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A pro-life student group at the University of Alabama will be allowed to show its display in the school’s hallway. The university apologized Monday for forcing the sign’s removal after an administrator claimed it was “offensive.”
Bama Students for Life will put back the display on Thursday. The group is pleased with the university’s decision.
“Bama Students for Life is very grateful to The University of Alabama for correcting this injustice,” said Claire Chretien, the group’s president. “We are thrilled that the university was so willing to right this wrong so that all students will be able to continue exercising our free speech rights.”
The sign features abortion-related facts; pictures of women who died as a result of having an abortion; and two small pictures of pre-born babies who died from abortion. The official removed the display from the school’s student center without notifying the group.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) registered a formal complaint about the incident last week. The center’s director then apologized for what happened and said the group may put the poster back up.
“Censorship is inconsistent with ‘the marketplace of ideas’ that a public university is supposed to be,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We commend the university for its quick response to Bama Students for Life’s free speech concerns.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read Bama’s letter to the University of Alabama.
View a picture of the display.
Watch video footage of Bama Students for Life president speaking a with university official about confiscated display.
CitizenLink is proud to work with California Family Alliance and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.
by Lori Arnold
There is a strange phenomenon in the science behind tsunamis. As history has recorded, including the 2004 beast that devastated India’s coastline, the ocean often deceptively retreats revealing the beauty of the naked beach as the sea appears to take a nap.
It’s alluring in its lull.
Within minutes, though, the waves reverse direction, thrusting its massive power upon the shore, and everything in their wake. As it presses forward, the wall of water’s volume and strength is exponentially more devastating than its pre-retreat form.
Over the next 10 business days—in advance of the Feb. 22 deadline to submit bills for this session—the legislative action in the Capitol will agitate with much of the same rigor. In the past few weeks, dozens of bills have trickled in, far less than the hundred-plus proposals history tells us to expect each day over the next two weeks.
In the lull, we have seen several promising bills designed to protect families from the seedy undercurrent of human trafficking.
Senate Bill (SB) 955 (Mitchell D-Culver City) would add human trafficking to the list of legal uses for wiretapping. The bill is similar in scope to last year’s Assembly Bill (AB) 156 (Holden, D-Pasadena), which failed to advance out of the assembly. Like other crimes allowed on the wiretap list, SB 955 requires a judge to sign off on a written request by an attorney general, chief deputy attorney general or a district attorney.
With its clearly defined checks and balances, such a tool could prove to be an invaluable asset in taking down trafficking networks perpetuating modern-day slavery.
Another bill, AB 1585 (Alejo D-Salinas), would provide a way for victims of human trafficking who were convicted of solicitation or prostitution to have their record sealed in an effort to protect their chances for gainful employment, seeking public office or even adopting.
The proposal is an amended version of AB 795, which Alejo unsuccessfully introduced last year. The newest version adds language that requires victims to complete any term of probation for their crime and disallows a victim’s sealed record from being used as part of adoption screening.
As written the law provides compassionate relief to victims of human trafficking.
Two other laws that we are keeping an eye on are SB 924 and SB 926, statue of limits measures addressing sexual abuse cases. Both introduced by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), SB 924 would raise the current age limit to file civil cases from 26 to 40 and extend the time period a survivor has to file a civil claim—once they have made the connection between their adult injuries and the abuse they suffered as children—from 3 to 5 years.
Beall’s companion bill, SB 926, raises the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from age 28 to 40. This bill, Beall maintains, would apply to the most egregious sex crimes against children.
While Beall’s twin bills appear to benefit victims of sexual abuse, we will continue to monitor them to be sure that, in the pursuit of justice, the pendulum does not swing too wide as to inadvertently inflict injury to innocent parties, an unfortunate and all-too common byproduct of the repressed memory movement.
We have no idea what the legislative waves will bring us over the next two weeks, but be assured we are monitoring the situation from the bluff and are ready to jump into action.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about California Family Alliance.
A Christian airman fighting for his religious freedom in the military recently received a top service medal from the U.S. Air Force.
“This is a testament to Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk’s courage and conviction,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute director of Military Affairs. “I can think of few Airmen who have demonstrated the courage to stand on their principles the way Monk has, to be ostracized for it — but ultimately to be exonerated and awarded for his achievement.”
