Tonight is my live event: “5 Tools to Help Equip Your Kids with the Truth,” 6:30–7:30 (PT). If you'd like to ask questions during that hour, join the event on Google+. Otherwise, you can watch the whole thing live right here tonight (and anytime afterward).
The goal of tonight's event is to help parents and pastors be more focused and intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. I'll talk to you about the tried-and-true classical method of education and offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. (See here for more info.) See you then!
[Update: Because of technical difficulties, the first eight minutes are audio only.]
Raising kids to be faithful followers of Christ in the 21st century can be very challenging. Our culture continues its secular slide, with entertainment and education—which permeate our kids lives—leading the way. Of course, life is busy and it's difficult for families to avoid simply being pulled along with the world. In light of the current challenges, parents and the church must be very intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. We must think carefully about our strategies and be more aggressive in training up our children.
As our oldest daughter approached the junior high years, my wife and I began to rethink our views on educating and discipling our own kids. We were dissatisfied with things we were seeing in her life not only academically, but also spiritually and morally. In that process of reevaluation, we discovered “classical education.” Educator Susan Wise Bauer offers a concise description of this approach:
“Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study [Grammar Stage]. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments [Logic Stage]. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves [Rhetoric Stage].”
I think this model offers parents a way forward. My wife and I have been using it with our own kids and I think the church can also use it as it comes alongside families to help disciple our children.
On Tuesday night, November 17th, at 6:30 pm (Pacific Time), I will host a live online event to help parents and pastors think through the discipleship of the next generation. We'll dialogue more about this classical method. I'll also offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. And you can participate too. We'll be taking live questions and interacting with your comments. Follow this LINK and join us for this live online conversation.
Churches and families must be focused and intentional in order equip our kids with the truth, and I think this event will help you do just that.
[Footnote:…Plaintiffs’ marriage licenses have been altered so that “Rowan County” rather than “Kim Davis” appears on the line reserved for the name of the county clerk, Plaintiffs have not alleged that the alterations affect the validity of the licenses. Nor do the alterations impact the Court’s finding that the deputy clerks have complied with the Court’s Order.] The Court is therefore satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell and this Court’s August 12, 2015 Order. For these reasons, the Court’s prior contempt sanction against Defendant Davis is hereby lifted.
Kim Davis’s name has been replaced with “Rowan County,” so clearly this was a reasonable step that was easily taken without burdening the state. But now Volokh has clarified that Davis is asking for these two things in particular:
the licenses would be issued, as a matter of Kentucky law, under the authority of someone other than Davis or the County Clerk, for instance the County Judge Executive or a deputy clerk who was willing to put his name on them, and
the licenses reflected that accommodation, by including the name and office of the authorizing person (again, the Judge Executive or deputy clerk or whoever else) instead of Davis’s name and office.
Davis’s objection to the federal judge’s order — and the licenses and certificates issued pursuant to that order — is that the licenses and certificates are still being issued (in her view) under her ostensible authority, even though Davis has not authorized them.
This accommodation is somewhat broader than the one I originally discussed in my post Friday (which was just removing her name from the licenses and certificates, and possibly replacing it with “Rowan County Clerk”). She would object to the documents noting that they come from the office “Rowan County Clerk,” and she would also want an official declaration from the court that the licenses aren’t being issued under her authority. It’s possible that these demands go a bit too far for the Kentucky RFRA (as I noted in my post, the more burdensome a requested accommodation is, the less likely it is that a court will grant it), though it’s hard to tell, given that RFRAs are written in general terms, and a lot of the line-drawing questions are left for judges to make on a case-by-case basis. Still, the accommodation doesn’t seem tremendously burdensome, or that different from what’s already being done under the judge’s order, so it’s possible that this is what will happen.
This changes the reasonableness of the request somewhat, though Volokh still thinks it doesn’t seem burdensome.
I want to reiterate what I said in an earlier post: Even if Davis has a legal case under Kentucky’s RFRA, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s wise to pursue it rather than resign (see here for more on this), and it certainly doesn’t mean turning this into a political spectacle is a good idea. Because the future of religious freedom in this country matters, my goal over the last week has merely been to clarify some key points about this situation that many people seem to be missing:
Employee requests for religious accommodations are not outrageous; they are available and are granted, even to public officials.
