News & Updates
In what appears to be yet another nail in the coffin of a once venerable organization, the Boy Scouts of America this week announced that it was dropping the word “Boy” from its name. Going forward, they would be known simply as “Scouting BSA.”
I sat stunned as I heard the news, because this affects our family on a personal level. We’ve been Scouts for nearly 70 years. My grandfather was a Scoutmaster, my father is an Eagle Scout, I’m an Eagle Scout, and so are all three of our sons. For four generations, the principles of Scouting have been synonymous with the principles by which our family lived. I never considered the Scout oath and law to be mere words on a page. They were always principles, that if followed, would lead to a life well-lived: a life of honor, service, dependability, and good citizenship.
For those who may not know, the purpose of Scouting is not to produce skilled campers. It’s to produce skilled leaders. The outdoors is just a venue to teach character and leadership skills. Now it seems that after 108 years, Scouting has run its course. It began with lawsuits and boycotts in the ‘80s by politically correct companies like Levi Strauss. Scouts were under pressure to allow atheists and homosexuals into their ranks. They survived the legal challenges, but the loss of corporate sponsors was another matter. In 2014, they capitulated and allowed homosexual Scouts. The outcry was loud and sustained. Some of their corporate sponsors returned to the table, but others left in droves. They also lost scores of adult leaders, and many of the churches that acted as chartering organizations.
A close friend of mine who served on the national Board of Directors was there the night of the vote. Afterwards, he reminded the Board of Directors that the last line of the Scout oath says that a Scout will keep himself “morally straight.” My friend admonished the Board and ended his 42-year affiliation with Scouting on the spot. The following year, in a continued downward spiral, the Board voted to allow openly homosexual Scoutmasters, and the exodus from Scouting increased.
Now, just three years later, in an attempt to broaden their membership base, they are no longer to be known as the “Boy Scouts.” Sadly, I predict the hemorrhaging will continue until Scouting ceases to exist, which some would argue, was the politically left’s plan all along.
Our family has left Scouting, but we will never abandon those bedrock principals upon which the Boy Scouts was originally founded. Others feel the same way, and a new organization has sprung up to continue the process of building great leaders. It’s called Trail Life, U.S.A., and after just five short years, there are nearly 1,000 troops nationwide. While they’re not meant to be as an alternative to the Boy Scouts, the program and principles overlap nicely, and their goals can be summed up in three words: adventure, character and leadership.
When it comes to California, the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of religion and speech seem to be under constant assault. And why does that matter to us here in Montana? Because what goes on in California does not, necessarily, STAY in California.
Several weeks ago, we talked about NIFLA vs. Becerra, a case recently argued before the United States Supreme Court. As you may recall, the California legislature passed a law that forced Christian crisis pregnancy centers to advertise free and low-cost abortions. You heard that correctly: Crisis pregnancy centers are being forced to promote the exact practice that they swore to oppose. The pregnancy center sued the state and lost at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. No surprise there. They then went on to the Supreme Court, where the Montana Family Foundation joined other like-minded groups in filing an amicus brief in the case. We argued that California’s law tramples the freedom of religion and silences the freedom of speech. A decision in that case is expected later this summer.
Now, before arguments in the NIFLA case have even stopped echoing in the Supreme Court chamber, California is at it again. This time, it’s Assembly Bill 2943, a bill designed to ban Christian books and resources which address issues of homosexuality and gender identity. It passed the California Assembly on a 50-18 vote and could pass the Senate as soon as late May. According to Matt Staber at Liberty Counsel, the bill says that advertising or offering to engage in, or actually engaging in, sexual orientation change efforts with an individual is a fraudulent business practice. It’s written so broadly that books containing passages from the Bible opposed to homosexuality could also be banned. And some say that’s just a first step in eventually banning the Bible, itself.
During testimony on the bill, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi said that the First Amendment does not prohibit banning any fraudulent conduct, and, “The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times.” During a speech on the bill at Google headquarters, homosexual activist, Sam Brinton, admitted that he wanted to stop pastors and churches from counseling people with unwanted same-sex attractions. As with the Espinoza case here in Montana, this is classic viewpoint discrimination, and will be challenged immediately if the bill becomes law.
