Breakout sessions announced for Family Leadership Summit!

This year’s Family Leadership Summit on Friday, Sept. 14, will tackle some the nation’s most pressing – but too rarely talked about – issues, including pornography, poverty, human trafficking, and more.

Through focused breakout sessions, the Summit aims to equip the Church to have real impact on real lives.

And new this year, you’ll be able to attend TWO of the breakout sessions of your choice!

Get your tickets to the 2018 Family Leadership Summit today!

Below are confirmed breakout sessions for the Summit:

  • How the Church Can Address Pornography – Pastor Luke Hukee
  • Biblical Theology of the Poor – Pastor Philip Herman
  • Imagine This: Stories and Statistics of Human Trafficking – Joy Fopma of Wings of Refuge
  • Help! The Youth Are Going Crazy – Dr. Nathan Oppman
  • Women of Faith Leading Today – Alita Reynolds of the Be the Light Movement and Women of Faith
  • Religious Liberty in America – Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Saving Unborn Lives in Iowa – Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll
  • Making Disciples: Personal Stories and Examples on Helping the Next Generation Know and Grow in Christ – Mike Wohlenhaus and Karen Campbell

These breakout sessions, in additional to the already stellar lineup of speakers, makes this year’s Family Leadership Summit an event you don’t want to miss!

Don’t delay. Get your tickets to the Summit today!




The Timeless Voice: Politics are not our gospel

Commentary by Greg Baker

Politics, by its nature, builds partnerships and tribes, bands of brothers who rally around a common cause. But for the believer, if we are not careful, politics can become a counterfeit of our true partnership in the gospel, a counterfeit that robs us of the life Christ has for us.

A few weeks ago, I went on an annual excursion with guys from my church that we call the “dudes’ trip.” It is always a time of fun and encouragement. On this particular dudes’ trip, we wanted to focus on true Christian fellowship, what Paul described in Philippians as a being “partners in the gospel” with one another.

For true Christian fellowship builds something more than friendships. Partners in the gospel share way more than common interests. They become a band of brothers, war buddies in a larger, spiritual battle. Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy, Peter and John are all examples of partners in the gospel. They were a band of brothers forged by laboring in the trenches, shoulder to shoulder, for the lives of the saints and the lost.

Partners in the gospel are marked by their love for one another (John 13:35) and their heart for others. They warn those who are idle, and they help those who are weak. They go into the lost world and labor to bring souls to Christ. They go to war against the forces of darkness, and bring the light. They cry and mourn together. They celebrate together. And more.

This is what my wife and I hunger for in the “community” group from church that meets in our home. We want more than friends who come together periodically to read the Bible and go to services on Sunday. We want more than friends with a common interest. We truly want this partnership, and the only way we are going to get if is if we quit talking about the Great Commission, and actually go out and live it.

Politics, too, can build a band of brothers. Politics is very much a contact sport, a battle that brings people close together. For the believer, however, if we are not careful, the partisan and political divide can be confused what the “partnership in the gospel” the Bible describes. We can mistake our fervor for policy and influence with our mission to be ambassadors for a higher Kingdom. And we can confuse our political war buddies with our truer brothers in Christ.

The distinction can be difficult to discern, because our political goals are often inspired by our Christian values. It is not wrong to desire to bring justice and to defend the oppressed. It is not wrong to take up the widows’ and the orphans’ cause. These desires spring from a biblical worldview and a heart for people.

Where things often go wrong, however, is our priorities. The first misstep is when our focus on the policy makes the policy itself the end goal, rather than spiritual transformation. And when policy is the end goal, we can slip into thinking those who share our politics have allied with the side of light, while those disagree have allied with darkness. Our ideology becomes our gospel, and converting others to our politics takes on religious fervor. And when ideology becomes your gospel, anyone who labors with you becomes your band of brothers, your war buddies, your “partner in the gospel.” It’s just the wrong gospel.

If we do not guard ourselves from this, we will give our entire lives to fighting a political battle and miss where the real battle is fought. We can neglect to encourage and build into the saints. We can neglect to witness and win the lost to Christ. As a result, we will not raise up disciples. And the net result will be we lose the “culture war” we thought we were fighting, because without Christ and His Great Commission, we will lose the culture.

