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May 24, 2017

Check out this story about a pregnant Christian school graduate:

 – A high school senior who attends a private Christian school in Maryland will not get a chance to attend her graduation ceremony because she is pregnant.

The Heritage Academy in Hagerstown said Maddi Runkles violated the school‘s code of conduct by having premarital sex. However, Runkles and her parents are struggling to understand how their conservative Christian high school can teach and promote being pro-life, but then turn their backs on one of their own.

“It’s like a small school and it is such a big deal and I am the only one that is not going to be there that night to walk to the stage,” Runkles said.

She is one of 15 seniors in her class. But she will be the only one who will not be able to walk across the stage because she is now 25 weeks pregnant.

Having read about schools like this one that go so far as completely banning conversation between boys and girls on the premises, I am not at all surprised by the school’s actions. The board likely feels that allowing Runkles to walk in the graduation ceremony, visibly pregnant, would be to condone premarital sex.

Runkles rightly points out the irony at play here:

…the 4.0 GPA student was forced to step down from all her leadership positions at school and was kept home for two days during an unofficial suspension. She said she accepted her discipline. But by not allowing her to walk at graduation, she feels she is being shamed.

“You can’t be pro-life, but then refuse to support the girl that keeps her baby,” she said.

Consider this: if Runkles had had an abortion, she could have walked in the graduation ceremony, because no one would have known she had ever been pregnant. Actions like those of Heritage Academy put up added roadblocks for teens who choose to go through with an unintended pregnancy rather than aborting it. Individuals in Runkles’ situation must decide not only whether they are willing to go through with the financial and emotional challenges that accompany being a teen mother, but also whether they willing to be shamed by their entire church community.

I once engaged in an hours-long Facebook chat with a staunchly pro-life family friend in which I addressed just this. Rather than arguing over the morality of abortion, I focused on practical, tested ways to decrease the number of abortions performed each year. I argued not only for making longterm birth control more available and creating a better social safety net (i.e. paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare) but also for an end to shaming unwed mothers. I argued that such shaming acts to discourage unmarried women from keeping unintended pregnancies.

Unfortunately, my argument was to no avail. The individual I was engaging with argued for more shaming for unwed motherhood, not less. He seemed to think that increased shaming would cut down on the number of unwed women who would become pregnant, perhaps not realizing that in the past when this shame has been even higher, unmarried women have been shipped off to teen maternity homes, or excluded from society (to not only their detriment but also that of their children).

I once spoke to a woman who was engaged in a custody battle for a young daughter. She had become pregnant and was considering an abortion out of fear that her ex would paint her as an unfit mother over this.

Opponents of abortion often present adoption as the idea option for women in situations similar to that of Runkles, or for women in situations where they cannot afford a baby. But consider this: would choosing adoption mean Runkles could walk at her graduation? No. The issue, for the school, is that she had the sex that made her pregnant in the first place, regardless of how she chooses to address her pregnancy.

Those who advocate against abortion rights refer to themselves as pro-life, but, as Runkles’ situation makes clear, their opposition to premarital sex places limits in their ability to celebrate life. We can imagine a group that opposes abortion on the grounds that life is always better than not-life, but why would such a group limit or stigmatize the act that creates such life? For abortion opponents, it’s frequently not so much about life as it is about rules—and the consequences of not following them.

What role, too, does gender play in this? According to the article on Runkles:

The father of Maddi’s baby does not attend Heritage Academy.

But what if he had? Would he, too, have been prevented from walking at his graduation? Perhaps—if it was well known and established that he was the father. But what if it wasn’t known, or if he knocked up a girl attending another school? The consequences do not fall equally on men and women, either in the biological sense or in the community shaming department.

“You can’t be pro-life, but then refuse to support the girl that keeps her baby,” the article quoted Runkles. And no, you can’t. But you can oppose abortion and refuse to support the girl who keeps her baby, if your opposition is rooted in sex and rules and consequences and not in valuing life.

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May 11, 2017

I recently received an email from a reader with this question:

I’ve just reread Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and am now watching the miniseries and as I’ve been watching, I keep thinking, “I wonder what fundamentalists would think of this story. Do they look at it and think, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re aiming for’? Or are things taken just a bit too far with the whole having-a-handmaiden-to-provide-with-children?” You were the first person I thought might have some insights into this.

I do think that most even hardcore fundamentalist Christians would think that the handmaid-having-a-baby-for-your-wife thing is going too far, at least right now … But the rest of the world of The Handmaid’s Tale–is that what the world they’re dreaming of? Or is there anything in that world (besides the handmaids) that goes too far? Would they look at that book/show and think it’s horrible or would they look at it and see things they mostly want, just with an added thing that goes too far?

This is actually something I’ve been thinking about, too, as I’ve watched the first episodes of the Handmaids Tale on Hulu (I read the book years ago and have found the adaption excellent thus far).

I remember, as an evangelical teen and young adult, being upset when encountering what I considered unfair stereotypes of what evangelicals ultimately wanted—even when, looking back, there was some truth to them. I suspect that, had I watched this adaption at age 18, I would have blown it off as completely unfair and unrealistic—particularly the handmaids part—and, unfortunately, it would likely have made me only more dismissive of the Left as ignorant and out of touch.

However, the Handmaid’s Tale has to be understood not simply as the fulfillment of evangelical or fundamentalist policy objectives in the U.S. (i.e., what they would like the country to look like) but also as in some sense post-apocalyptic.

There was a nuclear disaster. The future of humanity is in question. There is more than one factor in play here.

Let’s take a moment to look at specifics, underneath my likely overall dismissal of a story like The Handmaid’s Tale, at age 18. My full response might have been a mixture of  “okay that makes sense” responses to legislated morality and “wait no that’s ridiculous” reactions things that stemmed more from the nuclear catastrophe than from evangelical beliefs. Banning women from having their own bank accounts? As an evangelical teen growing up in a conservative homeschool community, I would likely have found the idea intriguing. Requiring fertile women to serve as handmaids, bearing babies for wealthy leaders with infertile wives? Um. What?!

One thing I dislike about the Handmaid’s Tale is how little we learn about individual lives outside of the world of the commanders and their servants. There are others, we are told, but we don’t learn what their lives are like. The women aren’t allowed to work. Those who have sex outside of marriage are either sent to the colonies (whatever exactly that means) or (if they’re determined to be fertile) forced to serve as handmaids. But these women do lead lives. They have husbands, some few of them are able to have children, and those that can’t have children keep their homes.

What we have, here, is a familiar tension within evangelicalism and fundamentalism—social control v. free will. This is a deeper question, a theological question. Should individuals be compelled to live moral lives? Or should is it better to let them choose to lead moral lives, which requires allowing them to choose not to? The answer to this question is going to influence one’s response to the social controls imposed in the Handmaid’s Tale. Hanging gay men seems extreme—but it does prevent the individual from spreading what many evangelicals see as a contagion.

Here, again, I think you have to understand the setting of the Handmaid’s Tale. There is a war on. There is a resistance. In these situations, there is frequently a higher level of military or paramilitary control exercised over a civilian population.

There are two questions, really. First, what would a fundamentalist think of the Handmaid’s Tale? Second, is the Handmaid’s Tale realistic in its portrayal of what fundamentalists would do? I suspect that those evangelicals and fundamentalists who prefer social control to the moral chaos caused by allowing free choice—those who think, perhaps, that the Puritans had it about right, with their strict rules—would approve of many of the social controls included in the Handmaid’s Tale. I suspect, however, that the Handmaids might still lead them to dismiss the portrayal and the product of an ignorant liberal mind intent on a smear campaign.

But let’s return to the handmaids, and turn to the second question. How would evangelicals and fundamentalists respond to mass infertility, in a community or society where they had complete social and political control? Anyone still fertile would be pressured to reproduce as many times as possible, within the bounds of marriage. But would fertile women who refused to conform be rounded up and forced to serve as handmaids for infertile couples? That seems like a bit of a stretch.

I’ve heard of fundamentalist men who use the Old Testament to justify polygamy in the present day, even taking multiple wives, but to the extent that this does happen it is extremely rare, and very fringe. Most evangelicals (including fundamentalists) hold that things changed when Jesus came onto the scene, creating a “New Covenant” with new rules. A Christian polygamist would not be accepted in any church I am aware of. But then, such individuals would likely home church.

