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Religious Liberty

White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative

By | LBB, News and Events, Religious Liberty | No Comments

Penny Nance, CWA’s CEO & President, with United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback at the Rose Garden.

President Donald Trump has taken several steps to protect religious freedom within the Executive Branch during his time in office. On the National Day of Prayer, in his second year in office, he once again showed his commitment to people of faith by signing an executive order establishing the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

This is no small thing, though we have seen similar efforts in the past.  The attacks on religious freedom — and freedom of speech in general — are ongoing, and a proactive approach to protect these rights is desperately needed.

President Trump announced the initiative at a Rose Garden event attended by Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance, saying:

The faith initiative will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities, and our great country.  This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.

We take this step because we know that, in solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government, and nothing is more powerful than God.

He is absolutely right. One of the sad things about modern government hostility towards religious groups is the fact that they are negatively affecting these groups’ great, charitable, loving work. Remember the attacks on the Little Sisters of the Poor? Why would the government want to hinder in any way the work of these poor, religious women who are caring for the elderly in our nation? Or how about the state governments that have forced out of their state Christian adoption agencies? These are services that are needed, yet as government intolerance of differing views, especially in the area of sexuality, continues to grow, we see many are willing to let the poor and needy suffer at the altar of liberalism.

It was fitting that in announcing this initiative and commemorating the National Day of Prayer, President Trump remembered the loss of “America’s Pastor,” Rev. Billy Graham.  He said:

As we gather this morning, our thoughts also turn to the memory of a man who awakened the light of God in the hearts of millions of America’s pastors.  And that’s the great, legendary, wonderful Billy Graham.  Great, great man …

Today, we remember the words of Reverend Graham, “Prayer is the key that opens [to] us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings.”  Always beautiful.

As you know, prayer is foundational for Concerned Women for America. Everything we do is done not in our own power, but by the strength and opportunity given to us by God Almighty. It is a reality that we know to be true personally and can attest to throughout our great history. That is why we continually remind our culture of America’s rich history of faith and prayer. President Trump is fully aware of that history.  More importantly, he is very proud of it.  At the Rose Garden ceremony, he said:

The prayers of religious believers helped gain our independence, and the prayers of religious leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King — great man — helped win the long struggle for civil rights.  Faith has shaped our families, and it’s shaped our communities.  It’s inspired our commitment to charity and our defense of liberty.  And faith has forged the identity and the destiny of this great nation that we all love.

Americans of faith have built the hospitals that care for our sick, the homes that tend to our elderly, and the charities that house the orphaned, and they minister — and they really do, they minister to the poor, and so beautifully and with such love.

We are proud of our religious heritage.  And as President, I will always protect religious liberty.

This is our identity as American, whether many or few recognize it. It is the genius of our nation and the key to liberty and freedom.

 


Mario Diaz, Esq. is CWA’s general counsel. Follow him on Twitter @mariodiazesq.

Another Win for Religious Liberty

By | LBB, Religious Liberty | No Comments

A nomination for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is usually not a controversial thing. But, as I have told you before, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) decided it was appropriate to impose a religious test on the nomination of Russel Vought for this position, his nomination became a top priority for us at Concerned Women for America (CWA).

It is simply unconstitutional to impose such a test on any nominee for public office. Thankfully, we have defeated another attempt at it this week.

I want to thank those of you who called your senators and expressed your concerns about what was done to Russell Vought. I am incredibly proud of the vocal role our CEO and President Penny Nance took on his nomination.

You made your voices heard, and you were heard.  The Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm him by a vote of 50-49. You did it!

As you can probably guess, Vice-President Mike Pence had to cast the deciding vote. And this should remind us of two very important takeaways from this fight.

First, it is a testament to your involvement with CWA. Your support and constant involvement with CWA is what makes us effective. We speak for you. So, when we all take action together on the issues about which we care, real change is possible.

Second, it should remind us that we are living in a crucial moment in our history. We don’t have the luxury to let up on this fight. This nomination should not have been so close. Just think about it.  This nominee was almost defeated only because he is a Christian. This should never happen in America.

But we stand very close to letting that be our reality.  We’re just a few senators away from that! That is how close we are, and if we do not stand strong now, this will become a trend, leading to a norm.

