Deeply saddenedApr. 18, 2018
I am writing to you wanting so desperately to be happy that when the House of Delegates reconvened yesterday afternoon, they voted against adding sexual orientation to the state's non-discrimination hiring policy, and they added restrictions to the circumstances in which the state will pay for abortions.
I want to remind you that these were really good things and tell you that we are very grateful that all 51 Republicans voted for both of these yesterday.
But I am instead deeply grieved. And you should be too. This grief is not even about Medicaid expansion, which remains in the House's budget - but something, frankly, much more stomach-churning. Despite every effort we made to stop the creation of a brand new slush fund of money being funneled directly to Planned Parenthood, the House budget will effectively hand the abortion industry $6 million. The Senate budget that is likely to be passed could hand them $10.8 million.
There is a lot I could tell you about all that we tried to prevent this fund from ever being created.
I could tell you that for several previous years, we've successfully prevented this initiative from being in the final budget.
Or how the chamber in the previous two years has voted to prevent state tax dollars from going to the abortion industry, without a single Republican opposing it. (The House still has 51 Republicans.)
I could tell you how we met with various budget appropriators, members of leadership, and the entire Conservative Caucus.
Or about how we've drafted amendments to prevent the creation of a slush fund for Planned Parenthood, and what it’s like to hear all the excuses about why they didn’t even take a vote to try to remove it.
I could tell you about how small deceptions can seem very convincing, and how even people who proclaim to be pro-life can begin to think that there are still reasons to fund the abortion industry.
You honestly don’t want to know.
But it doesn’t really matter at this point why we are where we are, or who did what, or even who is to blame - although there’s enough blame to go around. What matters is that the state is about to hand Planned Parenthood and the other abortion centers millions of dollars so that when a vulnerable, low-income woman walks in to make an already-tragic decision to end the life of her child, the staff will then, in her moment of vulnerability and weakness, ask her if she really thinks she could handle being a mom and whether she could really provide for her future children a life worth living. And when she acknowledges life’s hardships, they are going to insert a device to prevent future pregnancies - for up to 10 years.
And now, you’re going to pay for it. This is the new pilot program that your elected officials apparently believe we should create.
If our elected officials really wanted to help these women, they might instead create a grant program to help fund the valuable work of the several dozen Pregnancy Resource Centers who work with this same population of women to offer them support, encouragement, and resources to become the women we know they can be -- successful moms, students, employees, and more. It’s on these doorsteps women show up downtrodden, fearful and needy. The heroes at these centers know from story after story that with this kind of help, a woman can in fact overcome the odds. But apparently, our government would rather help the abortion industry.
At some point, one has to ask how a pro-life legislator can vote for this final budget. The one positive is that 32 House Republicans and 1 House Democrat did vote against this monstrosity yesterday.
Sometimes my heart becomes numb to the terrible things state government can do because, after 18 years, I have seen it all. But today, I wish I felt numb. Instead, I feel deep sadness.
If this issue resonates with you too, I would encourage you to reach out to your legislators and let them know how important this is to you, and plead with them not to allow this to be included in the final budget.
Terminology and ShameApr. 16, 2018
Someone wrote the word "gay" with their finger on the dusty spoiler of my car.
I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not "gay." Neither am I "homosexual." I am a "same-sex attracted" man.
Why do I make such a big deal about the use of words like “gay,” “homosexual,” and “same-sex attracted?”
For two reasons:
First, I’ve always loved precision. I’m the kind of jerk who will correct people online about their improper word choice and grammar. More than that, I'm the kind of jerk who will correct them in person.
Second, and more importantly, I’m concerned about the use of these words having a much deeper impact on those who use them and on those who hear them.
My friend today said this, and I believe it is right on target. "The conflation of terms is at the root of most deceptions today."
These words describe people who are persistently, exclusively, and deeply attracted to the same-sex. The attractions are not just sexual. They go deeper than that. I can talk to you more about that and what it means another time.
Right now I want to talk about the words that are being used. I said they were words to describe people, but that’s not entirely true for all of them. The words "gay" and "homosexual" are words that are used in a more fundamental way. These words are used to identify people.
This is a conflation of the terms.
Identifying people based on their attractions seems very odd. We identify people based on their citizenship (I’m a Virginian and I’m an American), we identify people based on their religion (I’m a Christian), and we identify people based on their relationships (single, son, nephew, cousin, friend, etc.). I don’t know of any other identity words which are used based on desires (I’m not identified by my affinity for the color green, or based on my attraction to the aesthetic beauty of New Zealand).
So why do we identify people based on their attractions toward different sexes?
Why do we identify people as "straight," "lesbian," "gay," and "bisexual?" Why do people identify themselves this way? Perhaps it could have been said at one time that these were only short-hand ways to describe attractions, but in the culture we live in these words are used as different classifications of humanity.
One of the most distressing things on this topic is the incredibly high rate of suicides by people, especially teens, who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. These young men and women are made in the image and likeness of God, and are despairing to the point that they end their own lives. We must respond and work to save these people.
What is it that is driving people to such despair?
Shame. Shame is a huge concern I have for people with same-sex attraction.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a youth pastor. He was eager to get my thoughts about how he ought to respond if a student comes to him admitting that they are "gay." How can he respond in a way that will protect them from shame, he wanted to know. It's a very important question. Contributing to a sense of shame can have devastating impact.
There are different types of shame.
The shame that the youth pastor and I are concerned about is not a shame felt for wrong things that people have done. This shame is far more sinister and goes far deeper. These feelings of shame are based not on any behavior, but on an identity. This is a shame based on belief about who the person is.
Ontology is "the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature and relations of being." (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary 1965). Who are we? What is our nature? The answers to these questions have profound ramifications.
Shame is one of those ramifications. If I identify myself with an ontological category that is based on sexual desires, then shame is a very real possibility. If my ontology is "gay" because I experience same-sex attraction, then my "nature" and my "being" are found in same-sex attraction.
What are the consequences of such an ontological category? Really there are only two outcomes from that starting point:
On the one side, I could reject the idea that homosexuality is wrong. This is a common response today. How could homosexuality be wrong if people exist as this ontological category? If it is part of my being, can it be condemned?
