|Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran|
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
It's not hard to imagine a decade or so ago an Atlanta fire chief getting himself fired for writing a book that advocated for same-sex marriage, basing his argument on the LGBT-endorsing position of his Episcopal Church. Protestors would have rightly defended the chief's First Amendment freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.
If the state at the time had passed a law mirroring the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a hugely bipartisan measure signed into law by Bill Clinton, a court case could have determined whether the government could demonstrate a compelling interest in firing the chief, and whether it had taken the least restrictive means to fulfill that interest.
Perhaps the courts would have ruled that the government either lacked a compelling interest or had taken a harsher path than necessary to enforce its interest, and the chief could have been reinstated on the First Amendment grounds of religious freedom.
The key is to view First Amendment speech and religious freedoms not through the lens of what particular belief is being expressed or exercised, but as a cornerstone of our freedoms in this democratic republic.
A Supreme Court case over an Arizona town's discriminatory treatment of church signs serves as a reminder of the inseparability of First Amendment free speech and religious exercise.
In an effort to cabin the influence of faith values in the public square and to force compliance with faith-violating government policies and ideologies, some have suggested that the First Amendment merely protects the right to privately hold beliefs about God or to pray.
That would be a meaningless protection. Even the most oppressive government cannot possibly regulate our private thoughts or prayer; it can only regulate the expression and the exercise of our beliefs through public speech and actions.That's why the First Amendment provides that government may not prohibit the free exercise of faith, whether in speech or in actions. Public policy advocates of all stripes do well to remember that if the government can restrict, coerce and punish one group or viewpoint today, it can restrict, coerce and punish the opposite tomorrow.
As an imprisoned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Thursday, January 8, 2015
|Rep. Marsha Blackburn|
Reps. Trent Franks (AZ-08) and Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) have introduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36) to protect unborn babies beginning at the sixth month of conception.
I have worked on a number of issues with Rep. Franks and have noted his passionate dedication to the unborn. He made the following comments about this bill yesterday:
“More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America. These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia. Many of them cry and scream as they die, but because it is amniotic fluid going over their vocal cords instead of air, we don’t hear them.
“Late term Abortion in America has its defenders, but no true or principled defense. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act seeks to afford basic protection to mothers and their unborn babies entering the sixth month of gestation.
|Rep. Trent Franks|
“Throughout America's history, the hearts of the American people have been moved with compassion when they discover a theretofore hidden class of victims, once they grasp both the humanity of the victims and the inhumanity of what is being done to them.“America is on the cusp of another such realization.”
Rep. Blackburn said the following:
“We have a moral obligation to end dangerous late-term abortions in order to protect women and these precious babies from criminals like Kermit Gosnell and others who prey on the most vulnerable in our society,” Blackburn said. “The United States is one of the few remaining countries in the world that allows abortion after 20 weeks. That is why today we renew our efforts to protect the lives of babies and their mothers with the introduction of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Rep. Franks and I have been a good team moving this legislation through the House as we continue to lead the fight to ensure the unborn are provided the same protections that all human life deserves.”
Click here to take action and urge your lawmakers to support this bill.
Monday, October 27, 2014
A Boston Globe article outlining findings of a new study report on human trafficking cites "passive" law enforcement approaches and victims' fears of deportation as reasons why more victims are not reported and rescued.
Healthcare professionals also play a key role in responding to victims. A recent study by experts Dr. Laura Lederer and Christopher Wetzel revealed that nearly nine out of ten human trafficking victims had contact with a health professional while trafficked. Yet these opportunities for rescue went unrealized, since many health professionals remain unaware of the problem and comparatively few have received training on how to recognize and respond to victims.
Federal and state laws and grants that promote awareness, fund research, identify best practices, provide training, increase social services and require reporting of suspected victims (who often will not self-report, out of fear) can help turn this around. More resources will strengthen the social services safety net and the response of law enforcement. Meanwhile, reporting victims to the care of even the existing imperfect system is far better than the alternative of non-reporting that returns victims to their abusers to suffer disease, violence and even death.
Monday, October 13, 2014
The Seattle Times opines that the US Supreme Court needs to overturn unilaterally the votes of millions of citizens in states that uphold marriage as between a man and a woman.
Why not let the people of each state decide? The editors offer no legal or logical arguments--only advocacy buzzwords like "marriage equality," "discrimination" and "chosen love over outdated notions of marriage."
