginia’s] agenda is to make sure people can live authentic lives”, The Family Foundation exists to ensure that all people have the ability to freely and authentically live out – to “exercise” – their faith, even and especially when that faith counters the beliefs of the majority of society. In order for all people to live authentic lives, no one can be expected to check their faith-identity at the door when they enter the marketplace or their workplace. If one uses their artistic talent in their professional lives, as cake bakers, photographers and florists do, they must not be forced to participate in the celebration of something that violates a core tenet of their faith. They can’t set their faith aside for any one moment, because it’s who they are. It is this understanding of faith-identities that requires us to take every reasonable action to prevent the unnecessary and unjustified insertion of SOGI into our state Code – because, for countless people of sincere faith, governments are now using these laws as weapons to make it impossible to live their convictions.
Where Mr. Parrish and I part ways is in our view of the outcome of these bills. I am thankful that our legislature continues to resist annual requests to add SOGI to our laws, even as the House is under new leadership. Speaker Cox, like Speaker Howell before him, understands that Virginians of faith have been spared the destructive “sword-wielding” currently taking place in every state that opted to trade prudence for political pandering.
For the good of all concerned, we’d like to keep it that way.
(This piece was originally published as an Op/Ed in the May 5 edition of The Roanoke Times.)
Pursuing Godliness in CaliforniaApr. 30, 2018
A bill in California would ban “sexual orientation change efforts.”
There has been a lot of talk about California Bill 2943. The California Policy Council is working diligently to protect the people of California by preventing it from being passed. Focus on the Family, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Coalition, and David French at the National Review have all written clearly in opposition to this bill and about the consequences it would have on religious liberty. Dr. Russell Moore wrote a letter to Governor Gerry Brown urging him to oppose the bill.
This bill would be a violation of our Constitutional right of Free Speech as well as a violation of our Free Exercise of Religion. It would silence pastors. It would even threaten to bar the sale of books according to analysis from Alliance Defending Freedom!
I cannot improve on what they have written so clearly. So, rather than going over the text of the bill and its impact on religious leaders in California, I will write about its impact on men like me.
Men like me have sexual attractions for other men – in my case, since I was twelve years old. Men like me do not embrace those attractions, but instead “take every thought captive” and live in obedience to Christ. Christ calls us to live differently.
California’s potential law is based on the idea that “sexual orientation” is a fixed and immutable part of who we are. The law is nonsensical if you do not accept the ideological–and even religious–premise that our sexual attractions and romantic feelings are central to our identity.
I reject that ideological dogma. My identity is centered in the fact that I was created. My Creator determines my identity.
I am a man, made in the image and likeness of God. Sin has distorted that image, though, and I experience attractions which are not accurate reflections of the image of God.
Redemption from that sinful distortion was accomplished for me by Christ, who has changed my identity from “sinner” to “son.” I am a son of God through the work of Christ. That is my identity.
The underlying premise of this bill is based on a false understanding of our identity. Its effect is to totally prevent men like me from getting help from Christian pastors, speakers, and even from books. Of course, no one should be shamed or electrocuted because of who they are attracted to! That’s silly. But neither should they be banned from getting help in pursuing godliness.
Elders in the Church throughout history have encouraged younger men to be steadfast, resist temptation, and to flee from wickedness. Sometimes this encouragement has come in the form of Biblical counseling, attending conferences, or listening to a pastor talk at a special event about how to maintain sexual purity and grow in our love for Christ.
This bill continues to promote the false idea that one’s identity – as recognized by law – is based on “sexual orientation.” This bill directly conflicts with Christianity and is incompatible with religious liberty.
I’m very glad that Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates defeated a similar bill this year. It represented only one of many attempts in recent years to insert the concept of “sexual orientation” as an identity into Virginia’s laws. There will be more attempts, and we at The Family Foundation will continue to oppose them.
Religious liberty must be protected, not merely as a principle, but because men like me need the support of the Church as I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ.
“Shame. Shame. Shame."Feb. 09, 2018
The committee room was overflowing into the hallway. Within that entire crowd, only a handful of people could be found who supported our position that Virginia law should not uniquely set apart the classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity as worthy of unique protections, as it does for minorities and religious people.
Have you ever had to stand, being 1 out of 100, literally, not figuratively, and express an opinion that would result in loud shouting and people jeering at you? Have you had a moment where your words of truth result in people following you out of the room shouting at you, “shame, shame, shame”?
This is what my team does through the legislative session. This is what they did yesterday. They stand for the truth in a hostile environment and are a representation of those reviled as described in 1 Peter 4:14-16. In legislative meetings and in the media, they represent thousands of Virginians who believe in our values and want someone to defend marriage as God designed it but can’t, or won’t, be at the Capitol themselves to do so. This team of policy warriors stands in the middle of the battle, taking the onslaught of hate and ridicule for our faith and our families every day.
