From Torture to Triumph: Religious Freedom at Work

From Torture to Triumph: Religious Freedom at Work

From Torture to Triumph: Religious Freedom at Work

July 15, 2021

"It would be better for my parents to find my corpse in a ditch than risk what Boko Haram would do to me."
- Joy Bishara

It was the middle of the night -- the only time of day when girls like Joy could slip into sleep and forget. On a dark April night, that fragile peace was shattered when she was nudged out of her dreams by a friend in her dorm. "Something is wrong," her classmate whispered. Outside, they heard the gunshots, coming from every direction. "Boko Haram is here." Startled awake, the girls looked at each other in silent terror. They all knew what the noises meant. The terrorists, the ones from their worst nightmares, had come.

It's been seven years and three months since that horrible day in Chibok, Nigeria. In that time, Joy has told her story hundreds of times -- to congressmen, ambassadors, world leaders, who all respond the same way -- in stunned silence. She talks about huddling in the room with the other girls, praying that if they were taken, their families would somehow be kept safe. She remembers the man who appeared in their doorway, pretending to be a soldier who would protect them -- and the horrifying moment she realized he was not. "It was too late to run," Joy says quietly. "They were all around us with guns and bombs." She pictures being hurried past her school, engulfed in flames that were close enough to singe their hair.

For a split second, she felt a rush of relief. Maybe the men planned to leave them there, under a tree. "They told us to never go to school again. And my thought was, 'If they're telling us this, they're going to let us go.' But it wasn't like that." Joy heard the rumble of the trucks heading toward town and knew who they were meant for. "They were taking us away," she realized. "If you want to live, get in the truck." One after another, they climbed in. Tears welled in her eyes. "I was like, is this the end of all of my struggling? All of my studying? All of my dreaming of becoming a doctor? Is this where it's going to end? I gave up. I decided -- if this is what God wants, then it's okay."

She never stopped praying, as the wheels rumbled down the road. Looking around at her friends, most of them were crying -- gripped by the same fear that they would never see their families again. Suddenly, words -- as clear as day -- came to her. "Jump!" it urged. Joy looked down at the road and thought, no way. They were moving fast and the truck beds were too high. The thought came to her that it would be better for her parents to find her corpse in a ditch than risk what Boko Haram would do to her. A friend tried to talk her out of it. "They'll shoot us," she whispered. Joy said she didn't care. With one motion, she leapt out of the back and onto her stomach on the hard ground. She got up, looked back at the truck, and started sprinting toward the bush through rocks and thorns -- running until her feet bled.

When she and her friend got to the village, hours and hours later, parents grabbed her arms and asked, "Where are the students? Where are the rest of the girls?" Everyone was crying, Joy remembers. "I don't know," she said sadly. "I don't know."

Today, there are thousands of parents in Nigeria going to bed every night praying that wherever their children are -- they're safe. The terrorists are still hunting Christians in the south, snatching them away without a trace. When Joy told her story at FRC's breakout on Christian Persecution in Africa during this week's International Religious Freedom Summit, families were still searching for 100 children missing from the latest attack at Bethel Baptist School. The ones who've returned will probably do as she did -- leave their homes every night to sleep in the bush where the gunmen might not find them. "Boko Haram will come back," they all thought. "I never felt safe," Joy says. Her people still don't.

It's what former Ambassador Sam Brownback meant when he said, "If we don't have religious freedom for all around the world, we will have the clash of civilizations full of death and carnage." On "Washington Watch" Wednesday, he shook his head at what's taking place in Africa. "You've got all this killing taking place... we've got all of these Islamic terrorist groups targeting it -- and they're seeing an opportunity here to drive a wedge and create a caliphate." In China, he warns, things -- in some ways -- are even worse. The communist party is brutal, they've got technology, and hundreds of millions of people to use as potential targets.

"But we've got an answer," Brownback insisted, "and the answer is religious freedom for everybody everywhere. If you just guarantee this, then the Nigerian government is called upon to protect the Christians, the Indian government can't [give] Hindu radicals [a pass]." The message would be: "This is not what the world stands for." It doesn't matter who's in the White House, Brownback argued. We shouldn't be dependent on the government to fight this battle. "It needs to be done by civil society advocates who every day wake up thinking, 'What can I do to help on religious freedom and push back on persecution?' ...This is about your human right. Let's fight for it together.'"

The good news is -- people are committed to fighting for girls like Joy. More than a thousand of them are gathered in D.C. at this moment, telling their stories and working together to bring this fundamental freedom to our brothers and sisters around the world. And as Christians, we should be especially invested in this effort -- not just because it's the right thing to do, but so that every man, woman, and child has the freedom to choose and the freedom to change their religion. Most of the over seven billion people on this planet do not get the privilege of experiencing the freedoms that we take for granted here in America. It's a distant dream to love Jesus and serve Him openly. Now is our chance to make that dream a reality.

For more on the Summit or to watch online, check out IRFSummit.com.


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


Dems' Let's-Make-a-Deal More Trouble Than It's Worth

July 15, 2021

After months of gridlock in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Democrats have reached an agreement to proceed with a $3.5 trillion -- with a T -- spending package. But their achievement may not deserve the headlines. The Democrats' agreement to spend trillions is not with Republicans, but with themselves. And, as Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) pointed out on "Washington Watch," "that's actually the Democrats on just the Senate Budget Committee." Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) nearly bisected his original $6 trillion proposal to persuade the Committee's Democrats, but he still has not yet convinced Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other moderate Democrats.