I could see evangelicals or fundamentalists, having gained social and political control, banning things like adultery, divorce, and premarital sex. I could see individuals who violated these rules being jailed, as a deterrent. (My own evangelical mother told me a few years ago that she thought premarital sex should come with a jail sentence.) Still, in a culture struggling with extreme infertility, what would authorities do with fallen fertile women who had been jailed? Surely they wouldn’t let their fertility wasted.

What of artificial insemination? Perhaps fallen fertile women would be artificially inseminated, their children put up for adoption for godly infertile couples. That said, many fundamentalists in particular (and evangelicals in general) oppose artificial insemination. This was especially the case in the 1980s, when the Handmaid’s Tale was written. Of course, fundamentalists have long opposed surrogacy as well. Here’s an image from the Fundamentalist Journal, by Jerry Falwell, in May 1983:

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Here’s an interesting question—what would happen in the U.S. if some sort of disaster led to mass infertility a la the Handmaid’s Tale, without any fundamentalist Christian takeover? If nothing else, social pressure would change, and women who were fertile would be frowned upon if they didn’t have more than one or two children. But as the depth of the problem became clear, would more change? Would our government bend the force of such a catastrophe, and move beyond voluntary measures?

Years ago I read an online story about a future world in which abortion and hormonal birth control was banned. In it, women created a system for distributing the pill, and for obtaining abortions. There were specific signals and networks—and if I remember correctly, the book covered a case where a woman was caught, and taken away, and—I think—executed. This story struck me as realistic, given how many evangelicals believe both abortion and hormonal birth control involve murder of innocent human beings.

But the Handmaid’s Tale goes beyond this level of dystopian realism. It doesn’t limit itself to the things fundamentalists have pledged to do, if they have their way. Would the book have achieved such notoriety if it had not been centered on a plot point so out there as to appear automatically unrealistic to modern fundamentalist viewers? I’m not sure. The handmaid certainly adds sensationalism to the story—but it means many fundamentalists will find it unrealistic as a portrayal of their goals.

One last note on realism. Margaret Atwood was influenced in her telling by the Iranian Revolution, which would have seemed much closer at the time she was writing than it does today. Iran became a totally different country after that event than it was before. A fundamentalist strain of Islam took over the country, and women’s roles and freedoms changed completely. Perhaps when viewed in that light, Atwood’s story becomes more realistic. But would fundamentalists confronted with the story be willing to accept what that realism means? Likely not.

February 9, 2017

The Home School Legal Defense Association has seized on rumors that Trump may withdraw the U.S. from a number of U.N. treaties. HSLDA argues that the United States should not be party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Why?

These treaties tend to seek to solve problems by undermining parental authority and granting more power to the government. Children are harmed when their parents are not free to make the best decisions for their education and wellbeing.

HSLDA has been making this argument for decades now, but what they never mention is that these treaties actually give children the right to be raised by their biological parents, ensure that parents will not have their children unjustly taken from them, and expand parents’ ability to access resources for their children. Let’s look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child by way of example.

Article 28 requires governments to “[m]ake primary education compulsory and available free to all,” to make secondary education “available and accessible to every child,” and to “[m]ake higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity.” Consider what this provision means for parents, especially poor parents or those in poor countries—it ensures that they will be able to provide their children with an education. This isn’t about “undermining parental authority and granting more power to the government,” it’s about requiring the government to empower parents by giving them the means to see that their children receive a good education.

And then there’s this, in Article 30:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.

How does this undermine parental authority? It’s the opposite! A century and more ago, the United States government took Native American children away from their parents and sent them to boarding schools where they were deprived of of their culture and their religion—even their language. The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits such government overreaches, enabling parents to raise their children within their distinct cultural and religious communities.

That’s right—the treaty actively limits government interference in families.

Article 14 states that “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that “States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.” That’s right, the treaty protects parents’ right—and it does use that word—to provide their children with religious instruction and training.

Now yes, the treaty does state that the government has the authority to remove children from their parents’ care in specific circumstances. Article 9 states that:

States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.

Note the requirement about judicial review—governments are prohibited from separating children from their parents without proper proof and room for review.

This same article also states the following:

Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death … of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family …

In other words, if a child is imprisoned, the parent has the right to know where the child is, and so forth. The treaty prioritizes keeping families together, and recognizes that as a positive good. When a child is removed from the family, Article 20 requires that foster care or adoption considerations be made “due regard … to the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background.” If the U.S. had signed this treaty—and it has not—more could perhaps be done about Native American communities in South Dakota whose children are being placed in foster care outside of the community rather than within it.

Article 23 grants parents access to accommodations for their children’s special needs:

2. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child’s condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.

3. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development

Consider how these provisions change the circumstances of poor parents struggling to raise children with expensive disabilities. HSLDA would have their followers believe that the treaty strips parents of their rights, but here it protects’ parents ability to raise children with special needs by giving them the right to the resources they need.

Article 24 similarly gives parents’ access to medical care for their children:

States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.

Consider the concerns of poor parents, or parents in poor countries, worried that they will not be able to obtain the medical care their children need. The Convention on the Rights of the Child empowers these parents, giving them grounds to demand and freedom to expect medical care for their children.

And take a look at Article 27, on children’s standard of living:

1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

2. The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.

3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

This is not undermining parental authority. This is supporting parents.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not undermine parental authority and grant power to the government; rather, it requires the government to provide parents with the resources they need to raise their children and limits government authority. And yet, HSLDA decries this treaty as a dire threat to parental rights. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to be a low income parent without a government willing to back up and support children’s right to an education, to medical care, to adequate food and shelter. Imagine what it would be like to be an indigenous parent, or a member of a minority religion, in a country where the government felt it could remove your children and, through them, eradicate your culture.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child protects and empowers parents, too. Children’s rights are not diametrically opposed to parents’ rights. In many cases, backing up children’s rights means expanding the resources and opportunities available to parents, and children’s right to their culture protects parents’ right to raise children within religious or ethnic communities. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is not at all what conservatives—and especially organizations like HSLDA—would have you believe it is.

I grew up reading HSLDA’s publications and listening to HSLDA speakers. I remember the rhetoric, and there was a time I, too, was convinced the treaty was a threat to families—without ever having read the treaty myself. Today, as a mother of two children, I am angry. I am angry that HSLDA distorts reality to scare and mislead people. I am angry that the U.S. has never ratified this treaty.

I am angry that my children’s rights mean so little.

January 27, 2017

As the week ends, I wanted to touch on two pieces of news I saw earlier in the week but didn’t have the time to respond to at the time. I’ll combine them here and respond to both, as the two relate to similar topics. The first piece I want to address is this Facebook status by Chris McDaniel, a state senator in Mississippi:

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Text is as follows:

So a group of unhappy liberal women marched in Washington DC. We shouldn’t be surprised; almost all liberal women are unhappy. Perhaps there’s a correlation.

Nevertheless, I’m fascinated to see them exercise their First Amendment rights (however objectionable the message).

But I do have a question: if they can afford all those piercings, tattoos, body paintings, signs, and plane tickets, then why do they want us to pay for their birth control?

I was at one of the marches on Saturday. It wasn’t at all unhappy. The mood was actually extremely upbeat and positive—it was energizing! That was one of my biggest takeaways from the event—the numbers, and the upbeat mood.

But note that McDaniel’s claim goes farther than this—he claims that “almost all liberal women are unhappy.” This is a wider conservative talking point—that liberal women (i.e. feminists) are unhappy, unfulfilled, and discontent. This idea is profoundly sexist, given its connection to the supposition that it is marriage and motherhood that fulfills women and make stem happy, and that childless career women are by definition unhappy and unsatisfied, mask it as they may.

The unfortunate thing about this conservative talking point is that as soon as you attempt to counter it, arguing that you or other liberal women really are happy, you start to look desperate and you play into their narrative—that you’re trying to hide your underlying unhappiness by denying it. It’s one of those narratives that is set up in such a way that it can’t be countermanded—because the narrative itself assumes that liberal women will deny their unhappiness and claim they are happy. Given that the conservative image of a happy woman is a modest, demure woman surrounded by children and planning the next church potluck, just happily living out our lives may not be enough to put this lie to bed either.

But let’s move on to McDaniel’s last point—and one that I have seen conservatives continue to raise. If these women can afford to travel to D.C., McDaniel asks, why do they want taxpayers to pay for their birth control? Note the lie this claim is founded on—that women want U.S. taxpayers to pay for their birth control.

Guess what? They don’t.