On the other side, I could remain steadfast in my understanding that homosexuality is sin, and thus conclude that I am "sin" myself. This would quickly lead to intense shame and despair.
Neither of those options are valid responses in the Christian worldview. We cannot call something good that God clearly calls evil. So we cannot say that homosexuality is not wrong. On the other hand, we cannot call "sin" something that God clearly calls loved. God loves all people, and he doesn't love sin.
If my ontology is found in same-sex attraction, I don't see a good option for moving forward. What is the answer?
The answer is to change the starting point. I am not "sin." I am not "homosexual." I am not "gay." I am a male image bearer of the Holy God. My ontology is male image bearer of the Holy God. The distortion of original sin does not go to the ontological level. The disordered desires I have are not who I am. I am beloved.
The answer is to hate my sin without hating myself.
If I were that youth pastor, I would respond to the young person who confessed that they are "gay" with a firm, "No you're not. You are a male image bearer of the Holy God. Made and formed in his image, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The fact that you experience sinful and disordered desires does not change your nature. Temporary afflictions do not define you. God defines you. And he declares that you are worth dying for."
The answer to shame and despair is found in understanding who we are.
*This Blog was originally posted at www.ourseanmaguire.com.
Ideology v. BiologyApr. 13, 2018
What should schools teach boys and girls about sex? Should schools teach that “boys” and “girls” are biological realities, or should they teach that “sex is assigned at birth” and is changed throughout life based on individual feelings?
The only way to influence the ways these questions are answered is by being actively involved in your school board. Apathy from a majority of the members of the Fairfax County Public School “Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee” (FLECAC) – the group of parents, teachers, and community members responsible for making recommended changes to sex education curriculum – led to that body recommending that “biological sex” be changed to “sex assigned at birth” last night.
21 of these community members voted to use the language “sex assigned at birth” in place of “biological sex.” Only 3 dissented. This is an ideological change, and has nothing to do with scientific, medical, or biological realities. One of the leaders of the ideological effort said it best herself when she said, “I don’t think scientifically, medically, biologically [sic] at all matters in this discussion.”
She only said this after the Biological and Medical facts were put on the table. Initially the argument for approving of this language change was that “we need to use the scientifically accurate terms,” and that “sex assigned at birth” was the accurate term. It was only after one of the dissenting members of the committee pointed to a list of quotes from medical and biological resources that support “biological sex” that the story changed and science and medicine didn’t matter anymore.
After the vote was taken and the meeting adjourned, I asked several members of the committee why they voted the way that they did. Two refused to answer, saying that they were not interested in discussing why they voted to use “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex.” Another said, “Honestly, I was lost in the discussion and I don’t think it matters that much.”
This absolutely does matter.
Using the term, “sex assigned at birth,” gives support to the idea that “sex” is something determined by subjective feelings, and not by objective biological realities. It reinforces the idea that if children feel different, they are different.
Being told by teachers that they are different from all the other boys and girls is not good for children. Confusing children about biological realities in order to reinforce your ideological position is not good.
The School Board of Fairfax County still has to approve of these recommendations. Their next meeting is on April 26th, and the public is invited to make their voices heard both in writing and by attending the meeting.
Only 10 spots are available to speak at this meeting. If you live in Fairfax County, sign up to speak by following the instructions online. If you live somewhere else in Virginia, contact your school board and find out what they are teaching children about sex.
We cannot afford to be apathetic. Truth and facts must be defended.
Gender Ideology in 4-H ClubsApr. 05, 2018
When I think about 4-H, I think about the time I spent in that organization decorating cakes and sewing pajama pants. These are not “stereotypically male” activities, but I took blue ribbons in both events at my county fair.
The directors of my 4-H program were also involved in a local homeschool co-op and local church ministries. The other students working on cake decorating skills and trying to sew without injuring ourselves were homeschooled and Christian.
It is not unusual for the entire membership of rural and suburban 4-H chapters to be entirely made up of homeschooled Christian students. The directors also reflect this demographic reality.
Recently the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture published a policy document directing the operation of all 4-H chapters. Within days the document was removed from the website and the governmental body has said that it wasn’t supposed to be publicly shared at this time. Why would the government say anything about the way 4-H chapters are run in the first place?
Because 4-H is actually a government program overseen by the Department of Agriculture.
This recent policy document came out after the Department of Agriculture adopted a nondiscrimination policy that specifically prevents any institution administering their programs from discriminating on the basis of “sex, gender identity (including gender expression), [or] sexual orientation.” 4-H chapters across the country had a brief look at the document before it was taken down from the Department of Agriculture website, but the exact same document exists online at the University of California Cooperative for Santa Barbara County website. That is where one of the four authors, Dr. Katherine E. Soule, works to positively transform the community by improving equality for marginalized groups.
As an effort to promote equality, and to avoid discrimination, the policy document tries to define all of the relevant terms and explain how they are to be applied. I encourage you to read the document.
The application of these definitions is internally inconsistent. At first the policy defines “sex” and “gender identity” as two separate things, but then it goes on to say that “4-H shall not” adopt policies that are based on “differences between transgender or intersex individuals and other individuals of the same sex (i.e. the same gender identity).”
In other words, sex and gender identity are the same thing when an individual declares them to be so. If an individual with a male sex has a female gender identity, then the 4-H chapter must treat that individual as if their sex is female. The gender identity supersedes the sex, and sex is now, in effect, defined by the gender identity.
This doesn’t work with the definition provided in the same document. It takes a huge shift to go from saying that “sex” and “gender identity” are two different things to saying that you must treat people as if they are the “sex (i.e. … gender identity)” they proclaim to be.
This policy doesn’t just require 4-H volunteers and directors to treat people as if they are the sex which matches their stated gender identity; it applies to youth members as well! This means that all 4-H participants will have to call individuals by the pronouns that match their gender identity (not their sex), will have to allow individuals into the sex-specific bathrooms that match their gender identity (not their sex), and must provide sex-specific housing arrangements (such as shared rooms) to individuals based on their gender identity (not their sex).
