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Southern Poverty Loses Cash

June 19, 2018

For the extremists at Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it’s been a record-shattering year. After limping through the last term of the Obama administration, hobbled by the connection to the shooting at FRC and a shunning by the FBI, U.S. Army, Justice Department, and media, the group’s fortunes started to change — quite literally — with the election of Donald Trump. Donations shot up 164 percent. By last October, total assets were close to the half-billion dollar mark.

SPLC’s comeback, aided by the largesse of Apple, JP Morgan, and other donors, hit a pretty significant roadblock this week when it was forced to pay Maajid Nawaz a $3.3 million settlement for wrongly including him on a list of anti-Muslim extremists. Nawaz, whose Quilliam group, became part of the organization’s infamous “hate” list, sued for defamation. “Placing my name on a list like this not only smears my name but also puts me in physical danger” — a fact FRC can vouch for after gunman Floyd Corkins used the SPLC’s map in his armed attack on our office almost six years ago.

Asked why he was fighting back, Nawaz said, “The Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, who made their money suing the KKK, was set up to defend people like me but now have become the monster they have claimed they wanted to defeat.” The pushback worked. SPLC had to cough up a significant amount of money and issued a public apology, which only weakens the group’s already shaky reputation. “After getting a deeper understanding of their views and after hearing from others for whom we have great respect,” SPLC admitted, “we realize that we were simply wrong to have included Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam in the Field Guide in the first place.” As for the multi-million dollar settlement, the group said, “It was the right thing to do in light of our mistake and the right thing to do in light of the growing prejudice against the Muslim community on both sides of the Atlantic. We will look to our insurance carrier to cover the cost of the settlement.”

For now, any pretense of SPLC’s neutrality is gone — and no self-respecting media outlet will pretend otherwise. This settlement ought to leave the press and big business without excuse if they continue to use the SPLC as an objective, independent source. Already, some seem to recognize as much. Over at the New York Post, editors were glad to see SPLC finally called on the carpet. “The SPLC rakes in donations by claiming to fight hate, but its lists of hate groups routinely include not just truly vile outfits but also ones that simply don’t toe a politically correct line… It’s probably too much to hope for, but maybe the SPLC will start thinking twice before trying to ‘counter’ hate by spreading hate of its own.”

Over at the Weekly Standard, editors tell readers that SPLC can “surely afford” the $3.3 million dollar damage control. But, they insist, “We’ll take the SPLC seriously when it labels itself a hate group.” Don’t hold your breath. The organization has been through the PR ringer over the last decade and somehow “clung on to its halo,” as NRO put it, even after peddling hysteria and hoaxes that put its opponents’ lives at legitimate risk.

“It has consequences, this sinister and spendthrift game that the SPLC has been playing…” Douglas Murray warns. “As of today it seems possible that the SPLC’s position may finally be taken back down to the position it should have been reduced to years ago. Perhaps after today those donors who still give money to the SPLC will realize that they are backing a disgraced and disgraceful organization, if any were unaware of and unbothered about this before

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 19, 2018

Where was all of this outrage about family separation at the border four years ago? That’s the question mainstream reporter David Martosko is asking about the 24/7 news cycle on current U.S. immigration policy. Like a lot of people, he’s astounded by the firestorm over America’s law for dealing with illegal immigrants for one reason: it’s not new.

In this noisy back-and-forth between the Trump administration and mainstream press, it’s become tough to separate fact from fiction. We all see the pictures of the kids huddled in an old Walmart supercenter, and our minds immediately jump to the conclusions the media is hoping for. But, as Martosko chides his colleagues behind news desks, “Political journalism needs a bit of housecleaning on this child border crisis. I’ll start,” he posts. “It was going on during the Obama years in large numbers. I never wrote about it. [I] was completely unaware, in large part because few reporters were interested enough to create critical mass… Why didn’t those kids matter as much as these? Few of us chased those stories down with any vigor.”

What’s changed? The person in the oval office, for one. Barack Obama separated children from their families too. As Breitbart points out in its “13 Facts the Media Doesn’t Want You to Know,” people crossing the border illegally were put in the same criminal justice system. “Obama, of course, rarely prosecuted, even though the law calls for it. Neither Democrats nor the media cared about family separation then — which proves this manufactured and coordinated uproar is only about politics.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s just as unhappy with the current immigration system as the rest of us, joined me on “Washington Watch” this afternoon to give us his unique perspective on the situation.

“We are a generous nation on issues of immigration, as you know. We put more than one million people a year on the pathway to citizenship, but there are so many holes in the system that it’s like Swiss cheese… and those who break in line are getting ahead and placing children at risk. We need legislative reform, and we need to do a better job of carrying out the laws we have… I can’t imagine many people saying they want the illegality to continue.”

Like me, he’s hopeful that all of the attention the media is giving this issue might actually be an opportunity to get something done. Maybe, we agreed, this controversy will bring all sides together to come up with what’s really needed in this country: comprehensive reform. But, he explains, there’s also a side to the story that the liberal press isn’t reporting.

“What we’ve seen in recent years is more and more families were [crossing the border illegally], and the reason we discovered that was happening was that we weren’t prosecuting adults with children. They were getting into the country, they were apprehended… and then they were released and asked to come back to court. And some came back to court, and some don’t come back to court. So they’re basically in the country and never returned home… In 2013, we had 14,000 like that. In 2017, we had 75,000. It became well known that if you came with a child, you weren’t going to be deported or prosecuted. And this created a massive loophole for us, and we have to try to close that loophole.”

Like Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to counter the liberties people are taking with the truth. In doing so, she made a key point: 10,000 of the 11,000 children in detention centers have been unaccompanied minors. In other words, a vast majority of kids in those photos making the social media rounds arrived alone and were already separated from their families. And, as Sessions pointed out in our interview, U.S. officials can’t assume these children are actually related to the adults who bring them across the border. Sometimes, they’re being trafficked or exploited by people posing as their parents in hopes that they’ll get preferential treatment.

