Family Research Council

February 26, 2014 - Wednesday

Stop! In the Name of Gov

When Jan Brewer flew back from Washington yesterday, the Arizona Governor had plenty to think about during the four-hour trip. Even 1,900 miles away in D.C., the Governor had a difficult time avoiding the questions about Arizona's bitter debate over religious liberty. Now, with just two days to make a decision, the spotlight is squarely on Brewer in the biggest political hornets' nest to hit her state since immigration reform.

The bill at the heart of the storm, an improvement to the state's existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, got the green light from the Arizona legislature earlier this month -- only to be besieged by a massive misinformation campaign by the Left. In a matter of days, a measure that should have been a political no-brainer has become public enemy number one, thanks to a perfect storm of distortion from national liberal groups. In the process, the facts about the legislation -- which is that it would actually give homosexuals more protection than they had under the current law -- have been drowned out by the chorus of lies from people who have either chosen to ignore the plain language of the bill or refused to read it altogether. As a result, everyone from the NFL, Marriott, and Apple to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have ganged up on Brewer out of blind opposition and demanded that she prove her "tolerance" by vetoing SB 1062.

So if the bill would actually provide greater protections for homosexuals, why are conservatives so eager to see Arizona's RFRA amended? Good question. Under the amended RFRA, what was legislative intent (but ignored by certain courts) will be clear: individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce. In other words, whether it's a wedding vendor, whose orthodox Christian faith will not allow her to affirm same-sex "marriage," or a business like Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood, whose faith bars them from providing drugs that have the potential to end a pregnancy, the provisions of RFRA would apply.

Although the implications of the bill go well beyond marriage, we shouldn't be surprised that the homosexual activists have seized on that narrow reading of the measure to gin up outrage about the bill -- going so far as to say that it could be used as a weapon of religious intolerance for people who don't want to serve homosexuals in any capacity. But, as Alliance Defending Freedom's Joseph LaRue explains, "Twenty-eight states have RFRA or similar protection in their states. In none of these places has any person been denied service at a lunch counter, hotel or anywhere else and asserted RFRA as a defense. RFRA is about making sure people of faith aren't second-class citizens because the government passes laws willy-nilly infringing on religious freedom."

Unfortunately, the bill's critics have so twisted the debate that 11 law professors from both parties fired off a letter to Governor Brewer urging her not to be swayed by the "egregious misrepresentations" of SB 1062's critics. The signers, who hail from some of the most prestigious law schools in America, are Republicans and Democrats, religious and nonreligious -- and they all agree that "SB 1062 does not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons." Such a standard, they write, "makes sense" and "we should not punish people for practicing their religions unless we have a very good reason." Other professors, like the University of Illinois Law School's Robin Fretwell Wilson, are also jumping into the fray to fight the Left's propaganda. "Marriage is not like a hamburger or a taxi ride," Wilson points out, "it's a deeply intimate service that is religiously infused. This is one of the places where the law can temper bad impulses. We don't want to run religious people out of the public square, nor do we want to drive lesbians and gays out of society."

In a society where "tolerance" seems to be a one-way street, SB 1062 walks the fine line of freedom. And while both sides hardly see eye to eye, they can certainly agree that this is a turning point in the debate for religious freedom. A turning point, we pray, that Jan Brewer gets right.

When Push Comes to Pulpit...

Congress has its hands full keeping the Obama administration in check, and in most Americans' opinion, leaders could use some help -- from the church. The key to confronting the President's agenda may be as simple as encouraging more pastors to speak out. So said 61% of Americans surveyed in FRC's latest poll -- the results of which we announced yesterday at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention (NRB) in Nashville. With Christianity under attack as never before, the country is looking to its spiritual leaders to engage in the fight. As our First Freedom, religious liberty serves as the foundation for all other freedoms -- which will all be at risk if it crumbles. If pastors would just speak to the issues from a redemptive heart, most people agree that we would see this country turn around.

Rafael Cruz, director of Purifying Ministries and father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thinks that more boldness from the pulpit could have a profound effect on the state of our nation. At yesterday's news conference, he the press, "Too many pastors have been intimidated by a concept of separation of church and state not found in the Constitution." His comments were echoed by Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, who insisted, "No president in history has launched an attack on religious liberty like President Obama. If pastors remain AWOL on this issue like they have on others, we will lose the war for religious freedom that our forefathers gave their life's blood to provide."

Designer Genes that Don't Fit the Ethical Model

If two's company, then three parents are a crowd! Not according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), apparently, where the agency is considering giving its stamp of approval on experiments to make three-parent embryos -- babies who would have two moms and one dad. Scientists in the U.S. are eager to try their hand at constructing these genetically engineered "designer" babies in the laboratory and gestating them to birth. After a lot of debate, the FDA is finally weighing in with two days of public debate. The goal is to "build" children that lack the disease-causing mutations in their mitochondria, the little energy factories in all of our cells. But the techniques some scientists are proposing foster human cloning skills, and a couple of procedures actually are embryo cloning. In fact, one of the labs lobbying to do these human experiments is the same Oregon lab that announced "successful" cloning of human embryos in 2013.

Although the FDA is trying to ignore the ethical questions and only talk about science, both the science and the ethics are troubling. Manufacturing young humans in a Petri dish with genetic modifications is an abuse of science -- but more than that, the FDA is completely ignoring actual treatments for those afflicted with these diseases and instead focusing on trying to create perfect children. Dr. David Prentice, FRC's Senior Fellow for Life Studies, reminded the FDA committee of the ethics and the science yesterday, pointing out the ethical and scientific flaws in the proposal, as well as alternatives that actually deal with the disease. He not only submitted written testimony but also gave oral comment to the committee. Hopefully, they'll understand -- as we do -- that just because we have the power to experiment with life doesn't mean we should.

** With the Arizona religious freedom debate making front-page news everywhere in America, FRC experts have been on the front lines of the bill's defense, including FRC's Cathy Ruse, who was on CNBC's "Larry Kudlow" show yesterday. I dropped by CNN's "Outfront" with Erin Burnett to clear up some major misunderstandings about SB 1260's effects. Check it out below.

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

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