FPIW Joins Effort to Encourage Trump to Protect Religious Freedom

FPIW has joined with dozens of pro-family organizations asking President Trump “to swiftly sign a broad religious freedom Executive Order protecting the right of all Americans to freely live out their faith.”

In a letter to President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Ryan, and Majority Leader McConnell, the organizations call on the new presidential administration and Congress to reverse President Obama’s attacks on religious freedom and enact strong protections for the sacred right.

The letter evokes many high profile religious liberty cases of the last eight years, including Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, Illinois Catholic Charities, and Sweet Cakes by Melissa:

“Under his ‘hallmark achievement’ (Obamacare) alone, the Obama Administration attempted to: force Christian family-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby to pay for drugs and devices that can cause early abortions, force Christian charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor to include those same drugs in their healthcare plans, and contravene longstanding federal policy protecting Americans from being forced to fund abortions against their religious beliefs. …

“Families in our states have felt the impact of the disregard and disdain for religious freedom from the federal level. Frequently, state non-discrimination laws have been used as a weapon to punish people of faith and prevent them from earning a living— unless they comport their businesses in the image of the government’s viewpoints. The Kleins in Oregon are a tragic example—Melissa Klein lost her bakery business and was forced to pay a fine of over $100,000 simply because as a family-owned business operated in accordance with the Kleins’ deeply held beliefs, they disagreed with using Melissa’s cake-decorating talents to participate in a same-sex wedding. Illinois Catholic Charities—an organization that partnered with government to serve the state’s poor and neglected children for over 40 years—was forced to shut down rather than comply with the government’s rule requiring them to abandon the core convictions that motivated their charity in the first place.”

It also details the Obama Administration’s attempts to limit religious liberty to a more restricted “freedom to worship”:

“The Administration unsuccessfully argued that the First Amendment does not exempt churches from employment discrimination laws, even when hiring their own pastors and teachers. Ironically, in the name of ‘preventing discrimination,’ President Obama issued an Executive Order in 2014 that discriminates against faith-based entities by preventing them from contracting with their own government unless they forfeit their religious beliefs about human sex and sexuality. One final example is the Obama Administration’s regular use of the term ‘freedom of worship’ instead of ‘freedom of religion’—implying a deep misunderstanding about the depth of First Amendment protections. We are guaranteed the right to freely live out our faith in all aspects of life—not just the freedom to worship our God within the four walls of our church or home.”

The letter concludes by asking President Trump to sign an executive order protecting religious liberty, much like the proposed executive order that was leaked earlier this month:

“A broad religious freedom Executive Order affirming that persons and organizations do not forfeit their religious freedom when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with local, state, or federal governments is an excellent and vital first step to truly make religious freedom great again. Congress should follow your lead to pass strong religious freedom protections into law.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Write to President Trump and ask him to sign the executive order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact#page.

House Committee Debates Bringing Obamacare Mandates to Washington

Should controversial mandates from Obamacare—which many believe are on the way out in Washington, D.C.—be made a permanent part of Washington State law?

That is the question the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee considered this morning.  The committee heard public testimony on HB 1523, which would require all health insurance plans to cover all preventative services required under federal law as of December 31, 2016.  It also bans plans that would share the cost of any of those services with employees.

Even before public testimony was heard, members of the committee expressed concern about the details of the bill.  The one-page bill is remarkably short.  However, it incorporates hundreds of pages of federal law and an untold volume of “guidance” into Washington State law.  No one seemed to have an understanding of exactly what the mandates do and do not cover.

Some of those who came to Olympia today to express concerns about HB 1523. From left to right: Brett Kinney, Electric Mirror; Michael Pauley, Human Life of Washington, Arina Grossu, Family Research Council, Luke Esser, Washington State Catholic Conference

Proponents of the bill argued that mandatory coverage for “preventative care” would make it easier to detect diseases like cancer at a time when it was most treatable.

But concerns about the legislation focused on very different issues.

Arina Grossu, from the Family Research Council, testified that the mandate to cover “preventative services” includes requirements to pay for abortifacients like Plan B and Ella, which destroy human embryos and are therefore objected to as a matter of conscience by many.

