News & Updates
Most of us have seen the movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray’s character is stuck in a fantasy land, living the same day over and over again, until he finally breaks out of it by making right choices in his life. As far as life choices go, it’s not much of a movie. But, if rather than life lessons you’re looking for a better understanding of the Legislature, then that movie can be a good place to start. Every session we see a lot of the same bills over and over again. Every session, many of the same people line up to either pass them or kill them. And every session there are some surprises, some foregone conclusions, and everything in between.
The Legislature will reach their all-important transmittal deadline this week. On that deadline, every bill that originates in one house must have passed to the second, or it dies. As happens every session, the week before transmittal is laden with last-ditch attempts to pass legislation, to resurrect bills from their committees, and to get a headline or two for a pet issue. But away from the TV cameras there are other transmittal traditions that happen every session. Chief among them is the sound of many advocates, lobbyists, and citizens breathing a collective sigh of relief as uncounted bad bills finally die for good.
As we report to you this morning, the so called Sexual Identity Non-Discrimination bill is almost surely dead. The Montana family foundation has been working to stop this bill for over a decade. Every time transmittal rolls around, Montana families are relieved to see that bill die once again. Of course, we’ll most likely see it again in two years, but that’s how the Legislature works. Likewise with the bill to redefine marriage in Montana, House Bill 282 was this session’s effort to re-write Montana’s laws to allow for same sex marriage. As we hit the transmittal break, that bill goes away for another two years.
So too, the issue of assisted suicide, although we didn’t get the best of all possible worlds – we did avoid the worst choice. The legislature killed a bill that would have banned assisted suicide, but it also killed a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide. Thus, they guaranteed that in 2017 this perennial bill will be back again and see the same lineup of proponents and opponents debating it.
Lately, so-called dark money has become just as much a “Groundhog Day” type of issue as the others. With some partisans wanting to regulate who’s allowed to spend money on elections and who is not. These dark money bills have begun to come back every session, and every session the Montana Family Foundation has been there to insist that any bill about election spending had better guarantee the privacy and free speech rights of Montana families.
Some sessions, I hear Legislators or Lobbyists wishing that we could just kill a bill and have it gone forever, never to come back again. I sympathize – it gets frustrating fighting the same battles over and over again. And yet I never count myself among their number. While I do wish the statewide Gender Identity bill would go away and never come back, I also am firmly committed to never giving up the fight for pro-family policy in Montana. I will never stop working for legislation that protects innocent unborn life. No matter how many times the Legislature or the Governor or the Supreme Court chooses to allow abortion to go on. The same is true of marriage, of religious freedom, and of parental rights and school choice.
Overall, the repetitive nature of the Legislature is healthy, because it means that Montana families need never lose hope. We can keep on passionately trying to make our state a better place and in the end, we will.
URGENT: Anti-religious freedom bill being heard TOMORROW, 2/19/15 at 8:00 AM
Contact the Senate Business and Labor Committee & Republican Senator Bruce Tutvedt TODAY!
Bill: Senate Bill 337
Sponsor: Republican Senator Bruce Tutvedt
Call 444-4800 to comment by phone. Leave a message for the Senate Business and Labor committee oppose SB337
Or go to this link to comment via e-mail: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/64th/legwebmessage.asp
Sometimes in this process that we call the Legislature – up is down, white is black, and evil is called good. A perfect example is Senate Bill 337, scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business and Labor Committee tomorrow morning at 8am. It’s a bill to force Christian youth treatment facilities to come under state control, even if they accept no state funding. It’s a clear violation of both the Free Exercise Clause and the Freedom of Expression Clauses of the United States Constitution and it’s sponsored by Senator Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell. He’s taken it upon himself to lead the charge against a Christian youth ranch that has helped over 500 kids in the past 30 years. This bill has failed each of the past two sessions and it’s our job to see that it fails again.
Senator Tutvedt is using the power of the state to bully a small church run organization. The bill was introduced in the House earlier this session and was then mysteriously pulled just days before its hearing. We knew something was up and now we know what that something was – a devious plan to reintroduce it at the last minute just before the transmittal deadline in the opposite chamber.
Pinehaven’s problems began when CNN did a hit piece on them about five years ago after a series of tragic events. One of which a student ran away in the winter and was later found frozen and a case where a staff member sexually assaulted a student and was then sent to prison. After thorough investigations by law enforcement, Pinehaven was cleared of any wrong doing, but that wasn’t good enough.