Just as importantly, these children (and their parents) aren’t being mistreated. As Sessions himself pointed out, Americans spend close to a billion dollars a year caring for these kids. “We have high standards,” Nielsen told reporters. “We give them meals, and we give them education, and we give them medical care. There are videos, there are TVs. I visited the detention centers myself.” And, in most cases, the children don’t stay. “In the last fiscal year, 90 percent of apprehended children were released to a sponsor who was either a parent or close relative.”

Some of Trump’s opponents claim that this situation is different than how we deal with domestic lawbreakers. Richard Mack, founder and president of Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, joined me on radio to suggest otherwise.

“If moms and dads have committed crimes, the children will be removed to foster care. Sometimes, they’ll be removed to other relatives… but the children are definitely separated from their mom and dad when their mom and dad commit crimes… This is the normal, routine policy and procedure in dealing with parents who have committed a crime… It is no different than what is happening with border crimes committed every day by illegal immigrants. That everybody tries to dump this on Trump somehow, I find totally astonishing.”

That said, as Sessions insisted, “We do not want to separate children from their parents. We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk.” That was a fact he emphasized to a group of evangelical leaders — including me — at a meeting in Washington, D.C. today. He said he’s been talking with House and Senate members to find a solution: immigration policies that are just, fair, and enforceable.

The administration knows the system is broken — but that doesn’t mean the president is going to turn his back on the current law while Congress fixes it. If the president’s critics are so incensed by the current situation, then it’s time for them to come to the table and negotiate a solution.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 19, 2018

If the liberal media was hoping this immigration crisis would make people think twice about Donald Trump, they’ll have to try harder. The president’s approval ratings are getting a good bump — and so is the country he’s leading.

Not since 2005 have more people been happier with the way things are going in the United States. Today, 38 percent say they’re satisfied with the state of America, the highest since a 39-percent peak 13 years ago. “A supermajority of Republicans and a healthy slice of Independents are pleased with where the country is moving,” pollsters point out. Only Democrats seem stubbornly opposed to the growth of the economy, diplomatic success, and job numbers.

“The rise in satisfaction over the past two months comes amid a spate of positive economic news – including the shrinking of the unemployment rate to levels last seen in 2000, and the continuation of economic expansion that is now the second longest on record,” Townhall’s Matt Vespa points out.

Meanwhile, the numbers for the leader overseeing the shift aren’t shabby either. On Monday, Gallup also announced that President Trump tied the highest approval rating of his presidency — 45 percent, matched only by its highest mark the week after his inauguration. So when the extremists start jabbering away about all the people who don’t support what the White House is doing, just know: it’s more fake news.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Obama Holdovers Sabotage Trump's Best Aid Plans

June 18, 2018

“Victory in combat is only half of the battle,” Vice President Mike Pence said about America’s war against ISIS. He’s right. For the thousands of Christians and Yazidis who survived the horrors of the last four years, they have their lives — and not much else. Their villages reduced to ash, family members dead or missing, and no earthly possessions to speak of, the struggle for a lot of Middle Eastern minorities is just beginning. ISIS may be gone, but the dark shadow cast on the future of these people remains.

Even now, despite losing their grip on the land, these terrorists are still holding hundreds of Christian and Yazidi women and girls in captivity. Ekhlas Khudur Bajoo is one of the many who tried to flee. Kidnapped by ISIS in 2014 after she watched them murder her father, was raped again and again. She tried three times to escape after she was sold as a sex slave. Each time, her captors caught and beat her. On the fourth time, she made it. Ekhlas testified about the nightmare she’d experienced at a U.N. forum, pleading with the world to intervene. “We want justice and accountability for those perpetrators who raped me and my sisters and took our honor,” she added. “Come and hold my hand. I plead with you to stand with us. We want to feel humanity wipe our tears, to heal our wounds, to bring back the smiles on our faces, and to bring back the girls that are still in captivity.”

Rita Habib’s story is just as harrowing. A 30-year-old Christian, she was raped, traded, and tortured by jihadists, along with girls as young as nine. For a $30,000 fee, ISIS agreed to release her to an international advocacy group. In April, she was reunited with her father — the only other member of her family who survived. Like Ekhlas, she’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life. And while the U.S. is trying to help, the president’s team has been caught in the mess of red tape left behind by the last administration.

Months ago, Vice President Pence announced that the U.S. was cutting out the middleman when it came to fast-tracking aid to the Middle East. Instead of funneling money through an ineffective U.N., the Trump administration directed USAID to take full control of relief efforts. Turns out, the United Nations was only part of the problem. More than a half-year later, Pence has had to turn up the heat on USAID, which — like most agencies — seems to be saddled with some uncooperative Obama holdovers. “Restoring the rights and property of Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi communities, who were nearly wiped out by ISIS’s genocidal campaign against them, is a top and unceasing priority,” Pence made clear this month.

Mark Green, USAID administrator, understands all too well. In a column for the Wall Street Journal, he explains that his staff is “redoubling its effort to swiftly deliver and distribute the aid that Iraq’s persecuted religious communities desperately need.” The delays, he wrote, “must end, and they will.”

“Last October, I directed USAID to develop aid projects that address the challenges facing Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups in the region. To this end, USAID has redirected more than $60 million in humanitarian and stabilization assistance to provide infrastructure support and lifesaving aid in Northern Iraq. The money has helped rebuild schools, hospitals, power stations and wells, and eased the transition of those returning home.

