Central Arkansas Library System Defends LGBT Programs
On Aug. 26, the executive director for the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) issued a statement defending two pro-LGBT programs scheduled at libraries in Little Rock. An event called “LGBTQ+ Teens: Know Your Rights” at the Main Library downtown was originally scheduled to take place last week but was postponed. An event called “Make Your Own Pronoun Pins,” where teens craft pins displaying their preferred pronouns, is scheduled to take place at Terry Library in Little Rock on Monday. Both events are geared toward youth in central Arkansas.
CALS defended the programs, noting that “neither of these programs is ‘sexual’,” and that the programs are funded in part by the Arkansas LGBTQ+ Advancement Fund at the Arkansas Community Foundation, the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Olivia and Tom Walton through the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
In March, Family Council reported that the Arkansas Community Foundation awarded a grant to the Central Arkansas Library System to set up a Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) for teens and young adults. The money is part of a $1 million fund the Walton Family Foundation created to support pro-LGBT groups in Arkansas. Even though the programs at the Central Arkansas Library System are not overtly “sexual,” they still promote LGBT ideology to children at a public library.
Libraries don’t have to form gender and sexualities alliances or organize pro-LGBT seminars to be successful. They can house books and promote reading and education without these types of events. (familycouncil.org)
Walmart Will Fund Abortion Travel
Walmart announced Aug. 19 that it will fund abortion travel for its employees — using its health care plan to subsidize travel for any employee who has to go more than 100 miles to get an abortion that will end the life of a unique human being. According to a CNBC report, Walmart’s health care plans will cover abortion “when there is a health risk to the mother, rape or incest, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or lack of fetal viability.”
Although it appears Walmart will not cover all requests for abortion travel, the policy is inconsistent with science and medical care as a treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage is not abortion and doctors have confirmed there is not really any medical reason for killing babies in abortions.
There is some concern that employees could claim that abortions used as birth control are medically necessary to justify Walmart funding the abortion travel, and the company offered no information about how it would monitor such bogus claims.
Walmart is the nation’s largest employer with about 1.6 million employees and is headquartered in Bentonville. Last month, the company’s CEO, Doug McMillon, sent an employee-wide email saying that Walmart was “working thoughtfully and diligently to figure out the best path forward” after the Supreme Court decision. Walmart, at the time, didn’t say what changes the company was considering.
The retailer previously offered more limited abortion coverage. According to the company’s employee handbook, charges for “procedures, services, drugs and supplies related to abortions or termination of pregnancy are not covered, except when the health of the mother would be in danger if the fetus were carried to term, the fetus could not survive the birthing process or death would be imminent after birth.”
Unlike some other companies, Walmart will provide coverage for all options, including childbirth, prenatal care and adoption. In fact, Walmart says it will increase its adoption funding benefits from $5,000 to $20,000 in 2023. (lifenews.com)
Drugs or Candy? Protecting Kids from Targeted Fentanyl Epidemic
There’s no way to sugarcoat the facts — recent drug seizures at the southern border reveal dangerous narcotics that appear to be targeting children with their deceptively candy-like appearance. In Arizona recently, border patrol agents intercepted 250,000 “rainbow fentanyl” pills busted from a vehicle on Aug. 16, and 15,000 of the lethal multicolor pills strapped to a person’s leg on Aug. 17.
This disturbing drug trafficking coincides closely with National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day which was Sunday, Aug. 21. What was initially introduced as a painkiller by pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s, has increasingly spiraled into a rampant epidemic and declared a public health crisis in 2017 under the Trump administration. Fentanyl is a highly addictive narcotic with 50-100 times the potency of morphine. As a synthetic opioid, it is often cut with other drugs, meaning users may not be aware that they are ingesting the lethal substance. A lethal dose of fentanyl is only two milligrams. Every day, approximately 115 American lives are claimed by fentanyl overdose.
This candy-like fentanyl seizure comes on the heels of record-high amounts of the drug seized at the border in July 2022 — a 203% increase from the previous month. The opioid crisis has worsened as synthetic drugs and narcotics flood over the border from Mexico. As the war on drugs wages and the Biden administration provides funding to crack down on youth drug overdosing and abuse, critics of their handling of the border believe that they are exacerbating, rather than helping, the drug problem in America. With this year’s attempt to overturn Trump-era Title 42 and this month’s successful overturn of Trump-era Mexico City Policy, record numbers of migrants and drug trafficking has been flooding the border.
Many resources exist to help concerned parents seeking to protect and prevent their children from getting involved with harmful drugs. On high alert for youth drug abuse, the DEA put out an emoji drug decoder for parents to understand the popular emoji codes that young people are using to buy and sell drugs, among other resources.
