January 27, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, January 27, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Grand Jury's failure to indict Planned Parenthood a judgment against our nation's laws
From time to time, events suddenly emerge that help to crystallize our understanding of the moral nature of our times, of the moral conscience of America, of the actual moral condition of the culture around us. Some developments are actually so compelling that we cannot look away.
On Monday night, news came from Houston, Texas that a Grand Jury in that Texas City did not indict Planned Parenthood for violating any law, even as Planned Parenthood was known to be involved in harvesting baby parts and then transferring those to medical researchers. Instead, it was two videographers, who had made clear the business of Planned Parenthood in baby parts, that were indicted. As the story broke on Monday night, Manny Fernandez reported for the New York TimesShow Full Transcript
“A Grand Jury here [that is Houston] that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.”
“Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue, had been indicted on a charge of tampering with the governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.”
The news that came on Monday night was that it is David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress, and his employee, Sandra Merritt, who had been indicted on a felony count, not Planned Parenthood. The immediate headlines on Monday night said that Planned Parenthood had been cleared of all charges. That is also the language that was used by Planned Parenthood officials. Instead, the Grand Jury brought felony charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. They also brought a misdemeanor charge against Daleiden.
All that we knew on Monday night is that the felony charge had to do with the accusation of tampering with a government document. As the details began to be filled in yesterday, it became clear that what was actually behind this was that the Grand Jury, led by the prosecutor, had indicted Daleiden and Merritt on charges that they had presented false California driver’s licenses in order to gain access to the Planned Parenthood facility.
By the time the story had developed late yesterday, actual facsimiles of the purportedly forged documents were available on the internet with major media. It was also revealed that Daleiden was himself charged with a misdemeanor count of attempting to buy human tissue, based upon the fact that Daleiden had made an overture to Planned Parenthood inquiring as to whether or not he could by certain tissues. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, according to the law in Texas, it doesn’t really matter if Daleiden ever intended in reality to buy human tissues; simply asking the question violated the law according to the prosecutor, and now, also according to the Grand Jury.
Now, what in the world are we to do with this? In the first place, we have to recognize that a Grand Jury exists for a reason, and that is that a prosecutor can’t, in most cases, simply bring this kind of charge against an individual. Evidence has to be presented to a Grand Jury, that is a jury of citizens that sifts the evidence in order to determine if there is probable cause to bring the indictment, and then of course, to make the arrest moving eventually, in most cases, to trial.
What do we know as of last night? This is what we know. We know that Planned Parenthood, at least in terms of the local investigation in Harris County, Texas—it was not found to have violated any law. On the other hand, the videographers were accused of violating not only the felony statute having to do with tampering with the government record, but also in the case of Daleiden with, purportedly, attempting to buy human tissues. But this is what we know beyond that. What we know is that when I look at that story by Manny Fernandez in the New York Times, I note how specifically, carefully it is parsed, how carefully it is written.
For instance, he writes this,
“Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos.”
Note the language very carefully here,
“Purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue.”
As he continued,
“…had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony.”
Look at the language there. The actual situation is this: the Grand Jury and the prosecutor there in Harris County, Texas did not find that, in this local investigation, Planned Parenthood had violated any law, particularly, a law that would ban the sale for profit of human tissues, including human tissues taken and harvested from aborted fetuses. You will note that what is not said here is that Planned Parenthood was innocent of killing unborn children and harvesting the organs and tissues. What is said is that they did not violate the law by seeking to profit by the sale of the organs and tissues that were derived from these aborted fetuses.
What we’re looking at here is, in the one sense, a world turned upside down. Legally speaking, David Daleiden had claimed that he and his colleagues had conducted their undercover investigation entirely in accordance with the law. This Grand Jury in Houston, Texas says, “Not so.” That would be a matter for the court system, and for attorneys, and those in the legal profession to work out. That is their job. It may be that they broke the law. It may be that they did not.
Daleiden and his associates released a statement yesterday saying that they were following the same kind of investigate procedures used by mainstream media, and there had been, at least some in the media, who have buttressed those arguments with illustrations of how mainstream people in the media have done virtually the same thing. But when it comes to the accusation that they broke the law, that is something that we cannot judge from outside. That is something that courts will have to decide.
We need to note the big picture here. We’re looking at a moral world turned upside down. We’re looking at Planned Parenthood that does not deny that it’s in the business of abortion, and does not deny that it has harvested fetal organs and tissues for medical experimentation. It did not deny that it received at least what it called compensation or reimbursement for the charges associated with the harvesting of these organs from these babies. They did not deny that their own senior medical director nationally had said on the videos that she could arrange for babies to be crushed above and below the desired organs in order that they could be taken intact.