Nondiscrimination policies were designed to protect people from mistreatment. These policies don’t protect anyone from mistreatment; they impose an ideological position (that gender identity determines sex) on all 4-H participants. All individuals are permitted to join 4-H chapters everywhere and to participate in all events regardless of their gender identity. The only things that this policy addresses are those times when 4-H chapters have sex-specific bathrooms, locker rooms, and make sex-specific housing arrangements. If the authors of this nondiscrimination policy really believe that “sex” and “gender identity” are different things, then sex-specific bathrooms, locker rooms, and housing arrangements would not be a problem. This policy is not about correcting discrimination, it is about treating sex as though it is determined by gender identity.
As you and I continue to face the pressure to treat people in false ways (like using a female gender pronoun to address a male), we may be tempted to overreact. We cannot comply with the demand to tell lies. We must not deny biological reality. However, this does not mean that we should malign or mistreat individuals whose gender identity does not match their sex. We should continue to welcome these individuals to learn cake decorating and sewing skills right alongside us. We simply will not invite people of the opposite sex to use the sex-specific bathrooms, locker rooms, or beds right alongside us.
Sex and GenderMar. 27, 2018
"The proper term should be ‘sex assigned at birth,’ ‘gender assigned at birth,’ not ‘biological gender,’ or ‘biological sex.’"
That quote is from Dan Press, a member of the Fairfax County School’s “Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee” (FLECAC). He was arguing in support of a motion he made on March 8th to change the term “biological sex” to “sex assigned at birth” in all 8th, 9th, and 10th grade objectives for Family Life Education.
“Sex” and “gender” have become confusing terms for many people in recent decades. The terms used to be understood with very little difficulty. Dictionaries still define the terms very clearly today.
Sex = “either of two divisions into which many living things can be divided according to their roles in reproduction and which consist of males or females.”1
Gender = “the state of being male or female.”2
These words are synonyms, but have different purposes.
“Sex” is related to reproductive functions – which are determined by biology. “Gender” is related to social and cultural roles, and also grammar.
“Sex” is about the biological reality, and “gender” is about how we describe that reality. “Male” and “female” are sex terms used to identify the two reproductive roles. “Him” and “her” are gender terms used to describe the two sexes.
Birth has nothing to do with determining sex or gender. There is no assignment taking place. Biology textbooks recognize the differences between the two sexes long before birth.3
This is what students in Fairfax County Schools are being taught in their biology textbooks. This is scientific reality.
Instead of keeping the curriculum in Family Life Education consistent with scientific reality, Dan Press argued in favor of “sex assignment.” Instead of upholding scientific reality, all but three members of the FLECAC voted to change the term “biological sex” to “sex assigned at birth.”
This change doesn’t help students understand the world around them. It promotes confusion and misunderstanding.
The FLECAC decision is not final, and efforts are being made to keep the Family Life Education curriculum consistent with the biology curriculum in Fairfax County Schools. You can help by sending scientific articles, medical journal articles, biology and medical textbooks, and other resources that accurately describe “sex” and “gender” to Sean Maguire at email@example.com. If you live in Fairfax you can attend the next FLECAC meeting on April 12th.
1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Definition of “sex” for Students. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sex. Accessed 3/27/2018.
2. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Definition of “gender” for Students. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender. Accessed 3/27/18.
3. Developmental Biology. 6th Edition. Gilbert SF. 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9967/. Accessed 3/27/18.
Opposing the Transgender MomentMar. 23, 2018
What is required to be labeled an "anti-trans activist?" Very little indeed.
According to Newsweek Magazine, all it takes is support for gender-specific bathrooms in schools.
I'm an anti-trans activist by this standard. So is everyone else who believes in scientific genetic standards, social norms that distinguish between the sexes, and protecting children from potential sexual harm. That’s all that Bethany Kozma did in Fairfax, and now she is being attacked in national news articles.
For years the Fairfax County Public Schools have been pushing to embrace the full scope of what has been called the “transgender moment.” Most recently that includes a recommendation from the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC) that the term “biological sex” be removed from the curriculum and replaced with the term “sex assigned at birth.”
Those who have opposed this change in vernacular – supporting teaching that reflects biological reality instead of ideology – have been attacked just like Bethany Kozma is being attacked. One member of FLECAC was unceremoniously (and arguably illegally) removed from her seat and replaced by Dan Press, a vocal advocate of the LGBT+ agenda. Dan Press used the rules of parliamentary procedure to silence all opposition to his proposals the first day he was on the committee.
Civil society can't survive in this kind of vicious atmosphere. Newsweek is shilling opinion pieces that divide everyone into groups. Dan Press and others on committees and school boards across the Commonwealth are shutting down opposition. They are vilifying anyone who disagrees with the transgender movement.
We are not villains. We are your neighbors.
We must act neighborly even when under attack. We must not return insult for insult. We must speak the truth in love – which means with real love, not just lip-service to that sacred idea. We must pray for those who oppose us more than we speak against them.
I'm prepared to be perpetually hated for what I believe. I pray that I'll be able to get close enough to those who hate me to show them true love.
The next FLECAC meeting is on April 12 in Fairfax, VA. Several members of the committee are planning to present textbooks and scientific and medical articles which demonstrate that “biological sex” is a valid term, and should not be replaced with the ideologically charged term, “sex assigned at birth.” Help by sending links to scientific and medical articles that use the term “biological sex” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standing Up for Free SpeechMar. 21, 2018
It was cold and raining hard in Washington, D.C. yesterday. A crowd of several hundred still gathered in front of the Supreme Court all morning in spite of the bad weather. Half the crowd was there in support of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), the other half was there representing NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
Inside the Supreme Court, Mike Farris from Alliance Defending Freedom was arguing against the State of California in support of free speech. The Justices on the Supreme Court listened to the importance of protecting pro-life pregnancy centers in California from being compelled to advertise abortion.
