Urgent prayer needed! Religious liberty before U.S. Supreme Court

At The FAMiLY LEADER, we want to make sure you know about one of the most important Supreme Court cases of our lifetime. And to ask you to pray with us for our nation’s future.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, arguments were heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that will dramatically impact religious liberty in America.

Though our Founding Fathers enshrined your religious liberty in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, activists and like-minded judges want you to believe that you must abandon your religious and moral convictions when you run a business. Worse still, they argue the government should be able to force you to publicly agree with its position on same-sex marriage, even if that means violating your faith.

At issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, is whether the state of Colorado can compel baker and artist Jack Phillips, who opposes same-sex marriage out of sincere religious beliefs, to custom design a cake for a same-sex ceremony.

This is wrong. Creative professionals should be free to create products and messages consistent with their convictions without threat of government punishment.

Understand, Jack willingly and gracefully serves his homosexual customers. But like other artists, Jack won’t make custom cakes with any and every message. He won’t make racist cakes; he doesn’t design Halloween cakes; he won’t make sexually explicit cakes; he won’t custom bake a cake celebrating a divorce; and he won’t promote same-sex marriage. But the government is trying to force him to.

Ask yourself, should the government be able to force a Democrat speechwriter to write a speech for President Trump? Should an atheist sign-maker be forced to create billboards proclaiming the existence of God?

For this case is far bigger than same-sex marriage. If the government can force an artist like Jack to create custom art against his faith and cripple his business if he doesn’t, it can do the same thing to any artist or creative professional, no matter what belief they hold.

Please join me in prayer:

  • For the Supreme Court justices, that God may grant them wisdom and courage to “do justly” (Micah 6:8)
  • For our nation, that religious liberty may be preserved for future generations.

At The FAMiLY LEADER, we have assembled the following links that can help you and your friends better understand what’s at stake for all of us:

The FAMiLY LEADER is your leading voice for religious liberty in Iowa and a voice for Christian values to the culture at large. Please give to The FAMiLY LEADER, so we can fight for YOU.

Sexual harassment: Government leaders have a higher calling to act

From Hollywood to the halls of government in both D.C. and Des Moines, allegations of sexual harassment and abuse lodged against powerful leaders have dominated the news of late.

The FAMiLY LEADER has consistently condemned sexual harassment and abuse, regardless of a leader’s political party or position. Any harassment or abuse is utterly inconsistent with Christ-like leadership.

Furthermore, government leaders must neither tolerate nor trivialize sexual harassment and, in fact, are called to a much higher standard. For the Bible declares government is God’s designed institution of justice, and those who serve in it are called His “ministers” (Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). Like ministers in the Church, God’s ministers of government serve not only the people, but also the Lord. When sexual harassment and abuse mar the halls of government, the Lord’s ministers of government must rise to their God-given calling and lead by example against this dehumanizing injustice.

The matter struck close to home in July 2017, when a jury found an Iowa Senate staffer’s allegations of a toxic work environment caused by sexual harassment to be founded. The case resulted in a $1.75-million settlement at taxpayer expense, while at the federal level, millions more have been spent settling cases against U.S. congressmen.

It is imperative, therefore, that the leadership of the Iowa Senate, government, and federal government establish clear precedent that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated. Furthermore, they must show a humble, sober attitude that reflects the seriousness of the injustice done. For the way our elected leaders respond to sexual harassment and abuse will set the tone for how Americans respond, not only within government, but well beyond the Capitol walls.

VIDEO: U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse at Celebrate the Family 2017

Over 550 people packed the Hall of Cities Ballroom at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown Saturday night for the 2017 Celebrate the Family banquet.

The event drew a diverse crowd of young and old, faith and government leaders and everyday Americans who came to hear about The FAMiLY LEADER’s vision for cultural transformation and to hear from keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Norman Rozendaal of Monroe, Iowa, told Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson he felt “honored” to be in the room.

Speaking of keynote speaker Ben Sasse, Rozendaal said, “I have never heard anybody as articulate as that man, off the cuff, saying exactly what has to be said in our American culture. … I would give him A+++.”

