Author archives: Worth Loving

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.

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.

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. 

Even in Retirement, Air Force Veterans Continue Their Fight for Freedom

by Worth Loving

April 11, 2018

For over thirty years, Oscar Rodriguez served his country honorably as a Senior Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Since 2001, Rodriguez has delivered a speech at over 100 flag-folding civic and military events. The speech makes six mentions of God, mostly near the end:

Our flag is a beacon, recognized around the world to represent freedom during times of peace, or during times of war. This is what we live for. This is what we will fight for, and if necessary to touch the hand of God in her defense, the charge that we accept as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines is a noble one for there is no heart stronger than that of a volunteer. Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempt to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery. It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America. God Bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.

Rodriguez delivered this speech many times in his official role as a member of the honor guard. In 2005, the Air Force issued an official script that was the only one to be recited at flag-folding ceremonies.

Rodriguez continued to deliver his own flag-folding speech, albeit not in any official capacity. In March 2016, the now-retired Rodriguez was asked by fellow airman Master Sergeant Chuck Roberson to give his flag-folding speech at Roberson’s retirement ceremony.  After learning that he could not prevent Rodriguez from attending, Roberson’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sovitsky, told Roberson that Rodriguez could not give the speech as it ran afoul of the codified scripted speech, especially the references to God. However, because Rodriguez was retired from the Air Force and therefore a private citizen, he was entitled to give whatever speech he chose for the ceremony. Even after the disagreements over the speech, Roberson still wanted Rodriguez to give the speech at the retirement ceremony. On April 3, when Rodriguez rose to give the speech at the ceremony, he was forcibly removed by three uniformed Air Force officers. On June 19, 2016, the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps recommended an assault charge be filed against the officers who removed Rodriguez. The next day, Rodriguez’s attorneys at First Liberty sent a letter to the Air Force demanding an apology. On February 1, 2018, the Air Force refused to do so.

On April 3, 2018, two years to the day after the incident occurred, Roberson and Rodriguez are now suing the Air Force, Sovitsky, and the officers who removed Rodriguez. The charges include violations of due process, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and unreasonable seizure.

What seemed like a move towards uniformity was actually a veiled attempt to squelch Oscar Rodriguez’s freedom of speech. There is so much more at stake in this case than simply a formal apology from the Air Force; the First Amendment rights of every member of the U.S. military are in jeopardy. In 2016, 44,365 of you signed a petition in support of Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez (Ret.) and Master Sergeant Charles Roberson, demanding that Colonel Raymond A. Kozak, commander of the 349th Air Mobility Wing, issue a formal apology on behalf of the Air Force. Now, we must continue to pressure the Air Force to acknowledge that they violated the First Amendment rights of Oscar Rodriguez, assaulted him, and disrupted a memorable ceremony for Charles Roberson and his family.

Our forefathers fled the persecution and oppression of western Europe because their freedom to speak and live out their faith had been compromised. Countless men and women have sacrificed life and limb so that everyone—civilian and soldier alike—may enjoy the God-given rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That’s why we must continue to stand with Oscar Rodriguez and our friends at First Liberty as they continue fighting for the right of every American to freely express themselves.

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Scalia's Legacy Lives On
by Worth Loving (April 24, 2018)

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