Monk filed suit against his openly gay commander, Major Elisa Valenzuela, last year for violating his rights. The incident occurred when she asked Monk whether people who do not support same-sex marriage are participating in discrimination. He said he could not respond, fearing an honest answer would lead to legal trouble.
Valenzuela was asking Monk his opinion on same-sex marriage after a lower-ranking trainer made comments about how such marriage could lead to cultural decline. Monk told Valenzuela the instructor meant no harm, and that perhaps the commander could use the situation to teach about tolerance and diversity.
Instead, she relieved him of his duties at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He also faced the possibility of being court-martialed.
Liberty Institute, representing Monk, announced on Monday that the Air Force awarded him with a Meritorious Service Medal on Feb. 12. It is the second highest non-combat award.
Berry called the Meritorious Service Medal a “prestigious decoration.”
“And one for which Monk should be proud. This is a noble gesture by the Air Force to recognize Monk’s hard work and sacrifice,” Berry explained. “I’m pleased that they’ve done the right thing by him. Because of his example, other service members should be encouraged to stand up for their religious beliefs.”
Liberty Institute has created a simple way for you to show your support for Senior Master Sgt. Monk. We encourage you to take a few minutes to send him a note, which has already been written.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Watch Monk’s appearance on Fox News.
Read “Texas: Senior Master Sgt. Monk Says, ‘Thank You.’”
The Washington House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would make it illegal for minors to receive counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions.
HB 2451 is modeled after bills passed in California and New Jersey that ban sexual-orientation change effort (SOCE) counseling for anyone under 18 — even when the client requests it. It passed 94-4 in the House. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), said it was no surprise the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House. The margin by which it passed, though, came as a “shock.”
“It got a lot of support from House Republicans in a surprising way,” Backhom told CitizenLink. “And I think they were just afraid of being characterized in their upcoming elections this fall as people who would support shock treatment and ice baths if they opposed this kind of a bill.”
Supporters of HB 2451 told such stories to paint a dark picture of such therapy.
“While that kind of aversive therapy is broadly condemned, there is little-to-no evidence that such therapy is done commonly if at all,” he explained. “The Washington State Department of Health said they have received no complaints about therapists performing coercive sexual orientation change therapy of any kind — much less ice baths and shock therapy — against the will of a client.”
For those who want to change, SOCE therapy can work.
David Pickup, a licensed therapist in Glendale, Calif., talked to CitizenLink — in an earlier interview — about the success he’s witnessed. He sought SOCE counseling many years ago. It worked for him, and it’s worked for several of his clients.
“For every client that I’ve seen who is motivated and who really does want to change and who doesn’t get discouraged — who follows through and doesn’t give up, there has been a significant and spontaneous lessening or dissipation of homosexual attraction,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law two years ago. Pickup filed suit shortly after. A federal appeals court upheld the ban last month. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Following California’s lead, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar bill this past summer. Liberty Counsel is challenging the law.
“It’s really important that people contact their legislators,” Backholm said. “The rights of people to get counseling in a way that is consistent with their faith, and the rights of people to receive counseling that they want for themselves, are very much at stake.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Washington’s HB 2451.
Read “The (Complete) Lack of a Scientific Basis for Banning Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts with Minors,” by Christopher Rosik, Ph.D.
Congressional senators filed legislation that would protect states from the federal government’s attempt to redefine marriage.
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah introduced the State Marriage Defense Act Thursday. It would prevent the Obama administration from trying to create same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
“We should respect the states,” Cruz said. “The definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal marriage law in June. This means that the federal government cannot define marriage for its own policies and laws. The ruling did not affect the part of the law that says no state is required to recognize another state’s redefinition of the institution.
The District of Columbia and 17 states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — have redefined marriage by legislation or court order.
“It is clear the Obama administration finds the principles of federalism inconvenient in its effort to force states to redefine the institution of marriage,” Lee explained. “The State Marriage Defense Act provides an important protection for states, respecting the right to choose for themselves how each will treat the institution of marriage under the law.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read “Talking Points to Protect Marriage.”
View and download Focus’ resource “Teach Your Children About Marriage.”
