Tag Archive for: Good News

Tractor Supply Puts Pride Out to Pasture, Handing Americans Their Biggest Win Yet

Most Americans couldn’t dream up a better way to cap off the Left’s 2024 Pride fail than another big-name company running for the exits. While major league sports and other businesses quietly dumped the June tradition, Tractor Supply Co. opted for a full-scale reversal, complete with a public apology for their activism. In a statement that read like a death knell for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the rural retailer joined the bumper crop of brands on the sidelines — putting another exclamation point on this year’s epic pushback.

Fresh off a stint at another hotbed of wokeness, Macy’s, CEO Hal Lawton, who’s only been at the helm since 2020, took the Tennessee-based company in a radical new direction, embracing everything from transgenderism to DEI — decisions that earned him a perfect score on HRC’s 2022 Equality Index (and a 95% last year), honors on Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index for 2022 and 2023 and Newsweek’s Greatest Workplaces for Diversity in 2023. And while the adulation of the Left might have been music to Lawton’s ears, it became a battle cry for his heartland consumers.

Journalist and film director Robby Starbuck fanned those flames, exposing Tractor Supply’s not-so-secret identity as a card-carrying member of the radical Left. For the better part of this summer, he reported on the details of Lawton’s partnerships, sparking grassroots outrage so intense that the company announced a complete course-correction.

In a blockbuster statement Thursday, Tractor Supply didn’t skirt the issue, admitting bluntly, “We work hard to live up to our Mission and Values every day and represent the values of the communities and customers we serve. We have heard from customers that we have disappointed them. We have taken this feedback to heart. Going forward,” they vow, “we will ensure our activities and giving tie directly to our business.”

They list five monumental concessions, including promises to:

  1. “No longer submit data to the Human Rights Campaign
  2. Refocus our Team Member Engagement Groups on mentoring, networking and supporting the business
  3. Further focus on rural America priorities including ag education, animal welfare, veteran causes and being a good neighbor and stop sponsoring nonbusiness activities like pride festivals and voting campaigns
  4. Eliminate DEI roles and retire our current DEI goals while still ensuring a respectful environment [and]
  5. Withdraw our carbon emission goals and focus on our land and water conservation efforts.”

“We will continue to listen to our customers and Team Members. Your trust and confidence in us are of the utmost importance, and we don’t take that lightly. As we look forward to celebrating our nation’s independence, we also celebrate our more than 50,000 team members across 2,250 stores. Rural communities are the backbone of our nation and what make America great. We are honored to be a part of them. We are always here and ready to serve you and your family with our legendary service for the life you love. See you in the stores.”

The sound you hear is millions of conservatives’ jaws dropping. Had Tractor Supply agreed to even one of these policy changes, it would have been headline news. But to virtually wipe the slate clean of every vestige of LGBT activism, climate change, and then flat-out ditch DEI is a political transformation the likes of which Americans have never seen. Not only that but the company’s contrition felt sincere — and more importantly, backed by concrete steps to prove it.

“This is a massive victory for sanity and the single biggest boycott win of our lifetime,” Starbuck tweeted. To HRC, who denounced the move in a desperate attempt to hang on to their corporate leverage, he warned, “This is the beginning, not the end. … You call me an extremist but you know what I find extreme? Expecting every company on earth to force your political + social beliefs on the entire planet. That seems sort of extreme. All my side is asking for is sanity. Let stores just be stores again. No politics, no far left social values push, just good products & service. No one is asking for discrimination, just normalcy and to not have your politics shoved down their throat.”

At this rate, the people who’ll be most relieved when Pride Month is over are the organizers.

Perhaps most telling, Tractor Supply wasn’t afraid to list its disassociation from HRC first — a level of open defiance that would have been unthinkable five years ago. And yet, like so many businesses, Lawton has realized the only force to truly fear is consumers.

As All-American swimmer and women’s advocate Riley Gaines pointed out, Lawton had plenty of incentive to roll back his extremism. “It only took @TractorSupply losing $2 billion before they decided to stick to selling farm equipment rather than engaging in activism. I believe this is the strongest ‘apology’ statement we’ve seen from a corporation so far. Props to them for listening & responding to their base.”

Donald Trump Jr. applauded Tractor Supply’s disavowal of the Left, writing, “This is great. … It takes courage to admit when you’ve gone [astray] & it’s time more companies acknowledge they are there to serve their actual customers & those communities & not the woke causes of people who would never set foot in your stores. Well Done!”

For conservatives who’ve been fighting wokeism before it was a word, this is a powerful moment — even a historic one. Stephen Soukup, author of “The Dictatorship of Woke Capital,” can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Political neutrality is extremely difficult to achieve. … The reason,” he explains, “… is because of the politicization of basically everything in society, right? Health care is now political. Investments are political. Everything has been overtly made into a political issue. … [And] when everything is political, it pits us against each other. … And that’s something that we have to try and prevent against.”

Ever since the Bud Light and Target fiascos last year, Soukup told The Washington Stand, “Corporations have become aware that there is a distinction between ‘stakeholders’ and stakeholders. As the scare quotes imply, the first is a group of people who have no real skin in the game and are using the company solely to make a political point. The second, by contrast, are people who have a genuine interest in the company and its well-being — customers, employees, shareholders, etc. Catering to the former at the expense of the latter has proven to be a disastrous business strategy and, as a result, is rightly being abandoned by corporate leaders who understand what their fiduciary duties are.”

After this explosion of pushback, he feels the ground shifting. “… I’m so much more optimistic now than I was three or four years ago about how effective we can be in halting this ideological, political takeover of business and capital markets,” Soukup insisted.

But on the ideological battlefield, revolutions don’t happen all at once, Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm pointed out. “You have to move one step at a time. You conquer a bridge, a hill, then a town. You keep piling up small victories, until eventually you realize a significant amount of territory has been conquered.”

Well, a significant amount of territory has been conquered here, and Americans who took a stand by taking their money elsewhere deserve all the credit in the world. The Goliaths are falling in a battle no conservative imagined winning. So pick up your slings, and let’s go. There are giants to slay.

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Pride Month Goes Out with a Whimper

It’s been a long time since Americans could sit back and actually enjoy the month of June. It was always an insufferable four weeks, breathing in the rainbow-saturated air that fell heaviest across our favorite sports, stores, shows, and social media. But the most remarkable thing about this year’s Pride Month may be just how unremarkable it was. Sure, there were still parades, over-the-top political pronouncements, and colorful flags billowing from too many government buildings, but the characteristic dread and fatigue from Pride is gone — replaced by a quiet confidence that maybe, just maybe, we’ve been heard.

For the conservatives in the movement fighting this battle the longest, 2024 didn’t just feel different. It was different. Heading into these final days of June, the biggest story across the mainstream media isn’t who’s celebrating Pride, but where did it go? The Associated PressNBC NewsVox, and others have talked to countless experts, who all have the same thing to say: Executives are too worried about rocking the consumer boat.

“They’ve been rattled,” Drexel University Marketing Professor Daniel Korschun insists of CEOs and other industry heads. “There’s been a definite scaling back in both big and small ways,” Joanna Schwartz, another professor at Georgia College & State University, agreed. “I had expected some brand caution, but this year seems [to be] a near full-scale retreat.”

For people whose livelihoods are actually tied to the LGBT activism that June represents, “bad” doesn’t begin to describe the year they’re having. For Tim Bennett, co-founder of a firm called Tribury that specializes in reaching gay- and trans-identifying audiences, business has been a bust. A lot fewer clients are “reaching out for Pride Month collaborations,” Bennett admitted to Vox. “In speaking with my peers,” he said, “most of us are experiencing the same pullback or wait-and-see approach.” Brand sponsorships are especially low.

Rob Smith, who sells gender-neutral clothing, told the AP that he’s seen a 25% drop in the number of stores carrying his line just over the last several months. That jives with what Alysse Dalessandro has experienced as an LGBTQ content creator. She went from 35 clients who hired her as a model for their Pride Month campaigns in 2022 to nine in 2023 — and just five this year. Even The Trevor Project, an extreme trans-affirming youth nonprofit, conceded to Marketing Brew that it’s seen “a decline in corporate giving in the last couple of years.”

Maybe this is just a “natural progression,” some have tried to spin it. If “transgender and queer people are regarded as part of the norm, there’s no point in making a big statement,” Barbara Kahn, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, argued.