The evening also included three inaugural awards The FAMiLY LEADER bestowed upon a pastor, legislator, and citizen champion, respectively, for steadfast commitment to Christ-like leadership in engaging government and culture.

  • The Timeless Voice Award was given to Pastor Brad Cranston of Heritage Baptist Church in Burlington, Iowa:
    Cranston Award
  • The Dwayne Alons Award was given to State Sen. Dennis Guth of Klemme, Iowa:
    Guth Award
  • The President’s Wilberforce Award was given to TFL founding board members Dean and Judy Lauterbach:
    Laughterbach Award

In addition, TFL President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats presented “The Daniel Initiative,” The FAMiLY LEADER’s bold, new vision for equipping other states to adopt TFL’s proven model of cultural transformation.

The unique aim and success of TFL’s model has been to flip the old paradigm of the Church being hijacked for political “kingdoms” on its head – to instead inspire the Church to engage government for the advance of God’s kingdom.

The ultimate goal of “The Daniel Initiative” is to energize Christians through a state-by-state, contagious vision of seeking a revived America that honors God and blesses people.

Join the movement to spread cultural transformation, state by state, across America today!
Click here now to fuel the fire!

Sen. Sasse, meanwhile, echoed the themes and heartbeat of a Church engaged with government, but not for the sake of politics.

“Friends, there is no politician that is going to save America,” Sasse said in his speech. “Friends, there is no election that is going to transform your life to become so much better than it is right now, and into all that you want it to be. There are definitely reasons to walk precincts and to sign people up to register them to vote … but let us be sure we live among our neighbors as people who know that we actually believe, that we put not our hope in princes, except we believe there is a Prince who is yet to come.”

Watch Sen. Sasse’s speech in full below:

(Video courtesy of Shane Vander Hart and Caffeinated Thoughts)

Dear Dad, I won’t forget

by Drew Zahn

My father is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Like many of the men who served in the Vietnam era, he returned from overseas with far too little recognition for the sacrifices he made in service to his country and to his children. Many of our Vietnam vets, in fact, speak very little of those days.

My father, however, had another reason not to tell even his family about the details of his service. For his work was classified. He referred to it only by the code name given to his unit, a rather funny moniker, calling himself a “Lightning Fast Chicken Plucker.”

Only when I was 10 years old was his work finally declassified and I learned “Lightning Fast Chicken Plucker” meant an enemy code interceptor and breaker.

But by then, memories of the Vietnam era were fading. Too few people even knew my Dad had been in the military, that by relaying intercepted intelligence to the U.S. Navy, he had likely saved the lives of their fathers, brothers, and sons. Too few people knew; fewer thanked him; fewer yet saluted him, and Veteran’s Day in my hometown became a day to honor the old heroes of World War II, while my Vietnam Dad silently watched the parades go by.

But this isn’t a column specifically about Vietnam. It’s about not forgetting. Not forgetting Veteran’s Day. Not forgetting the men and women who may not have died in service to you and me, but who do bear the scars – some seen, some unseen – who gave years of their lives not for themselves, but for others.

So, Dad … and to my uncles and grandfather, to my neighbors whose names and sacrifices I may not even know … thank you for your service. My life is made better today in countless ways that only God above could know … because of you. And even if others forget, I remember. And I’m grateful.

Drew Zahn is communications director for The FAMiLY LEADER

The Timeless Voice: America, and God, in times of pain

Commentary by Greg Baker

The past few months have been difficult for America. From hurricanes to forest fires to a tragic shooting in Las Vegas, our nation is going through painful trials. It is a cold, hard reminder that this world is perishing. It is decaying. From our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:16) to the planet itself, our world is dying (1 John 2:17).

We are witnessing continually the consequences of the Fall, sin, and death. We are witnessing how they are not only destroying us, but our planet as well. As each day passes, sin does more and more damage to creation.

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” – Romans 8:20-21

This reality has left the world puzzled, and many have turned to government for help. Now, government does have a job to do – it is God’s institution of justice. And government must work to protect people from wrongdoing in the world.

But government can only establish laws and punish lawbreakers; it cannot deal with the heart of the lawbreaker or the internal suffering of man. In other words, it cannot solve the real problem. For that, the world needs the Church.

