Virginia Finds Hope in the Gov Compartment

Virginia Finds Hope in the Gov Compartment

January 17, 2022

Of all the things in short supply right now, optimism may be the hardest to find. After 12 disappointing months of an administration whose domestic and foreign policy failures are rivaled only by the number of illegals crossing the border, Americans everywhere are desperate for some sign of hope, some indication that the country they love isn't completely lost. This past Saturday, on a sunny day in Virginia, that hope returned. For a brief moment, there was a break from the long shadows of the Biden administration, as new Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) stood before the state of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison and vowed to restore the promise of those great men. "It's day one," he declared. "Let's get to work."

For Americans who don't live in Virginia, the sight of the Commonwealth's tall new governor was a reassuring reminder that power still belongs to the people -- and those people are hungry for someone to lead, not mandate, control, or command. And thankfully, Youngkin didn't waste any time distinguishing himself from the tyrannical ways of his radical predecessor (and infanticide-endorser), Ralph Northam. In fact, the new governor's inaugural address struck an altogether different tone to Democrats these days. It was an especially refreshing contrast to Joe Biden's maniacal rant in Atlanta, where he demonized every good and decent American on election reform. Unlike the president's increasingly spiteful tone, Youngkin leaned in to the unifying message voters desperately need to hear.

"I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good. And strengthen the spirit of Virginia," Youngkin said. "Somewhere along the way," he lamented, "we've lost the ability to show respect to one another. To disagree without being disagreeable... We must set our eyes on the common values and common future that unites us."

He made a point of pushing back on the Left's phony race-based narrative of the GOP, lauding voters for just electing "the most diverse leadership in commonwealth history" and "sending a message that Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people." He spoke heartfeltly about the pandemic and loss Americans have experienced but reiterated that the way forward "is not about government deciding for us what is best for us." That resonated especially powerfully with parents, who view Youngkin as a bold new ally in the fight for the public schools.

The career businessman also turned the hallmark of his campaign -- education -- into a centerpiece of his first 24 hours, telling parents he would fight for their rights, and then proving it with a slew of first-day policies. "We've tried to silence the people most responsible for the lives of young children -- their parents," Youngkin said. "To parents, I say, we respect you. And we will empower you in the education of your children." Fresh off the dais outside the Richmond Capitol, he made good on that promise, signing 11 executive orders -- ranging from a ban on critical race theory in the classroom to revoking the mask order for students and investigating the "wrongdoing in Loudoun County." To the cheers of conservatives everywhere, he also overturned the vaccine mandate for state employees.

After just two days, Youngkin's sincerity on the education issue is already resonating in places like Loudoun County, where leaders are acting preemptively. Embattled superintendent Scott Ziegler, who was caught lying about two sexual attacks in girls bathrooms, moved to strike a controversial transgender book from school libraries ahead of Youngkin's inauguration. "Gender Queer: A Memoire" has sparked an all-out war in Northern Virginia after it was discovered in both Fairfax and Loudoun County schools. Published in 2019, the "graphic novel" is graphic all right. According to critics, the book includes "illustrations of sexual contact, masturbation, and a sex toy; an erotic scene of a man and boy... and depictions of [menstruation]."

The content is so horrifying that it's prompted a parents' protest up and down the state. Ian Serotkin, vice chair of the county school board, wrote on Facebook that the sexual content was pervasive. "It is not fleeting or brief." Late last week, after a split committee recommended keeping the book, Ziegler himself intervened. "I am not generally in favor of removing books from the library. I believe our students need to see themselves reflected in the literature available to them." But, he acknowledged, "The pictorial depictions in this book ran counter to what is appropriate in school."

Will that be the first of many dominos to fall in the Virginia education fight? We'll see. Youngkin seems in no mood to back down -- on anything. When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bashed him on Twitter for leaving school masking up to parents -- and Arlington County flat-out refused to obey -- the governor had a warning for local officials. "The fact that [that refusal] came out from Arlington County within minutes of my Executive Order, what that tells me, is they haven't listened to parents yet," he said on Sunday. They'd better, Youngkin urged, because "we granted parents the option... and we're going to protect that right."

When reporters challenged Youngkin's insistence that CRT is being taught in classrooms, the governor didn't budge. "Anyone who thinks that the concepts that underpin critical race theory are not in our schools hasn't been in our schools," he fired back. "The curriculum has moved in a very opaque way that has hidden a lot of this from parents... There's not a course called critical race theory. All the principles of critical race theory... [do] exist in Virginia schools today. And that's why I have signed the executive orders yesterday to make sure that we get it out of our schools... We absolutely have to recognize what the Left, liberals do here is try to obfuscate this issue."