But in a country where corporate America is routinely blackmailed by LGBT pressure groups, any hint of moderating that message would be seen as betrayal. Stephen Soukup, an expert in woke capital, who’s tracked the progression of corporate activism for decades, pointed out that for the last 15 years, businesses have tried “very hard to please one specific [activist] group, the Human Rights Campaign, which is an LGBTQ interest group.” And every year, [HRC] puts out its Corporate Equality Index — and every year, corporations are expected to do different types of things … in order to receive a 100% rating.”

Lately, that’s included everything from offering health care coverage for gender reassignment surgery to giving a certain amount of dollars and time to LGBT advocacy. If HRC doesn’t like the level of support they receive from a business, then, as “Outstanding” podcast host Joseph Backholm pointed out, they’re “going to try to destroy your reputation and make it hard for you to do business. So the companies feel an obligation.”

Frankly, Joseph argued, “I see this as a kind of extortion, where unless you do the things the [activists] want you to do, they are going to affirmatively try to harm you. Because in the marketplace, of course, your reputation is a big part of what your brand is.” He compared it to a gangster showing up at a store, “tapping their nightstick on their palms saying, ‘You know, it’s a great business you have here. It’d be terrible if something happened to it.’”

The difference now is, American consumers have managed to collectively hurt brands’ bottom lines more than HRC’s ostracization ever could. After Dylan Mulvaney’s beer cans and Target’s “tuck-friendly” swimwear, the backlash was so explosive and so sustained that companies had no choice but to recalibrate. These were billion-dollar mistakes that sent plenty of boardrooms into desperate PR tailspins — and everyone else on a year-long soul search.

This whole grassroots sea change that’s taken hold in sports, business, and other industries has been an astounding thing for longtime conservatives to witness, especially those like Soukup, who’ve been fighting the corporate beast virtually alone for the better part of two decades. “There’s definitely been a retreat,” he agreed. “When I sat down to write the book ‘The Dictatorship of Woke Capitol’ four years ago this summer,” he admits, “I was pretty pessimistic. I didn’t think that there was a whole lot we could do to push back against ESG, to push back against the broader stakeholder movement, to push back against all of this politicization of American corporations. … Even after the book came out, the following spring, I did interview after interview [and] I was asked, ‘What do you think is going to happen?’ I was still pretty dour. I [was] still pretty pessimistic about what our prospects were to get … capital markets back to neutral.”

Now, he looks around at this nationwide movement to roll back LGBT activism and can hardly believe it. “Over the past three years, there’s been really an explosion in the pushback. And there are a lot of people who’ve been involved in this, a lot of people who deserve a lot of credit for this.”

It was almost like a great awakening for everyday Americans, who finally got fed up and realized the amount of power they wield. “We’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘You know what? This is not right. This is not the way that American capitalism is supposed to function. This is not the way American democracy is supposed to function. And it’s important for us to get this right, because if we don’t, then we lose everything.’ … I’m so much more optimistic now than I was three or four years ago about how effective we can be in halting this ideological, political takeover of business and capital markets.”

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

The Ten Commandments Make Wise Laws

The Louisiana legislature has passed a bill that “requires schools that receive public money to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on Thursday’s “Washington Watch,” and “the anti-Christian Left is convulsing.”

It isn’t hard to imagine their cry: “But what about the separation of church and state?” Posting the Ten Commandments in school classrooms “was common,” Perkins countered, “until the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that such a display was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.” Of course, the Establishment Clause was in effect for 189 years before that, and for most of that time no one objected to the Ten Commandments in schools. Doing so does not establish any religion.

“We’re focused on the historical aspect of the Ten Commandments, which all of our laws are derived from,” bill sponsor Louisiana Rep. Dodie Horton (R) explained to Perkins. “We also included that, if a school would like to put up other historical documents like the Mayflower Compact, the Northwest Ordinance, the Bill of Rights, they’re able to do so.” In other words, displaying the Ten Commandments will teach Louisiana schoolchildren about American history and about how American law developed.

Skeptics will still ask, but why are the Ten Commandments displayed and not other religious ethical statements, like the writings of Confucius or Native American myths? One answer is America’s historical development. This great nation was not built by Confucians or Muslims, but by people informed by the Bible and the moral teachings found therein.

A second answer is that the moral principles found in the Ten Commandments are so wise that even people from other nations, religions, and cultures will recognize the wisdom they contain. “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me,” declared Moses.

“Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

After this exhortation, Moses proceeded to recite the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. These form the outline for the rest of the laws set forth in Deuteronomy 6-26, which simply apply these 10. The Ten Commandments, in turn, can be reduced to two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37), and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39).

Who could dispute this? Who would take issue with laws that prescribed, “You shall not murder, and you shall not commit adultery, and you shall not steal, and you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:17-20)? None of America’s problems are from people following these rules too closely. “When we look at what’s happening in our schools, we look at what is happening in our culture, and we wring our hands, and policymakers try to figure out what they’re going to do,” Perkins said, “it’s pretty simple: go back to the Ten Commandments.”

Of course, real life offers endless applications for these commandments, and people will differ on exactly when and where they apply. Some people would affirm these principles in theory but then deny obvious practical implications.

For example, some people would assent to the statement, “murder is wrong,” but also support abortion, the premeditated, unjust killing of an unborn human being. “I’ve operated on babies that were 25, 26, 27, 28 weeks gestation, and you have to give them anesthesia. They can feel everything,” said retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson on “Washington Watch” Thursday. “What about all those people who are trying to save snail darters? Now a snail darter is considerably less complex than a fetus, even at a few weeks. So, why are you trying to save the one and not the other?” Caring for animal life is arguably related to the prohibition on murder, but caring for unborn human life certainly is.

Yet this backwards reasoning is more common than might be expected. At this week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, Family Research Council Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Travis Weber reported on “Washington Watch” that national representatives were giving speeches with “references to animal health, about the rights of animals to receive relief,” but also about “reproductive health,” a “euphemistic phrase that includes abortion.” Animals’ lives are never more important than human lives.

Granted, the commandments against murder, adultery, stealing, and false testimony are less controversial in our culture than the rest. But the others provide the basis for these good and wise laws. The tenth commandment, for instance, “you shall not covet…” (Deuteronomy 5:21), is not something governments are competent to enforce, since other fallen human beings can’t know the human heart. But coveting is often the root of many wicked deeds the government should deter. For an example of how coveting can lead to murder, theft, and false testimony, see the account of Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16).

The commandment that will likely provoke the most criticism in a public school setting is the first, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:7). But proponents could respond with a de-escalatory admission followed by a provocative question. “That’s fine, you don’t have to agree with it. We recognize the American tradition of religious freedom. In fact, the God who gave these laws invented religious freedom,” they could say. “But, I wonder, what do you believe the basis is for laws prohibiting murder, adultery, theft, and false testimony?”

According to the Ten Commandments, the ultimate reason is the character of the God who ordered the world. But for a secular humanist, who believes there is no god, and that we are the result of random evolutionary processes, then how do they square these moral principles with the evolutionary principle of the survival of the fittest? Not only do the Ten Commandments present a wiser way to live together in society, they also provide a better reason for living that way.

Therefore, “We want our children to see what God’s standard for our moral conduct is,” urged Horton. “We’re not asking the teachers to teach it, but we want our children to be able to see one — that there is a God, and that he does have a moral standard [by] which they need to conduct themselves.” Perkins agreed. “Teach them that there is truth, and we’re accountable to it.”

Perkins appealed to President George Washington’s farewell address, in which the first president declared that morality and religion were the two indispensable supports for political prosperity. If the famously cautious president would publicly endorse morality and religion — after the Establishment Clause had been enacted — surely the mere presence of the Ten Commandments, a basic statement of morality without any proselytization for any religion, should pass constitutional muster. It might even make the students a little bit wiser, if they ever stopped to heed its wisdom.

AUTHOR

Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

RELATED ARTICLES:

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

SCOTUS Hands NRA First Amendment Win

In a victory for First Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided to reinstate a lawsuit brought by the National Rifle Association (NRA) alleging that New York state officials had violated the Second Amendment advocacy group’s First Amendment rights.

Following a 2018 school shooting, then-superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) Maria Vullo pressured financial institutions “to punish or suppress” the NRA, due to the organization’s gun rights advocacy. The NRA argued that Vullo violated the First Amendment and overstepped her official bounds, going beyond advising financial institutions and actually coercing them into targeting the NRA. But the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Vullo’s actions “constituted permissible government speech and legitimate law enforcement.”