CitizenLink is proud to work with the Pennsylvania Family Institute and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.
by Kate Boyle
Christian rapper Bizzle is reportedly receiving death threats over his response to Grammy-award winning rapper duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love.” The Houston-based rapper wrote his song in the aftermath of Macklemore’s performance of “Same Love” at the Grammy’s – where dozens of gay couples were married on national television.
Bizzle uses the same instrumental from Macklemore’s version to promote an entirely different message – one that seems to go unheard in the media. “We have these conversations ‘off the record’ so much, but everyone’s afraid of speaking up because of what comes speaking up,” he states to a local radio station in Houston.
The rapper uses Christian principles to counter the public’s seemingly growing acceptance of homosexuality and “same-sex marriage” in American culture.
“God created marriage, when he did he defined it though
So why is it you want what He created, but deny him though?
It’s not wicked enough, switching the definition?
You want it done by a Christian in a church he worships in?”
The backlash via social media prompted Bizzle to create a website to post the hateful things being said about him – further proving his point that the tolerance is one sided.
“But, see your hypocrisy is something I could paint vividly
Saying, it’s the way you was born, and I’m sure that you lust like I do just in a different form
But I’m married so if I give into mine, I’m a cheater
If you give into yours, you just fight to make it legal”
Promotion of tolerance toward anything liberal is fine but there’s no tolerance toward Christian worldviews. The consistent persecution continues.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
Facebook users now have more than 50 terms to choose from — in addition to him, her or them — when choosing their online “gender” preference.
The Associate Press, which broke the story Thursday, interviewed Focus on the Family Gender Issues Analyst Jeff Johnston. He told the news outlet that Facebook is allowed to manage its site how it wants to, but that it’s impossible to deny “biological reality.”
Some of the new options include: androgynous, transgender and genderqueer.
“Transgender activists reject the reality of two sexes, male and female. They believe there is a spectrum of ‘genders,’ and that people should be free to choose or change their ‘gender,’” Johnston told CitizenLink “In this policy change, Facebook is giving in to this small group of activists. In doing so, they are contributing to the cultural confusion that already exists.
Biology, though, agrees with Scripture.
“Male and female are the two halves of humanity, that both are good and valuable,” Johnston explained. “And all we have to do is look around and see that within those two categories there is certainly a great deal of variety. I have a great deal of compassion for those who hate their masculinity or femininity or who struggle with what it means to be a man or a woman. Many of these have been deeply hurt, abused or rejected. Christianity offers healing and grace to these wounded and weary ones, without capitulating to their confusion.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read “Transgenderism’ and the Deconstruction of Gender.”
It’s not really a ball-and-chain relationship. God’s design for marriage, in fact, is a joy, says Glenn Stanton, director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family. “But it is also hard work. This is one of its strengths,” he writes in his most recent book, “The Ring Makes all the Difference.”
Stanton explores the strong benefits of marriage and unravels the reasons why cohabitation can harm couples and their children. He argues that marriage is much more than “happily ever after”— and so much more than finding your soul mate. The institution, he says, has a deeply practical consequence in our lives for men, women and children.
He talked to CitizenLink about the harmful effects of cohabitation and the value and importance of marriage.
CitizenLink: In your book you say people with cohabiting experiences who marry have 50-80 percent likelihood of divorcing than those who never cohabited.
Glenn Stanton: First of all, that information is just solid in terms of the research. That has been showing up in the research for the last 30 years — an increased divorce risk for cohabitors of 50-to-80 percent. The general number is about 65 percent. There’s no question that it increased, but the scholars are asking why. There are a few things and one of them is the lack of commitment. One scholar coined this phrase: relational ambiguity. They did research on the men and women cohabiting. They put the men in one room and they put the women in another. They asked them, ‘What is the future of your relationship? Where is your relationship going?’ One group was more likely to say, “I think we’re going to get married. We’re just moving in that direction.” Another group said, “No, we’re just hanging out, having fun, one day at a time.” Gender-wise, which do you think was the men group and which was the women group? Both of them have different expectations about where the relationship is going. Think about the in-laws if you will: “Janie’s been cohabiting with this guy — when are they going to get married?” “I don’t know.” Nobody knows the nature of the relationship. But in marriage, everybody attends the wedding; everybody hears the vows. That has a lot to do with the stability of the relationship; the longevity of the relationship; and the health of the relationship. Another big reason is — this is not a judgment on the people per se, but cohabiting relationships are famously more unhealthy than marriage relationships, because of that kind of ambiguity. The unhealthiness leads to the lack of relational health and longevity. It’s kind of what I call the escape clause. The reason that you cohabit, the reason you don’t get married is, “Oh, I’m not quite ready to make that commitment.” That has a huge negative impact on the future and nature and understanding commitment to the marriage itself or the relationship itself.