In addition to the First Amendment considerations, the bill also seeks to deny any services to people trapped in homosexuality who want to get out. Thousands of people every year walk away from the homosexual lifestyle, some with the help of the church, some with the help of secular counselors and some out of nothing less than their own desire to be free. Regardless of how it happens, people should be free to seek the counseling that they desire. And the church should be free to preach the Gospel as written in the Bible. Anything less is un-American.
As we said before, what goes on in California rarely stays in California, and there’s a good chance we could see one of these bills in Montana in the very near future. That means it’s time to stay vigilant.
When it comes to the battle for life, the Montana Family Foundation is there, whether it’s in the legislature, the courts, the court of public opinion, or even in far-off foreign lands such as a strange place called California.
This time it’s NIFLA v. Becerra, a battle that started in 2015 and culminated this week in a hearing before the United States Supreme Court. It all began when California’s governor and legislature teamed up to pass Assembly Bill 775 in the 2015 legislative session. Deemed the most egregious anti-free speech bill ever to see the light of day, the bill basically did two things: First, it required all crisis pregnancy centers in the state of California to advertise free and low-cost abortions. You heard that right. The law forced pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the horrific practice they were actually organized to fight against.
The second half of the bill forced pro-life pregnancy centers to make the abortion message just as large and clear in their own advertising as their pro-life message. For example, a pro-life pregnancy center billboard might have a simple message in large letters, something like “Pregnant? We can help.” Under California’s law, they were also required to print a 29-word, pro-abortion disclaimer in the same size lettering as their pro-life message and do it at the pregnancy center’s own expense.
Not only is the compelled speech component an affront to the First Amendment, it’s also highly impractical. It would render things like billboard advertising useless and cost prohibitive, some would argue, by design. For California’s 200 crisis pregnancy centers, it was a bridge too far. A lawsuit was filed, and on January 15th of this year, the Montana Family Foundation joined an amicus brief with 40 other family policy councils. We argued that this case was not unlike the Masterpiece cake case that the Supreme Court heard on December 5th. In that case, a Christian baker in Colorado was forced to decorate a wedding cake with a pro same-sex marriage message, something that his deeply-held religious beliefs would not allow him to do. Ironically, during oral arguments in that case, Justice Kennedy pointed out that tolerance is essential in a free society, and that tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.
We also pointed the Court to its own precedent. In a similar case, a member of the Jehovah Witness Church refused to put a New Hampshire license plate on his car because he objected to the state’s motto, which was also on the plate. It read, “Live Free or Die,” a message that the plaintiff argued directly contradicted his religious beliefs. The Court agreed saying the plaintiff could not be forced to turn his vehicle into, in effect, a mobile billboard with a state-approved message that he found morally, ethically, religiously and politically abhorrent.
It’s our contention that the same argument can be made in the California case. Crisis pregnancy centers are formed and staffed by people who believe strongly in the God-given right-to-life from conception until natural death. To force them to promote abortion places them in an ethical and moral vice between the God of the universe and a secular humanist state, a place that no citizen of the United States should ever be forced to be.
Yes, they’re off and running, and no, we’re not talking about a horse race. What we are talking about is the end of candidate filing and the official start of the 2018 election cycle. In all, 292 people filed for seats in the Montana legislature, as well as candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, the Public Service Commission, judges and even for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. Now the fun begins.
It’s the candidates’ job to present themselves in the best light possible, and it’s our job to discern the truth. There’s an old adage in politics: If they like you, they will vote for you. It’s that simple. It’s also a sad commentary on us as voters. We like to think of ourselves as smart, engaged and responsible. In truth, we’re lazy, not all that intelligent, and in many cases, extremely irresponsible, to the degree that many of us vote time and again for candidates that vote against the very values that we claim to hold dear.
So how does this happen? It happens for several reasons: First, an amazingly large percentage of us are not registered to vote and of those that are registered, only about 70% will actually cast a ballot, and of those who DO vote, only a small percentage cast informed and educated votes. Most of us listen to the sound bites. We see a TV ad or read a headline of an spe postcard stuffed into our mailboxes and make our decision based on that alone. And what about party affiliation? Can’t we just vote a straight party-line ticket and call it good?