In an opinion penned by typically-left-leaning Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the NRA put forth a strong enough case that its lawsuit should be reinstated. “Six decades ago, this Court held that a government entity’s ‘threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion’ against a third party ‘to achieve the suppression’ of disfavored speech violates the First Amendment,” Sotomayor wrote. “Today, the Court reaffirms what it said then: Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors. Petitioner National Rifle Association (NRA) plausibly alleges that respondent Maria Vullo did just that.”

According to Sotomayor’s summary of the case, Vullo began investigating several NRA-associated insurance programs, finding several minor regulatory infractions. After the February 14, 2018 shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, numerous companies and financial institutions spoke out against the NRA and some even severed ties with the group. Among those which refused to do business with the NRA were Lockton Companies, Chubb Corporation, and Lloyd’s of London, who respectively administered and underwrote insurance plans for NRA members.

Sotomayor wrote that, after the shooting, Vullo met with executives at Lockton, Chubb, and Lloyd’s and expressed a “desire to leverage [her office’s] powers to combat the availability of firearms, including specifically by weakening the NRA.” She also told executives — specifically Lloyd’s executives — that she had found numerous “technical regulatory infractions plaguing the affinity insurance marketplace,” but indicated “that DFS was less interested in pursuing the[se] infractions” unrelated to any NRA business “so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA.”

Sotomayor summarized, “Vullo and Lloyd’s struck a deal: Lloyd’s ‘would instruct its syndicates to cease underwriting firearm-related policies and would scale back its NRA-related business,’ and ‘in exchange, DFS would focus its forthcoming affinity-insurance enforcement action solely on those syndicates which served the NRA, and ignore other syndicates writing similar policies.’”

Shortly afterwards, Vullo issued “guidance” letters to New York financial institutions, urging them to fulfill “their social responsibility” by ceasing to do business with the NRA. She and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) hosted a joint press conference reiterating those points. Chubb agreed to stop underwriting NRA insurance policies and Vullo called on others to do likewise. Chubb and Lloyd’s entered into agreements with Vullo and DFS in early May.

“As DFS superintendent, Vullo had direct regulatory and enforcement authority over all insurance companies and financial service institutions doing business in New York,” Sotomayor explained. “So, whether analyzed as a threat or as an inducement, the conclusion is the same: Vullo allegedly coerced Lloyd’s by saying she would ignore unrelated infractions and focus her enforcement efforts on NRA-related business alone, if Lloyd’s ceased underwriting NRA policies and disassociated from gun-promotion groups.”

“One can reasonably infer from the complaint that Vullo coerced DFS-regulated entities to cut their ties with the NRA in order to stifle the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy and advance her views on gun control,” Sotomayor continued. She further explained:

“To state a claim that the government violated the First Amendment through coercion of a third party, a plaintiff must plausibly allege conduct that, viewed in context, could be reasonably understood to convey a threat of adverse government action in order to punish or suppress the plaintiff ’s speech. Accepting the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, the NRA plausibly alleged that Vullo violated the First Amendment by coercing DFS-regulated entities into disassociating with the NRA in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy.”

“The NRA’s allegations, if true, highlight the constitutional concerns with the kind of intermediary strategy that Vullo purportedly adopted to target the NRA’s advocacy,” Sotomayor explained. “Such a strategy allows government officials to expand their regulatory jurisdiction to suppress the speech of organizations that they have no direct control over.” She concluded, “Ultimately, the critical takeaway is that the First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech, directly or (as alleged here) through private intermediaries.”

The court’s decision was unanimous. Justices Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, and Biden-appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote concurring opinions. This comes as the Supreme Court deliberates over a case regarding the federal government and its agencies pressuring or coercing social media entities into censoring American political speech online.

AUTHOR

S.A. McCarthy

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Catholic School Upholding Biblical View of Marriage

In a decision hailed by religious liberty advocates, a federal court is upholding a Catholic school’s right to require employees to conform to Catholic teachings when it fired a teacher for entering into a same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that a North Carolina Catholic school was within its rights to dismiss Lonnie Billard, a drama teacher and substitute English teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School (CCHS), after he announced he would be marrying another man. The court’s ruling said that “because Billard played a vital role as a messenger of CCHS’s faith,” the school could dismiss him from his position for contradicting Catholic moral teaching.

Billard announced on social media in 2014 that he intended to marry another man, shortly after the state legalized same-sex marriage. In response, CCHS dismissed Billard from his position for violating the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte’s employee policy prohibiting actions contrary to Catholic moral teaching. Billard and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued CCHS, the diocese, and Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools for alleged Title VII violations. A district court ruled in favor of Billard in 2021, but that decision was reversed by Wednesday’s ruling.

Fourth Circuit Court Judge Pamela Harris, an Obama appointee, wrote Wednesday’s majority opinion. She found, “Although CCHS offers separate secular and religious classes, religion infuses daily life at the school.” She noted that the school is expressly devoted to teaching and furthering Catholic principles, citing the school’s motto and mission statement, as well as the diocesan mission statement. “CCHS’s expectations of its teachers extend beyond the classroom,” Harris wrote. “It does not require all its employees to be Catholic. But, Catholic or not, it requires its employees to conform to Catholic teachings: CCHS prohibits employees from engaging in or advocating for conduct contrary to the moral tenets of the Catholic faith, including the Catholic Church’s rejection of same-sex marriage.”

Although Harris said that, as an English and drama teacher, Billard “did not have a responsibility to educate his students explicitly in the Catholic faith,” she did note, “CCHS’s commitment to integrating faith throughout its curriculum meant that Billard had to account for religion in his classes.” CCHS had previously made numerous and even novel legal arguments to defend its actions, but Harris ultimately found that the school’s dismissal of Billard was protected by the “ministerial exception” to Title VII. “Because we conclude that Billard’s role at CCHS was ‘ministerial’ for purposes of the ministerial exception, we resolve the case on that ground,” she wrote.

The ”ministerial exception” bars the application of certain anti-discrimination laws to religious institutions when dealing with the hiring of its “ministers.” Of note, Harris stated, “The ministerial exception does not protect the church alone; it also confines the state and its civil courts to their proper roles.” Noting that certain religion-oriented disputes are beyond the authority of the courts, she wrote, “The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses … ‘bar the government from interfering’ with ministerial employment decisions or involving itself in ecclesiastical matters.” She clarified, “That means civil courts like ours are ‘bound to stay out’ of employment disputes involving ministers — those ‘holding certain important positions with churches and other religious institutions.’” Relying on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Harris wrote, “We conclude that the school entrusted Billard with ‘vital religious duties,’ making him a ‘messenger’ of its faith and placing him within the ministerial exception.”

In response to the court’s decision, Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand, “It’s encouraging to see this decision from the appellate court. No religious schools should be required to employ individuals whose actions and advocacy violate the school’s core religious beliefs.” She continued, “The main point of sending your child to a religious school is for them to be formed in their faith and taught their classes through the lens of their faith. As such, it’s important for such schools to hire teachers that share and affirm that faith, inside and outside the classroom.”

Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Education Studies, agreed. “This decision is important for many reasons, but especially for parents and families who are seeking an educational setting outside the home that reflects their faith and values. In our secular society, that is increasingly difficult to find, even in ostensibly Christian organizations,” she told TWS. “Decisions like this one that reaffirm the school’s right to expect and demand agreement with major doctrinal questions are much appreciated. And as a parent, I would hope that Catholic schools would strive to have faithful and practicing Catholic teachers in every class, not just religion class.”

Kilgannon added, “This situation also reminds us of the important relationship teachers have with their students/our children. Even in a substitute teacher setting, the influence of adults on children is profound.” In fact, the court also addressed that point. Harris wrote that a religious institution’s instruction that employees abide by particular religious moral codes does not automatically place all employees within the ministerial exception. But, she added, “teachers are different.” Quoting the Supreme Court, she explained, “’[E]ducating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school’ like CCHS.”

AUTHOR

S.A. McCarthy

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.

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We Don’t Need to Know Why Something Is Happening or What God Is Doing If We Know Who God Is

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Target Retreats from LGBT Merch after Year-Long Profit Bloodbath

This year’s Pride Month is shaping up to be a much more humble affair at Target. In an extremely gratifying twist, the company that bragged their transgender line is “great for our brand” has changed its mind after a year-long stock market bruising. It’s the latest evidence that the wildfire of consumer activism is not only spreading but forcing the kind of change most people never thought possible.

If you asked conservatives two years ago, stopping the woke at major brands would’ve been a victory. But reversing the woke? That’s a tectonic shift in the power structure of Big Business. For once, CEOs — who for years have thrown their radical agenda in the face of shoppers — are feeling enough pain in their profit margins to stop and ask if appeasing the far-Left is worth it.