In too many cases, however, assistance has taken too long to arrive. We have yet to reach many of the communities with the greatest need. Decisions made by the previous administration, such as an overreliance on the U.N. and an inadequate appreciation for the work accomplished by faith-based organizations, have proved hard to overcome. And the often rigid processes of federal bureaucracy have slowed implementation further.”

Unfortunately, this is an all-too familiar scenario for the Trump administration. Agencies across the government are still filled with pockets of people who don’t share the president’s viewpoint and are doing everything they can to stop progress. Personnel is policy, the old adage goes. And it will take both to save the hurting people of the Middle East.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 18, 2018

As encouraging as the last year and a half of policy successes have been, our greatest hope will never be in Washington, D.C. America can’t elect one person or one party to bring about the transformational change that America really needs. That doesn’t mean that we stop engaging the culture. But it does mean that we recognize that America’s greatest need is not political, it is spiritual. That is why we need the church to lead the way; calling on God for his forgiveness, healing, and blessing on our land.

For the past nine years, FRC has encouraged churches across America to join us in Call2Fall, a simple but powerful commitment to get on our faces before the Lord, asking him to reshape our lives and renew our land. On Sunday, July 1, we want to enter the week of Independence Day by declaring our dependence on God. FRC’s National Prayer Director, Pierre Bynum had a chance to talk with CBN News about the event.

“Call2Fall is an initiative for pastors and people, pastors who have a heart for a return to the Lord for our nation, to call upon their people on the Sunday before the Fourth of July, to take time during their regular church service to actually get on their knees physically and pray for our nation.” Too many Americans, Pierre explains, have forgotten what our Founding Fathers knew. “They understood the providence of God; they understood that we owe him all of our rights, our God-given rights. And they knew that without his help and aid, we could do nothing.”

If you and your family want to join us, we’ve created a special website,, where you can sign up to spend at least five minutes on your knees in prayer, asking God to pour out his mercy on our lives, our communities, and our nation. Log on to find out more or to see the resources for pastors who want to host their own Call 2 Fall, including sermon starters, bulletin inserts, prayer guides, and more. After July 1, we also invite you to join Dr. Ronnie Floyd and the National Day of Prayer team for “31 Days of Prayer For My Nation” during the month of July. (Details here.)

“We ought to be crying out to God every day, ‘Lord, have mercy on our nation,'” Pierre said. “And we need to be praying in faith for God to raise up men and women who can lead our nation back to God… He’ll hear us if we do.”

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 18, 2018

In Texas, you can advertise adult shops — it’s church promotion they find offensive. That’s the unbelievable predicament First Baptist Dallas finds itself in after it tried to buy a billboard for upcoming sermon topics. What’s offensive about a message on the Christian heritage of America? Plenty, according to the Dallas mayor.

Freedom Sunday is June 24 for one of the largest churches in Dallas, but it won’t be easy getting that news to locals. When First Baptist Dallas bought billboard space to promote it, owners of the sign company, Outfront Media, said it was inundated with complaints. “Dallas Morning News and other news affiliates are doing stories on how it’s offensive and bigoted,” said a representative for Outfront. “… [F]ollowing our lawyer’s advice, we have to take them down ASAP.”

Apparently, the idea that “America is a Christian nation” is not only news to local liberals, but offensive. With the help of the Dallas Morning News, Mayor Mike Rawlings launched a personal campaign to scrub the sign, insisting, “That is not the Christ I follow.” Reminding people of America’s Christian roots is “not the Dallas I want to be,” Rawlings told the newspaper, “to say things that do not unite us but divide us. I never heard those words — that voice come out of Christ. Just the opposite. I was brought up to believe: Be proud of yours, but do not diminish mine.” First Baptist was stunned. Nothing about America’s heritage should be controversial.

To appease the mayor, the church offered to add a question mark at the end: “America is a Christian nation?” But, as Fox News’s Todd Starnes points out, that — too — was rejected. “We were told that the title was ‘anger-provoking’ rather than ‘thought provoking,'” the pastor told Todd. And that should set off alarm bells for every churchgoer. “It should greatly concern people of any faith when those in the press or government proactively seek to defeat, censor or silence any religious message with which they disagree,” he said.

The incident not only reveals the religious bigotry of the Dallas Morning News, but its shortsightedness. Newspapers, after all, operate from the same First Amendment as churches. The freedom of the press and religion are inextricably linked, and no one — least of all the media — should be clamoring for the censorship of either. It’s not only hypocritical but a slippery slope. Although First Baptist Dallas recognizes the right of the company to turn down the business, church leaders say they won’t be “deterred.” They plan on doing whatever they can to “defend the foundational values of our country.”

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 18, 2018

Can Christians influence the world without being influenced? I try to answer that question, especially as it relates to the vice president’s speech to the Southern Baptist Convention in my new column on Fox News. Also, the 10th biggest school district in the country is moving ahead with its extreme agenda despite the outcry of parents. Find out how in Cathy and Austin Ruse’s new piece for the Stream: “Fairfax County Votes to Tell Boys They Might Be Girls.”

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Immigrate Expectations

June 15, 2018

Now that President Trump’s scored big points for his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un, his opponents are desperate to change the subject. Anxious to turn the country’s attention away from the administration’s diplomatic success, they’ve returned to an issue that the Congress has repeatedly failed to resolve — immigration.

Yesterday’s Washington Post got the ball rolling with an inside look at one of the 100 shelters where children, whose parents were arrested for entering America illegally, are housed. The article couldn’t help but tug on heartstrings, since almost 1,500 boys are living in a warehouse-sized summer camp, separated from their parents when they crossed the border illegally. What was once a Walmart super center is now full of classrooms, medical rooms, basketball courts, and even a pool hall. Juan Sanchez, who manages the nonprofit that’s housing the kids, says that the circumstances are difficult, especially for kids struggling to adapt, but promises, “We’re trying to do the best that we can taking care of these children. Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families,” he said. “We’re not a detention center… What we operate are shelters that take care of kids. It’s a big, big difference.”