Planned Parenthood did not deny this. As a matter of fact, the national organization issued an apology for the tone, for the kind of language used, the graphic language, callous language used by their medical director in these videos. Planned Parenthood has not denied that it is in the business of destroying unborn human lives in order to terminate a pregnancy, and also in order to obtain strategically and tactically—intentionally—tissues and organs from these aborted babies.
This is only a local investigation; it was one Houston, Texas Grand Jury. There are other investigations, but here is the horrifying reality. What if Planned Parenthood is doing this, has been doing it, and will go on doing it, and it doesn’t break the law? What does that tell us about our society and about our laws? We should note, by the way, that in embarrassment, Planned Parenthood has said it’s no longer going to receive financial compensation for these tissues and organs, but what they do not say and what they will not say is that they will not continue to strategically and tactically destroy babies’ bodies so that they can obtain specific organs and tissues for medical experimentation.
Christians understand the importance of the courts and the rule of law. Christians understand the importance of due process as a matter of making justice happen. Christians understand that if someone violates the law, that individual should expect the system of justice to respond exactly as it should in terms of a violation of the law. But our system of laws also reveals our ultimate moral situation, our ultimate moral convictions.
Right now, it appears that, given the developments in Houston, Texas, given the assignment and the response of this Grand Jury in Texas, we are a nation that doesn’t make it illegal to destroy babies in the womb and even strategically to decide how one is going to destroy this baby’s body in order to obtain specific organs and tissues, but it is illegal to talk about buying those tissues in order to expose the murder in the womb, even when the individual did not intend actually to purchase those tissues. We’re living in a world turned upside down. Eventually, a nation’s laws are a reflection of its moral character, and that’s what should really trouble us. As we look at the developments this week in Houston, Texas, what do these developments tell us about ourselves as a nation? I shudder at the thought.
Some in Anglican Communion would prefer sexual revolution to biblical truth and godly order
Next, we go to Britain where two weeks ago the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a meeting of the Primates—that is the heads of the various Anglican national churches around the world—and what was on the line is whether or not the Anglican Communion would hold together. The specific issue was the action undertaken by the Episcopal Church USA here in the United States in order to affirm same sex unions to create and authorize same sex marriage rights and to ordain and to allow to serve openly gay clergy, including the fact that in 2003, the American church elected its first openly gay bishop.
What we saw happen two weeks ago is that the Anglican Communion took an action, albeit a mild action, of censure against the American church. It put the Episcopal Church USA in a form of denominational timeout for at least three years, and it provided something of an implicit ultimatum—either the Episcopal Church will change its policy in line with the larger Anglican Communion, overwhelmingly defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, or it would face some kind of further action about three years from now.
In one sense, denominationally, it’s the way most denominations work. They kick the can down the street, so to speak, and try to avoid dealing with the central issue right now. The central issue is the authority of Scripture. The central issue is the integrity of the Christian faith. The central issue is whether or not we believe the Gospel and the Bible’s definition of sin. But there are bigger issues here that are revealed in two specific articles that came in the aftermath of the Anglican action.
The first came from the United States where Colbert King, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, wrote a piece that was entitled
“The Anglican Communion’s un-Christian Stance on Marriage.”
It’s important that biblically-minded Christians look at an article like this to understand how people around us think and what they think of Bible-believing Christians.
Colbert King wrote,
“Last week, the Anglican Communion, the worldwide collection of national and regional churches that consider themselves Anglican or Episcopalian, suspended the US Episcopal Church from full participation in the global body because of its decision to perform same-sex marriages. The suspension [wrote Colbert King] should have been the other way around. It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It [he writes] not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.”
That’s the kind of language we need to note very carefully. It’s the kind of language we’ve seen before, and we’re going to see it again, over and over again. Here, you have Colbert King representing an understanding of Christianity that is premised upon the fact that we intuit emotionally or rationally, philosophically or theologically, what we believe Christianity must be without regard to the Scriptures. You’ll notice, he accuses the Anglican Communion of being wrong rather than the Episcopal Church. He says it is the Anglican Communion that has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.
Now, we should note something very interesting here. What is characteristic of this kind of argument is this vague assertion of the faith and teachings of Jesus. What is specific is a biblical text. One of the things that biblically-minded Christians, evangelical Christians, must keep in mind is that we have no knowledge of Jesus but from the New Testament. We have no knowledge of Jesus but from the Scriptures. The Jesus that Colbert King here presents is a Jesus who would be absolutely okay with the LGBT lifestyles. It is a Jesus who would be perfectly in keeping with the modern, liberal, socially-progressive culture that the Washington Post believes America should represent.
He goes on to write,
“The Anglican Communion’s strike against the Episcopal Church has ramifications beyond intra-denominational discord.”
In the article, Colbert King accuses the Anglican Communion of coming
“under the sway of some conservative African and Asian bishops.”
