PULLING NO PUNCHES
What the ‘gay marriage’ debate is really about
Exclusive: Matt Barber warns, ‘The courts are tossing around spiritual nitroglycerin’
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).
It’s called Pandora’s Box.
And the Supreme Court just opened it.
Did you actually think the debate over “gay marriage” was about marriage? Have you really come to believe that this cultural kerfuffle has anything to do with “civil rights” or “equality”? Have you bought into the popular premise that this is a legitimate discussion on federalism – that it’s a reasonable disagreement over whether the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause requires that newfangled “gay marriage,” something rooted in same-sex sodomy, a deviant and disease-prone behavior our Constitution’s framers officially declared “the infamous crime against nature,” be made law of the land?
A lot of people have, so don’t feel bad. A lot of reasonable, well-meaning and even, at times, intelligent people have taken the bait.
But that’s all window dressing. It’s superficial. It’s collateral. It’s chaff, a diversion, a squirrel. Don’t chase it.
At its core, this increasingly heated fight over “gay marriage” is about two diametrically opposed and profoundly incompatible views of reality (or lack thereof). It’s the modern manifestation of a millennia-old clash between worldviews. This ugly cultural conflict is, in reality, neither legal nor political in nature, but, rather, is fundamentally a philosophical debate. Ultimately, it derives from, and is illustrative of, deep-seeded spiritual warfare. Quite simply, the clash over “gay marriage” is emblematic of the larger, and much older, clash between good and evil.
And it’s reaching critical mass.
On the one hand, on the natural marriage side, we have a worldview that recognizes absolute truth – that acknowledges the fixed moral and natural law, authored and enforced from time immemorial by the sovereign and loving Creator of the universe. This same Creator, incidentally, just happened to design and define the very institution over which we quarrel. Those with this worldview concede that every man, woman and child is accountable to this sovereign Creator and will, one day, stand before Him to face final judgment for what they did or did not do during their infinitesimally short-lived stint here on earth.
This, though not a comprehensive representation, is the biblical worldview.
On the other hand, on the unnatural marriage side (or the “marriage equality” side as these self-styled “progressives” euphemistically prefer), we have a worldview that denies absolute truth. It imagines there are no fixed lines of demarcation between right and wrong – that morality, that reality, is entirely relative and, therefore, the very notion of good and evil, right and wrong, sin and repentance are but false and limiting constructs concocted in the narrow minds of a dull bevy of sheepherders some thousands of years ago.
Since those with this worldview either deny God’s very existence altogether or, alternatively, believe that some version of god, like marriage, can be defined, or redefined, in the mind of the beholder, they claim accountability to no one (except goddess political correctness) and, thus, declare reality to be that which they, the secular-”progressive” intelligentsia, proclaim it to be (e.g., that manmade, credulity-straining, reality-warping and oxymoronic counterfeit called “same-sex marriage”).
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who happens to be both a big fan of unnatural marriage and one of the aforementioned intelligentsia, summarized this worldview neatly when he wrote the following in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He did so while attempting to rationalize government-sanctioned child sacrifice, the evil twin to “gay marriage”: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” he pontificated.
Right. Lay off the ‘shrooms, dude.
In other words, man is the measure of all things. Man is god, and there is no god but man. According to Kennedy, and as was first suggested by a garden snake a very long time ago, truth is defined by man’s “individual concept of existence.”
This, of course, is empirically and manifestly stupid.
And so both of these worldviews cannot be right. It’s impossible. The law of non-contradiction precludes it.
So who is right?
It’s simple. Those who acknowledge objective reality, natural morality and absolute truth are right. Those who recognize that there are fixed biological, moral and natural laws – that despite the rebellious machinations of fallen man, can be neither altered nor ignored – won the debate before the debate even began.
There is no debate.
Yet the debate goes on.
As for the continuing kangaroo courtrooms overseeing and facilitating the destruction of marriage via judicial fiat, I fully expect that additional reality-denying judges will call up down, black white and evil good. They’ll declare a “constitutional right” to sodomy-based marriage.
It’s all the rage right now.
Still, there is no legitimate legal argument to be made in favor of this absurdity. The common law, natural law and reality itself preclude any man, any court, any government, even state governments, from presuming to redefine the institution of marriage to exclude the necessary element of binary male-female complementarity.
Mankind can no more redefine marriage to include same-sex parings than can he suspend the laws of gravity.
Yet these arrogant, godless, black-robed autocrats presume to do just that.
The courts are tossing around spiritual nitroglycerin here. It’s the stuff that brings down entire civilizations. Here’s the bad news: The aforementioned Justice Kennedy is the swing vote in favor of imposing fuax marriage on everyone.
Here’s the good news: God will not be mocked.
Media wishing to interview Matt Barber, please contact email@example.com.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/what-the-gay-marriage-debate-is-really-about/#8j3S0WjZ6I1ucXik.99
Supporters of transgender ideology believe that they are freeing people from restrictive understandings of gender. In reality, the more our society tries to free itself from gender stereotypes, the more it becomes enslaved to them. By saying that people can be born in a body of the wrong gender, transgender activists are saying there is a set of feelings that are only allocated to women and another set for men.
My parents never bought Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, or Snow White. They weren’t stories told in our house or movies played on our TV. There was no Princess Tiana then, but my parents only showed us films with “colored” princesses: Mulan (Asian), Pocahontas (Native American), and Jasmine (Arab). We also loved the African animals of The Lion King. We never idealized whiteness in our house. None of this was done overtly, though it may have been intentional. Only in retrospect did I realize the kind of tacit self-love my parents were embedding in us.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Around the age of thirteen, I realized that the world was telling me that light skin and “good hair” were better, skinny was better, and whiteness was better. In fleeting moments, I wished I could be white. I begged my mom to straighten my hair, and she did. I went through sometimes unreasonable means to lose weight, and I tried to keep my somewhat light skin out of the sun.
If I had gone to my parents begging them to be white, I think they might have laughed, cried, comforted me, and worried what they did wrong as parents. But what if I had told them not only that I wanted to be white but that I actually was white? What if I had declared that the race of my body simply didn’t match that of my mind? I think they would’ve been deeply troubled.
The Bluest Eye
The famous Toni Morrison book, The Bluest Eye, parallels this idea. The main character, Pecola, is a dark-skinned girl who desperately wants blue eyes. By the end of the story, she has blue eyes—or at least, she believes that she does. We, as the readers, don’t applaud this. In fact, by the end of the novel, we think Pecola has lost her mind. We know that it’s not really blue eyes she wants, she wants something much deeper—love, acceptance, respect, honor . . . the intangible human desires we all crave but are not equally given. We know that she has not received this, but instead is a victim of perpetual abuse, and there is no easy solution to her problems.
But what if it were really possible for me to become white or for Pecola to acquire blue eyes? Would that be the end of the story—the happily ever after? Would changing our physical appearance magically erase all our issues of self-esteem and self-worth?
