President Trump Fulfills His Promise to Protect and Promote Religious Freedom

The Trump administration announced last Friday that employers who offer health insurance would no longer be required to provide their employees with contraceptive coverage through the Obama-era mandate popularly known as the Affordable Care Act. That mandate stipulated that employers who offered health insurance – including Christian businesses and religious organizations – provide their employees through health coverage plans with access to all forms of contraception including abortion-inducing drugs.

The Trump administration issued two rules exempting employers from providing access to such contraceptives if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The exemptions cover those with moral objections and those with religious objections. The Trump administration stated that the Affordable Care Act failed to properly provide protections to those who held sincere moral or religious convictions against providing contraceptives such as the abortion pill at no cost to their employees.

During a White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked for her response to the fact that the ACLU had already stated their intention to file a lawsuit, claiming that “The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs.”

Sanders responded:

“The President believes that the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do.  And that’s all that today was about — our federal government should always protect that right.  And as long as Donald Trump is President, he will.”

The action by the Trump administration to broaden the exemption to the HHS contraception mandate has been much applauded, especially among pro-life groups.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Greg Baylor stated:

We are pleased that this rule is a major step forward in keeping that promise and restoring back to people of faith their constitutionally protected freedom. We are also pleased the rule protects the conscience convictions of organizations like March for Life, an organization that bases its pro-life beliefs on science and philosophy, and hosts the largest pro-life gathering in the world every year in Washington, D.C.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing 20 organization and 12 individuals, including the March for Life, in challenges to the HHS Obama-era mandate. The action taken by the Trump administration in broadening the exemptions to the mandate will improve the position of these organizations and individuals, although a final decision from the courts will ultimately be needed to resolve the cases.

With the recent loss of Tom Price as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Family Policy Institute of Washington last week appropriately voiced concerns over possible challenges this could pose to the state of religious liberty. Thankfully, it appears that there is still a reason for optimism and that the absence of former Secretary Price as head of HHS at least so far has not hindered the safeguarding of religious liberty protections.

After five grueling years of enduring the Obama-era mandate which, in essence, attempted to force business owners to violate their consciences or face crippling fines and even possible bankruptcy, the action taken by the Trump administration is a very welcome reprieve. Millions of Americans wanted no part of the healthcare mandate and the broadened exemptions put in place by Trump are certainly a partial fulfillment of his many campaign promises to ensure the continued religious liberty and conscience protections for individuals who are simply trying to live peacefully in accordance with their faith.

Josh Denton is a contributing writer for FPIW.

With more teens “sexting,” should we abandon child pornography laws?

Do minors have a First Amendment right to take and distribute sexually explicit photos of themselves? The answer is no, according to a 6-3 ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court.

A 17-year-old in Spokane was charged with and convicted of “dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct” under state law after he texted a picture of his erect genitalia to a 22-year-old woman. Arguing that the First Amendment guarantees his right to express himself by sending sexually explicit images of himself to others, he appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court after the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Astonishingly, the ACLU and supposed children’s rights organizations Columbia Legal Services and TeamChild filed a brief to the court on behalf of the 17-year-old defendant. In their brief, the organizations argued that the court’s ruling would “jeopardize thousands of minors across the state by criminalizing increasingly common and normative adolescent behavior [using phones to distribute sexually explicit pictures of minors].”

To some extent, the ACLU and their friends are right. Children shouldn’t be forced to register as a sex offender simply because they voluntarily took pictures of their genitalia and consensually swapped it with someone from school (most of the time, law enforcement show no interest in pursuing such offenses). There exists a significant difference between an adult distributing pornographic images of minors, a high school boy sending pictures of his naked minor girlfriend to his friends, and a high school student texting lewd photos of him- or herself to someone he or she knows. Our state laws should be updated to reflect the growing phenomenon of sexting, a practice that wasn’t even technologically possible decades ago when these child pornography laws were enacted.

On the other hand, states have the legal authority and moral responsibility to criminalize the distribution of sexually explicit images of minors. It makes no difference that sexting has become “increasingly common and normative adolescent behavior.” That the practice is becoming increasingly prevalent is all the more reason to make clear that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Indeed, the same reasoning used by the ACLU and their friends is often also used by those who promote the distribution of birth control and prophylactics to high school students. “The kids are already having sex,” they say, “so we should ensure that they can have consequence-free safe sex.” But this logic was proven faulty by a study published this summer in The Journal of Health Economics showing that pregnancy rates fell by over 40% after cuts were made to contraceptive-based sexual education programs in England.

