The Slow Death of Religious Liberty

The Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which the State of Washington changed its pharmacy referral rules for the sole purpose of forcing a handful of pharmacists to carry the “morning after” pill in violation of their religious and moral belief that life begins at conception. Pharmacist referral on the basis of conscience is legal in all 49 other states, and this practice is supported by the American Pharmacists Association and more than 30 other medical and pharmacy associations. In addition, the trial court record contained voluminous evidence that the specific intent of the State was to target “religiously-motivated conduct.” Read more

When Legislators Behave Badly—What Should Be Done?

Twenty-two different people have told the Attorney General that Republican State Representative Jeremy Durham engaged in various kinds of sexual innuendo and relations with them. He has suspended his campaign but has chosen not to resign. What should be done?

Sounds like a question with an easy answer, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Here are some of my thoughts based on twenty-two years in state politics, which included the “pleasure” of serving in office when legislative colleagues were indicted and the “pleasure” of holding a “trial” to expel a colleague only to be sued in federal court for doing so. But before I share those thoughts, let me be clear; I’m not defending Rep. Durham or the conduct he’s been accused of or whatever conduct he has actually engaged in. In fact, given everything, if I were him, I would resign, but that’s not where we are.

Should the Legislature remove him?

This is a bit tricky because to say “no” is to risk being accused of winking at the behavior of which Rep. Durham’s been accused or condoning his behavior. But I would say in this particular case, “Go slowly because the precedent you set could prove problematic.”

Politics can be a dirty business. Power is a great temptation. People will say all kinds of things about others, particularly when not under oath, in order to remove them from power or ascend to a place of power. Accusations do not always prove to be actualities.

Until yesterday, when Rep. Durham admitted that he made some of the statements he was accused of, the Legislature had only unsworn allegations to go on. Of course, it’s fine if the Legislature wants to make its own determinations of guilt and innocence based on unsworn “he said, she said” allegations and denials, but the members may find themselves spending more time on expulsion proceedings than on legislative matters if they start down that path.

Rep. Durham’s admission would ameliorate the potential precedent for incessant “witch-hunts,” but current legislators have a practical issue to consider. While removing Rep. Durham from office now would make a “statement,” the Legislature is adjourned until next January. If the voters don’t re-elect him on August 4th, then should the Legislature be called back into session for some unforeseen reason, his primary opponent would take office anyway. Removing him now will not affect his ability to take office in January if the voters should re-elect him. And that leads to a final consideration.

Were Rep. Durham’s term not at an end as a practical matter, then the Legislature would need to pursue what the investigation has uncovered. But voters start going to the polls today, and they can serve as their own jury. After all, the power of that office in our system of civil government belongs to them. And that brings up my final observation.

One of my associates shared with me a recent commentary in which the author said we have the kind of politicians and laws we have because we, as a people, allow it. If that’s true, and it largely is, then all I can say is “Ouch! Who is going to hold us accountable?”

We can begin to hold ourselves accountable by voting wisely this election cycle. We hope TNVoterGuide.org will help you do that.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Is Optimism Eating at You, Too?

Conservative Christians have every reason to be down and pessimistic, but I need to confess something—I have this nagging sense of optimism that just won’t go away.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the reasons for the sense of gloom and doom. Every day the media is filled with stories that can provoke those feelings. However, I won’t take my allotment of words in this space to recount those stories; I’d rather tell you why optimism keeps nagging at me.

The simple answer is because the Word of God won’t let me come to any other conclusion.

Is God Pleased With What’s Going On?

Before you say “no” to that question, consider Psalm 115:3. However, to appreciate that verse you have to read the preceding verse. It’s like the statements I hear and read periodically in connection with the work I do: “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?”

Can you hear the taunt now? Today it might be said this way: “You Christians lost! There is no God to save you or to stand in our way. We’re moving on and, if you get in the way, we’re running over you.”

That’s why I get excited about verse 3. It begins with “but,” a wonderful, hope-infusing, “but!”

“But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

In other words, what is going on in our country and in our world is pleasing to God in one sense, an ultimate sense—the only sense in which things really matter. His purposes are being accomplished.

