by Cody Permenter
[Ed. Note: Published in The Texas Tribune Friday, January 25, 2013. CLICK HERE to read the original.]
Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Friday the creation of the Choose Life Advisory Committee, which will make recommendations for the use of funds from the sale of “Choose Life” license plates created by Texas lawmakers in 2011.
The committee was formed in response to SB 257, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, and state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, which required the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a special “Choose Life” license plate. The program was authorized at the same time lawmakers cut funding for state family planning programs by two-thirds — $73 million — in the 2012-13 budget.
The funds raised by the license plates will be allocated to organizations that encourage adoption over abortion.
“Every child’s chance in life starts with a chance at life,” Abbott said.
Sales of the license plates have been three times greater than originally projected and have generated more than $30,000.
The committee is made of four women and two men. The members include Judy Canon, former regional coordinator for the Gladney Center for Adoption; Carol Everett, CEO of Heidi Group, a nonprofit that assists girls and women through unplanned pregnancies; Kathy Haigler, a board member of Texas Alliance for Life; Lois Kerschen, president of Democrats for Life of Texas; Matt Kouri, chairman of the Texas Adoption Review Committee; Mikeal Love, a gynecologist from Austin; and Julie Stobbe, founder of Act of Life, an adoption awareness organization.
Abbott said funds from the license plates would go exclusively to centers that encourage adoption and that he will be relying heavily on recommendations of the committee when allocating the money.
According to Choose Life America, an advocacy group for the license plates, 29 states offer similar plates. Some states, though, have rejected the plates as unconstitutional.
A federal judge ruled in December that the anti-abortion license plates were unconstitutional in North Carolina unless an option for abortion rights advocates was also offered.
Abbott said that he hasn’t seen a valid legal challenge from opponents of the license plates in Texas, which he described as an extension of freedom of speech. When pressed about potential exceptions to abortion, such as if the life of the mother is at risk, Abbott said that the mission of “Choose Life” was to protect all lives.
“When you start putting exceptions into that, you are saying that some children’s lives are not as important,” he said.
by Michael I. Meyerson
Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal, July 6th. Under the title “Was the Declaration of Independence Christian?,” Mr. Meyerson presents the idea that the religious phrases in our founding document were deliberately designed to be as inclusive as possible. Mr. Meyerson, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, is author of “Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America,” recently published by Yale University Press.
Americans of all political stripes invoked the Declaration of Independence this Fourth of July week. Some read the document and found, as Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz has, that it “rejected Christianity, along with other organized religions, as a basis for governance.” Others saw the same language proving the opposite, that our nation was founded on “Judeo- Christian values.” Such definitive statements do not tell the full story. The American Framers, in their desire to unite a nation, were theologically bilingual—not only in the Declaration of Independence but beyond.
That document was the work of many hands. As is well known, the first draft was written by Thomas Jefferson. That version began with a religious reference that largely remained in the final version, stating that the United States were assuming the independent status, “to which the laws of nature and of nature’s god entitle them.”
The phrase “Nature’s God” is not a product of traditional religious denominations, but is generally associated with 18th-century Deism. That philosophy centered on what has been called “natural theology,” a belief that while a “Creator” started the universe and established the laws of nature, the modern world saw no divine intervention or miracles.
The most famous religious phrase in the Declaration—that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”—was not included in Jefferson’s original draft. He had written that people derive inherent rights form their “equal Creation.” The iconic language was added by a small committee, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
“Creator” was a theologically ambiguous word. Most Deists used it, but it was also commonly spoken by the most orthodox religions of the day. Timothy Dwight, a Congregational minister who served as president of Yale College from 1795-1817, delivered a sermon stating that the Bible contained “as full a proof, that Christ is the Creator, as that . . . the Creator is God.”
Often overlooked in discussing the Declaration of Independence are two more religious references, both added to its closing paragraph by other delegates in the Continental Congress. The delegates described themselves as “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” and they affirmed their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”
These phrases were widely regarded as being far more traditionally religious than the earlier language. Ashbel Green, a Presbyterian minister and Jefferson critic who served as chaplain of the House of Representatives in the 1790s, cited these sections to assert that had they not been added, Jefferson would have permitted the American call for independence to be “made without any recognition of the superintending and all disposing providence of God.”
But even after the congressional editing, the language of the Declaration wasn’t limited to a particular faith. Deliberately designed to be as inclusive as possible, it was a quintessentially American achievement—specific enough to be embraceable by those with orthodox religious views but broad enough to permit each American to feel fully included and equally respected. George Washington maintained this adroit balance when he became president. In his first inaugural address, written with the assistance of James Madison, Washington declared that it would be “peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe.”
Even Jefferson and Madison, often described as believing in a total separation of religion and government, continued the practice of using inclusive religious language. Jefferson urged in his first inaugural, “May that infinite power, which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our councils to what is best,” while Madison stated that, “my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed . . . in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations.”
The Framers didn’t see such nondenominational language as divisive. They believed it was possible—in fact desirable—to have a public expression of religion that is devout, as long as it recognizes and affirms the variety of belief systems that exist in our pluralistic nation.