Minors who practice sexting are simultaneously engaging in distributing and possessing child pornography. Washington State has rightly criminalized this behavior. Although our laws should be modified to recognize the reality of voluntary consensual sexting among youths, we shouldn’t abandon the prohibition on (and penalties for) child pornography merely because more children are engaging in it. If anything, the sexting epidemic only proves that these laws are needed now more than ever.

SPLC Blacklists Pro-Family Groups; Norton Anti-Virus Blocks Access to Conservative Websites

A popular anti-virus software program used by millions of Americans has blocked access to the website of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty advocacy group. It is the latest development in a political war being waged against pro-family organizations.

Symantec, the owner of the popular Norton anti-virus software, began blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website two weeks ago. Internet users attempting to access the website are greeted with a message from Symantec explaining that “this website is categorized as ‘Hate’ and is blocked as part of this networks [sic] web content filtering policy.”

Why would Symantec tag Liberty Counsel—an esteemed religious liberty organization with ties to Liberty University, the largest Evangelical university in the world—as promoting hate? Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, blames Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its ongoing assault against organizations with socially conservative values.

Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls itself a civil rights advocacy organization, was founded in 1973 to monitor and litigate cases against white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations.

Although nearly all accounts of its founding acknowledge that SPLC started off doing good work in litigating cases against racist groups, their focus began to shift as the decades elapsed and white supremacist groups began disappearing. After involving themselves in an ACLU-led lawsuit to remove an Alabama Supreme Court monument celebrating the Judeo-Christian heritage of American law, SPLC turned its sights toward conservative Christian groups that advocate pro-family policies.

Because these family organizations support the rights of churches and small businesses to operate according to the dictates of their faith, and oppose same-sex marriage and legal prohibitions on conversion therapy, SPLC began adding them to its notorious “Hate Map” and pejoratively labeling them as “anti-LGBT hate groups.”

SPLC’s list of “currently operating anti-LGBT hate groups” reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of the conservative Christian movement: Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, American College of Pediatricians, Ruth Institute, and D. James Kennedy Ministries are all included on the list. SPLC also compiles “Extremist Files” on supposedly dangerous “extremists” like historian David Barton (Wallbuilders), pro-family advocate Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), commentator Bryan Fischer (American Family Association), theologian Gary DeMar, and evangelist Lou Engle (The Call and International House of Prayer).

Even mainstream media organizations like the Washington Post have published articles admitting that SPLC’s cataloging of mainstream, conservative Christian organizations and public figures in lists of “hate groups” and “extremists” alongside neo-Nazis, black separatists, and white supremacists is bizarre and farcical. In an article for National Review, Alex Torres mused that SPLC uses its hate group designation to “vilify” organizations that promote policies and positions it finds offensive “in an attempt to curtail free debate.”

The labeling also proved to be dangerous four years ago when an LGBT activist shot a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., because SPLC had identified the organization as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” The shooter planned to “kill as [employees] many as possible and smear Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in their faces.”

Despite the ludicrous and dangerous nature of equating pro-family organizations with the Ku Klux Klan, the FBI still considers SPLC a “partner” in fighting hate crimes. Charity and nonprofit watchdog GuideStar briefly used SPLC hate group designations in its public reporting on nonprofits earlier this summer, prompting a backlash from critics of the SPLC’s methods and lists.

Mat Staver says SPLC uses its hate group designation “as a weapon to defame” and “harm” nonprofits with which it disagrees politically. He believes the SPLC’s “reckless” and “defamatory” labeling “inflicts reputational and financial harm” to pro-family nonprofits like Liberty Counsel.

Staver’s account of the damage caused by SPLC designations seems to comport with the ongoing Symantec attack on Liberty Counsel. By blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website, Symantec makes it harder for the religious liberty organization to spread its message and fundraise money.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to blacklist conservative Christian organizations seem to be working, at least for the moment. But they fail to realize that the most effective way to defeat other political ideologies and worldviews isn’t through blacklisting opponents but instead through the power of persuasion in the public square.


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


 

Would the Johnson Amendment Have Stopped the War for Independence and Abolitionist Movement?