The State of California passed a law known as the “Fact Act” which would force pregnancy resource centers to post notices about abortion access. ADF was joined in their arguments by dozens of “amicus briefs” (arguments to the court in support of a position) – including one that The Family Foundation signed. The government should not be able to force anyone to support a particular viewpoint – especially one as important as life.
Hundreds of people from across the country gathered outside of the Supreme Court to support the pregnancy resource centers and freedom of speech. Hundreds of other people stood outside to oppose the pregnancy resource centers and to support the Fact Act.
I was there with Victoria Cobb representing The Family Foundation. Victoria Cobb spoke in support of free speech, and warned that the kind of state power being used in California has already been proposed in Virginia. It was back in 2010 that then-Senator Ralph Northam proposed a bill which would have compelled every pregnancy resource center in Virginia to post a big notice on the front door of their clinics – scaring women away from these places which are designed to help them.
I tried to speak with those from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, to ask them why they support the Fact Act. No one was willing to talk to me. So I asked several activists to hold a pro-free speech sign, telling them that there was a new law which requires everyone in front of the Supreme Court to hold the signs from the opposing side.
Not surprisingly, no one was interested in holding those signs. They didn’t like the idea that the state would compel them to hold a sign promoting an idea directly opposed to the reason they were there. They understood that such a regulation would be unjust.
Hopefully all nine of the Supreme Court Justices understand this, too. We expect a decision to be announced sometime this summer.
Medicaid Expansion delayed...for nowMar. 09, 2018
The already-chaotic budget process at this year’s General Assembly has become even more uncertain. Yesterday, Senate Democrats blocked a motion to extend the session 30 days, and then blocked another motion for a shorter extension. Meanwhile, House leaders apparently thought they had a deal with the Senate as its lead negotiator, Delegate Chris Jones (R-76, Suffolk), announced on the floor that there would likely be a 30-day extension.
But exceptions to the Senate's rules require a two-thirds approval and, despite two 21-19 party-line votes to extend the session, the motions failed. Each chamber went into recess late in the afternoon in an apparent attempt to bring down the temperature and resolve the issue. Not only can they not agree on a budget, they can’t agree when to talk about the budget. This is interesting territory since, unlike Washington, Virginia is actually required by our constitution to pass a balanced budget before adjourning for the year.
Eventually, they will have to come to an agreement to extend the session or otherwise go into a "special session." The important point is that there will be no imminent budget agreement, which means no Obamacare Medicaid expansion – for now. Whether this overtime budget negotiation favors its ultimate exclusion from the budget remains to be seen. But we do know it means Senate Republicans have not backed down. They are listening to concerned Virginians all across the Commonwealth who understand that Obamacare Medicaid expansion is an ill-conceived, high-risk policy for many reasons.
For starters, the Trump administration is saying it plans to eliminate the federal funds for the matching grants, without which Virginians would have to make up the billions of dollars themselves. That will necessarily lead to higher taxes and/or massive cuts to core services such as education, public safety, and transportation. With the Obamacare "individual mandate" now eliminated as a result of Congress' tax reform bill, it seems likely a recent legal challenge by nearly 20 states to the entire law's constitutionality may be successful. Moreover, the so-called work requirement is meaningless because the expansion covers people who already work, not to mention there is no verification provision to ensure people are actually working. And as for the "taxpayer safety switch," which would stop the program if the federal government doesn't send the money, can you name one government entitlement program that has ever ended once it began? (because we can't)
Once lawmakers decide on their new timetable, we will let you know what actions you can take to help prevent this terribly misguided policy from happening.
Legislature moves Heaven and Earth to pass casino-gamblingMar. 02, 2018
Unfortunately, gambling in Virginia just got a whole lot more expansive, but only after the House and Senate practically moved heaven and earth – and exploited nearly every procedural loophole – to pull it off. “Unconventional” hardly begins to describe what transpired over the past few weeks. It started to feel more like we were “north of the Beltway” than in Richmond.
It all started when “historical horse racing” on casino-style slot-machines was quietly slid into the outgoing Governor’s introduced budget. It was a bold move, given the legislature’s well-abided unwritten rule of not making substantive policy changes through the budget, instead of pieces of legislation. The RTD was first to point out that this major gambling expansion was in the budget, but that there was no corresponding bill in either the House or Senate through which to vet the issue on its merits and with the standard public hearing process. To Speaker Cox’s credit, nearly three weeks into the start of the Session and after the normal deadline for introducing bills had passed, he responded by allowing Delegate Webert (R-Warren) to introduce HB 1609 on the House floor, which required unanimous consent. But the introduced bill was essentially a “place holder” bill with no policy content, with the intention of it being significantly amended later. The final version, if signed by the Governor, will dump over 3,000 electronic slot-machine devices at locations all across the state.
The process continued from there to be anything but standard. Instead of being assigned to the House General Laws committee, where historical racing had always previously been sent (2010, 2011, and 2015) and each time defeated, the bill went straight to the Appropriations Committee, where it lacked the benefit of being heard on its merits to weigh whether it was a good policy idea for Virginia. Once assigned, the bill took off like a race horse through the House as if having been injected with a shot of pure adrenalin.
During the Appropriations subcommittee hearing, the actual policy was revealed and approved 8-0 with only The Family Foundation speaking against the bill language that had not been seen prior to the start of the meeting. Two days later, the full Appropriations Committee voted 21-1 to send the bill to the House floor, but allowed for no public testimony. We quickly realized there were numerous powerful and wealthy interests involved and that this iceberg we saw on the surface was buttressed by a significantly larger underbelly. So we doubled down to take them on, managing with very short notice to peel off 24 “no” votes on the House floor.
At “crossover,” we got a second bite at the apple in the Senate, but so did the deep bench of highly-paid corporate lobbyists representing the other side. The Senate, meanwhile, had already approved Historical Racing four times (2008, 2010, 2011 & 2013). At least policy testimony was heard in the General Laws and Technology Committee. The Family Foundation took our best shots, but the bill passed 13-1 and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The Family Foundation prepared to testify there regarding some anomalies, but the Senate Finance leadership did not take public testimony before approving the bill 12-4.
