U.S. Puts Its Money Where Its Freedom Is

U.S. Puts Its Money Where Its Freedom Is

July 26, 2018

Heading into the first-ever ministerial on religious liberty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted people to know: "We expect this to be far more than talk." And in the last three days, he's proved it. Taking the stage before the vice president this morning, Pompeo kicked off a string of major announcements -- everything from America's new multi-million projects to clear landmines from areas with a lot of Iraqi minorities to the launch of special workshops and leadership programs on religious liberty. But the administration was just getting started.

Vice President Mike Pence, carrying greetings from a president who made the week possible, made it clear when Secretary Pompeo was done that there was a lot more to the president's vision to make religious liberty a priority.

"It's my privilege as vice president to announce that the United States of America will establish the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program -- effective today. Under this new program, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will closely partner with local faith and community leaders to rapidly aid to persecuted communities, beginning with Iraq. Crucially, this support will flow directly to individuals and households most in need of help. And this program will bring together funding not only from the United States government but from the vast network of American philanthropists and believers who share our desire to support our brothers and sisters in faith as they rebuild after years of suffering."

America, he vowed, "will help the victims of ISIS reclaim their lands, rebuild their lives, and replant their roots in their ancient homelands so that all religions can flourish once again across the Middle East and the ancient world." Our nation, he went on, "will always stand for religious freedom, and it will always stand up and speak wherever it is threatened. To that end, I'm pleased to announce that United States will launch the new International Religious Freedom Fund... [to] champion the cause of liberty as ever before."

The crowd erupted in cheers of approval. But the biggest applause came later, when Vice President Pence brought up the name on everyone's minds: Pastor Andrew Brunson. Looking directly at Brunson's daughter, Jacqueline, in the audience, he promised, "President Trump and I will continue to work for your father's full release until he is restored and returned to the United States of America..." Pence, who spoke to Pastor Andrew when he was released to house arrest yesterday, said, "I know his faith will sustain him, but it shouldn't have to. Pastor Andrew Brunson deserves to be free." He urged believers across America to keep praying. "While he is out of jail, he is still not free." To Turkish President Erdogan, he had this message: "Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences."

His warning was reinforced later this morning by President Trump, who tweeted, "The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" Obviously, the administration means business in a country that's been trying the patience of U.S. officials since Pastor Andrew was taken into custody two years ago. If the president needs to put heat on Turkey's economy, he's willing. As Vice President Pence said, "Our cause is just."

The White House's resolve is as much about Pastor Brunson as it is about victims of persecution everywhere. "Know this," the vice president said, "We are with you." The ministerial may end today, but the work and commitment is just beginning. Secretary Pompeo made sure of that, assuring everyone that Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom would be an annual event and plans were already underway for 2019. Until then, the administration will be busy putting feet to the vision of this president -- which is to stand with the people who stand for their faith.

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

Attorneys' Pledge Starts Bar Fight

July 26, 2018

First, LGBT activists wanted conservatives out of the wedding business. Then came professional sports, the restaurant industry, big tech, teaching, broadcasting, the police force, fire department, local government, the Olympics, military, counseling, adoption and foster care. What's left? According to one extremist group, the law.

The legal profession has already seen its share of bullying from LGBT extremists. In at least four states, judges have been threatened, suspended, or otherwise punished for their marriage views. In two states, they've been professionally disciplined. Of course, there's been an effort to shun lawyers who express any sort of support for natural marriage for years. In the 2011 case that toppled the Defense of Marriage Act, Paul Clement was forced to quit defending DOMA or resign when the law firm where he was a partner, King and Spalding, withdrew from the case. Now, one nonprofit organization wants to take the injustice even farther -- launching a petition to keep attorneys from working with conservative legal groups at all.

The LGBT Bar Association is hoping to persuade people that mainstream organizations like Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom are waging "a systematic, insidious, and well-funded crusade to strip protections from LGBT people." Executive Director D'Arcy Kemnitz cites the Masterpiece Cakes suit as one example (which is ironic, since the only person who was stripped of protections before that case was Christian baker Jack Phillips). Still, Kemnitz insists, extremists need to band together and refuse to collaborate with conservative firms. "When you help anti-LGBT legal groups," he argues, "even on matters not relating to LGBT issues, you hurt LGBT people."

