Booing God in ChesterfieldMay 12, 2017
It seems that booing God and America’s distinct religious heritage has come to Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom, even taking place just a few miles from the very place where the Statute for Religious Freedom passed into law.
Needless to say, the overtly anti-faith wing of the secular left is no longer a small segment to be ignored, but has become the dominant force on the left driving not just an anti-faith political movement, but sadly, an entire political party.
In case you didn’t see it in news coverage of this week’s Town Hall meeting in Chesterfield with local Congressman Dave Brat – oh wait, you couldn’t have since none of the multiple media stories about the event mentioned it – the crowd repeatedly booed any reference to God. From the start, where the crowd booed the pastor of the church where the event was held and booed when the name of the church was mentioned, the crowd was openly hostile to the idea of faith.
But topping it off were the resounding boos that came when Congressman Brat dared state that our rights come from God:
Of course, as rejecting the principles on which our nation was founded becomes more celebrated, the more of this we’re going to see. The secular left is unrestrained and unashamed of its hatred for God and God-fearing Americans. Obviously, there are many on the left who believe that rights are granted to us by government (i.e. man), therefore making government their god. They don’t seem to understand (or maybe they do?) why a government that has the power to grant rights also has the power to eliminate them.
Yet again, the media failed to mention any of this in its coverage. Why? Do they agree with the protestors? Or are they concerned that if Virginians were made aware of this kind of anti-faith action on the left they’d quickly reject it? Media bias is revealed just as much in what it chooses not to report as what is does report. Ignoring the anti-faith booing is yet another example.
Our response to this hostility cannot be to behave in a similar way. We know the truth, and as Thomas Jefferson said in the Statute for Religious Freedom, “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.” Our response must simply be to remain informed of the truth of our religious heritage, and its importance in maintaining a civil society. And we must be willing to teach our kids, inform our friends and neighbors, and vote only for those who do not arrogantly believe that they are the source of our freedom.
Thanksgiving Transcends Our Political Mayhem
Thanksgiving Transcends Our Political Mayhem
“Behold, now, the providence of God”- William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
This Thursday, millions of Americans will come together for a strange little holiday we call Thanksgiving. Regretfully, the current climate of American politics means too many celebrations across the country will end in bitter resentment between family members, and a deepened divide in our public discourse. Our commemoration of the 1621 harvest feast between Native Americans and Protestant Separatists is often misconstrued, and seldom understood. Americans themselves remain ignorant to the purpose of the holiday, and it is that failure which helps devolve family gatherings into political bickering.
The legacy of the Pilgrims ought to have ended in the winter of 1620. Undersupplied and thinly clothed, the small band of English settlers was on the verge of annihilation. Those that escaped the cold starved to death. Those who had food were taken by disease. William Bradford described their first winter with grim resolve.
“But it pleased God to visit us with death daily, and with so general a disease that the living were scarce able to bury the dead.”
Their numbers reduced by half, the Pilgrims, by miracle, endured. Frankly, they should have died in the insufficient and cold settlement of Plymouth. All reasonable indicators pointed to this being the only eventuality; that the settlers would go the way of the Roanoke Colony, and disappear entirely. The Pilgrims credited their survival to Divine Providence. Many today would call it luck. Whichever one’s view, the importance of the “miracle” of 1620 should not be lost.
Given today’s politics, Thanksgiving is a distinctly important reminder for the American public. It is not a celebration of material or familial blessing. Nor is it a profound metaphor for the value of diversity. Rather, Thanksgiving serves to commemorate the necessity of Providence in the winter of 1620. Without it, the values of the Pilgrims, ideas of faith and freedom and personal responsibility, may not have survived on the continent. Certainly America, which has done true good across the world, would be a radically different nation.
In those of faith, Thanksgiving should inspire reverence. In those without faith, Thanksgiving should inspire, well, thanksgiving.
By Cameron Dominy
Cameron is a Master’s Student at Cevro Institute in Prague, Czech Republic and a former Family Foundation Intern.