The laws of many states (including Kentucky) have conscience protections. State RFRAs vary, but in general, if someone’s sincere beliefs are being burdened, exemptions can be granted if there’s a reasonable alternative that doesn’t harm the government’s “compelling interest.”
Even if you strongly disagree with Kim Davis’s concern, her requested exemption may indeed meet the requirements of Kentucky’s RFRA.
You don’t need to agree with Kim Davis’s concern in order to support her receiving an accommodation; RFRAs are there to protect people with whom the majority disagrees. In keeping with the values of our country, we ought to support reasonable accommodations for people’s consciences whenever possible, even if we personally find their concern unreasonable.
You don’t need to disagree with Kim Davis receiving an accommodation in order to think she’s not handling this situation the way she should.
Ultimately, Davis’s goal is not to prevent anyone from getting married; it’s only to remove herself from being the authority authorizing those marriages. (This means her goal is not to impose her views on people trying to obtain licenses, though that was the unintended consequence while no licenses were being issued.) The question of whether or not her requested accommodation would cause material harm to a “compelling government interest” (the requirement for denying an accommodation) remains to be seen. It will need to be weighed by a judge. There’s no reason to oppose it if it meets Kentucky’s RFRA standard.
Widespread understanding of these points would ease tensions both now and in the future.
A common response to the Kim Davis situation (see yesterday’s post) is to say, “If you can’t do your job, you need to quit.” Perhaps that’s the way it should be in some cases, but it’s important to know that’s not what the law demands, apparently not even for public officials.
Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an “undue hardship,” meaning more than a modest cost, on the employer. If the employees can be accommodated in a way that would let the job still get done without much burden on the employer, coworkers, and customers — for instance by switching the employee’s assignments with another employee or by otherwise slightly changing the job duties — then the employer must accommodate them….
Thus, for instance, in all the cases I mentioned in the numbered list above, the religious objectors got an accommodation, whether in court or as a result of the employer’s settling a lawsuit brought by the EEOC. Likewise, the EEOC is currently litigating a case in which it claims that a trucking company must accommodate a Muslim employee’s religious objections to transporting alcohol, and the court has indeed concluded that the employer had a duty to accommodate such objections….
Volokh says Kentucky’s RFRA allows for religious exemptions for elected officials:
Title VII expressly excludes elected officials. But Kentucky, like about 20 other states, has a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) statute that requires government agencies to exempt religious objectors from generally applicable laws, unless denying the exemption is the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. The federal government also has a RFRA, which may apply to federal court orders issued to state elected officials…. Nothing in them exempts accommodation claims by elected officials….
The terms of these RFRAs actually seem to offer greater protection for claimants — to deny an exemption, the government must show not just “undue hardship” but unavoidable material harm to a “compelling government interest.”
He then applies the law to Kim Davis as a public official, saying he thinks “she’d have a good case” under state law:
[I]t’s very likely that (1) the Kentucky RFRA, by its terms, would apply to religious exemption claims brought by elected officials, and (2) it would provide at least the protections offered to ordinary employees by the Title VII religious accommodation regime, and possibly more….
[B]esides her losing claim in the federal lawsuit, it seems to me that Davis has a much stronger claim under state law for a much more limited exemption. Davis’s objection, it appears…is not to issuing same-sex marriage licenses as such. Rather, she objects to issuing such licenses with her name on them, because she believes (rightly or wrongly) that having her name on them is an endorsement of same-sex marriage….
Now this would be a cheap accommodation that, it seems to me, a state could quite easily provide. It’s true that state law requires the County Clerk’s name on the marriage license and the marriage certificate. But the point of RFRAs, such as the Kentucky RFRA, is precisely to provide religious objectors with exemptions even from such generally applicable laws, so long as the exemptions don’t necessarily and materially undermine a compelling government interest.