Obviously, the situation is a tragic one for thousands of children, who are the innocent victims of their moms’ and dads’ decision to break the law. It’s impossible to feel anything but compassion for these kids, who must be dealing with a great deal of pain and confusion. But the origin of that pain and confusion isn’t U.S. law or the Trump administration. That burden lies with their parents who knowingly put them in this position. “If you are smuggling a child,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, “then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the White House’s position on Wednesday, telling a gathering, “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” Critics quickly attacked the AG’s comments — with particularly harsh criticism from those on the Far Left, many of whom don’t appreciate scriptural references unless it can be twisted to justify their agenda.

Thursday, reporters took out their frustration on Press Secretary Sarah Sanders press conference, asking how the administration could possibly defend a policy that prosecutes adults for crossing the border illegally. Sanders stood her ground. “…[It’s] very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.” And, she went on, if you’re looking for someone to blame for this situation, try Democrats. “The separation of illegal families… is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade. The president is simply enforcing them.” President Trump echoed that sentiment earlier: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law… That’s the Democrats’ law. We can change it tonight. We can change it right now.”

When all else is equal, of course we want families to stay together. But let’s also remember that this situation isn’t unique to the border. I can tell you from my time in law enforcement: If a parent or parents are arrested here in the states, the children are turned over to Child Protection Services, who holds them until a foster family can be identified. In both circumstances, the children are compassionately cared for — not held in dank rooms behind bars, as some liberals would have you believe. As immigration officials have said, “Our goal is to reunite these children with their families as soon as we can do that.” But if parents aren’t deterred by the consequences of breaking the law, the fault lies solely with them. If these families are looking for a way to stay together, here’s an idea: come to America through the legal immigration process rather than crossing the border illegally.

Let’s also consider the precedent it would create if we didn’t enforce the law. Are liberals suggesting that we shouldn’t incarcerate anyone who has kids? Are children the new get-out-of-jail-free card? As Sessions said, “If you bring a child, it is still an unlawful act. You don’t get immunity if you bring a child with you. We cannot have open borders for adults with children.”

I’m not suggesting that our laws don’t need work — or that this crisis isn’t urgent. They do, and it is. I’ve felt strongly about this issue for years, so much so that I included immigration as a core value in my first book, Personal Faith, Public Policy. Maybe these new small faces of the immigration crisis will prompt Congress to work across lines and unite in an effort to reform an immigration system that’s dividing families and our country.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 15, 2018

Only a third of Americans trust the government to do what’s right — and after the inspector general’s report on the FBI, you have to wonder how it’s that high. In what will go down as another dark and sordid chapter for the agency, the evidence makes the most compelling case yet for the poisonous anti-Trump bias infecting the rank-and-file of government.

Former FBI Director James Comey took the brunt of the IG’s criticism, which found that he intentionally ignored Justice Department policy in the handling of Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal. The facts, Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes soberly, are “damning.”

“They show that Mr. Comey abused his authority, broke with long-established Justice Department norms, and deceived his superiors and the public. While the IG says Mr. Comey’s decisions were not the result of ‘political bias,’ he presided over an investigating team that included agents who clearly were biased against Donald Trump. The damage to the bureau’s reputation — and to thousands of honest agents — will take years to repair.”

Of course, the most obvious examples of bias were in the text exchanges of agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who, this report reveals, went so far as to insist they would stop Donald Trump from becoming president. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” And unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the prejudiced iceberg. Reading the anti-Trump text messages from several agents makes it look as if the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover is still walking the halls of the FBI. The idea that people within the government were actively working to keep Trump from the White House is astounding, even now. These are men and women who abused the trust of the people — and their power — to drop the hot leads on the Clinton email scandal, which was a breach of national security and move on to their best hope for damaging the president: the phony “Russia collaboration.”

That kind of political bias, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told me last night on “Washington Watch” is “outrageous in a constitutional republic when you have your law enforcement for political reasons basically trying to scuttle an investigation.” The takeaway here, he went on, “is that the inspector general is an investigative body. They try to be very objective. They can’t recommend criminal indictments or anything like that, but what we see about James Comey is that he was unleashed. He had no respect for the role of command. He was out there basically impacting investigations in a way he shouldn’t have.”

The anti-Trump sentiment the president has been alleging since day one is right there in black and white — page after jaw-dropping page. “The IG report is brutal. Not only does it state that these five agents discussed their support for Clinton, but that they ‘appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear (Clinton email) investigation.'” They leaked information to the press, used personal emails for official business, changed the law to vindicate Hillary, and on and on.

If anyone comes out smelling sweet in this report, it’s President Trump, who ignored Democrats’ protests and fired Comey anyway. “The IG Report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI,” Trump tweeted early Friday. “Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!”

In the meantime, Americans are still reeling. “This should never happen in a democracy,” was the overwhelming opinion of most experts, including the WSJ. “The larger damage here is to trust in institutions that are vital to self-government.” If there is a silver lining in all of this collusion and self-destruction, it’s that none of it succeeded. Donald Trump was elected by the good men and women of this country, despite a thorough and coordinated effort to stop him. In the face of overwhelming opposition — some of it running deep within the walls of government — the will of the people prevailed. And based on this report’s findings, our country is much better off because of it.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 15, 2018

Talking about the importance of dads, the poet George Herbert once said, “One father is worth more than a hundred schoolmasters.” In a politically charged age like ours, some would have us believe a father’s presence is unnecessary. They’re wrong. No role is more vital — or important — than a dad’s.

