Courage Is Contagious in Virus Debate

Courage Is Contagious in Virus Debate

March 17, 2020

"We're going big." Those were the president's words heading into a Senate debate over the latest coronavirus response. In Congress, where the bills are changing faster than the infection map, the White House is racing to strike the right balance between protecting America's economy -- and helping yours. Unfortunately, fiscal matters aren't the only concern as liberals echo what Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff for Barack Obama, said, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

Seizing the opportunity is exactly what Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and company tried to do by turning the virus package into a radical grab bag of abortion funding and LGBT messaging. Being in the minority Republicans had their work cut out for them. Thankfully, the White House was with them -- every step of the way. First, House Democrats tried an end-run around the Hyde amendment, the ban on taxpayer-funded abortion. "We got that back," a relieved Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said. But it wasn't too long before liberals turned their fire on something else: the family.

In what would have been the first time in federal law -- ever -- Democrats tried to equate "domestic partnerships" with marriage by adding benefits for anyone in "a committed relationship." Of course, as Congressman Biggs pointed out Friday, "the problem with that is that it's really hard to define a committed relationship... so they've tried to put in, in my opinion, kind of a [vague] definition. But that leaves it wide open -- and then, they [can] expand on that. So two provisions that have nothing to do with the coronavirus are basically thrown into this thing. And that's just par for the course for the for the activist Left."

FRC worked through the weekend reading the evolving language looking for problems just like this. Understanding that in emergency situation, Emanuel's declaration is standard operating procedure for the Left. They're counting on the fact that with such a tight turnaround time, most members won't have the chance to give the language a detailed read. Fortunately, our team is reading the small print and warned the White House that liberals were using this bill to water down marriage. The president's staff took those concerns seriously, telling leaders at the negotiating table that the language had to go. It did. The section was fixed and sent on.

While we deal with the various challenges from the Chinese coronavirus, FRC remains focused on our mission defending faith, family, and freedom here in Washington, D.C. for you.

As we fight to keep families safe, we're grateful for an administration that tries to find solutions that are consistent with our values -- even in these difficult days. When the White House's Eric Ueland says that the president has been "working with members who have concerns, questions, recommendations and suggestions about things to do here," he means it. Join us in praying for him and for Congress as they try to find ways to bring Americans real and prudent relief.

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

Churches to Christians in Crisis: 'Be the Light'

March 17, 2020

How do you love your neighbor from six feet away? That's a question churches across America are rallying to answer. This is a time for congregations to think and act outside the box -- or, in this case, the four walls of the church building.

From Colorado to San Jose, an army of Christian volunteers is rising -- each one determined that if they can't stop the virus, they can at least meet the need. For 22 years, Paul Berteau has hauled 40-pound pallets across the warehouse of the Food Bank of the Rockies -- and he's not going to let this crisis stop him. Like a lot of places, the group is struggling to find workers. At 68, Paul knows the risk but think the community is worth it. "There will be people who are apprehensive about coming to volunteer because of admonitions not to go where there are large groups of people," he admits. "I'm aware of it, but I'm not worried about it right now... [A]s long as I can help, as long as I'm allowed to help, I'll be here to help."

In Washington State, where the locals have been hit hard, Pastor Cole Meckle's Gather Church refuses to stop ministering. It hasn't been easy keeping its clothing bank operational, but with a committed congregation behind him, the church is finding out: nothing is impossible. "Between everyone, I think we are going to be able to come up with some really great means to provide for the additional needs in our community," he insists. So instead of shutting down, like so many area resources, Gather Church is adapting. If hungry people can't come for their meals, Pastor Meckle's team will take the meals to them. He's started packaging up the dinners he has in to-go containers and delivering them around town.

Miles away in Virginia, Rev. Charles Cheek has been laser-focused on the homeless. You can't self-quarantine if you don't have a home, he points out. "They're out on the streets and they're vulnerable. Even though we have this coronavirus going around, we're telling people to shelter in place." With the help of the Peninsula Baptist Association, he's leading a community donation drive. By Monday, Rev. Cheek says the area had already donated 10 carloads of supplies, "and they're still coming." Another community center is opening their doors so that people can shower, do laundry, and log on to a computer.

But there are other ways the church can help too. With the country's blood supply "in danger of collapse," places like the Red Cross say they've had 18,000 fewer donations -- just in the last few days. What a lot of people may not realize, the organization's Chris Hrouda explains, is that blood is perishable after 42 days. So the need is critical. If your congregation can organize a blood drive, or even if you can donate yourself, consider it.

If you can't get out, give. As one church volunteer said, "Financial gifts stretch farther than food." If you can get out, try one of these 10 practical ways to be a blessing -- everything from ordering someone a pizza to calling your elderly friends. Mow someone's law, put a note in your neighbors' mailbox. Thank a postman, delivery guy, or grocery bagger. "We must, one by one," Ginger McPherson urges, "be the light -- to reach out and to truly love those around us with the deep, deep love of Jesus." It's not just how we survive -- it's how we thrive. This is our opportunity. Don't waste it.

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

A New Day for Freedom in Sudan?

March 17, 2020

"My name is not important. I suffered for Christ." --'Ishmael'

In Sudan, Ishmael warns from behind a veiled screen, "it's very difficult to be a Christian." Like so many others, he should know. Sent to prison, where he was beaten until he couldn't stand. "There was no lawyer, no friend. There was nobody." He asked all of the difficult questions through the torture and suffering. "God, where are you? Why is this happening?" Until one day, he made a decision -- to love.

"I decided to pray to God to give me a miracle of love, so that I wouldn't have to live in two prisons -- a prison physically and a prison spiritually." He felt God saying, "I am with you. I am suffering with you." And at that moment, he knew. He would give his life to share Jesus.

These days, Ishmael spends his time preaching the gospel -- a task that was just made a little easier by the nation's transitional government. Last Wednesday, shortly after I returned from Sudan, the country's religious affairs ministry made a major announcement: "All government-appointed committees are abolished as of today [Wednesday, March 11, 2020]." For pastors and believers who've watched their churches reduced to ashes by their own government, an order giving Christian leaders more power over their property and operations is an answer to a thousand prayers.

After Sudan's notorious former president, Omar al-Bashir, was deposed last year, the country's new leaders have obviously decided to take steps to correct years of faith-based oppression. Bashir's old regime used government-appointed church councils to restrict the actions of Christian denominations. The councils would routinely seize church property and close churches. For years, confiscating or bulldozing churches was a primary way the regime persecuted Christians. Now, to the delight of many Sudanese church leaders, the country's new transitional government is bringing an end to the councils--a move which has given fresh hope to Sudan's suffering Christian minority.

Together with the rest of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), I sincerely applauded the move, which was one of the many topics we discussed when I visited Khartoum last month. As in America, churches have a right to represent their own interests. "This decree confirms our sense that while Sudan has many serious challenges ahead, its transitional leadership is sincere in its promise to implement concrete and meaningful measures to improve religious freedom conditions in the country."

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