News & Updates
How SB 289 Risks Publicizing Tithing
The Montana Legislature is currently considering a bill called Senate Bill 289, known by its supporters as the “dark money” bill. Its purpose is to create greater public transparency in political speech and donations.
While transparency is a goal we also support, this particular method contains a dark risk to Montana churches that must be resisted.
If SB 289 were to become law, Montana houses of worship would be at risk of having to publicize every single tithe they receive. We would have to post on the Internet the name of the giver, their home address, where they work, and more.
How is that risk created? Let’s explain.
The bill is designed to regulate political committees. However, it also regulates something called an “incidental committee,” which is basically a committee that was never intended to be political, but became so by making an expense that’s political.
Here’s the actual definition: “Incidental committee” means a political committee that is not specifically organized or operating for the primary purpose of supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues but that may incidentally become a political committee by receiving a contribution or making an expenditure.
How does that apply to us? Imagine this scenario: Same-sex marriage is on the ballot as an initiative, referendum, or constitutional amendment. In a church somewhere in Montana, a pastor happens to preach from Matthew 19, telling his congregation what Jesus said about marriage and gender.
The pastor’s messsage that day would say that marriage is between a man and a woman. The initiative would say that marriage is between any two genders.
That makes the sermon an election-related message. And of course, because the pastor is probably drawing a salary when he delivered that message, that would be an election-related expenditure. And the law says that any organization that was never intended to be political but makes an election-related expenditure becomes polititcal.
Your church just became a political committee.
And SB 289 requires that any political committee that makes an expenditure related to a ballot issue must report the name, home address and workplace of everyone who donates more than $35 to that committee.
Your tithe just went on the Internet for all the world to see.
Lest anyone think this isn’t a realistic scenario, it has already happened once in Montana. The Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church was hauled into court by the commissioner of political practices, claiming that they were a political committee and required to report donations. Thank God, that decision protected the first amendment rights of the church. But this bill would undo that decision.
And make no mistake, the scenario could easily arise again. This Legislature has already seen at least one legislative effort to put the issue of same sex marriage back in front of the people for a vote.
In its current form, Senate Bill 289 violates the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Moreover, it would also violate the word of God about how tithers should approach their giving:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. — Matthew 6:1-4
We urge Montana families to contact the House Business and Labor Committee and ask them to oppose this terrible bill that could make public everyone’s tithes to their church.
Fetal Surgery… Pain and Promise
How many of us would even think of having cardiac surgery, spinal surgery, or organ surgery, without anesthesia? The answer is no one in their right mind! Now, what if I told you that these types of surgeries are becoming routine in children as young as 20 weeks of gestation? Notice I didn’t say 20 weeks old, but rather just 20 weeks of gestation. These children are still in their mother’s womb and because of rapid advancement in technology we are now able to correct life threating birth defects before the child is even born.
That’s great news for the children and their parents, but as with so many advances in technology – it raises ethical concerns. Chief among them is the child’s ability to detect pain and what can be done to alleviate suffering during potentially life-saving, in utero surgery?
To that end, we are supporting HB 479 sponsored by Representative Al Olszewski from Kalispell. Representative Olszewski also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon which gives him special insight in this area of medicine. As he said in a recent lecture, fetal surgery was nearly unheard of in Montana as recently as five years ago and was extremely rare as recently as three years ago. While still not routine, it’s becoming more and more prevalent forcing us to deal with some of the side issues including the recognition and alleviation of pain. Research shows that the ability to feel pain begins with the development of the cerebral cortex and by 20 weeks of gestation the cortex is developed enough for pain to become an issue. Research also shows that fetal surgery conducted without anesthesia results in increased trauma, delayed healing, and higher fetal mortality. With that in mind HB 479 does three things.
- It requires determination of the exact gestational age of a fetus prior to surgery.
- It requires the administration of anesthesia prior to any surgery or invasive procedure performed on any fetus whose gestational age is 20 weeks or more.
So far so good – all reasonable people would agree that if a fetus is capable of feeling pain then we should do everything in our power to alleviate both pain and suffering. Unfortunately, this is where logic and emotion diverge because the third requirement of the bill is…
- Anesthesia must be administered prior to aborting any fetus after 19 weeks gestation.