Let’s begin with the facts—which is always a great, but sometimes forgotten, place to start.
Chick-fil-A is a major fast-food chain with a business model based on Biblical principles. They believe success is possible because of family and the support that families offer. In the words of its president, Don Cathy, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.” So far, so good, even though some might snicker at the quaint concept of building business on an antiquated religious text. But, all business models are built on some philosophical concept—values, utility, profit, ego—so we’ll accept that … to a point.
What is perhaps more scary to some is that Chick-fil-A’s business philosophy is more than just words: it really does drive their business thinking. The Cathy family has thought through these concepts and translated them into action. For example, the combination of such a Biblical and business model has led them to close on Sundays for family and religious reasons. While it would be easy to rationalize that staying open would earn more money or perhaps even serve good people on the way home from church, they made a decision which sprang from the values they profess. It has also led them to financially support organizations which share like values. Again, all legal, no secrets, above board.
Where this philosophy apparently crossed the line of the tolerable was in a recent radio interview in which Mr. Cathy defined what he believes the family is. While some might have waffled, dodged, or simply not answered, Mr. Cathy explained his Biblically based definition of family as one man and one woman.
Nothing too radical there, at least to most. After all, historically society is based on a “traditional” family unit; modern unbiased research estimates the “same sex” population at only four percent. Every major world religion would have answered as did Mr. Cathy. Aside from religion, natural law from an evolutionary viewpoint dictates the male-female paradigm, without which natural selection and life itself would cease. And how are those referendums for same-sex marriage across the states going these days? This isn’t to argue that those out of the mainstream and who hold minority views of life don’t have certain rights, but to react as if the concept of one-man-one-woman marriage is extraordinary is … well, truly extraordinary.
But is it politically correct to say, as Mr. Cathy did, “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say we know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about”? No, not politically correct at all, but if one believes the Bible, it’s certainly the logical conclusion to come to: if God ordains a natural order, but His creation “evolves” in its thinking to decide that natural order isn’t good and decides to create a new one, then a holy God will not—cannot by His nature—allow it.
But what of the non-discriminatory aspect of business, specifically as it pertains to homosexuals? There has never been any indication Chick-fil-A doesn’t abide by the rules of equal employment opportunity. In fact, in a statement from its corporate headquarters, Chick-fil-A said its culture is to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” State and Federal prosecutors could easily pursue violations if it violated the law.
So where’s the beef with Chick-fil-A? Why has the company become a whipping boy of the media? There are at least three reasons.
First is blatant dishonesty. Headlines incorrectly focus on an unstated negative: that Chick-fil-A is “anti-gay.” Yet no where beyond the headline is evidence of this assertion. Mr. Cathy’s point is a positive one: he supports the traditional family. Neither court of law nor logic allows the assertion of a positive to automatically prove its negative. At no time has he “bashed gays,” spoken ill of them as individuals, or refused to hire or serve them. He has admittedly spoken his ideas, which are shared by many.
The media love such controversies, especially at conservatives’ expense, but often forget the ethics of balanced reporting. For example, there was no mention of Mr. Cathy’s comments last year to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We’re not anti-anybody,” adding, “our mission is to create raving fans.” The company also issued a statement to the paper saying that, “while my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.” To selectively cherry-pick evidence to support one’s bias, as the press did in this case, doesn’t present the entire picture, and is therefore misleading and dishonest.
Second is a double standard when dealing with liberal and conservative issues and populations. Whatever happened to the liberal left’s peaceful embrace of honest thought, idea integrity, free and uncensored expression? Apparently those ideas are operative only if they relate to issues advocated on the left.
For example, the left never objected to the mixing of business and politics when Ben and Jerry, notorious for their outspoken support of liberal causes, celebrated Vermont’s legalization of same-sex marriage by renaming an ice cream flavor “Hubby Hubby,” with a redesigned carton featuring a rainbow arching over a wedding cake with two grooms on top. Or their “Apple-y Ever After” in the UK “to raise awareness about the importance of marriage equality.” Or when they inaugurated the flavor “Yes Pecan” to welcome President Obama’s election (get it: “yes, we can”). These are beyond holding beliefs and quietly supporting; they cross into clear advocacy. The crime is not that they do, but that the media and pundits embrace a double standard, leading to rage against the “wrong” causes, while allowing and even gleefully reporting the “right” causes of business owners. And nowhere in the fray were heard voices on the right calling for a closing down the business, running them out of town, or tar and chicken feathers.
Third is a reckless disregard for free speech and distrust of capitalism. It is most telling how liberals truly feel about these concepts when they react initially in the face of disagreement. In this case, it was “shut them up” and “run them out of town.” The Chicago mayor, for example, immediately responded that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not our values,” and a host of liberal politicians there and elsewhere vowed to ensure no more chicken in their cities. (He was immediately rebuffed by several prominent Chicago ministers that those were, indeed, their values. Additionally, Chick-fil-A day was a resounding moral victory and economic success as fans flocked to buy chicken in record numbers.)