CL: You also talk about how it can have a negative impact on kids and why marriage is so good for children.
GS: Marriage has existed in all cultures at all times. One of the big reasons is because marriage is the way that we link together and bind together in a cooperative relationship, the two people that brought that child into the world. And all children need that. They need the stability. One of the things that kids need most in their life is stability. They can live in poverty, but if they have mom and dad there — and in fact, kids living with married mom and dad are absolutely unlikely to live in poverty — but even if they live in poverty, mom’s there, dad’s there, and they have a world they can depend upon. They have that security. Cohabitation does not provide that. It creates in the life of the child, many times, short-term relationships for their parents, and the child kind of being bounced around from relationship to relationship. It would be difficult to overstate the negativity that has on the outcomes of children.
CL: You say instead of thinking of marriage as “a ball and chain,” marriage actually lifts us up physically and psychologically.
GS: That’s interesting. We think about the ball and chain – OK, my life’s over, I’m getting married now. If you look at any well-being measure — health, happiness, productivity, having a job, staying employed, earning money, saving money, not being suicidal, domestic violence, on and on and on — marriage increases those things for both adults and children, like nothing else does. It’s really fascinating. Married older folks are more likely to exercise, to have better vitamin intake, to get rest. A married heart patient who has heart trouble is more likely to recover and stay healthy. You imagine any creative measure of human well-being and marriage has a positive impact upon that. Cohabitation tends to distract from that. Divorce tends to distract from that. Marriage is not just a sentimental relationship. It’s not something that just warms our heart. Marriage has a deeply practical consequence in our lives, both for men, women and children as well.
CL: What does God say about marriage?
GS: In the Scriptures what we see is God’s creation of man and woman. The introduction of one to the other is essentially their wedding. It’s the first thing that He does. But now let’s go to the end of Scripture: In Revelation and in the last chapters, it talks about another kind of wedding: The ultimate wedding, the wedding all of us are going to, where Christ the bridegroom finally is able to receive His pure bride who has been made clean by the blood of Christ. Marriage is a huge thing in the Christian story. It’s interesting in the second chapter of Genesis. It says, “And for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.” For what reason? The Scriptures don’t really tell us. They sort of leave it open. I think it’s for every reason, because that’s what God designed us for, because that’s where a lot of our human well-being comes from. God says it’s not good for man to be alone. It’s not that everybody needs to be married. But we all come from parents and its better if our parents are married. We are healthier children, both young and as adults, if we are raised by married mothers and fathers. So when the Scripture says “for this reason” it’s really all the reasons.
CL: Talk about the importance of date night for married couples.
GS: Date nights are very important. It’s important to understand that marriages can’t be saved by having a date night. A date night is wonderful frosting on the cake. Setting aside those times for married couples to go out and have special time together sends a huge message to the children. That mom and dad’s marriage really does matter. But also to each other, it says: “You’re important enough and this relationship is important enough that we’re going to do fun things together.” The other part of that is to make sure that it’s fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I had two friends in college and they didn’t have two dimes to rub together. One of the things they did was they went to RV places and they went through the RV’s. ‘What would it be like to own this thing?’ It didn’t cost a dime and it was a creative thing. To put that time aside for a married couple is an investment, it’s important and it’s very easy to do.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Stanton’s book, “The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage.”
Learn more about Glenn Stanton.
Learn more about Focus on the Family’s Date Night Challenge.
View and download Focus’ resource “Teach Your Children About Marriage.”
CitizenLink is proud to work with the Louisiana Family Forum and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.
by the Louisiana Family Forum
Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) will honor Norman and Norma Burmah, Louisiana’s Longest Married Couple, at a special Valentine’s Day reception in their home in Marksville, La., to celebrate 83 years of marriage.