The birth control mandate covers private health insurance providers and is not paid for by the government. The mandate requires private insurers to cover birth control, the cost of which is passed on in premiums to those who buy health insurance (which includes women). Private insurance covers viagra, too, but we don’t talk about men with erectile dysfunction wanting “us” to pay for their boners. Now yes, under the ACA women in certain income brackets get subsidies offsetting the cost of their health insurance—but this isn’t about birth control, it’s about health insurance.

I am baffled as to how so many conservatives came to believe that the health insurance mandate was about government-funded birth control. This is especially baffling given that most of these conservatives are also anti-abortion, and that such individuals should want government-funded birth control. When experiments in government-funded birth control have been tried (namely, offering poor women free long-lasting forms of birth control, which are far more expensive than methods like the pill or the condom, but also more effective), abortion rates have dropped.

In other words, the concept of government-funded birth control ought to be championed by abortion opponents, rather than pilloried.

One more thing—there’s a common idea in conservative circles that birth control is cheap. I’ve seen some claim the pill costs only $4/mo. This is false. For one thing, women have to have a prescription to get the pill, which means a visit to the doctor—and speaking from my own experience, it’s virtually impossible to visit the doctor without running up a bill of over $200. For another thing, while there are generic versions of the pill that are inexpensive (though not, to my knowledge, that inexpensive), bodies are different and the same pill doesn’t work for everyone. I have friends who have had to use versions of the pill that run $100/mo., because the other versions didn’t work for them.

And finally, we’re not just talking about the pill, here! I have an IUD. Getting it inserted would have cost me over $800 out of pocket if my insurance hadn’t covered it. That is a lot of money for people on a budget. Heck, that’s a lot of money for anyone but the most wealthy among us. I have a friend who got an IUD before the ACA, and didn’t realize it wouldn’t be covered. She spent months fighting an $800 bill, which she believed should have been covered. This isn’t peanuts, people.

Okay, next thing:

In an interview with the Texas Observer, [Republican lawmaker Tony Tinderholt] explained that women need to know there are “repercussions” for their actions.

“Right now, it’s real easy,” Tinderholt said. “Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

See, I’m not sure “real easy” is how I’d describe getting an abortion. For one thing, getting an abortion ing ing to run you $500. That is a lot of money. For another thing, you’re going to have to figure out logistics, take time off work, travel to the clinic, etc. For a third thing, getting an abortion is no piece of cake—it’s a painful procedure. I don’t see people lining up to get their teeth drilled, and the same thing applies here.

Is it possible that the existence of safe, legal abortion makes women more willing to be sexually active than previously? Technically. While women have always had premarital sex, there are stats that suggest that the age at which women engage in premarital sex has changed over time (interestingly, the age is currently going up again). But all of this is complicated, and women in previous eras may have been more concerned about the stigma associated with having a child out of wedlock (stigma that has decreased in recent decades) than anything else. Still, women in the past had premarital sex nonetheless, and in some areas of colonial New England as many as 38% of births were conceived out of wedlock. This is on top of the fact that abortion was an option in the past (it was more dangerous, but so was childbirth).

One more thing to note—most pro-choice individuals consider the choice to abort an unintended pregnancy a form of taking responsibility. A woman who is unintentionally pregnant has to decide what to do next out of a range of options, all of which involve taking responsibility for her situation. She can carry to term and parent the child, she can carry to term and give the child up for adoption, or she can have an abortion. The problem, of course, is that Tinderholt appears to believe that an embryo is a child, so he sees only two responsible options—parenting or adoption.

When it comes down to it, Tinderholt wants couples to consider more seriously the possibility of pregnancy before having sex. He thinks that banning abortion will make them do this. But what is his goal, exactly? Does he hope couples will use more effective methods of birth control, or does he hope they will decide not to have sex if they’re not ready to have a child? He doesn’t say, but his website does state that he’s against the Medicaid expansion, which would give millions more low-income women access to affordable birth control.

We’re talking a lot today about how facts don’t seem to matter in a Trump administration, but then facts haven’t mattered to a wide swath of conservatives for a long time. There are tens of millions of Americans who are convinced, today, that liberal women want them to pay for their birth control (Sandra Fluke, anyone?) and that abortion offers women an easy way to have irresponsible sex without dealing with the consequences. And a lot of this is tied to concerns about women being “sluts,” which in turn goes back to patriarchal notions about gender, value, and sex.

I’m honestly not sure how to most effectively combat this misinformation, or whether it can be combatted. We need strategy, we need organization, we need a plan. And perhaps most of all, we need to admit that much of what we’ve tried doing thus far hasn’t worked. Still people believe this nonsense, and still it impacts policy.

It’s ironic, really. Growing up in a conservative evangelical family, I often heard about the evil of “postmodernism,” which held that there is no truth, no objective reality. I was given to believe that this philosophy controlled modern liberalism. Once in college, I found this was not true. My professors definitely believed in reality, and in objective truth. Now I’m starting to wonder whether it is conservatives, and not liberals, who have been swallowed by this dreaded “postmodernism,” where truth no longer matters and fact is anathema.

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November 22, 2016

I wrote, yesterday, about an Indiana lawmaker who plans to propose a full abortion ban in the next legislative session. I noted that if lawmakers are going to ban abortion they should also cover women’s medical expenses, require paid maternity leave, subsidize childcare costs, and make higher education and job training programs more affordable. After all, I argued, if they’re going to require women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, that’s only fair.

Of course, abortion opponents have objections to this argument. They want to see abortion banned, but they do not think lawmakers are at all obligated to defray any of the financial needs mentioned above. There are, in my experience, two primary objections: First, women should not have sex if they’re not in the position to have children, and if they do, it’s their job to deal with the consequences. Second, women can always give children they don’t believe they’re in a position to raise up for adoption, so there’s no need to defray the costs of childrearing. These objections are worth addressing.

Sex Is a Part of Life

It’s all well and good to say that women shouldn’t have sex if they’re not prepared to have children, but real life doesn’t work like that. Human beings have a strong sex drive, and sex is an important part of most adults’ lives. Even abstinence-only sex education does not appear to change when teens begin to have sex. Regardless of whether lawmakers think they should be having sex, most women will have sex whether they feel they’re prepared to raise children or not. Some of those women will inevitably become pregnant.

We could help prevent women who are not financially prepared to raise children from having unintended pregnancies by ensuring that they have access to longterm birth control, including IUDs and implants. These methods tend to be both the most effective and the most expensive. Numerous studies have shown that when teens and low-income women are offered free access to longterm birth control, the rate of unintended pregnancies they experience drops. However, lawmakers who impose restrictions on abortion tend to oppose offering women free or low-cost longterm contraceptives—contraceptives that allow women to most effectively choose when they are or are not ready to have children.

I have seen abortion opponents argue that women who have sex when they aren’t in a position to have children and become pregnant should face the consequences—i.e., struggling with the financial costs of raising that child. However, the woman isn’t the only one who suffers in this situation; the child suffers too. Besides, this framework positions the child as a consequence to be borne. When has that framing ever worked out well? If lawmakers take steps to ensure that these women can afford to raise the children they will now be required to raise, they can help ensure that that childrearing will be a joy (and not a punishment)—for both the woman and the child.

Finally, whether or not lawmakers approve of the sex a given woman was having, they’re the ones requiring her to carry an unintended pregnancy to term. Lawmakers may view women who become pregnant unintentionally as irresponsible, but in fact, banning abortion takes away an avenue for exercising responsibility—women who abort are often doing so because it is the “responsible” thing to do. In taking away abortion, lawmakers are making the choice to require that woman to continue her pregnancy—and if they’re going to force a woman to bear a child she otherwise need not bear, they have an obligation to ensure that she can afford to raise it.

Adoption Is Not Magic

When I point out that attempts to restrict abortion should be coupled with social programs to ensure that women can afford to raise the children that result from unintended pregnancies, I am frequently informed that a woman does not have to raise a child she bears—she can give it up for adoption. This is presented as a win-win—women don’t have to raise or financially provide for children that result from pregnancies they didn’t intend to have, no abortions required. There are several problems with this response.

To begin with, let’s not underestimate the invasiveness of pregnancy. Pregnancy comes with a variety of health risks. Some women spend months on bedrest.  Even absent major medical problems, women who have jobs that require a lot of standing may find the last few months of pregnancy trying—and then there’s childbirth and recovery. We don’t force women to become surrogates for a reason. While abortion opponents might argue that this is simply part of the package—that when you have sex you open yourself up to the possibility of undergoing pregnancy—abortion renders this untrue. Women can still choose. If lawmakers ban abortion, it is that ban, and not women’s decision to have sex, that will ultimately force women to undergo pregnancy whether they want to or not.