That ignores the fact that actually there’s some very conservative bishops in the Anglican Communion who aren’t in Africa or Asia, who have a very clear understanding of what the Bible teaches about human sexuality and also about the definition of marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman.
There is another very interesting aspect of Colbert King’s article. He is absolutely insistent that the Episcopal Church, of which he is a member, will not back down in terms of this confrontation, that it will not reverse its decision to accept and to approve same sex unions and of openly gay clergy. He cites Michael B. Curry, the new presiding bishop at the Episcopal Church who said before the vote that the US Church would not end its support for same sex marriage.
“’They basically understand we made our decisions,’ said Bishop Curry, ‘and this is who we are, and we’re committed to being a House of Prayer for all.’”
Similarly, says Colbert King—and remember he’s writing for the Washington Post—the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, she is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, was equally strong in her stance. She released a statement that Washington Post records as,
“That there is a cost for making decisions that we believe are faithful to the love of Jesus is not a surprise to us. We have always known as Episcopalians that we might face consequences for declaring, unequivocally, that LGBT Christians are beloved members of the Body of Christ.”
Now, here again, you’ll notice a reference to the love of Jesus—no reference to anything Jesus actually said. No reference to anything Jesus actually taught. That would not allow their argument. Instead, what we have is this general, liberal assertion that Jesus was merely about love and compassion and acceptance, completely stripping Jesus out of all four of the Gospels in the way Jesus actually dealt with people—yes compassionately, yes graciously¸ yes mercifully, but also absolutely directly on issues of sin.
As a matter of fact, it was Jesus himself who said it was from the beginning of God’s intention that marriage would be singularly the union of a man and a woman. But that again is where this article gets really interesting, because Colbert King here accuses the Anglican Communion of hypocrisy, and especially as related to those African bishops. He writes,
“The Anglican Communion doesn’t believe in strict constructionism when it comes to its description of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
He goes on to say,
“The Communion’s conference in 1988 took on the issue of marriage as ‘God’s plan,’ and discovered that some brethren from the African continent had a rather elastic definition of ‘union.’
“Marriage, by their lights, could be the union a man and several women, in shorthand, polygamy.”
Now, that’s an explosive argument. We need to look at it really carefully. He continues by saying this,
“Anglican leaders [he writes] recognizing the rapid growth of African churches, bought the argument that requiring converts to Anglicanism to discard all but one wife would be a slap at African culture. So the communion came up with this: ‘A polygamist who wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions: That the polygamous shall promise to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive, and such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account to the social deprivation they would suffer.’”
Now, you would think from reading this article that it was the Christian Church that in the 21st Century all of the sudden had to deal with the issue of polygamy, and it arose in Africa. Actually, the Christian Church very early had to deal with the issue of polygamy, and it had to come down on the fact that, as Jesus said, it was God’s intention from the beginning that marriage be the union of a man and a woman. But the Anglican Communion here has followed Christian wisdom through the millennia in saying to a man who converts to Christianity as a polygamist that he must not abandon some of those wives who would then be left to starvation and poverty, but rather that he must care for them.
That is not hypocrisy. The Bible deals with the issue of polygamy and makes very clear it is not God’s plan. But polygamy is not the refutation of marriage; but same sex marriage is. It’s a completely different thing. But it tells us a great deal that here you have a modern western liberal columnist for the Washington Post saying that it’s the Anglican Communion for standing on the authority of Scripture that should be sanctioned, not the Episcopal Church USA.
Similarly, the most established newspaper in Great Britain published an editorial after the decision by the Anglican Communion, also censuring the Communion for taking the action. The headline of the editorial in the London Times on gay marriage,
“Justin Welby [that’s the Archbishop of Canterbury] misreads history, morality, and his job description.”
The editorial accused the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion for bowing to the pressure of the 70% of the membership of the total Communion that is represented by these churches in Africa and Asia. 70%, the Times notes, of those in Anglican communion have no question what marriage is as exclusively the union of a man and a woman, but the paper comes back to say that the decision taken by the Anglican communion is simply unacceptable.
In the language of editorial,
“Their archbishops may sincerely believe they are defending [as a spokesman put it] biblical truth and godly order. They are also [said the editorial] defending discrimination that should be unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Here, we have one of the most respected and authoritative newspapers in the world in the secular media holding up two things. On the one hand, biblical doctrine of biblical truth and godly order, and on the other hand what they say is discrimination that should be unacceptable in the 21st century. According to the editorial board of the Times, it is biblical truth and Godly order that will have to be discarded in order that the modern sexual revolution and its understanding of discrimination may reign supreme.
These articles, one from the United States and one from Great Britain, from the Washington Post and from the Times of London, remind us as Christians that if we want to have the approval of the world, this is what it’s going to cost. We’re going to have to forfeit biblical truth and Godly order in order to meet the demands of the sexual revolutionaries. That’s what they demand, nothing more and nothing less.