Please read the rest of “When Does Your Religion Legally Excuse You from Doing Part of Your Job?” The existence of RFRAs doesn’t mean one must always litigate rather than quit (that decision requires wisdom and prudence), but it corrects a knee-jerk reaction I see happening out there that assumes one must always quit. That’s not how America works. The way we’ve worked this out in the past is by using the least restrictive means to achieve the government’s compelling interest (see here and here). If a reasonable accommodation is possible, it should be, and often is, given.
Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage, stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether, was ordered by a federal judge to resume her duty, refused to comply, and now is in jail for contempt of court. (Take a moment to read Joe Carter’s explainer on this story to catch up.)
I’m still working through what I think about this situation. It’s difficult because there are so many issues involved and goods to weigh, and I’m still trying to separate my feelings about the unfairness of singling out Kim Davis (as opposed to other officials who refuse to do their job) from the question of what Kim Davis should do. To help you think through this, there’s a symposium discussing these issues over at Breakpoint:
[B]ecause Davis is a government employee, it's a complicated situation with many angles. Christians are divided on Davis' actions, and the response by authorities. At issue are questions about the nature of religious liberty, the duty of Christians in government, and what godly civil disobedience looks like.
Here are a few excerpts from the symposium:
From Andrew Walker (this one most closely mirrors where I stand as of now):
The Supreme Court is where ultimate blame rests involving Kim Davis. Court rulings that are truly rooted in justice should seamlessly integrate into a state’s laws. Rulings should not circumvent the democratic process, pre-empt state action, and leave civil society in a state of fractious tumult. Unfortunately, that's what Obergefell did, and now we're seeing its disastrous effects in state jurisdictions such as Kentucky. That, and needless escalation in terms of incarceration, coupled with government inaction has brought us to the situation we’re in.
We must recognize the crucial difference between the religious liberty claims of private citizens and government officials. While government employees don’t lose their constitutional protection simply because they work for the government, an individual whose office requires them to uphold or execute the law is a separate matter than the private citizen whose conscience is infringed upon as a result of the law. It means the balancing test is different when it comes to government officials because of their roles as agents of the state. Government officials have a responsibility to carry out the law. When an official can no longer execute the laws in question due to an assault on conscience, and after all accommodating measures have been exhausted, he or she could work for change as a private citizen, engaging the democratic process in hopes of changing the questionable law.
From Shane Morris:
[W]e do and should discriminate when it comes to right and wrong, and natural law, which supersede the power of government, contrary to what Judge David Bunning says. This is the very concept that inspired the American Revolution, and a Civil Rights activist generations later from a Birmingham jail cell: There is a Law above the law. And any manmade law in contradiction to it is “no law at all.”
A Christian woman is in jail for upholding the definition of marriage set in place at creation against one just invented by Anthony Kennedy. I don't feel comfortable telling her she's wrong, or that she should just do her job. She's standing on the side of reality, of natural law, and God, against a depraved fantasy.
From Michael Brown:
[W]hat cannot be debated is that the national outrage against Kim Davis has nothing to do with her refusing to obey the law and everything to do with her Christian beliefs. Had she found herself on the opposite end of the conflict and had she stood for “gay rights,” refusing to obey a law that she felt discriminated against them, she would be praised from coast to coast.
I encourage you to read everyone’s full comments over at Breakpoint. At the end of the post, there are links to several articles from different viewpoints that I’ve also found helpful, and there are plenty more out there. Ryan Anderson recommends a way forward where beliefs are accommodated and licenses are still obtained. Rod Dreher comes down hard on Davis and warns her actions will bring about serious consequences for religious liberty. Douglas Wilson takes the opposite position, saying Davis should not back down.
This is not a simple issue. Rule of law is what makes a good society possible, and the value we place on it should be great—it should never be compromised as part of a regular strategy for getting what we want. (I suspect the fact that we don’t believe the other side feels this way is fueling a lot of the support for Davis’s actions.) But there is also a time and place for civil disobedience, grounded in a Law higher than man’s, against an unjust law. Determining where the line should be drawn between them is not a simple task, and it deserves careful thought.