Our greatest protection against this temptation is to remain grounded in the local church. The local church, not political parties or policy organizations, is the hope for the world. The local church is who has been commissioned to raise up disciples. If we give our lives to building Christ’s Church and keeping our focus on Kingdom work, we will discover our truest band of brothers, our partners in the gospel.

And here’s the revolutionary, long-term perspective: When we band together with partners in the gospel, under Christ, we will see people transform around us. We will see people’s lives change. And as lives change, they change the community around them. What’s more, if we apply this gospel-centric, life-changing, disciple-making perspective to our civic engagement, it can revolutionize our government. Revolutionize how we interact with government officials. And revolutionize how we treat both our political allies and our political foes.

So, each of us – especially those of us active in government and politics – must ask ourselves, “Do I truly have partners in the gospel? And am banding with them to build Christ’s Kingdom and His Church?” Because your true partners in the gospel are your best defense against partnering in the wrong gospel.

Greg Baker is vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY LEADER.




3 MORE speakers announced for The Family Leadership Summit!

The FAMiLY LEADER has added Gary Bauer, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to the list of confirmed speakers for the 7th annual Family Leadership Summit at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday, Sept. 14.

The three additions join previously announced speakers Dr. Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Marjorie Dannelfelser of Susan B. Anthony List, Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, and Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER.

“This year’s lineup features leaders at the forefront of some of the nation’s biggest issues, including life, religious liberty, and the futures of Israel, Iowa, and the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Vander Plaats. “But while the world around us debates these issues in a politically charged media frenzy, the Summit is a refreshing opportunity to think bigger than politics, to look higher for the help we need, for Christians to come together and join God in the ministry of cultural transformation!”

Get your tickets to The Family Leadership Summit now!

The annual Family Leadership Summit brings to the Midwest prominent, national leaders from a variety of fields, including government. The Summit encourages and challenges Christians to engage in Christ-centered cultural transformation that “thinks bigger” than politics and elections to impact not just government, but also churches, families, and individual lives.

Confirmed speakers for the 2018 Summit include:

bauer 250Gary Bauer is Washington director of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund. Previously Bauer served as President Ronald Reagan’s undersecretary of education and chief domestic policy advisor. After leaving the White House, Bauer worked with several family-oriented advocacy organizations. Bauer serves on the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel and as president of American Values. In 2010 he received the Defender of Israel Award from the Zionist Organization of America.

 

MJD 250Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization focused on electing pro-life leaders and advancing life-saving laws and policy. SBA List has helped elect more than 111 pro-life leaders to federal and statewide office. Dannenfelser served as National Chair of then-candidate Donald Trump’s Pro-life Coalition during the 2016 election and has been named one Washington Examiner’s top ten “Political Women on the Move” and among Newsweek’s top ten “Leaders of the Christian Right.”

 

Michael Farris 250Michael Farris is president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a national, non-profit alliance of attorneys defending life, religious liberty, and marriage, an organization the Washington Post recently dubbed “the Christian legal powerhouse that keeps winning.” ADF made national headlines most recently by winning the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Farris is also the founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College.

 

jack graham 250Dr. Jack Graham served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, and has served as a member of the president’s evangelical advisory council. Graham is the pastor of the 42,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and author of numerous books, including Angels: Who They Are, What They Do and Why It Matters; Man of God; and Unseen.

 

Grassley 250U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a lifelong family farmer and has served as Iowa’s elected U.S. senator since 1970. At the U.S. Senate, Grassley serves on several key committees, including Finance, Budget, Agriculture, Joint Tax, and more. And as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Grassley serves a prominent role in the confirmation of judges to U.S. courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Reynolds1Gov. Kim Reynolds is a fifth-generation Iowan who previously served as a county treasurer, state senator, and lieutenant governor before becoming the first woman to serve as governor of Iowa. She is particularly known to pro-life Iowans for signing into law the “Heartbeat Bill,” which protects children in the womb from abortion after their heartbeats can be detected.

 

Bob 250Bob Vander Plaats inspires others from his experience and leadership successes in education, health care and human services, politics, business, and ministry. Today he is president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, and his leadership and voice for the family are frequently sought after by national and international media outlets. The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and many others have referred to Bob as an election “kingmaker,” while Bob prefers the designation of “standard bearer” for Christ.