In the group's "Commit 2 Inclusion" petition, signers from the legal community agree to "publicly object to the anti-LGBT legal groups which operate within the United States legal system, including groups operating as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Liberty Counsel... We, the undersigned members of the legal community, commit to inclusion by ensuring that our personal pro bono and volunteer capacity and personal financial resources will not be used to support the work of ADF and Liberty Counsel."

So far, the petition hasn't gotten a lot of traction -- probably because the legal profession, like the rest of us, see this pledge for what it is: another declaration of intolerance. Worse, that declaration comes from a profession with a tradition of defending unpopular ideas. The LGBT Bar wants to deny their opponents access to justice and the courts, which undermines the legal system's own principles!

In the end, the people who avoid a debate are the ones scared of losing. They scream about freedom when it suits their purpose, only to deny others the freedom to even be heard. As First Liberty's Ken Klukowski has said, "The truth is never afraid of a good fight. At the core of the First Amendment is the idea that people must be free to speak because the best ideas should win in the end..." Like so many people outside the mainstream, this group's call for tolerance is just a cover for social tyranny. If the LGBT Bar Association wants to be taken seriously (a tall task after this stunt), it should start being an advocate for the law -- not for the small and intolerant cabal that wants to undermine society.

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

Bold Advancing across Ohio!

July 26, 2018

This past Tuesday, FRC held its second Bold Advance briefing for pastors in Canton, Ohio -- enjoying the company of over 100 buckeyes at Trinity Gospel Church. The pastors were almost as enthusiastic as the speakers, who challenged the audience to take up the role of a watchman on the wall and begin a Culture Impact ministry. Our host, Pastor Dana Gammill, spoke on Priority of Prayer, reminding attendees that nothing of eternal significance will happen without our prayer and that our activism without prayer is meaningless. To prove it, he had the pastors cluster in groups of two and three to pray for each other, for government leaders, and the upcoming elections.

Pastor Jerry O'Brien, the Northern Ohio Bold Advance Director, followed that with a presentation on "The Power of Preaching" and explained the formula for transforming a culture from Romans 1:16-17; 10:9-10, 13-17. Transforming our communities, he pointed out, comes from hearing and believing the whole counsel of God as it is faithfully proclaimed by Watchmen Pastors. Our own Dr. Kenyn Cureton took time to discuss the power of partnership and encouraged the pastors to go back and find three kingdom-minded pastors to connect with and collaborate, using the example of a four-member fire team in the Special Forces. He also encouraged each of them to make the commitment to begin a Culture Impact ministry -- sharing the successes of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills to influence the City Council and local school board.

The group also heard from two elected officials: Secretary of State John Husted and State Senator Frank LaRose. John told a very personal story about his mom, who became pregnant by a man not her husband while he was off fighting in the Vietnam War. Thankfully, she chose life and after some time in a Catholic foster home, he was adopted into a loving family who taught him the values of faith, family, and personal responsibility. He feels it is part of his mission to shine the light of those values in public office. He also emphasized the fact that elections have consequences. When he was sued by a Soros group because he defended Ohio's election law, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote.

State Senator Frank LaRose, a former Army Green Beret combat veteran, told the pastors that his home church prays for elected officials every Sunday. He expressed great appreciation for these prayers, especially when he has to leave for the state capital while his wife and three young daughters have their noses pressed against the window. He stated that he was serving to make the state a better place for his family and the families of Ohio. After Q&A with both public servants, in turn, we had a time of prayer for them individually.

Aaron Baer of Citizens for Community Values took time out to give a briefing from the state capital in Columbus, while Pastor J.C. Church issued a strong challenge for pastors to speak up, speak out and speak often. He said, "The most important thing we can give this nation that's heading toward a furnace of finality is the Supreme Christ. The second most important thing we can give this nation is the Supreme Court. A Constitution-loving, God-fearing Supreme Court." Last, but certainly not least, Bishop E.W. Jackson closed the event out with a message on courage -- firing up the crowd by reminding them, "This defining hour will define us and our destiny. Our stance today determines our tomorrows."

There's still time to sign up for FRC's Bold Advance events in Ohio and Missouri! Check out the Watchmen on the Wall website for information on July and August briefings in Kansas City, Cincinnati, Springfield, and St. Louis.

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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