In 2013, the Burmahs were identified as the nation’s Longest Known Married Couple at 82 years.
“We are excited that Louisiana is home to the nation’s Longest Married Couple,” LFF President Gene Mills. “This is no surprise. Louisiana is a state that values lifelong, loving marriage and the joys of family! What good news to celebrate authentic examples of a Godly covenant marriage.”
The Burmahs, America’s Top Covenant Keepers, will receive an Official Statement of Special Recognition from Gov. Bobby Jindal, which will be read by state Rep. Robert Johnson, and be entered into LFF’s “2014 Marriage Hall of Fame.”
The Burmah’s extended family and friends will be present to celebrate their honorable lifetime achievement. The couple will be presented with, among other gifts, a bouquet of flowers courtesy of Germean’s Flowers and Gifts and a new orange tree to replace their former one damaged by the recent cold weather.
Norman and Norma Burmah, respectively 102 and 99 years old, met at the “Roof Garden Dance Hall” in New Orleans during a live performance of Louis Armstrong, playing their theme song “What a Wonderful World.” They were married shortly thereafter on January 26, 1931, and the two have remained inseparable.
“Maw” and “Paw,” as their family fondly calls them, begin each day in prayer. Norma claims that she’s a “young 99” and continues to prove this through her love for parties and her independent trip to France only years ago. Norma has never driven a day in her life! However, Norman is not shy of his achievements adding that he drove until he was 97 and rode his first jet-ski at 92! While he’s a student of politics and football, she’s a fan of “Lawrence Welk” and enjoys old movies. They created a livelihood together, operating a thriving catering business inspired by their Creole heritage.
They lived in New Orleans until 2005, and, to this day, they both remain deeply devoted New Orleans Saints fans! After tragically losing their home during Hurricane Katrina, the Burmahs moved to Marksville, La. At 97 years of age, Norman proudly purchased their new home where they independently live along with their prized Rhode Island Red Rooster, “Jindal.”
They have been blessed with a healthy family consisting of two children, six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren!
“Congratulations to Norman and Norma Burmah for your incredible 83-year journey! You inspire and challenge us, and we celebrate your ‘wonderful world’ together,’” Gene Mills, President of LFF, said. “May our marriages be blessed with the love, patience, grace and endurance that you’ve shown us.”
Every year during National Marriage Week, Feb. 7th to the 14th, LFF honors the longest married couples found in the state of Louisiana. LFF celebrates life-long marriage and embraces the opportunity to honor couples who have exemplified devotion in their marriage covenant.
The Top Ten Longest Married Couples will be honored at a special reception at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday, February 20th. The following couples are Louisiana’s Top Ten Longest Married Couples:
- Placide and Emily Moran of Opelousas-76 years
- Edward and Hilda Guedry of Lake Charles-74 years
- Wendell and Mary Hall of Slidell-74 years
- JT and Ruby Halley of Baker-74 years
- John and Dorothy Marchese of Metairie- 74 years
- Joe and Ida Tryniecki of Baton Rouge- 74 years
- George and Laura Harris- 73 years
- Robert Rudolph and Irene Stafford-73 years
- Dr. Carl and Minnie Kelly of Benton- 73 years
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the Louisiana Family Forum.
An Idaho lawmaker said he’s concerned about the wave of cases involving Christian business owners and that’s why Rep. Lynn Luker has introduced House Bill 426. The bill would make it illegal to harass licensed professionals for holding to their deeply-held religious beliefs.
“If you make a decision (to turn down business) based on sincerely held religious beliefs, to act or not act, you cannot lose your license,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “It doesn’t mean you can’t be fired from your job. It doesn’t mean you can’t be sued for discrimination.”
Idaho already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but conservative groups believe that law is not enough.
“This legislation does cover issues in which participating in an event such as legal work for same-sex adoptions, or fertility treatments for (same-sex) couples could be an issue,” Julie Lynde of Cornerstone Family Council told The Christian Post, “but it would also cover issues in which a licensed caterer, who for religious reasons, only serves kosher food and is required by a client to serve non-kosher items.”