Had the Johnson Amendment been in effect prior to 1954, the American War for Independence and the abolitionist movement may have never happened.

The Johnson Amendment to the federal tax code prohibits nonprofit, tax-exempt entities from participating in, or intervening in, “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” This prohibition includes “the publishing or distributing of statements” on behalf of candidates, legislation, or political parties.

The amendment was originally proposed by Texas Senator (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson to silence and retaliate against the nonprofit political organizations that had been created to support his primary opponent. It was passed in 1954 by a unanimous voice vote without debate.

Although Congress never intended to include churches in the prohibition, “the I.R.S. has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Johnson Amendment has had a chilling effect on American churches. Radical atheist organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have mounted public relations campaigns to intimidate churches and pastors. Not only do they spread misinformation about what churches and pastors can/cannot do regarding political involvement, but they have also reported to the IRS those churches who refused to remain silent about issues relating to government.

However, American pulpits have not always been censored by the federal government. Before the enactment of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors used their moral authority to speak prophetically to members and the culture about political issues.

From colonial times until the twentieth century, American churches often used their trusted social position to proclaim the Bible’s truth about issues being debated in public.

For example, pastors would frequently endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, and they shared with their congregations whether a piece of legislation or a candidate’s positions were compatible with biblical principles. Pastors also commonly preached “Election Sermons,” which were given in the audience of public officials to exhort them to govern according to God’s truth and design for society.

Recognizing that a faithful exposition of God’s Word demanded that they preach about political issues, churches and pastors spoke into the civil arena and helped shape the American political debate for centuries. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the indispensable role churches played in the War for Independence, the abolition movement, and early civil rights movements.

John Adams, himself a central figure in the independence movement and the early republic, pointed to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew as having had a “great influence in the commencement” of the American War for Independence. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayhew preached and published sermons that seemed to “revive… animosity against tyranny in church and state.”

It was in church that early Americans learned of their inalienable rights and the proper jurisdiction and role of civil government. According to Adams, the Spirit of 1776 ripened, in part, because “the pulpits thundered!”

Leading up to the Civil War, churches also played a key role in the movement to abolish slavery. Quakers, Wesleyans, American Baptists, Congregationalists, and some Methodists stridently opposed the peculiar institution and mobilized political and social efforts against it, with their churches serving as the center of the action. Churches comprised many of the stops along the “Underground Railroad,” offering their sanctuaries as hiding places for those escaping slavery.

It is no wonder that the abolition of slavery came on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, an Evangelical religious revival during the early nineteenth century that stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and propelled efforts to reform society according to biblical precepts.

Imagine if the Johnson Amendment had been around during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Would American churches have assumed their role as agents of social change in the movements for independence, abolition, and civil rights if their free speech had been muzzled by the federal government?

Churches and pastors have a biblical obligation to share biblical positions on political issues with their members and their communities. Throughout this nation’s history, churches have acted as champions of justice.

Although President Trump campaigned on “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment, his religious liberty executive order last month failed to make any substantive changes to IRS policy. The ACLU called the executive order a “faux sop to religious conservatives” and an “elaborate photo-op” that “does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

It is time to stop censoring the constitutionally protected religious speech of American pulpits. Pastors who preach and uphold the entirety of the Bible should no longer have to fear the IRS. Congress should not wait any longer to begin the process of repealing the Johnson Amendment.


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


Freedom of Association: Does it Exist or Not?

Last month, fashion designer Sophie Theallet said she would refuse to dress First Lady Melania Trump and encouraged fellow designers to follow her lead.

Believing that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign unleashed “the rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia,” Theallet said that her personal convictions of “diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles” disallowed her from “dressing or associating in any way” with the first lady.

“As a family-owned company, our bottom line is not just about money. We value our artistic freedom and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious and ethical way to create in this world,” Theallet wrote in an email to the fashion designers.

Many of those on the political left cheered Theallet’s courage in taking a bold stand against ideas she finds contemptible. After all, isn’t Theallet’s decision to discriminate against the president-elect’s wife protected under freedom of association, the constitutional right that enables her to decide for herself who she will do business with?

Maybe freedom of association only applies to those on the left?

Ironically, the same people that extolled Theallet’s choice not to dress Melania Trump have long denied that Christians share the same right exercised by the fashion designer.