Liberal legislators began introducing legislation that would place Pinehaven under state control and Senator Tutvedt is just the latest in a line of legislators who feel that the state can do a better job than the church. Unfortunately, statistics from the state run youth detention facility at Pine Hills proves that this is not the case. During the 2013 Legislative session the same bill was heard in the House Judiciary committee, on one side were three lonely bureaucrats clamoring for regulation and on the other side were dozens of former Pinehaven students, staff, and community members extoling the virtues of the ranch. Students from other states told how their lives were changed when they came to Montana, lived on the ranch and became part of the Pinehaven family. They said they got a good education, learned a work ethic, and most of all – felt loved, many of them for the first time in their lives.
We only have a short time to make our voices heard. If you want to stop this state sanction power grab, please call the Senate Business and Labor Committee and ask them to vote no on Senate Bill 337. The number is 406-444-4800. We are asking the Senate Business and Labor Committee to kill the bill to regulate Pinehaven Christian Youth Ranch.
The Montana High School Association wanted to implement a policy allowing young men who think they’re women to play on high school girls’ athletic teams. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of Montana families, the original transgender athletic policy went down in flames. But supporters don’t want to let it die. They’ve brought it back as a proposed policy revision from the Montana School Boards Association. The School Boards Association is different from the High School Association in that it covers every level of public education from K-12.
Having the policy come from the School Boards Association actually makes the situation worse. Now, instead of just high school girls dealing with men trying to play on their teams, we’ll have this behavior going on starting in elementary school.
When we allow males to use the female locker rooms, we’re depriving young women and girls of their fundamental right to privacy. This policy is a top-down mandate that makes victims of our female students. Worse, we’re enduring that assault on our children’s rights for no good reason. During the debate over this policy when the MHSA was proposing it, they admitted that they have not had one single student bring this problem up in the real world. It was a solution in search of a problem then, just as it is now.
Every child deserves to participate in extra-curricular activities. They’re a great way for kids to learn and grow. But we have to let common sense govern. If we go this far toward wanting to accommodate students whose “gender identity doesn’t match the sex,” we’ll end up depriving other boys and girls.
There’s good news, though. Earlier this week the Laurel School Board voted 4-1 to reject this transgender policy. With opponents from the community voicing strong discontent, the board members chose to preserve the simple, historical distinction between male and female that the human race has lived with since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, the Great Falls school district chose to pass it.
It’s time to call your local school board and ask them if they’re considering adding sexual identity language to their policies.
It’s satisfying and refreshing when common sense prevails, but this is just the beginning. Montana has more than 500 school districts, and only a few have taken up this policy so far. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels. When we win a victory, it’s only the beginning of the next battle. When Montana families change our constitution to make marriage between a man and a woman, the forces of the secular culture take the battle to federal court.
When we defeated the transgender athletic policy from the Montana High School Association, the proponents brought it back from the Montana School Boards Association. When we stopped Non-Discrimination Ordinances in Billings and Dillon, the proponents brought them back at the state legislature. If we want to keep Montana a safe place to bring up children, we have to keep working. It was the Montana families who come to the Legislature and testified that kept us safe from a statewide NDO – and it’s the brave advocates who testify at school board meetings who will keep a transgender activity policy from passing.
If you’d like to be a part of the work to keep Montana’s schools a safe place for all boys and girls, I hope you’ll visit our website at www.montanafamily.org. There’s a link there to make a donation. With your help, we can make sure that Montana remains a place where families can raise their children, students can learn without having their privacy violated, and all of us can exercise a little common sense.
Arthur Koestler once said “When a chess player looks at the board, he does not see a static mosaic, a ‘still life’, but a magnetic field of forces, charged with energy”. I would argue that the same holds true for politics. In some ways, it’s a game of chess played out over decades or centuries – it’s a dynamic battlefield and the goal of the players is to embed their worldviews in law for the benefit of future generations. The challenge is that many times the competing worldviews are dynamically opposed which adds to the tension and the drama. Such will be the case today when the House and Senate will hear two bills, one to legalize assisted suicide – the other to make it illegal.