So, let us take the opposite approach to complacency. Let us redouble our efforts in support of religious liberty. In support of our faith.  As a member of CWA, let your friends and family members know how important it is that they too join CWA and add their voices to this chorus for righteousness and justice.

May we forever be known that way.

CWA’s Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs Addresses Christianity in Iraq

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In America, we trace our Christian heritage to before the founding of our nation, when European Christians sought a home free from religious persecution where they could practice their faith according to their own convictions.  But in the Middle Eastern country of Iraq, Christianity has very old roots stemming from the 1st century A.D., even before the birth of Islam in early 600 A.D.

In spite of their roots, Iraqi Christian communities began to steadily decline after the birth of Islam, a decline which has continued throughout the past century.  According to an article in the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy[1], Christian populations in Iraq declined significantly between 1910 and 2010, falling from 6.3% to 1.4% of the population.  And by 2025, that number is estimated to fall to .6%.

Since June 2014, ISIS has brought a particularly bloody decline to Iraqi Christian populations with an onslaught labeled as “genocide”[2] by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016. The genocide has involved the murder of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims (other religious minority groups) under the control of ISIS. Thousands of families have been killed, taken hostage, kidnapped, and driven out of Iraq.  Currently, there are only an estimated 200,000 Christians left in Iraq.

Speaking at a meeting about the future of Iraq’s Christians in September 2017, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin said the “conflicts and tensions of recent years represent a risk … for the survival of Christians”.  He continued to point out that also at risk is the hope and “possibility that the Middle East can be a place of coexistence between peoples belonging to different religious and ethnic groups.” [3]

Where does the U.S. government stand on the issue of persecuted religious minorities in Iraq? At an advocacy summit in Washington, D.C., on October 25 of last year, Vice President Mike Pence said that America will “stand with those who suffer for their faith because that’s what Americans have always done (and) the common bond of our humanity demands a strong response.” He said also the United Nations has “too often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities” and that the U.S. will take a stronger lead in directly guiding funds to help persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. [4]

The Trump administration recently announced a renegotiated deal with the U.N. that purports to ensure that religious minorities will receive the U.N. assistance they were previously denied. This deal directs $55 million to the U.N. Development Program Funding Facility for Stabilization in Iraq for religious minority communities in the Nineveh Province of Iraq.  However Nina Shea, international human-rights lawyer and Director for the Center for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute, has little hope that these funds will actually reach the needy populations in Nineveh.  In an article in The Christian Post, Shea cites the gross mismanagement of the UNDP and its deliberate marginalization of the “genocide that targeted Christian and Yezidi minorities for over the past two years”.[5]  Meanwhile, time lags on while thousands of families suffer in inadequate refugee living situations.

Over the next few months, Concerned Women for America will watch to see if and when the allotted resources are directed to help Christian and other religious minorities in Iraq rebuild their homes, families, and lives.  Pray that God would help them heal and for the wisdom of our nation in providing support for them.

[1] Johnson, T and Zurlo, G. Ongoing Exodus: Tracking the Emigration of Christians from the Middle East. Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, 2013-2014, Volume III. Population statistics are taken from a table created by the World Religion Database.

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/17/politics/us-iraq-syria-genocide/index.html

[3] https://acnuk.org/news/iraq-cardinal-highlights-threat-to-christianity/

[4] https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/25/mike-pence-us-rely-faith-based-groups-over-united/

[5] https://www.christianpost.com/news/trump-designates-55-million-help-christians-religious-minorities-rebuild-iraq-213575/

Obama-Era State Department Leftovers: Re-direct LGBTI Cultural Acceptance Funding

By | Blog, Defense of Family, National Sovereignty, News and Events, Religious Liberty | No Comments

In the beginning, God made man and woman in His own likeness—two distinct sexes each with unique and special characteristics—and declared His creation “good”. Who could have anticipated that this God-given and inherent identity of gender and sex would be so debated, twisted, and redefined by the liberal left today? Even more incredible is that the U.S government under Obama-era policies, not content with promoting multiple gender and sexual “identities” within the U.S., spends millions of tax dollars promoting Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Inquiring (LGBTI) cultural acceptance into foreign countries under the guise of “gender development” and “human rights”.