Yesterday, a House General Laws sub-committee took up five bills that sought to enshrine into the Code of Virginia new, specially-protected classes of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These bills were put forth with the stated motivation of ensuring no discrimination takes place in state hiring or public housing against those in same-sex relationships or who have gender dysphoria and thus feel they are a gender that is not their biological sex.
Our team handedly dismantled their arguments bringing forward indisputable facts that in Virginia there have been no claims of discrimination in hiring, or housing that have been found to have merit. When we raised the concern that Liberty University would be forced to allow same-sex married couples to be housed in their married student housing under the proposed bill despite their deeply held convictions, the sponsor of the bill stepped forward and pronounced the true motivation.
In the words of Delegate Simon,
"There are certain sincerely held religious beliefs which are so discriminatory that we don't give them the protection of the law, and this is one of those cases."
And now we know. Make no mistake. These bills are not about telling a secular government not to discriminate when hiring. These laws are about preventing Christian universities and ministries from being able to practice their faith convictions about marriage. These bills seek to weaponize government against people of faith.
Yesterday, we defeated these bills with the help of 5 members on the subcommittee: Delegates Jason Miyares, Barry Knight, Tommy Wright, Dickie Bell and Buddy Fowler. Click here to watch the full committee. Bill Janis from The Family Foundation begins his testimony at 46:35.
But despite yesterday’s result, the battle continues. It's not going away. And The Family Foundation will continue to be there fighting that battle with you and for you, and for all Virginians.
Religious Liberty wins, for now.Jan. 10, 2018
Based on a quick survey of news articles and blogs on Mississippi’s law, HB 1523, you could conclude that gay, lesbian, transgender, and people who have sex outside of marriage, are about to be in great danger.
That is because the news articles and blogs are filled with hyperbole about how hated these groups of people must be. You will read about how scared lesbian women are when they travel to Jackson. You will read that opponents of the law say unmarried women will not be able to get birth control. You will read that people will be “hurt” and won’t have access to health care and governmental services. You will read that this law “leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation.”
And that’s about all that you will read about it. Based on the news reports alone, this law sounds like the worst thing ever to happen in Mississippi.
So it was fair to assume, based on the news and blogs, that the Supreme Court would protect the people of Mississippi from such a terrible law. Yet, the Supreme Court didn’t do that. This week, the high court announced that it isn’t going to hear the challenge brought against this law.
This is good news for the Mississippi government, which passed the law in the first place. But is it bad news for all the people the news and blogs have been crying out for?
Journalists, bloggers, and even Business Councils have talked about the “environment of discrimination” that this law might generate.
The name of this law is the, “Protecting Freedom of Conscious from Government Discrimination Act.” So there’s no doubt, the law is about discrimination.
It’s telling that only one of the news articles called this act by its name. All the others, and all the blogs, called it “HB 1523” or “The Religious Freedom Act.”
Instead of talking about the dangers of governmental discrimination against religious persons, all the news articles and blogs have been going on about the dangers of discrimination by religious persons.
In reality, this law will not result in a discriminatory environment against individuals.
(This law does nothing to change the state of the law against individual discrimination. Churches are already allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religious beliefs. Individuals are already allowed to discriminate against same-sex weddings. This was reported in the one news article that actually called the act by its name.)
The “Protecting Freedom of Conscious from Government Discrimination Act” does just that. It protects religious individuals and organizations from discrimination by the government. After what we’ve seen done to Jack Phillips in Colorado, Baronnelle Stutzman in Washington, Kevin Cochran in Atlanta, Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon, and so many others, that kind of protection is definitely warranted.
By Sean Maguire, Grassroots Coordinator at The Family Foundation
Contact Congress TODAY – Repeal “Johnson Amendment” in Tax BillDec. 13, 2017
Congress has a historic opportunity to protect the free speech rights of churches and non-profits on the tax reform bill Congress is expected to finalize and send to the president before Christmas! The House passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains a critical provision called the “Free Speech Fairness” Act” to gut the Johnson Amendment restriction on churches and non-profits from engaging in political speech. However, the Senate’s version of the bill did not contain this provision.
The House and Senate have created a special “conference” to reconcile the different versions of the tax bill, and they plan to meet starting today. I want to encourage you to contact the “conferees” and the House and Senate leadership to ensure the final bill includes the repeal of the speech-killing Johnson Amendment.
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the “Johnson Amendment” to censor what pastors preach from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, pastors’ First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share truth on biblical issues – like the sanctity of life and marriage – could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
It’s also important to note that the House-passed version’s repeal of the Johnson Amendment contains a “sunset” date, and would mean it would go back into effect in 2024. Congress must ensure that the House language regarding the Johnson Amendment is included in the final passage of the bill and that the sunset is removed from the final conference report. The Constitution should not be sunset.