Sanders hasn't even written the bill. "There's no legislation yet," National Review columnist Dominic Pino noted. "The only thing the politicians have agreed to do is spend a bunch of your money. We don't know how. We don't know on what projects." So progressive Democrats have the difficult task of "winning people over when none of them have actually seen the details," said Lankford. This level of excess spending may be a tall order. Lankford pointed out this $3.5 trillion spending package is on top of the normal federal budget, which "is usually a little over $4 trillion for the entire year," plus a $600 billion bipartisan infrastructure proposal, plus the $2 trillion Democrats already spent.

"It is so far beyond rational and normal," argued Lankford, but Democrats seem to think "after Covid, no one's going to notice big numbers anymore." Republicans, at least, have noticed, and not one Republican has expressed support for this package. Democrats are calculating that, even if they successfully persuade or pressure their entire party, they will still have to use their last reconciliation bill until 2022 to squeak this bill through the Senate with a bare majority. We might not know exactly what Democrats plan to spend $3.5 trillion on, but we have clues. What might be covered in a bill drafted by Bernie Sanders that has no bipartisan support? Lankford predicted it will include a massive progressive wish list, "a hard left lurch toward socialism."

Such unprecedented government spending will kick the economy in the teeth even as it continues recovering from Covid-related shutdowns. For one thing, injecting additional money into the economy will only add to inflation, which is already climbing. In June, prices rose to 5.4 percent above a year ago. "Prices are going up on housing, on lumber, on used cars, on bacon, on milk, on bread, on everything," Lankford lamented.

Then there's the question of paying for it, either by borrowing money or raising taxes. As Lankford pointed out, "they literally believe that America can't go default because we're the world's currency." But that safety net will eventually reach its limit. The other option is to raise taxes, forcing American citizens and corporations to pick up the tab for the spending spree. Even though Sanders doesn't know how he plans to spend $3.5 trillion, he does want to fund it "by higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations." We've already seen how that can stifle innovation and entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, while progressives may hold influential positions in the Senate, they don't hold a majority. Regarding the Democrats' massive spending proposals, White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted yesterday, "If there were enough votes ... it would have happened." The radicals are trying to spend trillions of dollars without any Republican votes whatsoever, but they are struggling to overcome division within the Democratic ranks. The Senate was designed to inhibit just this sort of radicalism. And right now, that's a good thing for the American economy and the American people.


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


Vaccine Acts Take a Shot at Parents' Rights

July 15, 2021

It's bad enough that President Biden wants to send the government to your doorstep to pressure your family to vaccinate. Now, his Department of Education -- and several communities around the country -- are trying to force the shots on children without parents ever finding out.

From Tennessee to D.C., moms and dads are in an uproar over the latest battleground in the fight over mandatory COVID vaccines: U.S. classrooms. In places like the District, the city council has gone so far as to sneak the shots into local schools -- deciding that children as young as 11 are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want an experimental vaccine or not. Based on the new "Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020," elementary school students in the nation's capital who attend public school can have any vaccine they choose without ever calling home -- including everything from the pandemic immunization to the HPV vaccine.

On Monday, two organizations, representing multiple families, sued the city -- arguing that the schools have no right to take this decision out of parents' hands and endanger their children's lives. The Act, as many point out, goes to great lengths to keep the vaccination secret from parents, even ordering an insurance workaround so that the reimbursement comes directly from the insurer. Immunization records for HPV or the COVID vaccine are to be left "blank," the statute stipulates, so that there's no chance of anyone finding out.

Father Josh Mazer, whose 16-year-old daughter made a trip to D.C. and asked for the vaccine at summer camp without her parents' knowledge, is one of the plaintiffs. He was furious that the city complied, pointing out that not only was that decision against their religious beliefs -- but that his daughter had a severe reaction to tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis-containing shots when she was younger. Worse, when his daughter went to the clinic, they pressured her to get two more vaccines -- Gardasil (to protect against sexually-transmitted HPV) and the Meningitis vaccine, without explaining the risks.

It's absolutely reckless, attorneys have argued, since his daughter (and plenty of others) could have serious reactions to the vaccine(s), and parents "would [be] seriously hindered in his ability to advocate for the [children] to obtain the needed medical care." There's also the matter of vaccine timing -- which could prove problematic and dangerous, depending on other immunizations that are scheduled.

This whole idea "endangers children's lives," Children's Health Defense counsel Mary Holland argued. No law should let an 11-year-old "override" his or her parents' express directives on health -- or worse, coach the school in covering it up. "The D.C. Act is an unconscionable intrusion on the rights and liberty of parents and children," Holland insisted. "As the Supreme Court held, 'The liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.'"

"The View's" Joy Behar doesn't see it that way. As far as the far-Left talk host is concerned, "These kids are at the mercy of these ignorant parents, in my opinion. And yes, they should be allowed to do it." Of course, "ignorance" by her definition -- and every other Leftist's -- is anything that doesn't align with their radical ideology. "I think sometimes kids should have the ability to do what the science is telling them to do." What she doesn't say, most conveniently, is that the science isn't settled on the COVID vaccine. Not only is it still in its experimental phase, but the FDA just this week warned of complications of Guillain-Barré syndrome. What is settled, is that a child's parents are in a much better position than Joy Behar (or anyone else, for that matter) to make informed decisions about their children's healthcare decisions.