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ICE: Unsung Heroes or Anti-Immigrant?

by Emily Weatherholt

July 11, 2018

Founded in 2003, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a subsection of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ICE was formed as a result of the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which was passed in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attack in an effort to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. Many would argue this policy has been successful, as many subsequent terrorist attacks have been thwarted by DHS, have been smaller in scope, or have been perpetrated by lone-wolf terrorists who were U.S. citizens and not illegal immigrants.

Recently, ICE has come under protest in light of their actions at the U.S. border with Mexico. Under President Trump’s immigration ban, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Trump v. Hawaii, America’s borders are closed to identified countries struggling with social unrest and the rising of terrorist regimes. This ban is not a “Muslim ban,” as many on the Left have called it, but a proactive move by the president to protect America’s borders, while the immigration policy is reworked to ensure American lives are protected. ICE, a government funded agency, is required to follow the executive orders of the president and the ruling of the Supreme Court.

Those who are protesting ICE are berating men and women who have committed to protecting our borders and following the higher decrees of our nation’s leaders at the risk of their own lives. ICE was created not only to enforce border control, but also to prevent human trafficking, smuggling of illegal goods across our border, and to prevent terrorism. Throughout the years, ICE has created alternatives for detention programs, created apps to help prevent child exploitation on the internet and track children that have been abducted by sex trafficking rings, and broken up complex smuggling operations by drug cartels within U.S. borders. In 2017, a group of protestors, assuming ICE was exporting immigrants, demonstrated against ICE while they were arresting a sex-trafficking ring in California.  

The current protest against ICE is based on the separation of families at the Texas-Mexico border. While the media is focusing on the separation of families and the injustice this is causing, the media is neglecting to share the reason for the separation. The separation is due to the president’s enforcement of the “zero-tolerance policy” at the border. This policy requires that those who cross the border illegally are subject to criminal charges. While waiting for prosecution for the criminal charges, the parents are placed in prison, certainly no place for children. That is why the families are separated until the children can be sent to relatives or shelters. It’s important to note that family separation occurred under the Obama presidency as well, a fact often ignored by the mainstream media. The practice of separating children from incarcerated parents is common procedure in American law. If a minor’s parents are sent to prison for a criminal offense, then the minor is placed with a relative or in the foster care system. There are also cases when human trafficking rings will pose as families to get the children across the border. In addition, drug rings use children to smuggle drugs over the border because they are less likely to be detained. This is what is happening at the border, but it’s certainly not the story that is being told. The same practice was occurring under previous presidencies, but to a lesser extent, as the president has the right to choose which laws he strictly enforces.

At the border, ICE is responding to possible drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other criminal offenses. ICE is following the laws enforced by the president and the Supreme Court of the U.S. ICE already has an extremely difficult job—the protests of the people whom ICE agents swore to protect are needlessly making their jobs more difficult. Those who are protesting ICE need to realize that when proactive actions are taken, it is hard to measure their success, as the wreckage from the adverted disaster is never felt. 

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The Forgotten Impact of State Authorities

by Emily Weatherholt

June 27, 2018

Later this year, gubernatorial elections will occur across the country, in which individuals have the opportunity to shape the future of their states in both the governor and lieutenant governor positions. However, statistics show that turnout for these elections drops by over 30 percent when compared with voter turnout during presidential elections. While Kentucky, California, New York, and many other states are also experiencing voter percentages dropping for local elections, let’s focus on Virginia’s statistics. Virginia’s Department of Elections Board reports that in 2016, 72 percent of registered voters turned out to the polls to vote in the presidential election. However, the years both before and after the election year show diminishing results. In 2015, only 21 percent of registered voters participated in local elections, and in 2017, only 47.6 percent of registered voters participated in local elections.

These statistics show the emphasis that has been placed on presidential elections over state elections. As the federal government has become involved in more and more aspects of our lives, the influence of the state is being forgotten. The millennial generation, which is known for wanting to make a positive impact, composes a large majority of the current voting population that is not participating in state elections. While change on a federal level may have the most widespread results, voters today are forgetting the tremendous opportunity they have by being able to influence their own state legislation.

In the case of the upcoming state governor elections, voters have the chance to influence the path their state will follow for the next four years. Each state government is modeled after the workings of the federal government. The state governor has the authority, in a majority of states, to appoint the state judiciary, to control the executive budget, and to enforce a legislative veto. Over the course of two or four years, many new laws can be enacted and enforced that either strengthen or weaken an individual’s freedom.

