In this issue of One Voice, we’re looking at how recent elections and other political developments are impacting every public policy issue to which our Church speaks. At both the State and Federal levels, we find numerous new challenges to the sanctity of human life, to God's good design in matters of sexuality and marriage, and to our fundamental right of religious liberty. I hope you'll find this overview informative as you endeavor to be a good steward of your citizenship in the service of the Gospel and the welfare of your neighbor. I also urge you to be intentional in using whatever teaching and preaching opportunities you have to focus on these issues.
LIFE ISSUES: Abortion
With the confirmation of two new textualist Supreme Court justices, the pro-abortion lobby has embarked on an aggressive campaign to embed abortion rights deeply within individual state laws in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned or limited nationally.
For example, in New York, Virginia, and Vermont, radical pro-abortion legislation has been proposed and/or passed that rolls back many protections or limitations—up to and including what can fairly be termed infanticide. The pro-abortion lobby no longer says that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" but has declared it to be "a positive good for society" and should be celebrated. With uncharacteristic honesty, they now admit that it is no longer the "health and welfare of the mother" but rather the "sheer will of the mother" that determines whether an abortion is legally justified or not.
Also in Virginia, radical changes to parentage laws have been introduced that erase the words "husband" and "wife" and replace the concept of biological parentage with "intended parentage." Together, these have the effect of turning unborn children into commodities (property) to be bought and sold as in commercial surrogacy. Similar efforts can be anticipated in Minnesota in the future.
LIFE ISSUES: Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)
In Minnesota, the House will likely consider legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide as per the Oregon model. Coupled with this is a disturbing effort by pro-PAS groups nationally, to redefine palliative care (hospice care) to include PAS. While not all hospice care organizations subscribe to this change, the rapid increase in for-profit hospice organizations makes this very concerning. Various efforts are under way to help families easily identify those care facilities and doctors that have pledged not to participate in PAS. Stay tuned.
Highly recommended: A new movie, Fatal Flaws, has been released to help pastors educate themselves and their members about the nature of PAS and its rapidly expanding scope. It's available in both 90-minute and 55-minute versions. This would be an excellent resource for adult Bible Classes.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ISSUES: MARRIAGE, FAMILY, SEXUALITY
As has been true for some time, the effort to impose secular views of sexuality and the human person frequently clash with the Constitution's guarantee of religious liberty and freedom of speech. This trend is continuing and intensifying, as evidenced by legislative developments on both the State and Federal levels.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL: The Equality Act
This is radical legislation that would add gender identity to the list of protected classes under Federal Law and thus allow transgender persons to claim protected status when accessing public accommodations. In practical terms, this will likely lead to the introduction of a "pronoun mandate," to the loss of rights of conscience by medical professions and others, to the introduction of a national restroom/locker room/women's shelter policy, and to the loss of student privacy rights in schools.
As a "less offensive" alternative, some are advocating for a Fairness for All proposal, which is similar to the Equality Act but with a few exceptions carved out for churches, church-related universities, very small businesses, and foster care/adoption agencies. Yet even as it offers protections to a limited number of church workers and church agencies, it leaves most Christians unprotected—protecting the shepherds but exposing the sheep. In addition, it puts the Church in the position of implicitly agreeing with the age-old Gnostic heresy which diminishes the physical world, which sees a fluid sense of gender identity as a God-given normal characteristic of the human person, and which denies that our physical body is a constituent part of who we are as a human person. All of which stand radically opposed to the Scriptural view of mankind.
This piece of legislation (already introduced in both the MN House and Senate) represents a gross violation of religious freedom, freedom of speech, and parental rights. It has 2 components:
It bans mental health professionals from providing counseling to minors or vulnerable adults who want help dealing with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, if that effort is intended to help that person change their homosexual orientation or address their gender dysphoria.
It employs Minnesota anti-fraud statutes to criminalize any paid efforts by any person to offer a person of any age help in changing that person's sexual orientation or gender identity, if that effort infers that homosexuality is a disease or disorder. Under certain circumstances this could be applied to Christian pastors.
This same type of legislation was introduced in California last year and is being advanced in numerous states and cities around the country this year. In Minnesota, it is the Minnesota Family Council who is leading the opposition.
*** It has been announced that a legislative hearing on this bill will be held by the House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, February 13 at 2 p.m. in room 200 of the House Office Building. For those able to attend, this would be a great opportunity to express your opposition to this bill. Please wear the color white to identify yourself as opposed to the bill. If you have questions or need more information, please contact me at 507-317-9634 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AT THE STATE LEVEL: PARENTAL CHOICE IN EDUCATION
This year, Opportunity for All Kids (OAK) is again introducing the Scholarship Tax Credit Bill. We have strong advocates for our legislation in both the House and the Senate. This is legislation that offers taxpayers and corporations a financial incentive to contribute to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) which, in turn, allows parents to access the school (secular, religious, or private) of their choosing. The bill does not yet have a number.
OTHER TRUSTED SOURCES
Since these public policy matters are so changeable, it is important that pastors, teachers, and other interested parties have access to good, reliable, and timely information beyond mailings like One Voice. This means being directly connected to other organizations that can provide the most current and in-depth information available.
To that end, I recommend that you utilize the following resources:
Stay safe this winter!
Rev. Fred Hinz
LCMS Public Policy Advocate
Minnesota South and North Districts