My Brother's Keeper -- or Big Brother's Keeper?
Fortunately for President Obama, there is one job where his approval ratings are soaring: fatherhood. Bitter policy debates aside, the dad-in-chief has been from the public's perspective a good role model where it counts -- at home. We may disagree the views he's instilling in his daughters, but in a society as broken as ours, we applaud the fact that he was there to instill them at all.
Like almost half of all kids today, having a father in the home was a luxury Barack Obama didn't enjoy. And yesterday, he launched a new program designed to spare other children that same fate. "By almost every measure," the President said at yesterday's Rose Garden event, "the group that's facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color. We assume this is an inevitable part of American life instead of the outrage it is." After rattling off a series of sobering statistics on poverty, education, and crime, the President unveiled an initiative called My Brother's Keeper to improve the odds for the next generation of men.
With the help of more than $200 million in private foundation dollars, the administration plans to give at-risk kids the chance to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. Although the details are vague, the President explained that he was creating a government task force to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches. Of course, the danger is that My Brother's Keeper becomes Big Brother's Keeper -- a distinction the President seemed to understand in his speech. (But as Americans know from experience, rhetoric rarely translates to reality in this White House). An overly involved government is not, the President insisted, what he has in mind.
"In this effort, government cannot play the only -- or even the primary -- role. We can help give every child access to quality [education], but we can't replace the power of a parent who's reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it's not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son's life." Obviously, the President is trying to reassure everyone that this won't become another Washington boondoggle -- but anyone familiar with the last five years of this presidency is right to be skeptical.
We agree with the President that the number of impoverished and imprisoned young men is a major crisis for our culture. Where we part ways is on the strategy for combating that crisis. It's fine for the government to bring awareness to the problem -- but it's not fine, nor possible, for the government to be its solution. When the President's task force pieces together what works from other programs, those "best practices" should include an emphasis on marriage and family. Because until now, the President's agenda -- with an emphasis on sexual liberalism, same-sex "marriage," abortion-on-demand, religious hostility, and government education -- have exacerbated the very problem he wants to fix.
Focusing on minority kids could have a huge impact on American society -- if the President realizes that marriage, life, and faith are essential ingredients. While we support this as a priority, what we don't support are the President's actual policies, which undermine the family he speaks so highly of. If liberals were serious about rescuing minority children, they would encourage couples to get married -- not penalize them for it. They would fight for upholding marriage -- not depriving kids of a dad by redefining it. They would defend children in the womb -- not excuse the "choice" that destroys it.
We agree with the President on the sentiment, but not the substance. Until Washington pursues policies that support families and encourage marriage and fatherhood, the cycle of poverty, crime, and underachievement will only get worse. Find out why at FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, MARRI online.
Red, White, and True Blue
Congress may not always act responsibly, but there are plenty of members who do! Yesterday, we honored the House and Senate leaders who stood on principle and notched a perfect 100% on FRC Action's annual scorecard. This year AFA Action, the legislative affiliate of the American Family Association, teamed up with us in honoring those who are defending and advancing faith, family and freedom on Capitol Hill. Fifty-five of the 153 congressional "True Blue" winners dropped by the Capitol Hill Club for our special reception, and it was encouraging to see the camaraderie in the room among the leaders who take the slings and arrows as they stand for family values.
This year, FRC Action scored votes on everything from ObamaCare and abortion restrictions to the President's court nominees and safeguarding conscience rights. I appreciate the members who took time out of their busy schedules to join Tim Wildmon and me -- as well as the FRC, and FRC Action staff, Connie Mackey, David Christensen, Josh Duggar, Leanna Baumer, Emily Minick, Sherry Crater, and Nick Frase -- for your tireless efforts for our values. Congratulations to the 113th Congress's class of True Blue winners! To see how your Congressman voted, click here. Then, when you get a minute, let them know how much you appreciate their commitment to faith, family, and freedom!
Keeping Faith, but Losing Hope
For the Christians of Nigeria, terror has become a way of life. Most families wake to a familiar nightmare of torture, violence, or harassment at the hands of Islamic radicals, who continue to roam the villages unchallenged. Fear spread like a disease after the latest horror in Buni Yadi, after militants took the lives of almost 60 young men in the most brutal way possible. Blocking the exits to a high school dormitory, terror group Boko Haram set the building on fire, burning the boys alive. Witnesses on the scene said that the teenagers who tried to escape were shot or stabbed.
"From where I was hiding," said one student, "I could hear other students crying at the top of their voices. I saw fire on the roofs of the hostels and other buildings in the school. But God saved my life. After they killed the students and burnt the structures, they fled." A fresh wave of grief washed over the ravaged nation, which has already suffered so much loss at the hands of these terror groups.
Unfortunately for them, their cries continue to fall on deaf ears in the Obama administration. On this President's watch, the State Department's international religious freedom department has "missed some of the biggest crises of our day," according to leading advocate Nina Shea. While families are being terrorized for their faith from Saudi Arabia to Somalia, leaders like Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have begged the administration to get off the sidelines and defend the persecuted church.
Despite the rising tide of violence, the President still hasn't bothered to fill the State Department's Ambassador for Religious Freedom post. It continues to sit empty when the world needs it most. Unfortunately, the root of this international problem is the administration's handling of faith here at home. With hostility on the rise toward Christians here, persecution is mounting internationally. Because we can't find our way at home, people are losing their lives abroad. Until we get our own house in order, the walls will continue to close in on our brothers and sisters overseas. Please join me in praying for peace in Nigeria and other troubled regions.
** Don't miss FRC's Peter Sprigg discussing the Arizona debacle and what the controversy means for religious freedom on CNN's "Crossfire." (Click on the video below to watch.) Also, meet FRC's newest experts -- Arina Grossu, director of our Center for Human Dignity, and Travis Weber, the head of our Center for Religious Liberty -- in a new profile piece for National Journal.
*** Guess who tops this year's list of Morality in Media's "Dirty Dozen" list? Attorney General Eric Holder. Find out more about the leading culprits in the culture of sex-ploitation by checking out the latest report here.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.