Just as government must seek justice, the Church must speak the Truth to where the real problem is: people’s hearts (“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9). The difficult truth is that man apart from God is prone to all nature of evil desires. Greed, lust, pride, selfishness, envy, coveting, and more lurk in all of our hearts (Galatians 5:19-21). Left unchecked, and in the proper circumstances, these things can lead us to do the most awful things. That is what we witnessed in Vegas.

Therefore, the Church must proclaim God’s plan for redemption, a plan in place from the moment sin entered the world. Yes, sin has separated us from a holy God, but He has a plan to redeem people back to Him. He has a plan to save us from ourselves, our sin, and from this perishing world.

The world needs the Church to warn that we can never achieve this redemption on our own, no matter how hard we try. The Church needs to help the world see that it is not only the infamous criminals that fall short, but every single one of us has fallen short (Romans 3:23).

The Church must share with the world that God has an answer for all of this, and that answer comes from His Son. God took the punishment that every one of us deserves and put it on His Son, who did what we can never do – live a perfect, holy life – and therefore deserved no punishment (“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took the wrath, the justice, by paying for our sins on the Cross.

The world needs the Church to share the message that this is available for all people. Anyone who repents and believes in Christ has eternal life. Not because of anything they have done, but because of what Jesus has done. The debt has been paid (Romans 10:9-11).

Ultimately, our suffering world needs the Church to paint the picture of restoration. First, that when a person comes to know Christ, that person is born again, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). But that is just the beginning of the restoration process. For someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and we will have new bodies, and sin and suffering will be no more. People need to hear this hope.

Yet they will likely ask why that day is not today. Why does God permit this suffering world to continue?

Thus the Church must speak of God’s patient mercy toward us all. We must understand that in order to create a new creation, God has to destroy the current creation. And He is not ready to do that yet because many have yet to Christ as their Lord and Savior. Our temporary suffering, as great as it may be, pales in comparison to the eternal suffering of those who reject Him. So God is patiently giving us time before judging creation.

You and I must take advantage of this time of patience. The world must know God wants all people to come to the knowledge of Him, so He waits.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” – 2 Peter 3:9

Yes, there is much government can do to protect us from pain. Government, along with the Church, must commend the good done amidst all these tragedies. People risked their lives by charging into bullets to save strangers and people have given millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours in natural disaster regions. Despite our sin, people still bear the image of God, and we must celebrate when they embrace that image. Government and the Church must work together to meet people’s needs amidst these natural disasters, and government must work to find ways to prevent future tragedies like Las Vegas.

In the end, however, this world is perishing, and God will someday call all of these things into judgement. The Church must speak to Truth of the gospel in this world, while we are still in this time of patience. For ultimate hope is not found in this earth – neither in our good deeds nor in our government – it is found in the earth to come, and God desires all people join Him in it, and so must we.

Greg Baker is The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation’s vice president of church engagement.

Statewide city council elections

When do you vote? Why should you vote? How do you find your polling place? We’ve got you covered.

Vote on November 7th
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

How do I vote?
To vote in Iowa you need to be registered to vote. You can register online or at your voting location. To learn more about how to vote, including information on voter registration, visit the Iowa Secretary of State website: sos.iowa.gov or call 1-888-SOS-VOTE (1-888-767-8683).

Where do I vote?
Find your polling place online at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx

171023 polling place button

How can I learn about my local candidates?
Local newspapers and local forums are excellent resources to learn about the different candidates. Also, with it being a more local election, a lot of candidates will have websites with contact information that allows you to personally email or call them.

For some counties your local county auditor provides information on the candidates. To find your local county auditor click here: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html.

Why should I vote?

5 reasons why Christians should care about government and voting:

Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 show us that government was instituted by God, created with a purpose and responsibility: to punish evil and reward those who do good. Government is God’s social institution of justice, a value so important to God, His Son was killed on the Cross to satisfy its requirements.

Romans 13 calls government officials “ministers” of God, meaning they are, in effect, servants of the Lord. Just as pastors are ministers of the Church, elected officials are ministers of God in government, and they have a job to do for Him. This should change the way we view our elected officials. This is why the Bible calls us to pray, submit, and honor those in authority (1 Timothy 2, Romans 13, 1 Peter 2).