There is a reason the rate of domestic infant adoptions has decreased: Single women who become pregnant and carry to term now choose to keep their babies, rather than giving them up for adoption. Today, 40% of all births are out of wedlock. Having a baby outside of marriage no longer carries the same level of stigma it once did; today, women who become pregnant out of wedlock and choose to carry it tend to keep the baby rather than giving it up. Given this context, take steps to ensure that these women can raise their children themselves rather than assuming women in tight financial situations will give their babies up for adoption?

Forty-nine percent of abortion patients are below the poverty level. I am severely uncomfortable with requiring a woman to choose between raising a child in grinding poverty and giving it up. I understand that women have long faced this choice. I understand that women who do give infants up for adoption often do so because they believe their child will have a better life in an adoptive home than what they could give them. I am in no way denigrating that choice. I know many people who are adopted, or who have adopted. I am absolutely in support of adoption. However. In our country, we have a history of coercive adoption. I do not like that history. I believe in choice, and that means raising that child should at least be an option—and that requires ensuring that there are social programs in place to defray some of the most prohibitive costs involved in that undertaking.

Finally, not every baby is adoptable. The majority of abortion patients are women of color. While healthy white infants are often in high demand, babies with disabilities or medical problems, or babies of color, may wind up in foster care rather than in the arms of a couple desperate to have a child. Our foster care system is chronically underfunded, and outcomes are often poor. Proponents of adoption argue that adoption offers women with unintended pregnancies the chance to know that their children are in loving homes, but this is not always true. After all, our foster care system is full of children who are legally adoptable, and yet not adopted. Infants may fare better, but this is not a universal given, and would not necessarily remain true if the adoption market were flooded with new infants.

Conclusion

Any argument that women should close their legs if they don’t want the expense of raising children, or that women who can’t afford to raise children should simply give their baby up for adoption, rests on a number of problematic assumptions. Women who might choose abortion if the procedure is available would not necessarily choose adoption if required to carry that pregnancy to term. Any attempt to require women to deal with the expenses of raising an unintended child as a consequence of having sex when they weren’t financially prepared to raise a child punishes the child as well as the woman. This is not that complicated.

No lawmaker—in Indiana or elsewhere—should be allowed to even talk about banning abortion without someone pointing out the incumbent obligation to ensure that women faced with unintended pregnancies they must now carry to term are financially able to adequately care for and raise that child. Oh—and I’ll add mental healthcare to the list I outlined in my previous post.

October 13, 2016

Last spring I dissected an article by Melissa Moschella, a philosophy professor at Catholic University of America. Moschella contended that the Obergefell decision was a threat to parents’ rights. In the piece I looked at, she asked to whom children belong. Moschella argued that Obergefell suggests that children belong to the state, rather than to the parents. I pointed out that there have long been a variety of family forms and that the state by necessity must decide whose guardianship of a child to uphold. In a second article, which I put off analyzing at the time, she creates a defense of parental authority. I want to take some time to look at that second piece now.

Parental authority is fundamentally grounded in parental obligations, for as everyone recognizes, caring for children requires making decisions on their behalf. Therefore, showing that parents have primary, pre-political childrearing authority requires showing (1) that the obligations of parents to their children are stronger and more direct than the obligations of the larger political community, and (2) that the obligations of parents to their children are in no way derived from the obligations of the larger community, but rather are original, based on the very nature of the parent-child relationship.

I feel the need to mention, at this point, that cultures have differed widely in what authority parents are given over their children. In some cultures parents’ have sole authority over their children, in some cultures grandparents have a great deal of say, and in still other cultures children grow up communally.

If I have a personal relationship with someone, then that particular person will have needs that only I can meet, and vice versa. The obligation is non-transferable precisely because I am uniquely able to meet it. I may have more serious competing obligations that excuse me from fulfilling it, but it nevertheless can’t be fulfilled by anyone else. For example, if a husband promises to take his wife out for a romantic dinner one evening, and an unforeseen emergency arises at work requiring him to stay late, he may be excused from keeping his promise, but no one else can fulfill that obligation in his stead.

I am really confused by this section. I have lots of friends I go to to vent over things that happen or to hash over new political developments, and if one isn’t available I find another. I don’t have one friend who is “uniquely” capable of meeting a need I have. And sure, I can’t have a romantic dinner with a girlfriend in place of my husband (though we’d have a kick-ass non-romantic dinner in a heartbeat), but the transferability spouse-spouse relationship seems uniquely different from that of other relationships in that in Western society we tend to confine romance to that relationship and that relationship only.

The special responsibility that biological parents have for their children is non-transferable because only biological parents can give to their children the benefit of their parental love. The relationship between children and their biological parents is intimate, permanent, and identity-constituting. It defines the biological aspect of the child’s identity—for if the child had different biological parents, he would not be the same person; indeed he would not exist at all. Children do not miss being loved by those with whom they have no intimate relationship; the unique, irreplaceable intimacy of the parent-child relationship manifests itself in the fact that a child can miss the specific love and care of an absent biological parent, even when he is well-loved by (say) adoptive parents.

Oh boy. Nope. So much nope.

I have friends who foster, including several who are in the process of adopting foster kids. All of this talk about the love of biological parents being irreplaceable is crap. Now yes, many (though not all) adopted children are curious about their biological parents at some point. But that isn’t always about wanting to know whether they were loved—sometimes it’s simple curiosity, in the same way that I did genealogical research in high school because I was curious about my ancestors, not because I needed to know whether my great-great grandmother would have loved me if she’d known me. And not all adopted children do wonder about their biological parents—I have a brother-in-law who was adopted, and I’ve heard him say that he has literally and genuinely no desire to look up his biological parents in any way.

Children need love. They need to know the they are cared for, valued, and wanted. None of that requires having the same DNA, and suggesting it does is incredibly harmful not only to adopted children but also to children whose parents are abusive or neglectful. Not all biological parents make their children feel cared for, valued, or wanted. I wish we could get away from this focus on biology and move toward a focus on care. Yes, the default should be for children to be raised by their biological parents. I’m not suggesting that children be raised collectively or routinely shuffled or some such. But that children are raised by parents who love them and care for them should be more important, ultimately, than biology.

What about adoptive parents? Usually, biological parents cannot fulfill their non-transferable obligation to love their children except by actually raising those children. Sometimes, however, the biological parents reasonably judge that the best way to promote the child’s well-being is to arrange for him or her to be raised by others who are more competent—ideally, in a household that is itself an intact biological family with a married mother and father.

Wait wait wait wait. Why should an adoptive household “ideally” be “an intact biological family with a married mother and father”? I get wanting it to be a stable household. I get wanting there to be at least two adult caregivers, because raising children is hard on a solo parent (though that doesn’t mean we should prevent single people from adopting). I don’t get why it has to involve a man and a woman rather than two men or two women. This is Moschella’s Catholicism showing, and with nothing at all to back it up but dogma.

Some time ago, a friend of mine from undergrad visited my home with his boyfriend. It was delightful getting to know both of them, and I was not at all surprised when they tied the knot last year. As I got to know them, I remember thinking what good dads they’ll make someday, if they choose to have children. They’re the kind of warm, friendly individuals children are naturally attracted to. They’re caring and relatable, and always ready to listen. They have so many characteristics that are important to good parenting. But because they’re both men, Moschella writes them off entirely, without explanation.

In the normal case, the biological relationship—an intimate, permanent, and (for the child) identity-defining personal relationship—is what initially grounds the obligation to love and care for a child (along with the corresponding parental authority). For adoptive parents, obligation (and the corresponding authority) starts with the commitment they make to step in where biological parents can’t, but once they have established an intimate relationship with the child, it is the existence of that relationship—and the child’s ensuing dependency on them—that grounds their obligation to continue parenting, and their authority over their children. While the ideal is for the biological, psychological and moral aspects of parenthood to be unified, adoptive parents are true parents psychologically and morally, and thus more fully parents than those whose parenthood is merely biological.

Moschella here states that while adoptive parents are not biological parents, they are parents psychologically and morally, which makes them “more fully parents than those whose parenthood is merely biological”—meaning biological parents who give their children up for adoption, I assume. But why cut same-sex couples out of this? And how does legalizing same-sex marriage threaten or change any of this? That, remember, was Moschella’s claim in the post in her two-part series.