Currently, assisted suicide is legal in only three states and forces are hard at work to make Montana the fourth. As we debate the issue, it’s important to remember that perspective is critical. In essence, you need an overhead view rather than looking through the chess pieces on the side of the board. It’s also important to remember that those pushing the issue at the national level are thinking five or six moves ahead while many at today’s hearing will see the issue as a ‘static mosaic’.
It began with Compassion and Choices (previously known as the Hemlock Society) initiating a lawsuit that eventually became known as Baxter v. Montana. The question before the court was whether patients had a constitutional right to end their lives with the help of a doctor. Currently, assisting in a suicide is defined as homicide in Montana. The lower court found a constitutional right to die, but when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, the final decision was somewhat ambiguous. They did not find a constitutional right to die and in fact it didn’t legalize assisted suicide. The court only went so far to say that if a doctor assisted in a suicide and was subsequently charged with homicide, they might in a very narrow set of circumstances be able to claim the consent of the victim as a defense.
Compassion and Choice had claimed a resounding victory and immediately took to the airways claiming that assisted suicide was now legal. Fortunately the medical community saw the decision for what it really was and refused to participate because they didn’t want to risk being charged with murder. Not to mention that physicians don’t want to participate – even if it is legal. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, 99% of physicians refuse to be involved. It’s because people become doctors to cure patients, not kill them.
In previous hearings, those in favor of suicide told of family members who have suffered in the final stages of life, while physicians opposed to the bill said that the law allows for pain to be managed so aggressively that patients should never have to suffer. While both of those arguments are important, we need to go back to the overhead view of the chess board to understand how this plays out over the long term. Fortunately, we have countries who are much further down this road then we are and we can learn from their experience. In testimony before the U.S. Congress, Doctor Herbert Hendin explained how the Netherlands legalized assisted suicide over 20 years ago – then steadily moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill, to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress, then from voluntarily euthanasia to involuntarily euthanasia. Those who play political chess can see the end game and this is one game we should never start.
How would you like to be driving along the road, minding your own business, look over to your right, and see a bicyclist go by without any cloths? What’s more, what if your child was in the car with you? You might think this never happens, especially in Montana. But it has! Last year a group organized a nude bike ride through the heart of Missoula. Seriously, there was a large group of people riding naked through the streets of one of Montana’s largest cities.
The stated purpose? To protest the use of oil. What public nudity has to do with the petroleum industry – I don’t know. It seems like the real purpose had more to do with thrill seeking and desire to shock, than any political activism, but when a person takes off all their clothes in public and then rides a bike, it’s dangerous to assume that we know what’s going on in their head. The good news is, there’s hope to change this situation in the future.
This week the Montana House of Representatives introduced a new bill to tighten up our indecent exposure laws and we think it’s about time. One Missoula Representative is carrying House Bill 365 to revise the definition of indecent exposure in hopes of preventing future naked bike rides on public streets where children might be present.
Right now, there are probably some people hearing this broadcast and thinking, “What’s the problem? The human body is beautiful!” In one sense, they’re right. We are all beautiful creations of God: spirit, soul and, yes, body. In His eyes, every single one of us is delightful to behold. But from a human perspective, public indecency is seriously problematic. Children go out in public every day. Do we really want them encountering a man who thinks it’s fun and cool to ride his bike naked?
There are some times one is left with little to do but shake one’s head and repeat over and over again, “Common sense, people – common sense.”
The Missoula nude bike ride was made possible by vague indecent exposure laws that make it not illegal to expose yourself in public, as long as you don’t undertake a lewd act while doing so. Some of us, of course, think taking your clothes off in public is a lewd act in of itself. But some government officials apparently consider that standard old fashioned.
Now the Legislature is stepping in to change the definition of indecent exposure. If this bill passes, a person breaks the law just by taking off their clothes in public. There’s no more requirement of any specific act. Under the current standard, a prosecutor has to prove that someone charged with indecent exposure intended to commit a lewd act. Under the new proposal, they simply have to prove that the defendant’s actions would cause a reasonable person to be alarmed or offended.
We applaud Representative Doc Moore of Missoula for taking this step. We need more Legislators willing to stand up for Montana families and parents with children.
It’s all fine and good to be a free spirit, or be “liberated” about one’s body. But when you leave your house and come out into places that you share with the general public, it’s time to share the general public’s standards. It’s time to share the standards of Montana families.