How do governments of the world determine good and evil? Left on their own, governments often get it wrong. Government needs the Church to provide a standard and to give sound counsel on what the Lord has called good and evil.

The law has never been able to save, but it is a moral teacher and shaper of culture. For righteous leaders pass laws that guide society toward what is right and protect people by making it more difficult to sin and easier to pursue righteousness.

As Americans, we get to choose our ministers of government. As Christians we know what God expects of government. He also expects us to be good stewards of this opportunity and select righteous, qualified individuals to serve as ministers in government. Our right to vote is a gift God has given us to use to honor Him (Matthew 25:14-30).

Pastors, please consider doing the following for your congregation:

1. Use our bulletin insert as a tool to help educate your people on not only how and when to vote, but also on what the Bible says about government.

171023 bulletin insert

2. Make an announcement to your congregation the weekend before the election.

3. Send out a reminder via social media, phone apps, and/or emails.

Our goal at The Family Leader Foundation is not to pick sides in the partisan battle. Rather it is to help educate and equip the Church biblically on how to engage government God’s way, without compromising the gospel.

What is the Church to do when “Gay Pride” comes to town?

by Bob Vander Plaats

The following op-ed appeared in multiple Northwest Iowa newspapers just prior to the first-ever “Gay Pride” event in Northwest Iowa’s Orange City.

Donna Red Wing is the former head of One Iowa, the state’s most significant advocacy organization for those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or those questioning their sexuality.

I am the president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, a prominent Christian family organization that focuses on inspiring leadership in God’s three institutions: the family, the Church, and government.

Donna and I see the world very differently. We are not natural coffee pals, much less expected to be friends. Yet we are both. It all started when Donna came to one of our annual Leadership Summits and at the lunch break asked if I’d ever entertain joining her for coffee. I said, “Yes.” That conversation began a journey where I got to know Donna and she has gotten to know me. While our views surrounding sexuality and marriage have not changed, we have developed a deep friendship.

Our unlikely friendship has been headlined by the Washington Post and Des Moines Register and has been the video subject of Mutual of Omaha’s “Aha Moment” campaign. In addition, Donna and I have been asked to present at universities, colleges, community leadership seminars, and a host of other forums featuring civil dialogue around deep disagreements. It has been an amazing journey!

I was recently asked, “What is the Church to do when ‘Gay Pride’ comes to town?” Through the lens of my relationship with Donna, I suggest the following …

First and foremost, check your heart. The book of Proverbs tells us, “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” If your heart is to win while others lose (in reality or figuratively), back away. In a battle to make the other side “lose,” nobody wins, and neither does the cause of Christ. If, however, your heart is filled with love, first for God and then for your neighbors – including those in the parade adorned in rainbow colors and stickers – then engage with a heart of love.

This follows Christ’s “new command” to love as He loves (John 13:34-35) in the New Testament. Jesus also reminded us the “first and greatest” commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and the second command, like the first, is to love your neighbor as yourself. The people celebrating gay pride in your community are the Church’s neighbors. Thus, lead with a heart of love and compassion.

Once the Church, as individuals and collectively as the Body of Christ, checks its heart with these two commands … then it is the Church’s call and responsibility to “speak truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Again, notice the consistent and clear parameters of love: It’s a constant check on the Church’s heart.

At the same time, it is neither love for God nor for others if we conceal the truth. Donna and I have had many conversations in private and in public regarding truth. It is not a feeling nor an identity; truth is God’s Word, and Christ made it clear that He came to “testify to the truth.” And speaking truth out of a heart of love is the culmination of loving God and loving your neighbor. Donna may not agree with me, but she does respect me for reaching out to her with truth in love.

Voices of both truth AND love are rare today.
Please help The FAMiLY LEADER continue to stand for this needed virtue. Donate now.

Neither is it love for God and others to remain silent, to ignore our neighbors when we hold God’s Word of life and hope and healing in our hands. Pastors, college and university presidents, and other Christian leaders should enthusiastically seize the opportunity to teach God’s Word in love when “Gay Pride” comes to town. God’s Word is timeless, and its teachings on marriage and sexuality are clear and as relevant as ever.

