October 8, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, October 12, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
California bill undermining liberty of crisis pregnancy centers, requiring abortion promotion signed
Once again, the headline is from California, and once again Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill. As the Associated Press reports,
“Crisis pregnancy centers that discourage women from getting abortions in California will be required to provide information about abortions and other services under legislation Governor Jerry Brown has approved.”Show Full Transcript
The AP goes on to say,
“The measure imposes the first such statewide rule, after local communities around the country have tried similar efforts.”
As the story goes on, it turns out the legislation was supported by both Planned Parenthood and NARAL (that’s the group formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League). We’re talking about crisis pregnancy centers being targeted precisely because they are having an impact in terms of the pro-life cause. In particular, many of these crisis pregnancy centers have been instrumental in helping some women to think through the issues related to abortion, in terms of the reality of what abortion is. In particular, some of these centers have been very effective in helping many women at that point of decision to think through these issues and to understand the reality of abortion and to understand the reality of the unborn life within them.
Some of these centers also provide some medical services including prenatal services, and now you have the state of California mandating that they must also talk about abortion and explain abortion. In some sense, even to advocate for abortion. What we see here is an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech. What we see here is also a specific, deliberate targeting of crisis pregnancy centers, and it’s not because they’re being ineffective but precisely because they are effective.
What we need to know here is that this legislation is one-way. It doesn’t go both ways. It doesn’t require abortion clinics in the state of California to tell women, who enter their doors, about the reality of the life within them. As a matter of fact, this is entirely a one-way, a one directional piece of legislation. It’s happening in the state of California, and Governor Jerry Brown once again has signed his name to a bill that undermines human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
You can see exactly how the issue was posed from the left and from the pro-choice or pro-abortion side when you see this AP article, when you look at paragraph three. It reads like this:
“Pregnancy crisis centers often are operated by abortion opponents, and critics say workers imply the facilities provide a range of medical care and have credentials they do not possess.”
Now, the main credential the crisis pregnancy centers have is the credential of speaking to the sanctity of human life, and that’s the real issue here.
The truth is that many women at that most urgent point when they are considering an abortion are at that moment ready to hear an argument either way, and that is why these crisis pregnancy centers are so important and why this represents such brave work for the pro-life cause. The AP says,
“Under the new law, the centers will be required to offer information about affordable contraception, abortion and prenatal care.”
The prenatal care, of course, is not the moral issue here. It’s the abortion and contraception, and so you have here an abridgment of First Amendment rights that are requiring these crisis pregnancy centers to say what is against their own conscience, to state what they believe to be absolutely immoral and to make them by the force of law complicit in the culture of death and in the abortion industry.
According to the AP report, NARAL estimates there are more than 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers, also known as pregnancy help centers and that’s nationwide, offering services, says the AP, such as pregnancy and STD testing, ultrasounds and counseling. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove from Bakersfield said that the bill forces clinics against their will to pay for and distribute abortion referral information. Grove said in a statement to the press:
“Does the government have a right to tell a newspaper what to write, a preacher what to preach, a private school what to teach? Of course not. So why is it okay for the government to force pro-life pregnancy centers against their will to advertise and promote government abortion services?”
That is, of course, the most important question, and there is a very real likelihood that this legislation will eventually go down in the courts, because it is an obvious infringement of First Amendment rights, but it also tells us something that we ought to know very carefully. These crisis pregnancy centers are being targeted precisely because they are being effective.
Some years ago, Time magazine did a cover story on the impact of the ultrasound on the abortion question, and it comes down to this: Women who see the ultrasound image of their unborn child are far more likely to acknowledge that is exactly what it is, an unborn child, and they are less likely than to go forward with an abortion. As one abortion rights activist said, “the fetus beat us” even as she was working for an abortion clinic.
In other words, once the image of the fetus is seen, once the image of that unborn human infant is seen, the woman is far less likely to go through with an abortion. She’s far more likely to recognize that indeed she is a mother, and for there to be a maternal instinct and love for her child that emerges. That’s exactly what the abortion industry is fearing in terms of these crisis pregnancy centers and that’s exactly why groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL have targeted them, and that’s why the very liberal state of California, through its general assembly, has put forward this legislation, and now California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has signed it in the law.