No, of course not. The eyes and the skin color were never the problem: racism and abuse were. We would only be putting a Band-Aid on the real issue. The many men and women who “passed” as white during America’s shameful Jim Crow era may have gained the social privileges bestowed by being white, but they also lost their heritage, their family ties, and their integrity, thanks to the lie they were forced to tell every single day.
Race, Sex, and Gender
But what if, instead of wanting to be white, I wanted to be a man? What if, instead of crying to my parents that I was really a white person, I told them that I was really a man and that I desperately wanted to change my body to match my mind? If, in this scenario, you think that my parents should applaud my courage, accept my new gender identity, and run to the nearest surgeon, please ask yourself: “Why?”
There’s no doubt that race and sex are two very different issues. Race is a social construct invented during the era of slavery. Before the European enslavement of Africans, there were no united “black people” in Africa, and there were no united “white people” in Europe. Thanks to slavery, the labels of black and white became a convenient way to continue oppression, but they are a relatively new way of identifying one’s self.
But sex is not a human invention. Yes, gender roles are culturally created. Still, that does not erase the fact that every human being (except intersex individuals, who represent a tiny percentage) is born with a distinctive set of physical and biological attributes that constitute them as male or female. That is a truth that cannot be erased with time.
Self-Love as a Virtue
When we want to be something other than our true authentic selves, that is self-hate. A black person who wants to be white is practicing self-hate, and so is a man who wants to be a woman or a woman who wants to be a man. We live in a climate of incredible self-absorption, but we won’t encourage people to love the body they’re in? We tell women to love their curves and love their age and love the skin they’re in but we won’t tell them (and men) to love the sex of their bodies?
We cry out about the horrors of female genital mutilation, yet we allow the practice in our backyard. We ignore the cries of patients who wake up from surgery full of remorse. We ignore their suffering and delude them with the promise of quick fixes and instant happiness. At The Federalist,Stella Morabito quotes a man who, upon waking up from his surgery thought, “What have I done? What on earth have I done?”
Eerily, in his Vanity Fair interview, Jenner echoes this man as he recalls his own thoughts after his ten-hour face feminization surgery: “What did I just do? What did I just do to myself?” Another post-op patient says in an online forum, “I am grieving at how I have mutilated my body.” Here at Public Discourse,Walt Heyer has written about the regret he experienced after his sex-change surgery.
We are playing a dangerous game. A man or a boy whose penis has been surgically removed can’t go back in time and return to his God-given nature. What if we spent the money we spend on surgery and drugs on therapy and learning self-love? We should be teaching a message of self-acceptance instead of buying into the latest surgeries or believing we’re born in the wrong body.
The Slavery of Freedom
Paradoxically, the more our society tries to free itself from gender stereotypes, the more it becomes enslaved to them. By saying that people can be born in a body of the wrong gender, transgender activists are saying there is a set of feelings that are only allocated to women and another set for men. Therefore, they believe, those who feel things that do not conform to their sex’s acceptable set of feelings must outwardly change their gender to match their mind.
Why are we colluding with narrow ideas of femininity or masculinity? What does it mean to “feel” like a woman? Should we question that idea as much as we have questioned ideas of a “woman’s place” or a “man’s role”? When did we come to accept the idea of “gendered thoughts” or “gendered feelings”?
As a linguistic student of Arabic, I recently learned that women and men are not opposite so much as they are complementary. The idea that one could feel opposite from one’s biological gender is actually nonsensical, linguistically and in reality. Men and women are different, but not so categorically that one can feel as though he or she were the other. We are full human beings, free to think as we wish without questioning our authenticity as men or as women.
“Bruce lives a lie. She is not a lie,” says Bruce Jenner in his interview with Diane Sawyer. Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner, told Sawyer that he has a “soul of a woman,” that he spent his life “running away from who I was.” At the time of that interview, Jenner’s voice and appearance are strikingly different from what they have been in the past, but not drastically enough to give the illusion of being female. Admittedly, Jenner looks much more feminine on the cover of Vanity Fair. Still, if he chooses to go through gender “reassignment” surgery, he will not become a woman but merely an illusion of one. As Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, has written, “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women.”
People opposed to the transgender movement are often accused of being bigots. In truth, I—like many others—harbor no hate for people who suffer from gender identity disorder. Rather, I feel deep compassion and concern for them in their suffering. As someone in the field of psychology, I hope we can one day find a more holistic, less invasive means to treat this disorder. However, I will concede that I find something quite insulting about the entire phenomenon. It is an insult to the other sex to think that by “dressing like them,” “talking like them,” or claiming to “feel like them,” you can therefore be them. Being a man is about more than wearing a suit, and being a woman is about more than putting on makeup. If we feel confined in our bodies, perhaps it is not our bodies we should try to correct but our spirits we should reconnect with.
Nuriddeen Knight is an alumna of Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned an MA in psychology with a focus on the child and the family.
The Top 10 Liberal Superstitions
By Kate Bachelder
Oct. 30, 2014 7:50 p.m. ET
A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted. Such political superstitions take on a new prominence during campaign seasons as Democratic candidates trot out applause lines to rally their progressive base and as the electorate considers their voting records. Here’s a Top 10 list of liberal superstitions on prominent display during the midterm election campaign:
1. Spending more money improves education. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report.
No better news in the international rankings: The Program for International Student Assessment reports that in 2012 American 15-year-olds placed in the middle of the pack, alongside peers from Slovakia—which shells out half as much money as the U.S. per student.
Someone might mention this to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is knocking State House Speaker Thom Tillis for cutting $500 million from schools. Per-pupil K-12 spending has increased every year since Mr. Tillis became speaker in 2011, and most of what Ms. Hagan is selling as “cuts” came from community colleges and universities, not the local middle school. Mr. Coulson’s Cato study notes that North Carolina has about doubled per-pupil education spending since 1972, which has done precisely nothing for the state’s adjusted SAT scores.
2. Government spending stimulates the economy. Case in point is the $830 billion 2009 stimulus bill, touted by the Obama administration as necessary for keeping unemployment below 8%. Result: four years of average unemployment above 8%. Federal outlays soared in 2009 to $3.5 trillion—a big enough bump to do the Keynesian trick of boosting aggregate demand—but all we got was this lousy 2% growth and a new costume for Army Corps of Engineers mascot Bobber the Water Safety Dog. Every Senate Democrat voted for the blowout, including the 11 now up for re-election who were in Congress when it passed.
3. Republican candidates always have a big spending advantage over Democrats. Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor recently to deride the Koch brothers as “radical billionaires” who are “attempting to buy our democracy.” Yet the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raked in $127 million this cycle, about $30 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Democrats have aired more TV ads than Republicans in several battleground states, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Meanwhile, Mr. Reid’s Senate Majority PAC has raised more than $50 million. As this newspaper has reported, between 2005 and 2011, labor unions—linchpins of the Democratic Party—spent $4.4 billion on politics, far outstripping any conservative rival.