Liberals are often accused of over-reliance on government to do the work of the private citizen, and this case supplies the evidence. Rather than letting the free market reward or punish the Cathys for their personal and business beliefs and practices, there is a liberal rush for the all-wise government to punish them for wandering from politically correct orthodoxy. If Mr. Cathy’s comments showed where his heart is, certainly politicians, pundits, and potential punishers of Mr. Cathy did the same. It is their response, not Mr. Cathy’s, that is intolerant, anti-capitalistic, and un-American … not to mention, simply chicken in not believing the American public can solve the matter without mother government or the thought police stepping in.
Tea Partiers have a proud heritage, taking their moniker from a band of patriots who refused to let an out-of-touch government dictate what they could and couldn’t consume and what taxes they would and wouldn’t pay. It is those values that guide them even today, and are operative in the Chick-fil-A controversy: the right to live free of government intrusion into personal belief, expression, and commerce. Whether or not you’re a fan of Chick-fil-A, the fact is they live out a business model based on solid values, contribute positively to families and the economy, and believe America can live with honest, open discussion even on controversial topics. And that’s a winning recipe for America.
John Bell is a member of the SATP Board of Directors and its Executive Committee.
by Jeanie Spence
At my wit’s end as I write this, my ears are ringing from the cacophony of shrill voices from Obama supporters all across the public air waves. These voices meld into one screeching, ear-piercing whine—that I am responsible for the choices others make in their lives. I am mean-spirited to boot—unwilling to absolve them of any responsibility for the consequences of their choices. As a fiscal and social Conservative, I am accused of starving the poor, loving greed, being racist, hating gays, denying access to birth control, wanting Grandma to die, spoiling the earth, and the list of my sins goes on and on. Because I believe our freely made choices have real and lasting consequences and that each of us must take personal responsibility for those choices, then I am evil?
I was blessed to have a stay-at-home mom growing up and a father who insisted (demanded) his children get an education. Yet we lived at or below the poverty level. We survived extremely tough times, sometimes receiving charity from our church and Salvation Army toys for Christmas, subsisting on pots of beans when money was tight to support five kids, sisters wearing each other’s clothes to stretch our wardrobe, always living in a small rented house with one bath—without welfare. We had neighbors who were just as poor or poorer and others who were much better off. Even though my parents struggled, they had pride and self-respect and sacrificed and went without so many “things” (I wish they could have enjoyed) so my sisters and I could have a better life. They set an example for us by their work ethic, fortitude, and self-reliance. They never blamed anyone for the “injustice” of our economic status…having lived through the Depression, they considered themselves blessed to be doing better than their parents.
Sir Isaac Newton’s law “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” abounds in the conduct of our lives and the associated consequences. My parents couldn’t finish high school (unfortunate choice); they had to help on the farm, care for younger siblings, and work menial jobs or ply a trade (consequence). Yet they saw to it that their children graduated from high school (easier choice for us), followed by three college degrees, an industrial apprenticeship, and four successful small businesses (consequence) to date. Knowing firsthand what it means to be poor, I learned the value of a hard-earned dollar. That dollar was earmarked for necessities first (obvious choice), and then there might be something left over for a treat or a movie on Saturday (consequence). Eager to be independent and have my own income, I entered the job market without a college degree (choice). I resumed my education many years later but had fewer promotion opportunities until I earned a master’s degree (consequence). My husband opted to forego a second career after military retirement which would have boosted our family income (choice), so that our son would have parental supervision and guidance at home while I still worked and went to school (consequence).
So, please forgive me if I blow a small gasket when a far more affluent woman’s choices are transferred to me in such a demanding, strident, and arrogant manner. It floors me when a false-alarmist like Sandra Fluke wails that America is becoming a scary place for women because evil and narrow-minded people like me don’t want to assume responsibility for her freely made choices. So anyone who has an issue with footing the bill for her free birth control (and abortion-inducing pills) is evil and trying to set women back to the dark ages? I paid for my own birth control, thank you very much—including the premium for an extra insurance policy when one would have done. I am galled how a supposedly intelligent and accomplished woman, product of an elite law school, could unabashedly broadcast her self-indulgent cause célèbre on the world stage, revealing her inability to obtain her own contraceptives, either out of her pocket or via insurance co-pay. If a contraceptive or a morning-after pill is one of your basic necessities, then move that to the top of your budget, Sandra. If you have money left over at the end of the month, bravo! Depending on how much is left in your budget, treat yourself to a latte, a new pair of shoes, or a really cute tattoo. If you had no income, allowance, or cushy trust fund to sustain you while getting your highbrow education to catapult you into the evil 1-percent income level, then why is your birth control my problem and my responsibility as a taxpayer?
Our choices have consequences—some good and some bad—but they are ours. We can learn from the consequences that result from bad choices, gain wisdom, and advance to the pinnacle of self-reliance; or we can transfer the blame to others and marginalize them as evil. My conservative philosophy and ideals spring from my deep and abiding hope and desire to see my child and future generations of Americans aspire to a better life and not become hopeless and hapless victims of the conscious choices they make.