Target’s CEO Brian Cornell, who flaunted the stores’ chest binders and tucking swimming suits for kids as “progress,” finally counted the cost of his social extremism late last summer. By the end of a dismal August, he didn’t apologize, but he did admit that it was time for some soul searching. As his first and second quarter earnings tanked, he hinted at changes ahead. “As we navigate an ever-changing operating and social environment, we’re applying what we’ve learned to ensure we’re staying close to our guests and their expectations of Target.”

What Cornell learned, Americans will be pleased to know, is that trans activism is the fastest road to financial insolvency. After thumbing his nose at Christmas shoppers with shelves full of LGBT pandering, the full weight of consumer outrage started to sink in. Like his counterparts at Anheuser-BuschNikeDisneyPlanet FitnessRipCurl, and Doritos, he sent shoppers running for the exits.

But the activism has obviously gotten to an unsustainable point for his business, forcing Target to announce what would have been unthinkable a year and a half ago: a significant reduction in Pride products. On its website Thursday, the company wanted people to know that this summer’s LGBT merchandise will not only be limited but designed with adults — not children — in mind.

“We’re offering a collection of products including adult apparel and home and food and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback,” the notice read. “The collection will be available on Target.com and in select stores, based on historical sales performance.” Of the company’s 2,000 stores nationwide, only some will carry the items that landed them in hot water last year.

Naturally, the company’s course-correction didn’t thrill the corporate hostage-takers in the LGBT movement, who immediately blasted Target’s decision to put profitability first. Kelley Robinson, president of the extreme Human Rights Campaign, said Cornell’s move was a disappointing betrayal of their progressive values. “Pride merchandise means something,” she insisted. “LGBTQ+ people are in every zip code in this country, and we aren’t going anywhere.”

The company’s PR team rushed to reassure Robinson and other activists, saying in a statement, “Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round,” headquarters wrote. “Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members, which reflects our culture of care for the over 400,000 people who work at Target.”

So while Americans can (and should) celebrate the difference they’re making with their money, the work isn’t over. This muted approach to Pride is still an effort to play both sides. As Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told The Washington Stand, “CEO Brian Cornell is discovering that customers do ‘expect more’ now that many consumers are spending less at Target because of its LGBTQ fixation. By avoiding Target, consumers are getting the woke corporation’s attention, but not necessarily their behavior. They should continue spending elsewhere until their behavior meets consumers’ expectations.”

FRC’s Meg Kilgannon also chimed in, pointing out that Pride Month’s celebration of “unnatural lifestyles, proclivities, and identities has become more and more obnoxious over time.” The idea that Target is “setting a limit on Pride merchandising and marketing is remarkable for a corporate America too willing to bend the knee to HRC’s fake business scores,” she agreed. “As American shoppers endure rising prices and lower wages, retail stores suffer — not only from Bidenomics — but their own ridiculous investments in social justice and culture war issues that have nothing to do with profits and everything to do with virtue signaling to shape public opinion.”

“I haven’t shopped in Target recently and don’t plan to,” Kilgannon said. “But it is nice to think that the June rainbow radicals might be dialing things back. If people stop shopping in June, or at least stop spending money in stores and with businesses with rainbow logos and beyond, more retailers will get the message.”

Others, like expert Stephen Soukup, author of “The Dictatorship of Woke Capital,” urge people not to be duped by Target’s “half-measures.” “They seem unlikely to make anyone happy,” he told TWS, “while almost certainly frustrating observers and activists on all sides of the issue. Target says, for example, that it is carefully assessing which stores will have LGBTQ merchandise this year,” he pointed out. “That’s irrelevant in the digital age. Wherever the displays are, they will be videoed and uploaded to social media, causing every bit of outrage and frustration they have caused in previous years,” Soukup said.

“Likewise,” he explained, “it’s important to remember that Target took a hit on its Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index score last year, simply because it responded to customer anger at its displays. The company will almost certainly get nicked again this year for supposedly capitulating to anti-LGBTQ sentiment by limiting its Pride Month offerings.” Ultimately, Soukup predicted, “Both outcomes are likely to aggravate Target’s shareholders. It took several months last year for the company’s stock price to recover from its Pride Month-induced freefall, and a repeat of that disaster may well cause larger and more activist investors to question management’s competence and foresight.”

Regardless, there’s no denying that Americans are moving the needle on corporate extremism. As Perkins said on Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) “Truth Be Told” podcast before he was elected speaker, “This is not a gray area” for most people. Even non-believers understand the difference between males and females. “And I actually think this is why we’re seeing such significant pushback across the nation…” When Americans are silent, he warned, “we are playing right along with the deception that is destroying the lives of many young people.”

At the end of the day, he acknowledged, “What we have is not our own. … God has entrusted you with the resources to buy food, clothing, the necessities of life. Do you think He would really want you sending that to an entity that uses the profits … [to attack] the biblical truth that he expects us to live by? So it really comes down to a stewardship issue. It’s not about boycotting. [It’s about using money] in a way that would honor God. … And I’ll have to be very, very clear. I do not think being caught in a Target store is honoring God.”

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

RELATED ARTICLE: Feminism, Transgenderism, and the Disappearance of Male Spaces

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

NHS Formally Declares Sex a ‘Biological’ Reality

Britain’s top health authority is officially rejecting transgender ideology and declaring that biological sex is a reality, while “gender identity” isn’t. The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) is revising its constitution to state, “We are defining sex as biological sex.” The proposed constitutional revisions stress a need for “respecting the biological differences between men and women,” further warning, “If these biological differences are not considered or respected, there is the potential for unintended adverse health consequences.”

Among other things, the constitutional revision will bar biological men who identify as women from accessing female-only wards, allow female patients to request other biological females for “intimate care,” and do away with terms such as “chestfeeding” and “birthing people.”

“We need to be making this robust case to refuse to wipe women out of the conversation,” Health Secretary Victoria Atkins stated, according to The Telegraph. “We have always been clear that sex matters and our services should respect that. By putting this in the NHS constitution we’re highlighting the importance of balancing the rights and needs of all patients to make a healthcare system that is faster, simpler and fairer for all.”

“The confusion between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ in official policies like the NHS constitution is what has enabled women’s rights to be trampled over in the name of transgender identities,” explained Maya Forstater, co-founder and chief executive of the advocacy group Sex Matters. “Sex, of course, is a matter of biology, not identity, and it is welcome that the NHS is now spelling this out in relation to single-sex accommodation and intimate care.”

Last year, then-Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced similar plans to eliminate “wokery” in the NHS, including barring biological who identify as women from accessing female-only wards, doing away with terminology like “chestfeeding,” and restoring the word “woman” to NHS guidance on subjects like menopause and ovarian cancer. “We need a common-sense approach to sex and equality issues in the NHS,” Barclay said at the time. “It is vital that women’s voices are heard in the NHS and the privacy, dignity and safety of all patients are protected.”

The constitutional revisions are hardly the only changes the NHS is making in its approach to transgenderism. In March, NHS England formally banned the prescription of puberty blockers and hormone drugs to minors, announcing instead a focus on family therapy, individual child psychotherapy, parental support or counseling, and other forms of counseling and therapy. “Puberty blockers … are not available to children and young people for gender incongruence or gender dysphoria because there is not enough evidence of safety and clinical effectiveness,” NHS England announced. Last month, Scotland’s NHS offices followed suit, “pausing” the prescription of puberty blockers and hormone drugs to minors while health officials examine “evidence of safety and long-term impact for therapies.”

Many of the changes in how British healthcare practitioners approach transgenderism center around the publication of the Cass Review, an extensive four-year investigation led by renowned pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass into gender transition procedures for minors. The report found that there was “remarkably weak evidence” to recommend the use of puberty blockers and hormone drugs, there was “no evidence” that gender transition procedures prevented or reduced the risk of suicide, the majority of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria suffer from a host of often-neglected psychological co-morbidities, and serious research into the harms of gender transition procedures was impeded by “toxic” debate surrounding the topic. Additionally, the groundbreaking 400-page report found that gender transition procedures for children are largely based on biased and even low-quality research.

For example, the infamous Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic at Tavistock worked in close conjunction with transgender activist group Mermaids. In 2022, two years before her final report was due, Cass urgently recommended that the U.K. government shut down Tavistock’s GIDS clinic, based on concerns over an absence of child safeguarding and an excess of gender ideology guiding staff members’ decisions. Cass reported that staff and clinicians often rushed children as young as 10 years old onto puberty blocker and hormone drug regimens, sometimes after as few as three consultations. Ninety-six percent of child patients at Tavistock’s GIDS clinic were placed on puberty blockers and numerous whistleblowers reported that staff often diagnosed children with gender dysphoria while ignoring or neglecting other psychological conditions such as autism, anxiety, or depression.

