Obama, Trump a World apart on Freedom

Obama, Trump a World apart on Freedom

July 19, 2018

"If I'm still here at Christmas, I'll thank God for sending Jesus to be born. If I'm still here at New Year, I'll thank him for helping me make it through the year. If I'm here on my birthday, I won't be like Job and curse the day I was born. I'll give thanks for the life I've lived." --Pastor Andrew Brunson, from Turkish prison

The story of the Brunson family is a heart-wrenching one -- but it's hardly the only one. While the world waits for news about the American Christian behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, men and women of faith around the globe quietly share his pain. Tortured, raped, jailed, on the run, they wake up every day relieved to be alive. Unlike Pastor Brunson, their nightmares play out almost anonymously, the background noise to so many other first-world problems. Thanks to the president of the United States, that's changing. For the first time in years, they have something in common with the American pastor: a country willing to fight for them.

If there was anyone more grateful for the election of Donald Trump than conservatives, it was almost certainly millions of the world's persecuted. For almost a decade, they watched in dismay as America turned its back on entire populations, leaving faith groups to fend for themselves. When whole villages were wiped out in bloody rampages, they saw an American president who refused to even say the word "genocide," let alone do anything about it. Their hope -- and the hope of the world -- seemed lost. Then came 2016, and the rise of a new administration that picked up the torch where Barack Obama dropped it.

Almost immediately, the message from this White House seemed to be: you are not alone. America will stand by you. It's a mission -- and message -- that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes personally. Since the moment he first set foot in his new office in April, Mike has been an outspoken voice for international religious liberty. But, as we've come to appreciate from the Trump administration, talking about the issue is just part of the agenda. Action is the rest.

Next week, Secretary Pompeo, together with Ambassador Sam Brownback, are proving just how serious they are about this global crisis by hosting the first-ever ministerial on international religious freedom. From July 24-26, some of the most powerful foreign dignitaries, activists, and faith leaders from around the world will gather in Washington to put pressure on every country to recognize this fundamental human right. On today's "Washington Watch," the secretary told me that he was "overwhelmed" by the response to what he describes as a "clarion call for religious freedom."

"[The enthusiasm of other countries to this] has been remarkable... As I was traveling this past week -- I think I was in six or eight different places -- I had foreign ministers say, 'I'm going to be there.' ...They're excited to come and be around other people who think religious freedom is important. I was in Muslim countries, I was in places with religion very different to my own Christian faith, but every one of those leaders was excited about the opportunity to gather with like-minded individuals who share their desire -- their quest -- for every individual to practice their faith in their country in the way that they wish to do."

He talked about what an important moment this is for the entire Trump administration. "There are many countries where religious freedom is not available, and we believe that by gathering citizens from around the world -- we'll have over 80 delegations and 40-plus of my counterparts from foreign ministry level and religious leaders like yourself -- all brought together to highlight the central nature of religious freedom... Every country ought to honor that."

Proving just how important this is to the White House, Vice President Mike Pence will also speak. But, as Secretary Pompeo reiterated,

"We expect this to be far more than just talk. We do believe that just putting people together from all across the world in a room and talking about this topic will empower them to go back to their home countries and advocate for religious freedom as well. It's difficult, as you know, in some countries to even speak about religious freedom. And so we hope to provide a support system for some of them to return home to their own countries... We will be laying out a path where we are hopeful the State Department here in the United States can lead a process where religious freedom is raised as a priority for the citizens of every country. We will have our teams in the subsequent weeks and months in the field talking about religious freedom on a regular basis."

In a world starved for America's leadership on issues like this one, next week's event is a historic one. Let's not forget, the Secretary pointed out, that this was a priority laid out in the president's national security strategy. He, like the rest of his cabinet, understands the importance of fighting for religious freedom -- not just because it's the right thing to do, but because of its real-life impact on things like the economy and global security.

In administration that doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "lip service," we continue to be grateful for the intentionality of this president and his team. When Donald Trump promised to make religious freedom a priority, he meant it. And just as significantly, he surrounded himself with leaders who are just as committed as he is. "We'll have just three days there," Secretary Pompeo said, "but this will be a mission of the State Department every day."

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

Military's 'Don't Ask' the Turning Point in a Bigger War

July 19, 2018

To most people, July 19th is just another day. If you asked them what happened on this date 25 years ago, only a handful would probably know that President Bill Clinton made "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the policy for America's military. Even fewer would know that the summer of 1993 help set into motion a quarter-century war on marriage and the family.