In a recent newspaper article, a reporter sounded the alarm, insinuating that a Green Party candidate was really a Republican plant designed to draw votes away from the Democrat candidate in Montana’s U.S. Senate race. As voters, we hate bait and switch, but unfortunately, it happens all the time. A quick glance at legislative scorecards show plenty of Republicans who regularly score 30 or 40% on conservative issues. It could be argued that these are really Democrats who choose to run as Republicans because they live in Republican-leaning districts. The bottom line is that voting a straight party-line ticket does not insure that you’re voting for candidates who support your values.
So, what’s the solution? How do we break the cycle of bait and switch? It’s possible. Unfortunately, it requires lazy, uninformed and irresponsible voters to become diligent, well-informed and responsible. At the very least, we should register to vote. Leaving the selection of our elected officials up to others who may not hold our values makes no sense at all. It’s also time to get informed. Leave the TV ads to the couch potatoes. It may be difficult to find a lot of information on people just entering politics, but incumbents have a voting record, and the voting record tells the story.
Many groups, like the Montana Family Foundation, produce legislative score cards and voter guides. Take the time to study these carefully, and if a candidate refuses to fill out a vote survey, take that into consideration. When I was in public office, I never filled out surveys from the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, and that act alone spoke volumes.
The bottom line is that the job of responsible citizenship is not easy. It never has been. But if we as Christians don’t take the time to express our values and ideals through our votes, then the other side wins by default, and that, my friends, is completely unacceptable.
For those who haven’t noticed, the 2018 election cycle has begun anew with candidates across Montana throwing their hats into the ring. The filing window opened on January 11th and closes on March 12th. The primary election itself isn’t until June 5th, so we still have three solid months to be bombarded by political ads.
Some states are far ahead of us on this curve. Texas, for example, had their primary on Tuesday, and the results were encouraging, to say the least, especially as the issues at hand give us some indication of what may happen in June right here in Montana.
The first outcome of the Texas elections was a direct repudiation of the mainstream media, and their claim that Democrats would seize control because of voter dissatisfaction with President Trump. It didn’t happen. Democrat turnout was strong, but the Republicans still turned out substantially more votes, which is a leading indicator of what will happen in November’s general election. For over a decade, the mainstream media has been salivating over the notion that Texas would turn blue, and time and again, the voters of Texas go red.
The second interesting fact is who actually won. On the Democrat side, it tended to be the lesser known, less well-connected, low-budget candidates. Those well-financed candidates who were supported by the Washington, D.C. power brokers lost in spades. Republicans, on the other hand, also saw upset after upset, but for far different reasons, and this is what bodes well for Montana.
One of the hottest issues in last year’s Texas legislative session was a Locker Room Privacy Act, similar to the one proposed right here in Montana. It was a hard-fought battle, but in the end, Joe Straus, the outgoing Republican Speaker of the House turned his back on the voters of Texas and killed the bill. Citizens, especially Republican voters, were outraged, and on Tuesday, they exacted revenge. Some of Straus’s biggest allies were shown the door. In all, 12 anti-Strauss candidates won their primary races, proving once again, that in the eyes of the voters, privacy matters.
Some of those races are still too close to call, and Straus could wind up losing even more seats after the runoff elections in May. For liberal Republicans, Tuesday’s election was an unmitigated disaster. To add insult to injury, every single House Republican except one who supported the Privacy Act won re-election. And to go a step further, a precinct resolution declaring that Texas should protect the privacy and safety of all women and children in government-controlled bathrooms, showers and locker rooms passed by a whopping 90%. Politicians, including those here in Montana, need to sit up and take notice. Voters are tired of the gender free-for-all, and they’re ready to take action.
If you’d like to help get the Montana Locker Room Privacy Act on the ballot, please go to lockerroomprivacy.com to sign the petition; better yet, please organize a signature-gathering Sunday at your church. Manning a small table in your church’s foyer is a quiet, unobtrusive and effective way to get lots of signatures. Please go to lockerroomprivacy.com today.