In the wake of the Cass Review’s publication, a cohort of 16 unnamed clinical psychologists penned an open letter saying that they were “ashamed of the role psychology played in gender care” and of how psychologists “failed young people at Gender Identity Development Service clinics.” The clinicians called for “accountability for the managers and clinicians who pursued such unethical practice and caused avoidable harm to young people,” adding that “the role of our own profession should be fully examined.”

Numerous European countries have halted or placed stringent safeguards around gender transition procedures for minors. France, Sweden, Norway, and Finland have joined the U.K. in largely or entirely halting the prescription of puberty blockers and hormone drugs to children, warning that there is a lack of thorough research and study surrounding the safety and efficacy of gender transition procedures. Yet the U.S. still allows for gender transition procedures to be practiced on minors, earning the label of “outlier.”

AUTHOR

S.A. McCarthy

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Nike Stocks Still Tanking a Year after Mulvaney Partnership

A lot has happened since Dylan Mulvaney pranced around his yard in a Nike sports bra last April. Days after his face appeared on Bud Light cans — the controversy that launched a thousand boycotts — the sight of him doing jumping jacks in women’s workout gear was almost worst. And a stock chart that looks like a downhill ski slope proves it. Months after the country protested with a bonfire of bra burning, the only swoosh Nike hears now is the sound of profits gushing.

While Bud Light hogged most of the spotlight with its historic collapse, the devastation of Nike’s trans advocacy is real. By August of last year, the brand of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods was experiencing what experts called “its biggest losing streak since 1980.” With catastrophic losses — upwards of $13 billion dollars in market value — consumer outrage was packing a serious punch.

Angry women led the charge, lashing out at the company as an insult to females everywhere. “The ad feels like a parody of what women are. … That Nike would do this feels like a kick in the teeth,” one posted. Others blasted the brand for making a “mockery out of women,” vowing never to buy another thing from a company that chose a man “over all the hardworking women who workout regularly in your activewear.” It’s “absolutely disgusting.” Most people just couldn’t understand the marketing logic. “Why doesn’t Nike pay a real women to promote a product that is solely for women?” they wanted to know.

Almost a year later, the pressure hasn’t let up. Market analysts have been shocked by the company’s inability to rebound, a nosedive they wrongly assumed was temporary. According to Yahoo Finance, Nike’s stock is down 11.3% since the beginning of the year, and it’s trading “26.1% below its 52-week high.” And while experts are blaming everything from weak overseas demand to slowing sales and pricing challenges, their theories miss the most important reality: shoppers won’t put up with social extremism anymore. LGBT activism, the kind flaunted by Mulvaney and embraced by tone-deaf board rooms, continues to be the kiss of death to corporate profitability.

A long line of woke CEOs can testify to that — including Anheuser-BuschTargetDisneyPlanet FitnessRipCurl, and Doritos (although the latter two took the bold step of apologizing and course-correcting). Nike, on the other hand, only dug in — a decision that forced them to lay off 1,600 people in February, with a second round of cuts expected in May.

Nike boss John Donahoe has called the company’s downturn “a painful reality and not one that I take lightly.” “We are currently not performing at our best, and I ultimately hold myself and my leadership team accountable,” he said, leaving out any mention of the poor decisions that put Nike in this position in the first place.

Unfortunately, the company has a long and frustrating history of political activism. Millions of customers called it quits on Nike after their endorsement of anti-American quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, along with disrespecting our national anthem, persuaded the company to shelve its patriotic shoes. They were the first sports retailer to fan the flames of racial tension during the George Floyd riots, voicing support for controversial groups like Black Lives Matter. They’ve fought against religious freedom in adoption billsgirls sports and privacy, even launched a special trans line of clothing called Be True.

Most egregiously, Nike was one of the few brands openly using slave labor to stitch their iconic shoes together. A 2020 expose from The Washington Post talked about the Uyghurs who were spared China’s concentration camps only to hunch over tables sewing Nike’s logo on an endless line of shoes — up to seven million pairs a year.

“Everyone knows they didn’t come here of their own free will,” a Chinese woman told reporter Anna Fifield at the time. “They were brought here … because they didn’t have an option. The government sent them here.” It’s how the Chinese government is “exporting the punitive culture and ethos of Xinjiang’s ‘reeducation camps’ to factories across China,” one expert told the Post.

Incredibly, when a bipartisan bill threatened to outlaw the use of slave labor for American companies, ending our country’s role in these human rights atrocities, Nike fought to kill it. Company spokesmen denied that, responding to The New York Times allegations that they were only in “constructive conversations” with lawmakers. But even today, three years after Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the Canadian government is investigating complaints that Nike is still using slave laborers in Xinjiang, which they consider a “crime against humanity.”

Now, a year into their Dylan Mulvaney fiasco, the Oregon-based headquarters is reaping the whirlwind. Instead of taking their foot off the gas of an agenda Americans have so clearly rejected, Nike is stubbornly leaning into the radicalism that’s bankrupting other brands. At a time when almost 300 companies are backing off their LGBT advocacy, Nike scored a perfect 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index this year (quite a feat considering HRC’s steep transgender benchmarks).

If Nike wants to enrage consumers at a time of record pushback, that’s their business. But better advice might come from their peers, who believe a smarter company slogan would be: Just don’t.

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Arizona Supreme Court Revives Law Protecting the Unborn

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court put back in place a 160-year-old ban on abortion, The Wall Street Journal reported. “Abortion in the state has been allowed through 15 weeks of pregnancy under a law that the GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature passed in 2022, shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion opponents and some Republican lawmakers argued that the recent law didn’t override one dating back to 1864 — before Arizona was a state — that banned abortion throughout pregnancy except in lifesaving situations.”

The ruling “agreed that the 19th century law still takes precedence,” WSJ added, but the “court delayed implementation of the ban for at least two weeks to allow for additional legal arguments.” In comments to The Washington Stand, Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, clarified, “The focus for [this decision] is that the Arizona Supreme Court did what justices are supposed to do: they upheld the rule of law. They did not make policy.”

She continued, “Arizona law clearly stated that if Roe v. Wade was overturned, our pre-Roe law would go back into effect. So, today’s decision was a statutory construction. It was not a constitutional one, and it was not a policy decision. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s very important to emphasize that this … is how we want judges to rule.”

Herrod went on to share how a proposed amendment called the Arizona Right to Abortion Initiative could nullify the court decision. “That amendment does not reflect Arizona values or where Arizonans are on the issue of abortion,” she contended. The amendment would “bring in unrestricted and unregulated abortion,” she emphasized. “It would overturn most — if not all — of Arizona’s pro-life laws. It would not require doctors to be part of the woman’s decision, examination, or the procedure itself. Moms and dads would have no role in the abortion of their minor daughters deciding whether or not to have an abortion. It would usher in taxpayer funding of abortion.”

But given the dramatic effects of such a potential amendment, Herrod predicted, “When Arizonans read and see what the proposed abortion access amendment really is about, I’m confident Arizona voters will turn it down.”

In light of the decision by the Arizona Supreme Court, Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, shared with TWS, “In a huge win for women and their unborn children, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the law on the books protecting unborn babies from the moment of conception will go into effect. Praise God!”

She added, “Acknowledging what an abortion is, the Arizona law states that an abortionist who kills an unborn child can be punished with two to five years in prison. In recognition of the fact that the intent of an abortion is to kill the child, not to save the mother, actions taken to save a mother’s life that sadly result in the death of the unborn child will not be punishable.”

Szoch concluded, “This ruling is on hold for 14 days, but we should all pray it goes into effect. With this decision, the importance of the upcoming election cannot be overstated. Unborn babies lives will be on the ballot. Pro-lifers must turn out to vote.”

AUTHOR

Sarah Holliday

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Bruised BlackRock Slapped with Cease and Desist for Lying to Investors

It had been a relatively quiet 2024 for embattled BlackRock CEO Larry Fink — until about two weeks ago. Texas, in a massive blow to his woke firm, pulled the pin on an $8.5 billion dollar grenade, announcing that it was following through on its threat to drop Fink’s services where its school fund management was concerned. A firm that shuns oil and gas investments doesn’t have Texas’s best interests at heart, leaders decided. Turns out, that move — the single largest punch to BlackRock’s gut to date — was just the beginning of Fink’s spring headaches.