Get your tickets to The Family Leadership Summit now!




TFL on TV: Pro-aborts target Iowa as ‘ground zero’ in 2018 election

Following a press conference by the radically pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America at the Iowa Capitol, TV news stations turned to The FAMiLY LEADER for a pro-life response.

NARAL had pledged to bring outside influence, including “tens of thousands of … phone calls [and] postcards,” to Iowa to unseat Iowa’s pro-life legislators and governor.

“Iowa right now is ground zero,” the pro-abortion group declared.

But for pro-life Iowans, NARAL’s arguments for abortion completely fail to address the most critical issue in the abortion debate – namely, the rights, worth, and dignity of the unborn child.

“Despite all those arguments,” said TFL Vice President and Chief Counsel Chuck Hurley, “there’s one truth that can’t be argued away: That that little child in her mother’s womb, she’s a baby.”

Watch TFL’s Chuck Hurley in coverage from WHO-TV by clicking the image below:

180827 chuck on WHO

Thanks to the ultrasound, Hurley said, “So many pregnant mothers share their ultrasound pictures, even videos, and we all know now, seeing is believing that that child in her mother’s womb, she’s a baby.”

Technology that enables us all to see into the womb is part of the reason, Hurley affirmed, that despite the “long-term struggle” over abortion in America, “We believe that life will win.”

Be a part of the winning team for life! Give to the work of TFL by clicking here now.




LEAD VIDEO: Be inspired by the next generation!

Check out this quick, recap video from LEAD, The FAMiLY LEADER’s first-ever summer leadership program for youth:

LEAD challenges teens with a week of Christian worldview and leadership training, then culminates in hands-on experience as part of a mock legislature at the Iowa Capitol. But LEAD is far more than a “government camp,” for its primary focus is on encouraging and equipping young people to be Christ-like leaders in whatever field God places them.

Read more about LEAD by clicking here.

Join TFL in investing in the next generation of Christian leaders. Give to the work of The FAMiLY LEADER today!




HEARTBEAT UPDATE: Pro-life group challenges ‘exceptions’ clause

Iowa’s “Heartbeat Law” was in court again Friday, August. 17, as Rebecca Kiessling’s pro-life group, Save the 1, sought to intervene in the pending lawsuit against the statute.

The Heartbeat law, currently under temporary injunction, would ban abortions in the state of Iowa if the unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.

Save the 1 is challenging the law’s exceptions, which still permit abortion in the cases of a child conceived in rape or incest, or a child suffering developmental abnormalities deemed “incompatible with life.” Save the One claims such exceptions clauses violate “equal protection under the law,” protecting some babies while allowing others classes of unborn children to be aborted.

The FAMiLY LEADER prepared a statement in conjunction with Iowa’s Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders on Save the One’s intervention:

“We appreciate the sentiments of the Save the 1 organization, and we too seek a day when all unborn children are protected, regardless of their health or how they are conceived,” the statement reads.

“We believe the passage of the Heartbeat Law is elevating the public discussion to a place from which there is no going back, and hastens the day when all unborn children are protected. For we know the child in her mother’s womb, regardless of physical disability or how she was conceived – she’s a baby.

“So we will support the efforts of the Thomas More Society to defend the Heartbeat Law, and we will continue to work until all life in the womb is treasured and protected.”

Judge Michael Huppert heard arguments on Friday as to whether Save the 1 should be allowed to intervene in the case or not. His ruling on the intervention question will not be announced until at least Friday, Aug. 24, while attorneys are preparing responses to some of Save the 1’s most recent filings.




The FAMiLY LEADER invests in next generation leaders

Fifty-six Iowa (and beyond!) teenagers are ready to take on the world today, inspired to be ambassadors for Christ by The FAMiLY LEADER’s first ever LEAD program.

LEAD challenges teens with a week of Christian worldview and leadership training, then culminates in hands-on experience as part of a mock legislature at the Iowa Capitol. But LEAD is far more than a “government camp,” for its primary focus is on encouraging and equipping young people to be Christ-like leaders in whatever field God places them.

LEAD18 group shot

“I loved the intensely practical, yet discipleship-focused ministry that happened this week at LEAD,” said Greg Baker, TFL’s vice president of church engagement. “This may be one of the best things The FAMiLY LEADER has ever done.”