An example of this is a state’s ability to pass a Government Nondiscrimination Act, which would ensure religious liberties relating to the biblical definition of marriage are protected. While the case of Obergefell v. Hodges proclaimed the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the states retain the power to ensure that Christians and other religious people are not forced to affirm this definition of marriage in their lives and businesses. Participation in state elections allows individuals to advocate for their states to protect their rights and avoid being penalized for holding to a biblical definition of marriage.

The Founding Fathers originally determined that state government should have more power than the federal government. If participation and understanding of the importance of state elections were recognized by more of the voting population, decisions such as Roe v. Wade could have been tempered in their influence, for voters would elect politicians seeking to limit the expansiveness of how abortion is practiced. As governor and lieutenant governor elections fast approach, the burden is on the people to shape the future of their state and make a change, as many millennials desire. This can be achieved by contacting local officials and participating in the upcoming governor and lieutenant governor elections.  

Emily Weatherholt is an intern at FRC Action.

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Putting Patients First

by Worth Loving

June 12, 2018

With so many advancements in the field of medicine, people have access to more life-saving treatments than perhaps ever before. Hundreds of thousands of federal tax dollars go towards research of such treatments with the goal of giving people the best quality of life possible. However, the Left has exploited this funding to accomplish their own radical agenda, often at the expense of the well-being of patients.

One of these cases involves stem cell research. When National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins began his tenure in 2009, he specifically directed funding to be used for embryonic stem cell research—to the tune of 200 million taxpayer dollars per year. We know that the embryo is a human life and that destroying it for research is not only profoundly evil but a blatant breach of basic ethical scientific practice, a fact which Dr. Collins either ignores or denies. But as director of an institution designed to help Americans live better lives, he also ignores established research about stem cells.

According to Dr. David Prentice of the Charlotte B. Lozier Institute, embryonic stem cells have failed to produce even one cure for a deadly or debilitating disease. On the other hand, adult stem cell research has produced over 70 treatments for deadly and debilitating conditions such as cancer, lupus, and scleroderma. To date, adult stem cell research has helped over one million people. Every year, there are 20,000 adult stem cell transplants in the United States alone that help Americans live better lives.

There are two fundamental principles at stake in this debate. First is the morality of ending a human life. Taxpayers should not be forced to violate their conscience by paying for embryonic stem cell research, and our government should certainly not be involved in it. The other fundamental issue is if we want to support research that would improve people’s lives or continue promoting a destructive agenda at their expense.

In 2017, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced the Patients First Act that would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the NIH to instead spend that $200 million every year on adult stem cell research. Rep. Banks recently stopped by FRC headquarters to tell us more about his bill and how it would protect the consciences of taxpayers and help those dealing with deadly and debilitating diseases. Check out his lecture here

Finally, contact your representative in Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the Patients First Act.

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Banning Sexual Orientation Change Efforts is Denying People’s Right to Change

by Worth Loving

June 6, 2018

In the last several years, there has been a growing movement in the United States to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), which liberals often call “conversion therapy,” a practice that uses psychological and spiritual means to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. Since 2013, twelve states plus the District of Columbia have passed statutes banning SOCE for minors, several of which were signed by Republican governors. Just last month, Maryland and Hawaii became the eleventh and twelfth states respectively to ban the practice. As of May, legislation to ban SOCE has been introduced or is pending in 13 states. Nearly 40 cities and municipalities around the country have also passed ordinances banning the practice for minors.

At the national level, the Therapeutic Fraud and Prevention Act has been introduced in both the House and Senate and would ban any SOCE performed in exchange for monetary compensation. On April 19, by a vote of 50-18, the California Assembly passed a bill that bans the sale of goods or services related to any SOCE. Although strong opposition has been raised in California, few would be surprised if the bill is passed by the state senate and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown later this summer.

In the rush to ban SOCE, proponents are ignoring several basic constitutional rights. Many of these misguided bills seek to ban the sale of goods or services designed to change a person’s sexual orientation, a gross violation of the free speech rights of many counselors and Christian ministries. SOCE advocates simply want the right to offer their goods and services in the marketplace like anyone else. They aren’t forcing their goods and services on anyone, as SOCE opponents have argued. The California bill is particularly concerning as it could lead to banning the sale of the Bible and other materials used by Christian counselors and ministries who participate in SOCE.

Banning SOCE for minors is also a significant violation of parental rights. In banning this type of therapy, the state is essentially saying that it knows what is better for a child than the parent does. It also prevents many young people who want to change their sexual orientation from getting the help they need to do so.