Thus, encourage your pastor, your college presidents and chaplains, and other noted ministry leaders to open God’s Word and to boldly and courageously speak its truth to adequately prepare their congregations, their students, and their communities with a firm foundation prior to “Gay Pride” coming to your town. This is an opportunity to celebrate God’s design and desire while being a vessel to reach out with the eternal gift of the gospel.

And one more thing: Remember we all fall short of the glory of God, and we all need a Savior. Donna needs a Savior. I need a Savior. We all need a Savior.

When “Gay Pride” comes, prepare your town for a revival where we all repent of our sins and turn our hearts toward God. What an opportunity for the Church to be the Church!

Timeless Voice: The 2 virtues of godly government

Commentary by Greg Baker

“King David reigned over all Israel, doing what is right and just for all his people.” – 2 Samuel 8:15

King David was God’s chosen governing authority over Israel, and he did what was right in God’s eyes, because David was able to fulfill government’s God-given purpose: justice.

Government is an institution of God’s with the purpose to punish evil and reward good (Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). Government is also a gift from God. When sin entered the world, God could have easily left us to our own vices, but in His mercy He gave us government. He gave us a unique institution designed to give fallen people law, order, and stability in a world being destroyed by the chaos of sin. It is our great protector. That is why God calls all governing authorities His “ministers.”

Administering justice, however, can be very tricky. You must understand who God is to administer true justice, for justice is part of God’s character. God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8); He requires justice; and yet … He is also God of mercy and compassion. These two virtues – justice and mercy – are somehow woven simultaneously into the character of God. And for government to reflect God’s design, it must also reflect His character – and that means ruling with both virtues, justice and mercy.

The Cross is a beautiful symbol that reveals the God of grace, mercy, compassion, and justice. God offered people grace, mercy, and compassion by offering a payment for sins, yet He still had to carry out justice on His Son.

“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'” – Zechariah 7:9

On one hand, administering justice includes both punishing the evil and rewarding the good. Rewarding the good incentivizes and elevates good behavior. Government is not only a discourager, but also an encourager. Commend the good.

Yet punishment is still necessary: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). Punishment is a form of discipline. God disciplines those He loves. Discipline teaches us a lesson and guides us to the correct path: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). True justice will always include discipline.

All justice must be fair, blind, and applied equally. God demands it: “Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the LORD” (Proverbs 20:10). That means justice cannot favor a race, ethnicity, sex, social-economic status, or any other way the world divides us. It must be fair for all people.

But even then, government must also never forget mercy. Laws must embody both God’s heart for justice and His heart for mercy. Throughout the Scriptures, for example, we see a pattern of extending mercy to the repentant. Not removing all consequences, God nonetheless offers mercy to the humble and broken-hearted. It is the heart of the 2 Chronicles 7:14 message: To those who are willing to repent and return to the ways of the Lord, God was willing to show mercy. David also received mercy after repenting of his sins with Bathsheba. If we are to see true biblical justice today, our laws must reflect God’s heart of mercy for the humble and broken-hearted. Parole is an excellent example: It does not remove consequences, but does offer mercy.

We need to recognize, however, that the right weights of justice and mercy are impossible for people to decipher on their own. David was able to administer justice and righteousness for his people only because he had a relationship with God, the source of justice: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22).

David was also willing to listen to counsel from the Lord’s shepherds. Though David was not perfect, he ultimately submitted to the counsel of both Samuel and Nathan. If governments are going to reflect this tricky balance, governing authorities must walk with the Lord their God and listen to the timeless voice of the Church: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14).

This incredible balance will also require a great amount of wisdom. When Solomon became king, God told him that he could ask for anything in the world, and God would give it to him. Solomon asked for wisdom: “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10). Solomon knew if he was going to administer true justice and show mercy, he needed wisdom from above.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

If the kings of today are to administer justice, as God has called them to, they must walk with the Lord their God, seek counsel and guidance from His Church, and call to Him for the wisdom they need to administer both justice and mercy. If they do this, then their government will be a blessing to its people, and will lead them in the way of righteousness: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Greg Baker is The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation’s vice president of church engagement.