So parents—biological or adoptive—are those who have the strongest and most direct obligation to care for their children, and this obligation is the basis of their authority over those children. The scope and content of this authority, as against the state’s, remains to be established.

I do not disagree with any of that.

The gestation of a human being is a long process that requires not only bringing the child to a state of relative physical independence, but also to a state of relative moral, psychological, and intellectual independence. And just as a mother’s womb is the ideal place for physical and psychological gestation during the first nine months of life, so the natural family is the ideal place to complete that gestation, extending it morally and intellectually.

Again, there’s a missing piece here—Moschella has offered no reason for why children couldn’t undergo this moral and intellectual gestation with same-sex parents, or for why Obergefell changes any of this.

 

The family, grounded in conjugal marriage, is a natural authority structure with a natural form (married biological parents and their children) that corresponds to unchanging features of human nature and deep human needs. The state didn’t create that structure, and it’s not from the state that parents get their authority.

I am really curious what Moschella means when she says “natural.” Marriage itself is a structure we have created. Yes, the practice of selecting a mate goes way back, as does the practice of (occasionally) forming new family groups (though what those groups look like has long varied). But formal marriage and inheritance laws and child custody laws—all of these things are in some sense artificial structures we have created.

Where do parents get their authority? From a historical standpoint, it appears that parents get their authority from the community’s willingness to grant them it. At various times and in various cultures (including our own), communities have decided to confiscate the children of unmarried women and have them raised by others. Some communities have chosen to raise children communally, sometimes even barring parents from showing any preference for their own child. In our society today, our community norms are enshrined in law—biological parents are given authority over their children unless they abuse or neglect them, in which case the children are removed.

Let’s imagine a world in which the state does nothing to back up parents’ authority over their children. In that world, there would be nothing to stop an uncle from taking a child from its parents, and raising it in their stead. The community might rise up, of course, and carry out some sort of extrajudicial action, or the parents might storm the uncle’s house with a gun, but if the uncle has the community on his side and has the ability to protect himself and the child, the parents would be out of options. In a world where the state does back up parents’ authority over their children, the state would step in, and retrieve the child from the uncle, and return it to its biological parents. In other words, parents have authority over their children in practice because the state backs up their right to raise their children (within certain boundaries).

If the state denies the naturalness and normativity of conjugal marriage by abolishing it in law and replacing it with a construct of its own making; and if, further, in doing so it declares that defending the naturalness and normativity of conjugal marriage constitutes bigotry, then the result will be the elimination in law of any privileged status for conjoined biological parenthood, since conjugal marriage is the only type of relationship within which conjoined biological parenthood occurs.

Ah, but Moschella, already couples are permitted to divorce and already many couples have children outside of marriage, and yet biology is still privileged. When a couple divorces, the court attempts to create some form of joint custody, starting with the assumption that both parents should still have some say in the raising of their children. When a woman has a child out of wedlock, the child’s biological father can ask for custody rights, or be charged child support. I don’t think there’s any danger of our society ceasing to place the responsibilities of parenthood first on a child’s biological parents.

There was a time when a wife would automatically lose all rights to her children if she left her husband. There was a time when women who had children out of wedlock had no rights to those children. Those times are past and gone. We no longer live in a world where marriage and parenting so entertained that one cannot happen without the other. We have not lived in such a world for some time now. And that is why, quite simply, marriage equality is not a threat to parental rights.

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September 21, 2016

In 2008, when Obama was running for president, Focus on the Family put out a sixteen page document called “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” In 2012, I revisited this letter. Today, in 2016, it’s time I returned to it again.

The letter begins like this:

What will the United States be like if Senator Obama is elected? The most reliable way of predicting people’s future actions is by looking at their past actions. Jesus himself taught, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Anyone who has hired employees knows that – the best predictor of a person’s future job performance is not what he tells you he can do but what he has actually done in the past.

So here is a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-Left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court. The entire letter is written as a “What if?” exercise, but that does not make it empty speculation, because every future “event” described here is based on established legal and political trends that can be abundantly documented and that only need a “tipping point” such as the election of Senator Obama and a Democratic House and Senate to begin to put them into place.

Obama did have a Democratic House and Senate, though he lost both in the 2014 midterm election. Let’s take a look at the letter’s predictions.

Gay Rights

The first ten items deal with gay rights, focusing especially on same-sex marriage. The predictions here are a mixture of things that have happened or should happen, and things that have not happened and almost certainly will not happen. A few of the issues examined are boundary-line issues, points that involve gray areas and are still being hashed out today.

(1) Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys. (This was to be expected with a change in the court, since the 2000 decision Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts as a private organization to dismiss a homosexual scoutmaster, was a 5-4 decision, with Stevens, Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer dissenting even then.)

It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.

The Boy Scouts still exists. The organization decided voluntarily to allow troops to hire gay scoutmasters (but not to require them to do so). There was no Supreme Court decision that forced them to do this, and they did not choose to disband.

Boy Scouts has not had any trouble finding meeting places, though some churches have banned them. Obama has not expanded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, though he has endorsed legislation that would do so. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did rule that the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination extended to sexual orientation, but the Supreme Court ruled that churches are not bound by federal non-discrimination requirements, except for fully secular employees such as janitors.

So, no, this did not happen.

(2) Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.

Many Christian teachers objected to teaching first-graders that homosexual behavior was morally neutral and equal to heterosexuality. . . . But state after state ruled that their refusal to teach positively about homosexuality was the equivalent of hate speech, and they had to teach it or be fired. Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired, and there are hardly any evangelical teachers in public schools any more.

. . . In addition, many private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.

None of that has happened. None.

An increasing number of public schools do teach students about sexual orientations and gender identities, but I have heard nothing about mass teacher resignations. It is schools’ job to teach children about the diversity of the world in which they live. Yes, evangelicals see teaching children about sexual orientations in an accepting way as a challenge to their religious beliefs, and public school programs on gender and sexuality should acknowledge that some religious groups oppose specific orientations or identities. The point is not indoctrinating, but rather providing accurate information.

Consider young earth creationism. Because evangelicals cannot teach their religion in the classroom, they tried moving arguments for “creation science” or “intelligent design” into the classroom. However, the science behind these concepts is severely lacking (to say the least), while the science pointing to evolution is sound. The same is true here as well. Evangelicals cannot teach Leviticus in the classroom, so they’ve tended to argue that the “homosexual lifestyle” has medical or psychological consequences or that children of same-sex unions suffer. The problem is that none of this is true, and schools are supposed to teach information that is accurate.

What about the last point? Given that private Christian schools are still allowed to teach racism to their students if they so choose, suggesting that they’ll be banned from teaching Leviticus is not rational. As I’ve explained before, Christian schools have in the past gotten in trouble for racial discrimination in admissions, but not for racist teaching. What about Christian colleges and universities? Some such schools refuse to receive federal funding in the form of student aid, thus avoiding federal nondiscrimination regulations. Others schools that do take government funding have nonetheless applied for and been granted exemptions from these requirements, specifically so that they can discriminate against LGBT students and women. And all of this has been about enrollment and treatment, not curriculum content.

(3) Adoption agencies: “The land of the free”? There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses. Just as the Catholic Charities adoption agency had closed down for this reason in Massachusetts in 2006, so all similar agencies across the United States have now closed down rather than violate their consciences about the moral wrong of homosexual behavior.

Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with “narrow” or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.

Actually, this still hasn’t been worked out, and same-sex couples are subject to a patchwork of adoption requirements. Catholic Charities ceased operating in Illinois, but they appear to still be operating everywhere else. Also? Their whole “land of the free” thing seems a bit backwards. One would think that the freedom to adopt without being discriminated against would matter. And while the letter predicts that Christian parents will have trouble adopting, it’s still same-sex couples who are having the problems—some have had foster children they had hoped to adopt taken from them and placed with opposite-sex couples because of their sexual orientation. So, yeah. No. Did not happen.

(4) Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Let’s cut to the chase here—the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015. That means that same-sex couples do have access to spousal benefits, if they are married. However, companies may still fire employees for being gay in most states. I also don’t think companies have to provide special documentation on this. I’m going to be generous, though, and say that this one partly happened.

(5) Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed broadcasting and print restrictions that were in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.

Hahahahahahah nope, didn’t happen.