In the meantime, there's no obfuscating what Youngkin is doing: challenging the Leftist establishment to its very core. That's what voters love about him, and it's why FRC Action was proud to endorse him. When he spoke at our Pray Vote Stand Summit in Loudoun County, Virginians saw a man who was committed to restoring dignity, unity, and power to the people. Congratulations to him and to his stellar lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears, and attorney general Jason Miyares, who make-up one blockbuster team for Virginia! Let's hope the change they bring to the Commonwealth inspires other states to do the same!

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

How the Democratic Boom Led to Economic Bust

January 17, 2022

It isn't exactly the one-year anniversary card Joe Biden was hoping for. Twelve months into this ill-advised marriage, Americans have three words for how this president makes them feel: "frustrated" (50 percent), "disappointed" (49 percent), and "nervous" (40 percent). Any love they had for this administration has been lost -- and quickly. Just 25 percent of the country feels "calm" or "satisfied" by his leadership, and based on the crises we're facing, even that feels generous.

Of course, like any union, it would help if the other person listened. Americans feel ignored -- and worse, they feel like their problems have been ignored. Sixty-seven percent said he couldn't care less about what matters to them because he's too obsessed with other issues. And, of course, it doesn't help his case that the White House seems intent on denying whatever emergencies Americans are facing. When White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain called the supply-chain crisis "an overhyped narrative," for instance, it didn't exactly thrill the families making five stops to find bread.

So what would repair the relationship, the pollsters at CBS/YouGov asked? Would passing Biden's $5 trillion dollar Build Back Better get the president out of the doghouse? Seventy-six percent fired back a resounding "NO." Americans want at least one thing, for starters: an end to this sky-high inflation. Unfortunately, like every other issue this White House is facing, the president has no idea how. His policies, most people agree, are only making things worse. But instead of changing directions, Biden stands at the podium barking at reporters that any criticism of the job he's doing on the economy is "malarky."

But then, we've got it all backwards. Maybe the issue isn't that the president doesn't understand the economy. Maybe the issue is that what we see as a problem is the Left's idea of progress. Dr. Dave Brat, former congressman and dean of Liberty University's School of Business, tried to unpack some of the complicated layers of the supply chain crisis on "Washington Watch," but there's a lot more to it than Economics 101. When asked to explain the source of the problems, Brat answered simply that "we no longer have a free market system." Not really. "The free market system... is based on the price system." That's one way to allocate things in the world. The other is by government fiat. America, he argues, is no longer "using the price system. [We've] made a massive move toward the government command system." And frankly, Brat said, "we live in a quasi-socialist environment now."

The professor uses this example: building a house. "I'm sitting in a house that has a hundred thousand pieces to it. In the old days, if you wanted to build a house, you built the house." Now, he says, "see if you can name one part of your house that's not regulated by the government. And of course, if you regulate it, that changes the price -- because it's got all sorts of new rules it has to follow right? You have your outlets six feet apart now, and you kind of have a certain kind of paint in case the baby licks the paint... The roof's got to have a pitch. The water heater, the furnace, the air conditioner... every single thing you can name right now is run and managed by the socialists."

Karl Marx wanted the government to take over all production, Brat reminds everyone. He wanted to own capital. "Well, they knew they couldn't achieve that. But you don't have to own it if you can run it and manage it," Brat explained. "So the government, it doesn't matter what sector you look at, [everything's big now]. Big banks, big airlines, big automobile, big tech. And the government loves that because they can run those. They can put the thumb on all those big monopolies, and they're all on the same side."

Throw in a global pandemic, and suddenly, the government has the power to decide who works, what mandates they have to meet to work, whether there even is work. "The federal government really messed up the labor market," he shook his head. First, the president locked us down, which stopped the economy. Then, Democrats decided to pay people to stay home. And to top it all off, they forced employers to fire the unvaccinated workers they did have. Thousands of others retired. "So it's just a crazy set of misfirings from the government. And again, it all comes down to not letting the price system allocate resources, including the price of labor."

How do we know he's right? Because of last Christmas. Most families had presents under the tree because U.S. companies got creative. They operated like a free market should -- meeting obstacles with ingenuity. They changed their ports or expanded their shipping capacities. And, as NRO's Dominic Pino reminds people, that wasn't Washington's idea. "The government didn't command anyone to do those things. Biden didn't sign an executive order telling Costco to charter its own container ships or Amazon to build its own shipping containers... Congress didn't pass a law mandating that people get their Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Those things happened on their own because they made sense economically. Price signals were allowed to work, and they delivered decent results."

At the end of the day, Pino argues, "The relevant criterion for government intervention is not whether the market is perfect. The relevant criterion is whether government will do better than the market. Does anyone think that putting Joe Biden in charge of supply chains would have delivered a better result than the one we observed?"