Beyond federal attempts to combat the opioid crisis, nonprofit organizations such as Adult & Teen Challenge USA help those who are struggling with addiction get well through their recovery programs. President and CEO Gary Blackard offers his advice to parents, having seen the world of drug addiction up close through his Christian nonprofit. He told TWS, “Nothing replaces engagement with your children including educating them on the dangers facing them today. If parents don’t educate their kids, others will and most of the time that ends very wrong.” (washingtonstand.com)
Google Will Promote Abortion and Censor Pregnancy Centers
Google will begin sticking labels on abortion businesses and pregnancy resource centers in response to pro-abortion Democrats’ attempts to dissuade women from visiting pro-life charities. In an Aug. 25 letter to lawmakers, Google executive Mark Isakowitz said the company will begin using labels such as “Provides abortions” and “Does not provide abortions” in its search results, The Hill reports.
The action comes in response to demands from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D/Virginia) and U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D/Michigan) that Google steer pregnant women away from pro-life pregnancy centers that help them choose life for their unborn babies. In June, Slotkin and Warner complained to Google that some of its search results point women to pro-life charities when they search for things like “abortion clinics near me” and “abortion pill,” according to the report.
However, their goal appears to be to promote abortions, not direct pregnant women to resources. When LifeNews searched “pregnancy help” on Google, the top result was Planned Parenthood — even though it is primarily an abortion business and its actual pregnancy help services, such as prenatal and postpartum care, are basically non-existent.
Abortion activists and pro-abortion Democrats have been smearing the life-saving work of pregnancy resource centers for years, spreading false claims about the information and services that they provide for free to millions of mothers and babies in need. Pro-abortion politicians also have been smearing their work in public comments and “consumer alert” warnings. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D/Massachusetts) even demanded that pregnancy centers be completely “shut down” in a recent interview because they supposedly “torture” women.
According to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, pregnancy centers have helped save more than 800,000 unborn babies from abortion since 2016. Its research found an estimated 3,000 pro-life pregnancy resource centers served about 2 million people in 2019, providing more than 730,000 pregnancy tests, nearly half a million ultrasounds, 1.3 million packs of diapers and more than 2 million baby outfits, all for free. Many offer post-abortion counseling as well. (lifenews.com)
Federal Appeals Court Rejects ‘Transgender Mandate’
The Biden administration has received another setback from a federal court — this time at the appellate level — in its effort to institute transgender rights, even at the expense of freedom of conscience.
On Aug. 26, The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that required doctors and hospitals to perform gender-transition procedures, as well as abortions. The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel upheld a 2021 permanent injunction by a federal court in Texas that barred enforcement of the regulation — an action also taken by a federal judge in North Dakota.
The Biden administration’s support for transgender rights experienced another court defeat in July when a federal judge in Tennessee blocked enforcement of guidelines from the Department of Education (DOE) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) while they are being legally challenged by 20 states. Those rules mandated schools must permit students to use the restrooms and locker rooms, as well as to compete on sports teams, of their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
The religious freedom advocacy organization, Becket applauded the court win for its clients — the Franciscan Alliance, a Catholic hospital system and the Christian Medical and Dental Society — which represents nearly 19,000 healthcare professionals.
In the Fifth Circuit opinion, judge Don Willett said the Franciscan Alliance has a valid claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law that prohibits the government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion. The government may gain an exemption if it can show it has a compelling interest and is using the “least restrictive means” to further that interest.
The Franciscan Alliance claimed the HHS rule violated RFRA “by forcing it to perform abortions and gender-reassignment surgeries inconsistent with its sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the Fifth Circuit opinion.
HHS has “repeatedly refused to disavow enforcement against Franciscan Alliance” of a 2016 rule and a 2021 interpretation of a section of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Willett wrote. The department “concedes that it may” enforce the section against the Franciscan Alliance, he wrote.
In its 2016 rule under President Obama, HHS required healthcare providers to provide both gender-transition procedures and abortions to avoid being guilty of sex discrimination. The Trump administration issued a rule in 2020 that rescinded the Obama-era policy by returning to the ordinary interpretation of the word “sex.”
HHS under the Biden administration, however, announced in May 2021 a reinterpretation of sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation includes homosexuality, bisexuality and pansexuality, while gender identity refers to the way a person perceives himself or herself regardless of biology at birth.
Barely a month ago, HHS issued a proposed rule that largely revives the 2016 regulation that became known as the “transgender mandate.” The proposal would not only force doctors, clinics and hospitals to perform procedures to which they object but require health insurance companies to cover ones they find objectionable, critics say.
In announcing the proposed rule July 25, HHS said it is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that ruled nondiscrimination protections in federal workplace law apply to gay and transgender employees. The federal judge in Tennessee who ruled in July against new DOE and EEOC guidelines said they surpassed the limits of the Bostock opinion. (baptistpress.com)
Bible Removed from School Libraries in Keller, Texas
Reports of Bibles being removed, alongside other books, from school libraries don’t tell the full story, said a statement issued by the Keller Independent School District (ISD) Aug. 18.