Amazingly, the bill allocates just 1.5% to the localities and leaves the remaining 98.5% to be allocated by the five-member Virginia Racing Commission appointed by the Governor. In denying the interested groups the opportunity to speak, the Finance committee suggested that the various interested parties still needed to work out some differences that would necessitate the bill being put into “conference” for the House and Senate conferees to work out. So they put a technical amendment on the bill supposedly for that purpose. They did this apparently without the foreknowledge of the patron of the bill, or most of the interested parties. Whatever they were up to, it certainly seemed strange.
Interestingly, on the morning of the Senate Finance Committee vote, the RTD reported about this initiative, quoting Senator Louise Lucas, who has long-carried casino gambling bills nearly every year. She spoke maybe too much truth about the historical racing machines at issue. "That's kind of the camel's nose under the tent," she said, adding that she saw little difference between machines that allow historical horse race betting and slots. "They can say whatever they want, I like what they did," she said, adding that she hopes the legislation opens the door to more types of gambling being approved "not in the too distant future."
The following day when the bill went to the Senate floor, they just so happened to be able to work everything out overnight, and the Senate leadership immediately had the Senate reject the committee amendment, bypassing any need for the House to get another vote on the bill and for a House/Senate conference on the bill. Then, bypassing the usual three-day process for bills that make it to the floor, the Senate sped up the process and passed the bill 31-9. Now it’s on to the Governor for signature and the Racing Commission for regulations to be produced and for Virginians to be hit with the impact of even more gambling to come.
With few exceptions, everyone piled on the gambling train, swooning over the shiny slot-machine scheme that promises to garner some $349 million from unsuspecting future gambling addicts that we’re told will revitalize the equine industry and usher in the renewal of live horse racing in Virginia, the industry that already failed miserably, despite the state’s earlier attempts to save it. Unfortunately, we anticipate in a few years from now having to tell the General Assembly “We told you so” – again.
With the amount of determination we saw in making this happen, there will no doubt be more attempts at expansion next year in a variety of forms. And we will be there again to meet them head on, continuing the stand against attempts to expand gambling for the sake of Virginia communities and families.
"No Pre-K for low-income families"Feb. 28, 2018
Monday morning, the House Finance Committee defeated SB 172, a bill that would have made it possible for thousands of low-income families to send their children to private school Pre-K, many of which are faith-based programs. The bill, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) created a tax credit for donations made to a scholarship fund to pay for private tuition for families who cannot otherwise afford it, but who want a different option for their children. Unfortunately, the bill died on an 11-11 vote, with the public school teachers union and other public education monopoly establishment groups bringing considerable pressure to bear on certain delegates to vote no.
It was a party line vote with three exceptions. Two Republicans – Tim Hugo (R-40, Centreville) and Robert Bloxom, Jr. (R-100, Mappsville) – sided with the union over struggling families, while Democrat Delegate Steve Heretick (D-79, Portsmouth) voted for the bill.
CLICK HERE to watch the committee’s deliberations (then advance the video to 9:00 am to see Senator Stanley propose SB 172).
Compare the testimony: A broad array of accomplished, non-partisan organizations that actually do work in the field spoke in favor of the bill and worked diligently over the last two weeks to find 12 yes votes. On the other side was the Virginia Education Association, which spends considerable money every campaign on behalf of Democrat candidates, as well as the politicized School Boards Association.
The VEA, which has no actual role in Pre-K education – its members are K-12 teachers – much less in private Pre-K schools, made several false charges including the preposterous accusation that private schools discriminate in student enrollment and hiring. That came as news to two witnesses in favor of the bill: James Dyke, former Governor Doug Wilder’s education secretary, who also is African-American, as well as an African-American pastor who runs a Pre-K program in the middle of the most crime ridden sections in the city of Richmond. At its own expense, that school admits students from families who cannot afford its already modest tuition at a heavy discount. In fact, these scholarships can only be used at accredited institutions, which must already adhere to state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
Also in favor of the bill was the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which cited the state’s own School Readiness Commission that recommends a program like this; the Virginia Catholic Conference; Jewish school educators; Chris Braunlich of the Thomas Jefferson Institute and former president of the State Board of Education; the Virginia Council for Private Education; as well as The Family Foundation. In addition, this bill won a large bipartisan vote in the Senate, including that chamber’s Democrat leader, Senator Richard Saslaw (D-35, Springfield). Yet House Democrats made it a partisan issue as a payback to its public education monopoly allies.
One of the most puzzling comments came from Delegate Vivian Watts (D-39, Annandale), who incredibly said that while she recognizes there are families who need immediate help, she could not vote for the bill because she wanted universal Pre-K coverage. She, the VEA, and those voting no basically said, “Let’s NOT help thousands of at-risk children now while we can, because it’s not government run, and instead let them slip through the cracks.”
We thank Senator Stanley and the committee members who voted yes and actively refuted the VEA’s assertions, as well as our coalition partners. Rest assured, this is an issue that's not going away. We will see to it. Parents need more choices in education, not a one-size-fits all approach.
The Budget Votes are in...Feb. 23, 2018
The votes are in, and as of a few hours ago, the Virginia House and Senate now have two very different budgets to meld together into one. There are a few notable things for you to know.
House of Delegates:
Unfortunately, the House voted 68-32 for a budget that included a massive expansion of an already unsustainable Medicaid program. Several Republican members spoke against Medicaid expansion, emphasizing that it will most certainly entail higher healthcare costs, more taxes on Virginians, and diminished access and quality of care for the 1.1 million Virginians already enrolled in the program. We commend the 32 members who stood firmly against it. You can see who voted for and against it HERE.
On a positive note, the House did vote to keep the “Hyde Amendment” language in its budget (put in by Delegate LaRock) – language that would restrict taxpayer funding of abortions to only the narrow cases involving rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Virginia law currently also allows for state funding of abortions in the cases of “gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency,” but we believe this phrase is being interpreted extremely broadly by the McAuliffe/Northam Department of Health officials. You can see who voted for and against the amendment HERE.