Brett Kinney, Director of Business Operations for Everett-based manufacturer Electric Mirror, explained the concerns of businesses owners in being forced to pay for a product that violates the beliefs of business owners:

“We offer a comprehensive affordable medical plan to our nearly 400 employees that does not include abortifacients. Not once have we heard complaints that our medical plan or the prescriptive drug plan was not adequate to serve the needs of our employees which includes over 100 women ages 18 to 70.  This bill is trying to solve a problem that is not a problem and forcing us the employer to add cost which reduces our ability to grow our business and put more people to work.”

The Washington State Catholic Conference also offered testimony stating that they will not comply with legislation that forces them to pay for abortifacients, regardless of what the law says.

In addition to concerns about conscience rights, insurance industry representatives expressed concern that the bill appears to be an attempt to preempt a change in federal law before those changes actually take place.  They expressed a preference for waiting to see what happens in Washington, D.C., before reacting to it.

Obamacare mandates involving abortifacients led businesses like Hobby Lobby to sue the federal government, claiming that such mandates violate their religious beliefs.  In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court held that the mandates were invalid because they violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  However, Washington State does not have a state RFRA, which means the protections for conscience rights in Washington State are less robust than those that restrain actions of the federal government.

To advance, this bill needs the support of a majority of the members of the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee.

If that happens, it would need to receive passage from the entire House of Representatives before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Please contact your legislators and share your thoughts about this and any other issue through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here. 

As always, be respectful but be heard.  If you don’t speak for yourself, someone will speak for you.

 

 

Religious Freedom Executive Order Leaked; Progressives Panic

For many, it could define his Presidency.  And it’s a decision that could come within the first month of his term.

A leak of an executive order on religious freedom indicates that President Trump is seriously considering actions that would roll back many of the Obama Administration’s  assaults on religious freedom.

Generally, they’re concerned it would give individuals and religious organizations too much freedom.  This article from the Daily Signal summarizes some of what it would do.

  • Clarifies that religious exercise is more than worship: It tells the entire federal government to respect federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions that make clear the free exercise of religion applies to all people, of all faiths, in all places, and at all times—that it is not merely the freedom to worship.
  • Clarifies that religious freedom is for more than just churches: It notes that religious organizations include all organizations operated by religious principles, not just houses of worship or charities. And it follows the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in saying that religious exercise “includes all aspects of religious observance and practice,” not just those absolutely required by a faith.
  • Requires federal agencies to accommodate religious belief: It instructs all agencies of the federal government, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” to reasonably accommodate the religion of federal employees, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • Orders relief for Little Sisters of the Poor: It instructs the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury to finally grant relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who weren’t exempted from the Obamacare abortifacient and contraception mandate.
  • Requires availability of health insurance without abortion coverage: It instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that all citizens have the ability to purchase health care plans through Obamacare that do not cover abortion or subsidize plans that do.
  • Prohibits discrimination against social service organizations because of their faith: It instructs the Secretary of Health and Human services to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against child welfare providers, such as foster care and adoption services, based on an organization’s religious beliefs.
  • Creates protections for religious organizations that contract with the government: It adopts the Russell Amendment and instructs all agencies of the federal government to provide protections and exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to all religious organizations that contract with the federal government or receive grants.
  • Protects tax exempt status for religious organizations: It instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to ensure that it does not revoke nonprofit tax status because a religious organization’s ordinary religious speech deals with politics, or because it speaks or acts on the belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that a person’s sex is based on immutable biology, or that life begins at conception.
  • Protects accreditation of religious institutions: It instructs all agencies of the federal government to refuse to recognize any decision by a federally recognized accrediting body that revokes or denies accreditation to an organization because of such beliefs.
  • Protects federal employees from discrimination based on beliefs: It instructs all agencies that they may not take adverse action against federal employees, contractors, or grantees because of their speech about marriage outside of their employment, contract, or grant, and that agencies shall reasonably accommodate such beliefs inside of employment, contract, or grant.

While these protections would be a change from the Obama Administration’s posture on religious freedom, historically it would represent a return the mainstream.

