Moving Day! U.S. Celebrates New Jerusalem Embassy

Moving Day! U.S. Celebrates New Jerusalem Embassy

May 14, 2018

It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Israel -- first with a jubilant 70th anniversary of independence party and now, with the official opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. For our allies, today has been a long time coming. American presidents have been promising to take this step for more than 20 years. Now, after decades of waiting, we finally have a White House that means it.

While crowds of dignitaries looked on, a delegation from the United States that included the president's daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared, helped make history for two nations that have believed in this cause from the beginning. "My friends," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began, "this is a great day for Israel. It's a great day for America. It's a great day for our fantastic partnership... but I believe it's also a great day for peace." Truth and peace, he explained, "are interconnected. A peace that is based on lies will only crash on the rocks of Middle Eastern realities. And the truth will always be that Jerusalem has always been, will always be, the capital of the Jewish state."

For Donald Trump, today's ceremony marks another major milestone on the growing list of White House accomplishments. As Jared Kushner reminded everyone, "Presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once they were in office. This president delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it." As far back as the campaign, this president vowed to bring America's physical presence in Israel in line with our stated policy: that Jerusalem is the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people.

The decision is a bold one, since it signals that America won't be held hostage to a fractious peace process that's frightened other administrations away from doing what this White House is. While other presidents let the threat of violence dictate American policy, Donald Trump refuses to make decisions based on what other groups think. As he's done from the beginning, this president is sending a strong message that America is not going to be bullied or pushed around. The United States will stand with Israel in hopes that there can someday be managed peace.

From a biblical standpoint, the magnitude of this day isn't lost on evangelicals. This moment further solidifies Israel as a sovereign nation -- the only country to return and occupy their land, speaking their native tongue after a diasporic 1900 years. But as important as this day is to Christians, it's also important to Israelis, who've waited patiently for their greatest ally to acknowledge in action what it did in spirit.

To the world, it signals a new chapter in America's foreign policy. Under Barack Obama, our country was babysitting the status quo, terrified that a show of strength like this would heighten tensions. And yes, it is a volatile area -- but there are new dynamics in the region with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia that are positive. As Gregg Roman, the director of the Middle East Forum, pointed out back when the move was announced, this policy of timidity has gotten us nowhere. "Years of concessions, of work to build the Palestinian Authority into something capable of handling the levers of power that a state must wield, have brought us no closer to peace. Shaming Israel politically for defending its own people hasn't worked either."

President Trump is re-establishing a constitutional order that the world hasn't witnessed in years. He won't be cowed by the media or intimidated by other leaders. And his approval ratings continue to climb with his most important base because he's willing to fight on these things. Trump's strategy in Israel, on North Korea, and Iran, are all perfect examples of Ronald Reagan's motto, "Peace through strength." Together with millions of Americans and Israelis, we thank him -- not only for having the will to act, but the necessary courage.

As the president told all of those on hand by satellite, "The U.S. will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace," President Trump told the crowd. "We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians, and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace. May God bless this embassy. May God bless all who serve here, and may God bless the United States of America."

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

Trans Prison Rule Gets Correctional Action

May 14, 2018

President Obama had a lot on his mind during his last few days in office -- including, it turns out, the prison system. Proving just how beholden the last administration was to LGBT activists, one of Obama's last acts was loosening the rules for inmates who want to be treated as a different gender than they biologically are. He claimed the decision was meant to protect "transgender inmates" from "victimization." But now we know: they weren't the ones at risk.

Letting men into the women's quarters turned out to be a major mistake. Four female prisoners in Texas were subjected to horrible treatment by the men claiming to be women. The situation was so dire that they filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to challenge the old Obama guidelines. Integrating these biological men with the female population, they argued, "creates a situation that incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates, endangers the physical and mental health of the female plaintiffs and others (including prison staff), and increases the potential for rape."

It doesn't take a genius to realize that criminals, especially men, would do anything -- including lie about their gender identity -- to gain access to women. As someone who used to work in the prison system, let me tell you: that's a recipe for disaster. Mixing populations in a cell block or bathrooms puts everyone, including the prison staff, at risk. Essentially, Obama's regulations turned an already volatile situation into a predator's paradise.

Fortunately, this is an administration that is seeking to restore the use of common sense. Officials at the Justice Department announced on Friday that they were rolling back Obama's eleventh-hour transgender rules. From now on, Trump's team explained, the Bureau of Prisons will use "biological sex" to make any determinations on inmate housing. In special situations, where a person who identifies as transgender might be in jeopardy, they would take the appropriate steps. But for now, DOJ insists, prison staff must "consider whether placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution" -- something the Obama team never gave a second thought. For the Trump crew, who've cleaned up more messes than most custodians, this is just another attempt to give Americans the return to normalcy they voted for.

But if prisoners deserve an element of privacy, doesn't everyone? The president has been fighting to give the military the same protections as these inmates -- and the courts are thwarting him at every turn. I guess we'll have to wait and see if liberals run to activist judges on this question too. The courts have already made it clear that they want to run the military. Do they want to run our prisons too?

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

Colorado Makes a Mesa Religious Freedom

May 14, 2018

Last week, Colorado Mesa University gave the Class of 2018 a lot more than their diplomas to celebrate. The Grand Junction campus finally decided to let Karissa Erickson quote the Bible in her speech. But not without a fight!

The controversy started a few weeks ago when Karissa, a nursing student, turned in her remarks for graduation. In them, she talks about persevering through adversity. "God always has a purpose," she wanted to say. "I find comfort in Jesus' words, and I pass them on to you. John 16:33. 'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take comfort, I have overcome the world.'"

A member of the CMU faculty apparently didn't find comfort in Jesus's words and ordered them scrubbed from Karissa's address, along with any mention of God. If she kept the text in, Karissa was told she would face "repercussions." "...Some people don't appreciate those references," they insisted.

Unfortunately for CMU, that's not a legitimate reason for denying anyone – let alone a student – their constitutional rights. Karissa contacted our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who wasted no time schooling CMU on the particulars of the First Amendment. "According to CMU officials," ADF attorneys wrote, "the University is censoring Miss Erickson's references to Jesus and the Bible because they might offend another student or attendee. But this reasoning flatly ignores decades of First Amendment jurisprudence. For the First Amendment exists precisely to protect controversial speech."

Almost immediately, the university reversed course. College spokeswoman Dana Nunn said the faculty were "trying to do the right thing, but made a mistake." "It was a well-intentioned misunderstanding of what was appropriate," she went on. "I think it's fair to say that a lot of people have their own interpretations of the separation of church and state, and the faculty member that initially asked for the change was just trying to do the right thing, she was just not correct legally... It was a well-intentioned and honest error but an error nonetheless. As soon as the error came to our attention, we did our best to correct it."

ADF's Travis Barham impressed by how quickly the university changed course. "When they were confronted with what the law required, they quickly backtracked and allowed the student to speak freely." Of course, it's an important lesson to all of us that just because we have religious freedom doesn't mean we won't have to fight to exercise it. We tip our (graduation) cap to the young people like Karissa for standing up for what's right – and giving their generation the courage to do the same!

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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