(6) Doctors and lawyers: “The land of the free”? Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine, following the reasoning of a decision of the California Supreme Court in North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Benitez), which was announced August 18, 2008. As a result, many Christian physicians have retired or left the practices of family medicine and obstetrics & gynecology. Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.

I have questions. Does Focus on the Family, which put out this letter, want doctors to be able to refuse to artificially inseminate divorced or single women too? What if someone wanted to refuse to artificially inseminate Christian women, on the grounds that raising a child in a religious home is child abuse? Where do we stop? Do doctors interview women to determine whether they should be allowed to be mothers before artificially inseminating them? The above predictions didn’t happen, that I can find, but they probably should.

(7) Counselors and social workers: “The land of the free”? All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide “professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling” for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.

Some universities have refused counseling degrees to students who refused to counsel gay couples. To put it another way, at some universities, learning how to counsel gay couples and gaining experience with counseling gay couples is now a prerequisite for obtaining a degree in counseling. However, that isn’t a blanket requirement at all universities, and at least one state has passed a law explicitly permitting counselors and therapists to refuse to serve LGBT individuals.

So, no, this did not happen.

(8) Homosexual weddings: “The land of the free”? Church buildings are now considered a “public accommodation” by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and anti- discrimination lawsuits.

Nope. Did not happen.

(9) Homosexual church staff members: “The land of the free”? While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as part-time youth pastor or director of counseling. Those that have rejected homosexual applicants have had their tax-exempt status revoked, and now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun to impose heavy fines for each instance of such “discrimination,” which, they say, is “contrary to the U.S. Constitution as defined by the Supreme Court.” These fines follow the pattern of a precedent-setting case in February 2008, in which the Diocese of Hereford in the Church of England was fined $94,000 (47,000 UK pounds) for turning down a homosexual applicant for a youth ministry position.

Actually, the opposite is true. Churches are only required to follow non-discrimination laws for secular positions such as janitor. And yes, this is something the Supreme Court decided.

(10) Homosexuals in the military: One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to compensate for past discrimination), and all new recruits, and all active-duty and reserve personnel, are compelled to take many hours of “sensitivity training” to ensure they demonstrate positive attitudes toward those with different sexual orientations and practices. Any one who seems hesitant or who objects is routinely passed over for promotion. In addition, any chaplain who holds to an interpretation of Scripture that homosexual conduct is morally wrong and therefore does not espouse “mainstream values,” is dismissed from the military. This is not “the land of the free” for them.

Yes, “don’t as, don’t tell” was repealed. Gay recruits do not, to my knowledge, get special bonuses. I also have not heard of military members being passed over for promotion based on their views, or of chaplains being dismissed. We’re going to rate this one as partly happened.

Religion in the Public Square

The next four items deal with religious speech in the public square.

(11) High schools: “The land of the free”? High schools are no longer free to allow “See You at the Pole” meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both “proselytizing” and involves “worship,” special categories of speech which, as liberal Justice John Paul Stevens argued in his dissent in Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001), should not be allowed in public schools, since it is in a different category from other kinds of speech. (Justice Souter filed a similar dissent, which Justice Ginsburg joined). The new 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court followed his reasoning and outlawed any use of school property for any kind of religious meeting, even outside of normal school hours. In addition, Christian students cannot raise religious objections to curriculum material that promotes homosexual behavior.

Did not happen.

(12) Church use of school property: “The land of the free”? Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose. Most of these churches have been unable to find any suitable place to meet. Public libraries and public parks are similarly excluded from allowing churches to use their facilities. Once again, the reasoning of liberal Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg in 2001 in Good News Club (see above) was able to garner 6-3 support with the new court.

Did not happen.

(13) Campus ministries: “The land of the free”? Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist.

After the Supreme Court ruled that “proselytizing” speech and “worship” speech did not have the same First Amendment protection as other speech, and after it declared same-sex “marriage” to be the law of the United States, a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote “hate speech” and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies.

This has not happened.

In 2014, Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity were briefly de-recognized by the California State University system because the groups refused to sign a state-mandated nondiscrimination policy pledging to allow any individual, regardless of religion or sexual orientation, to run for leadership positions. Both groups were still allowed on campus and permitted to meet in rooms on campus, and what the groups taught was never at issue. In 2015, the dispute was settled when both groups agreed to sign the policy. Neither had to change their stance on homosexuality to do so.

(14) Pledge of Allegiance: “The land of the free”? Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.

HahahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHA nope. NOPE. Did not happen.

In actual fact, students who choose not to say the pledge of allegiance still face censure across the country, and if you’re an athlete and you don’t stand for the national anthem, people get hella angry.

Abortion

Three questions deal with abortion.

(15) Freedom of Choice Act: Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, “The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund).

This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically. The Freedom of Choice Act also reversed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, so infants can be killed outright just seconds before they would be born. States whose laws were overturned challenged the law in court but it was upheld by the Obama Supreme Court. “The land of the free”? There is no freedom for these infants who are killed by the millions.

Not only did this not happen, but the years since 2008 have been a time of unprecedented anti-aboriton legislation, as states across the country have passed literally hundreds of laws restricting the practice. This summer, the Supreme Court finally pushed these laws back slightly, ruling against some completely egregious restrictions that were transparently designed to make abortions harder to obtain, but even that ruling did not nullify any state law “that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion.”

(16) Nurses and abortions: “The land of the free”? Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences. A number of Christian nurses challenged their loss of jobs in court, but the Supreme Court ruled that medical professionals do not have the freedom to refuse nonessential, elective care on the basis of conscience. In its decision, the Supreme Court followed the reasoning of the California Supreme Court in the 2008 Benitez case (see section (6) above).

Did not happen.

(17) Doctors and abortions: “The land of the free”? The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and obstetrics, and many have retired.

Did not happen.

Pornography and Gun Rights

There are only one item each on pornography and gun rights.

18) Pornography: “The land of the free”? It’s almost impossible to keep children from seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts. The court applied more broadly the “Miller test” from the 1973 decision in Miller v. California, by which a work could not be found obscene unless “the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value.” In the 2011 decision, the court essentially found that any pornographic work had some measure of “serious artistic value,” at least according to some observers, and thus any censorship of pornographic material was an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment. In addition, all city and county laws restricting pornography were struck down by this decision. As a result, pornographic magazines are openly displayed in gas stations, grocery stores and on newsstands (as they have been in some European countries for several years).

OMG, did not happen.

(19) Guns: “The land of the free”? It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for self- defense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). In the new decision, a response to test cases from Oregon, Massachusetts, and Vermont, the court adopted the view of the Second Amendment that had been defended in Heller by the four liberal justices, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer.

In this new decision, the court specified that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a “well regulated militia” in the various states. To those who argued that this view was not the “original intent” of the framers, they pointed to a long history of dispute over the interpretation of the expression and then said that, in any case, the Constitution was an “evolving” document that must change with the times, and so what may have been applicable in 1790 need no longer be decisive. Therefore they allowed cities and states to limit gun ownership to active-duty military personnel and police officers. Citizens in those areas who are discovered owning guns have been subjected to heavy fines and imprisonment. Inner-city violent crime has increased dramatically.

Once again, the opposite happened. Also, I don’t think the author of this letter understands how the Supreme Court works. It is extremely rare for the Supreme Court to simply overturn a previous decision, and if that does happen it generally happens substantially later, not in the following decade. The idea that the Supreme Court would point-blank reverse District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) by 2012 is historical fantasy. Instead, since 2008 an increasing number of states have legalized concealed or open carry of weapons, sometimes eliminating the need for a permit.

Education

There’s only one item on education.

(20) Home schooling: “The land of the free”? Parents’ freedom to teach their children at home has been severely restricted. The Supreme Court, to the delight of the National Education Association, followed the legal reasoning of a February 28, 2008, ruling in Re: Rachel L by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California (although that ruling was later reversed). In the later case, the Supreme Court declared that home schooling was a violation of state educational requirements except in cases where the parents (a) had an education certificate from an accredited state program., (b) agreed to use state-approved textbooks in all courses, and (c) agreed not to teach their children that homosexual conduct is wrong, or that Jesus is the only way to God, since these ideas have been found to hinder students’ social adjustment and acceptance of other lifestyles and beliefs, and to run counter to the state’s interest in educating its children to be good citizens. Parents found in violation of this ruling have been subject to prosecutions for truancy violation, resulting in heavy fines and eventual removal of their children from the home. Thousands of home schooling parents, seeing no alternative in the United States, have begun to emigrate to other countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, where home schooling is still quite prevalent.