One mom even brought her son and a friend all the way from Eugene, Oregon, to attend.

“We’ve been to a lot of camps, and LEAD has reset the bar,” said Oregon mom Julie Stream, who also observed throughout the week. “The teens are charged to be the difference, to go out and influence the world. … And the LEAD staff have such a heart for the students. They’re strong, solid leaders that you want to teach your children so that they will have that same inspiration and influence.”

LEAD18 student2

An organization called Student Statesmanship Institute pioneered LEAD in Michigan 25 years ago and helped TFL bring the program to Iowa for the first time this summer.

The 56 LEAD students spent the week on the campus of Grand View University in Des Moines, learning from a variety of instructors, including Dr. Del Tackett of The Truth Project, Pastor Todd Stiles of First Family Church in Ankeny, football Chaplain Chris Barr, and more. Then at the Capitol, teens worked with actual Iowa legislators and registered lobbyists to develop speeches the teens eventually delivered in the Capitol’s former Iowa State Supreme Court chambers.

Iowa State Rep. Chris Hagenow of Urbandale was one of the legislators who led the students in a mock committee meeting, where the students discussed and debated actual bills that have come before the Iowa Legislature.

“LEAD is a great program to help get the next generation of Iowans more involved in the process, understanding how to have a better civic dialogue,” Hagenow said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

LEAD18 lt gov

“I appreciate this process for how realistic it is for our students,” echoed Iowa State Rep. Kevin Koester of Ankeny, who also led a student committee meeting. “They get a good taste of action at the Capitol and of the divisiveness of important issues. They did an excellent job of preparing, and I’m impressed just to be a part of this process with these kids. They’re good!”

The LEAD staff also came away thoroughly impressed with the teens.

“You hear too often discouraging headlines about today’s youth,” said TFL Multimedia Director Glen Cornell. “But I was so encouraged by this group of teens. This LEAD week revealed they have much more to contribute than we realize and represent so much hope for our future. They’re amazing!”

The FAMiLY LEADER welcomed this opportunity to engage students with LEAD because of TFL’s commitment to inspiring Christ-like leadership in the home, the church, and the government.

“These kids are the future,” explains Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, “and it means a lot to invest in them in every way that we can, especially counter-culturally to what they receive elsewhere, with a program that is Christ-centered.”

Bob was particularly grateful for a question one of the students asked during a Q & A session, wondering how to live out the biblical example of servant leadership as a senior on his high school football team. The young man wanted to transform the “privileged senior” culture of his team’s locker room into a “building others up” mentality.

“That kind of leadership is a tangible way to not only impact a football team, but also to impact your school, your church, your family, your community,” Vander Plaats said afterward. “These students have a lot of ways to make an impact, and I think what you’re going to see here is 56 kids who are going to be ambassadors for Christ.”

Join TFL in investing in the next generation of Christian leaders. Give to the work of The FAMiLY LEADER today!




Dr. Del Tackett teaches worldview at TFL’s student LEAD week

For 50+ teenagers on the campus of Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, the implications of a biblical (or unbiblical) worldview have never been more eye-opening, thanks to in-person instruction from The Truth Project’s Dr. Del Tackett.

The teens are participating in LEAD, a week-long leadership development program developed over 25 years of experience in Michigan and now brought to Iowa for the first time by The FAMiLY LEADER.

Tackett’s words to the students have been both profoundly unsettling and personally encouraging.

Tackett’s breakdown of the “state of the union” in America reveals a culture sprinting away from the heart of God. A nation that once proclaimed biblical principles, both in the pulpit and in the halls of government, has become a nation whose institutions – from academia and law to media and pop culture – have all “shifted sides on the stadium,” cheering against those who hold fast to a biblical worldview.

“You need to have courage,” Tackett told the students, “to stand when others ‘boo’ you.”

Yet180729 LEAD students rather than merely bemoan the shift in attitudes (America’s Christians cannot merely become a chorus of “whiners,” Tackett says), Tackett told the teens, “This is when the people of God become a Remnant.”

For despite Western Civilization’s radical departure from its Christian heritage, where some nations in Europe have seen evangelical Christianity fall to near-extinction levels, Tackett says the current generation is living in a day of opportunity.