The House also stood strong in rejecting attempts to add special statuses of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state budget through amendments offered up on the floor (by Delegate Simon). This was one of the items we have been most concerned about, and we are thrilled that the House held the line on this. Few things so threaten religious liberty in Virginia as these efforts. You can see who voted for and against the amendment HERE.
These protections for life and religious liberty are no small matters, and we are mindful that they could not have been possible but for God’s direct provisions.
We are very pleased that the Senate held strong in rejecting Medicaid expansion in their budget. The Senate budget is also around $600 million smaller than the House’s. You can see who voted for and against the final Senate budget HERE. We also want to commend the Senate for rejecting a floor amendment from Senator Cosgrove that would have expanded gambling in Virginia.
We will continue to keep you in the loop on the critical steps going forward. The budget battle still has a ways to go. In the meantime, please reach out to your legislators to express to them both your concerns and your gratitude.
ACT NOW: House Vote on Medicaid Expansion THURSDAY!Feb. 21, 2018
This week, the House of Delegates released its two-year budget proposal, and unfortunately, the House budget includes the abysmal Obamacare plan to drastically expand an already unsustainable Medicaid program. The House will be voting on this budget proposal tomorrow - Thursday - on the Floor!
URGENT ACTION: Email your Delegate and urge him or her to Vote AGAINST Medicaid Expansion TOMORROW!
After eight years of holding the line and refusing to "take the bait" for this massive federal power grab, all while witnessing significant spikes in healthcare costs in the states who did take it, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of "free money" from the federal government to pay for healthcare.
If the House goes through with this plan, we can be sure of one thing: the size of government (and the federal government's reach into this state) will grow substantially. Medicaid already eats up 30% of our state budget (it was around 5% when it began) and already covers 1.1 million Virginians. Adding up to 400,000 more able-bodied Virginians to our Medicaid rolls, without adding a single doctor, clinic, or hospital to treat them, will only make the program even more unsustainable than it already is. And, we know from experience that every time the government grows, our liberties and our wallets shrink with inverse proportionality.
We believe there are steps the General Assembly can take to ensure that more Virginians who need healthcare can get it and keep it. There are countless people who have real needs, and we should be looking for meaningful ways to help them meet those needs. But drastically expanding an already out-of-control federal program is not the right answer, and worse - it will leave us bankrupt in the end, or leave our kids and grandkids strapped with debt they cannot repay. Obamacare Medicaid expansion has never worked, and it won't suddenly start working now, even with the House budget's attempt to mitigate some of the problems.
CLICK HERE to contact your delegate and urge them to reject a budget that expands Medicaid TOMORROW on the House floor!
Tell the House: Reject Medicaid ExpansionFeb. 19, 2018
On Sunday, the House of Delegates released its much anticipated proposed two-year state budget. As we worried it might, the proposal includes Medicaid expansion in Virginia. After eight years of holding the line and refusing to "take the bait" for a massive federal power grab, corresponding spikes in healthcare costs, and virtually guaranteed new tax liabilities for hardworking Virginians, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of "free money" from the federal government to pay for healthcare.
ACTION: Email your Delegate and urge them to REJECT Medicaid Expansion in Virginia!
Whether the House's plan to drastically expand Medicaid coverage is the result of political will, pressure, or fear on the part of House Republicans, or whether it is more reflective of the possibility of them seeing "the writing on the wall" given the closely divided partisan power balance, one fact remains the same: the size of government (and the federal government's reach into this state) just got a lot bigger under this plan. And we know from experience that every time the government grows, our liberties and our wallets shrink with inverse proportionality.
While the plan would include some helpful attempts at reform, we know that government welfare programs always increase in demand and cost overtime. Virginia already has 1.1 million of its citizens receiving Medicaid, which has become the single greatest expense each year in our budget. Adding up to 400,000 more able-bodied Virginians to our Medicaid rolls will make the program totally unsustainable, especially without adding enough new doctors to treat them. And while it is often claimed that the federal government - not the state - will be on the hook for all or most of the funding involved, we should stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Where does THAT money come from? From us! While tax increases may not be immediate, they are inevitable if this policy goes through.
The plan purports to include a “Taxpayer Safety Switch,” which will make sure that if the federal government ever backs out of its commitment to pay for the cost, the plan will end. But when is the last time the government ever began giving an entitlement benefit that it later took away? It's a totally empty promise, and every one of the legislators knows it.
While some Virginians would no doubt receive needed healthcare under this plan, we shouldn’t buy into any illusions that any of it is “free” – either in dollars, or the countless other costs to overall quality, ease of access, or the chipping away of our liberty.
We are encouraged to find that the House budget does include “Hyde Amendment” language, prohibiting state funding for abortions except for in the narrow cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. However, it does not include a prohibition on state dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood. In fact, there is included in the plan a pilot program that would spend $6 million on certain long-acting contraceptive devices for low-income women, most of which would flow directly to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
While the House’s proposal is incredibly disappointing in these ways, the budget battle is far from over. We need your help in contacting your House of Delegates member and urge the House to abandon this folly, and return to their staunch and principled resistance of the last eight years.
Please CLICK HERE to contact your delegate and urge them to reject this massive growth of government entitlements and further takeover of the healthcare system.
“Shame. Shame. Shame."Feb. 09, 2018
The committee room was overflowing into the hallway. Within that entire crowd, only a handful of people could be found who supported our position that Virginia law should not uniquely set apart the classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity as worthy of unique protections, as it does for minorities and religious people.
Have you ever had to stand, being 1 out of 100, literally, not figuratively, and express an opinion that would result in loud shouting and people jeering at you? Have you had a moment where your words of truth result in people following you out of the room shouting at you, “shame, shame, shame”?
This is what my team does through the legislative session. This is what they did yesterday. They stand for the truth in a hostile environment and are a representation of those reviled as described in 1 Peter 4:14-16. In legislative meetings and in the media, they represent thousands of Virginians who believe in our values and want someone to defend marriage as God designed it but can’t, or won’t, be at the Capitol themselves to do so. This team of policy warriors stands in the middle of the battle, taking the onslaught of hate and ridicule for our faith and our families every day.