The author does not understand In re. Rachel L. In that decision, the court simply stated that California did not appear to have a homeschooling statute, which indeed it did not. If the courts had not found a way to allow homeschooling under another statute, the legislature would almost certainly have created an explicit homeschool statue. In other words, the issue was whether homeschooling could take place under existing statutes or whether the legislature needed to create a specific statute for homeschooling. What parents taught about homosexuality, whether they used state-approved textbooks, and whether they had education certificates was not an issue in this case.

Homeschooling has become widespread enough and widely accepted enough that the Supreme Court scenario laid out above is nothing more than a fantasy. At most, courts may someday rule that homeschooling parents must show verification that they are educating their children, in the form of test scores or student portfolios, something only a few states require parents to do today. But this has not happened. Since 2008, at least half a dozen states have loosened their homeschooling requirements, in some cases eliminating them altogether.

Military Policy

There are five items on foreign policy.

(21) Iraq: “The home of the brave”? President Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and began regular withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, completing it in the promised 16 months, by April 2010. All was peaceful during those months, but then in May 2010, Al-Qaida operatives from Syria and Iran poured into Iraq and completely overwhelmed the Iraqi security forces. A Taliban-like oppression has taken over in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of “American sympathizers” have been labeled as traitors, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The number put to death may soon reach the millions.

Al-Qaida leaders have been emboldened by what they are calling the American “defeat” and their ranks are swelling in dozens of countries.

It would be tempting to find this one true, given the emergence of ISIS, but as numerous reporters have pointed out, ISIS is primarily the result of failures in the new Iraqi government rather than of the removal of American forces from that country. Still, you could argue that Obama has not done enough to stop ISIS (or hasn’t happened on the magic formula that would do so). So we’ll give this one partly true.

(22) Terrorist attacks: “The home of the brave”? President Obama directed U.S. intelligence services to cease all wiretapping of alleged terrorist phone calls unless they first obtained a warrant for each case. Terrorists captured overseas, instead of being tried in military tribunals, are given full trials in the U.S. court system, and they have to be allowed access to a number of government secrets to prepare their defense.

Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe. President Obama in each case has vowed “to pursue and arrest and prosecute those responsible,” but no arrests have been made. However, he has challenged the nation to increase foreign aid to the poorer nations that were the breeding grounds for terrorism, so people could have an opportunity to escape from the cycles of poverty and violence in which generations had been trapped.

Nope. Wiretapping still happens, and the idea that terrorists would need to be given access to government secrets to prepare their defense is pure fantasy. Obama never shut Guantanamo, though he initially said he would. There have been several terrorist attacks, yes, but none that have killed hundreds, and the largest attack targeted the same group this letter targets heavily in its first ten points—the gays. These attacks have nearly universally been carried out by lone wolfs, not by Al Qaeda or any other official group. Arrests have been made in each case (or the perpetrators have been killed), and anyone who feels like no place is safe is terrible at risk assessment.

(23) Russia: “The home of the brave”? As Vice President Joe Biden had predicted on Oct. 20, 2008, some hostile foreign countries “tested” President Obama in his first few months in office. The first test came from Russia. In early 2009, they followed the pattern they had begun in Georgia in 2008 and sent troops to occupy and re-take several Eastern European countries, starting with the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. President Obama appealed to the United Nations (UN), taking the same approach he had in his initial statements when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008: “Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war,” and “All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis.” But Russia sits on the Security Council, and no U.N. action has yet been taken.

Then in the next three years, Russia occupied additional countries that had been previous Soviet satellite nations, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, with no military response from the U.S. or the U.N. NATO heads of state have severely condemned Russia’s actions each time but they could never reach consensus on military action. Liberal television commentators in both the U.S. and Europe have uniformly expressed deep regret at the loss of freedom of these countries but have also observed that “the U.S. cannot be the world’s policeman.”

Um, guys? All of those countries except for the Ukraine are in NATO. If Russia had actually invaded Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, or Bulgaria, that would have triggered immediate military action by NATO. Period. The only reason Russia’s been able to get away with invading and annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula is that the Ukraine is not in NATO, and even then, I suspect there would have been military action if Russia had gone further. I’m again going to be generous, though, and give this a partly happened rating.

But you know what? The 2016 Republican presidential nominee seems to really really really like and admire Vladimir Putin, so I’ll let you chew on that.

(24) Latin America: President Obama has also moved to deepen U.S. ties and U.S. trade with communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, regimes that had long enjoyed the favor of far-Left factions in the Democratic Party. Several other Latin American countries seem ready to succumb to insurgent communist revolutionary factions funded and armed by millions of petrodollars from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Obama normalized relations with Cuba, yes. However, not only have the insurgent communist revolutions not happened, some Latin American nations have experienced right-wing coups. As for Venezuela, the country has been run into the ground and its communist government will likely be replaced within the next few years. I’m not going to give this a partly, because in my eyes Latin America’s overall rightward shift balances out the normalization of relations with Cuba.

(25) Israel: “The home of the brave”? In mid-2010, Iran launched a nuclear bomb that exploded in the middle of Tel Aviv, destroying much of that city. They then demanded that Israel cede huge amounts of territory to the Palestinians, and after an anguished all-night Cabinet meeting, Israel’s prime minister agreed. Israel is reduced to a much smaller country, hardly able to defend itself, and its future remains uncertain. President Obama said he abhorred what Iran had done and he hoped the U.N. would unanimously condemn this crime against humanity. He also declared that the U.S. would be part of any international peacekeeping force if authorized by the U.N., but the Muslim nations in the U.N. have so far prevented any action.

None. Did not happen. Also, I’m pretty sure that if Iran did nuke an Israeli city, Israel would respond by nuking much of Iran, not by rolling over. Instead, we saw a new nuclear deal with Iran which many hope will successfully prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon.

Health Care

There are two items on healthcare.

(26) Health care systems: The new Congress under President Obama passed a nationalized “single provider” health care system, in which the U.S. government is the provider of all health care in the United States, following the pattern of nationalized medicine in the United Kingdom and Canada. The great benefit is that medical care is now free for everyone — if you can get it. Now that health care is free, it seems everybody wants more of it. The waiting list for prostate cancer surgery is 3 years. The waiting list for ovarian cancer is 2 years. Just as the Canadian experience had shown prior to 2008 with its nationalized health care, so in the U.S. only a small number of MRIs are performed — down 90% from 2008 — because they are too expensive, and they discover more problems that need treatment, so they are almost never authorized.

Did not happen. The legislation Obama did pass created a guaranteed market for insurance companies, a far cry from nationalization. Also? Part of the reason healthcare is so expensive in the U.S. is that doctors arguably order too many tests. It’s possible that healthcare professionals in Canada should be performing more MRIs—that’s not a subject I have the familiarity to speak to—but the goal is not more of all the tests but rather balance.

(27) Limited care for older Americans: “The land of the free”? Because medical resources must be rationed carefully by the government, people older than 80 have essentially no access to hospitals or surgical procedures. Their “duty” is increasingly thought to be to go home to die, so they don’t drain scarce resources from the medical system. Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.

Um NO. Did not happen, will not happen. I mean good god, this does not even happen in countries that do have nationalized medicine! I mean we’re clear that developed countries with nationalized healthcare essentially all have higher life expectancies than the U.S., yes?

Taxes, Economy, and the Poor

This section has four items.

(28) Taxes: Tax rates have gone up on personal income, dividends, capital gains, corporations, and inheritance transfers. The amount of income subject to Social Security tax has nearly doubled. The effect on the economy has been devastating. We have experienced a prolonged recession. Everyone has been hurt by this, but the poor have been hurt most. In dozens of cities, there are no jobs to be found.

It turns out that the people President Obama called “the rich” were not all that rich. They were just ordinary people who worked hard, saved, and built small businesses that provided jobs and brought economic growth. They kept inventing new and better ways to produce things and bring prices down. They produced the goods and services that gave us the highest standard of living in history. They provided the competition that kept prices low. And the top 50% of earners were already paying 97% of income taxes collected by the U.S. government in 2006.

Oh goodness so many problems here. For one, taxes on “the rich” were much higher in the 1950s, and we did just fine in terms of economy and job growth. For another, we’ve already tried “trickle down” economics where we cut taxes on the rich under the assumption that they’ll use the money they save to create jobs, and it hasn’t worked. There’s so much misinformation and confusion out there about what our tax structure does, would, or could look like that it would be comical if it weren’t so very serious.