4. Raising the minimum wage helps the poor. The president wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25, with the tagline “Let’s give America a raise.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the hike would cost 500,000 jobs, one blow to the low-wage earners it claims to help. Employment aside, only 18% of the earnings benefits of a $10.10 hike would flow to people living below the poverty line, according to analysis from University of California-Irvine economist David Neumark. Nearly 30% of the benefits would go to families three times above the poverty line or higher, in part because half of America’s poor families have no wage earners. Minimum-wage increases help some poor families—at the expense of other poor families.
You won’t hear that from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who in September lived on $79 for a week to show his public-relations solidarity with minimum-wage earners. Keep in mind: Only 4.7% of minimum-wage earners are adults working full-timetrying to support a family, and nearly all would be eligible for the earned-income tax credit and other welfare programs.
5. Global warming is causing increasingly violent weather. Tell that to Floridians, who are enjoying the ninth consecutive season without a hurricane landfall. The Atlantic hurricane season in 2013 was the least active in 30 years. Oh, and global temperatures have not increased for 15 years.
Still, something must be done! On Monday, the Hill reported that an internal memo circulating among five environmental groups detailed plans for spending to support candidates “who want to act” to combat climate change. “We are on track to spend more than $85 million overall including more than $40 million in just six Senate races,” the memo said. The beneficiaries include Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.), who got $12.1 million, and Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) with $7.2 million.
6. Genetically modified food is dangerous. Farmers have been breeding crop seeds for 10,000 years, but the agricultural innovation known as genetic modification makes liberals shudder. Not a single documented illness has resulted from the trillions of meals containing “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs, that humans have consumed since the mid-1990s. The technology has been declared safe by every regulatory agency from the Food and Drug Administration to the European Commission.
But insisting on labeling food containing GMOs has turned into a liberal cause. The California Democratic Party platform in 2012 added a demand for GMO labeling; more recently the Oregon Democratic Party climbed aboard. In May 2013, self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced a farm-bill amendment that would allow states to require GMO labeling for food; co-sponsors of the amendment, which failed, included Sens. Mark Begich (D., Ala.) and Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.).
7. Voter ID laws suppress minority turnout. More than 30 states have voter-ID laws, which the left decries as an attempt to disenfranchise minorities who don’t have identification and can’t pay for it. Yet of the 17 states with the strictest requirements, 16 offer free IDs. The Government Accountability Office this month released an analysis of 10 voter-ID studies: Five showed the laws had no statistically significant effect on turnout, four suggested a decrease in turnout (generally among all ethnic groups, though percentages varied), and one found an increase in turnout with voter ID laws in place.
The Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has nonetheless been running radio ads in urban areas claiming that “Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are trying to take away our right to vote,” based on a 2007 voter-ID amendment the minority leader introduced.
8. ObamaCare is gaining popularity. President Obama said in a speech earlier this month that fewer Republicans were running against ObamaCare because “it’s working pretty well in the real world.” Yet the law’s approval rating hovers around 40%, and 27% of people told Gallup this month that the law was hurting them, up from 19% in January, while only 16% reported it was helpful.
Don’t even ask doctors about it: 46% of physicians gave the Affordable Care Act a “D” or “F”, according to a recent survey by the Physicians Foundation, and less than 4% of respondents gave it an “A.” Yet some Democrats are die-hards: 36% of their House candidates have voiced support for ObamaCare on the campaign trail, according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution.
9. The Keystone XL pipeline would increase oil spills. Let’s check out what President Obama’s State Department had to say: In 2013 pipelines with a diameter larger than 12 inches spilled 910,000 gallons. Railroad tankers spilled 1.5 million gallons. Yet pipelines carry 25 times the oil that tankers do, as environmental analyst Terry Anderson has noted in these pages. Blocking Keystone and forcing more oil to be shipped by rail guarantees more harm to the environment. But on the campaign trail emotion often overrules the facts, and so we have Rick Weiland, the Democratic Senate candidate in South Dakota, adamantly opposing Keystone (“If I lose because of this issue, so be it,” he told the Nation magazine last week). Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is running for re-election after having voted against Keystone in the energy committee in June.
10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. The mother of all liberal superstitions, this figure comes from shoddy math that divides the average earnings of all women working full-time by the average earnings of all full-time men, without considering career field, education or personal choices. When those factors are included, the wage gap disappears. A 2009 report commissioned by the Labor Department that analyzed more than 50 papers on the topic found that the so-called pay gap “may be almost entirely” the result of choices both men and women make.
Yet here’s Colorado’s Sen. Udall: “It is simply unacceptable for businesses to pay women less than men doing the same work,” citing his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which might be better titled the Trial Lawyer Paycheck Act. One irony: The Washington Free Beacon did a little number crunching and discovered that women in Sen. Udall’s office earn 86 cents on the dollar compared with men. Whoops.
Ms. Bachelder is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.
Who Do They Think We Are?
The administration’s Ebola evasions reveal its disdain for the American people.
Oct. 16, 2014 7:34 p.m. ET
The administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis continues to be marked by double talk, runaround and gobbledygook. And its logic is worse than its language. In many of its actions, especially its public pronouncements, the government is functioning not as a soother of public anxiety but the cause of it.
An example this week came in the dialogue between Megyn Kelly of Fox News and Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control.
Their conversation focused largely on the government’s refusal to stop travel into the United States by citizens of plague nations. “Why not put a travel ban in place,” Ms. Kelly asked, while we shore up the U.S. public-health system?
Dr. Frieden replied that we now have screening at airports, and “we’ve already recommended that all nonessential travel to these countries be stopped for Americans.” He added: “We’re always looking at ways that we can better protect Americans.”
“But this is one,” Ms. Kelly responded.
Dr. Frieden implied a travel ban would be harmful: “If we do things that are going to make it harder to stop the epidemic there, it’s going to spread to other parts of—”
Ms. Kelly interjected, asking how keeping citizens from the affected regions out of America would make it harder to stop Ebola in Africa.
“Because you can’t get people in and out.”
“Why can’t we have charter flights?”
“You know, charter flights don’t do the same thing commercial airliners do.”
“What do you mean? They fly in and fly out.”
Dr. Frieden replied that limiting travel between African nations would slow relief efforts. “If we isolate these countries, what’s not going to happen is disease staying there. It’s going to spread more all over Africa and we’ll be at higher risk.”
Later in the interview, Ms. Kelly noted that we still have airplanes coming into the U.S. from Liberia, with passengers expected to self-report Ebola exposure.
Dr. Frieden responded: “Ultimately the only way—and you may not like this—but the only way we will get our risk to zero here is to stop the outbreak in Africa.”
Ms. Kelly said yes, that’s why we’re sending troops. But why can’t we do that and have a travel ban?