I’m one of the fortunate ones whose father is involved in my life to this very day. What he’s taught me — and continues to teach me — has been passed on to my kids and one day, my grandchildren. Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate. Some have dads who are present, but not involved. Others just aren’t there. This Father’s Day Weekend, I want to challenge all of us as fathers to recommit ourselves to our children. They may not say so, but they need us. And moms and kids — let your dads know that you love them!

Take time this Sunday to celebrate the irreplaceable contributions of dads everywhere. Dad: Happy Father’s Day, and on behalf of FRC, our best wishes for a Happy Father’s Day!

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

DOJ to Churches: To Each His Zone

June 14, 2018

At Ragamuffins Coffee House, owners are probably most famous for this blend: community service and worship. That’s because the Maryland spot isn’t just another business on Laurel’s Main Street. It’s run by a church that opens its doors — and its arms — to the area’s homeless and needy families, offering coffee six days a week and a shot of God everyday, especially on Sunday. It’s a concept they hoped would help them connect with the city. And it did — until Laurel’s government got involved.

City officials got a whiff of Redemption Church’s plans and informed Pastor Jeremy Tuinstra that he’d have to file for a special exemption — a slow and expensive process that didn’t apply to other non-religious groups. On top of a non-refundable $2,000 filing fee, the church was told it had to hire an engineer and submit plans to comply with the vague terms of the zoning law. And even when Ragamuffins did that, there was no guarantee the city wouldn’t reject it.

“Three days after they first looked through the property and walked through it with a city official, the city started to change its laws,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christian Holcomb explained. “First it banned nonprofit organizations and then secondly it changed the law to make houses of worship restricted to…second-class or second tier in their zoning.” Redemption complied with the new laws, but officials still ordered Ragamuffins to stop holding Sunday services — or face a $250 fine for each day it didn’t comply. The church made a different decision — it sued.

With a tiny congregation and staff, there was no way the church could afford almost $2,000 in fines every week. Besides, Holcomb points out, “Federal law makes it very clear that cities cannot discriminate against religious uses and allow secular uses.” Erik Stanley, who also works for ADF, can’t believe the double standard. “Laurel officials allow secular groups such as cinemas, theatres, comedy clubs, schools, and health clubs to locate downtown, but not this small church that wants to serve its community. That’s not legal or constitutional.”

Unfortunately, Ragamuffins’s situation is more common than you might think. Churches, home groups, synagogues, Bible studies, and schools have run smack dab into this local intolerance for religious exercise. But, thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, cities who want to exploit or discriminate against faith-based groups will have a lot tougher time of it now. On Wednesday, the Justice Department put its foot down against these subtle attacks on religious freedom. In a speech at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Jeff Sessions announced a new “Place to Worship” initiative that would enforce the protections that already exist for churches like Redemption when it comes to buying, building, expanding, or rent facilities.

“The Constitution doesn’t just protect freedom to worship in private,” Sessions pointed out, “it protects the public exercise of religious belief, including where people worship together. Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion — not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws.” A lot of Americans, he went on, think their religious freedom is under attack.

This feeling is understandable. Religious Americans have heard themselves called ‘deplorables.’ They’ve heard themselves called ‘bitter clingers.’ I believe this concern — this unease — is one reason that President Trump was elected. He made a promise that was heard. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. This promise was well received. Since day one, he has been delivering on that promise. Under a different president, I’m not sure this would have been on the agenda.

As part of this new Justice initiative, Sessions’s team is also launching a suit against a New Jersey town that blocked a group of orthodox Jews from moving their meetings out of a single-family home into a new building. The city refused their request, turned down construction applications, and even went so far as to seize property that the Valley Chabad tried to buy for a school. “In order to sustain a democracy, it is necessary that we exercise true tolerance,” Sessions insisted. “…We shouldn’t have to go to court to co-exist in peace.”

This is a major step forward for Americans of all faiths. For a year and a half, this administration has shown the world that it’s fully committed to defending the freedom of everyone to live and work according to their beliefs. After two terms of Barack Obama, this president is advancing values we care about — instead of forcing us to abandon our faith just to enter the public square. That’s why I have trouble understanding the Christians in the “Never Trump” gallery that continue to criticize not only the Trump administration but those who support the good they have done. At some point, it’s time to acknowledge how much good Trump’s election has done — specifically for people of faith.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 14, 2018

It’s a sign of victory, a symbol of grief, a beacon of hope — but above all, a source of pride. Today, at 241 years old, the American flag is still the greatest reminder of how blessed our nation is. Old Glory has been carried into battle, draped over coffins, hoisted at Olympics, and cheered by captives in far-off lands. To everyone who sees it flying, folded, at half-mast, its message is the same: freedom.

Two and a half centuries ago, the entry for June 14 in the Continental Congress said simply, “Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be Thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Back then, no one was quite sure how long the nation — or its flag — could survive. And while new years have brought new stars, the greatest symbol of American hope is still the same.

When the NFL got too self-important for its roots, refusing to pay the flag the respect it deserved, Americans responded. That’s because they understand that despite all of our differences, there is still one thing that unites us: pride in America. While certainly not all, but the overwhelming majority of people in this nation, have a deep appreciation for who we are and what America stands for. They recognize the flag’s deep symbolism and the incredible sacrifice it takes to keep flying it.

Like most of us, football fans watched the year-long controversy of kneeling for the national anthem unfold with disdain. Tired of spoiled pros insulting their flag and country, they took a stand. They turned off games, stopping buying gear, and delivered the lowest revenues for the league in decades. And in the end, with double-digit support for the flag, America’s patriots brought the NFL to its knees.

How the American people responded to the league ought to encourage everyone. We may be a country of problems, but we’re still the world’s last best hope. As President Trump said, “It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 14, 2018

The Supreme Court may have changed the definition of marriage legally, but it can’t change it in reality. Marriage is, has always been, and will always be, the union of a man and woman. And Indiana’s GOP, like a lot of states’, will continue to say so, no matter what five, black-robed activists tell them.