Please call the GOP conferees and House and Senate leadership offices today or tomorrow and encourage them to keep the Fairness Act language and to remove the 2024 sunset so they can send this critical provision to President Trump before Christmas!
We Got Your Back, Jack!Dec. 07, 2017
On Tuesday, I had the honor of joining several pro-family leaders, including the Colson Center’s John Stonestreet, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, and many others, by addressing the crowd on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as it heard arguments in the Jack Phillips free speech case.
You can watch my remarks here (beginning at the 3-minute mark) on our Facebook page.
If you aren’t familiar with the details of the case, I encourage you to watch this video. This case of significant impact is fundamentally about the role of government vs. freedom. Do you believe that we should empower our government to force people, particularly those whose occupations require creative speech, to speak in a way that violates their deeply held beliefs? This is not an issue of a business owner having to “accommodate” anyone who walks in their door – Jack Phillips did that for any individual who entered his cake-making business – including homosexual people. However, he politely declined a message – in support of so-called same-sex marriage – that violates his conscience, as he had done previously by declining to make cakes celebrating Halloween and in various other instances.
Those, such as the ACLU, who believe that the government should be able to compel objectionable speech, continue to obfuscate the facts by deceptively ignoring the distinction between a business serving an individual and being forced to participate in an event or speech that violates their conscience. Based on what I heard yesterday outside the Court, there is little doubt that the ACLU and their allies want a government that has the power to crush any and all dissent to the sexual revolution, particularly when it comes to marriage.
Inside the Court, the justices seemed to come down along predictable liberal vs. conservative lines, with the swing vote Anthony Kennedy sending mixed signals. He clearly was concerned that the government of the state of Colorado, which attacked Jack Phillips, was acting out of anti-religious animus, but worried about the implications of accommodating religious belief. Several justices were clearly uncomfortable with the obvious religious animus expressed by the ACLU’s attorney and the state of Colorado. Whether that will be enough for the Justices to side with freedom and the constitution is anyone’s guess.
We likely won’t have a decision prior to the end of June, when the Court routinely releases its opinions in “controversial” cases. In the meantime, continue to pray for the Court, for Jack Phillips, and all of those involved with this case.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all of you who joined us outside the Court yesterday! Many of you met to get on buses in the dark, early morning hours and spent most of the morning standing in the chilly, Washington, DC December weather! But the crowd was fantastic and sent a huge message to Jack Phillips and his family – We Got Your Back, Jack!
It’s Not About Wedding CakesOct. 18, 2017
What’s all the hype about wedding cakes in recent days? And why will a lawsuit involving a cake maker prove to be the most closely-watched and scrutinized decision the U.S. Supreme Court announces all year? You might even be thinking: Well I like cake and all, but who knew it was that important?
If you hadn’t picked up on it by now, when it comes to cultural battles – and especially the ones played out at the level of the Supreme Court – the issue is almost never really the issue. That is to say, the seemingly small thing over which highly divergent metaphysical universes are colliding is simply the vehicle chosen to carry a more fundamental idea across the goal line. In this latest faceoff, that vehicle is a cake designer and his creation of a custom wedding cake.
While a wedding cake is not exactly a need for human survival, nor something that the average person encounters in his daily life, there is at stake within this cake a very fundamental value, which for one side may be the most fundamental of all: An individual’s right to live according to the dictates of his conscience, informed by his sincerely-held religious beliefs. On the opposite side stands the alleged right to be free from discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” in places of “public accommodation.”
The competing questions could thus be posed: Should a wedding cake artist/designer be forced to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony if doing so would violate his deeply-held religious beliefs about the nature of marriage and thereby make him feel complicit in celebrating something he believes dishonors God? And on the other side: Should a person be denied a service by a business, who holds itself out as serving the public, on the basis of that person’s sexual practices and preferences or because they hold a different view about the nature of marriage and wish to celebrate it accordingly?
Prudent minds should be raising an important question: Can’t Christian cake artists and same-sex couples who want a custom wedding cake peacefully coexist? Is it really too much to ask that each side gets what it wants, and everyone can go home happy?
Yes and no. But it depends on who’s being asked.
It would seem that if Christian cake artists can do business without violating their consciences and same-sex couples can still get their dream wedding cake, then there is really no conflict after all. And if that’s the case, we can all just get on with our lives. The universes need not collide.
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what unraveled here. After Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, other local bakeries responded by offering to design a wedding cake for them and give it to them for FREE. My goodness – that sounds like more than a win-win. In the end, the same-sex couple was actually better off. Not only did it become quickly apparent that the couple had plenty of options for willing cake designers, but some even wanted to go above and beyond to bless them in their circumstances.