We all need to meditate more on the love of God—especially now. By “meditation,” I don’t mean what people in our culture usually mean by that word. Christian meditation isn’t an emptying of the mind but a filling of the mind with truth. Here’s how Tim Keller describes it in his book Prayer:
Meditation is likened to tree roots taking in water [in Psalm 1]. That means not merely knowing a truth but taking it inside and making it part of yourself. Meditation is spiritually “tasting” the Scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually “digesting” the Scripture—applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. To shift metaphors, meditation is taking the truth down into our hearts until it catches fire there and begins to melt and shape our reactions to God, ourselves, and the world. [See here for more from Tim Keller on Christian meditation.]
With that definition in mind, listen to these wise words from Trevin Wax on what will enable us to continue to stand when the culture opposes us:
If you fail to get this truth deep down into your heart, if you fail to recognize God’s unfailing, unchanging love for you no matter your circumstances, you will not be able to represent Him well in exile.
The only way you will ever be able to withstand the hatred of the world is if you are immersed in the love of God.
The only way you will ever be able to live without the approval of others is if you are assured of God’s approval of you in Christ.
The only way you can stand against the world when everyone is jeering you is when you know God is there, cheering you on, calling you His beloved child.
Unless we are overcome by the love of God, we will be overcome by the fear of man.
How can you meditate on the love of God? First, read the Bible. You can’t mediate on the love of God if you haven’t seen the love of God. Think about the events God brought about from Creation until today in order to bring about the redemption of His people. Think of Jesus’ life and death on the cross for us. Read about your union with Christ. Memorize Ephesians 1–2 to see how God, in His grace and through the “kind intention of His will,” brought you to Himself. Recount the ways He has provided for you in the past, and thank Him for each one.
Immerse yourself in the truth of God’s love, let it take root in you, and then stand.
A former StemExpress tech tells of her supervisor playfully making an aborted baby’s heart start beating again. Of having to cut the baby’s face open in order to get the prized brain ordered by researchers. Was the heart still beating when they did that? Maybe. It’s unclear. Thankfully, there’s no video of either of these things. But you do see a live baby moving on a tray, and that’s enough.
Or, at least, it should be enough.
I can’t stop thinking about the people doing these jobs day in and day out. And of those who watch the videos and either yawn or continue to defend Planned Parenthood. And of how entwined this industry is with the medical community. I just heard that parents who go through IVF can sign a consent form to donate their leftover embryonic children to research. Now that I’ve seen what Planned Parenthood is doing, I can’t help but think: Are IVF doctors getting compensated by researchers for providing them with embryonic human beings? Are they pushing parents to create more children so they’ll be able to provide researchers with more and get more benefits in return? This doesn’t seem like an outlandish speculation anymore. There’s money to be had selling human beings.
How far does this go? How much of our entire society is connected to this barbarity? What are we letting happen all around us, every day?
It’s a horror to realize what I should have always known to be true: There was no special evil in Nazi Germany. The human heart is evil. Either the norms of a society keep the evil human heart in check, or they give permission for that evil to be unleashed. But it’s there. In every society. Waiting.
The doctors in the Planned Parenthood videos seem like normal people because they are normal people. It’s normal for human beings to take their cues about proper behavior from the people around them. Everyone around you is cutting babies’ faces off like it’s no different morally from using the copy machine? Well then, it must be normal and okay! How did people shuffle papers for Nazis in thousands of offices? This is how. This is how an entire culture loses its ability to see the evil right in front of its nose. All it sees are regular people, working in ordinary offices, doing something everybody knows about, and surely something so commonplace couldn’t be evil, right? Meanwhile, the evil spreads its tentacles into multiple areas of life (economics, medicine, etc.) until we’re convinced we can’t manage without it. We have so many reasons to keep it around, you see. Like slavery.
We need to rip this evil out of the fabric of our society. Because it’s so intertwined with our way of life, it may rip some things we’ve come to regard as comforts out with it. We may lose some opportunities for research. We may have more children than we were expecting. We may have less control over designing our dream lives. But take a step back for one minute and look at the baby moving on the tray. Look at it! This is the moral cost of those “comforts,” and it is dark and ugly evil. I pray we are not yet too far gone to see it.