“Our First Freedom, the free exercise of religion has been enshrined in our Constitution since the Founders gave their lives, fortune and sacred honors to create a country that allowed citizens to thrive without threat of religious persecution.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Cornerstone Family Council.
Among the many contentious issues in American culture today, few are more controversial than education. We live in a time where there are major disagreements over the purpose of education, and, not surprisingly, vastly different expectations about curricula and methods of instruction.
One perspective on the purpose of education would simply be the transmission to students of bodies of knowledge on specific subjects. On the other hand, some pragmatists see the chief purpose of education as the transmission of useful skills that enable young people to participate in the economy, while educational purists see the purpose of education as a way of training young people to acquire various critical thinking skills, or to acquire the mindset of a scholar. Others might see education as having a number of different purposes, perhaps including the socialization of young people and the development of interpersonal skills. Still others may see the purpose of education as the inculcation of values; within this group, there are major differences over the types of values being transmitted. Should education teach students to be multicultural? To adopt secular leftist perspectives, including politically correct views on marriage, family, and sexuality? To develop traditional American views on government and citizenship? To have a deep and abiding religious faith, whether Christian or otherwise?
From a Christian perspective, there can be no doubt that there is a spiritual purpose to the education of children, whether or not a child’s formal education includes a Christian component. The Bible teaches that learning is important; according to Ecclesiastes 7:12b, “the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” In Proverbs 4:13, believers are instructed to “[t]ake fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” Parents bear primary responsibility for their children’s education; they are called to bring children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4b), and to teach God’s commands to their children: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Education also helps parents to be good stewards of the talents and abilities God has given to their children (Matthew 25).
Beyond the big-picture questions about the purpose of education, there is also a wide range of attitudes concerning the proper role of government in education. Should the federal government be involved in education? Recent decades have seen a marked increase in the federal government’s participation in educational matters, from the creation of the U.S. Department of Education in the 1970’s to the passage of President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law in the last decade. Unfortunately, the increase in federal involvement has not yielded a corresponding improvement in student achievement; the educational achievement of U.S. students in key subject areas has either remained the same or declined over the past four decades.1 Recently, the federal government has further involved itself in education by providing “Race to the Top” funding only to states that have implemented the hotly-debated Common Core State Standards and the problematic array of tests that accompany those standards.2 Some believe that greater federal government involvement could help to equalize educational standards across the country, bring troubled school districts “up to speed,” and provide uniform methods of testing and assessment. However, New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation believes that education is best handled at the local level, partly because of our constitutional view of the limits of federal power, partly due to concerns about the federal government’s ability to do anything constructive in the educational realm, and partly out of well-founded fears that federal and state governments’ educational bureaucracies will use education to promote perspectives hostile to traditional America and to Christianity.
Another important question: What types of schools are best for Christian parents and their children? On this front, the good news is that various options are available. Some Christian parents who want their children to be “salt and light” to unsaved and unchurched children—or who lack the financial or other resources to access other educational options—choose the public school system. Depending on the public schools involved, this can be a viable approach. As public schools have become increasingly secularized, however, many Christian families have chosen to provide a distinctly Christian education to their children, whether through independent Christian schools or through Christian schools that are affiliated with one particular church. Some families choose private schools that do not hold a Christian perspective. Still other New York families have chosen one of New York’s 208 charter schools, which are public schools that are independent from school district control and function according to the terms of a performance contract.3 Finally, others—both inside and outside of the Christian community—have opted out of traditional schooling altogether, and have joined the homeschool movement. Christian parents may choose homeschooling for a number of reasons, including concerns about student safety; concerns about negative influences in schools; a desire to exceed the academic standards in schools; an interest in using innovative, outside-the-box educational approaches; or a desire to provide a Biblically-based education.
When it comes to questions about education, the stakes are high. American children and young adults spend years and years of their lives—and, in many cases, thousands upon thousands of dollars—acquiring an academic and/or professional education. In many cases, students become disillusioned with the process, seeing it as purposeless, uninteresting, or disconnected from their goals and aspirations. Also, parents do not always believe that their investments in education yield results that make those investments worthwhile. At times, parents go to great lengths to provide their children with what is deemed a “good education,” only to find that the “good education” they provided has influenced their children to abandon the beliefs with which they were raised.
