Family Research Council

USDA Gives E.O. a Farm Foundation

May 11, 2017

It's been less than a week since President Trump signed an executive order saying his administration would protect and promote religious freedom. And now, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue -- who was at the Rose Garden signing of the order last Thursday -- is doing his part to make that promise possible. In a policy statement sent to all Department of Agriculture employees, Perdue promised a new day for religious freedom.

"Today, I want to reestablish this Department's commitment to safeguarding every American's First Amendment rights, particularly the right to free speech and the right to free religious exercise. USDA is committed to protecting both. I expect each and every USDA employee to uphold their fellow Americans' First Amendment freedoms. Whether we are inspecting private businesses for compliance with food safety laws or protecting our public land or protecting public land for recreation, cultivation, and preservation, we must set the standard for our nation's highest ideals. Doing so is not optional, and it is not discretionary: It is one of the reasons we exist."

For Christians, who've lived under the anti-faith cloud of Obama, it's encouraging to see Secretary Perdue move so quickly to communicate that the USDA is under new management. After all, it was the USDA that was responsible for one of the more egregious cases of government-sponsored religious hostility. Don Vander Boon, owner of West Michigan Beef Company, was threatened by inspectors to shut him down -- not because of the meat he was processing, but because they had a beef with the conservative materials on the break room table. That case is yet to be resolved, but hopefully, Perdue's unequivocal statement will lead to unequivocal actions to protect and preserve religious freedom.

And with any luck, actions like Secretary Perdue's will make believers out of all the naysayers who said the president's order didn't go far enough. As we said at the time, the real impact of this decision is at the cabinet level, where leaders can put real teeth to the president's words. That's when the influence of conservative stalwarts like Sonny Perdue or Secretary Tom Price of HHS, who are both taking meaningful strides to act, will be felt. In fact, this is exactly what I discussed with the vice president and other White House officials when the conversation about these protections first came up.

While some on the Right don't seem to understand the order's potential, liberals certainly do. Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times tried to sound the alarm over the indifference to the religious liberty E.O. in an interesting op-ed this week. "What really has me worried," she writes, "is the tepid response from the mainstream..." She insists Trump's move is far from an "empty symbolic measure" as some have claimed. Why? Because of the people tasked with implementing it! "As Emily Bazelon noted in The Times last week, the Department of Health and Human Services 'is getting an anti-abortion makeover.' The department is headed by a strongly anti-abortion former congressman, Tom Price. Charmaine Yoest, former head of Americans United for Life, the intellectual powerhouse of the anti-abortion movement, is an assistant secretary and Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee, is in line to be a deputy assistant secretary."

Then, pointing to the most significant changes, entrusted to the Justice Department, Greenhouse points out, "There's [also] the section of the order labeled 'religious liberty guidance,' directing the attorney general to 'issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law." That would be Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has worn his religion on his sleeve throughout his public career."

Of course, the majority of Americans don't think that protecting the First Amendment is even close to outrageous -- but the fact that liberals do proves why this order is necessary! We couldn't be happier that Secretary Perdue took the president's words to heart and set to work righting the wrongs done to businesses like the Vander Boon's. If the rest of the movement isn't satisfied, I refer them to the White House's Kellyanne Conway, who said: "If they're disappointed, then they're not paying attention."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Under Obamacare, No Assurance about Insurance

May 11, 2017

If the Senate takes too long with the health care bill, there won't be much of a system to replace! Insurance companies have been running for the exits on the Obamacare exchange for the last few years -- and this week is no exception. Another heavy hitter, Aetna, announced that it was pulling out of the provider pool this week after swimming in Obamacare's red ink. Although Aetna didn't take a $1 billion hit like UnitedHealth, the third largest health care provider is no fan of the law. After the company's earnings were released, executives joined a group of increasingly vocal providers casting doubt on Obamacare's future -- and their partnership in it. So far, the reviews on the un-Affordable Care Act have been brutal from insurers and consumers who were promised a sustainable system -- but experienced anything but.

According to the Washington Post, "Aetna lost $450 million last year on its nearly 1 million customers with individual health policies on and off the insurance exchanges. In disclosing the final departures Wednesday, spokesman T.J. Crawford said the company expects to lose an additional $200 million for 2017 on its remaining 255,000 ACA customers." Like so many of his counterparts, CEO Mark Bertolini warned that the marketplaces were in a "death spiral" -- an assessment shared by HHS Secretary Tom Price. Aetna's latest decision, he told reporters, "adds to the mountain of evidence that Obamacare has failed the American people. Repealing and replacing it with patient-centered solutions that stabilize the marketplace to bring down costs and increase choices is the only solution."

With enrollment down in the exchanges and the support around it collapsing, no one can afford to subsidize a market that's overrun by sick and high-risk patients. If the titans of the U.S. insurance industry walk away, the government's system is in for an even bigger shock. Of course, it's hard to feel sorry for many of these providers since they joined the push to pass Obamacare when they were promised it would be good it would be for business. Frankly, I think shareholders should fire the CEOs that gambled people's health care on government promises that a socialistic system would bring positive returns. They should've been smart enough then to see what's evident to everyone now -- Obamacare isn't just bad for business, it's bad for America.

Fortunately, the new administration is committed to changing that by working with Congress to craft a law that not only saves dollars -- but lives. You can help by encouraging your senators to keep the House bill's pro-life provisions intact! Without them, Congress won't stand a chance of doing the one thing voters elected them for: replacing Obamacare.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Survey Says?

May 11, 2017

The president isn't the only one with an approval rating. Thanks to the American Culture & Faith Institute, we also know where cultural leaders stand with the Christian base they're representing. In the latest survey of what George Barna calls SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians), there are some familiar front-runners in the 31 men and women measured. FRC earned a spot near the top of the list which is a testament, not just to our team, but to you -- the hundreds of thousands of committed families and individuals we represent. The report revealed who SAGE Cons saw as effectively leading cultural change in America.

But the numbers only tell one side of the story. The other is the impact of evangelical voters on the election. Through the course of the election, George Barna insisted that Donald Trump would need at least 86 percent of these SAGE Con voters to win. By the end of the election night, the GOP nominee had 94 percent -- easily outperforming every Republican since Ronald Reagan. Remarkably, 90 percent of them turned out to vote. Donald Trump's "largest segment of support," Barna notes, "was the Christian conservative vote."

While Barna pointed out the leaders with influence, it's important to understand the significant role we each play in shaping the direction of our nation. God hasn't placed us here in America at this time in history to sit passively on the sidelines hoping that things will change. He's given us the opportunity to act while we still have the freedom to do so. If more and more Christians see that we must engage on issues of biblical and Christian truth for the good of our country, we'll ultimately see lasting change for the better. This change takes time; it doesn't happen overnight. And elections of politicians who allow people of faith the freedom to work for this change are only one step in the process. We must now take the next steps of intensified prayer and focused rebuilding combined with a resolution to stand firm -- no matter what!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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