“There is a miracle happening,” Tackett says. “There is a huge Remnant left in this nation, when in reality, there should be none.”

170320 lead studentsLike his work with The Truth Project, Tackett has been encouraging TFL’s LEAD students to evaluate the evidence of God’s design in creation, to understand the social consequences of our broader culture’s worldview, and to apply a biblical worldview to their own thinking.

“God is not through with us,” Tackett encouraged the students. “You are a part of His Remnant.”

TFL’s LEAD week also includes hands-on leadership experiences in a mock-legislature setting, as well as worship and testimony from ambassadors for Christ in many fields. Additional speakers planned for the week include Pastor Todd Stiles, international opera star Simon Estes, football chaplain Chris Barr, and Matt Moeckl, executive director of Wildwood Hills Ranch of Iowa.




The Timeless Voice: Transforming an unhealthy culture

Commentary by Greg Baker

America’s hyper-political culture is not healthy. Neither is it functional: As America is torn into opposing factions, the division destroys our government’s ability to carry out its God-given purpose. For God instituted government as His instrument of justice, and where government fails, injustice grows.

If our government is going to carry out its God-given purpose, it needs transformation. And it needs it at a cultural, heart-deep level.

Yet there is hope! I believe that if the Church engages government God’s way and with the power that only comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can transform the culture – both in Des Moines and in D.C.

For too long we as Christians have been tangled in the web of partisanship, and we have allowed only select issues to form how we view elected officials. This leads to Christians thinking of one party as light and the other darkness, while the culture concludes the Church and even God must be partisan.

When you dig past the select issues, however, you find the light/dark, hero/villain dichotomy is false. Both sides have a desire to better our nation, but different theories on how to get there. Both sides need guidance from the Scriptures on how to face the many challenges confronting our nation.

The false dichotomy also leads us to false assumptions about the hearts of elected officials themselves. The truth is, some officials are hardened towards discussing the Lord or His Scriptures, while others are open – and we have found that political identification has little effect on who is soft and who is hardened against the Lord. What’s more, when you share the Scriptures and God’s desire for a personal relationship with them, it is amazing how the most unexpected people open up to discuss matters of faith.

In complicated issues like healthcare, mental health, the foster system, and immigration, one side could not possibly have all the answers. We need to encourage a culture where both sides of the aisle will listen to one another and earnestly search the Scriptures together to learn what God has to say.

We need to encourage a culture where both sides of the aisle will listen to one another and earnestly search the Scriptures together to learn what God has to say.

The Church of Jesus Christ is so much bigger than partisan and ideological battles. The Church is not here to serve any party or candidate. It is here to bring the transformative gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere it goes – including the halls of government.

The world left to its own devices will never do this. For America’s partisan bickering to end, for righteous legislation to pass, for our government to restore its rightful role of justice, we need the Church to bring the Great Commission to the halls of government. I believe if we lay aside partisan politics and engage government with the gospel and the timeless truths of the Scriptures, we will see partisan walls come down and people of all political parties work together towards biblical justice.

The Church can lead the way in transforming this culture. We can do this by broadly and biblically speaking to many issues, rather than only a few. We can do this by teaching all people about God’s redemptive love, regardless of party. We can do this by building genuine relationships with governing officials that incorporate both the personal and their unique role as a leader in our land.

For the past three years we have been bringing pastors regularly to the Capitol in Des Moines to get to know Iowa’s legislators and members of the executive branch. What God has done has been incredible! We have seen partisan walls come down as we work to bring the Scriptures and the gospel to all people, regardless of political party.

We have seen the culture begin to change in Des Moines, and I believe we can see it change in capitol buildings all across this nation. Our nation and our government need it, and the Church holds the power to do it through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” – John 1:5.

Greg Baker is vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY LEADER.




3 speakers announced for Family Leadership Summit!

This may be one of the most encouraging and uplifting Family Leadership Summits we’ve ever hosted!

People who attend our Summits consistently tell us how inspiring it is to gather together with like-minded people – to know you’re not alone in your desire to see revival and your hope that our children would inherit an America that honors God and blesses people!