Perhaps the most devastating consequence of all in the rush to ban SOCE is taking away the opportunity for people to seek change. Yes, there are doubtless many people who do not desire to leave their homosexual lifestyle or change their homosexual desires. But there are also many other people who seek to change their same-sex attractions. To put it simply, banning SOCE denies people with unwanted same-sex attractions the right to seek change.

Banning SOCE will put the United States on a slippery slope of more constitutional rights violations. Not only does it violate free speech and parental rights, it also harms the very people it intends to help. The right to change and the right to offer goods and services to those seeking change are fundamental human and constitutional rights that must be protected.

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Defending the Free Speech Rights of Pregnancy Centers

by Worth Loving

May 22, 2018

Pregnancy can be one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life, especially when the pregnancy is unexpected. It’s extremely important that a woman have a strong support group during such a time. For many women facing unplanned pregnancies, pregnancy resource centers provide the support needed for the woman to carry her baby to term and equip her to raise the child in a loving home.

There are two types of crisis pregnancy centers, licensed and unlicensed. Unlicensed pregnancy centers are authorized to provide any type of non-medical support including pregnancy kits, education, support groups, clothing, and so on. Licensed pregnancy centers provide all these services as well but are also authorized to provide limited medical services. Unlike Planned Parenthood, pregnancy resource centers charge nothing for their services. Oftentimes, pregnancy centers are strategically located in poor communities where medical care is hard to find. No one seeking their services is turned away.

Now, the very mission of these pregnancy centers is under attack in California through a law known as the California FACT Act. Passed in 2015, the law requires pregnancy centers to promote a message directly contrary to their mission. For licensed facilities, the law requires a state-approved message regarding abortion referrals to be posted in the pregnancy centers. Interestingly, the law doesn’t require licensed pregnancy centers to promote wellness and nutrition programs for women, infants, and children or anything of the sort. For non-licensed facilities, the law requires that the pregnancy center post a message explaining that they are not a licensed medical facility and therefore cannot provide any related services, something these pregnancy centers have never claimed to do.

Shortly after the passage of the California FACT Act, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, arguing that the law violated the free speech rights of pregnancy centers. After working its way through the lower courts, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of NIFLA v. Becerra in November 2017. Oral arguments were heard on March 20, and a decision is expected to be announced at the end of the Court’s term next month.

It certainly appears that precedent is on the side of pregnancy centers. Several cases have been decided in favor of private individuals and institutions who were being compelled to promote or participate in a message or action contrary to their beliefs or mission. It also appears that the current justices have serious reservations about the constitutionality of the California FACT Act. During oral arguments for NIFLA v. Becerra, several of the more liberal justices voiced concerns that the law was not only burdensome but specifically targeted pregnancy centers, something Justice Elena Kagan called a “serious issue.”

Defendants in the case, including the state of California, argue that pregnancy centers are willfully deceiving women into believing that abortion is not an option and that they must disclose abortion services. In the end, though, Attorney General Becerra’s legal team conceded that no charges have ever been filed against a single pregnancy center in the state of California; and they have yet to bring forward a woman who has been harmed by a pregnancy center.

Pregnancy centers have never claimed to be full service. Their goal is to provide services to a mother in need so that her baby may develop fully and that she may love and nurture the child. What’s at stake in this case is the First Amendment right of pregnancy centers to refuse to promote a message directly contrary to their mission. Last week, Congressman Andy Harris, a medical doctor from Maryland, spoke on the importance of this case at FRC. As he said, “The First Amendment gives you the right to say things. It also gives you the right not to say things, and that’s what this case is about.” To find out more about this critical case and how you can support pregnancy centers in your area, watch Rep. Harris’ full lecture.

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Putting Children Before Politics

by Worth Loving

May 1, 2018

For decades, faith-based adoption and foster care organizations have played a critical role in providing services to children in need. They have excelled in this and serviced the neediest of these already needy children. As reported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 45 percent of the 3,794 adoptions completed by Catholic Charities in 2009 were of children considered to have special needs. Also in 2009, 32 percent of the 1,716 adoptions completed by Bethany Christian Services were of hard-to-place older children previously in foster care.