Regarding education, there are some matters upon which Christians should be able to agree. First, New York’s public school system is broken. Our state spends astronomical amounts of money on public education, but various measurements show that our students’ levels of educational achievement are deficient.4 Second, Christian input into public education is important. Without that input, we can expect that others who do not share our beliefs will dominate and control the system, and the results will be bad for everyone. Third, the federal government’s role in education should be limited, and Christians should look with skepticism upon efforts to impose a top-down approach upon schools. Fourth, it is good and healthy for Christian New Yorkers to promote educational choice. If traditional public schools have a monopoly on the educational process, they cannot truly be held accountable for educational outcomes or for the ideologies and perspectives that they include in their curricula and instruction. Further, if alternatives to traditional public schools do not continue and thrive (or if those educational alternatives are pressured out of existence by aggressively intrusive governments), parents’ options for their children’s education will become more limited and less appealing.
One bill that would help New York students and families is the Education Investment Incentives Act (EIIA) (S.4099 – Golden).5 This innovative bill would facilitate an infusion of donations to public education entities and local education funds, helping cash-strapped public schools and school districts without raising taxes increasing government spending. The EIIA would also help students in nonpublic schools by providing tax credits to those who donate money to scholarship funds. (While tax deductions for charitable donors are good, tax credits are even better, because they provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction to the donor’s taxes rather than simply lowering that donor’s taxable income.) Under the EIIA, charitable organizations could provide scholarships or tuition grants to students from multiple public or eligible nonpublic schools. These organizations could assist students attending Christian schools, as well as students attending other religious schools, charter schools, independent private schools, or public schools outside the students’ respective districts of residence. The EIIA also offers a small tax credit for instructional materials purchased by homeschooling families.6 Proposals like the EIIA that promote educational choice and educational opportunity without increasing the size, scope, and cost of government are beneficial to all New Yorkers. NYFRF’s affiliate organization, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, believes that the passage of this bill in 2014 is an achievable goal.
The EIIA is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle that has yet to be assembled regarding New York’s education system. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms calls for the removal of the existing cap on the number of charter schools, the creation of new tax credits for parents whose children attend nonpublic schools or are homeschooled, full reimbursement to nonpublic schools for the cost of compliance with state mandates, and a pilot program for school vouchers that would provide parents with a set amount of funds for their child’s education and allow them to use those funds to pay for the school of their choice.7 Christians should stand against proposals that increase federal involvement in education, or that involve a top-down approach to the educational process; instead, Christians should support efforts to reward effective teachers, to find innovative approaches that help students learn, and to empower local school districts to create or select their own curricula. Finally, Christians should actively oppose any agenda that makes it more difficult for parents to provide a Christ-centered education to their children, whether by eroding the autonomy of Christian schools or by making homeschooling difficult or impossible.
If New York embraces purposeful, freedom-centered solutions to the problems that plague our educational system, and if parents insist that children be provided with a quality education that does not contradict the values that are instilled at home, the results can only be positive for the next generation of New Yorkers.
by New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (to learn more please visit nyfrf.org)
The Indiana Senate passed a revised marriage amendment that will likely delay a vote by the people.
In recent weeks, the House passed a watered down version of HJR-3 removing the second sentence, a change that would allow recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships. That vote threatened to restart the constitutional amendment process. In the state of Indiana, a bill must pass both houses in two consecutive terms in order to be put on the ballot.
Marriage supporters gathered at the Statehouse to encourage legislators to pass the original version and let the people vote in the next election. Some of those lawmakers had suddenly changed their position to allow the House changes.
Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute spent weeks talking to lawmakers and encouraging voters to make their voices heard.
“We had a number of legislators two years ago who supported this marriage amendment who changed,” he said. “Several of them we had backed before. They had filled out questionnaires, signed written statements saying they would support this amendment and they flipped this year. We intend to talk to their constituents and let people know that they did not honor their commitments.”
Several national marriage groups were also on hand to give testimony.
“Marriage is not just about the desires of adults, but the needs of children. Children need a mother and a father,” said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council. “Those are the only reasons marriage is a public, not merely a private, institution.”
Smith said that even though it’s disappointing that the stronger version of the bill wasn’t passed, they will not give up.