Here in Washington State, Barronelle Stutzman, a septuagenarian Christian florist, is facing the wrath of the state after she refused to decorate a same-sex wedding. Like Theallet, Stutzman believed that her moral conviction demanded that she not provide a service. And like Theallet, Stutzman felt that her conviction precluded her from using her artistic talents to support or endorse something she views as morally inappropriate.

Unlike Theallet, who was celebrated by liberals everywhere, Stutzman ended up in court being sued for discrimination by the homosexual couple and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Because the state has sued her in her personal and professional capacities, she stands to lose her home, life savings, retirement, and business.

In oral arguments presented to the Washington State Supreme Court last month, Attorney General Ferguson claimed that Christians surrender their right to act upon their religious convictions when they start businesses.

To make matters worse, Stutzman isn’t alone. Christians in other states are also being targeted for exercising their right to free association – the same right that protects Theallet’s decision not to dress the wife of a man who holds views she believes to be immoral.

According to the ACLU, “Religion is being used as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others…. The ACLU works to defend religious liberty and to ensure that no one is either discriminated against nor denied services because of someone else’s religious beliefs.”

I’d love to ask the ACLU why they believe it’s permissible for a fashion designer to discriminate against First Lady Trump because of political convictions, yet it’s unacceptable for a Christian to refrain from using her artistic expression for an event she finds morally objectionable.

Our nation’s founding fathers believed that all individuals, including business owners, were entitled to freedom of association. Businesses and customers had the right to decide whether they wanted to do business with someone else. If the other party engaged in morally objectionable behaviors, or if the other party was asking you to violate your personal convictions, then you had the right to refuse to do business with them.

Yet the political left, which has long denied that businesses and individuals possess this fundamental right in issues of sexual orientation and religious conviction, seems perfectly fine with a fashion designer not providing a professional service to the First Lady of the United States.

This intellectual dishonesty from the political left is noxious.

America needs to decide whether it will remain faithful to its historical tradition of protecting freedom of association and other conscience rights for everyone, regardless of their religious and political beliefs. If not, it needs to apply the standard consistently. There shouldn’t be a different standard for Christian florists and liberal fashion designers.

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

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.

The Shakedown of Chef John Howie

 

A popular chef got cooked last week.  By the tolerance mob.

Chef John Howie owns a number of Seattle area restaurants and is also the chef for the Seattle Seahawks.  By all account he’s a really decent guy; generous and active in the community. But isn’t that kind of what you’d expect from the guy preparing Russell Wilson’s food?

In addition to being a decent guy, Chef Howie made a modest contribution earlier this year to the Just Want Privacy campaign in Washington State.

Just Want Privacy sought to repeal a dangerous new law that gives men the legal right to be present in a women’s bathroom, locker room, spa, or changing facility simply by declaring themselves to be female.

The chef was apparently part of the more than 70% of Washingtonians who believe it is problematic to take away the right to privacy women and children have long enjoyed in private spaces.

Probably because he is visible and active in the community, last week the Seattle Times and others from the LGBT mob decided to make an example out of him.

Capture

A Seattle Times food columnist—of all things—decided to write a post about Chef Howie’s contribution.

Why now?  Who knows.

But when you’re in the business of trying to ruin the lives of people who think differently than you, there truly is no time like the present.

The story quoted Chef Howie saying some really reasonable things that almost no one disagrees with. “Sex offenders scare the living daylights out of me,” he told the Times. “I think pedophiles can take advantage of this.”

Of course this is true.

But none of that matters anymore because “equality” means that women have to allow men who believe they are women equal access to their body.

Notwithstanding the bumper-sticker, the mob has no interest in “coexisting” with people who are different than them.

They are here to accept your surrender.

SO, within twenty-four hours, Chef Howie had created a video recanting his previous statement.

The video was quickly distributed by a number of local LGBT activists groups including the Seattle Times.

You really need to watch the video.

We’ve all seen statements written by terrorists that were read by hostages. The similarities are inescapable.  You kind of expect there to be a rainbow flag and a guy in a mask holding a knife standing behind him.

An obviously shaken Howie opened with an apology. “I’m sorry to the people that I have harmed or negatively affected with my words or my actions.”

Stating an opinion about privacy in bathrooms is now apparently harmful all by itself.