Looking back on those days, most Americans are probably nostalgic for the days when sexuality wasn't something people broadcasted. Back then, even the most liberal activists just wanted to "get the government out of their bedroom." How far we've fallen. Now, two decades later, they want to take what happens in the bedroom and force Americans to celebrate it -- at work, church, school, even (and especially) in government. Who knew 25 years ago that Christians would long for the days when everyone just went about their lives?

There were groups like FRC who recognized "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for what it was: the first major crack in the foundation of marriage and human sexuality. Then, the next biggest shoe would drop -- Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas's ban on sodomy. The late Justice Antonin Scalia warned where their mistake would lead: "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding."

With prophetic insight, he explained how six justices had just given the far-Left the only hammer they'd need to destroy thousands of years of human history. Anyone being intellectually honest knew this was where LGBT extremists were pushing America. Of course, for years the media laughed off groups like FRC who warned that the Left's goal isn't same-sex marriage but any kind of marriage. Establishment Republicans didn't buy it, insisting there were plenty of laws on the books to keep the redefinition of marriage from happening.

They were wrong. Three years since the decision that redefined marriage for America, the Left is still bulldozing their way through every possible social norm. The country finally realized -- too late -- that this isn't about two people who love each other. It's about obliterating every moral and cultural boundary humans have ever known. And fortunately, some activists are finally doing us a favor by admitting it.

First, it was "time to legalize polygamy" -- an agenda the far-Left flatly denied, only to go on a normalization campaign that's helped boost the acceptability of group marriage from seven percent in 2010 to 19 percent now. Then, there was the rejection of basic biology, a fight that's broken out in sports, schools, Scouts, bathrooms, changing rooms, gyms, and locker rooms around the country. Gender, they tell us, is flexible. The same "they" who said they'd draw the line at same-sex marriage. Then today, we see just how imaginary that line has become with the news that child sex is the next "norm" on the horizon.

At a TED Talk earlier this summer, medical student Mirjam Heine insisted to a crowd that "our perception of pedophilia has to change." "Anyone could be born a pedophile," she told them. It's just another "unchangeable sexual orientation just like, for example, heterosexuality." Using the same born-that-way playbook as LGBT activists, she's trying to legitimize child abuse as the latest acceptable expression of sexuality. "Just like pedophiles, we are not responsible for our feelings," she said. "We do not choose them... but it is our responsibility to... overcome our negative feelings about pedophiles and to treat them with the same respect we treat other people with." I agree we should treat everyone with respect, but overcoming our negative feelings about child sex? Seriously? What we need to overcome is our sin nature -- and that will never happen when we normalize it.

It was an astonishingly honest look at where this debate -- and the world, if we're not careful -- is headed. The movement that promised to quit once it won marriage through the courts doesn't bother pretending anymore. The only limits that exist are your own reality -- unless you're a Christian. And then it isn't "live and let live;" it's conform or be punished.

Once you've rejected basic biology and 2,000 years of civilization, there are no boundaries. Surely, the world has learned its lesson since the first walls came tumbling down in 1993. First, activists said they just wanted to love who they loved. Then, they said they just wanted benefits -- not marriage. When liberals got marriage through the courts, they vowed not to force it on the states. After they forced it on the states, they said it wouldn't lead to religious persecution. Even after county clerks were sent to jail and Christian bakers fined up to $135,000, they claim there's no slippery slope. But after a track record of such intentional deception, who could (or should) believe them?

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

Bible Study Ban Crosses the Property Line

July 19, 2018

If the government can ban Bible studies on private property, what's next? That's what a couple in the Pittsburgh area is wondering after they were ordered by Sewickley Heights Borough officials to "cease and desist" from using their 35-acre property to host Bible studies, worship events, and other religious activities or face a daily $500 fine -- plus court costs.

Despite the borough's threats, however, the couple isn't backing down. The Independence Law Center has filed a lawsuit on their behalf against the city for violating the couple's religious freedom as well as their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and equal protection. As Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel for the Independence Law Center pointed out, "Government should not target religious activities for punishment, particularly when similar secular activities are permitted. In America, no government can categorically ban people from assembling to worship on one's own property."

The borough's order claims that the couple is in violation of zoning restrictions that are in place for "Places of Worship." But as Samek points out, secular activities like political fundraisers, Super Bowl parties, and book clubs aren't banned. On top of that, the couple and the previous owner of the property have reportedly been using it to host religious events for decades without a single issue!

While we continue to witness a persistent rise in religious persecution around the world, this latest incident in Pittsburgh is a sobering reminder that persecution is also happening in our own backyard. That's why the couple's stand against the borough is all the more important -- to make government officials think twice before pursuing unconstitutional legal action against people of faith.

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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