As you can imagine, pro-abortion proponents at NARAL and Planned Parenthood are going ballistic. To them, it doesn’t matter that abortion after 20 weeks is an invasive procedure that can be felt by the fetus. Once again, we are being asked to hold abortion sacrosanct and treat it differently than any other surgical procedure. Fortunately for the kids involved, it’s becoming harder and harder to deny the obvious humanity of the pre-born child.
It began with advances of in utero photography and continues with advances in fetal surgery. I predict that in our life-time, the evidence will become so overwhelming that public pressure will force the courts to overturn Roe v. Wade. But until then, we’ll continue to support logical legislation like HB 479 that by extension – shines a big spot light on America’s most abhorrent surgical procedure.
Let’s Talk Money
As a line from a famous movie once said, “they’re back” and with the start of the first full week following the Transmittal break, it’s time for the debate to begin on the really contentious bills. During the second half of the session, Legislators will devote a lot of their time to the budget – it is one massive bill called House Bill 2 that contains almost every dollar the Montana state government will spend for the next two years.
Conservatives who want to spend less will wrangle with liberals who want to spend more, and eventually the final budget bill will have to pass through the full House of Representatives and the full Senate. Although the Montana Family Foundation doesn’t focus specifically on the budget, we do have an interest. That’s because it impacts our school choice bills. Education is expensive, as anyone with children knows. Even in the public schools, where most of the cost is hidden through property taxes, it’s still a pricey business.
That means school choice laws will have a fiscal impact. For example, one school choice bill creates education savings accounts for children with special needs. It moves money that would have been spent in the public schools into an account that the student’s family can then spend on other educational options. Now that money was already going to be spent, but the fact that it’s moving from one place to another means that it’s going to show up in the final budget bill. That makes the budget an issue we have to keep our eye on.
Even as we monitor the budget process, we have to keep in mind that those school choice bills are not fully through the process yet. Although some have passed one house of the Legislature, none have passed both houses. It’s a complicated balancing act as Senators and Representatives try to craft a complete budget even as the fate of some bills is still up in the air. This is the time when deals get cut, logs get rolled, and votes get traded. Now more than ever, it’s important for Montanans to keep an eye on their legislators because this is when the going really gets tough.
Complicating everything is the fact that the governor has his own budget ideas for the state. It’s not only the Legislature that crafts a two-year spending plan, it’s also the governor. The Legislature and the Executive Branch must negotiate over which of their plans will be adopted. Or more likely, which parts of both plans will make it into the final deal- neither side can win without the other and both sides have their own set of goals. It’s a complicated environment and anything can happen.
Some Legislators may have favorite bills or personal agendas they’re trying to enact. Who might trade a vote for the budget in exchange for the governor’s signature on their bill? Who might cut a deal? Who might be willing to bargain?
These last 45 days of the Legislative session are the time when people who pay close attention will be able to see what their local Legislators are really made of. Are you represented by the kind of person who will stick by their guns no matter how hard the fight? Or is your local Senator someone who will cut a deal as soon as the going gets tough. How does your Representative make decisions they have to choose between two competing ideals with good arguments for each? The last half of the Legislative session is when those character traits get revealed. The only way to know for sure is to remain completely engaged with the process, and keep a close eye on the people representing you. We certainly will.
If a doctor is going to perform an abortion, shouldn’t he at least be in the room? An important bill before the Montana Legislature would require exactly that. House Bill 587 by Representative Keith Regier bans abortions by “telemedicine,” where a doctor might be anywhere else in the world, logging in via videoconference and supervising the abortion. The bill is scheduled for a hearing this morning in the House Judiciary Committee.
Abortion is a serious medical procedure. It can have serious side effects and consequences, up to and including death. The abortion industry throws around breezy terms like “Plan B” to describe abortion methods. They try to make it sound like abortion is no big deal.
But make no mistake. It is a big deal.
It’s certainly a big enough deal that the doctor should be present in case something goes wrong. That’s why HB587 is a good idea. It’s a simple fact that any medical procedure is safer when a doctor is present. That’s especially true for something as serious as abortion.