On Saturday, at the GOP state party convention, members voted overwhelmingly to stick with the language first adopted under then-Governor Mike Pence (R) and reflected in the Republican National Convention platform. Of course, the definition wouldn’t have been much of an issue in the first place, had current Governor Eric Holcomb’s (R) hand-picked party chairman hadn’t insisted they broaden the wording to “be more inclusive of same-sex couples.” Under his version, the Indiana GOP would agree: “We support traditional families with a mother and father, blended families, grandparents, guardians, single parents and all loving adults who successfully raise and nurture children to reach their full potential every day.”

Fortunately, longtime Indiana Republicans pushed back. Daniel Elliot, the Morgan County GOP chairman, argued that the natural definition of marriage was the key to the philosophy of “Hoosier Republicans.” “[Our current] language… recognizes the reality on the ground that most families are headed by married couples.” Interestingly enough, this battle is nothing new for Indiana conservatives. In 2014, one year before the Obergefell ruling, state Republicans overcame two challenges to the marriage plank from moderates who said they wanted to entice more voters to join the GOP. The prevailing side called it a compromise on core values.

Then, as in now, common sense prevailed. For conservatives, who have stood their ground at every Republican National Convention, this ought to be an encouraging sign that no court can change what God’s law says — and half the country believes.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Left Coast Rallies for Freedom to Change

June 13, 2018

It’s been two full years since it happened. People were still dancing at a nightclub on the south side of Orlando, when a gunman walked through the doors and brutally ended the lives of 49 people. India Goodman says she can still feel the body slumped against her in the dark, shielding her from bullets. She’s just one of the survivors who says their story changed forever.

Luis Javier Ruiz is another. Like so many others in the Pulse nightclub that night, Luis thinks a lot about what could have happened. He looks back on his struggles then, identifying as a gay man, and believes — without a doubt — that it was the lowest point of his life. “I should have been number 50,” he posted after the tragedy. An emotional Ruiz talked about how difficult things had been, even before the horror that June night.

“Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ… I’ve grown to know His love in a deeper level. Two out of the 49 were my close friends and are no longer with us. They lost their life that night. I should have been number 50, but now… I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I use to be — but who Christ Jesus says I am.”

Luis went public with his story, joining the Freedom March in early May with other people who’ve walked away from a lifestyle that brought nothing but pain. “It’s not a gay-to-straight thing,” he tells reporters, “but a lost to save[d] thing.” During his recovery, he remembers, members of a local church came in and prayed with him. They shared portions of Scripture and told him about the love of God. Through that, he says, “I was able to not only just be free of the lifestyle but be free of me in general — from every type of sin.”

Two years later, he wants others to find the same freedom he has. But in places like California, opponents are doing everything they can to keep people from experiencing the healing Luis knows. Under a bill that’s working its way through the not so Golden State legislature, it would be outright illegal to offer the kind of help or counseling that changed Luis’s life. LGBT activists, the same ones who used to plead for the right to live any way they pleased, are trying to take that freedom away from others by making it a crime to offer paid counseling to people who are voluntarily seeking help. And that includes pastors or other faith-based therapists!

Yesterday, at a committee hearing for the measure, AB 2943, Luis had an opportunity to share his story and how unfair it would be to rob others of that same second chance. “The Pulse nightclub shooting was a very tragic event, and I lost many friends… And I don’t feel that someone should dictate and tell me that I can’t go seek help for any of that. I think we should vote ‘no!'” he told the rally beforehand.

And he wasn’t alone. Three hundred fifty people — from all across the state and from all walks of life — testified against AB 2943, including our good friend, Pastor Jack Hibbs. Even pro golfer Kris Olsen has opened up about how dangerous the bill would be.

“I fell into the world of homosexuality… [and] eventually I found help — a faith-based group of people like me who wanted their feelings to come into alignment with their faith… It was the beginning of the freedom that I stand before you with today. I am now free from my former feelings of same-sex attraction and lesbian behavior that warred in my soul. AB2943 violates my right to choose. It is a blatant violation of my First Amendment rights…”

Activists like state Senator Scott Wiener (D), who openly identify as gay, take personal offense to the idea that anyone would want to change. “Conversion therapy is psychological torture,” he argued without a scrap of evidence to prove it. “There are people who want to erase people like me… It is shocking in some ways that in 2018 that this is still happening.” Obviously, that’s ridiculous. No one wants to erase anyone! Nor is this “conversion therapy,” as he called it, torture! Opponents want you to believe that counselors hook people up to electromagnetic shock machines or some such nonsense, when actually, this is voluntary counseling — which, for the most part consists of a pastor or licensed psychologist talking through the very personal struggle of sexuality.

As the co-founder for Voice of the Voiceless says, “We made a conscious choice to leave homosexuality, and we should be able to do that without being mocked.” Unfortunately for him, the same LGBT activists who said we should all “live and let live” have moved on. They’re on a march to force every American to celebrate and affirm what they do under the penalty of law. And, like so many on the far-Left, they have a selective view of “choice.” They’re in favor of it — only if you choose their side. What happened to the “Q” in LGBTQ? Wasn’t that was supposed to represent “questioning?” Isn’t there room for people in the movement who may be questioning whether this is still the best decision?

So far, not in California. The committee voted to move the bill to the full Senate by a 4-2 vote. Hopefully, there’s enough outcry to force state senators to think twice before passing it. If you’re a Californian, take the time to contact your state senators and remind them that religious liberty and free speech is for everyone! For more information, check out The Hidden Truth about Changing Sexual Orientation by FRC’s Peter Sprigg.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 13, 2018

One of the first promises Donald Trump made to evangelicals as a candidate was to the pastors of America: We’re going to get rid of that [Johnson amendment],” he promised. Now, a year and a half into his administration, it’s somewhat fitting that he and Vice President Mike Pence have made a priority of keeping their dialogue with churches going.