Now, let’s keep score here. This means that just in the past two weeks Governor Brown has signed legislation at both ends of the life’s spectrum. Even as we talked about it, when just last week he signed the bill authorizing physician-assisted suicide in the state of California. As we said, the compromise of the sanctity and dignity at one end of the life’s spectrum will not remain just on that end. It is inevitable that it’s at both ends in terms of birth and of death, and now we have the absolute proof of that, just a matter of days, in the same state in a bill signed by the same Governor. At this point, we’ll simply have to make the tragic observation that the discounting of the dignity and sanctity of human life in California is at least horrifyingly consistent. They have, now by legislation, undermine the sanctity of life, at the end of life and at the beginning in just a period of two weeks.
Journalist attempts to place responsibility of sex ed on schools, not parents, for sake of moral agenda
USA Today has run a headline that says “Sex Education in US isn’t Making the Grade”, it’s by reporter Greg Toppo. It’s one of those headlines that gets your attention. This is what he says,
“Modern-day American teenagers are as connected, to the greater world and to each other, as any generation in history. But take a look at their sexual health and you’ll start to wonder exactly how they’re benefiting from all of those connections.”
Now, I don’t want to pick on Mr. Toppo here. I’ll simply say that that’s the kind of lead that has very little to do with anything that follows. Because the real focus of his story has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with the curriculum in terms of the public schools when it comes to so-called sex education.
“There is good news and that is the teen pregnancy rates have dropped and they dropped rather significantly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the US teen pregnancy rate is substantially higher than in many other industrialized nations.”
But he goes on to say,
“The picture gets worse. Only about one in five sexually experienced teenagers has ever been tested for HIV, that is the virus link to AIDS. Nearly half of the 20 million sexually transmitted diseases contracted each year are among people ages 15 to 24.”
Then comes the killer sentence,
“Most parents count on schools to teach kids about sex. Why is sex education in US schools so ineffective?”
Now, as I said, that’s the sentence that demands our attention, because it is a non sequitur. I’m fairly certain that it’s not true that most parents count on schools to teach kids about sex. As a matter of fact, the reality is that only a minority of states in the United States of America even mandate sex education in terms of the public school curriculum. This is not so much an outcry from parents as it is from those who are pushing the sexual revolution by means of so-called sex education, and these are the very people who’ve been trying to put in schools so-called comprehensive health clinics that will not only teach about sex but offer contraceptives and other services without parents even knowing.
From a Christian worldview perspective, the one thing we have to keep in mind here is that education is never morally neutral. It is always presenting a worldview. It is always presenting some vision of the moral good. When it comes to sex education programs in the public schools, by and large they have been promoted by, they have been shaped by, and often have actually been written by those who are the agents of the moral revolution, and that’s why so many parents have had concerns for a very, very long time.
I’ve been involved in this controversy long enough to know that when a headline like this comes along, it generally isn’t really about anything new. I was testifying before legislative committees on this issue back in the 1980s and the 1990s. This most decidedly is not new, and it goes back especially to the 1960s when the moral revolutionaries were pushing so-called sex education as a way of pushing a larger moral agenda.
Now, what does make Greg Toppo story very interesting is when he takes an international perspective. He quotes a man by the name of Jonathan Zimmerman who’s written a book entitled Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education and this is where it gets interesting. According to Toppo, Zimmerman finds that even politically liberal countries such as Sweden struggle to get it right.
You see, one of the things we hear over and over again from the cultural left in the United States is that somehow we are a backward nation when it comes to sex education. Now, that’s not the worst insult that could come our way, but what’s being insinuated there is that somehow if we just had the right sex education, which is of course the kind of sex education the moral revolutionaries are demanding, then all of these pathologies and statistics will go away. As Zimmerman makes clear in this book, even some of the most liberal societies on earth lose their liberal nerve when it comes to sex education for their own children and teenagers.