All these protections in the executive order were more or less assumed prior to President Obama taking office and progressives believing they now had an inalienable right to make people do things they didn’t want to do in the name of ending “discrimination.”

While progressives have already labeled them as plans to “legalize discrimination“, they’re mostly a restatement of what religious freedom has always been understood to mean.

Namely, a place where people get to be who they are and the government doesn’t get to punish them for it.

You can be sure that progressives will be beating down the doors trying to convince the president not to make good on his campaign promises.

Which is exactly why he needs to hear from you.  Call the White House and tell President Trump that you want him to fulfill his campaign promises and protect religious freedom. (202)-456-1414.  Or send a message online at www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Then share this with your friends and encourage them to do the same.

President Trump Issues Executive Order to Reinstate Mexico City Policy; Prohibits Funding for Abortions Overseas

On his first Monday in office, President Trump signaled that the pro-life commitments he made during the campaign was more than campaign rhetoric.

He signed an Executive Memorandum to reinstate the Mexico City Policy.  The policy prohibits taxpayer funding of groups that perform and promote abortions overseas.  It does not, however, stop non-abortion international assistance. The order ensures U.S. foreign aid will continue to go to health care and humanitarian relief in the millions of dollars. It just will not subsidize abortion overseas.

The policy is known as the Mexico City policy because President Reagan first announced the policy in Mexico City.

President Obama, however, had suspended the Mexico City policy shortly after taking office, making federal dollars available abortion providers overseas.  At the time, a Gallup poll indicated that 58 percent of Americans opposed President Obama’s decision to end the Mexico City Policy.

The Mexico City policy is the international equivalent to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions domestically. (Though the Mexico City policy is more broad than the Hyde Amendment). President Trump also pledged to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.

With the Mexico City policy reinstated and the potential of the Hyde Amendment being made permanent law, one of the primary grievances the pro-life community had against the Obama administration (being forced to pay for other people’s abortions) would be addressed in significant ways.

It is also reassuring to those in the pro-life community who may have questioned how serious President Trump was about his pro-life positions during the campaign.

An encouraging start to be sure.

 

How President-Elect Trump Made Progressives Like “Discrimination” Again

What a difference eight years makes.

When President Obama was elected in 2008, he campaigned on the idea that marriage was a relationship between a man and a woman.

His political party was obviously good with that.

When he leaves office tomorrow, most of that same political party believes that people who hold the position he held when he was elected President should lose their businesses for it.

As a result bakers, florists, print shops, pizza shops owners, photographers, graduate students and fire chiefs suffered the wrath of a mob that somewhere along the way decided that tolerance only meant tolerating beliefs you agreed with or understood.

In principle, Americans have long agreed that “tolerance” is a good thing.

But only recently did we decide that “tolerance” required you to support events, messages, and activities you personally opposed.

But then Donald Trump was elected President.

And that changed everything.

To be sure, it’s a dramatic shift in the nature of the leadership coming from Washington, D.C.

But for progressives, it also required a change in their core principles.

For years they told those who didn’t support their view of marriage and sexuality that abstention was a sign of invidious bigotry. But overnight, it became a moral necessity.

Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday (who had performed for four previous Presidents) agreed to sing the national anthem at the inauguration, but she withdrew after receiving an avalanche of ridicule up to and including death threats and calls for her suicide.

Not only were they willing to tolerate people who declined to participate in certain events, they demanded it.

Ms. Holliday had hoped her voice would help bring people together.   But, as she described it, she didn’t realize that, “We’re not doing America right now.”

When Nicole Kidman tweeted that “…we as a country need to support whoever’s the president because that’s what the country is based on,” the mob demanded (and eventually received) an apology.

As if that statement is something requiring an apology.

The designer who declined to design a dress for Melania Trump was applauded instead of picketed.

When members of the Rockette’s objected to leg-kicking for the President-elect, the progressive mob showed no indignation at their obviously discriminatory preferences but defended their right of conscience.

The difference is obvious.

The mob agrees with their convictions and consequently has sympathy for their decision to abstain.

The hypocrisy, however, is equally obvious.

If you believe in freedom only for those who agree with you, you don’t really believe in freedom.