“We’ll come back after the next election,” Smith said, “and start the conversation over with a single sentence amendment and see if that will be sent to the voters in 2016.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the Indiana Family Institute.
It may be a dark night out there, but in his Stoplight® commentary Stuart Shepard illustrates the profound value of just a little light.
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A legal group says a Minnesota school district is perfectly fine allowing students to participate in a community service project — they’ve been packing meals for needy families in Haiti.
Earlier this month, the American Humanist Association (AHA) threatened to sue Robbinsdale Area Schools in Winnetka.
Students at the School of Engineering and Arts recently volunteered for a program sponsored by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian organization. The students helped pre-pack meals at a church. They did not participate in any religious activities.
“Public schools should encourage students to participate in as many community service opportunities as possible,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The Constitution does not prohibit students from cooperating with a religious organization to help starving families, which is not any sort of government endorsement of religion.”
ADF sent a letter affirming the rights of the school and the students.
“It’s shameful to attack charity groups that provide impoverished children with help they wouldn’t otherwise receive,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope that our letter will help Robbinsdale Area Schools understand that they can continue to allow students to participate with Feed My Starving Children and other worthy humanitarian service programs for the benefit of the needy.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the letter the AHA sent to the school.
Read ADF’s letter to the school.
CitizenLink is proud to work with Texas Values and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.
by Texas Values
Attorney General Eric Holder announced this weekend the federal government will impose same-sex marriage benefits on the states, including states like Texas that only recognize the true definition of marriage – the union of one man and one woman. The new dictates focus on federal benefits that include spousal rights concerning bankruptcies, prison visits, and the court system.
In an interview with KVUE (Austin), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz reacted to another brazen overreach of the Federal government on the issue of marriage:
“In Texas, we define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and I don’t think the federal government should come into Texas and dictate its terms for what constitutes marriage.” – Senator Ted Cruz
“It’s very clear that the people of the state of Texas have already spoken on these issues when it comes to the definition of marriage and same sex benefits and the reason that you see the Obama administration abusing their power and overreaching is because they don’t have the will of the people on their side.” – Jonathan Saenz
The federal government is increasingly disrespecting the rights of the majority of states that define marriage as one man and one woman. The goal seems clear – usurp states’ rights to essentially redefine a state’s marriage laws to a definition of its choosing.
Watch the interview here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Texas Values.
A federal judge today struck down part of Kentucky’s marriage amendment. The ruling means Kentucky would have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
The decision will likely be appealed.
Seventy-five percent of voters approved the amendment in 2004. It says the state would not validate or recognize anything other than one-man, one-woman marriages.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that struck down part of the federal marriage law. The court will set a hearing soon to discuss when the order will take effect.
Kent Ostrander, president of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, called Heyburn’s ruling partly “mumbo jumbo.”
Under his logic, “If a state like Utah were to legalize polygamy, then that would mean that Utah’s law would have to be recognized by Kentucky,” Ostrander explained. “So, we’re no longer living under Kentucky law — we’re at the dictate of other states and other nations. It’s foolishness.”
He blames the ruling on a weak showing by state officials. The governor and attorney general “are not interested in putting up a serious battle.”
“The concern I have is this: Those that were sued were the state of Kentucky — the governor and the attorney general,” he told CitizenLink. “Both of them are liberal Democrats. And their defense in this case was at best, wimpy.”
They didn’t exactly “roll over” like U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did on the federal level, Ostrander explained. “But it wasn’t far from it.”
Holder announced this weekend that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages.
Four same-sex couples and their children filed suit against Kentucky’s amendment.
The Family Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief, which was later dismissed by the judge.
“Our primary hope is that the 6th Circuit will hold with its previous rulings on this matter and will actually overturn the Kentucky federal judge,” he explained.
Marriage, he added, is “the “building block of society.”
“Every child deserves a mom and a dad,” Ostrander explained. “I realize, sometimes, that disaster happens and they don’t get both of them. But a good policy is always to have every child — every boy and girl — to understand what a man is by virtue of their father, and what a woman is by virtue of their mother. When they have that, they get both halves of humanity, and it gives them the opportunity to have a healthy future.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the complaint in Bourke v. Breshear.
Read Heyburn’s decision.