This legislative session has seen a lot of great results for life. Representative Regier’s other bill, to increase penalties when someone assaults a pregnant woman, has already passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Montana’s law requiring parental notification for a minor to get an abortion can stand. They also ruled that our law requiring parental consent for a minor abortion can advance to the next stage in its lawsuit.
Now we have an opportunity for one more victory. Let’s go out and win it together.
If you want to add your voice to the chorus of Montana families supporting HB587, I urge you to go to the Montana Family Foundation’s website at www.montanafamily.org. Click on the “Montana Legislature” button and you’ll find a link to contact legislators. Use that link to tell your legislators, or the whole House Judiciary Committee, that you support HB587. Or to make things simpler, you can call 444-4800 and leave a message for the House Judiciary Committee that you support HB587. Remember, it’s 444-4800, House Judiciary Committee, Support HB 587. Your call could be the one that pushes a legislator over the line into voting for the bill.
This pro-woman, pro-safety, pro-life legislation is already under attack by Planned Parenthood, and they’re making plans to turn out their people in force. But I know that Montana families are equal to the challenge.
This is the reason that public participation is such an important part of the Legislative process. If only Planned Parenthood supporters make their voices heard, then Legislators might not have the courage of their convictions to vote for life. But if they know there’s a massive movement of Montana parents and families standing at their back, it will be easier for them to make the right vote.
Remember, the number to call is 444-4800. Tell the House Judiciary Committee you support HB587. Or go online to www.montanafamily.org and click the Montana Legislature button on our website to find options for e-mailing your legislator. If you’re in Helena, please consider going to the state capitol this morning to let the Legislators know that you’re one of the thousands of Montanans who support women’s safety, who support life and who support HB587.
Common Sense Not Common Core
Do you want the same people who got us 18 trillion in debt teaching your child math?
Maybe you’ve heard of the “Common core standards”. They take control of what our local schoolchildren learn, and give it to the federal government. Many Montana families don’t like that idea very much. When control lies with our local school boards, then Montana parents and families can have input. When control lies in Washington D.C., who knows whether our voices will ever be heard.
Common core standards determine in Washington, D.C., what constitutes a good education. They impose experimental teaching methods from on high, and the bizarre common core compliant test questions have left parents and students scratching their heads. But apparently the establishment in Washington D.C. isn’t satisfied with just imposing their standards, their methods and their test questions. Common core also requires a massive, NSA-like data-gathering effort that sweeps up private, personal information about students and files it away for later use.
It’s no wonder a movement of parents and students has risen up to reject the common core standards. Now, that movement is achieving real results at the Montana legislature. Two bills are moving forward that will ban common core in Montana, and yesterday they won an important victory. House Bill 377 passed the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. It’s a great bill that would prohibit the adoption of common core standards in Montana. But that’s only the beginning. It would ban Montana education officials from joining any associations that would cause us to give up local control of our schools, it would require that all meetings about the adoption of any education standards be open to the public, and it would establish a citizen review board that would have to sign off before any new standards can be adopted.
A second bill, House Bill 501, would put a stop to Common Core’s invasive data collection practices. It would protect our children’s privacy, and make sure that parents have a say before their children’s data is gathered, sold, or otherwise used.
The motive behind the common core standards sounds great in theory. Who wouldn’t want to expect more from our students? Who wouldn’t want to have standards of achievement that are based on what life is like in the real world?
But those ideals are a far cry from how the common core standards have actually turned out. Under the common core standards, some teachers have been replacing the idea of “math problems” and replacing it with “math situations.” One famous Common Core math situation asks the following question: “Felix made eight birthday invitations with hearts. How many invitations had hearts?”
High standards and real world proficiency is good. But when you put Washington, D.C. in charge of that, instead of local school boards, disaster ensues. Fortunately, in passing House Bills 377 and 501, the House Appropriations Committee took steps to make sure we keep local control of our schools. Now, these good bills must pass a third and final reading in the House of Representatives, and then move on to the Montana Senate.
The education establishment isn’t happy that parents are taking a stand against the Common core standards. We expect them to oppose these bills every step of the way. This is another chance for Montana families and parents to give their input. Visit montanafamily.org and let your legislators know that you support HB 377 and HB 501 because what we need is common sense, not Common Core.