“If it spreads more in Africa, it’s going to be more of a risk to us here. Our only goal is protecting Americans—that’s our mission. We do that by protecting people here and by stopping threats abroad. That protects Americans.”
Dr. Frieden’s logic was a bit of a heart-stopper. In fact his responses were more non sequiturs than answers. We cannot ban people at high risk of Ebola from entering the U.S. because people in West Africa have Ebola, and we don’t want it to spread. Huh?
In testimony before Congress Thursday, Dr. Frieden was not much more straightforward. His answers often sound like filibusters: long, rolling paragraphs of benign assertion, advertising slogans—“We know how to stop Ebola,” “Our focus is protecting people”—occasionally extraneous data, and testimony to the excellence of our health-care professionals.
It is my impression that everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children. It feels like how the pediatrician talks to the child, not the parents. It’s as if they’ve been told: “Talk, talk, talk, but don’t say anything. Clarity is the enemy.”
The language of government now is word-spew.
Dr. Frieden did not explain his or the government’s thinking on the reasons for opposition to a travel ban. On the other hand, he noted that the government will consider all options in stopping the virus from spreading here, so perhaps that marks the beginning of a possible concession.
It is one thing that Dr. Frieden, and those who are presumably making the big decisions, have been so far incapable of making a believable and compelling case for not instituting a ban. A separate issue is how poor a decision it is. To call it childish would be unfair to children. In fact, if you had a group of 11-year-olds, they would surely have a superior answer to the question: “Sick people are coming through the door of the house, and we are not sure how to make them well. Meanwhile they are starting to make us sick, too. What is the first thing to do?”
The children would reply: “Close the door.” One would add: “Just for a while, while you figure out how to treat everyone getting sick.” Another might say: “And keep going outside the door in protective clothing with medical help.” Eleven-year-olds would get this one right without a lot of struggle.
If we don’t momentarily close the door to citizens of the affected nations, it is certain that more cases will come into the U.S. It is hard to see how that helps anyone. Closing the door would be no guarantee of safety—nothing is guaranteed, and the world is porous. But it would reduce risk and likelihood, which itself is worthwhile.
Africa, by the way, seems to understand this. The Associated Press on Thursday reported the continent’s health-care officials had limited the threat to only five countries with the help of border controls, travel restrictions, and aggressive and sophisticated tracking.
All of which returns me to my thoughts the past few weeks. Back then I’d hear the official wordage that doesn’t amount to a logical thought, and the unspoken air of “We don’t want to panic you savages,” and I’d look at various public officials and muse: “Who do you think you are?”
Now I think, “Who do they think we are?”
Does the government think if America is made to feel safer, she will forget the needs of the Ebola nations? But Americans, more than anyone else, are the volunteers, altruists and in a few cases saints who go to the Ebola nations to help. And they were doing it long before the Western media was talking about the disease, and long before America was experiencing it.
At the Ebola hearings Thursday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) said, I guess to the American people: “Don’t panic.” No one’s panicking—except perhaps the administration, which might explain its decisions.
Is it always the most frightened people who run around telling others to calm down?
This week the president canceled a fundraiser and returned to the White House to deal with the crisis. He made a statement and came across as about three days behind the story—“rapid response teams” and so forth. It reminded some people of the statement in July, during another crisis, of the president’s communications director, who said that when a president rushes back to Washington, it “can have the unintended consequence of unduly alarming the American people.” Yes, we’re such sissies. Actually, when Mr. Obama eschews a fundraiser to go to his office to deal with a public problem we are not scared, only surprised.
But again, who do they think we are? You gather they see us as poor, panic-stricken people who want a travel ban because we’re beside ourselves with fear and loathing. Instead of practical, realistic people who are way ahead of our government.
Judge: IRS Obamacare Rule ‘Is Arbitrary, Capricious, and Abuse of Discretion’
October 2, 2014 – 1:10 PM
By Craig Bannister
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Ronald White concluded Tuesday that the IRS rule altering the Obamacare law and providing billions in subsidies is “arbitrary, capricious and abuse of discretion”:
“The court holds that the IRS rule is arbitrary, capricious, and abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law, pursuant to 5 U.S.C.706(2)(A), in excess of summary jurisdiction, authority or limitation, or short of statutory right, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(C), or otherwise is an invalidation of the ACA [Affordable Care Act], and is hereby vacated. The court’s order of vacatur is stayed, however, pending resolution of any appeal from this order.”
In September 2012, Oklahoma was the first of several states to challenge the legality of an IRS rule that caused billions in subsidies to be paid out, despite Congress having never authorized those payments.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt hailed the state’s victory in its lawsuit challenging the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:
“Today’s ruling is a consequential victory for the rule of law. The administration and its bureaucrats in the IRS handed out billions in illegal tax credits and subsidies and vastly expanded the reach of the health care law because they didn’t like the way Congress wrote the Affordable Care Act. That’s not how our system of government works.”
Pruitt said the ruling proves that the administration can’t change a law by executive fiat:
“The Obama administration created this problem and rather than having an agency like the IRS rewrite a law it didn’t like, the administration should have done the right thing and worked with Congress to amend the law. Oklahoma was the first to challenge the administration’s actions and today’s ruling vindicates what we recognized early on and that is the administration can’t rewrite the Affordable Care Act by executive fiat.”
He said the victory is just the beginning, because he fully expects the case to, ultimately, be decided by the Supreme Court:
“Today’s ruling is a huge win for Oklahoma, but it’s just a first step. Since Oklahoma filed the first lawsuit in 2012, others have followed our lead and made similar claims in other jurisdictions. It’s likely this issue will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. We look forward to making our case and continuing the effort to hold federal agencies accountable to their duty to enforce the laws passed by Congress.”
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) also praised Judge White’s decision, saying that the Obama Administration is trying to fix a legally-dubious law using waivers and exemptions:
“Today’s decision is a reminder that the President’s broken promises of affordable, accessible health care are the result of broken policy. The Obama Administration has tried to make the law work with waivers and exemptions, but the courts continue to confront the legality of this legislation that was rushed through a Democrat-controlled Congress.”
“While it will undoubtedly take time for Oklahoma’s case to play out in the federal court system, I am confident in Attorney General Scott Pruitt and that our state’s argument will prevail.”
Tuesday’s decision is the latest in a wave of court losses for Obamacare.
Currently, over a hundred lawsuits have been filed against Obamacare – and Obamacare has lost 91% of the cases decided to-date, (71 losses out of 78 decisions), according to the latest tally by The Beckett Fund.
Manaolana: Journey of a Catholic with same-sex attraction
by Hawaii Catholic Herald
This article is published at the request of Bishop Larry Silva. It was written by Jake Stanwood (not his real name), a 2012 college graduate, for the blog, “Think Catholic.” It is reprinted here with permission.