If nothing is outside the sovereignty of God, and nothing is, and if God does what He pleases, then I have reason to hope. As Nebuchadnezzar said, “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?

And if the Word of God is true, and it is, then I also know that God’s purposes cannot be anything other than good and right and just.

Is The Bad Stuff Not Really Bad?

But what about all the bad stuff that is currently going on? Am I just some blind, optimistic fool? Great question!

What’s going on right now is bad; our very form of government is being dismantled by the Supreme Court and corrupt politicians. But I realized I needed to step back and look at the overarching story Scripture tells from the 30,000 foot level.

When I did that, I realized that God often takes what is good at some point in history and then alters it or even tears it down in order to bring out of that which was good something even better. Let me give you just two examples.

God gave the pattern for the tabernacle to mirror a heavenly reality, and then God came down and His glory settled upon it. Incredible. God eventually did away with it, but He brought forth something more glorious, the Temple, where His glory again descended. And then He destroys the Temple, which was horrifying to those accustomed to the structures and systems of that day, to do something even more incredible; He takes up residence in those who believe in Him!

God gave the law. And as Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:7, even the Gentiles would look at the law and say, “What great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as the whole law” of Moses? Yet, God brings about something new that leaves the New Testament writers saying that, in comparison, the law of Moses was “weak” and “obsolete.”

Is God Doing a New Thing?

Could that be what God is doing now? Is He tearing down some things, as unpleasant and hard now as that may be for us to live through, in order to raise up something new and better?

By trying to “go back” and “hold on” to what is familiar and has certainly been good, could we be making an idol out of the past ways and structures that may no longer really fit that new thing that God wants to do as He moves toward His desired purpose?

I don’t know, but my reason for hope is not in what I see going on around me but in Him who sees all that is going on around me . . . and is pleased. What a pleasant thought.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Brexit, Abortion, and the Future of Party Politics

With the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, a political pundit recently predicted that the two major political parties would eventually realign to reflect new policy priorities among voters. As I read the prediction and as I thought about the Brexit vote and the Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week, I couldn’t help but think of another aspect of that alignment that social conservatives may need to consider.

The pundit pointed out that social issues have tended to draw people to one party or the other, even though those people may not have shared that party’s other platform policies. The pundit predicted that, with the “social wars” over, we would now see a “policy realignment” within the parties based on “a clash between nationalists, mostly on the right, and multicultural globalists, mostly on the left.”1

While I don’t think the “social wars” will ever be over, I realized I had touched on this idea several weeks ago in one of my commentaries:

I think some social conservatives have despaired of “values candidates” actually doing anything in support of their values. They have not lost their concern for the social values that drove them in the past to reluctantly support the Doles, McCains, and Romneys, and the do-nothing-but-make-excuses-for-inaction social conservatives who have been elected to Congress, but they have decided that supporting such conservatives isn’t going to result in those values being reflected in public policy. So, at this point, I think some social conservatives … are voting for someone who talks tough on the other issues they care about.

But this shift also seems a bit like the vote that just took place in Britain. I couldn’t help but notice several statements of this type:

But the really important thing is that future Prime Ministers will really have the power to run the country. No longer will they have the excuse that this or that isn’t possible due to some EU directive. Then we will have the chance to throw them out. That is the precious democratic inheritance that our parents and grandparents had which we have recovered and can pass on to our children and grandchildren.2

And I couldn’t help but think how something similar could be said of the United States if the size of the federal government shrunk and the people demanded that the imperialist U.S. Supreme Court be reigned in. Politicians would no longer “have the excuse that this or that isn’t possible due to” some Supreme Court decision or some federal law or regulation. The precious “democratic inheritance” we were given and have squandered could be “recovered” and “pass[ed] on to our children and grandchildren.”

That brings me to the Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week. Pro-life advocates have decried the decision and vowed to continue to fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. As much as I support that idea, it’s fighting the symptom, not the disease. The disease is the judicial philosophy of the Court (and courts at every level) coupled with its lack of accountability. With this judicial philosophy and a completely unaccountable judiciary, we need to realize our “democratic inheritance” is gone.

