My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fundamental-Things has moved!

Exciting news! I have launched a new and improved blog, called "The Issues in Focus." You will find it at

One of the features you might particularly enjoy allows you to receive an e-mail whenever I post new content. Just plug in your e-mail address where it says "Follow By E-mail," and hit "Submit."

I hope you will subscribe and share it with friends who might enjoy it. See you there!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Selling No-Fault Divorce to Moms?

Where shall I begin with my reasons for being outraged by this latest political ad put out by Terry McAuliffe's campaign? McAuliffe wants to be Virginia's next governor, and his strategy apparently involves duping women into believing that his opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, sponsored legislation that would make it harder for "moms" (but not dads) to get divorces. This assumes, of course, that we "moms" place a premium on the availability of quick and easy divorce.

I resent this ad for making a mockery of a sacred marriage vow [note the "Leave It to Beaver"-esque graphic and the old-fashioned, "I Love Lucy"-esque font of "For Better or Worse"]. This is a vow that my husband and I took before God. While we, like most couples, have not kept our vows perfectly, I hope and pray that we will keep this particular one, for the permanence of the marriage relationship is its very essence.

It is repulsive to me that a political campaign would seek to win my support by scoffing at a principle as noble and good as simple loyalty and commitment to one's family.

I refute the ad's deception. The ad makes it sound as if Cuccinelli's bill targeted "moms," making it harder for them, specifically, to get divorced if their husbands object. This is simply false. The bill (of course!) applied the same way for both spouses. Obviously McAuliffe's campaign wants to prey upon a woman's fear of being trapped in an abusive situtation. But abuse is always a legal justification for divorce, and Cuccinelli's bill would have done nothing to change that (for, as it turns out, Cuccinelli is not, in fact, a monster).

What the McAuliffe camp apparently doesn't think we "moms" will figure out is that Cuccinelli's bill would have helped the countless struggling moms who have been left holding the bag when their husbands decided to walk out on the family for no reason other than that marriage was no longer exciting, or that the demands of child-rearing had become difficult.

Finally, I reject the premise of the ad: that no-fault divorce is good for women and that we therefore favor its ready availability. Divorce is one of the leading causes of women and children being thrust into poverty. It is not good for women; it is not good for anyone, but rather is a necessary evil under certain circumstances. This is why I (and many other women I know) believe that legislation like that proposed by Cuccinelli makes good sense. Is it unreasonable to insist that, at least when the marriage has produced children, the divorcing spouse should actually identify a reason for breaking up the family? I think not.

McAuliffe's campaign may think that they have done something really savvy and "progressive" by making the permanence of marriage appear to be silly, oppressive, and out-dated for women. If so, then they are sadly out of touch with the better part of human nature. I have seen enough gray-haired couples holding hands and laughing at cherished family memories to know that I want that "for better or for worse" kind of marriage. I have been married long enough to know that we are all sometimes "better," and we are all sometimes "worse." But if society is ambivalent to whether or not our own spouse sticks with us through the days when we are "worse," then what kind of society is it, and what security does it provide?

No one benefits from laws that make it "easy" to abandon a family. When our society stamps approval upon a parent's decision to break a family--and his own vows--simply because he has changed his mind, we all lose.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Being Hated

My last post and Daily News Record "Open Forum" on Martin Luther King, Jr. was shared on VCA's facebook page. Within a 24-hour period, about 1400 people had viewed it, and many of them reacted strongly against it. Here is a sampling of their comments:

"Maybe if your view was not that of an extremist, people would get it."

"Your [sic] nothing more than a bunch of racist. [sic] Judgment is mine says the Lord so who and the hell are you to judge anyone or thing. Your God will own you one day."

"For someone like you, that preaches hate and intolerance, to even reference Dr. King is an obscenity."

"You Christian extremists have no right to discriminate against others and call it 'Religious Freedom'. You hateful, close [sic] minded sheep don't get to redefine marriage for your own purposes."

"You write with the intent to do harm. You write with the intent to destroy. You write with the intent to spread hatred and malice throughout the world. In short, you deserve no respect. You deserve no kindness, and in fact, deserve nothing but to be cast forever into the pits of slime, horned demons and hellfire from whence you have obviously come."

When I read some of these, there is a part of me that screams to the rest of me, “Stop!! Sound the retreat!” I care about being liked, and it is painful to absorb some of these insults, accusations, and general indications of others' desires to see me die in pits of slime!

This may come as a surprise to some, because I do put myself out there on some of the most heated, controversial issues of our time. So yes, in a sense, I am “asking for it.” In a sense we are all "asking for it" when we challenge worldviews that are exalted over what we know to be True.