Late last week, Mississippi dropped another bombshell: a cease and desist order aimed at the firm’s blatant dishonesty about its ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing. When Fink cleverly withdrew BlackRock’s name from the controversial Climate Action 100+ initiative in February, he created the appearance that the world’s largest asset management firm wasn’t putting its environmental activism over its financial responsibilities. But looks can be deceiving. According to several sources, BlackRock’s anti-fossil fuel agenda is still very much alive, a fact that Secretary of State Michael Watson made abundantly clear in his complaint.

“BlackRock has made and continues to make untrue statements of material fact, and to omit material facts to make its statements not misleading to investors and potential investors in Mississippi,” the 29-page order read. “These misrepresentations pertain to BlackRock’s provision of investment services, especially its involvement in pushing Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) factors on portfolio companies. Additionally, many of BlackRock’s acts, practices, and courses of business operate or would operate as fraud or deceit upon investors and potential investors in Mississippi.”

With this legal action, Fink could face “an administrative penalty, potentially a multi-million dollar fine,” National Review warns. As far as the Magnolia State is concerned, BlackRock is openly double-crossing investors — an allegation that certainly won’t help rehabilitate the firm’s damaged image. Fink admitted last year that his company had already lost around $4 billion in business as a result of the backlash meted out by states. If he’s not careful, another serving of boycotts could be headed his way.

BlackRock claims to care about clients’ “long-term financial prospects,” Watson writes, but “[t]hese statements are untrue … because the consideration of ESG factors does not provide an indication of better financial returns or current or future risk profiles.” That, the secretary insists, is “misleading to investors who are interested in ESG for financial (as opposed to social or political) reasons, and who are led to believe that BlackRock’s ESG funds will receive a financial benefit from BlackRock’s consideration of ESG criteria.” Not to mention, he adds, “BlackRock charges higher fees for some of its ESG funds than it does for comparable non-ESG funds.”

Interestingly, Mississippi isn’t one of the 12 states who’ve either divested from BlackRock or passed laws that make that decision likely in the near future. This action, as Wild Hild of Consumers Research explained, is unique — a “first-of-its-kind” attack on the leftist agenda driving so many of these funds. BlackRock’s CEO continues “to pretend that the only time they engage in ESG, it is with permission of the shareholders — but in reality, ESG policies have seeped into every facet of BlackRock’s asset management. They’ve been lying to their customers,” Hild added.

This doesn’t surprise The Political Forum’s Stephen Soukup, author of “The Dictatorship of Woke Capital,” who pointed out to The Washington Stand, “Larry Fink wanted to be famous. Now that he is, he’s learning that one of the perils of fame is that everyone, everywhere knows what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Among those paying the closest attention to the now-famous Fink and his massive asset management firm are elected officials, who have a clear responsibility to protect the interests of their constituents.” He believes that what we’re seeing “in Mississippi, Texas, and in other red states is the consequence of Fink’s quest for fame, wealth, and power as it collides with Republican elected officials’ quest to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.”

Publicly, the wave of 2022 backlash that led states to quit BlackRock seemed to humble Fink. Last summer, he decided to drop ESG from his lexicon because the term was too toxic. He pivoted to “energy pragmatism,” which he explained as investing in clean energy while also backing “traditional energy sources, like fossil fuels.” The firm even showed more restraint on ESG shareholder proposals, supporting just 7% of the 400 submitted according to the last annual report. “That is a marked shift,” the Washington Examiner pointed out. “BlackRock supported nearly a quarter of such proposals in the previous cycle and 47% of environmental and social proposals the cycle before that.”

And yet, none of these surface-level changes seemed to comfort Texas, where local officials warn that the firm’s anti-fossil fuel agenda will ultimately haunt the state. “BlackRock’s dominant and persistent leadership in the ESG movement immeasurably damages our state’s oil & gas economy and the very companies that generate revenues for our Permanent School Fund (PSF),” State Board of Education Chairman Aaron Kinsey argued. “Texas and the PSF have worked to grow this fund to build Texas’ schools. BlackRock’s destructive approach toward the energy companies that this state and our world depend on is incompatible with our fiduciary duty to Texans. Today represents a major step forward for the Texas PSF and our state as a whole. The PSF will not stand idly by while our financial future is attacked by Wall Street.”

Both Texas and Mississippi are committed to holding BlackRock’s feet to the fire — a move that the 1792 Exchange’s Paul Fitzpatrick applauds.

“It’s troubling to see the largest asset manager in the world, which has an army of lawyers and a fiduciary duty to customers, including state pensions for nearly all 50 states, making clearly contradictory statements,” Fitzpatrick told TWS. “To fulfill its ESG and ‘sustainable’ commitments to coalitions like the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, BlackRock pledges to use ‘all assets under management,’ not just the funds labeled ESG, to change behavior of companies to advance political goals. This doublespeak includes the use of proxy voting, whereby BlackRock uses its customers’ funds to vote for various ESG proposals. Many customers who did not opt into ESG funds would never have voted for a ‘racial equity audit’ at The Home Depot or for Exxon Mobil to pursue net zero goals, among other resolutions,” he points out.

“We hope Secretary Watson’s courage inspires other state leaders to hold all fiduciaries accountable.”

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

GOP Senators the Most Conservative Bunch in Years: Study

While it’s cold comfort in a chamber controlled by the farthest of leftists, a new study should give conservatives some hope in a Congress that hasn’t accomplished all that much for Republicans. There’s a major shift underway in the U.S. Senate, CPAC Foundation’s Center for Legislative Accountability says, and the GOP may be an election away from reaping the benefits. According to research, this body of Republican senators is far more conservative than their predecessors — and becoming more so every November.

Looking back on recent Senate votes, the foundation estimates that Republicans took the conservative position 80% of the time. And while that’s a “far cry” from Democrats (who cozied up to the extreme Left 98% of the time), the GOP’s stat is greatly improved from even a few Congresses ago. Their loyalty to conservatism was helped along by a few key replacements: Katie Britt for Richard Shelby in Alabama, Eric Schmitt for Roy Blunt in Missouri, Ted Budd for Richard Burr in North Carolina, and J.D. Vance for Rob Portman in Ohio. In every instance, a more moderate Republican was replaced by a small government, social conservative.

Making matters more interesting, the least conservative members include the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who ranks as the fourth most moderate Republican, behind Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at 59%, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) at 55%, and the most liberal GOP senator of all, Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who can barely bring herself to vote conservative half the time (54%).

As The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak points out, that gap means Republican leaders are “increasingly out of step with the members it represents,” and “will continue to be” based on the people throwing their hat in the ring to replace McConnell. Neither Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) nor John Cornyn (R-Texas) cracked even 80% on the conservative scale, coming in at 71% and 79%, respectively. (If Republicans want a true conservative, they’d need the one man who scored a perfect 100% on the foundation’s metric: Utah’s Mike Lee.)

This may also explain why Senate leaders are so quick to “compromise with Democrats,” as Americans watched with horror in the most recent round of spending bills. After all, in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) party, there are no legitimate “moderates,” the study’s authors point out. The highest scoring Democrat in the Senate — Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — only voted conservative 30% of the time, whereas Collins voted with her caucus 46%. Essentially, the report points out, there are no “moderates” in the Democratic Party.

Republican leaders have been much more comfortable giving away the farm in negotiations, as frustrated conservatives like Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have pointed out. “McConnell and Schumer have been up here forever, right?” he vented on “Washington Watch” after the Kentuckian announced his retirement. “When they came up here, the debt was less than $5 trillion. Now we have $30 — almost $35 — trillion. We’ve got high inflation. We’re spending more [paying off the debt’s interest] than we are on the defense budget.” And yet, he said, “… We have a majority in the House. … So shouldn’t we take their lead instead of taking Chuck Schumer’s lead? But what Mitch McConnell has been doing is he’s on Chuck Schumer side. So he’ll organize whatever votes it takes to do whatever Chuck Schumer wants to get done. And so that’s how we get the debt, how we get no border security.”

But that’s about to change, many believe. This election cycle, Democrats have the unenviable job of defending 23 of the 34 seats up for grabs at a time when the leader of their party — Joe Biden — is swimming in disapproval polls. At least five of those races could be possible flips for the GOP, especially in key swing states like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. A number of others will be highly competitive, leaving Schumer’s hold on the majority tenuous at best.