While the shockwaves continue to reverberate after Tuesday’s dismal election results, pundits and politicians alike have more than their fair share of opinions as to the reasons. That’s all well and good and an important exercise. You likely have a strong opinion about why Virginians voted the way they did. I know I do. But while a deep and painful discussion must take place about why things played out that way and what needs to be done in the future, it's unlikely that a constructive conversation can take place on the pages of the Washington Post, where too many seem willing to share their view.
In the meantime, we have to deal with the immediate consequences of the election.
You see, Virginians didn’t just send a bunch of new Democrats to the General Assembly. They sent some of the most aggressive, extreme leftist politicians Virginia has ever seen. From staunch, self-proclaimed socialists to pro-abortion zealots, we can expect them to introduce some of the most dangerous anti-life, anti-faith, anti-freedom legislation in Virginia history beginning in January. And with both chambers controlled by Republicans only by the narrowest of margins, the fight to stop those proposals will be extraordinarily difficult. But that is what we must do all the same.
We will be happy to work with members of both parties where we can, in particular in areas like fixing foster care and adoption law, eliminating human trafficking, addressing school discipline and any other areas where we can find common ground. But make no mistake, the so-called “progressive” liberals who were elected on Tuesday didn’t run on any of those issues. They ran to force you to pay for abortions at any point during pregnancy; they ran to force your children into public school showers and locker rooms with kids of the opposite sex; they ran to crush religious freedom in the public square; and they ran to create a far more dominant, centralized government.
If media stories are correct and thousands of voters literally “didn’t care” who was on the ballot and didn’t have a clue who they were voting for - only that they were voting against Republicans - then perhaps this is a “wave” election and can be corrected in short order. I find it bizarre that people would act so irrationally, but we live in an age where reason and common sense are obliterated by emotional outbursts, so such a possibility exists. Dislike the President? Fine. But to turn around and vote for people you know nothing about and not care what their agendas might be is irresponsible and dangerous.
In the meantime, however, that’s all the more reason why we need to stop anything and everything they try in the next two years. We look forward to working with both Senate and House leaders on preventing leftist extremism in Virginia.
Unfortunately, on Tuesday, The Family Foundation lost some key, strong leaders and key allies to our principles. Men like Scott Lingamfelter, John O’Bannon, Jackson Miller, Rich Anderson, Tag Greason, Jim LeMunyon, Bob Marshall and others were defeated. The General Assembly not only lost key pro-family conservatives, it also lost men of great experience, principle and intellect who worked hard for every Virginian. They will be greatly missed and I for one am truly saddened by their losses.
I recognize that today you may be discouraged and dejected. I am, too. But we must resist the temptation to retreat. Regardless of whether Virginia is blue, red or purple, the principles you and I share are the only hope for a thriving culture. We have no choice to but advocate for truth and righteousness even in the face of such devastating elections. And, we have no choice but to do all we can to resist the agenda of those who seek to take away our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the long term, those of us who understand that social, tax, health care, and welfare policies that have torn families apart, prevented families from forming, or stressed families to the breaking point are contributing to the destruction of the one and only entity that gives people a deep identity, stability, security and – as John Adams (the original one!) once said – forms the moral foundation for people. The extreme left that now dominates the Democrat party believes the opposite – it believes the family is the problem and not the solution. Until we are able to once again persuade younger generations that it is only in the formation of strong families with a mom and a dad where they will find the security they so desperately seek in government, I fear for not just future elections but the future of our nation. Simply put, our society will not survive the continued assault on the family unit.
Defying our creator’s design for family will prove as successful as attempting to defy gravity. You can for a while, but eventually, you come crashing to earth. In America today, we are reaping a generation of broken families and family fragmentation. It isn’t just economic and it’s not just political; it’s moral and cultural as well. We ignore this to our own peril. At The Family Foundation, we are committed to restoring the family as the foundation of our society. It may only happen when the policies endorsed by the secular left come crashing down around us, but it will happen. I hope we don’t have to wait for the destruction of our culture before we rebuild. I hope the church gets serious about standing for the truth of God’s design for family and morality in a powerful and persuasive way. Teaching how to balance a checkbook is nice and all, but it isn’t why the church was created.