And then when you come, and you join in worship and prayer with these like-minded friends, when you hear speaker after speaker proclaiming truth and pouring encouragement into you … it makes The Family Leadership Summit one of the year’s most can’t-miss events!

Reserve your tickets to join us at the Summit today!

That’s why I’m so excited to announce today the first of our confirmed speakers for the Summit! At a time when we’re seeing groundbreaking wins in the fight for life, historic victories for religious liberty, and a movement of the Church to speak in every sphere of our culture, the Summit is welcoming 3 of the nation’s top leaders in the Church, on life, and on religious liberty:

jack graham 250Dr. Jack Graham served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, and has served as a member of the president’s evangelical advisory council. Graham is the pastor of the 42,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and author of numerous books, including Angels: Who They Are, What They Do and Why It Matters; Man of God; and Unseen.

 

 

MJD 250Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization focused on electing pro-life leaders and advancing life-saving laws and policy. SBA List has helped elect more than 111 pro-life leaders to federal and statewide office. Dannenfelser served as national chair of then-candidate Donald Trump’s Pro-life Coalition during the 2016 election and has been named one Washington Examiner’s top ten “Political Women on the Move” and among Newsweek’s top ten “Leaders of the Christian Right.”

 

 

Michael Farris 250Michael Farris is president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a national, non-profit alliance of attorneys defending life, religious liberty, and marriage – an organization the Washington Post recently dubbed “the Christian legal powerhouse that keeps winning.” ADF made national headlines most recently by winning the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Farris is also the founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College.

And these are just the first of our confirmed speakers, with more to be announced soon!

Join us on Friday, Sept. 14, for the 7th annual Family Leadership Summit!

There’s special, discount pricing when you purchase two or more tickets, so make sure to bring your spouse, tell your friends, and invite your small group!




Who IS Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?

President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be our next U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

But who is this man, and what’s his record on issues that matter to people of faith?

Kavanaugh, 53, is a Yale grad and practicing Catholic who played a key role in both the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the investigation into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. He eventually joined the White House staff of President George W. Bush, who appointed him to his current position on the D.C. Appeals Court.

Over the last 12 years on the bench, Kavanaugh has established himself as an intelligent, well-respected, and often-cited judge, with over 300 issued opinions. His qualifications to serve as a Supreme Court justice are clearly established. A full analysis of his record on every issue would take books to detail, therefore we urge your prayers for Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be instrumental in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

For this article, however, we will limit examination of Kavanaugh’s record to three top issues: Religious liberty, judicial activism, and the right to life. On these issues, the summary is positive, but mixed: Kavanaugh has been a powerful champion of religious liberty; he has shown a clear, constitutional understanding of the role of the judiciary; and his record on abortion is promising, but unclear.

Religious liberty

While in private practice, Kavanaugh served as Chairman of the Federalist Society’s Religious Liberty Practice Group, and on the bench, his record on religious liberty has been outstanding.

For example, in Priests for Life v. HHS, Kavanaugh voted to invalidate the Obama administration’s contraception mandate because it violated the rights of religious organizations. He argued it is “crystal clear” that “when the Government forces someone to take an action contrary to his or her sincere religious belief … the Government has substantially burdened the individual’s exercise of religion.”

And last year, Kavanaugh dissented from his court’s ruling that the Washington, D.C., transit authority could ban religiously themed advertisements, including a Christmas ad. He called the policy “pure discrimination” and “odious” to the First Amendment.

Judge Kavanaugh has also defended the traditional role of religion and prayer in the public square, vigorously arguing in Newdow v. Roberts for the constitutionality of prayers at government ceremonies and the phrase “so help me God” in the Presidential Oath of Office. He further suggested that “stripping government ceremonies of any references to God or religious expression … would, in effect, ‘establish’ atheism.”

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, has concluded that Kavanaugh “has been committed to the Constitution and religious liberty for a long time.”

Judicial activism

In the world of law, there is a divide between those who see the U.S. Constitution as a “living document” that must be interpreted according to the times and those who insist the Constitution be interpreted according to its original intent.

The “living document” perspective has given rise to judges “discovering” new “rights” not defined in the Constitution, such as the recent Iowa Supreme Court, which used the “living document” argument to concoct a “right” to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. Critics of this viewpoint accuse judges of “legislating from the bench” and “judicial activism,” since the basis for their rulings cannot be found in the words of the Constitution itself.