Progressives will attempt to make a distinction between the singers who opted not to sing at the inauguration and the florists who declined to decorate for a same-sex wedding. “Sexual orientation is a protected class,” they insist, “but whatever category you wish to put Donald Trump into is not.”

But that attempt to make a distinction simply ignores the fact that protected class status is a function of a political majority’s preferences.

What if “presidents who wanted to build a wall on the Mexican boarder” were designated as a protected class who could not be discriminated against?

Should that change the rights of singers to decline to be part of the inauguration?

Of course not.

But under their preferred framework, it would.

It has been commonplace throughout history that those in power would use their power to punish their political opponents until such a time as their political opponents figure out a way to wrestle power away from them and then they use that power to exact revenge.

America isn’t supposed to be that way.

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights were created out of recognition that all of us have rights that must be protected even if no one else agrees with us or even likes us.

And no one has the right to make someone else do something they don’t want to do.

Some of us forgot this over the past eight years, but now we have a chance to remember.

We have the opportunity to reestablish the idea that freedom is good even if the way it is used offends you.

The freedom to “discriminate” isn’t always a crisis because one man’s “discrimination” is another man’s right of conscience.

Sometimes we might be the majority.  Sometimes we might not.  But that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether people can be compelled to do things that violate their conscience.

Conservatives have been making this argument for years.  Now that they’ve lost an election, progressives are coming around as well.

If Trump’s election helped bring us together again on this point, perhaps he is making America great again, already.

Breaking News: NC Set to Betray Women and Children

News broke yesterday that the North Carolina General Assembly will begin a special session on Wednesday, December 21, to consider repealing HB 2, a state law that protects the privacy rights of women and children, as well as the freedom of association and property rights of business owners.

The special legislative session is part of a backroom deal between the state legislature and the Charlotte City Council. Provided that the state legislature repeals HB 2 by the end of the year, the city has agreed to repeal a controversial ordinance requiring businesses to allow individuals to use the other biological sex’s locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms.

Unfortunately, this deal isn’t worth the paper it is written on. Once the state repeals HB 2, there will be no remaining legal barriers to stop North Carolina cities from passing ordinances that threaten the privacy and safety of women and children.

Take action by calling and emailing Speaker Tim Moore (Tim.Moore@ncleg.net; (919) 733-3451) and Senate President Pro Tempore, Senator Phil Berger (Phil.Berger@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5708). Let them know you think this is a bad deal that betrays pro-family voters and abandons women and children.

Trump Taps Rep. Tom Price, Pro-Life Doctor, for HHS Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump has selected pro-life champion Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

Price, a physician, is a known opponent of Obamacare, signaling the incoming administration’s intention of following through with its campaign promise to “repeal and replace.”

“Some Republicans have attacked the Affordable Care Act without proposing an alternative,” reported the New York Times. “Mr. Price, by contrast, has introduced bills offering a detailed, comprehensive replacement plan in every Congress since 2009, when Democrats started work on the legislation.”

Price’s piece of legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, would repeal and replace Obamacare and create tax credits for the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies.  If passed, it would also create new incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts, offer grants to states to subsidize insurance for “high-risk populations,” and promote competition by allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines.  His legislation also provides explicit protections for religious freedom and rights of conscience related to the practice of abortion and the dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs.

As an added bonus, Price has consistently — 100% of the time — voted to Defund Planned Parenthood.  He is an outspoken critic of abortion, calling it a “barbaric” practice.

Planned Parenthood and pro-choice advocacy group NARAL seems concerned by the selection as well:

Price has been strong on all of FPIW’s issues in Congress, stating after the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage that it was “not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”

Price must be confirmed by the incoming U.S. Senate next year before taking over the Department.  And of course, if confirmed, he would no longer be a member of Congress, meaning that his legislation would have to be picked up by another member of Congress. But with conservative majorities in the House and Senate, and a clear priority for the incoming Trump Administration to repeal and replace Obamacare, we don’t expect finding legislative sponsors to be an issue.

We’ll keep you updated through the confirmation process.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Are We “Worthless Pieces of Trash”?

Colleges and universities are widely known to be hotbeds of liberal progressivism, but one public university administrator’s recent comments about supporters of traditional marriage are beyond the pale.

