National Briefs


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Happy 40th birthday, Hyde Amendment

(WNS)–Forty years ago, the Hyde Amendment, a spending prohibition banning federal funding for most abortions, became one of the pro-life movement’s first major legislative victories. But after decades of bipartisan support, the life-saving policy is in jeopardy. “Lives are literally at stake in this election,” said Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List. “This is for the soul of our nation.” Congress ratified the first Hyde Amendment on September 30, 1976, and lawmakers have included the language in spending bills each year since. The policy rider bars taxpayers from paying for abortions through Medicaid and is responsible for saving as many as 60,000 babies each year. But despite years of wide-ranging support, the Hyde Amendment’s survival could hinge on the election in November. For the first time ever, the Democratic Party committed in its platform to dismantling the long-standing legislation during the party’s convention in July.

Feds push back on state defunding of Planned Parenthood

(WNS)–The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) closed public comments Oct. 7 on new regulations that would keep states from defunding Planned Parenthood. In its proposal, HHS said that state attempts to channel Title X funding away from the abortion giant to other qualified healthcare entities led to “deleterious effects.” After the Center for Medical Progress released videos revealing that Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies, 14 states attempted to strip Planned Parenthood funding. Title X of the Public Health Services Act, an allocation of taxpayer dollars to family-planning services, stipulates that “projects” must not be abortion providers and may not even promote abortions to patients. But Planned Parenthood receives roughly $60 million a year through Title X by certifying that no federal dollars fund their abortions.

Navy drops job titles in push for gender neutrality

(WNS)–In a decision the Navy Times called “a tectonic shift in the Navy’s personnel system,” the service recently abandoned the time-honored tradition of referring to enlisted sailors by their rating, or job title, as well as their rank. Ratings such as Gunner’s Mate, Boatswain’s Mate, and Quartermaster have a lineage going back hundreds of years to the Continental Navy and the British Royal Navy. Even more recently established rates, such as Information Systems Technician Second Class (IT2) or Electronics Technician Third Class (ET3), give many sailors reason to be proud of their naval heritage. The move to eliminate the rating system follows Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ decision in January to eliminate use of the word “man” in any Navy or Marine Corps job titles. The Marines have removed “man” from 19 occupational titles but were, as yet, unable to find suitable gender-neutral terms for “rifleman” or “mortarman.”

Education secretary’s comments rattle homeschoolers

(WNS)–U.S. Education Secretary John King created a flurry of frustration and fear among homeschool advocates recently with comments viewed as ignorant at best or, at worst, hostile toward alternative education. “Students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school,” King said in a press conference hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, adding that’s true unless parents are “very intentional about it.” But homeschool advocates say students’ performance proves homeschooling’s success—homeschoolers perform better than average on standardized tests and in college.

P&G refuses to join fight against religious liberty

(WNS)–Procter & Gamble shareholders shot down a proposal recently to join the surge of corporate backlash against religious freedom and restroom laws. NorthStar Asset Management, which owns $2,000 worth of P&G stock, proposed at an investor meeting the company should join Apple, PayPal, Disney, and others in the political fight against religious freedom laws in Mississippi and Tennessee and should take a stand against North Carolina’s transgender restroom policy. The consumer goods giant overtly rejected the idea, with 94 percent of shareholders voting against it. “It’s one less major corporation fighting against religious freedom,” said Justin Danhof, director of the free enterprise project at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “This is a great victory for freedom and for common sense.”

Americans like school choice, but don’t understand it

 (WNS)–A new survey says most Americans are in favor of school choice programs—but don’t necessarily understand them. After interviewing more than 1,000 U.S. citizens, EdChoice found that nearly half favored having charter schools in their districts, but another 30 percent had never even heard of them. Additionally, the public was twice as likely to support voucher programs as oppose them, but an estimated 41 percent of respondents were initially unfamiliar or unsure about school vouchers. “A lot of my clients are ready to launch into ‘let’s have a discussion about why we need more charter schools,’” said Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research, which conducts polling and qualitative research on a variety of topics including education policy and reform. But the public instead needs to know, “What’s a charter school?” Matthews said.

Christian school sues for right to pregame prayer

(WNS)–When Cambridge Christian and University Christian high schools met for the Florida Class 2A championship football game last December, announcers used the Camping World Stadium public address system to introduce the players, make announcements, advertise sponsors, and play music for the cheerleading squads. But one form of speech—prayer—was banned from the PA system. To allow a pregame prayer for two Christian schools and their fans would violate the Constitution, argued attorneys for the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). Both schools disagreed, and on Sept. 27, one of them sued. First Liberty and local Florida attorneys filed suit on behalf of Cambridge Christian School following a months-long effort to convince the FHSAA, which governs high school athletics in Florida, that its policy and interpretation of the Constitution were in error. “The FHSAA rejected Cambridge’s request for prayer specifically because it was religious in nature,” said Jeremy Dys, First Liberty Institute senior counsel.

Massachusetts churches sue over ‘anti-bias’ law

(WNS)–Four Massachusetts churches and their pastors filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in October in an attempt to halt application of a newly amended state law requiring pastors to temper their speech and churches to allow transgender persons to use the bathroom of their choice. In July, Massachusetts legislators amended General Law 272, known as “Crimes against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order,” to add gender identity to the list of protected classes. Neither the law nor the amendment offer religious exemptions from compliance or name religious institutions as places of public accommodation. But in their interpretation of the law, the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD) and Attorney General Maura Healey declared “houses of worship” can be subject to the rule and its penalties if they host a “secular” event.  The law also prohibits speech that “discriminates” or “incites” discrimination, which could apply to church staff offering biblical teaching about God’s design for men, women, and human sexuality. Violators could be fined up to $2,500 and face up to one year in prison—or both.

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