Today, Vice President Pence did that in spectacular fashion at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The largest evangelical denomination in America, the SBC hosted as many as 11,000 delegates in Texas. And to them, the administration’s second-in-command had a simple message: We “will always stand with you.”

The vice president took the opportunity to talk about the progress the Trump administration has made on issues of importance to the SBC – and evangelicals in general: protecting life, preserving religious liberty, helping the persecuted church, standing with Israel. But those gains, he reminded them, can’t be sustained without engaged, churchgoing Americans.

“Today, we only ask the men and women of this convention to continue in your calling with renewed energy. Stand and go and speak. Stand in the gap. Because in these too-divided times, I believe that your voice, your compassion, your values, and your ministries are more needed than ever before.

But you should also know that we recognize that the most important work in America doesn’t happen in the White House or anywhere in Washington, D.C. for that matter. We know the most meaningful work, the most transformative work happens where you live, where your ministries impact: in the hearts and minds of the American people.

The truth is no podium that President Trump and I will ever stand behind will be of greater consequence than the pulpits you stand behind every Sunday morning. (Applause.) No policy we enact will ever be more meaningful than the ministries you lead. And no action we take will ever be more powerful than your prayers.”

As he touched on the country’s divided times, several in the room probably thought about the division right there in that room. Just yesterday, one SBC messenger made a motion to disinvite the vice president, insisting that, “By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members, suggesting that to be faithful to the gospel, we ought to align with a particular administration.”

Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, soundly defeating the ill-conceived resolution. But it is a clear indication that there are some within the church that are either too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced, or — as Jesus described in John 17 — being in the world but not of it. We can’t influence if we retreat. We don’t have to agree with everything this president has said or done, and we don’t, but it is foolish and even detrimental to persecuted believers around the world to fail to acknowledge that this administration is being used to set the table for the church to do its work unhindered. The vice president, Mike Pence, is an unabashed believer who’s championing their cause in the White House. Look at the doors this administration is opening for religious liberty and free speech. Now is not the time for shutting doors – now’s the time to rush through and seize this moment of opportunity.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 13, 2018

The world’s biggest meeting in decades is a wrap, but the analysis is ongoing. What are people saying about the first president to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un? Plenty.

While several people don’t know what to make about the specifics of the agreement the two men signed, there is one growing consensus — simply having a face-to-face conversation was a victory for everyone. In successfully arranging this summit, Donald Trump accomplished more with North Korea in one day than any president has in 40 years. On today’s “Washington Watch,” Senator Lindsey Graham sat down to talk with me about his take on the historic event and what it could mean — not just for relations with Kim Jong Un, but our dialogue with other tyrannical foes.

“To those who think you can contain North Korea, you’re making a mistake. President Trump made a decision early on in his presidency that I’m not going to live under the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea. I’m not going to allow this man to have a bunch of nuclear weapons and a bunch of missiles — because he’ll sell or give them away. I’m going to bring this program to an end, and I’d like to do it through a peaceful resolution that’s a win-win. To those who want containment, you don’t understand the proliferation problem, so I applaud the president for reaching out to North Korea… And time will tell if this works.”

In the meantime, Senator Graham has a suggestion for his friends across the aisle: do your part. “If we don’t convince North Korea and China that the military option is real, we’ll never get a good deal.” That’s why he believes that the next act of Congress should be authorizing the president to go to war — if, and it’s a big “if,” diplomacy fails. While minority leaders continue to hammer away at the president, sending letters about how he should handle the situation, Graham says the best thing they could do is communicate that the president has the backing of Congress. “Let [other countries] know that we’re serious about going to war to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” It would help, he went on, if Congress spoke with one voice.

“The Iranians are watching. And if we blink in North Korea, Iran is going to march toward a nuclear weapon because they don’t believe we’re serious. If Trump can have a breakthrough with North Korea, end their nuclear weapons program peacefully… then you’ve got Iran in a box. Donald Trump is playing this very, very well. To my Democratic friends: I know you hate him. We’ve got a lot to disagree on. But help him on North Korea. It will help you politically, and it will help the world as a whole.”

Of course, one of our greatest hopes is that this meeting also pierces the North Korean conscience on issues like human rights and religious liberty, which Kim Jong Un has notoriously abused. So it was no small coincidence that yesterday was also the inaugural meeting of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, where I now serve as a commissioner.

The sobering reality is that religious persecution is at historic levels around the globe. While our First Freedom has faced increasing assaults in recent years, the oppression that many face in various parts of the world is horrifying. Religious minorities of every faith are being denied the most basic of human rights, the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. But while the magnitude of the situation is sobering, the significance of the opportunity we currently have because of the commitment to protect and promote religious freedom by the Trump administration is inspiring.

I want to invite each of you to join me in seizing this moment in advancing true religious freedom for all people in all parts of the world. I’ll be sharing more in the days ahead how you can be a part of the effort by praying for and advocating for prisoners of conscience. And please pray for the commission. It is a bipartisan commission currently comprised of five commissioners appointed by Republicans and two named by Democrats. There will be two more commissioners appointed, one by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and one by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). It was the stated goal yesterday of the seven current commissioners to rise above partisanship for the greater good of religious freedom. As evidence of that commitment, the commissioners unanimously selected Democrat appointee Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, one of just two returning members to the commission, as chairman.

Please join me in praying for all the members of the Commission: Chair Dorjee, Kristina Arriaga, Gary Bauer, Nadine Maenza, Gayle Manchin, Johnnie Moore, and myself.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Post Singapore, What is Next for Freedom in North Korea?

