Tennessee: An All-Volunteer Force for Common Sense

Tennessee: An All-Volunteer Force for Common Sense

Tennessee: An All-Volunteer Force for Common Sense

March 2, 2021

In one of the more colorful descriptions of the Equality Act, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters that he doesn't believe in discrimination against anyone but said, "this bill guts religious freedom... like a fish. And anybody that's suggesting otherwise is either not telling the truth, or they didn't graduate from kindergarten." While he and the rest of the GOP brace for the bill to hit the Senate, the good news is, the states aren't waiting. They're racing to put up shields of protection now.

In Tennessee, liberals are getting a taste of just how unpopular their radical agenda is becoming. Days after the U.S. House decided to strip girls of sports, privacy, rights, and religion in the Equality Act, the Volunteers sent a message of their own. With one of the biggest vote margins yet, leaders sent a bill saving women's sports out of the state senate by a 27-6 vote. "To say it's not a problem in Tennessee may be true, but it will be a problem in Tennessee probably sooner than we think," state Sen. Kerry Roberts (R) warned.

Legislators seemed to agree, including some who refused to back the proposal last year. A handful of members switched sides, acknowledging that the march to include biological boys is gaining steam. "To deny that it's a problem is to deny reality," Roberts agreed.

There were the predictable arguments from the Left -- fears over what the corporate culture would do and how the decision would impact tourism. "We're looking at events like the Super Bowl, we're looking at the World Cup in 2026. We all love our NCAA basketball tournaments, [and] all three of those organizations have said they will seriously consider not bringing their events to locations that have discriminatory laws on the books," a local Chamber of Commerce CEO cautioned. Fortunately, most leaders chose to look past those threats to the real issue: fairness, opportunity, and safety. If the Left wants to hold states hostage for refusing to bow to their transgender agenda, fine. Let them explain to America why they want to strip women of the programs that they fought decades for. Or why our daughters' futures are a worthwhile trade for a few rounds of March Madness revenue.

The more the mob pushes, the harder conservatives are starting to push back. At this point, what do they have to lose? Sixty-four percent of Americans are already worried the cancel culture is destroying their freedom. And if the last few weeks are any indication, the last thing they're going to do is roll over and let it. Even Republicans who might have been reluctant to tackled the issue before are starting to openly challenge this ridiculous idea that transgenderism is good for kids. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went toe-to-toe with Joe Biden's nominee for assistant secretary of HHS, who wouldn't even give a straight answer on whether he thought children should be sterilized without their parents' knowledge. The fringe called Paul a "transphobe." The rest of the country called him courageous.

These are the kind of leaders who are going to make a difference in the growing number of states trying to fend off this onslaught. Will the pressure keep coming? Absolutely. But, as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said at CPAC, "You know what? The Leftists, the Democrats, the radical progressives, they can go ahead and crank up the heat seven times hotter. We're going through with Jesus, and we're coming out not even smelling like smoke. We are not going to be singed by the radical flames of this cancel culture."

So join the team who refuses to be canceled. Contact your state leaders and urge them to protect kids from this dangerous movement. Then, email your senators and tell them to vote no on the Equality Act. For more on what the bill would mean for Christians, check out David Closson's blog post, "The Equality Act Demands Conformity to Moral Anarchy."

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

When Academic Freedom Becomes Censorship and Make-Believe

March 2, 2021

There was a time when schooling existed to teach kids what was true and how to think critically. Now, thinking and truth are punished, especially on college campuses. Education student Owen Stevens learned that the hard way when State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo suspended him from required field teaching programs. What was his crime? Saying things on Instagram like, "A man is a man, a woman is a woman. A man is not a woman and a woman is not a man." Or, "I do not recognize the gender that they claim to be if they are not biologically that gender."

According to documents obtained by The Daily Wire, Stevens will remain suspended until he completes a conservative-shaming ritual, also known as a "remediation plan," which would require him to delete his Instagram videos, tone down his social media presence, and attend school-sanctioned diversity training. It's unclear how a state university can force someone to recant things said in a public forum without violating his right to free speech. Nor is it clear how to say anything more "toned down" than an airtight logical tautology. The only thing clear in this remediation plan is that the diversity the school seeks isn't ideological. And remember, this is in a School of Education. Their litmus test for allowing teachers to instruct the next generation is simple: deny reality and submit to the Left.

When Stevens refused to comply, the graduate school's dean wrote to Stevens, "based on your continued public stance and social media presence, you do not consistently demonstrate behaviors required by the Conceptual Framework of the School of Education." What "conceptual framework" of education censors basic scientific fact? Apparently one that has grossly reinterpreted its provision that teachers must foster "a diverse campus community marked by mutual respect for the unique talents and contributions of each individual." On paper, this is innocent, boilerplate lip-service to free academic inquiry. In New York, it now justifies woke administrators dangling students over a cliff until they affirm blatant falsehoods. Perhaps the Dean will suspend himself for not respecting the contributions of Mr. Stevens.

