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Winter 1999
David Barton - 12/1999

Strong Families Strong Societies

A stable family has long been considered the most important building block of a nation. Consequently, for generations government actively promoted the security of the family. As a court explained in Grigsby v. Reib in 1913:

The truth is that civil government has grown out of [proceeded from] marriage. . . . [Marriage] will produce a home and family that will contribute to good society, to free and just government, and to the support of Christianity.

However, in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, government reversed its previous role as a protector and became one of the chief contributors to the undermining of family stability (e.g., "no fault " divorces, "marriage penalty " taxes, "alternative lifestyles ", invasion of parental rights, etc.). It is obvious that society has suffered with the weakening of the family (e.g., juvenile delinquency and illiteracy rates among children from single-parent families, poverty rates among divorced women, etc.).

Under President Ronald Reagan, deliberate attempts were made to return government to its earlier role of supporting the traditional family. For example, on September 2, 1987, President Reagan issued the following Executive Order (drafted with the help of his Domestic Policy Council members Gary Bauer and Bob Sweet) requiring a family-impact statement before any policy from a Cabinet-level Department could be implemented:

In formulating and implementing policies and regulations that may have significant impact on family formation, maintenance, and general well-being, Executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, assess such measures in light of the following questions:
(a) Does this action by government strengthen or erode the stability of the family and, particularly the marital commitment?
(b) Does this action strengthen or erode the authority and rights of parents in the education, nurture, and supervision of their children?
(c) Does this action help the family perform its functions, or does it substitute governmental activity for the function?
(d) Does this action by government increase or decrease family earnings? Do the proposed benefits of this action justify the impact on the family budget?
(e) Can this activity be carried out by a lower level of government or by the family itself?
(f) What message, intended or otherwise, does this program send to the public concerning the status of the family?
(g) What message does it send to young people concerning the relationship between their behavior, their personal responsibility, and the norms of our society?

After a decade of use, President Clinton regrettably revoked this policy on April 21, 1997. However, many state officials, unable to protect this policy on the federal level, have implemented it at the State level.

For example, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee issued the Reagan policy for their own respective State governments. And other States, such as Virginia, passed the policy through the legislature, thus affecting the entire State government rather than just the Executive Branch.

This is an excellent policy for all States to adopt. You can contact WallBuilders for a copy of this policy, or simply pull it down off our web site at WallBuilders.com. Please let us know if it passes in your State!

President Clinton and a Four-Century American Tradition

Last November, America celebrated 377 years of publicly thanking God at Thanksgiving. The tradition dates to 1621, when the Pilgrims set aside a time to celebrate "the goodness of God." The Pilgrims, as serious students of the Bible, were simply obeying the frequently recurring command, "Give thanks unto the Lord." Subsequent generations and leaders also obeyed those Scriptural admonitions and issued Thanksgiving proclamations with strong Biblical language.

In fact, when President George Washington declared the nation's first Thanksgiving under the Constitution in 1789, it was specifically to follow the precedent of the Scriptures to give thanks to God (see the Congressional Record for September 25, 1789). For nearly two centuries following, the practice and the purpose of Thanksgiving remained a time of giving thanks to God. Yet, in recent years there has been a concerted effort to secularize completely this holiday.

For example, Department of Education researcher Dr. Paul C. Vitz reports that in history textbooks used in our public schools, up to thirty pages are dedicated to the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving--without a single mention of the Pilgrims' devout faith in God! In fact, Thanksgiving is even described as a time "when the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians."

Unfortunately, this year's Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Clinton contributes to the secularization of this holiday. While the President did barely--and only barely--succeed in mentioning the word "God," the predominant emphasis of his proclamation was for Americans to say "thank you" to everyone except God.

President Clinton inaccurately characterized the original Thanksgiving as a time "when the Pilgrims of the Old World mingled in fellowship and celebration with the American Indians of the New World" in order to "live together in peace with respect and appreciation for our differences and to draw on one another's strengths in the work of building a great and unified Nation."

President Clinton then explained that the purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday was for us "to be thankful for the many contributions each generation of Americans has made to preserve our blessings. We are thankful for the brave patriots. . . . for the men and women who have worked this land. . . . for the leaders and visionaries who have challenged us. . . . for the countless quiet heroes and heroines who work hard each day." President Clinton concluded, "Each of us has reason to be proud of our part in building America, and each of us has reason to be grateful to our fellow Americans for the success of these efforts."

A comparison of this proclamation with those of President Clinton's predecessors--whether Democrats or Republicans Đ shows an obvious absence of any reliance on Almighty God.

For example, in contrast, in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson declared: "[I]t is our desire to observe, in the custom and tradition of our forebears, a special day dedicated to giving thanks to God--a day on which to lay aside our daily tasks and cares and pay joyous homage to Him. We are impelled to raise our voices in His praise and to proclaim our heartfelt gratitude." And in 1985 President Ronald Reagan declared: "[T]here is no question but that this treasured custom [Thanksgiving] derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. 'Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,' the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the 'wondrous works' of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers."

Happily for us, President Clinton is not the American's only voice to God. Let us, therefore--even though it is well beyond the Thanksgiving Holiday--make a special emphasis to be thankful to God for His many blessings on us as a nation.

The ACLU: At it Again!

The ACLU, founded in 1920, describes itself as "a public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all Americans." However, those who follow its cases know that "all Americans" does not include traditional Christians. In fact, one of the ACLU's regular activities is to litigate against Christian expressions and moral standards--illustrated, once again, by the recent attack against "Bible Week" proclamations.

