"America and Israel share a common destiny." And it is that destiny that drove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the lectern of a joint session of Congress in what history may describe as one of the most important speeches of a generation. It took a foreign leader, standing in the halls of American power, to remind us who we are and where our nation's roots reside: in the biblical faith of his ancient land.
From his first mention of Esther to the closing message from Moses, our Judeo-Christian heritage was more prominent today than it has been in the last six years. "Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we'll read the Book of Esther," the Prime Minister said. "We'll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies." While the President tries to erase our identity as a Christian nation, the Jewish people look to their rich history as a source of meaning and guidance. Israel was under attack then, as it is now.
Under this administration, the two nations have a common enemy but not a mutual solution. In the face of the greatest nuclear threat in the Middle East, this President chooses to trust Iran -- instead of challenge it. On the eve of a deal that would lift sanctions on Hassan Rouhani's country, Netanyahu came to the United States -- not for political purposes, but survival purposes.
While Iran and ISIS "compete for the crown of radical Islam," the worst thing the West could do is leave Iran's vast nuclear program intact. After freezing more than $7 billion of Iran's assets, the U.N. Security Council (with President Obama's support) has offered to lift those restrictions in exchange for Rouhani's word that the country would cut back on its nuclear program.
Two years ago, the world found out how misguided its trust in Iran was. "We were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation! "Rouhani's government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before." As Netanyahu warned, it is a risky deal in which Iran has much to gain -- and the international community everything to lose.
"At a time when many hope Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the community of nations... In this deadly game of thrones, there's no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don't share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone. So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy. The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember -- I'll say it one more time -- the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons."
I had the honor of sitting in the congressional chamber as the Prime Minister spoke about the risks to all of mankind under a nuclear-armed Iran. "Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? ...Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?" While 50 members of the President's party sat out the speech, the Prime Minister called America to sit out something far more important: a deal of international appeasement.
"Standing up to Iran isn't easy," he said soberly. "Standing up to dark murderous regimes never is." Unfortunately for America, our President is more comfortable ignoring evil than confronting it. "Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand," the Prime Minister vowed. We pray, along with millions of Christians and Jews around the world, that America will stand with them.
Eighty-one percent of Americans think the government should let people live and work by their faith -- and it probably felt like most of them were in yesterday's Charlotte City Council meeting. Hundreds of people packed out the small space in a heated debate over the city's special sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) ordinance. In unprecedented numbers, more than 120 signed up to speak at the meeting before the members voted on a measure that would strip the First Amendment rights of anyone with a biblical view of sexuality.
"I will not be silenced," one mom fumed. "A man's right to choose the lady's room is ridiculous, and it's dangerous." After hours of testimony -- a record, reporters said -- the council dropped the language that would open up restrooms, locker rooms, and showers to people regardless of their biological sex. "All over the world, there are restrooms for men and restrooms for women," said one Republican council member. "It does not place an unreasonable burden on them, and it does not stigmatize them."
In the end, though, even carving out the most objectionable provision couldn't save the bill. Forty thousand emails, a few rallies, and several alerts later, members voted 6-5 to kill the bill -- handing the Left another crushing defeat in its bid to silence and punish conservatives for their views.
Of course, this all started because a member of the radical Human Rights Campaign flew to Charlotte and gave an emotional presentation about using these measures to end discrimination -- a strategy that has played out in cities all across America. Unfortunately for HRC, a growing number of citizens are speaking out against these anti-faith measures disguised as "tolerance." Kenny Smith, a Republican on the council, saw right through the Left's game. "(This is an agenda to) impose the progressive Left's new morality on our citizens," he warned.
Our good friends and Charlotte residents, David and Jason Benham, helped lead the defense, along with Rev. Franklin Graham, FRC's pastors' network, and the FRC Action team. "What's going to end up happening (under this bill)," David explained from personal experience, "is our religious liberties are going to come under attack. Not only do Christians need to stand up for what's right, but America needs to protect our children and our children's children."
At the meeting, homosexual activists insisted this was a matter of life and death for the LGBT community. The reality is, these efforts are a matter of livelihood and the death of freedom for Christians across America. Bakers, fire chiefs, policeman, lobbyists, teachers, wedding planners -- they're all being forced by the government to check their beliefs at the workplace door under measures exactly like this one. Fortunately, the American people are starting to catch on to the Left's march and demanding leaders send these SOGI ordinances where they belong: to the trash bin. Our thanks to everyone in Charlotte who stood on principle and sent a powerful message to the Left -- not in our town!
** If you'd like to visit Benjamin Netanyahu's homeland for yourself, check out FRC's special fall trip to Israel. Join me, Joel Rosenberg, Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.), Israeli leaders, and FRC experts for an unforgettable experience in the Holy Land. In the last few years, I have been a part of taking members of Congress to Israel to see, first-hand, the spiritual roots of Christianity and to build strategic relationships with political and spiritual leaders in Israel. I have become convinced that our relationship with Israel is not just a spiritual priority, but it should be a political and national security priority as well. We are partnering with Inspiration Cruises & Tours, a dedicated group of Christian professionals who have led thousands of people through the land of Israel. All the details of the trip, including airfare, accommodations, travel by luxury coaches and extraordinary guides, will be provided by Inspiration. For more information, click over to Inspiration Cruises.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.