But it's not just one censorious dean. Stevens was also informed that his refusal to deny basic biological facts violated New York State's Dignity for All Students Act. He has received threats from fellow students. The university's president blasted an email to the entire student body condemning Stevens's insistence that there are only two genders, and lamenting that the school's options for punishing him were limited. All because Stevens believes something everyone has known throughout history.

Sadly, Stevens's experience is not unique. The National Association of Scholars has reported 128 incidents since 1975 where graduate students and faculty in the U.S. and Canada were "canceled" for unwelcome political views. Of these, 73 incidents -- or 57 percent -- happened in 2020. The intolerant cancel mob will gun for just about anyone, but conservatives are its favorite targets.

A new report found one in three conservative academics and graduate students have been disciplined or threatened with discipline for their political views. Unsurprisingly, seven in 10 conservatives self-censor in their teaching, research, or academic discussions. And only nine percent of Trump-supporting academics feel comfortable sharing their political views with a colleague. The hostility they perceive is not imagined. Only 41 percent of American academics would sit down to lunch with a colleague who voted for Trump. And only 28 percent would lunch with a colleague who, like Stevens, affirmed the existence of only two genders.

The stifling Leftist censorship in America's major universities is shocking. But we know the truth, and we cannot afford to be silent.

'Fairness for All,' Justice for None

March 2, 2021

A lot has been made about the need for Republicans to "get on board" with some sort of alternative to the ill-conceived Equality Act. However, the "Fairness for All Act," introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) one day after the Equality Act vote in the House, is just as ill-conceived as the bill it is trying to replace. To constitute an acceptable alternative, a legislative proposal should actually solve a problem. While Fairness for All (FFA) backers may mean well, their proposal solves nothing.

Like the Equality Act, FFA would overhaul our federal civil rights framework and introduce special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) throughout federal law. Unlike the Equality Act, FFA does provide scattered protections for religious liberty. However, these protections are so minuscule and incremental, they fail to adequately deal with many religious liberty issues that have arisen as a result of SOGI laws.

On top of this, the philosophical approach of FFA sends the message that religious liberty is something that can be "carved out" of a broad SOGI mandate like this bill. Religious liberty is a broad, over-arching principle that extends throughout the public square. Yet this assumption is not present within FFA, and this bill cannot be acceptable to anyone who cares about religious liberty.

Meanwhile, proponents of SOGI laws, while obtaining them through FFA, reveal their intolerance for religious freedom through their failure to support this bill. Even the smallest religious freedom protections are too much for them. Yet SOGI proponents are failing to support this bill despite its broad SOGI mandate.

FFA's premise that religious liberty is the only problem with the Equality Act is incorrect and it fails to adequately deal with these concerns:

  • Erosion of women's rights, privacy and safety.
  • Inequality and unfairness in women's sports.
  • Politicization of the medical field.
  • Erosion of parental rights.
  • Faith-based charities' ability to operate.

The current political dynamics reveal a lack of support from SOGI supporters for FFA. In a press release announcing the bill, Rep. Stewart's office trumpets the "Alliance for Lasting Liberty Coalition" for its support. The alliance reportedly includes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, American Unity Fund, Center for Public Justice, 1st Amendment Partnership, The Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Noticeably lacking: the Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, and other power players in the LGBT activist space. Also noticeably lacking: groups representing large segments of the evangelical conservative movement. The groups named above don't have to give account to constituencies, or represent small, niche interests.

The point is this: FFA does not represent a genuine attempt at compromise by groups representing large political constituencies. Moreover, there are no Democrats co-sponsoring this bill. FFA is an exercise in Republicans negotiating with themselves, in an effort to please the critics who call them "discriminatory."

Our motivation for policymaking should not be to try to please critics. Solving problems should be the focus. Efforts should be made to deal with the very real and ongoing religious liberty problems in our country, or problems stemming from LGBT activism, such as the politicization of medicine and prescription of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender transition surgery for children. Such medical activism would not be slowed, but rather encouraged -- by both the Equality Act and FFA (which fail to protect the medical profession from being forced to forgo their moral or medical opinions about proper treatments for gender dysphoria, for instance).

The only difference between the Equality Act and FFA lies in the degree of harm they would cause if passed. FFA is not a proposal that Christians can (or should) support. If we do, we are only deceiving ourselves.

What's Pork Doing on the Menu of Virus Aid?

March 2, 2021

Americans want COVID relief, but is that what the Democrats' bill is? Congressman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) says no. "This is the wrong plan at the wrong time and for all of the wrong reasons." Is it about pork or the pandemic? Find out in this interview from Monday's "Washington Watch."