As Americans, regardless of whether or not we agree with a person’s sexual or gender “orientation”, we strongly believe in supporting the human rights of all people around the world and applaud the efforts of our government in this regard. That is, the right of a people to seek fulfillment of their basic needs, to feed and clothe themselves, to fully participate in society, and to be defended against human rights abuses such as violence, killing, wrongful discrimination, and false imprisonment. To be clear, we strongly support any programming which condemns the abuse of people who identify themselves as LGBTI and which builds the capacity within countries to treat all people equally and with human dignity.

However, currently the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) promote LGBT cultural and social acceptance within foreign countries through taxpayer-funded programs that extend far beyond the context of basic human rights. Rather, these programs encourage the exploration of gender and sexual identity, and promote multiple identities/orientations as a “progressive” value. These programs are backed by a political agenda begun during the Obama Administration and continue today in spite of the differing viewpoint of the Trump administration.

Recently, Concerned Women for America met with a Trump-appointed USAID senior official to express the concern that these programs contradict the priorities of foreign assistance and damage our relationship with foreign peoples. We base are concern on four main points:

  • First, these programs turn gender development funding and programming away from increasing the wellbeing of women and girls around the world. This is unfortunate, especially considering that initiatives protecting the rights of females and advancing their participation in the social, economic, and political spheres are severely lacking in support and funding. To consider: While millions of people are victims of human trafficking each year, 50% of whom are women and 21% of whom are girls under the age of 18[1], and while 41% of girls in the least developed countries are married before the age of 18,[2] the U.S. is funding homosexual and transgender cultural acceptance into foreign countries under the name of gender development. We at Concerned Women for America consider this taxpayer money that is not well spent.
  • Second, these programs and initiatives violate the conscience, culture, values and religious beliefs of the majority of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian people in the countries we propose to “support” with U.S. aid.
  • Third, as taxpayer funded programs, these programs should represent the values of the majority of American citizens, but unfortunately they do not.
  • And fourth, there is little to no scientific research to show that the cultural socialization of LGBT values abroad contributes to foreign policy goals or even the developmental objectives of USAID’s Guiding Principles.

As was explained to CWA during the meeting at USAID, many of these programs have been left over from the previous administration and will remain until their contract runs out. Simply put, just because a new administration takes office, it does not mean that current programming will immediately expire or change. However, CWA wants our constituents to be aware of how foreign taxpayer dollars are currently spent and to know that we are monitoring the progress of the potential change in the focus of U.S. development aid and foreign relations. For example, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism is currently seeking a nonprofit to “explore gender identities of boys and men in Kenya”, stating that men being “tough, heterosexual, aggressive, unemotional, and achieving” increases their vulnerability to joining groups of Islamic extremism. [3]

Concerned Women for America urges our government to strongly oppose human rights abuses against LGBT communities but also to no longer entangle U.S. tax dollars with LGBT cultural issues overseas through U.S. embassies, schools, and international programming. We ask that our tax dollars be redirected toward objectives that focus more clearly on U.S. foreign diplomacy and developmental goals. We ask that our “gender empowerment” tax dollars be used to promote policies and programs which best support the rights and wellbeing of females around the world. Last, we ask that State and USAID-funded programs be representative of the majority of the values and beliefs of Americans and of the foreign cultures which we support.

The following is only a small part of LGBT activist efforts on behalf of the U.S. government. According to the Obama White House Fact Sheet from June 2016: [4]

  • The U.S. Department of State … “launched two global funding partnerships – the Global Equality Fund and the LGBT Global Development Partnership – which have provided millions of dollars in assistance … to LGBT civil society activists and organizations” (emphasis added). The Global Equality Fund alone spent more than $30 million dollars in 80 countries.
  • Multiple departments and agencies, including State, USAID, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the Peace Corps, provide training “for staff and implementing partners to better understand the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation and agency roles in advancing the human rights of LGBT persons”.
  • U.S. embassies, consulates, USAID missions, and Department of Defense installations around the world host and participate in gay pride events, and march in gay pride parades. U.S. embassies around the world fly rainbow flags to show homosexual pride support.