So how does all this hang together? If the pundit is right about the parties being realigned based on globalist vs. nationalist kinds of ideologies, then a secondary but parallel issue may well be alignment based on whether one party supports a strong national government or a more limited federal government in which states take on an increasing policy function as envisioned by our Founders under the Constitution prior to its reshaping by the Supreme Court.3

The first question in my mind is which party will embrace which of these two competing internal governing structures for the U.S. And the second question is whether social conservatives will, at least for the time being, be content to accept domestic policies crafted at the state level, even if it means some states do some things they won’t like.

The bottom line is that things are changing. Social conservatives would do well to figure out what that change is and where they fit within it.


NOTES

  1. Michael Lind, “This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like,” Politico, May 22, 2016 http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/2016-election-realignment-partisan-political-party-policy-democrats-republicans-politics-213909
  2. http://heatst.com/uk/brexit-has-energised-britain-bring-on-the-future/
  3. People forget that the Bill of Rights that the Supreme Court has applied to nationalize the federal government and strike down state policies the Court majority doesn’t like originally only applied to the states. It was not until long after the adoption of the 14th Amendment that the Court began to use the Bill of Rights against the states.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Obergefell’s Anniversary Isn’t the One to Focus on

As we approach the first “anniversary” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on marriage on June 26, I recalled what a wise friend of mine said a couple of years ago—Christians have approached the question of marriage and its meaning and definition like it was a debate when perhaps we should have approached it more like a beauty contest. His comment stuck with me. Something I experienced Monday and a news story yesterday helped me better understand his observation.

Before I get to my personal story and the news, we need to appreciate why his comment has merit. There is a philosophic and historical aspect to his cultural observation that Christians (and conservatives in general) need to appreciate. There was a time when reason and logic ruled the mind, called the Age of Enlightenment. But that way of looking at life seemed, to many, to leave no place for emotion, feeling, and beauty, so what’s known as Romanticism emerged. Consequently, how one feels about what he or she sees or experiences determines the truth about it, its worth, and its value. That worldview seems to have won the day.

If that’s the case, then examples of beautiful marriages between a man and a woman and the natural fruit thereof may be more captivating to the modern mind than logical arguments about the complementariness of the two sexes, the procreative realities inherent in male-female marriage, and the need for connecting children to their biological parents. That brings me to my personal experience and yesterday’s news story.

At a time when some are now arguing for wed-leases (yes, a marriage license would be a commitment for a defined period that could be ended or renewed) because they see marriage not working for the long haul, my wife and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on Monday.

I’m not bragging about it, and I know that, left unattended, my own marriage could still unravel, but as I reflected back on our 35 years, having just reflected on being a father the day before, I realized what a beautiful journey marriage is.

However, there have been plenty of hard moments, too personal to share in a forum like this. As much as I’d like to say I wish there had not been such moments, the fact is that, having hung in there, they have refined and enlarged us as persons and as spouses. They are a part of what makes me value and treasure my wife and our marriage.

While there are some marriages in which personal safety calls for drastic action, the fact is that the person who perseveres with you during the intimate, intensely personal storms that marital life brings becomes the one you cherish most, the one whose hand you still thrill to hold simply because it means they are there and you know that when they are not there, a part of you is missing.

Then I had breakfast on Wednesday with a friend whose parents were about to celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary, and Thursday morning I read about President and Mrs. Carter celebrating 70 years of marriage. I also learned that President and Mrs. Bush celebrated 71 years of marriage earlier this year. Amazing!

Those of us who want to “defend” marriage need to do more to honor and recognize good marriages that can inspire those who are ready to give up on the idea of marriage or maybe their own marriage. Doing so is part of what the author of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all” (13:4). It’s the reason I chose this topic for today.

So, as we approach the “anniversary” of the Obergefell decision purporting to redefine marriage, I guess my point is this: If Christians want to win the “marriage debate,” then we need to settle in for the long haul and demonstrate to a watching world the beauty of marriage.

That will take more work on our part, as our current track record on divorce makes amply clear. But if we’ll recommit ourselves to God’s design and intention for marriage, then, we can eventually win the debate.

Despite what some folks want us to believe, God—not the U.S. Supreme Court—will decide when the debate is over. It’s not over yet.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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