On the other hand, the leading figure of the latter perspective is President Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who has argued the original intent of America’s Founding Fathers, rather than modern opinion, must hold sway when interpreting the Constitution.

Meese has praised Kavanaugh, calling the judge “an originalist who is faithful to the Constitution.”

Kavanaugh, in fact, stated in a 2016 lecture, “The judge’s job is to interpret the law, not to make the law or make policy. So read the words of the statute as written. Read the text of the Constitution as written, mindful of history and tradition. Don’t make up new constitutional rights that are not in the text of the Constitution. Don’t shy away from enforcing constitutional rights that are in the text of the Constitution.”

Abortion and the right to life

Judge Kavanaugh’s record on abortion is less certain.

On one hand, he has resisted government promotion of abortion. In Garza v. Hargan, Judge Kavanaugh rejected the ACLU’s assertion of a new constitutional right for illegal-immigrant minors in U.S. custody to obtain immediate abortion on demand. He emphasized the government’s “permissible interests in favoring fetal life” and “refraining from facilitating abortion.”

On the other hand, whether or not he would assert an unborn child’s right to life under the 14th Amendment is unknown. There is no certain way to predict how he would rule on a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade or if he would be willing to overturn an established precedent.

Nonetheless, Sarah Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society – which is defending Iowa’s “Heartbeat” Law in state court – has compared Kavanaugh to other leading judges and praised President Trump’s choice.

“On the vital issues of protecting religious liberty and enforcing restrictions on abortion, no court-of-appeals judge in the nation has a stronger, more consistent record than Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Pitlyk said. “He has repeatedly taken conservative stands and fearlessly defended his textualist and originalist philosophy.”

The U.S. Senate appears poised to move on Kavanaugh’s nomination quickly. An anticipated timeline puts Senate judiciary hearings in late August with a confirmation vote possible in mid-September. This would allow Kavanaugh to be seated and in place on Oct. 1, the first day of the Supreme Court’s next term.




The Timeless Voice: Civility is more than manners, it’s the gospel in action

Commentary by Greg Baker

We were blessed to have a woman in our office recently who shared a message on the power of our tongue. According to the book of Proverbs, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

Our speech has the ability to build others up or quickly tear them down. What’s more, our speech is closely tied to the gospel we preach.

If we as Christians are going to be a witness in this culture, we must change the way we speak – not only about one another, but also about the world around us.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

In order to make this biblical command the pattern of our lives, however, we must first change the way we view people. How we view others in our hearts will influence how we speak to them or about them: “From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

The woman who visited our office shared with us the lyrics to a beautiful song that challenged me in how I view people. It is called “See Me Beautiful” by Red and Kathy Grammer:

See me beautiful.
Look for the best in me.
It’s what I really am
And all I want to be.
It may take some time,
It may be hard to find,
But see me beautiful.

See me beautiful
Each and every day.
Could you take a chance?
Could you find a way
To see me shining through
In everything I do
And see me beautiful?

Though sin has marred each of us, God’s love looks past that, and He sees our beauty. He loves us and desires to redeem us. The gospel boasts a beautiful message of God’s love for us, in spite of who we are, to the point of putting our punishment on His Son all so He could be in relationship with us.

As Christians, we must see people as God sees people. We must begin to view people as made in the image of God. We must look past the sinful exterior and ask God to help us see who He created them to be. If we are willing to do this, we will begin to understand that the people around us are not our enemies, but fellow creations of God, desperately in need of His loving, redeeming grace.

When we see people this way, it will change our speech. We will begin to speak the truth in love as God commands and as Jesus demonstrated. We can begin to have conversations that heal and more clearly communicate the gospel.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).

It doesn’t take long to see the culture that the untamed tongue has caused. We can look anywhere to see the damage of slander, lies, and bullying. Kindness and grace seem to be completely absent from Washington, Wall Street, and even on Main Street. We cannot seem to disagree without demonizing and belittling.

Brothers and sisters, let’s stop using our speech as a weapon and engage in the Great Commission. Let’s begin to see all people through the lens of eternity, the eyes of Christ, and with the heart of gospel-bearers:

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).

Greg Baker is vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY LEADER.