Prayer Targets: Report Card, Light in Darkness, Judges, Pence & Israel, Brownback, HHS, Tony on Trump
January 24, 2018
Stand fast in the Liberty, wherewith Christ has set you free, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage. (Gal 5:20)
Dear Praying Friends,
Travis Weber is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. An attorney, Travis earned hisJ.D. from Regent University School of Law and his LL.M. in International Law (with distinction) and a Certificate in International Human Rights Law from Georgetown University Law Center. A former Navy pilot, Travis graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy where he was captain of the Intercollegiate Sailing Team and a two-time College Sailing All-American (FRC bio). These are excerpts from his recent article in The Hill.
Religious liberty Report Card -- Reflections on the Trump administration's domestic religious liberty record -- highlighting its accomplishments and observing what still needs to be done:
There have been a number of policy developments to celebrate, including the president's religious liberty executive order, the Justice Department religious liberty guidance, the HHS contraception mandate exemption, and the USDA religious liberty guidance clarifying religious liberty protections for those like family business owner Donald Vander Boon -- not to mention the confirmation of originalist judges who will respect current religious freedom law. At the same time, other agencies like the Defense Department still have to step up to the plate, follow the lead of HHS and the USDA, and do more to protect religious liberty [Here Travis tells the story of the U.S. Air Force's shocking abuse of decorated Col. Leland Bohannon after he filed a request for religious accommodation when asked to sign a "certificate of spouse appreciation" for a homosexual marriage. Travis then contrasted the story with that of Donald Vander Boon, who was threatened by USDA agents with the closure of his Michigan meat packing facility if he refused to remove material supporting natural marriage from his breakroom table. The USDA responded and issued religious freedom guidance clarifying that his liberties were protected Read full Story].
Also near the end of last year, HHS issued rules that will protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organizations that have been needlessly harassed for years under the Obama administration for their desire to honor their consciences and not be forced to supply abortion-causing drugs and services. The issuance of these rules helps resolve the legal troubles of scores of such organizations, businesses, and universities.
The HHS rules and USDA guidance followed on the heels of President Trump's religious liberty executive order issued last May -- to which follow-on guidance was issued by the Justice Department -- stating that all agencies must protect religious liberty. HHS and the USDA have heeded this instruction; the Defense Department (and Air Force) have not.
The Trump administration so far has taken concrete steps to ensure people are free to live out their beliefs free from government coercion. It should continue to walk down this welcome path, as religious freedom protections are still needed for others -- such as healthcare workers being forced to participate in abortions against their conscience, or subscribe to treatments which deny the biological reality of male and female.
Moving into 2018, the Trump administration can continue to fulfill its pledge to protect religious freedom by granting relief to Col. Bohannon and revising Air Force religious freedom policy to ensure that what befell him does not happen to anyone else. This would earn it not only the appreciation of the religious freedom community today, but also the gratitude of many who want to see a strong and healthy military going forward.
Light Amid Public Policy Darkness -- The eight long years endured under the Obama administration were a dark time in American history when it comes to religious liberty. It was as if government entities felt they had "permission" to go after people of faith, especially Christians, for their public religious expression, especially when it contradicted sexual anarchy. Yet the administration and state human rights commissions were not the only ones at fault for this assault on our freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. Ignorance, passivity, and confusion in the church as to civil duty played a role with most who remained silent on the sidelines. Secular, often faith-hostile education in our public schools and universities certainly played an active part by means of propaganda and peer pressure, positing that our first freedom is superseded by the mandate to not only accept but to celebrate unbiblical and harmful sexual behavior. Then the Supreme Court essentially gave this line of reasoning the force of law when they redefined marriage. Things were dark indeed.
Yet God's people never stopped praying! And the election of a president who champions religious liberty, as President Trump has shown himself to be, was an answer to prayer even if God's answer was not exactly what many of his people envisioned. Most experts believe a Hillary Clinton White House would have continued the conscience-violating, even dictatorial policies of the Obama administration. Yet immediately after his election, President Trump acted to keep his promise to safeguard religious liberty. Those who follow these matters know that the hostility toward people of faith requires vigilance. That is why we need leaders who will enforce the First Amendment's restraint when it comes to faith expression: "nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and a vigilant and courageous Christian citizenry.
- Thanks be to God for giving President Trump a burden to champion religious liberty. May Christians pray for and support the president for the good things he is doing, even if they cannot approve of his past or present behavior in other respects. (Ezra 1:2; Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 6:26; 1 Tim 6:13-16)
Outstanding New Judges on the Federal Bench -- Scripture teaches, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn" (Pr 29:2). In the U.S., when those in our judicial system render judgments in keeping with the Constitution, the people rejoice. Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, wrote:
The past year was probably the most consequential in modern history for the appointment of conservative judges to the federal courts, with a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who shares his judicial philosophy [Neil Gorsuch] and a historic number of appeals court judges who will shape the law for two generations... Pres. Trump has nominated judges who interpret the Constitution [in his words] "the way it was meant to be." Federal judges serve for life. The Senate has confirmed 12 of Pres. Trump's federal appeals court appointees more than any other President in his first year. What makes this judicial sweep so significant is the extraordinary backgrounds of Trump's nominees. Gorsuch and the president's appeals court nominees have among the most distinguished credentials possible and demonstrated records of applying the Constitution and laws as they are written... Though relatively young as judicial appointees, most have among the most extraordinary professional resumes in the legal system... In a year when legislative victories were hard to come by, the "judicial wave" of 2017 was a very important benchmark of political success. (Trump's First Year is A Big Win for Conservative Judges).
- Father, help these new judges to restore integrity and justice to the judicial system throughout their lifelong tenure. Grant that President Trump will appoint hundreds more similarly highly qualified, conservative judges this year and the next few years. May the American people realize just how great God's mercy has been to us, and to pray for the president and our judges. (Ex 18:21; Dt 1:15-17; 16:18-19; Is 1:23-27; 58:12; Ps 9:7-9; 1 Tim 2:1-2)
V.P Pence's Promise to Israel -- In a warmly received speech during his visit to Israel, Vice President Mike Pence told members of Israel's Knesset that the United States embassy will open in Jerusalem "before the end of next year ." In the wide-ranging speech, Pence challenged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, brought encouragement and expressed friendship to the people of Iran, and recounted how the U.S. has targeted aid to persecuted Christians ravaged by ISIS and war. Further, Pence pledged U.S. support for Israel and its security and promised that the U.S. will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Pence also received a warm welcome in his visits with President el-Sisi of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan. While he exchanged pledges of friendship and support in specific areas with both leaders, he essentially agreed to disagree on the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. (In Mid-East, Pence Tackles Peace; Praises "the Miracle of Israel"; Embassy will Open Next Year; Full Remarks; Egypt, Jordan)
- Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Thank God for giving President Trump and Congress courage to follow through on their pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. May the Lord demonstrate his promise to bless those who bless Israel, just as he always has! (Gen 12:2-3; Ps 122:6; Is 1:23-27; 58:12; Zech 12:3)
Finally, please add these important matters to your prayer list: 1) The Senate is set to vote this week on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's appointment to serve as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (see Looming Large); 2) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that will investigate complaints of religious intolerance against workers involved in health care (see also Healthy Respect); 3) FRC President Tony Perkins is under attack from the leftist press for his support for the president and his policies despite the president's past personal failings (see CNN interview).
God bless you and thank you for praying!