“We love you no matter what sexual orientation you choose to live out.” These are the words of a father to me, his 15 year old son, 10 years ago. Um … Awkward? Up until that point my dad had never talked to me about sex, and the topic was never mentioned again. I remember every little detail about the conversation: The sweaty palms, cold freezing office space, and the awkwardness created by the long wooden desk separating us from talking like normal people. How did I respond? I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. I stared at him with a blank face and ran back into my room crying and thinking about how the heck I ever got into this mess.
“Great … even my parents think I’m gay” “That person at school thinks I’m gay too, maybe it’s because of the way I talk.” “Wait … maybe I should change the way I talk? That will make me look manlier.” “Crap, that person is totally staring at me and thinks I’m gay.” These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that constantly ruminated in my head. Talk about feeling paranoid. It always felt as if I was split in between two worlds. One side was telling me, “Just come out of the closet, hook up with someone, embrace the fact you’re gay!” The other side, (far less appealing) said, “If anyone ever finds out, you’re dead! Don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”
Praise God, he created a church that has given me a third option, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to drown me in lust or turn me into a stoic that’s being internally destroyed by his desires. I have chosen the path to chastity. I have chosen the path toward authentic love and sexual self-control.
Is this easy? No.
The sexual temptations have always been there for me, and I suppose will always be. I am not afraid to admit that until the day I die I will probably always be attracted to men. However, I don’t think this aspect of my cross has been the greatest struggle. The greatest struggle has been my interior life. Experiencing same sex attraction (SSA) and being Catholic is hard (well, being Catholic is hard). It is a unique/heavy cross to carry, and a very painful one. It comes with its share of anxiety, heartache, tears and boogers. Us folks, who have SSA, we struggle with a lot. Among those things are body image, father wounds, bouts of depression, feeling less masculine, and a lot of us aren’t good at sports (which makes it harder for us to bond with other men). Growing up I always felt different and uncomfortable around other men, as if I was unworthy to even be called a man. However, I think it’s especially difficult to carry out this chaste lifestyle in the midst of today’s hyper sexual culture.
The culture today has become increasingly pro-gay. Just take a look at shows like Glee, Modern Family, or anything Lady Gaga … this stuff didn’t build up overnight. While this DOMA thing was taking place my Facebook newsfeed exploded with red equal sings. The younger generation has become largely accepting of the gay community. I’m glad that people are starting to become less homophobic and are speaking against gay bullying. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m for gay marriage or I think people should pursue same sex relationships.
It just doesn’t fit human sexuality or natural law. Just because I have an inclination to do something doesn’t mean that I should follow it. When we pursue sexuality outside of the way God designed for it to be we can find ourselves in messy situations. Hence the high promiscuity, infidelity and STD rates associated with the gay community. But of course the media will never portray it this way, living a gay lifestyle is portrayed as glamorous and fulfilling. I am not saying that every gay person is living a promiscuous life and is carrying an STD on them. I have many friends who identify as gay who are hard workers and are doing awesome things with their lives. However, I will not deny that amongst the “gay scene” multiple partners and infidelity rates are pretty high. Homosexuality has to be identified more with behavior, than with identity. That’s how the gay movement has progressed so much they’ve turned it into its own culture. The minute we reduce ourselves to our sexual orientation, we lose sight of who we really are.
I’ve chosen to never engage in a sexual relationship with another guy and remain celibate, despite the fact there are times I feel the ache of this desire. This may seem like a total fail in the eyes of the world, but am I really missing out on much? Chastity gives me so much more. It gives me the ability to live out healthy and loving relationships with both men and women. It is giving me the opportunity to bring healing to areas of my masculinity that have been gravely wounded. It respects me for who I am, allows me to appreciate beauty, and recognize the dignity in every person. This has involved a lot of wrestling with God. Many people think wresting with God is a bad thing. False. You can only wrestle with someone who is close to you, so in a way wrestling with these attractions has drawn me closer to God. It is a cross, but with every cross the Lord is always right beside us.
Yes, I realize that I will not always get what I want. I can’t tell you about the hundreds of days I felt I just wanted someone to hold and be intimate with. Sometimes I look at happy couples and wonder if I am missing out! But, I understand that fulfillment goes much deeper than wanting someone around. I find fulfillment by being in relationship with the God who created me to be fulfilled by him, and in community.
The truth is, I love being Catholic.
The church loves me. It desires what is best for me, and sometimes this kind of love hurts, because it doesn’t always feel good. However in the long run it guides me to a much more fulfilling life and a more adventurous one. No, the church is not a bigoted institution that hates gays. Quite the opposite. I have never met as many loving and understanding people as I have in the Catholic Church. I am incredibly fortunate! I have many friends in the church that know about my struggle and are there to support and encourage me along the way. I have a choir of saints and angels who are constantly interceding for me, a mother in heaven that deeply loves me, and a God who bears his very self in the Eucharist each and everyday. If you ask me … I’ve hit the jackpot.
The question of “gay Christianity” is not a minor issue. That’s why I welcome the coming separation over this issue. And as painful as the division will be within churches, denominations, ministries, and even families, it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable.
As much I as I am constantly tackling controversial subjects, I am also working for the unity of the Body, trying to major on the majors on my radio show (which reaches quite a diverse audience) and often interacting privately with those with whom I differ. Yet I recognize that sometimes, division for the sake of truth can be healthy. Now is one of those times.
This past Wednesday, May 14, I gave a lecture at the Family Research Council in Washington, DC, from noon-1:00 p.m. It was also aired via live webcast and the talk focused on issues related to my latest book Can You Be Gay and Christian?
Shortly before the lecture, I was informed that, at the exact same time and also live online, there would be a panel discussing Matthew Vines’ new book God and the Gay Christian, with participation from Rachel Held Evans, Tony Jones, and Jay Bakker, all of whom highly praised the book.
What excellent timing, and what an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast these two very different views. (For the record, my book is not a response to Matthew’s book, and the fact they came out at roughly the same time is providential rather than planned.)
What’s the most common mistake professing Christians make when they argue God’s Word doesn’t condemn homosexuality?
One view says that while God deeply loves all people and offers them redemption in Jesus, under no circumstances would He ever bless or approve of two men (or two women) having sex together.
The other views says that under the right circumstances, God would bless and approve of two men (or two women) having sex. (For those who think that sex is not the issue, bear in mind that one of the major arguments made by same-sex “marriage” advocates like Matthew Vines is that it’s better for gays to be able to “marry” than to burn with lust, based on a serious misapplication of 1 Corinthians 7.)
Without a doubt, this issue will become a great dividing line in the Church, and I for one welcome it, since it points to a much deeper divide in our approach to God, His Word, and the people He wants to redeem. Ultimately, it will separate those who put God first and ask, “How can I fulfill His desires?” from those who put themselves first and ask, “How can He fulfill my desires?” (Although some will take extreme offense to this statement, if you analyze the major “gay Christian” arguments, they often boil down to this perspective.)