For now, Family Research Council’s Quena Gonzalez said, these numbers should be “an encouragement to conservatives and a wake-up call to those running to lead the Senate Republican Conference.” FRC Action Director Matt Carpenter, agreed. “In recent years, the U.S. Senate has not been favorable terrain for conservative policy priorities. Voters are smart. They understand the work of a legislative body requires give and take and compromise, but all too often common sense conservative policies have been shut out of final negotiations. As the Senate GOP becomes more conservative, it will likely be more willing to go to bat for their conservative base on the issues they care about.”

At the end of the day, FRC President Tony Perkins pointed out in a conversation with Indiana Senator Mike Braun (R) earlier this month, “Elections matter. And this is a message that conservatives [shouldn’t] give up. We’re close to a tipping point. We’ve just got to keep voting and get those conservative, constitutionally-minded senators where we can hold the line…”

The Hoosier agreed, admitting that a lot of the news coming out of Congress lately seems “pretty dismal.” “But in [a] little over five years, I can see that we’ve made progress on changing the composition of the Republican Senate caucus. In other words, it’s going more to faith, family, freedom. Don’t borrow money from your kids and grandkids. What could be simpler if you’re a conservative. We need to keep [fighting],” he said on Super Tuesday. “Tonight is the beginning of 2024. We do well on the Senate races … then we’re there.”

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Judge Orders Biden Administration to Build the Wall

The Biden administration must spend funds allocated by Congress to build a wall on the southern border, a federal judge ruled Friday. Southern District of Texas Judge Drew Tipton sharply rebuked the Department of Homeland Security for contending that, “notwithstanding the language in the statute,” it had discretion to spend the money however it pleased. “Whether the Executive Branch must adhere to federal laws is not, as a general matter, an area traditionally left to its discretion,” Tipton, a Trump appointee, remarked dryly.

As usual, this lawbreaking by the Executive Branch is traceable back to the nation’s chief executive. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation declaring that “it shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.” The proclamation, as Tipton noted, paused all spending on a border wall and directed DHS to devise other ways to spend the allocated funds.

This language was already misleading because the word “divert” means “to turn from one course or use to another.” To quote from the ruling, “In 2020 and 2021, Congress funded roughly $1.4 billion ‘for the construction of [a] barrier system along the southwest border.’” Thus, by halting construction, President Biden was responsible for diverting funds from one purpose to another. The issue was funds being diverted from, not to, border wall construction.

In compliance with Biden’s proclamation, but in defiance of Congress’s allocation restrictions, DHS dreamed up plans to spend most of the money on “smarter border security measures” (a.k.a. technology systems, not a wall), “environmental remediation, flood-control, and cleanup projects.” Under these plans, the DHS would only construct new barriers “in two locations where they are filling gaps in existing walls,” according to the testimony of their own expert.

“The Biden Administration has failed to abide by the law to finish the construction of a wall along the southwest border,” said Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R). “Joe Biden refuses to carry out his constitutionally mandated responsibilities, so we took him to court to force him to do his job.”

In response to the Biden administration’s fantastical interpretation of “construction of [a] barrier system,” the judge threw the dictionary at them. “The definitions of ‘construction’ and ‘barrier’ connote building a physical structure that would serve as a barricade and a line of demarcation,” he wrote, after quoting from Merriam-Webster. “‘System’ accounts for the large scale of the U.S.-Mexico border requiring different kinds of barriers such as walls, fencing, buoys and the like.” Obviously, “this plain meaning does not include the Government’s definition,” Tipton concluded.

Tipton proceeded to analyze surrounding text in the same appropriations law. “Congress broke [the relevant section] down into five distinct subsections” and stipulated that “these funds ‘shall be available only as follows,’” he acknowledged. So, funds allocated in one category couldn’t be diverted to a purpose in another category. The following section of the law gave “currently deployed steel bollard designs” as an example of one type of barrier DHS was authorized to construct with the funds, demonstrating that Congress clearly intended the funds to cover the construction of the actual barrier.

Tipton further reasoned that DHS’s creative plans to reallocate border barrier funds fell into the other subcategories Except for a “generalized catch-all,” each section had “clearly separate and distinct purposes,” with one funding a border barrier, another “border security technologies,” another “facility construction and improvements,” and yet another “integrated operations assets and infrastructure.” These distinct categories described all the other projects DHS had in mind.

The agency’s discretion over spending projects did not extend so far, the judge argued. It would be one thing if the states who challenged the administration’s decision (Texas and Missouri) simply objected to DHS’s decision to pursue or not pursue any particular spending project. Instead, a fundamental part of their argument was that “DHS was specifically obligated to spend the CAA funds to construct border walls, and the decision to not do so … was outside DHS’s discretion and violated the law.”

This distinction was important because, instead of turning the argument into a question of federal authority versus state authority, it became an argument over whether Congress or an executive agency had authority over spending. “The central question in this case, then, is this: Has the Government obligated FY 2020 and FY 2021 funds for the ‘construction of [a] barrier system’?” the judge asked. He answered, “The answer is largely no.”

This is not just the opinion of a single federal judge out in Texas. Tipton quoted from a 1993 Supreme Court opinion, Lincoln v. Vigil, “an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities: Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes.”

Given this legal slam dunk, the judge issued a preliminary injunction, preventing any parts of the DHS’s plan that did not involve the “construction of physical barriers, such as additional walls, fencing, buoys, etc.” and prohibiting them from obligating the funds in question “toward mitigation and remediation efforts, repair of existing barrier, so-called system attribute installation at existing sites, or other similar purposes.”

During a previous hearing in the Southern District of Texas, a federal judge had dismissed Texas’s border wall lawsuit for a lack of standing, but then the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision and remanded the case in July 2023.

This lawsuit forms part of a legal maelstrom darkening relations between Texas and the Biden administration over its handling of the border. Other lawsuits taking place concurrently involve Texas’s attempt to arrest illegal immigrants, place razor wire along the border, or place buoy barriers in the Rio Grande River.

Given the larger legal context surrounding the southern border, not to mention political controversy making illegal immigration a top issue in the 2024 election, the opinion contained several findings that could be significant beyond the scope of this one ruling. Specifically, the court acknowledged the Biden administration’s border crisis had inflicted real injury on the state of Texas because of the costs the state has incurred in dealing with it.

Beyond that, the court also found “that Texas has demonstrated that its injuries are traceable to DHS’s funding decisions.” Texas submitted the DHS’s own documents to prove to the court that “constructing additional border barriers will reduce illegal entries in areas where those walls are constructed, increase detection rates across the entire border, and generally disincentivize illegal immigration.”

In other words, the Biden administration knew that constructing barriers would at least hinder illegal immigration, yet from January 20, 2021 it has deliberately chosen to pursue a policy of not constructing border barriers. In late January, President Biden told reporters, “I’ve done all I can do” to secure the border. According to this federal court’s findings, DHS’s own documents prove that statement false.

AUTHOR

Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Americans Chip Away at Corporate Wokeness with Doritos Win [Video]

It took Frito-Lay 63 years to build a $13 billion dollar empire. This week, 50 seconds almost destroyed it. That’s how close the brand came to corporate annihilation after its Doritos team posted a short video with a trans influencer that makes Dylan Mulvaney look like a youth pastor. Turns out, 24-year-old Samantha Hudson isn’t just a man pretending to be a woman, he’s a sick pervert with dreams of sexually abusing children. Congratulations, Bud Light. You’re officially out of the brand basement.

To everyone’s shock, Hudson, who appeared on “Crunch Talk” on behalf of Doritos Spain, has a disgusting history of social media tweets that fantasize about everything from nymphomania to child sexual abuse. “I want to do thuggish things to get into a 12-year-old girl’s [expletive],” he wrote. In another post, he talks about being in the middle of a street in his underwear “in front of a super beautiful 8-year-old girl.” With surprising cruelty, he vilifies victims of abuse, writing, “I hate women who are victims of sexual assault and go to self help centers to overcome their trauma. Annoying sl—s.”

As if that weren’t enough, Hudson describes himself as a Marxist “anti-capitalist,” who fights for “the abolition of … the traditional monogamous nuclear family” — which apparently makes him perfect spokesperson material.

Of course, once people started digging up his vile statements, Hudson apologized, claiming they were “pure provocation and in very bad taste.” “… [H]onestly I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I don’t remember having written such barbarities. … I thought that ‘dark humor’ was funny.” But it was too late. Americans across every platform were horrified, outraged, and to Frito-Lay’s terror, motivated. From journalists to former Trump officials, people called for “the Bud Light treatment.” Who hires an admitted pedophile to be the face of their product, everyone wondered? And what lazy marketing team doesn’t do a background check?