It turns out that there’s not a single country on earth that can really represent what even the liberals would consider to be a gold standard on this question. Zimmerman who was a professor of history at New York University maintains, as Toppo quote
“That no country in the past century or so has done much more than offer sporadic sex education instruction.”
By the way, Professor Zimmerman catches on to at least one of the central ironies in terms of sex education, and this is a pretty honest acknowledgment. He told USA Today,
“In most of the other realms, the goal is not just to engage people’s interest, but to engage them in activity and in these zones, is to make them less interested and less active.”
As we have said, the real problem is that somebody’s going to be writing that curriculum and some vision of the moral good is going to be represented in that curriculum and some moral agenda is going to be very, very clear in terms of what is taught in so-called sex education. That’s because sex education isn’t just about human reproduction, is not just about biology. It is about a realm of human experience that is inherently and inescapably moral, and the question is whose morality is going to be presented, and that’s where the sexual revolutionaries are really only interested in sex education if they get to write it and they get to direct it.
That’s where this article by Greg Toppo really becomes very interesting and valuable. It’s because he takes this international perspective and quotes Professor Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University who says, and I repeat once again “That even politically liberal countries such as Sweden struggle to get it right,” which just might be in one sense an acknowledgment of the fact that even those driving the sexual revolution aren’t quite ready to drive it when it comes to their own children and teenagers.
Secretary of Education resignation reminder of political nature of national education agenda
Speaking of the inescapably moral dimension of all education, we need to note that in recent days, the United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced that he will complete his term in the president’s cabinet at the end of December. That’s really important. Because the Department of Education is one of the youngest departments in our federal government. Previously, there’d been a cabinet department known as HEW, that was the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It got divided in the Carter administration to the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.
To conservatives in America, the Department of Education has always been the problem rather than the solution. As a matter of fact, that reminds us of the fact that education in this country has traditionally been left to local school boards and to the states, in terms of definition, primary funding and regulation, but the federal government has been trying its very best to gain control over the nationwide education system and that’s by mandates and by the Department of Education and by all kinds of other means as well. Many of them tied to funding.
It’s clear that Arne Duncan saw his department gain billions and billions of dollars of additional budget revenue under the Obama administration. It’s clear that he is exhausted by his task, and even with the billions and billions being spent on public education in America and leaving his post, Secretary Duncan said,
“He accepted that some of his work was controversial, but he said he fundamentally regretted that education isn’t seen as a national priority.”
Well, that’s the big issue there. The two words there, national priority are symbolic of the problem.
Because when we’re talking about education, we’re not talking about something that can be mandated well and run well by a federal government in all 50 states. This is where there has been wisdom in the American experience of leaving local school boards in charge of the schools and then expanding that responsibility statewide, but leaving it the responsibility of the states. Just to go back to the issue of sex education for a moment, just imagine how sex education would be different if taught in California or at least in some California school districts when compared to a state such as Mississippi, or for that matter, even Colorado.
We’re talking about a nation, where community by community there would be very different expectations, not only of sex education but of the entire educational process, and that’s why the more this question is made a national question, the less effective we actually are. But you’ll notice the logic of Arne Duncan as he leaves the post of Secretary of Education. He feels that, as a nation, we simply do not have education adequately ranked as a national priority. By using the two words, national priority actually points to the problem, a problem he acknowledges he wasn’t able to resolve, but it’s on that topic that the Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell over the weekend in its column known as Notable & Quotable.
What’s really important about this column is that the Wall Street Journal virtually every day several times a week runs a document from the nation’s history, a document from our past. It’s not an article. It’s not an op-ed piece or an editorial. It is an official document of one form or another, often from a speech, sometimes from the Federal Records Depository, and that’s exactly what the Wall Street Journal ran over the weekend when it published a 1978 memo to President Jimmy Carter from his Chief of Staff in the White House, Hamilton Jordan, regarding the potential creation of what became the US Department of Education.
Just last week on The Briefing, we talked about the power and influence of unelected officials, and I mentioned at the very top of that list, the Chief of Staff of the White House.