This time was a little different for me, however. There are plenty of people out there who hate me for my positions on these issues (the pro-life issue, for instance), and I can live with that without losing much sleep. It’s harder for me to live with being hated for being a “racist,” because I am not a racist.

Isn't it just miserable to be misunderstood and wrongly accused? To have our intentions unfairly maligned? But as two different friends, on two separate occasions, have recently reminded me, we are in the service of One who understands us—the good, the bad, and the ugly in us—perfectly.

What to do with that part of us that wants to retreat? It seems perfectly plausible to me. No one is forcing me to speak out or to challenge the hopelessness, confusion, idolatry and futility of the prevailing contemporary worldviews. I could sit here in my perfect health, in my comfortable home, with my healthy, loving family, enjoying all the best that the world has to offer. I could spend the day reading a great classic novel (believe me, this is a constant temptation). But I am simply convinced that God has put me (and YOU!) here to WORK for Him. To point anyone who will listen toward the great Creator. The Inventor of Beauty. The Giver of all wisdom. The Definer of Truth. The Dispenser of Justice. The One who Redeems people like me from the pit.

Every human "good" we observe in this world is but a dim reflection of the One who is the very essence and source of all Goodness. Isn’t it our job to be crying this out in the streets to anyone who will listen--and even to those who will scorn us for it? To be proclaiming that the universal values of mankind--beauty, wisdom, truth, justice, mercy--are but signposts on the pathway toward the Author and Owner of all things “good”?

We will be mocked and insulted, and we will certainly be misunderstood, but we must not be silent.

The Lord of Hosts has been gracious to me, and it is a sweet joy and an honor to do His work. “In [His] service, pain is pleasure, with [His] favor, loss is gain.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Today's "Liberal" Causes

In a recent article, Professor Peter Dreier appropriated Martin Luther King Jr. as champion of the “liberal” side of several raging public debates. Having been inspired from childhood by the justice of King’s struggle for racial equality and the effective and eloquent way in which he pursued his “Dream,” I find Dreier’s conclusions surprising and counter-intuitive. I reject the assumption that this giant of a man can be so neatly categorized.

Dreier claimed, for instance, that “King would stand — and sit in when necessary — with the LGBT community to help push states toward legalizing same-sex marriage…” The staggering presumptuousness of such a statement is exposed by the preceding sentences, in which Dreier first concedes that “King did not approve of homosexuality,” but then declares that King’s viewpoint would certainly have changed over time in light of the NAACP’s position and growing support for gay rights among black clergy members.

First of all, it is the height of arrogance for anyone to start from King’s known, stated position (disapproval of homosexuality), and assume that he knows King’s psyche, religious convictions and motivations well enough to conclude that King would have done an about face as a result of special interest groups or polling data.

But beyond that, the rationale behind Dreier’s conclusion is unconvincing. Historical giants like King are historical giants precisely because they don’t form their moral views based on cultural trends; rather, they resist man-made constructs that ultimately harm and degrade human beings and lead us, instead, to what is true, good, and beautiful.

William Wilberforce stood against the slave trade and Dietrich Bonhoeffer against the Nazis because, like King, Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer believed that every human being is created in the image of God and therefore has unique dignity and inherent worth. There is no escaping it: at the core of these heroes of humanity is a decidedly and specifically biblical worldview. Their passion for honoring the teachings of Jesus Christ was their motivation for waging war against various iterations of human oppression.

Where would King have stood on gay marriage? I don’t presume to know the answer. Although the Bible consistently identifies homosexual activity as a moral wrong, many today profess to be convinced that Jesus Christ himself would have championed gay marriage as a step toward love, compassion and equality.

My respect for King is deep enough, however, to convince me that he would have studied the Scriptures to critically evaluate that claim. In considering whether recognition of gay marriage really is loving and compassionate, he probably would have examined the reasons for marriage and the likely societal consequences of defining this fundamental institution based on individual preferences. He would have looked past value-laden labels and studied the contents of the package under a lens comprised of both compassion and truth.

Another label King would have parsed is that of “reproductive freedom.” Dreier trots out the fact that King once received a “Margaret Sanger Award” as ironclad proof that he would have been an abortion rights activist. Dreier candidly admits, however, that “King never spoke publicly about his views on abortion,” and that he was assassinated before Roe v. Wade was decided.

We live in a culture committed to the concept of liberty and obsessed with the idea of “choice,” so any conduct packaged in the trappings of “right to choose” (as any conduct at all might well be packaged) appears, superficially, to be a moral good. But I believe King would have balked at the idea of labeling one human being’s purposeful destruction of another human being as a liberty or “choice” that is beyond the power of a civilized society to restrict.