Trump administration hits First Amendment homerun

While many were rightfully cheering the Trump administration’s rollback of Obamacare’s contraception mandates last week as a win for religious liberty, Trump’s attorney general was quietly scoring what may be an even bigger win on the same front.

In a lengthy memo sent out Friday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed through on President Trump’s May 4 executive order on religious liberty by issuing new guidelines on how the federal government interprets and protects the First Amendment right to “free exercise of religion.”

Those guidelines are nothing short of a bold reversal of years of eroding religious liberty in America, restoring the First Amendment protections as America’s Founders intended.

“I commend President Trump for keeping his promise to defend religious liberty and Attorney General Sessions for his diligence in producing such a definitive statement on the First Amendment,” says Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER. “This document is a bold stand for freedom and a landmark declaration to a culture confused about its own constitutional rights.”

Most notably, the new guidelines reaffirm that religious liberty is not just the freedom to “worship in a sacred place,” but that it also “encompasses religious observance and practice” in the public arena, and that Americans do not forfeit their religious liberty when they own a business.

Furthermore, the guidelines restrict enforcement of the much criticized “Johnson Amendment” of 1954, which has effectively chilled many churches and pastors from speaking out on government issues.

According to Sessions’ memo, under point No. 7, “The Internal Revenue Service may not enforce the Johnson Amendment … against a religious non-profit organization under circumstances in which it would not enforce the amendment against a secular non-profit organization.”

The memo also reaffirms specific protections to both employees of faith and religious employers, who, the guidelines state, “have certain constitutional and statutory protections for religious hiring decisions.” It further protects religious organizations from being denied federal grants or contracts unless they meet certain hiring practices inconsistent with their faith.

Just as Trump and Sessions are fighting for your religious liberty at the federal level, The FAMiLY LEADER is fighting for you here in Iowa. Would you consider a donation to The FAMiLY LEADER of $25, $50, $100, or more today to defend YOUR freedom of religion?

The bulk of the memo is composed of 20 “principles” that all federal administrative and executive departments are instructed to follow. The summary statements of those 20 principles are quoted below (italics in the original):

1. The freedom of religion is a fundamental right of paramount importance, expressly protected by federal law.

2. The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.

3. The freedom of religion extends to persons and organizations.

4. Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking in the public square, or interacting with government.

5. Government may not restrict acts or abstentions because of the beliefs they display.

6. Government may not target religious individuals or entities for special disabilities based on their religion.

7. Government may not target religious individuals or entities through discriminatory enforcement of neutral, generally applicable laws.

8. Government may not officially favor or disfavor particular religious groups.

9. Government may not interfere with the autonomy of a religious organization.

10. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening any aspect of religious observance or practice, unless imposition of that burden on a particular religious adherent satisfies strict scrutiny.

11. RFRA’s protection extends not just to individuals, but also to organizations, associations, and at least some for-profit corporations.

12. RFRA does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief.

13. A governmental action substantially burdens an exercise of religion under RFRA if it bans an aspect of an adherent’s religious observance or practice, compels an act inconsistent with that observance or practice, or substantially pressures the adherent to modify such observance or practice.

14. The strict scrutiny standard applicable to RFRA is exceptionally demanding.

15. RFRA applies even where a religious adherent seeks an exemption form a legal obligation requiring the adherent to confer benefits on third parties.

16. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits covered employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religion.

17. Title VII’s protection extends to discrimination on the basis of religious observance or practice as well as belief, unless the employer cannot reasonably accommodate such observance or practice without undue hardship on the business.

18. The Clinton Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace provide useful examples for private employers of reasonable accommodations for religious observance and practice in the workplace.

19. Religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.

20. As a general matter, the federal government may not condition receipt of a federal grant or contract on the effective relinquishment of a religious organization’s hiring exemptions or attributes of its religious character.

In an accompanying memo, Sessions instructs all attorneys within the U.S. Department of Justice, including U.S. Attorney’s Offices, to follow the new guidelines.

“I therefore direct all attorneys within the Department to adhere to the interpretative guidance set forth in the memorandum,” Sessions writes.

It should be noted, however, that though these new guidelines cite dozens upon dozens of U.S. Supreme Court precedents, the attorney general’s guidelines are not binding on the courts, which could continue restricting and/or redefining religious liberty.