Now, a handful of weeks later, when stores everywhere are sporting bare shelves, the answer is the same. Let the free market work. Yes, there's a worker shortage and supply chain issue and Fed issue, but the root problem is the heart of the Left's agenda: big government. If America wants to fix these problems, Brat insists, "you've got to reduce the size of the federal government... If you don't like fascism, let's not have a big state to hand a fascist, right?" We need to get back to the "50 independent experiments" like the founders intended. That means sticking to the Judeo-Christian principles and constitutional government. Only then will we prosper. Only then will we have the kind of growth we've never seen before.

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

Religious Freedom Day: Biden Fails to Uphold America's First Freedom

January 17, 2022

Since 1993, the United States has formally observed Religious Freedom Day on January 16. The day honors the nation's first religious freedom law, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, passed in 1786. Like other presidents before him, President Joe Biden released a proclamation acknowledging the day. Although the president's comments on religious freedom were mostly encouraging, it is difficult to appreciate his rhetoric when many of his actions throughout the first year of his presidency have undermined the freedoms he claims to support.

In his proclamation, President Biden described religious freedom as a "cornerstone of who we are as a Nation" and a "vital aspect of our American character." The president also said that "protecting religious freedom is as important now as it has ever been." On these points, the president is right. Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, religious freedom is central to our national identity. But even though the president's comments rightly place religious freedom as essential to the American way of life, his administration has unfortunately failed to meaningfully protect the rights of the faithful.

For example, following his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the new president issued an executive order that requires federal agencies to interpret federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination as also prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In doing so, Biden expanded the holding of the problematic Bostock v. Clayton County U.S. Supreme Court decision far beyond its intended scope of employment discrimination.

On February 4, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum on "Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World." This memorandum "reaffirms and supplements" an Obama administration executive order that sought to ensure "United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote[s] and protect[s] the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons everywhere." What this really means is imposing the far Left's human sexuality agenda onto other countries, including U.S. allies with laws upholding natural marriage and human sexuality. This is just one example of how instead of prioritizing religious freedom overseas, the Biden administration has given preference to radical LGBT policies.

Another example is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) memorandum issued on February 11, 2021, which applied the Supreme Court's Bostock decision to the administration and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. The likely ramifications of this action could include HUD-funded shelters for battered women being mandated to allow biological men to be housed alongside women, where they may share private spaces such as sleeping quarters and bathrooms.

On February 14, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order dismantling the previous administration's White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, replacing it with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The accompanying fact sheet revealed that the office would function as an intersectional advancement of progressive policies -- a shift away from preserving religious freedom and towards ensuring religious entities that want to work with the government do not operate according to their religious beliefs that are counter to the LGBT agenda.

On March 8, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order establishing a White House Gender Policy Council. The accompanying fact sheet states that the council will "aggressively protect" certain groups, including the LGBT community, in its endeavor to "advance equal rights and opportunities, regardless of gender or gender identity, in advancing domestic and foreign policy." The removal of the scientific and biological parameters of sex will prevent this council from adequately protecting and addressing the needs of biological women.

The same day, President Biden issued another executive order declaring that "the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions)" to ensure they line up with the LGBT agenda.

On March 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memorandum on the application of Bostock to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, paving the way for schools' mandatory acceptance of gender identity ideology. In addition, President Biden issued a statement on May 17 recognizing "International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia," which celebrates the anniversary of the World Health Organization's declassifying homosexuality as a mental disorder. He touted the administration's work on the issue and called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would erode the freedom of houses of worship, religious schools and students, and faith-based organizations.

When he was inaugurated last year, President Biden inherited a federal bureaucracy accustomed to defending religious freedom. Under the previous administration, America's "first freedom" had been prioritized and actively protected. For example, the DOJ vigorously enforced laws that protected prayer and religious expression. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights to enforce federal laws that protect conscience rights and religious freedom. The U.S. State Department hosted an annual ministerial highlighting religious freedom issues abroad. In other words, the Trump administration embraced policies that valued religious freedom and actively protected the rights of people of faith.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration has managed to undo or undermine many of these policies, relegating religious freedom to the backseat while pursuing radical policies couched in "anti-discrimination" language.

Less than a decade ago, President Barack Obama commemorated Religious Freedom Day by declaring, "individuals should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind -- and of the heart and soul." The idea of living out one's faith means that one's convictions apply to the whole of life. True religious freedom means someone should have the freedom to believe what they want in terms of doctrine and theology and have the freedom to order their life according to their deepest convictions.

Unfortunately, despite the pro-religious freedom rhetoric, the Biden administration is failing to protect these rights and is seemingly working overtime to roll back some of the hard-won protections secured by the previous administration.

Skillet's Sizzling New Album: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

January 17, 2022

Fans of Skillet lead singer John Cooper were counting down the days until the band's new album, Dominion, was released January 14th. FRC's Joseph Backholm got an inside look at was behind Skillet's latest songs with Cooper on Friday's "Washington Watch." Don't miss what this agent of cultural change has to say in this special sneak peek below.