Currently, USAID supports a large number of field- and Washington-based programs and funding avenues that are LGBT-specific or LGBT-inclusive, including within schools in developing countries.  These programs are based on the principles written in the 23-page USAID policy document titled “LGBTI Vision for Action.”[5] A few examples are:

  • USAID’s LGBTI Global Development Partnership key activities include awarding over 100 grants to LGBTI civil society organizations and training over 1,700 LGBTI entrepreneurs and businesses
  • USAID promotes “LGBTI Education Inclusion” in schools around the world through multiple avenues including:
    • Regional Development Mission for Asia: Partnering the Purple My School initiative through a program called “Being LGBTI in Asia” in schools in eight different countries. This program is facilitated by teachers who discuss the issues of homophobia and the free expression of gender identity and sexual orientation. Students are encouraged to wear, draw, or make something purple.
    • Hosting LGBTI rights and inclusion training to over 140 school principals in USAID’s Basic Education Program in Kosovo within its annual School Management and Leadership Program.
    • Hosting a Live Chat for LGBTI Pride Month at the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia
    • Providing LGBTI Online Training courses through USAID University

[1] United Nations (2014) UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014, (United Nations Publication, Sales No. E 14. V.10) p. 5

[2] UNICEF Child-protection-child marriage database may 2016, Web Accessed August 2017 at: data.unicef.org.

[3] http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/22/state-department-spending-592500-to-explore-gender-identities-boys-and-men-in-kenya.html

[4] The White House Office of the Press Secretary (June 29, 2016) June 2016 Update. Web accessed October 17, 2017 at:  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/29/fact-sheet-promoting-and-protecting-human-rights-lgbt-persons

[5] https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1874/LGBT%20Vision.pdf.

CWA: Standing Against Religious Persecution around the World

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We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities. Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage. (National Security Strategy, December 2017)

In 2017, Concerned Women for America was on the front lines fighting for America’s religious freedom, from petitioning President Trump to protect the First Amendment, to rallying support for Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Today we extend that fight to oppressed countries around the world, where Christians and other religious minorities are imprisoned, beaten, and often killed for their beliefs. As we do, we bind our efforts with the Trump Administration and the National Security Strategy of December 2017, which proposes to advance American influence and values with the priority action of “protecting religious freedom and religious minorities” around the world.

Violence against people of faith occurs globally in multiple ways–including terrorism, religious extremism, and genocide–as in the case of the murder of thousands of Yezidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  In addition, state persecution violates religious freedom in some countries, such as in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic state. In Iran, Shia Muslim clergy, along with political leaders who are vetted by the clergy, dominate the major state power structures.  In many areas of the Middle East, threats to Christianity stem from Islamic radicalism and terrorist groups, while in Iran the main threats to Christianity come from the government. Although some tolerance is shown for historically Christian groups in Iran, Muslim converts to Christianity can be under threat of immediate punishment by death.

According to the Open Doors World Watch List 2018, which lists the “50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus”, the top ten countries are (in order from 1-10): North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran.  Open Door reports that two hundred fifteen (215) million Christians experienced high to extreme levels of persecution during the reporting period of January to October 2017. This number represents one in every 12 Christians worldwide, and includes killings, abductions, rape, sexual harassment, and attacks against churches. Open Door attributes this high number to three primary causes: 1) the spread of radical Islam and the use of Sharia law in Asia and Africa; 2) the rise of religious nationalism used to marginalize religious minorities and increase government power in Asia; and 3) a “grassroots revival of Islam” in Central Asia.

President Trump declared January 16, 2018, as “Religious Freedom Day,” noting in his declaration that our forefathers believed “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.” During 2018 CWA will be monitoring religious persecution around the world to advocate for freedom and report the most important issues to our constituents. Please stand with CWA as we fight for religious freedom around the world.

Dr. Shea Garrison serves as CWA’s Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs.

 

CWA Attends Announcement of New HHS Division: Conscience and Religious Freedom

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This week, members of the CWA staff were invited to a special event at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcing a new division on Conscience and Religious Freedom in HHS’s Office of Civil Rights.  Caroline Aderholt, CWA’s Chief of Staff, was the only non-speaker who was invited behind the scenes to join the speakers and influencers, including the acting Secretary of HHS, Members of Congress and Senators.