Neither do these federal guidelines automatically overrule state and local legislation or court decisions, which have been used in several states to fine and even drive out of business Christian bakers, florists, and others for exercising the freedoms the attorney general’s memo defends.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has drawn a strong line in the sand, affirming that the federal government, at least, has no business forcing religious people or businesses to participate in religious ceremonies or create messages that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The memo, therefore, stands as a significant milestone, not only for religious liberty and the rights of conscience, but also for the restoration of constitutional rights for all Americans.

Just as Trump and Sessions are fighting for your religious liberty at the federal level, The FAMiLY LEADER is fighting for you here in Iowa. Would you consider a donation to The FAMiLY LEADER of $25, $50, $100, or more today to defend YOUR freedom of religion?

The Timeless Voice: Set apart in a partisan world

Commentary by Greg Baker

Last week I got together with a friend who loves the Lord but sits on the other side of the political aisle from me. To have such a friend has been an answer to prayer, and the goal of our relationship is to spur one another on in Christ.

The relationship started with an effort to find common ground and places we can work together. Our friendship has accomplished both of these things, and so much more. As I have combed through the Scriptures with this brother in the Lord and heard his thoughts on different issues, I have been challenged to search even deeper through the Scriptures to find God’s answers and not my own. At times God’s answers are not always the most convenient, but they are the truth.

This relationship, along with others like it, has also changed the way I view politics. It has brought to light this verse: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). It has taught me that we as Christians must not build our worldview of government on theories and worldly philosophies. Rather than conforming to labels like “conservativism” or “liberalism,” or any other human ideology, we must allow the Scriptures to determine and define our worldview.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Word of God is the only universal truth in this world. And it is not conservative or liberal. It is just the Truth. The truth is often inconvenient and constantly challenges our form of thinking. If you are reading the Bible to reinforce the way you are thinking, you are not reading it with the right heart. As believers we should study the Scriptures to better come to the knowledge of who God is, who we are, and what He says is true. We must conform to His way of thinking. He is the source of life (John 6:47-48), which means He and His Word lead to life. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Anything opposed to His words leads to death.

The Scriptures will constantly challenge our way of thinking and renew our minds, changing us throughout our lives (Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:6). The Word of God is sanctifying us, and making us more and more like Christ. Yet we must be willing to let the Word of God change our minds, even when verses challenge our deeply held beliefs. Scriptures will not always line up with our politics. When that happens, we will be forced to ask, “Who do we trust, our political ideology or God?”

Republican, Democrat, conservative, and liberal – all of these things are temporary and worldly philosophies. They are perishing, as this world is perishing (1 John 2:17). Presidents come and presidents go, majorities come and majorities go, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. We must never forget this amazing universal truth. God’s Word was in existence well before this nation was created, and it will be in existence long after this nation passes. “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

I envision a day when brothers and sisters in the Lord from all different political beliefs sit down together and study the Word of God. Yet what will bring us together is not a simple commitment to bipartisanship; we must work together in the Lord, to seek a common truth, His Word. “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). We must go beyond seeking common ground. We must find out what is actually true. Conservative and liberal leaning Christians must work together to find where God stands on an issue and conform to that. That is where unity is found. That is our “same mind,” the universal truth of God’s Word. We must not be governed by conservatism or liberalism, but by the Bible.

Brothers and sisters, in a world that is getting more and more political, where you can’t even watch a football game without being confronted with divisive politics, we have an incredible opportunity to be a light. God wants us to look different. He wants us to stand out. And what makes us stand out is not how brightly we shine red or blue, but rather our refusal to conform to the colors of the world.

I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, stand out from the world in the arena of civics. Don’t identify with the world’s factions. Build your ideology on the truths in the Scriptures, and work to conform every thought and belief to the Word of God, including your political beliefs. If you do this, you will not only be unique, but you will be a true light in a dark and perishing world (1 John 2:17).

Greg Baker is The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation’s vice president of church engagement.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse to headline Celebrate the Family dinner

The FAMiLY LEADER is excited to announce U.S. Senator Ben Sasse will be the keynote speaker at the Celebrate the Family fundraising dinner on November 18th!