June 12, 2018

Yesterday in Singapore the on-again/off-again summit between President Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un made history as President Trump became the first U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader. The focal point of the carefully planned and choreographed summit was the private meeting between Trump and Kim where the discussion focused on bringing North Korea out of the dark age of a repressive regime pursuing nuclearization into the modern world. While all the details of their discussion have not been disclosed, we do know there is finally a solid verifiable path forward for the United States, North Korea, and the world. An agreement in which North Korea affirmed that it will work toward complete denuclearization, and in exchange the United States committing to helping North Korea prosper and ensuring its security.

While the United States has achieved an important milestone in the pursuit of the denuclearization of North Korea, the details and specifics are yet to come. What are the next steps? What incentives will the U.S. provide? What changes beyond dismantling their nuclear program will Kim have to make? All of those details will most likely be hammered out in subsequent meetings overseen by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I am confident, based upon my conversation with Vice President Pence yesterday, that the United States will ensure that religious freedom and human rights are substantively integrated into that process.

At the press conference following the summit, President Trump affirmed that he initiated a conversation about these matters with the North Korean leader during their talks: “[W]e did discuss [the issue of human rights] today pretty strongly.” Even though the main purpose of the talks was “denuking,” human rights were discussed “at pretty good length.” On that topic, they will “agree to something,” as it was “one of the primary topics” that “was discussed at length outside of the nuclear situation.” In President Trump’s view, this “has to” change in order to move forward, and he will not remove sanctions “without significant improvement in the human rights situation.”

This is good news, as was the president’s response to an additional question about the fate of Christians in North Korea. “We . . . brought it up very strongly.” This issue “did come up, and things will be happening,” the president continued, recognizing that Franklin Graham has focused on this issue and has “got it very close to his heart.”

Photos and smiles aside, North Korea under Kim is one of, if not the most repressive place on the planet, as our own government has recognized in the State Department’s 2017 Religious Freedom Report. North Korea keeps an iron grip on any worship which could alter the state’s power, promoting in place of religious freedom what is akin to a state religion worshiping the “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung. The experiences of North Korean Christians are such that when freedom opens the door just a crack, it is violently slammed shut by the government. The research makes clear and the Trump administration understands, that the only path to true cultural, political and economic long-term stability in North Korea is for religious freedom to provide the foundation.

Thankfully, we have already seen the impact that U.S. prioritization of religious freedom can have. After President Trump pointedly raised religious persecution in Nigeria with that country’s president, additional security forces were immediately deployed to vulnerable areas upon his return. While North Korea is different by orders of magnitude, the Trump administration must clearly and directly confront the issue of religious freedom. If religious freedom is not dealt with, North Korea will not be able to economically move into the modern world anyway (something it seems to want to do), and the North Korean people will be deprived rights which derive from their very humanity and creation in the image of God.

What makes this North Korea summit different from others that have failed? As our own General Jerry Boykin shared with me on Washington Watch, the summit approached the matter by allowing negotiations at the top, with the leaders meeting and committing to the end goal of denuclearization, leaving subordinates to work out the details. Usually these meetings develop from the bottom up, as did Secretary of State Kerry’s negotiations over Iran.

This doesn’t mean we should be naive. As the General (who with decades of traveling the world in defense of U.S. interests, is no stranger to the skepticism one may develop about world affairs) recognizes, “[w]e need to let Kim know that we consider his nuclear program an existential threat to the United States and are willing to use all available means to oppose it.” At the same time, the implicit threat in this message constitutes the very pressure which will get Kim to the negotiating table and cause him to think twice before walking away from working with the United States.

President Trump deserves a great deal of credit for the way he has handled this summit. What many haven’t seen is the private diplomacy between the United States and China leading up to the summit, which ultimately resulted in China supporting the general concept of North Korean denuclearization. Moreover, in no small way, the president’s recent withdrawal from the Iran deal played a part in moving the ball forward with North Korea. With that one act of U.S. withdrawal, Kim at once knew two things: he would not get a weak deal with the United States, and the United States would not accept another nuclear-armed state—whether Iran or North Korea—that threatens us or our allies.

Yesterday’s summit was a milestone, but the journey is far from over. Please continue to pray for a peaceful resolution to North Korea’s nuclear build up and for the persecuted that remain behind the walls of North Korea that freedom would soon come to them.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

June 12, 2018

Yesterday morning when I met with Vice President Mike Pence, prior to President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, he asked for the President to be covered in prayer. With just a few hours to work but knowing that there are Christians around this country who are eager to do their part, we launched an international prayer conference call. Prayer groups and various ministries were invited, and the response was so overwhelming that the call line was quickly at maximum capacity! I joined several prayer and ministry leaders who led the group of thousands in intercessory prayer for this historic and unprecedented global meeting. There was a spirit of unity and power as we prayed together. Capping off the night was a South Korean national prayer leader whose impassioned prayer for wisdom stirred our hearts. As the call ended, everyone was unmuted and voices from all over the world joined together in a harmony of prayer and praise.

We know the world is a dangerous place, but it’s also God’s world. God has given American Christians a unique opportunity to impact the world through the leadership he has given to America on the world stage. We know that political acumen or financial prosperity will never be enough to set us on the right path. Only in humility to God in prayer, acknowledging him as our true leader, can we begin to chart a right course for our country that will positively influence the world. On Sunday July 1 — the Sunday before we celebrate our independence — we can express our dependence upon the Lord in unity by participating in Call2Fall.

Call2Fall is a movement where believers across the country set aside a definite time during worship on July 1, 2018 to get on their knees and faces before the Lord in repentant prayer for God to reshape our lives and renew our land. It’s as simple as that – no fancy program needed. Find out how to join us and others across the country in prayer as we respond to the “Call2Fall” before the Lord.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.