I do believe that many professing Christians who advocate same-sex relationships do so because they know homosexual couples who care deeply about each other, who are fine people in many respects, and who have wrestled mightily with reconciling their faith with their sexuality. And so, these Christians go back to the Scriptures and ask themselves if, perhaps, the Bible does allow for committed, same-sex relationships. “How,” they wonder aloud, “does the law of love, which does no harm to its neighbor, address this question?”
But that is the problem in a nutshell, and it is reminiscent of what happened with Balaam, whom Balak sought to hire to curse Israel.
When Balaam asked Yahweh if he should go and curse Israel, the Lord answered him emphatically: “You are not to go with them. You are not to curse this people, for they are blessed” (Num 22:12, CSB).
There was no ambiguity there, just as there is no ambiguity in what the Bible says about homosexual practice: Every reference to it in the Scriptures is decidedly negative; there is not a single positive example of a homosexual relationship in the Word; and marriage, by its God-ordained definition from the beginning, is the union of one man and woman for life.
As for Balaam, he made the mistake of asking God a second time if He should curse Israel after being offered more money, and this time the Lord told him to go, ultimately to his lasting shame. Obviously, God doesn’t change His Word.
Of course, I’m not comparing gay theologians (or their straight allies) to Balaam in terms of being motivated by money – honestly, such a thought doesn’t enter my mind, no more than it enters my mind to write articles or books or take theological stands for the sake of financial gain – but I am saying that they are making a similar mistake of starting with a clear word from God and then questioning the Scriptures based on their own experiences (or the experience of their friends).
Some might argue that this is similar to a cessationist being miraculously healed, as a result of which he goes back to the Scriptures to reevaluate his beliefs and then changes his position. But the two situations hardly compare.
In the case of cessationism, the early Church embraced and operated in the gifts of the Spirit, there have been healings and miracles through the centuries, and there are scores of verses that point directly to the ongoing supernatural ministry of the Spirit.
In the case of same-sex “marriage,” such a concept was unknown throughout Church history until recent years (despite John Boswell’s weak attempts at historical revisionism) and there is not a single verse supporting the position while, in reality, the testimony of the entire Bible is against it.
That’s why most of the pro-homosex interpretations of Scripture are completely new innovations, meaning that not a single biblical scholar or theologian came up with these interpretations before the sexual revolution. That alone should tell you something.
Earlier this year, I interviewed Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, who had been defrocked by his denomination for performing the wedding of his son to another young man. He explained to me that he had already been questioning what the Bible said about homosexuality when his son came out to him, after which he became convinced that God wanted to bless committed same-sex couples.
I asked him what would happen if his son came to him one day and said, “Dad, I’ve made a terrible mistake. God is not pleased with my relationship and the Spirit is convicting me that I’m in sin.” Would he feel the need to reevaluate his beliefs again? He responded, “Oh my goodness, would it ever. Absolutely, it would definitely challenge me.”
Need I say more?
The question of “gay Christianity” is not a minor issue, affecting our views of the authority of Scripture, the meaning of marriage and sexuality, and the importance of gender distinctions, not to mention massive implications for the society at large.
That’s why I welcome the coming separation over this issue. And as painful as the division will be within churches, denominations, ministries, and even families, it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable.
That doesn’t mean that we attack each other or speak and act in ways that would dishonor the Lord. But it does mean that we hold firmly to our convictions before Him, regardless of cost or consequences, knowing that God’s ways will be vindicated in the end.
Dr. Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus, is a biblical scholar, apologist, worldwide speaker, and activist. He is the host of the nationally syndicated, talk radio program “Line of Fire,” and he serves as president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, NC, as well as adjunct professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 21 books, most recently “The Real Kosher Jesus.”
This column is printed with permission. Opinions expressed in ‘Perspectives’ columns published by OneNewsNow.com are the sole responsibility of the article’s author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, OneNewsNow.com, our parent organization or its other affiliates.
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Neandertal: The Answer Is Epigenetics Not Evolution
by Jeffrey Tomkins, Ph.D. *
Recent genome reports show that the Neandertals are essentially fully human, causing scientists to reclassify them as “archaic humans.”1,2 But what about the apparent subtle differences in anatomy that first caused scientists to claim that Neandertals were a completely different species? It turns out that the answer can be found in epigenetics, according to newly published research.3
Epigenetics, in the more modern sense, refers to the heritable chemical changes performed by cellular machines to DNA that alter gene function without actually changing the DNA nucleotide code. In the field of genomics, it is more accurately referred to as chromatin modification. Chromatin is the stuff chromosomes are made of which consists of the DNA molecule packaged around proteins called histones. Both the DNA and the histone proteins can be chemically modified to control how genes function and are regulated along the chromosome.
Specifically, the DNA molecule is modified by adding methyl groups to the cytosine nucleotides called DNA methylation. In general, the more methylated the DNA is at the start of a gene region, the less active the gene is. The patterns of DNA methylation across the genome are collectively called the methylome and can be compared between similar genomes and correlated with specific types of gene activity.
In a recent report in the journal Science, researchers studied the methylomes of two different Neandertals using a new indirect method of analysis for archaic DNA.3 They corroborated their DNA methylation profiles with modern humans and reported that “over 99% of both archaic genomes show no significant methylation differences compared to the present-day human.” Another verification of their technique is that they also analyzed the patterns of Neandertal methylation compared to modern humans in housekeeping genes—those that are required for the maintenance of basic cellular function. The methylation patterns were the same compared to modern humans, indicating that the study’s methodology was fairly accurate.
The most interesting aspect of the study came when the researchers reported that “in each archaic human we found ~1,100 differentially methylated regions.” While some of these areas may have just been related to population variability, significant methylation differences between Neandertals and modern humans were found in areas of the genome associated with the control and regulation of hox gene clusters. Hox genes are known to be associated with bone and skeletal development. Thus, the authors of the report believed that the regulatory changes in these regions driven by epigenetics was at the root of the various anatomical differences we see between modern humans and Neandertals, even though the DNA sequences are essentially the same.
Epigenetic profiles in the genome are affected by diet, life-style, and environmental factors. Creationist climate scientists believe that the earth’s environment and human living conditions were much different directly after the flood—about four thousand years ago—than they are today. We also know that the Neandertal remains being found are not in flood sediments, but buried in caves so we can surmise that they were likely living during the first few generations of post-flood humans. Thus, this new epigenetic evidence fits well with biblical based predictions about science: Neandertals were clearly not an evolving pre-human species, but were in fact fully human with trait variability being determined by epigenetic factors.
Tomkins, J. 2014. Ancient Human DNA: Neandertals and Denisovans. Acts & Facts. 43 (3): 9.
Tomkins, J.P. DNA Proof That Neandertals Are Just Humans. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org February 21, 2014, accessed April 20, 2014.
Gokhman, D., et al. 2014. Reconstructing the DNA Methylation Maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1250368.