Click here to reserve your ticket to the Celebrate the Family dinner today!

A first-term senator from Nebraska, Sasse has withstood heavy fire for sticking to his principles, even when it defies D.C. politics. For Sen. Sasse believes in a humbler Washington, where the federal government does fewer things, but the more important things, more urgently, more transparently, and with less partisan screaming.

And on Saturday, Nov. 18, Sen. Sasse will be coming to the Des Moines Marriott Downtown to share with YOU a message on thinking bigger than politics as usual.

U.S. Sen Ben Sasse
Saturday, November 18
Des Moines Marriott Downtown
700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines

Doors open at 5pm
Dinner & program at 6pm

At The FAMiLY LEADER, we cannot accomplish our vision of a revived America that honors God and blesses people without YOU.

Click here now to reserve a table for you and your friends
at the Celebrate the Family dinner with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse!

Join The FAMiLY LEADER for an evening that will not only bless you, but also fuel a movement that blesses America!

The Timeless Voice: Why government needs the Church

Commentary by Greg Baker

Throughout history, and throughout the Scriptures, the unique relationship between the shepherds of God’s institutions – government and the Church – has been vital to society’s success. In fact, the government needs the Church to fulfill its biblical role. For the Church represents a voice not swayed by cultural trends, but rather standing for the timeless truths of the Scriptures, no matter how the culture tugs on government.

One of Scripture’s most revealing examples is the relationship between King David and the prophet of the Lord, Nathan. King David is remembered as one of Israel’s best kings, described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). In fact, it is through the lineage of David that Christ now reigns.

David’s reign, however, was far from perfect.

King David suffered several dark periods, including a time when he committed adultery and murder. When other kings led their nations into war, willing to fight and even die for their people (as David had done in his younger days), David decided to stay at home and let others die for him. He esteemed his life and time more important than the people he was supposed to be serving. And while his men were at war without him, David saw the lovely Bathsheba and took her as his own. When her husband (one of David’s soldiers at war) got in his way, David had him killed. David’s reign had become not only selfish, but tyrannical.

Then the prophet Nathan enters the stage. The shepherd of the Lord, risking his life, stepped into David’s palace and corrected the king. As the timeless voice, he called King David out for doing wrong.

But what if Nathan had never approached David? What would have happened? Perhaps we would not be reading David’s Psalms today. The books of Samuel, chronicling David’s life, would look very different. The lineage of Christ may have even looked different. But thank God for Nathan. Thank God the timeless voice did its job.

Nathan and David, however, are not a unique outlier. Again and again the timeless voice rose to speak to the kings of old. Joseph and Moses stood before the pharaohs of their day. The prophet Daniel interacted in the lives of four different emperors. Even in the New Testament, John the Baptist stood before King Herod and Paul before Caesar himself.

Contrary to what many would like to believe, government is not an institution of this world. It is an institution of God’s, with the purpose to punish evil and reward good (1 Peter 2). Those who serve in it are called the Lord’s ministers (Romans 13). It is God’s institution of justice, and when government does its job well, it is a blessing to its people.

Yet government cannot be a blessing to its people, cannot be an institution of justice, rightly parsing right from wrong, if it’s left unanchored to sway with every current of culture or popular opinion. It needs the counsel of the Church, the timeless voice.

Throughout the Scriptures, kings wise enough to listen to the timeless voice prospered. Those that didn’t, didn’t. Egypt’s pharaoh during the times of Joseph listened, and Egypt was blessed. But the pharaoh of Moses’s day did not listen, and the great Egyptian empire was brought to its knees.

God established our social institutions, government among them, but the Church is perhaps the most unique. With Jesus Christ as its head, the Church is the only source of absolute truth in an ever-changing world. That is why God designed government and the church to work together. Government needs the counsel of the Church to determine good from evil. Without the Church, government has to find answers from the world, and apart from the truth, many ways seem right to a person, but in the end they lead to death (Proverbs 14:12).

As the Church, therefore, we must engage the government by being the timeless voice of truth God has called us to be. Our government and nation, as well as all nations of the world, depend on it.

Greg Baker is The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation’s vice president of church engagement.