So, did the prediction happen? No. Obama raised taxes slightly on those making over $400,000 a year, keeping rates well below the tax rates of the Clinton era. The amount of income subject to Social Security tax has not doubled. It has gone from 102K to 118K, an increase far less steep than that under Bush (who increased it from 76K to 102K). There is nothing to suggest that these very slight tax increases have devastated our economy.

What about jobs? There was an immediate job loss as a recession hit simultaneously with Obama’s election. Obama has spent his two terms working to bring the country out of this recession, and has succeeded. Job growth was stagnant under Bush. Not so under Obama.

(29) Budget deficit: The federal budget deficit has increased dramatically under President Obama, in spite of higher tax rates. Increasing tax rates on “the rich” did nothing to reduce the deficit because the economy shrank so much with reduced investment that the total dollars collected in taxes actually decreased — even though most people’s tax rate is now higher. As numerous economists had predicted, higher tax rates meant that the government took in less money. When reporters asked Obama why he still favored higher taxes on the rich when it brought in no more money, he replied that it was important that the rich pay their fair share.

Sigh. This is one of those that is sort of right, but for the wrong reason. Budget deficits were unprecedentedly highduring Obama’s first term. They have come down since then, but the reason for the high deficits was the recession, not changes in tax rates. Look, increasing taxes on the rich does not de facto cause the economy to shrink. Decreasing taxes on the rich does not de facto cause the economy to grow. I get that these are huge conservative talking points, but guys, the world is not that simple.

FYI, the federal budget deficit increased dramatically under Bush. Bush inherited a budget surplus and left the country with a budget deficit. Obama inherited a recession, and then brought the deficit down to where Bush left it. In fact, the 2009 deficit had already been decided when Obama took office—decided under Bush—and has decreased each year from there.

(30) Union organizing: “The land of the free”? In 2009, Congress passed and President Obama quickly signed a “card check” program that nullified the requirement for secret ballots when voting on whether workers wanted a union shop. Now the union has to get signatures from a majority of workers in any business, and unions around the country are using strong-arm tactics to intimidate anyone who stands in their way. Several industries are completely unionized, and prices of goods produced by those industries have shot up as a result.

Did not happen.

(31) Energy: World demand for oil continues to climb, and prices keep going up, but President Obama for four years has refused to allow additional drilling for oil in the United States or offshore. Gas costs more than $7 per gallon, and many Democrats openly applaud this, since high prices reduce oil consumption and thus reduce carbon dioxide output. But working Americans are hit hard by these costs.

Nuclear energy would provide a substitute for oil in some cases, and could generate electricity to power electric cars, but environmentalist legal challenges have prevented the construction of nuclear plants, and the courts have been leaning so far in a pro-environmentalist direction that nobody expects the construction of nuclear plants for several decades, if ever. Obama keeps reminding people we cannot guarantee it will be safe.

As for coal, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to implement strict new carbon emission standards that drove many coal-powered electric plants out of business. The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation. The price of electricity has tripled in places like California, which also faces rolling blackouts during peak energy periods. The impact on our economy, and our homes, has been devastating.

Ha. First, Obama allowed for loads more oil drilling. Second, Obama is actually pro-nuclear, and has approved new nuclear power plants and created rulings friendly to nuclear power. Coal plants are shutting down, yes, but that’s at least partly because they’re old and because demand for them is decreasing.

The price of electricity in California increased from 12.48 cents per kilowatt to 15.15 cents per kilowatt, and no, there have not been rolling blackouts (or periodic blackouts resulting from energy shortages).

And look at this fascinating graph. We have not lost ground in total electric power available. Instead, the sources have simply shifted.

Talk Radio, Christian Publishers, and Prosecution

These are the last three items in the letter.

(32) Fairness Doctrine: “The land of the free”? By the summer of 2009, the five-member FCC was controlled by Democratic appointees – including a chairman appointed by President Obama. The “Fairness Doctrine” became a topic of FCC consideration following pressure from Democratic congressional leaders who initially did not have sufficient votes to pass the measure. The FCC quickly implemented the “Fairness Doctrine,” which requires that radio stations provide “equal time” for alternative views on political or policy issues.

As a result, all radio stations have to provide equal time to contrasting views for every political or policy-related program they broadcast by talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, Janet Parshall, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt, and broadcasters like Dr. James Dobson. Every conservative talk show is followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal “watchdog” group. Many listeners gave up in frustration, advertising (and donation) revenues dropped dramatically, and nearly all conservative stations have gone out of business or switched to alternative formats such as country or gospel or other music. Conservative talk radio, for all intents and purposes, was shut down by the end of 2010.

In order to solidify the Fairness Doctrine at the FCC, Congress in 2010 passed, and President Obama signed, legislation making it permanent. Many legal scholars had predicted the Fairness Doctrine would be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the liberal Obama court upheld it easily. Of course, this bill fit the deeper purpose of the liberal-Left wing of American politics, which trumps all other purposes, and that is getting and increasing its power so as to impose its agenda on the nation. It was not surprising the liberal Supreme Court went along.

Did not even begin to happen.

(33) Christian books: After the Supreme Court legalized same “sex marriage,” homosexual-activist groups targeted three large Christian book publishers that had publications arguing that homosexual conduct was wrong based on the teachings of the Bible. The activists staged marches and protests at Barnes & Noble stores around the country, demanding the stores remove all books published by these “hate-mongering” publishers. Barnes & Noble resisted for a time, but the protests continued, there was vandalism and secret defacing of books, and eventually the cost was too great and Barnes & Noble gave in. The same thing happened at Borders and other chains. Then they staged a massive nationwide computer attack on Amazon.com, with the same demands, and the same result. As a result, those evangelical publishers could no longer distribute any of their books through any of these bookstore chains. Any Christian publisher that dares to print works critical of homosexual behavior faces the same fate. As a result, several Christian publishers have gone out of business.

This did not happen. Also, Borders went under.

(34) Criminal charges against Republican officials: In his first week in office, Obama followed President Clinton’s precedent and fired all 93 U.S. attorneys, replacing them with his own appointments, including the most active members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). President Obama argued this was not a selective political action like what President Bush had done, because Obama had fired all of them, conservatives and liberals alike.

The Justice Department soon began to file criminal and civil charges against nearly every Bush administration official who had any involvement with the Iraq war. During his campaign, Senator Obama said, “What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued.” In order to facilitate these proceedings, President Obama rescinded President Bush’s executive order that had prevented presidential papers from being released, and millions of pages of previously secret White House papers were posted on the Internet. ACLU attorneys have spent four years poring over these papers looking for possible violations of law. Dozens of Bush officials, from the Cabinet level on down, are in jail, and most of them are also bankrupt from legal costs.

Nope. I can only find one executive official from Bush presidency who was convicted after Obama came to office, and he was only sentenced to two days in jail, and his crime was withholding information from a House Committee. The idea that dozens of Bush officials would be in jail by 2012 speaks to some real paranoia.

Conclusion

So, how close were the predictions? Out of 34 total predictions, five were partly right and one balanced itself out. Which were partly right? Marriage equality, the overturn of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the emergence of ISIS, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and the existence of large budget deficits. The reason these are partly right, and not wholly right, is because in each case the Focus on the Family letter predicted these things would lead to the wholesale expulsion of Christians or made other such outrageous predictions alongside the parts that actually did happen, or got the causality completely wrong.

Remember that the Focus on the Family letter predicted that pastors would be jailed for speaking against homosexuality, Christian publishing companies would be shuttered, that Christian doctors, nurses, and teachers would be fleeing their fields and that homeschooling families would be leaving the country in droves. Widespread energy shortages, a downward economic spiral, terrorist attacks that kill hundreds. Guns banned, the Pledge of Allegiance struck down, seniors put out to pasture to die.

I’ll repeat the point I made four years ago:

It’s like all those times Christian leaders have predicted Jesus’ return. You can only predict it and then have it not happen so many times before you lose all credibility whatsoever. It’s as if the Right is playing a game to see how many times they can predict the destruction of our freedoms before they get called on it. And seriously, it’s about time someone called them on it.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I grew up in an evangelical home and one thing I frequently heard was that we would know false prophets by their fruit. What does that make Focus on the Family, then?




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