While supportive of Planned Parenthood’s educational efforts on birth control, I think King would have wept at the rate at which babies of color —babies with unique dignity and inherent worth — are being aborted. I think he would have been outraged that a whopping 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are strategically located in minority neighborhoods.

It is impossible for anyone to credibly claim King’s endorsement for causes that arose after his death. But this much we know: King was a follower of Jesus Christ.

His boldness, compassion and commitment to serving others were beautifully consistent with the Christ depicted in the Bible. And just as Christ stood for timeless moral absolutes, I believe King would have looked beyond labels, politics, and polls and stood for transcendent truth, goodness and beauty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bradley Manning and Hormone Therapy: Two Formulas of Ideas.

Bradley Manning, sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for leaking military secrets, would prefer to live out his prison sentence as a woman called "Chelsea." A bevy of high-profile organizations (including the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, and other gay and lesbian activist groups) insist that failure of the Army (funded by taxpayers' hard-earned dollars) to make this dream come true amounts to a deprivation of human rights. You can read the news story here.

To anyone asking how we, as a society, have arrived at the place where such a demand can be "reasonably" made by a convict, I offer the following logical (?) formula of ideas:

A person's desire to be the opposite gender from that which he or she is physiologically is a type of illness (“gender-identity disorder”).


Gender-identity disorder can be treated by hormone therapy that allows the patient to develop physical characteristics of the gender he or she desires to be or believes he or she should be.


It is “cruel and unusual punishment” for the government to refuse to fund drug therapies for prisoners that may cure or reduce the severity of their illnesses.


Bradley Manning should receive hormone therapy during his prison term, and we (the taxpayers) should pay for it.

But consider this alternative formula of ideas:

A person's desire to be the opposite gender from that which he or she is physiologically is a type of illness (“gender-identity disorder”).


While it is possible to use drugs to change a person's physiological make-up to that resembling the opposite gender, such “treatment” is simply a way of indulging the person's desires, which have already been identified as a disorder.


It is not the responsibility of government to use taxpayers’ money to indulge desires of prisoners that are manifestations of mental illness—nor would doing so be in the prisoners’ ultimate best interests.


Bradley Manning's disorder should be treated with the same counseling and mental health services that are available to all other prisoners, and taxpayers should not pay for him to receive hormone therapy.

Would "human rights" organizations insist that prisoners who suffer from eating disorders be provided with taxpayer-funded liposuction? And if so, would they really be serving the best interests of those who are suffering?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Nation of Liberty or A Nation of Feelings?

Judicial doctrines built upon contemporary America's unhealthy focus on feelings have left fundamental freedoms at risk.

Virginia Christian Alliance (VCA) has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court in the hotly contested public prayer case of Town of Greece v. Galloway.  We are asking the High Court to reevaluate its current, perception-based framework for deciding cases involving religious speech or symbols in public settings and to return to a historically correct interpretation of the Establishment Clause to prohibit only government policies involving religious coercion.

The case arose out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which held that the Town of Greece, New York, had created an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion by allowing local clergy members to offer invocations at Town meetings on a voluntary, non-discriminatory basis.  The Court held that this policy violated the Establishment Clause because, in fact, most of the clergy members who volunteered to pray represented the Christian faith.  This was unacceptable, held the federal court, because non-Christians may have felt left out.  Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom are representing the Town in the appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

If we can trust James Madison’s explanation to the First Congress, the liberty protected by the Establishment Clause is the freedom from being coerced to support or practice religion.  But under the Supreme Court's modern interpretation of the Clause, it prohibits any word or act which a bystander might perceive as a message of government "endorsement" of religion. 

In our brief, we argue that this reading is entirely at odds with America’s unmistakably religious heritage and the actual practices of those who drafted, debated, and adopted the First Amendment.  In fact, an intellectually honest application of the Court's modern Establishment Clause doctrine would result in the invalidation of countless national traditions, including the Pledge of Allegiance, Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, Supreme Court opening statements, the National Day of Prayer, and the national motto, “In God We Trust,” which is inscribed upon various government buildings and currency.  

While the Supreme Court's decision in this case is poised to be a landmark ruling on the practice of public invocations, the impact of this case may actually reach much further than the issue of public prayer. 