Andrew Bunting, George Mason University’s Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, shared his feelings about supporters of traditional marriage, calling them “worthless pieces of trash.”

The incident began last week when Bunting shared on Facebook a blog post written by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a grassroots organization that advocates for traditional marriage.

The blog post shares NOM’s desire to work with the Trump administration to protect religious liberty, nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court, overturn President Obama’s gender identity directives, and oppose efforts to redefine marriage.

Commenting on the blog post, Bunting parroted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s claim that NOM is a “hate group.”

He went on to write, “If you agree with [NOM about traditional marriage] then that is your opinion. Just know that to the rest of us, you are a worthless piece of trash.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a far-left political group known for designating as a hate group any organization that supports traditional marriage. According to SPLC, mainstream, pro-family organizations like the American Family Association, Family Research Council, and Liberty Counsel (Liberty University) are “extremist, anti-LGBT hate groups.”

Bunting’s comments reveal what Campus Reform has termed “liberal privilege” on college campuses. This “liberal privilege” on college campuses is evidenced by the way students who share conservative ideas are maligned and punished by professors and administrators, most of whom are radically progressive and many of whom are openly Marxist.

The groupthink on college campuses has gotten so bad that the conservative perspective often isn’t even shared with students. Conservative speakers are often disinvited from campus events, if they’re even invited at all. If conservatives do make it onto campus, they’re often verbally and physically abused by protesters comprised of students and faculty.

With college administrators like Bunting making incendiary comments disparaging half of the U.S. population, it’s no wonder that conservative students fear retaliation from liberal professors and administrators.

Additionally, given Bunting’s senior position in George Mason University’s admissions department, prospective students who happen to be conservative are probably left wondering whether they are welcome on campus, and if their political views will affect their admissions chances or opportunities for scholarships.

Bunting’s comments are even more troubling because GMU is a Virginia state public university. So far, it doesn’t look like he’ll be fired, despite his comments dehumanizing those who believe in traditional marriage.

Andrew Bunting’s views are representative of those held by college administrators in schools all over the country. Knowing that this is the predominant ideological perspective on most college campuses, it’s unsurprising that college students at the University of Washington and Seattle University say things like this and this.

Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and 2016 Research Fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.

New Video for Pastors and Churches: Don’t Be Afraid of the IRS

We’ve heard from a number of Washingtonians who are frustrated with their church’s lack of engagement in the ongoing culture battles. Pastors commonly cite IRS rules as a reason to stay quiet on the issues, afraid that their church might lose its non-profit status if they say or do the wrong thing.

What they don’t know is that thousands of pastors have been deliberately challenging the IRS to come after them, and to this point, the IRS has refused to do so.

FPIW has just released a new video, entitled, Why Your Church Won’t Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status. We’d be grateful if you’d watch the video, and then pass it on to your pastor and church leadership.

Please feel free to call our office at (425) 608-0242 if you have any questions, or email us at info@fpiw.org.

Barronelle Stutzman Hearing, Rally Scheduled for November 15

Barronelle Stutzman, the 72-year old floral artist and grandmother being sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the ACLU for exercising her constitutionally protected freedom to act consistent with her faith, will be in Court on Tuesday, November 15th as the Washington Supreme Court hears oral arguments.

Stutzman served her longtime friend and customer – and his partner – for nearly 10 years, but could not participate in and design floral arrangements for his same-sex ceremony because of her love of Jesus and his teachings about marriage. Barronelle faces losing everything she owns for acting consistent with her deeply held convictions.

The arguments begin at 9:00 am, but we will begin gathering at the Carlson Theatre at Bellevue College at 7:30 am. We recommend arriving early to get in line to ensure a seat. Some of us will remain outside for a peaceful prayer gathering during oral arguments. We will provide signs and refreshments. A debrief will take place after the arguments conclude with Barronelle (location TBD). Please bring your family and friends and join us in supporting Barronelle!

The Carlson Theatre is located at, 3000 Landerholm Circle SE, Bellevue, WA, 98007-6406.  You can let us know that you plan to attend by RSVPing to the rally Facebook event.