It is imperative for these children that all agencies, both faith-based and secular, remain in the adoption and foster care system. Without them, many children would have no place to turn. Today, 440,000 children are in foster care, and 100,000 of those are awaiting adoption. The opioid crisis is only adding to these numbers. In 2016, 92,000 children alone were in foster care because of drug abuse in the home. In fact, drug abuse is the number one reason why children are placed in foster care. With so many children desperate for stable homes, it would seem obvious to provide every avenue possible for that to happen. However, there is a growing movement to remove faith-based adoption agencies from the equation. Due to their deeply held religious beliefs, many faith-based adoption agencies seek to place children in homes with a married mother and father. Recently, in the scramble to embrace “LGBT equality,” lawsuits were filed in Michigan and Texas, challenging each state’s laws protecting faith-based adoption agencies. In Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and California, similar lawsuits succeeded, resulting in the shutdown of several Catholic adoption organizations. In Illinois, approximately 2,000 children were displaced as a result of one of these lawsuits despite that fact that every state allows LGBT adoption and has numerous agencies willing to facilitate these adoptions.

Such threats to the well-being of children prompted Representative Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) to introduce The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881) in the House of Representatives and Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to introduce it in the Senate (S. 811). This bill protects faith-based adoption agencies from discrimination by letting them continue their work of placing children in adoption and foster families while remaining loyal to their deeply held religious beliefs and does nothing to prevent LGBT adoptions. The bill simply seeks to keep faith-based agencies in the business of helping children, free of government discrimination.

Those fighting to remove faith-based agencies from the table have a specific agenda in mind, an agenda that seeks to silence those with whom they disagree while trampling on the best interests of children. The fight to protect faith-based adoption agencies is about ensuring families have a wide range of options to select an agency that meets their physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs. It’s about ensuring that some of the most overlooked members of our society will no longer be forgotten.

The House sponsor of this bill, Rep. Mike Kelly, spoke at FRC this past Thursday on the importance of passing this bill. Speaking on the importance of keeping faith-based agencies at the table, he said:

All service providers, religious or secular, who work to provide children with loving families should have a seat at the table and never be disqualified from doing so because of their deeply-rooted religious beliefs. The more groups providing these crucial services, the better.

How ironic that leftists want to exclude faith-based agencies from placing children in loving homes while rabidly defending federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a group that only provides one adoption referral for every 82 abortions.

Our goal should be to place children in loving homes. Any agency that provides this service should be allowed a seat at the table. To learn more about the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, please watch this FRC Speaker Series event. And then, contact your U.S. Representative and both U.S. Senators and ask them to support this bill.

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Scalia’s Legacy Lives On

by Worth Loving

April 24, 2018

As a nation, there are many days we set aside throughout the year to commemorate victories in war or honor those who have served our country in some capacity. Personally, many of us celebrate birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones and friends. Up until a year ago, April 10 didn’t mean much to most people. But, this year, it’s a very significant date for conservatives. It was on April 10, 2017, that Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the 101st Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Only a year into his tenure, Justice Gorsuch has already left a mark.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death in February 2016 rocked a nation that was already in the midst of a tumultuous presidential election. For months, talk of his replacement dominated the news cycles and the presidential debates.

In the view of many Americans, the 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential primaries both yielded less than desirable candidates. But there was one overarching issue that drove people to the polls, something that would shape America’s future for decades to come—the Supreme Court. Pollster George Barna said it was a defining issue among SAGE Con (“Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives”) voters, of whom 94 percent voted for Donald Trump. An NBC News exit poll found that 7 in 10 voters nationwide said that the Supreme Court was either the most important factor or an important factor in whom they voted for.

With Scalia’s death, the high Court was split between four reliably conservative justices (except on social issues, on which Justice Kennedy voted with the liberals), and four staunchly liberal justices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, ensuring that the next president would have that privilege.

With the help of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, apparent GOP nominee Donald Trump developed a list of 21 conservatives whom he pledged to choose a Supreme Court nominee from if elected president. On January 31, 2017, President Trump fulfilled that promise by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

After receiving Senate confirmation on April 7, Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10, 2017. A year later, he has yet to disappoint conservatives. Last summer, Justice Gorsuch showed his commitment to the First Amendment and religious freedom by ruling with the 7-2 majority in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. In this case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbus, Missouri, applied for a state grant for playground safety enhancements but was denied because of its religious nature. Yet the First Amendment prevents the government from doing this; it may not exclude a religious entity from a public program and treat it worse off simply because it is religious. The majority ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, with Justice Gorsuch joining Justice Clarence Thomas in a concurring opinion strongly protective of religious freedom.

Justice Gorsuch has also shown a strong inclination to protect First Amendment rights to religion and speech in two cases to be decided in June this year. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Gorsuch appears concerned that baker Jack Phillips’ First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights have been trampled on by state authorities who forced him to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. Additionally, a few weeks ago at oral argument in NIFLA v. Becerra, Gorsuch expressed deep unease that a California law requiring pregnancy resource centers to promote abortion violates the First Amendment prohibition on government-compelled speech.