It is a common practice for mayors, governors, and Presidents to issue proclamations designating certain days, weeks, or months to recognize special groups or events. For example, there is "Black History Month," "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," "Secretaries' Week," "Disarmament Week," "International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer," and countless others.

One week designated regularly since 1941 has been "Bible Week" (celebrated from Sunday to Sunday of Thanksgiving week). A typical Bible Week proclamation recognizes the Bible as the "foundational document of the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was founded" and "a constant source of moral and spiritual guidance for Americans throughout our history"--a book with significant influence on the country's art, literature, music, and laws. Every President since Franklin Roosevelt has issued a "Bible Week" proclamation, as have dozens of governors and thousands of mayors.

Yet, when Mayor Cynthia Dunham of Gilbert, Arizona, and Arizona State Governor Jane Hull proclaimed a "Bible Week" for their respective town and State, the ACLU promptly filed suit, apparently on behalf of an atheist, a Jew, and a Christian who, according to the State ACLU director, "felt their constitutional rights were being violated" because the recognition of the Bible was an "offense" to these individuals. The ACLU believes that certain individuals have a constitutional right not to be offended.

Why did the ACLU file suit in Phoenix rather than in Seattle or Utah or in some other location? (As one large newspaper observed, "Thirty governors and 500 mayors proclaim National Bible Week, but only in Arizona are proclamations being challenged in court as a violation of the Constitution.") And since proclaiming a "Bible Week" has continued for over 50 years, why did the ACLU just now file suit? The simple answer is "forum shopping."

In "forum shopping, " attorneys "shop " the various courts until they find a specific "forum " (a judge) which they believe will rule in their favor. And what "forum " did the ACLU find which convinces them that this is the right time and place for such a suit? The answer is: Federal District Judge Roslyn Silver.

Judge Silver, an appointee of President Clinton, was happy to stop the "Bible Week " proclamations. In fact, several things stand out about her handling of the case. First, it took an amazingly short three hours from the time the ACLU filed suit until she issued her prohibition against the proclamations! (When did any federal court ever move so fast!) Second, Judge Silver would not schedule a full hearing on lifting her ban until the month after Bible Week was to be celebrated. As Mayor Cynthia Gilbert explained, "They [the ACLU and the court] have circumvented my free speech rights and have . . . never afforded me the opportunity to air my side. " Third, Judge Silver ordered that the city could not hire an attorney (or expend any funds) to defend itself! Fortunately, the Arizona Center for Law and Justice, a subsidiary of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) headed by Pat Robertson and Jay Sekulow, has agreed to defend the Mayor at no cost; and the ACLJ has an incredible record of wins in head-to-head contests with the ACLU!

By the way, Judge Silver is only one of 301 federal judges appointed by President Clinton, many of whom have already demonstrated an equally overt contempt for traditional values. With nearly 40 percent of the current federal judiciary being appointed by this President, things could become interesting for pro-family Christians!

Here Comes Another "Scandal "

Washington, DC, still reeling under the months (and years) of scandals involving the President, has yet another "scandal " breaking forth upon the city.

This new scandal involves U.S. Senator Sam Brownback. Originally elected to the U.S. House from Kansas in the "Voter Revolution of 1994, " he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 to replace the retiring Bob Dole.

What is this new scandal? It involves Senator Brownback's behavior with one of his staff members who was leaving the Hill. In a touching farewell celebration, Senator Brownback washed the feet of that staffer, following the example Jesus had set (see John 13:5-15). When word got out about the footwashing, the press went through the roof, criticizing Senator Brownback and issuing strong denunciations against him.

What irony! If a President involves himself illicitly with a 21-year-old intern, perjures himself, and breaks three of the Ten Commandments, that can be forgiven; but for a Senator to observe the Bible Đ in public Đ this is wrong!

Kudos to Senator Brownback for the uncompromising practice of his faith!

The Numbers Behind the 1998 Elections

The 1998 elections are now a matter of record--and the statistics speak loudly! For example:

  • 1998 produced the lowest mid-term voter turnout in 56 years! (The previous low was in 1942, when many Americans were fighting overseas in World War II.)
  • Turnout was especially poor among younger voters, and in upper midwestern states such as North Dakota, only 10 percent of voters aged 18-30 voted.
  • And when compared with the last mid-term election (1994):

    • There were nine million less voters this year.
    • Christian voter turnout declined by almost one-fifth. (In 1994, Christians represented 33 percent of the vote but that number fell to 28 percent this election).
    • There was a twenty-five percent increase in the number of Christians voting for Democrats. In 1994, 67 percent of Christian voters selected Republicans and 20 percent Democrats; in 1998, 54 percent of Christian voters selected Republicans and 31 percent Democrats.

    Those few who did choose to participate in this election sent very clear messages, including:

    • Sending home several conservative Congressmen (John Fox, PA; Bill Redmond, NM; Vince Snowbarger, KS; etc.) thus reducing the number of reliable pro-family votes in Congress;
    • Sending to Congress its first-ever openly lesbian member;
    • And announcing--by a margin of 3 to 2 among Christian voters--that their vote was intended to send a message to Congress rather than to the President.

    We can only hope that the views of the majority of those who voted do not fully represent the views of those who sat at home. Nevertheless, this year's results demonstrate the truth of President James A. Garfield's powerful declaration over a century ago:

    [T]he people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. . . . [I]f the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

    (Numbers obtained primarily from exit polling conducted by Shandwick Research in Washington, DC)

    Correction!

    In our last issue, we featured The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. Unfortunately, the area code had changed. You can now reach Elizabeth Ridenour at 336-272-3799.

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