Religious Freedom in Mississippi, Y'all!

Religious Freedom in Mississippi, Y'all!

January 08, 2018

It'll be tough to top 2017's string of religious liberty successes -- but the Supreme Court doesn't mind trying. This morning, the justices got January off to a flying start when it rebooted one of the most significant state laws of the last five years: Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. After a year and half of bottling up the law, the ACLU heard what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals tried to tell them in June: they have no case.

Like most conservatives, Governor Phil Bryant (R) saw the writing on the wall for Christians after same-sex marriage was invented by the same court handing down this victory. He watched in shock as a county clerk was hauled off to jail for refusing to sign marriage licenses; his heart went out to family-owned bakeries that were closed by the government's steep fines; he witnessed the pressure on religious groups and schools to cave on their teachings. And despite Big Business bullies, a media misinformation campaign, and liberal scaremongers, Governor Byrant took a stand. The ink was barely dry on Governor Bryant's signature that April when liberals forced him to defend his state's decision to protect religious liberty after Obergefell. In the face of some of the stiffest pressure of his career, he fought for the rights of his state to live and work according to their faith.

Months later, that stand is paying off -- and a law that should have gone into effect more than a year ago is back in force. While other judges may have taken the ACLU's bait, Alliance Defending Freedom's Kevin Theriot celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to leave the statute untouched.

"Good laws like Mississippi's protect freedom and harm no one," he said. "We are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law's sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don't live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union. Those who haven't been... harmed by this law shouldn't be allowed to restrict freedom for others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one."

Theriot was referring to one of the more ironic parts of the suit, which is that liberals went to court -- not over what had happened under the law but what might happen if Christians could opt out of ceremonies or jobs that violated their faith. Together with a handful of plaintiffs, they recruited a same-sex couple to suggest that the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act treats them like "second-class citizens."

No one is quite sure how, since they never applied for the marriage license they're sure someone in Mississippi would deny them! Besides, the law is clear: "Nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent the state government from providing...any benefit or service authorized under state law." Under H.B. 1523, no one is allowed to "discriminate" -- not against same-sex couples and not against Christians. All the law does is ensure that the government can't punish someone for their views on marriage or sexuality. There's no fine print giving people the right to deny services, despite the Left's bogus propaganda. If coexistence is the goal, then this law lights the way!

For Governor Bryant, who's never shied away from a fight, this won't be the last. With more than $93 million in the ACLU's post-Obama war chest, we can expect liberals to pull out all the stops to put protections like these on ice. Already, reporters have been careful to say the Supreme Court ended the "first" challenge to Mississippi's law, a hint that the storm is far from over. "People who are refused service once the law is in place may be more likely to be judged to have legal standing to sue," Reuters argues. But if they're waiting for a Christian to refuse service, they'll be waiting a long time. That's not the intent of believers -- or the purpose of the law. Thank goodness for justices who see through every liberal arguing otherwise!

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

FEMA Weathers the Storm on Church Aid

January 08, 2018

Hurricanes don't discriminate, but the government certainly did! When storms ripped through Texas and Florida last fall, churches were some of the hardest hit. Desperate to get back on their feet to help their communities, pastors reached out to FEMA for aid. Like other Americans who lost their businesses and homes, they assumed Washington would help them rebuild. They were wrong.

Despite President Donald Trump's very public campaign to protect religious liberty, FEMA dragged its feet. Long enough, it turns out, for the houses of worship to sue. With the help of the Becket Fund, the congregations took the government to court for the right to enjoy the same disaster relief. President Trump piled on, tweeting "Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)."

After four months of slogging through the repairs on their own, the plaintiffs got word last week that FEMA's policy had finally caught up with the White House's direction. In a new document, the agency explains, "In light of the Trinity Lutheran decision [at the Supreme Court], FEMA has considered its guidance on private nonprofit facility eligibility and determined that it will revise its interpretation of the aforementioned statutory and regulatory authorities so as not to exclude houses of worship from eligibility for FEMA aid on the basis of the religious character or primarily religious use of the facility."

It was a major win -- not just for these five congregations, but for conservatives, who continue to marvel at the president's sincerity on their core issues. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), one Congress's major champions of religious liberty, couldn't be happier at FEMA's culture change. "Faith-based nonprofits and houses of worship have always played a critical role in helping Americans in need, especially after a natural disaster," he pointed out. "Just like charities, houses of worship that serve our communities... should not be disqualified from disaster assistance simply because they are religious in nature. I'm pleased that FEMA is taking this important step to include houses of worship into its list of eligible entities for aid."

From the White House Christmas card to agency policy, Donald Trump is bringing religious liberty back. And for millions of Americans, who were tired of being driven out of the public square for their beliefs, that's the most important relief of all.

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

Pure Politics: Abstinence Crowd Cheers Report

January 08, 2018

For every parent who's tried to tell their teenage kids that "everyone's not doing it," here's proof! According to the CDC's new nationwide report, the number of high school students who said they've ever had sex dropped from 47 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. The good news is even better for African American students, who showed improvements across the board, followed by Hispanics who practiced more abstinence in three of the four grades.

None of this is thanks to President Obama, researchers say. After two terms of the last administration's "if-it-feels-good-do-it" approach, most experts agree he accomplished one thing: making the situation worse. "Compared with their peers," a 2016 study by the American Journal of Public Health found, "teenagers in the [government's programs] were more likely to begin having sex... and more likely to get pregnant." And it's no wonder. The curriculum was so extreme that 40 percent of young people actually said they felt more pressure to engage in sex from their sex ed classes than from their boyfriends or girlfriends!

In other words, the Obama administration wasn't just wasting money on an approach that doesn't work but also makes the problems worse! Fortunately, conservatives in Congress have been steadily chipping away at the dollars America is wasting on these failures. Under the latest spending bill, Republicans take direct aim at the $110 million money pit of the liberals' Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs and start redirecting a portion of it to a message that even Obama's CDC reluctantly endorsed: abstinence.

And guess what? This approach isn't just what works, but what teenagers want. According to our friends at Ascend, most young people support saving sex for marriage. Most of them don't like the idea of casual sex, want to wait, or wish they'd waited longer. When the CDC released its latest numbers on teen sex, researchers were stumped. Most people just assumed kids were having sex. And maybe that's part of the problem. We're so busy teaching about birth control that we don't even bother with self-control.

Somewhere along the way, it became assumed, not discouraged, that teenagers would have sex. And as a result, we have an entire area of teen education accelerates the risks instead of curbing them. Think about the other behaviors that can devastate a young person's life. We don't tell kids to drink less. We tell them not to drink, period. The same with smoking. We don't hand them filters assuming that they'll light up anyway. We challenge them not to.

Most teenagers want to be challenged to stay pure too. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough people teaching them how. Maybe parents are too embarrassed to talk about sex or think their kids aren't listening. Well, I've got news for you -- they are. Valerie Huber, who left Ascend to take a leadership post in Trump's HHS, knows from personal experience: "The healthiest message for youth is one that gives youth the skills and information to avoid the risks of teen sex, not merely reduce them. This is a message that is relevant in 2016, since the majority of teens have not had sex, far fewer, in fact, than 20 years ago." It's time to adapt our thinking, our strategies, and our public policy to an approach that makes the most sense for our kids and their future. And based on the latest research, that isn't Obama's.

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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