This new division will specialize in enforcement and compliance with laws that protect conscience and the free exercise of religion and that prohibit coercion and discrimination. Specifically, this division will deal with conscience objections of healthcare workers who are forced to perform or participate in an abortion in violation with their deeply held beliefs. Additionally, this new division will also focus on the increasing issue of protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers who object to participating in the gender reassignment process.

This was the result of hard work from so many behind the scenes to emphasize the importance of conscience protection. Thanks to the hard work of our team and the pro-life coalition, the Trump Administration has taken this unprecedented step to protect those who just want to follow their conscience.

Capitol Hill Brief — Feisty and Feminine Workshops

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I also want to take a moment and thank God and you, our thousands of Concerned Women for America supporters, for the support you gave my book, Feisty and Feminine, this year.

I wrote it as a manual for conservative women to be equipped on the major topics of the day.  We are stronger when we stand together with one voice, and my hope was to spark the conversations with Feisty and Feminine.

Well, as usual, you blew me away.  Many of our members held Feisty and Feminine workshops this year, where a group of women went through the book, covering all the topics, equipping and supporting each other, while having lots of fun.

It’s a dream come true; thank you so much!


Help CWA stand strong on the front lines. Your year-end gift will help us defend critical issues like the sanctity of life and religious freedom. Visit www.CapitolHillBrief.org and give your year-end gift today. If you’d like to hear these commentaries on the radio, find me on your local radio station.

 

Capitol Hill Brief — A Supreme Accomplishment

By | Blog, Capitol Hill Brief, Gorsuch, Legal, Religious Liberty, Sanctity of Life | No Comments

 

Perhaps at the top of our list for accomplishments this year is the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.  God was so gracious to us!

You have to remember that before the election, when the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia was announced, Hillary Clinton was, without a doubt, going to be President.  And the Court was going to be lost to the liberal side for a generation.

But God had other plans.  And when President Trump won, everything changed.  He nominated an exceptional candidate in Neil Gorsuch, and Concerned Women for America all over the country pour out their heart and soul in getting him confirmed.

We did it. You did it.  God did it.


Help CWA stand strong on the front lines. Your year-end gift will help us defend critical issues like the sanctity of life and religious freedom. Visit www.CapitolHillBrief.org and give your year-end gift today. If you’d like to hear these commentaries on the radio, find me on your local radio station.

 

Capitol Hill Brief — 100 No More

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We’re looking back at God’s many blessings for Concerned Women for America in 2017, and we cannot forget to thank God for his hand directing our 100 No More rallies around the country.

One of the least known facts about the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood is its disturbing connection to population control and eugenics.

The effects are still felt today. Approximately 35% of all abortions in the United States are performed on African-American women, while they represent only 13% of the female population of the country.

This has been a burden for me personally, and that is why Concerned Women for America has been holding rallies to ask the tough questions about abortion and race and what most not be ignored.


Help CWA stand strong on the front lines. Your year-end gift will help us defend critical issues like the sanctity of life and religious freedom. Visit www.CapitolHillBrief.org and give your year-end gift today. If you’d like to hear these commentaries on the radio, find me on your local radio station.

Capitol Hill Brief — Pro-Life Victories

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Friends, as the end of the year approaches, it gives us a chance to reflect on what the Lord has graciously allowed us to accomplish this year.

On the pro-life front, we have seen many advances.  With President Trump in the White House, one of the first things we were able to see through was the re-implementation of the Mexico City Policy, that halted international funds to organizations the perform or promote abortions abroad.

We also finally put an end to the hideous Obamacare contraception mandate that held the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other pro-life organizations hostage, paying for abortion and abortion-inducing drugs.

Those are major victories that get us excited about 2018.


Help CWA stand strong on the front lines. Your year-end gift will help us defend critical issues like the sanctity of life and religious freedom. Visit www.CapitolHillBrief.org and give your year-end gift today. If you’d like to hear these commentaries on the radio, find me on your local radio station.