The chef promised to never support another effort to protect women’s privacy again and concluded by assuring the audience that, “I am reaching out to several leaders in the LGBT community so they can help me to understand their challenges so that I can help them in the future.”

Translation, “Yes, I’ll give you money when you ask for it.”

Everyone understands what happened.  They shook him down.

A guy doesn’t say one thing to a newspaper and then—within 24 hours—publish a video saying the exact opposite because he had a friendly chat with a buddy over a beer that caused him to reconsider his position.

The path to avoid the wrath of the mob was well planned and he took it.  Who knows, you and I might have done the same under the circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it’s not obvious and concerning.

The statement might have been more believable if it hadn’t contained the favorite talking points of the campaigns opposed to women’s privacy.  “I was motivated by facts not fear.”

If John Howie wrote his statement on his own then I’m John Wayne. Pilgrim.

The truth is, today’s social justice warriors have become modern day witch hunters.

Like the witch hunters in 17th century Salem, they have cornered the market on truth and consequently progressed beyond the need to listen.  With respect to issues of sexuality, marriage, and gender, views other than their own don’t deserve respect.

Other views can only be explained by ignorance or hate.  If you prove that you have been “educated” by recanting your beliefs, then they will have mercy.

Otherwise, your hate will be dealt with.

The irony of using totalitarian tactics to fight for tolerance is lost on them because their motives are good and the righteousness of their cause is beyond dispute.

Just like other witch hunters, they know God (or whatever non deistic life force entity they have chosen to believe in, or not) is on their side.

Once the bad guys have been eliminated, children will once again play safely in the neighborhoods, flowers will bloom, and the glaciers will heal.

Of course none of it is true, but the religious fervor with which they believe it is true means we have to deal with it.

Chef Howie was spared his economic life because he recanted, but others have refused to recant their beliefs and suffered the consequences.

Brendan Eich was a co-founder of Mozilla, but was forced out of his job as CEO of the company because of a contribution he made to a campaign in support of natural marriage in that state.

Kelvin Cochran was fired from his job as Fire Chief of Atlanta because he wrote a book on his personal time about biblical manhood that included his beliefs that homosexuality was not biblical.

Barronelle Stutzman continues her legal battle against the state of Washington because she refuses to recant her belief that she should not be compelled to decorate a same-sex wedding.

They don’t threaten people’s physical lives, just their economic life.  But the tactic is identical to how Jihadi’s control those in dhimmitude.  “Do as I say, or else…”

Yes, we can all sympathize with the Chef.

He clearly remembers a time when Americans had the right to express themselves publicly without fear of visits from strangers bringing threats.

But we’ve progressed.

So now he pays for protection.

For everyone else, this can be a lesson.  It can either be a lesson to keep our heads down and make sure we don’t offend our masters.  Or, it could be a lesson that it’s time to get together and tell the bully to go pound sand.

If we let them fight us alone every time, they’ll be happy to control us, tell us what we can say and what we can do, and shake financial contributions out of us whenever they decide its necessary.

Or we can decide that the right to work and live according to our beliefs, not someone else’s, is worth getting together and fighting for.

Bremerton School District to Use Taxpayer, Classroom Funds to Fight Kennedy Lawsuit

 

The Bremerton School District is lawyering up.

After filing a federal lawsuit against the District, Coach Joe Kennedy’s legal team made one thing pretty clear: Coach Joe just wants his job back.  “All we really want for him – is to be back on the sideline coaching those kids – and nothing more,” said Michael Berry, one of Kennedy’s attorneys with the First Liberty Institute.

Kennedy was fired last year after refusing to submit to the District’s demands that he stop praying before and after football games. His prayers, the District said, constituted an endorsement of religion, and were in violation of the separation of church and state. When this story broke last year, there was overwhelming support for Coach Kennedy from across the country, standing in support of continued protections under the First Amendment.

He didn’t stop praying, and the District put him on leave before ultimately firing him.

But there’s a new twist to this story: Bremerton School District must use taxpayer money to fight the discrimination lawsuit that Coach Kennedy has now brought against them in federal court.

The Kitsap Sun reported that the Bremerton School District has made the decision to pull needed legal funds from the general fund in order to beef up its legal team to fight this lawsuit in court.

Translation: the Bremerton School District is pulling funds from the classroom to keep Joe Kennedy off the field.