The case is a perfect example of the impact our culture’s obsession with feelings has had on judicial doctrine.  Emotions--subjective, unknowable, and transitory as they may be—are now a determining factor in constitutional analysis.  Consider, for instance, the following quote which the Second Circuit offered as its rationale for striking down the Town's perfectly neutral invocation policy (which, remember, involves prayers offered by private citizens):  "People with the best of intentions may be tempted, in giving a legislative prayer, to convey their views of religious truth, and thereby run the risk of making others feel like outsiders."

This basis for constitutional decision-making should give pause to the student of American history.  Is this the nation of freedom birthed through the labors of men like George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson?  Were these men, who risked being hanged as traitors for their efforts, really concerned with securing the psychological well-being of their fellow man by ensuring that no person would ever be permitted to express in a government setting an idea that might offend another person? 

No.  Their work, and their legacy, was about securing liberty.  And liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of feelings.

Freedom-loving Americans should hope that the Court will use this case to reject the idea that my liberty is endangered when I don't like the ideas you express through spoken words.  Your words pose no threat to my liberty, but the judiciary has begun to allow my feelings about those words to demolish your liberty.

In their genius, our Founding Fathers did not leave offended separationist citizens without remedy for their hurt feelings.  Those who feel offended by references to faith in the public square can certainly vent their policy views at election time.  But when the judiciary indulges litigants' desires to gag religious citizens or public officials and to force religion into the private recesses of society, it is giving them a court-enforced heckler's veto over the liberty of others. 

It is the hope of VCA and the organizations and legislators who joined us in this brief that the High Court will seize upon this opportunity to serve the interest of liberty by rejecting a jurisprudence of feelings.

We would like to thank the following organizations and legislators for joining the brief:

  • Concerned Women for America
  • The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation
  • The Frederick Douglass Foundation of Virginia
  • The Valley Family Forum
  • Fredericksburg Rappahannock Evangelical Alliance
  • The Black Robe Regiment of Virginia
  • Delegate Richard "Dickie" Bell
  • Senator Dick Black
  • Delegate Ben Cline
  • Delegate Todd Gilbert
  • Senator Emmett Hanger
  • Delegate Steve Landes
  • Delegate Bob Marshall
  • Senator Steve Martin
 To read the brief in its entirety, click here. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sorting Out the DOMA Decision

Even though my family was on vacation in Wyoming last week, I didn't escape the brouhaha over the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decisions.  (The ecstasy and the agony of a smartphone!) Because this issue is so emotionally charged, however, I opted to wait until I was comfortably at home again--and able to read the Court opinions for myself--before entering into any discussion about them.

Having read United States v. Windsor, the decision dealing with the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), here are some of my thoughts...

1.  Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, both misunderstands and insults a widely embraced worldview (which I happen to share) when he concludes that Congress' recognition of marriage as being exclusively a  union of one man and one woman is necessarily based upon animus against homosexual individuals. 

There are myriad justifications for the decision of a majority of the nation's federal legislators (which, by the way, was ratified by a Democratic executive) to reserve special governmental benefits for a certain type of familial arrangement.  The most obvious, of course, is the deeply rooted, historically tested belief that children are most likely to thrive when raised in a stable relationship with a mother and father.

Assuming a connection between the desire to protect traditional marriage and an "animus" toward homosexual individuals or couples is simply assuming too much.  The two ideas are certainly not linked as a matter of logic.

2.  In a nation where the federal government is rapidly taking over every aspect of our lives, the Court was right to emphasize principles of federalism.  The majority's decision relied heavily on the power of States to define and regulate marriage.  It did NOT rule that homosexual couples have any constitutional right to be married, per se, but rather that the federal government had denied legally married homosexual couples the right of equal protection by refusing to recognize their state-approved union.

However strenuously I may disagree with that legal conclusion (because of its faulty premise, a questionable equal protection analysis, and the failure to recognize the federal government's right to define terms for its own programs), I wholeheartedly agree that when it comes to marriage and family, States should be taking the lead in making policy. 

It may be tempting for conservatives to think that with an issue this fundamental and this important, the federal government should have the final say.  My response to that, however, is three little words:  Roe versus Wade.

Beyond the obvious deficiencies in the logic and analysis of that fateful decision, the real tragedy of Roe v. Wade was that by constitutionalizing the issue of abortion (and by doing so in the most counterintuitive way), the Court, in a sense, withdrew it from the political process.  The Court threw the game, putting the ball on the abortion proponents' side and leaving the pro-life team to defend a precious few yards of ground with our hands tied behind our backs.

In short, I believe that the majority's decision on DOMA is significantly flawed.  But at least it leaves proponents of traditional marriage to gain what ground we can through the merits of our position, the winsomeness of our tone, and the examples we set in our own families.