In the meantime, we fight on, politically and culturally. We can’t stop. The future depends on it.
Diversity = Uniformity
Diversity = Uniformity
All around the country, in public high schools like this one, school boards and administrators are doing away with separate-colored graduation gowns for senior boys and girls on their big day – a practice that, for many schools, has been a long-cherished tradition. But long-cherished traditions, as we know, are increasingly unwelcome in our enlightened culture, and in many cases even considered harmful or discriminatory.
Of course, multi-colored gowns are just one of the many necessary casualties in the Left’s zealous quest to stamp out all gender norms and distinctions. A lot of students and parents aren’t happy about the change, you say? Bigots! You mean, parents and communities actually kinda think there’s something special about their girls wearing one color gown and their boys wearing another? Narrow-minded transphobes!
Yet I get the impression that most school officials aren’t changing the gown tradition simply so that they can actively champion the new gender-neutral orthodoxy. For the most part, the monochromatic gowns are a reaction – a move they see as a necessary solution – to requests by boys to wear the girls’ color or by girls to wear the boys’ color. These are generally students who self-identify as being the gender opposite their own, and who obviously feel justifiably entitled to have long-established cultural and biological morés transformed to meet their latest teenage desire, even at the expense of everyone else’s reasonably justified desires.
We have to empathize with the school officials here. They’ve been put in a no-win situation. They can:
1) Say no to the “transgender” student and continue with their long-established tradition, but face a lawsuit in federal court, and worse, the concentrated scorn of the cultural Left (and possibly lose their career within education).
2) Allow the student to wear the colored gown designated for the opposite gender, and thereby give credibility (and undue attention) to this gender theory that says there is no functional difference between girls and boys (and thereby undermine the entire reason for separate color gowns). OR,
3) Opt for a “middle ground,” a “compromise,” a “silver bullet” that can avoid the negative consequences of a yes or a no (or so they think). They can just scrap the whole two-color gown thing and make everyone wear the same gown.
Faced with these choices, many high schools are opting for Option #3. And who could blame them? So there we have it, problem solved!
Not so fast. We must be very careful not to miss what’s happening here. It’s the classic tactic of “two steps forward, one step back.” And frankly, it’s brilliant, because it’s working.
As society attempts to formally recognize every possible viewpoint and identity as having equal validity among all others – all in the name of “diversity” (as if diversity is somehow intrinsically good) – the inevitable consequence is that we go from real diversity to uniformity and then conformity. Without fail, you can bet the farm, this happens every time. "Diversity" is now being overshadowed by "inclusiveness." Yet what results is "sameness." Forcing everyone to wear the same colored graduation gowns is just one recent example.
When school officials decide not to stand up for the truth about human nature (in this case, with gender differences), they will predictably be seen doing what thereafter naturally flows: rushing to establish a one-size-fits-all standard for students based upon the “least common denominator” (instead of striving for truth and excellence), avoiding potential conflicts at all costs (instead of addressing the underlying factors creating the conflict), and eradicating all traces of actual or perceived “inequalities” (instead of challenging students to excel and holding them accountable for their actions).
When this happens, the good and healthy forms of diversity, as well as excellence itself, become necessary casualties. Uniformity is exalted as the greatest value. And then, well, you know the rest. All you have to do is take a look across the pond at most other places in the world, whose people by the way will do just about anything to get into the "land of the free" and the "home of the brave."
Be very careful not to miss what's happening under our noses. We’re a frog in a pot, and the water is already simmering. The path of least resistance is often the path to our own undoing.
It’s Not About Wedding Cakes
It’s Not About Wedding Cakes
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"
VA Federal Court Dismisses "Sexual Orientation"
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.
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.