Neither love nor law mandates equal access to every government-sanctioned institution.
Is age "inequality" inherent in the Constitutional requirement that only individuals 35 or older may serve as president, or the fact that no state allows children to vote?
Are public school policies "discriminatory" that segregate by gender male and female locker rooms?
Doesn't "choosing love over outdated notions of marriage" require legalizing marriages of five people who love each other, or of a man and his beloved poodle, or of loving cousins or any other imaginable combination based merely on a subjective emotional bond?
Absent an objective, biologically based definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, a union uniquely designed to provide a gender-balanced home for children, marriage soon means nothing at all.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
statement on same-sex marriage, including recommendations for public policy. Some excerpts:
- "Marriage is a consensual, exclusive and lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, expressed in a physical union uniquely designed to produce and nurture children."
- The "abject subjectivity" of revisionist notions of marriage "offers no rational parameters that would exclude further redefinitions of 'marriage' as between multiple partners or related persons."
- Government maintains a valid and vital interest in sanctioning conjugal marriage, given demonstrated benefits to children raised by both a mother and a father, economic factors favoring father-mother families and the high cost to government and society when marriage breaks down.
- CMA supports legislative measures that "Recognize marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman" and also "Maintain equal protection of applicable laws for those who engage in homosexual activity without according special status or privileges based on that activity."
The full statement includes footnoted references and further resources for anyone interested in presenting an apologetic for conjugal marriage.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
|Ed Staneke's father told Dutch doctor administering |
lethal injection, "I don't want to die!"
Imagine your grandfather in a nursing home where a doctor takes his life by withholding food and water while administering massive doses of morphine.
Imagine your sister and mother encouraging your father to forego life-extending medical treatment and instead opting to die by lethal injection.
These are true stories, detailed in my US Senate testimony, that put human faces on startling reports and statistics coming out of the Netherlands about its state-sanctioned euthanasia program.
The Netherlands now reports that three percent of its citizens die at the hands of doctors, including many not suffering from terminal diseases. Dutch government officials boast of strict controls, imagining that they somehow can manage medical killing like Dutch dikes manage encroaching waters.
But real-life statistics obtained behind the cloak of government propaganda reveal that the program clearly has careened out of control.
In the early 1990's, statistics in the government-sponsored Dutch Remmelink report revealed that normalizing medical killing and putting doctors above the law had translated into doctors killing thousands of patients who never consented to be killed.
Colleague Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship in England, details the just-released 2013 statistics that reveal how medical killing since then has mushroomed to the point where euthanasia now accounts for three percent of all Dutch deaths.
For a comparison of the magnitude of this percentage, consider that the World Health Organization reports that HIV/AIDS accounts for nearly three percent of the world's deaths annually.
Euthanasia is to the Netherlands what HIV/AIDS is to the world.
It's easy to imagine how well-educated and highly respected doctors, daily entrusted with life and death decisions, can come to think that they know better than the unwilling patients they euthanize. But what about the individuals who clearly choose euthanasia?
· Some choose euthanasia because they are afraid to die, especially if a disease means they will die in a physical condition they consider undignified. While understandable, this view neglects that our character--not the condition of our bodies--determines true dignity. Physical beauty and health do not dignify a person; character, courage and love dignify a person.
· Others choose euthanasia because they feel a duty to die. They don't want to feel like a burden to family members. Sometimes they simply do not realize that their loved ones would never see them as a burden and would consider it a privilege to minister to their needs. Too often, however, aged patients correctly discern that family members would not want to take the time or bear the inconvenience of caring for them. This perceived pressure to die poses a strong reason not to legalize medical killing--either assisted suicide or euthanasia.
· Still others choose euthanasia because they fear pain and don't realize how medical advances in pain control could ease their pain. Hospice also provides what many patients and their families have found to be a comforting and satisfying way to cope with end-of-life issues.
As we advocate in the public square for policies that promote true compassion and palliative care rather than medical killing, we do well to also address the deeply personal and spiritual motivations behind the drive for assisted suicide and euthanasia. Reassure your elderly family members often of your love for them and your commitment to their care. Share how God can make life meaningful, even at the end of life. Hold a hand, change a bedpan, read Scripture and pray with those facing the end of their lives on earth.
"Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things…" --I Timothy 6:12-13.