But now you have this document written in 1978 to President Jimmy Carter by Hamilton Jordan, his Chief of Staff, on the potential of the Department of Education. He writes:
“The following are the major political considerations that you should be aware of in making this decision. Number one, he says, the teachers organizations, particularly the National Education Association are the fastest-growing, most active, and by many standards the most effective political organizations in this country. With a membership that exceeds 2 million, they comprise one of the most committed and articulate political constituencies in our country. Two, these groups, particularly the NEA had been our political friends in the presidential campaign and our allies on many crucial legislative battles. For the first time in its 114 year history, the NEA endorsed a presidential candidate in the 1976 general election.”
Here, we simply remind you that was none other than President Jimmy Carter.
Then in conclusion, the Chief of Staff wrote and I quote
“I would strongly recommend that you support the creation of a separate Department of Education for the following reasons: First, your unequivocal promise in the campaign to do so. Second, the teachers of this country have been our political friends in the past and can be our valuable political allies in the future. Third, the arguments for the creation of a separate department or at least as convincing as the arguments against it.”
The memo goes on, but the big point to note here is that this was a political calculation. There is no argument here that the Department of Education would actually enhance education. Instead, it’s all about politics and centrally about gaining the support of the National Education Association, the largest union representing public school teachers in the United States and one of the most leftward labor organizations in the history of this nation.
While on this subject, it’s also important to note that conservatives have been very ineffective in dismantling the Department of Education. President Ronald Reagan ran on that platform as a central issue when he ran against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, but as you may know, the Department of Education still stands, which gets to another point of government. Once you create something, it is likely to be there forever as long as the government lasts.
Five-Star General Douglas MacArthur famously told the United States Congress that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. But when it comes to federal programs of big money, they not only never die, they also never fade away.
Embarrassment over false prediction of end of the world detracts from seriousness of cause of Christ
Finally, speaking of things that didn’t happen among the most important things that didn’t happen last week was the end of the world. A group known as the eBible Fellowship had gained headlines around the world for recommending that everyone listen to its last ever question-and-answer podcast with its host Chris McCann, because McCann believed that October the 7th would be the last day of planet Earth. It turned out, of course, that the end of the world did not happen last week, and the group has acknowledged that it was an error.
Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian in London says that prior to the 7th of October, McCann had said there was a “strong likelihood” the world would be rent asunder, but he did admit there was a chance he could be incorrect. He said,
“Well, a strong likelihood means that something was pretty well set to happen. In this case, according to the biblical evidence, yet there is a possibility it may not happen.”
So he went on to say it was surprising that it did not occur, but the comforting thing is that “God’s will is always perfect.” Well, that is a perfect mass of theological confusion, and it’s furthermore tremendously embarrassing.
I’ll be honest, it just might be that my favorite media correction of all time was offered by the leader of this group who said, “Since it’s now 8 October, it’s now obvious we were incorrect regarding the world’s ending on the 7th.” The two most important words in that sentence are the two words “obvious and incorrect,” but a serious Christian trying to think seriously about these headlines and being asked questions by people who wonder what in the world Christians actually believe, we have to make very clear that the last thing in that statement by Chris McCann is absolutely right: “God’s timing is always perfect.” But what we also need to know is that the New Testament tells us that when the Lord returns, he is to find us doing what he set us to do. Not sitting on rooftops looking for his appearing and certainly not setting a succession of embarrassing deadlines that simply don’t happen.
The cause of Christ, the cause of the gospel and the cause of defending Christian truth is so important. It’s simply embarrassing when you have people making headlines like this, including the necessity of making statement such as,
“Since it’s the 8th of October, we were obviously incorrect that world would end on the 7th.”
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus asked his disciples when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? That’s the crucial question. When the Son of Man comes, will he find us testifying of the gospel, defending that gospel? Will he find us teaching Christian truth? Will he find us doing what he’s commissioned us to do?
The Lord has called us to be found faithful, not to be found tweeting about our predictions of the precise timing of his return.