*Dr. Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.
April 10, 2014
Protecting Religious Liberty in the State Marriage Debate
By Ryan T. Anderson and Leslie Ford
For years, a central argument of those who favor same-sex marriage has been that all Americans should be free to live and love as they choose, but does that freedom require the government to coerce those who disagree into celebrating same-sex relationships? A growing number of incidents demonstrates that the redefinition of marriage and state policies on sexual orientation have created a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage. Now these same citizens are facing a new wave of government coercion and discrimination.
For years, a central argument of those in favor of same-sex marriage has been that all Americans should be free to live and love as they choose, but does that freedom require the government to coerce those who disagree into celebrating same-sex relationships? A growing number of incidents demonstrates that the redefinition of marriage and state policies on sexual orientation have created a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage.
Now these citizens are facing a new wave of government coercion and discrimination. State laws that create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity are being used to trump fundamental civil liberties such as freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.
These laws add sexual orientation and gender identity (dubbed SOGI) to the list of protected classes such as race, sex, and national origin. Regrettably, these sexual orientation and gender laws have serious flaws. Specifically, they frequently fail to protect the civil liberties of Americans, especially religious liberty. They tend to be vague and overly broad without clear definitions of what conduct can and cannot be penalized. Judgments can also be quite subjective: Boise and other cities in Idaho now prohibit even indirect acts that might make another person feel that he or she is being “treated as not welcome.”
Under newer laws, family businesses—especially photographers, bakers, florists, and others involved in the wedding industry—have been hauled into court because they declined to provide services for a same-sex ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs. Although Americans are free to live as they choose, no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship.
Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone’s sexual freedoms. All Americans should remain free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of government penalty.
Wedding-Related Religious Liberty Violations
Elane Photography. The case of Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jon, is perhaps the best-known example of violations of religious liberty.
The Huguenins run Elane Photography, a small photography business in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2006, the couple declined a request to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony because, as Elaine explains, “the message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe.” Elane Photography did not refuse to take pictures of gay and lesbian individuals; they declined to photograph a ceremony that ran counter to the owners’ belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman (something with which New Mexico law agreed). Other photographers in the Albuquerque area were more than happy to photograph the event.
In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that by declining to use its artistic and expressive skills to communicate what was said and what occurred at the ceremony, the Huguenins’ business had discriminated based on sexual orientation. As a result, the commission ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. The ruling cited New Mexico’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations” (“any establishment that provides or offers its services … or goods to the public”) based on race, religion, and sexual orientation—among other protected classes.
At the end of 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the Human Rights Commission’s ruling. It concluded that under the state’s sexual orientation and gender identify law, the First Amendment does not protect a photographer’s freedom to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony—even when doing so would violate the photographer’s religious beliefs. Justice Richard C. Bosson, in a concurring opinion, claimed that requiring the Huguenins to relinquish their religious convictions was permissible as “the price of citizenship.”
Elane Photography petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a review of its case on November 8, 2013. On April 7, 2014, the Supreme Court declined to review Elane Photography v. Willock. While neither affirming nor rejecting the lower court’s ruling, the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari means the New Mexico Supreme Court decision against the Huegenins’ right to free expression will stand.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa. In early 2013, two women asked the Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa to bake a wedding cake for their same-sex commitment ceremony. Although bakery owners Melissa and Aaron Klein consistently had served all customers on a regular basis, this request would have required them to facilitate and celebrate a same-sex relationship—violating their religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Oregon law defines marriage in the same way.
Soon afterward, the two women filed a complaint under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. During an investigation of the Kleins by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, bureau official Brad Avakian commented: “The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.” In January 2014, the agency issued a ruling that the Kleins violated Oregon’s sexual orientation law when they declined to bake the cake.
Melissa and Aaron Klein have also faced other pressure for their unwillingness to violate their beliefs. Sweet Cakes by Melissa reported being subjected to threats and violent protests, vicious telephone calls, and boycotts by activists. The Kleins, who have five children, reportedly received hundreds of phone calls and letters—including death threats to the family.
Fearing for the safety of their family, the Kleins decided in September 2013 to close their small business. Yet the Kleins still have to deal with the Labor Commission’s conclusion that they engaged in discrimination. The case is likely to proceed to an administrative law judge for further review.
Masterpiece Cakeshop. A similar wedding-cake scenario unfolded in Colorado—a state that in 2006 constitutionally defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman—involving Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
In 2012, a same-sex couple received a marriage license in Massachusetts and asked Phillips to bake a cake for a reception back home in Colorado. Phillips declined to create a wedding cake, citing his faith: “I don’t feel like I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I am participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for.” The couple obtained a wedding cake with rainbow-colored filling (illustrating the expressive nature of event cake-baking) from another bakery.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop with the state, alleging violations of Colorado’s public accommodation law. Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer ruled against the bakery on December 6, 2013, concluding that Phillips violated the law by declining service to the couple “because of their sexual orientation.”
Phillips objected to this characterization and responded that he would happily sell the couple his baked goods for any number of occasions, but baking a wedding cake would force him to express something that he does not believe, thereby violating his freedom to run his business in accordance with his faith.
Arlene’s Flowers. On March 1, 2013, longtime customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed met with Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts owner Barronelle Stutzman to request that she arrange the flowers for their same-sex wedding ceremony. Washington State had redefined marriage the previous year. Stutzman responded that she could not accept the job because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ” and her belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against Stutzman, contending that she had violated the state’s sexual orientation law. Ferguson is seeking a $2,000 fine and a court order forcing Stutzman to violate her conscience by using her artistic talents to celebrate a same-sex relationship. The matter is now pending before the trial court.
Görts Haus Gallery. Betty and Dick Odgaard, a devout Mennonite couple in Iowa, run an art gallery in a 77-year-old church building. Among other things—running a lunch bistro, a flower shop, a gift shop, and a framing shop—they host weddings. Betty and Dick work with the couples who wed there on everything from flowers, food, and decorations to the wedding ceremony itself. On the day of every wedding, they oversee all of these details.
In 2013, the Odgaards declined a request to organize, facilitate, and host a same-sex ceremony because they believed that it conflicted with “the religious message they seek to convey through the Gallery, a message which includes the importance of living one’s faith in all aspects of life.” They now face punitive action before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
“We hire and serve gays and lesbians, and have close friends who are gays and lesbians,” said Betty Odgaard. “And we respect that good people disagree with our religious conviction against hosting a ceremony that violates our faith. We simply ask that the government not force us to abandon our faith or punish us for it.”
The Odgaards have filed a lawsuit in Iowa district court seeking protection of their religious liberty.
Intolerance Against Adoption Providers
In addition to private family businesses affiliated with the wedding industry, organizations that serve children in the foster care system are also facing serious repercussions and intolerance. Every year, the foster care system serves approximately 400,000 children, nearly a quarter of whom are waiting to be adopted.