Jack Phillips, on the other hand, was arguably worse off, since the public backlash against him for his decision not to design the couple’s wedding cake caused his business to lose about 40% of its revenue. But from Jack’s perspective, his commitment to God is more important than money or popularity, and at least he gets to continue to live his life – including running his business – in accordance with his faith.
But lest we forget, this was never about a wedding cake. The same-sex couple decided to sue Jack anyway, willing even to press their cause all the way to the highest court in the land. For this couple and the many like them who feel vicariously represented, it’s not enough to “live and let live.” It isn’t sufficient that they be able to obtain the services they’re looking for, even if it can’t be from Jack. No, they must ensure that no one ever dares to suggest that their concepts of marriage and sexuality are anything but normal, beautiful and good. Not only must Jack create for them a cake if they want one; he must join with them in celebrating a union anathema to his most deeply-held convictions. And he must serve as an example to all others like him that they had better give up their religious convictions about marriage and sexuality or else be ready to forfeit their business, their reputation, and their livelihood.
That’s what this case is really about.
While the Supreme Court may have recently granted a newfound right for same-sex couples to participate in the union called marriage, it did not (and indeed, cannot) grant to them the ability to deny to others their long-recognized freedoms, like Jack Phillips’ rights to free exercise of religion, speech, and expression in choosing not to design a cake for a religious ceremony. As the saying goes, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Or better yet, “You can’t have your cake and deny others their freedom too.”
Rest assured, this case never was about wedding cakes. At base it’s about whether we as a society will continue to recognize that each person has a supreme duty to God and that the rest of us, therefore, have a corresponding duty to permit them to fulfill it. No less than this determination is at stake when the Supreme Court renders its opinion. As it does so, the Justices would do well to consider the following portion of Article I Section 16 of Virginia’s Bill of Rights:
“That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. 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 all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
VA Federal Court Dismisses "Sexual Orientation"Oct. 04, 2017
A federal court in Virginia acknowledged last week that “sexual orientation” is not the same thing as a person’s “sex” under Title IX, which deals with civil rights in educational settings. In other words, “sex” still means male and female – the same as it meant when Congress wrote the law decades ago. As a result, Virginia schools and universities that receive federal funds shouldn’t fall prey to claims of discrimination based on the progressive left’s concept of “sexual orientation.”
Given that it is the “sexual orientation” portions of many non-discrimination laws and ordinances that are now being used to penalize and even criminalize people for their faith – people like Christian cake artist Jack Phillips, or Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman and many others – it’s critical that Virginians don’t invite in through our courts and legislature what has become a Trojan horse for many other states. It is for this reason that The Family Foundation has opposed legislation that would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to protected classes in Virginia law. We fear that such laws would further weaponize the government against those who choose to not participate in events that violate their faith.
This case is important because it affirms that no federal court in Virginia, including the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which encompasses the state of Virginia, has interpreted sex discrimination under federal law to include the concept of a person’s “sexual orientation.”
During the past two legislative sessions in Richmond, The Family Foundation has championed a religious freedom bill that would shield religious schools and charities from government penalties or the loss of benefits simply for observing policies consistent with their long-held religious beliefs about marriage. We helped get the bill to Governor McAuliffe’s desk both years, and both times he vetoed it.
Rest assured we’ll continue to fight for religious liberty and conscience rights for all. Hopefully this year we’ll get a Governor who will stand up for religious liberty. In the meantime, it’s helpful that Virginia’s state and federal courts are still holding the line.
Censoring SermonsSep. 27, 2017
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the “Johnson Amendment” to censor what churches and pastors preach from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, pastors' First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share truth on biblical issues – like the sanctity of life and marriage – could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
It’s time to fix the Johnson Amendment. Right now, we have the opportunity to restore free speech to all nonprofits, including churches and their leaders, through the Free Speech Fairness Act sponsored by Oklahoma Senator, and former youth pastor, James Lankford.
The FSFA is the culmination of nearly 10 years of advocacy to fix the Johnson Amendment and put an end to IRS intimidation and censorship of America’s pulpits. Unfortunately, a small, but vocal, group of religious organizations is petitioning Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment. We need to ensure that Congress hears from the rest of our religious leaders, who overwhelmingly believe that pastors and churches should be free to apply Scripture to every aspect of life—including candidates and elections—as their conscience requires.
If you are a pastor, please read the letter and consider signing your name in support of this important bill. If you're not a pastor, please encourage your pastor to sign today.
By signing your name to the letter, your voice will join a nationwide movement of pastors calling on Congress to pass the Free Speech Fairness Act and restore freedom of speech to America’s pulpits. Visit www.pulpitfreedom.org to learn more.