Candidate Trump promised to nominate someone in the mold of the late Justice Scalia, an originalist who would strictly adhere to the Constitution and be a staunch defender of life and religious liberty. After a year on the bench, Justice Gorsuch hasn’t disappointed and has proven that he was the right choice for the job.

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Free Speech in the Era of Social Media

by Worth Loving

April 20, 2018

In the last decade, the explosion of the internet has allowed us to reach a global audience almost instantly. Online social media platforms have become the primary way that people express their views, with 69 percent of American adults using some form of social media every day. And while these companies claim to be open platforms for all political discussion, some groups and individuals are finding there are limits to free speech.  

Since 2010, there have been an alarming number of incidents where conservative and Christian views have been censored on the internet. For example, in April 2015, GoFundMe deleted the fundraising campaigns for Sweet Cakes by Melissa and Arlene’s Flowers, two businesses that have declined to provide services for same-sex weddings and were raising money to help pay for legal fees. In January 2017, D. James Kennedy Ministries was denied access to AmazonSmile, a program developed by Amazon to allow customers to donate to the non-profit of their choice when making a purchase. Amazon based its decision on the SPLC’s designation of D. James Kennedy Ministries as a “hate group.” In July 2017, Facebook temporarily blocked over 20 pages of Catholic organizations and individuals that were followed by millions worldwide.

On Tuesday, “True Blue” recipient Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a leading voice in Congress on digital free speech, joined a panel of experts at FRC to discuss solutions to online censorship. Rep. Blackburn was herself a victim of online censorship last October when Twitter blocked an ad for her Senate campaign, which they deemed “inflammatory.” The ad called out Planned Parenthood for their illegal sale of baby body parts.

Today we are faced with the difficult question of whether government regulation of a private enterprise is necessary to protect free speech. We encourage you to take time to watch the panel discussion and learn more about one of the most critical free speech issues of our time.

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For Air Force Colonel, the Right to Conscience Prevails

by Worth Loving

April 16, 2018

For over 20 years, Colonel Leland Bohannon has served his country honorably in the United States Air Force. He completed combat missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan and earned the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Air Medal. Because of his hard work, Bohannon is now eligible for promotion to Brigadier General.

In May 2017, one of Col. Bohannon’s fellow airman decided to retire. Because Col. Bohannon was his superior, the Air Force entrusted Bohannon with the usual awards and gifts that are presented to retiring service members. Many of those awards asked for Col. Bohannon’s signature to recognize his colleague’s service. Col. Bohannon was willing to sign all the awards except one—a certificate of spouse appreciation. Col. Bohannon’s colleague just so happened to identify as a homosexual. As a devout Christian, Col. Bohannon could not in good conscience sign a certificate recognizing a same-sex union that violates his deeply held religious beliefs.

Although the certificate was optional and unofficial, Col. Bohannon approached his chaplain and JAG attorney for advice. Bohannon’s chaplain recommended that he seek a religious exemption. During the process of seeking an exemption, a two-star general told Bohannon that he would sign the certificate in his place, to which Bohannon agreed. Even though the certificate was signed by a higher-ranking officer—a high honor, the retiring master sergeant was not satisfied. He subsequently filed a formal Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging that Bohannon had discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. After conducting an investigation, the Air Force confirmed the allegations were true and found Bohannon guilty of discrimination, halting his chances of a well-deserved promotion and jeopardizing his entire military career.

Together with our friends at First Liberty, Col. Bohannon appealed the decision to the Secretary of the Air Force. On December 6, 2017, FRC and the American Family Association delivered over 77,000 petitions to the Pentagon, calling on Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to reverse the decision and clear Col. Bohannon of any wrongdoing.

On April 2, 2018, nearly a year after the ordeal first started, Secretary Wilson “concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of an Airman in his command.”

This is a huge victory for religious liberty, especially for members of the military. Although President Trump has made great strides in protecting the right of every servicemember to freely express themselves, there remains much political correctness and social experimentation from the Obama years that needs to be weeded out. We applaud Secretary Wilson for standing up for the rights of every member of the Air Force.

James Madison said that “conscience is the most sacred of all property.” The right to live according to your conscience is the reason countless men and women have signed up to serve in the military. We should continue to fight for them. 

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Values Voter Summit 2018 Highlights
by FRCA Media Office (Sept. 21, 2018)

Values Voter Summit 2018 started today. Here are transcripts from select speakers...

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