Across the United States, there are more than 1,000 private, licensed foster care and adoption providers. Many are faith-based organizations whose religious and moral beliefs motivate their care for some of the most vulnerable children in society.
In a number of states, sexual orientation and gender identity laws, coupled with the redefinition of marriage or the creation of same-sex civil unions, are threatening the freedom of private foster care and adoption providers who believe children should have a married mother and father. These providers should not be forced to abandon the very beliefs that motivate them to care for families and vulnerable children.
Boston Catholic Charities, Massachusetts. For more than 100 years, Catholic Charities in Boston, Massachusetts, had a successful record of connecting children to permanent families, placing more children in adoptive homes than any other state-licensed agency. Then, in 2003, following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, the state began to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. This decision, coupled with an earlier state policy on sexual orientation, forced all state-licensed adoption providers to be willing to place children with same-sex couples.
Rather than abandon Catholic teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, as well as its conviction that the best place for a child is with a married mother and father, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to end their foster care and adoption programs. In the two decades before it ended those services, the organization had helped approximately 720 children to find permanent adoptive homes.
D.C. Catholic Charities, District of Columbia. In 2010, the District of Columbia passed a law redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. The redefinition of marriage, coupled with the District’s sexual orientation policy, would have required Catholic Charities’ foster care and adoption services to place children with same-sex couples.
Despite requests by the Archdiocese of Washington that it protect private organizations’ moral and religious beliefs, the D.C. government refused to grant an exemption. Because it would not violate its beliefs—the faith that had guided more than 80 years of service in the District—Catholic Charities was forced to transfer its foster care and adoption program to other providers.
Evangelical Child and Family Agency, Illinois. For decades, the Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA) had contracted with Illinois to provide foster care services. In 2011, however, a new state civil union law, coupled with an existing sexual orientation policy, effectively forced private agencies to license unmarried, cohabitating couples—including same-sex couples—as foster care parents in order to keep state contracts.
Because ECFA was convinced that children should have the unique benefits provided by a married mother and a father, the state would not renew its foster care contract. As a result, ECFA was forced to transfer the cases of the foster children it served to different agencies and end the foster care program that had connected children with permanent families.
Pushing out faith-based foster care and adoption providers comes at a very high cost; these organizations provide real—and unique—services. “One of our main things we were looking for in an agency was one that shared our religious and faith beliefs,” explains John Shultz, who with his wife Tammy adopted four foster care children through ECFA. Without the support of ECFA, “I don’t think I could’ve weathered the storm of the foster care system,” Tammy remarked.
When combined with other private providers in Illinois, including numerous Catholic Charities affiliates, ECFA and other faith-based organizations in the state were forced to stop serving over 2,000 children, transferring their cases to other providers.
American System of Civil Liberties
Part of the genius of the American system of government is its commitment to protecting the liberty and First Amendment freedoms of all citizens while respecting their equality before the law. The government protects the freedom of citizens to seek the truth about God, to worship according to their conscience, and to live out their convictions in public life. Likewise, citizens are free to form contracts and other associations according to their own values.
While the government must treat everyone equally, private actors are left free to make reasonable judgments and distinctions—including reasonable moral judgments and distinctions—in their economic activities. Legislators should impose substantial burdens on sincere religious beliefs only when the government proves that imposing such a burden is necessary to advance a compelling government interest (and does so by the least intrusive or restrictive means). Not every florist need provide wedding arrangements for every ceremony. Not every photographer need capture every first kiss. Competitive markets can best harmonize a range of values that citizens hold, and there is no need for government to try to force every photographer and every florist to service every marriage-related event.
Those who make decisions based on moral and religious views may well pay a price in the market, perhaps losing customers and qualified employees, but such choices should remain lawful. Freedom of association and freedom of contract are two-way streets. They entail the freedom to choose with whom to associate, and when and on what terms, as well as with whom to contract and for what goods. Governmental mandates that force or prevent association violate these freedoms and should be pursued only for compelling reasons. Americans are free to live as they choose, but no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship.
Many of the family businesses cited above understand their professions to be extensions of their faith-life. In this view, being a wedding photographer, for example, means not simply being another business offering services, but utilizing God-given talents to tell the story of a particular couple and their relationship. For them, celebrating a same-sex relationship as a marriage affirms that relationship. It is understandable that some religious believers would not want the government to coerce them into doing that.
The government should not be in the position of determining who is right or wrong about baking cakes or taking photographs of same-sex ceremonies. There is no need to hold the same beliefs as the owners of Sweet Cakes or Elane Photography to recognize that both should have the freedom to run their businesses in accordance with their values—and without fear of reprisal from the government.
Government Should Respect Marriage and Religious Freedom
Government should respect those who stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Even in jurisdictions that have redefined marriage, individuals and businesses that believe marriage is between a man and a woman should be free to live in accord with their moral and religious convictions.
When he “evolved” on the issue in 2012, President Barack Obama insisted that the debate about marriage was a legitimate one and that there were reasonable people of goodwill on both sides. Obama explained that supporters of marriage as the union of a man and woman “are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They’re coming at it because they care about families.” He added that “a bunch of ’em are friends of mine … you know, people who I deeply respect.”
The examples cited above, however, reveal that in a growing number of incidents, government has not respected the beliefs of all Americans.
Respecting religious liberty for all of those in the marketplace is particularly important. After all, as first lady Michelle Obama put it, religious faith “isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”
At the federal level, Congress has an opportunity to protect religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. The government should be prohibited from discriminating against such groups or individuals in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act—sponsored by Representative Raul Labrador (R–ID) in the House (H.R. 3133) with more than 100 co-sponsors of both parties and sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R–UT) in the Senate (S. 1808) with 17 co-sponsors—would prevent the federal government from taking such adverse actions. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience fosters a more diverse civil sphere. Indeed, tolerance is essential to promoting peaceful coexistence even amid disagreement.
States need similar policy protections, starting with broad protections provided by state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). These laws prevent the imposition of substantial burdens on sincere religious beliefs unless the government proves that such a burden advances a compelling government interest that has been pursued through the least restrictive means possible.
States must protect the rights of Americans and the associations they form—both nonprofit and for-profit—to speak and act in the public square in accordance with their beliefs. The foregoing cases illustrate the growing conflict between religious liberty rights and state laws that grant special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a nation founded on religious freedom, government should not attempt to coerce any citizen, association, or business into celebrating same-sex relationships.
Americans also must work to see that marriage law reflects the truth about marriage. If marriage is redefined, pressure will mount to characterize the belief that virtually every human society has held about marriage—that it is the union of a man and a woman ordered to procreation and family life—as an irrational prejudice that ought to be driven to the margins of our culture. The consequences for religious believers are becoming apparent.
—Ryan T. Anderson is co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and William E. Simon Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. Leslie Ford is a Research Assistant in the DeVos Center.