The District spent $6,600 in September of 2015 to cover the cost of legal work related to the Kennedy issue.  That amount increased to $10,512 in October 2015.  At present time, the District has dumped an additional $190,000 into its legal fund — all from the general fund — for legal work “in anticipation of legal costs for JK.”

As a taxpayer, how do you feel about this?  Sound off in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Why Planned Parenthood is Suing FPIW

 

Two days ago, FPIW’s communications director, Zach Freeman, was served legal papers naming him as a defendant in a lawsuit. The suit was filed by 10 unnamed plaintiffs, identified only as “Jane and John Does”, asking the court to prohibit the University of Washington from releasing public records that had been requested by Mr. Freeman.

Those asking for their personally identifying information to be withheld include four current or former employees of Planned Parenthood, one employee of Cedar River Clinic (a controversial late term abortion clinic) as well as an employee of Evergreen Hospital and the University of Washington.

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was also named as a defendant because he made a similar public records request.

Mr. Daleiden made national news last year with the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood and abortion industry executives discussing how to harvest the organs of aborted babies and maximize revenue.

Shortly after those videos were released, a group of Washington State legislators wrote two letters to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asking him to investigate whether the parts of aborted babies were illegally being sold for a profit. (A copy of those letters can be found here and here).

After a couple of months had passed, the Attorney General wrote a memorandum to the legislators notifying them that he had done an investigation and Planned Parenthood had done nothing wrong. (A copy of that memorandum can be found here).

It is no secret that Bob Ferguson is a strong political ally of Planned Parenthood. Therefore, we thought it would be wise to verify that the evidence supported the Attorney General’s office conclusion that nothing illegal had taken place.

As a result, Mr. Freeman filed a public records request seeking information relevant to the AG’s investigation into Planned Parenthood.  That request provided a number of documents, including an interaction between the AG’s office and the University of Washington from September 2015 that caught our attention.

In that correspondence, Deputy Attorney General Paige Dietrich asked Ian Goodhew, Government Relations Director at the University of Washington for “the contract you mentioned”.

Mr. Goodhew responded to this request by seeking assurances that “You will hold those confidential and not share with anyone without consent?”

In response, Ms. Dietrich said, “I don’t think we’ll need copies of the agreements.” (A copy of this correspondence can be seen here.)

While we don’t know what this contract they were referring to is, it seems plausible given the context that it would be an agreement UW had with an outside entity to procure aborted body parts.

The fact that the Attorney General’s office rescinded their request for information after UW expressed concern about that information becoming publicly available was interesting enough to warrant further investigation.

That, in addition to other things, is the reason Mr. Freeman filed the public information request with the University of Washington. Even if the Attorney General was not interested in those contracts, we decided we were.

Since they are public records, the public is has the right to inspect them.

It is entirely possible that those records are innocuous and/or irrelevant to the investigation. We simply don’t know.

Still, the response to our request for those records as well as others has done nothing to dampen our curiosity.

While the requests were not intended to gather information about any individual, it is inevitable that public records will reveal the identity of people involved in public work. As a general matter, if you are having conversations with public entities you can expect that the public might discover that through public records.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that their safety would be in jeopardy if their identities became public. They argue that because Mr. Freeman and Mr. Daleiden are pro-life that they intend to harass and/or commit violence against the individuals who might be identified in these documents.

Coming from an industry built on violence to others, this is deeply ironic. But that is beside the point.

The conversation about who is a bigger threat to whom is irrelevant to the legal question about whether anyone in Washington was illegally profiting off the sale of baby body parts.

It is possible that all relevant information will be turned over once this distraction is resolved and the public will be able to see if anything illegal is happening. It also possible that this is just an initial attempt to keep information away from the public.

We don’t know. Yet. But we intend to find out.

We anticipate a hearing to be scheduled soon.   We will be sure to let you know what happens.

One more thing.

Thank you for your support that allows us to ask important questions like these. The abortion industry in Washington has been operating free of accountability for decades and Planned Parenthood is a billion dollar tax-payer funded giant.

We are still a ways away from our first billion and receive no money from taxpayers. Friends like you make it all possible.  If you want to support this effort, please consider partnering with us.

Thank you for standing with us so we can continue to fight for what is good, true, and beautiful. When the dark side is agitated, you know you’re doing something right.