Yesterday, a House General Laws sub-committee took up five bills that sought to enshrine into the Code of Virginia new, specially-protected classes of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These bills were put forth with the stated motivation of ensuring no discrimination takes place in state hiring or public housing against those in same-sex relationships or who have gender dysphoria and thus feel they are a gender that is not their biological sex.
Our team handedly dismantled their arguments bringing forward indisputable facts that in Virginia there have been no claims of discrimination in hiring, or housing that have been found to have merit. When we raised the concern that Liberty University would be forced to allow same-sex married couples to be housed in their married student housing under the proposed bill despite their deeply held convictions, the sponsor of the bill stepped forward and pronounced the true motivation.
In the words of Delegate Simon,
"There are certain sincerely held religious beliefs which are so discriminatory that we don't give them the protection of the law, and this is one of those cases."
And now we know. Make no mistake. These bills are not about telling a secular government not to discriminate when hiring. These laws are about preventing Christian universities and ministries from being able to practice their faith convictions about marriage. These bills seek to weaponize government against people of faith.
Yesterday, we defeated these bills with the help of 5 members on the subcommittee: Delegates Jason Miyares, Barry Knight, Tommy Wright, Dickie Bell and Buddy Fowler. Click here to watch the full committee. Bill Janis from The Family Foundation begins his testimony at 46:35.
But despite yesterday’s result, the battle continues. It's not going away. And The Family Foundation will continue to be there fighting that battle with you and for you, and for all Virginians.
FLE SpectacleFeb. 09, 2018
A progressive’s dream education bill died a merciless death in the House Education Committee earlier this week. HB 159, introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-11, Roanoke) aimed at gutting the only good parts of Virginia’s Family Life Education curriculum – including striking all aspects of the benefits of marriage, abstinence and of adoption in the cases of unwanted pregnancies, and then mandating every school district in the Commonwealth teach this valueless material to every child K-12.
The bill was so bad that his fellow Democrats ran as far away from him as possible. Supporting the bill were a long line of secular apologists whose outrageous comments raised laughs from the audience and scorn from committee members. When a William & Mary student, who is the secretary of the Virginia Young Democrats, said that the “research” shows that “abstinence doesn’t work” in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies, an unsuspecting audience laughed out loud, and the Chairman of the committee nailed him on it. A Planned Parenthood representative even said that “the values” expressed in those benefits should be taught by parents at home, in essence admitting that “family life education” should be taught by families and not by the state. As for the icing on the cake, even the School Boards Association opposed the bill, perhaps the first time it has ever been on the same side of a bill with us.
You had to see it to believe it. You can watch it for yourself at this link.
Special thanks goes to Committee Chairman Steve Landes (R-25, Verona) whose persistent questions proved the supporters’ arguments baseless. The fact is, Planned Parenthood and NARAL were behind this bill that would promote irresponsible behavior by students. After all, Planned Parenthood provides materials and even teaches Family Life Education in some school districts. Talk about a conflict of interest!
Democrats on the committee backed off the bill so fast they almost fell off the dais. The Family Foundation reminded the committee that much of the curriculum the bill attempted to eliminate was signed into law by former Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. It was a bipartisan effort that started with recommendations by the Marriage Commission we put together that included marriage and family experts and academics, including the nationally respected Dr. Brad Wilcox of U.Va.
To save face with common sense Virginians and avoid alienating its base and benefactor (Planned Parenthood contributes millions of dollars to their party), committee Democrats offered an amendment to restore the curriculum the bill proposed to strike, but leave in its HIV education provision and K-12 universal mandate. But Republicans replied with a motion to effectively kill the bill once and for all. It was a party line 12-10 vote, with Democrats claiming they were trying to save their amendment, but no one was fooled.
Click here to see the video, then click the agenda tab, scroll and click on “HB 159 Patron Rasoul.”
Love Saves LivesJan. 22, 2018
I’ve attended the March for Life in Washington D.C. every year for the past eight years. Usually the weather is cold, dismal, miserable, and snowy. This year the sun was shining bright, and coats were carried instead of worn.
The warmth of the sun matched the energy of the crowd of hundreds of thousands of people there to declare that “Love Saves Lives.”
The President of the United States also promoted that message in his live stream address to the crowds from the Rose Garden of the White House. “You come from many backgrounds – many places – but you all come for one beautiful cause: to build a society where life is celebrated, protected, and cherished. The March for Life is a movement born out of love,” the President said to the hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the largest annual human rights demonstration of all time.
Despite President Trump’s own failures, it was encouraging to hear the President of the United States promote the mission of love.
That mission of love is being accomplished. Pregnancy Resource Centers outnumber abortion centers more than 4 to 1. Hundreds of abortion workers are quitting. Abortion facilities are closing. Unknown thousands of lives have been saved from abortion by the love of the pro-life movement.
Love really does save lives. And the work of saving lives is being done throughout Virginia and across the country by this massive pro-life movement.
This movement is local. Gathering with hundreds of thousands of other pro-life people each year in Washington D.C. is a huge encouragement, but the work of saving lives through love is done locally, on a daily basis.
Standing outside of an abortion facility on a Saturday morning, I had the chance to love a woman who was planning to go in.
She was scared and felt like she had no other choice. She didn’t know where else to turn, and so had turned to what she thought was her only choice.
I was able to love her by showing her where the local pregnancy resource center was. I was able to love her by giving her the funds she needed for rent that month. I was able to love her by texting her encouragement and support as she continued her pregnancy.
The pregnancy resource center volunteer counselors were able to love her, too. They were there to love her by walking alongside of her throughout the tough process of deciding to keep her baby. They were there to love her as she gave birth. They are still there to love her by answering any parenting questions that she has now.
Love requires sacrifice, and the volunteers across this country are making sacrifices to love their neighbors. Their love is saving lives.
Defending Human LifeJan. 22, 2018
On Friday, in honor of the March for Life in our nation's capital, Delegate Nick Freitas delivered a gentle, yet passionate speech about why he is pro-life during the House of Delegates' Morning Hour at our state capitol.. Our team of General Assembly lobbyists caught this and thought it was worthy of sharing to as many people as possible. I agree. Please click on the image below and view it, and please share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It is only about four-and-a-half minutes long, but each word is powerful and meaningful. I know you and all you share it with will be as touched as we were.