“This person is a million times worse than Dylan Mulvaney,” Ian Miles Cheong argued. The country seemed to agree — making #BoycottDoritos trend on X within hours of the story breaking.

Then something incredible happened. Before the wave of consumer anger hit land, Frito-Lay didn’t just take the video down — they fired Hudson. “We have ended the relationship,” a spokesperson told Rolling Stone. “We strongly condemn words or actions that promote violence or sexism of any kind.”

It was an astonishing turn for the company, even more astonishing given the timetable. Less than 48 hours after the video went viral, Frito-Lay — whose parent company PepsiCo has a perfect 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign on trans advocacy — dropped Hudson like a hot potato. Even Rip Curl, who faced the world’s wrath last month for featuring a trans “hero” in its surfer series, took five days to apologize — a record for regret.

That’s how dangerous it’s become for brands to cross consumers with a woke agenda. In the 11 months since Mulvaney-gate at Bud Light — a gamble that’s now cost them an eye-popping $1.4 billion in revenue — the entire landscape of corporate activism has changed. CEOs who were tripping over themselves to embrace the LGBT fringe are desperate to avoid the pushback that broke Anheuser-BuschTargetDisney, and others.

As Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm pointed out to The Washington Stand, this situation is different than other endorsement deals “involving so-called trans influencers,” since Hudson has quite a different, depraved past. “But it’s good to see that gender identity is no longer providing immunity to do and say terrible things,” he observed. “Wokeness has long insisted those labeled ‘oppressed’ can get away with doing things other people should not do. We need a world where people are judged consistently by their choices more than the group they identify with. Yes, Frito-Lay is probably doing a financial calculation here as well, but this is still a refreshing act of moral sanity.”

For corporate America, it’s quite a sea change. After years of punching above their weight class, Big Business faces a terrifying reality: consumers are punching back. And victories like this one will only inspire them to flex those muscles more.

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Texas AG Sues Pornhub for Failing to Verify Age of Users

Texas’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against pornographic website Pornhub for failing to obey state law requiring pornography websites to confirm the age of users before granting access to their sites. Experts welcomed the news as a step toward protecting minors from sexual exploitation.

Last year, Texas enacted House Bill 1181 into law, which requires pornography sites to verify that a user is 18 or older before allowing access to the site. The lawsuit against Pornhub, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), alleges that Aylo Global Entertainment, the parent company of Pornhub, is liable for up to $1.6 million “plus $10,000 a day from September of last year to the date of the lawsuit.”

“Instead of abiding by Texas law requiring purveyors of obscene sexual material to institute age verification systems, the company immediately presents minors who access their websites with pornographic content,” Paxton stated in a press release. “I look forward to holding any company accountable that violates our age verification laws intended to prevent minors from being exposed to harmful, obscene material on the internet.”

Texas is one of eight states to enact laws requiring porn sites to verify the age of their users in recent years. The other states with age verification laws include Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Pornhub, one of the most visited porn sites in the world, has been embroiled in a series of lawsuits in recent years. Two class action lawsuits have been certified against the company for profiting from child sexual abuse material and sex trafficking. Pornhub is also the target of a lawsuit on behalf of nine women who were secretly filmed while changing in a locker room in which the footage ended up on the site. As of 2023, Pornhub is the defendant in at least 10 lawsuits involving 256 alleged victims.

In a 2020 New York Times exposé, columnist Nicholas Kristof described how Pornhub is “infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.”

In comments to The Washington Stand, Benjamin Bull, general counsel at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, confirmed Pornhub’s penchant for allowing illegal material to fester on the site for monetary gain.

“From our own litigation and investigation, Pornhub is a criminal sex trafficking enterprise pretending to be a legitimate business,” he remarked. “It’s about time state law enforcement required them to comply with a common-sense law that protects children from sexual abuse and harm.”

Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, expressed hope that Texas’s lawsuit will cause the pornographic site to reconsider its exploitive practices.

“Pornhub doesn’t take the exploitation of anyone seriously,” she told TWS. “They don’t care about the women and men whose lives are ruined when they are trafficked and forced to create pornography. They don’t care about the men and women whose brains are literally deteriorating because of pornography addiction. They don’t care about the relationships and marriages ruined because of pornography. And they don’t care about children who will be caught up in pornography addiction and never able to live freely because of it. All Pornhub cares about is increasing profits and spreading their evil filth everywhere. So maybe, Pornhub will care about the over $3.5 million they will owe the people of Texas.”

Szoch continued, “AG Paxton and the people of Texas should be commended for holding Pornhub accountable, and they should continue going after Pornhub until it is completely shut down. There is nothing good about pornography. Nine out of 10 boys and six out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 18. This evil drug robs people of their ability to love. It must be stopped.”

AUTHOR

Dan Hart

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

Florida Weighs Allowing Chaplains in Public Schools

The Sunshine State is considering giving students access to chaplains in public schools. On Tuesday, the Florida State Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Education voted to approve Senate Bill 1044, which would allow chaplains to volunteer to offer counseling at public and charter schools.

The text of the bill states, “Each school district or charter school may adopt a policy to authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board.” The bill would require volunteer chaplains to pass a background check and would further require school administrators to publicize any chaplain’s religious affiliation and obtain parental consent before a student begins counseling.

Similar bills have been advanced in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas over the past year, facing backlash from Democrats but also some criticism from conservatives and Christians, who fear that the lax requirements around the volunteer chaplain position may allow for atheists, Satanists, and others to present themselves to children as chaplains.

Pastor Jay Johnston, Family Research Council’s chaplain and National Prayer Director, told The Washington Stand, “In speaking with church and ministry leaders about this opportunity to place chaplains in schools, it is suitable from my view if churches who adhere to biblical instruction could commission chaplains and send them to schools — if they have chaplains who know Jesus and have a pastoral heart to minister and bring forth spiritual guidance as they speak life, hope, and encouragement to students, faculty, and parents.”

“However, there is a downside to this,” he continued. “If church and ministry leaders don’t seize the opportunity and chaplains take up positions in schools that are without Christ or associated with a cult, it could give the enemy a foothold and expose the student body to spiritual darkness.”

Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, also commented on the good that school chaplains could achieve. “The specifics of the Florida bill may not be perfect,” she told TWS, “but the need that Florida legislators are seeking to address is very real. As a general matter, as long as the chaplain is actually a pastor who has theological training and ministry experience, I think school chaplains would be a blessing to everyone in the school: students, faculty, staff, and parents.”

However, she also warned, “But when I think of my own public school system where I live, I can easily imagine the approval by school officials of a chaplain in drag, an atheist chaplain, and worse. And that is obviously worse than no chaplain.”

A spokeswoman for the Florida Catholic Conference explained to TWS that although the state’s Catholic bishops have not taken an official stance on the legislation, “We recognize the good that chaplains can do in schools by helping students to address their spiritual and emotional needs. We are pleased that parents will determine the services their children will receive as well in districts that choose to establish chaplaincy programs.”

Reverend James Golden, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church and the co-founder of Pastors for Florida Children, was among those critical of the bill’s lax qualification requirements. He told lawmakers on Tuesday, “We cannot reduce this important job to somebody who is just able to pass a level two background check.” Golden’s comments echo complaints voiced by a coalition of 100 active chaplains in Texas when the Lone Star State advanced similar legislation last year. In a letter, the chaplains wrote that the Texas bill “allows a school district to give any employee or volunteer who can pass a background check the title of ‘chaplain.’ This is simply not enough. Professional chaplains have specific education and expertise to fulfill our role in helping others engage their own religious practices and traditions.”

The Texas chaplains also wrote, “As trained chaplains, we strongly caution against the government assertion of authority for the spiritual development and formation of our public school children. We would never provide spiritual care to someone without their consent. And when children are involved, parental consent is necessary.” Florida’s new legislation, however, specifically addresses this concern.

The Sunshine State’s bill also addresses another concern raised in Texas last year. The Texas chaplains made it clear, “Because of our training and experience, we know that chaplains are not a replacement for school counselors or safety measures in our public schools… We cooperate with mental health counselors — we do not compete with them.” While the Texas bill specified that “a school district may employ a chaplain instead of a school counselor to perform the duties required of a school counselor” (emphasis added), Florida’s bill does not replace counselors but simply adds chaplains.

Florida Senate Bill 1044 is now being reviewed by the State Senate’s Rules Committee. If approved by the state legislature, it will go into effect July 1.

AUTHOR

S.A. McCarthy

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.

RELATED ARTICLE: Henry Blackaby — Experiencing God Face to Face

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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.