“Books that have been challenged by community members as being inappropriate for schools are required to be removed from shelves and held in a Parental Consent Area until the challenge process is complete,” said Superintendent Rick Westfall. “Previously challenged books are also being moved to a Parental Consent Area to determine if those books meet the new standards in the policy and the guidelines that will soon be considered by the Board.”
Materials placed in the Parental Consent Area are not completely off limits to students, said the Keller ISD in response to a list of questions by Baptist Press. Last year, “any variation” of the Bible appeared on a list of books that garnered at least one complaint by a parent or community member. Other books included a graphic novel based on the diary of Anne Frank and several with LGBTQ themes and discussions over race. The parent who challenged the appropriateness of the Bible withdrew that challenge in December, but two other parents issued another challenge in the spring.
The Bible was “quickly determined to be appropriate” the district told Baptist Press. However, as part of a recently-adopted policy, the district is required to reevaluate all books that had previously been challenged. The was controversy renewed when an email obtained by The Texas Tribune on Aug. 16 showed the district’s director of curriculum and instruction instructing principals to remove the listed books from shelves and store them in a different location “by the end of today.”
Keller ISD issued a follow-up statement explaining policies approved at an Aug. 8 special meeting that “relate to the acquisition and review of instructional materials and library books.”
Campus librarians and other staff are being asked to assess books that were challenged over the last year. Those books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to the library “as soon as it is confirmed they comply with the new policy.” A council made up of community leaders voted in February to leave several books — including the Bible — on shelves. But the addition of three new board members in the spring led to the review process beginning again, the Tribune reported.
The Texas Education Agency released a new set of operations in April following calls from Governor Greg Abbott to address obscene content that may be found in the state’s school libraries. (baptistpress.com)
Texas Fire Dept. Chaplain Axed for Biblical View of Gender
The former chaplain of Austin’s fire department says the liberal city dismissed him from his position over a blog that said it is unfair for men to compete against women in sports events — basing its views on the Bible. Now, he’s suing the department.
Andrew Fox served as chaplain of the Austin Fire Department from 2013 until December 2021. Fox had posted a three-part blog, titled “Willy Woke and the Chocolate Factory,” on his personal website, which reportedly has just under 1,000 subscribers. He dedicated the second article to “gender identity and how ridiculous it is becoming,” highlighting “the lunacy of men competing with women as women. The transgender ideology is blatantly hijacking the platform of athletic sport.” He explicitly grounded his views in biblical faith by citing numerous verses from the Book of Proverbs concerning fairness.
That led to an unknown number of anonymous complaints from members of the department that his scriptural views did not fit in with Austin’s liberal ethos. For instance, the department celebrated Pride Month every June and released a publicly funded PSA featuring a drag queen in 2019. “How can the chaplain for a huge metro area fire department feel that it is appropriate to write such an online blog?” asked one commenter, who asserted Fox’s views would lead people who “are anything but ‘white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, native-born, Christian’” to feel “rejected.”
The backlash meeting with Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker and his assistant — but when Fox asked what offended the complainants, court records show the two replied they “did not know.” Baker later scheduled a meeting between Fox and the department’s LGBT liaison, Xochitl Chafino, but Chafino, too, reportedly demurred on specifics. Instead, she addressed unrelated “general concerns — for example, that many persons identifying as transgender experience bullying and mental health challenges.”
The department then asked Fox to write an apology but rejected two drafts, because Fox refused to recant his views. They dismissed him from his post in December 2021.
His attorneys say not only is the department’s action wrong, but it is also illegal and a frightening intensification of secular progressives’ war on people of faith. Fox, an ordained member of the Assemblies of God, immigrated to the United States from his native Great Britain in 1999. He served as a chaplain with Washington State’s Kennewick Police Department from 2004 to 2009, then founded the Austin Fire Department’s chaplaincy program. Fox’s crisis ministry won him commendations from the department, especially his handling of a death in 2017.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) warned that, under Austin’s standard, “no one who openly holds historic Christian beliefs about the immutable differences between men and women can serve as a chaplain or in any other fire department position. And that should concern everyone no matter their views.” Such exclusionary policies undermine our democracy, ADF noted. “When the government can needlessly punish people for professing views outside of work on matters of ongoing public debate, that chills everyone’s speech and discourages democratic participation.”
His case bears some resemblance to the story of Kelvin Cochran, a former Obama administration appointee who lost his job as Atlanta’s fire chief in 2015 after he called homosexuality immoral in a self-published book titled Who Told You That You Are Naked? City Council member Alex Wan, who identifies as gay, said, “When you’re a city employee, and your thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.” Cochran received a $1.2 million settlement from the city for the ordeal in October 2018. (washingtonstand.com)