We've Come Full CircleJan. 19, 2018
For decades, every pro-life bill introduced to the state Senate was directed by the Senate Clerk to the Senate Education and Health Committee, where the legislation would promptly and painfully die – regardless of which party was in the majority. We called it the burial grounds. Flash forward to January 18, 2018 where that same committee, under the strong leadership of Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Lynchburg), today blocked every radical pro-abortion bill one can envision and topped off their day by defeating a dangerous agenda brought by the LGBT community.
The committee began its 8:00 A.M. meeting with an announcement that Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-33, Leesburg, also running for VA’s 10th Congressional seat in November) had struck her own bill, SB 709. This bill, coined the “abortion industry wish list,” was all-encompassing—an attempt to roll back the hands of time and prop up the abortion industry while simultaneously taking more unborn lives and harming women. The reasons a legislator would introduce and then almost immediately kill a bill are never fully known, but maybe, just maybe, someone in her caucus or on her campaign decided that openly advocating for elective abortion-on-demand up until the point of birth was not a smart place to be. Yes, this bill would have allowed abortion at any point in a pregnancy up until birth, for virtually any reason, in a non-regulated facility, without parental consent, informed consent, ultrasound, or any other concept that would allow women and girls the opportunity to reconsider their decision in a moment of crisis.
Despite the typical line-up of abortion sympathizers and representatives of the billion-dollar abortion industry, the committee handily discarded bills to repeal the entire informed consent for abortion statute and all safety regulations put in place to protect the women who enter these facilities. Wisely, the committee validated that all aspects of our abortion laws are currently working and don’t need to be rolled back. Until this morning, some Senators may not have known that while the McAuliffe-selected Board of Health relaxed the specifics of the abortion safety standards, they did so illegally. We informed the Committee of our litigation, pointing out that the effort to repeal these standards through legislation is merely an attempt to completely erase the abortion safety regulations before a judge can reinstate all of the portions the Board of Health illegally rolled back – a ruling we fully anticipate is only a matter of time.
The prize for the worst bill defeated by the Committee goes to Senator Scott Surovell’s (D-36, Mount Vernon) SB 245 that would ban what has been deemed “conversion therapy.” The gist of the bill is that no counselor can ever be allowed to direct someone under 18 years of age who might be questioning either their sexuality or their gender to resist and even to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions or to embrace their God-given biological sex. It’s a war of ideas and those that disagree with ours have long moved past debating them into attempting to ban them. We are thankful the Committee stood for freedom.
The Real RalphJan. 17, 2018
That was quick.
Anyone who has been around Richmond for any period of time knows that the first few days of a General Assembly session are full of seeing old friends, lots of talk of happy-go-lucky bipartisanship and a general atmosphere of congeniality.
That usually lasts right up until the first bill is debated in a committee.
This year, it seemed to last until newly minted Governor Ralph Northam addressed a joint session of the General Assembly. Until that point, there were members of the assembly who actually might have lived under the media-created delusion that Governor Northam is something of a “moderate” who really wants to “get things done.”
Instead, his speech Tuesday night was reminiscent of his predecessor’s litany of left-wing progressive ideology focusing primarily on making sure unborn children can’t survive the womb and redefining marriage and human sexuality down to nothing more than an emotional whim. In similar tones, former Governor Terry McAuliffe spent much of his last speech as governor last week decrying “divisive social issues” while then proceeding to spend much of his speech advocating for divisive social issues, like making sure unborn children can’t survive the womb and, well, you know.
In other words, the real Ralph was on full display, much to the dismay of conservatives who thought, maybe, just maybe, the new Governor was actually interested in governing.
That was all followed yesterday with competing speeches in the House of Delegates between Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert and Democrat minority leader David Toscano. Gilbert took Northam to task for his blatantly partisan speech, making sure to note that when a left-wing liberal says bipartisanship, they generally mean, “do everything that I want.”
To which Toscano answered with, well, a litany of left-wing progressive ideology that he claimed are all bipartisan! Just agree with him on everything and you can be bipartisan, too.
All this leaves us pretty much where those of us who have been around a while have come to expect – a deeply divided legislature with partisan groups that have nearly completely opposite worldviews that leave very little room for compromise. Of course, few Virginians know any of this, because the political media in Virginia (which is mostly made up of VCU journalism students posing as reporters) is so devoid of objectivity they can’t report anything close to reality. Remarkably, the stories out about the competing speeches, and the editorial boards, are making it seem like the breakdown in bipartisanship is all on the side of Republicans, presumably because they simply won’t pass everything Democrats want.
Be prepared for lots of that in the next eight weeks.
Victory: "Hate crimes" bills defeatedJan. 17, 2018
We’re not even a full week into the 2018 legislative session, and we already have some good news. Two bills dealing with "hate crimes" were defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice committee yesterday. One of them, Senate Bill 112, would have introduced the dangerous concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into the Code, while also making it easier for providers of interactive computer services (like Facebook) to censor anything that it or other users considers to be “inciting hatred” towards people with those characteristics.
If you’re not familiar with them, a "hate crime" is a special category of criminal act where the act is shown to be motivated by certain kinds of thoughts and feelings towards the victim. If the “hate” was inspired by or directed at one of the items on the government’s list, then you’re guilty of an additional crime – a “hate crime.”
This means that a person could be subject to a separate criminal penalty, including jail time, not for the act they committed, but for their thoughts and opinions. In Virginia, conviction of a hate crime carries with it a “mandatory minimum” of 30 days in jail.
One can clearly see the slippery slope created by this sort of “thought crime”. What sort of thoughts, values, or motivations might the state try to criminalize next?
Regardless of the motivation for victimizing another person – whether based on someone’s sex, age, disability, veteran status, race, religion, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” etc. – a person should be punished for the crime they commit and not because of the kind of hatred they felt in doing so, even if we all find their particular motive reprehensible.