WFA testimony to WI Senate Committee on Education in support of SB 619

ImageYesterday, Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, testified in favor of SB 619 before the Senate Committee on Education.  Read the full testimony below:

Testimony in Support of Senate Bill 619

Senate Committee on Education

Julaine K. Appling, WFA President

March 6, 2014

“Thank you, Chairman Olsen and committee members, for the opportunity to testify today in support of Senate Bill 619. I am Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, an organization dedicated to strengthening, preserving and promoting marriage, family, life and liberty in The Badger state. Helping to ensure that parents have strong educational options and opportunities to be involved in the policies impacting the schools their children attend is extremely important to us.

We want to thank Senator Vukmir for introducing this bill that addresses some issues important to education and academic standards in our state.

It is reasonable and appropriate to assume that all of us want the students in Wisconsin’s public schools to receive the best education possible and expect them to meet high standards in knowledge and skills. That’s what we are here to discuss today. However, I submit that we can have the very best standards anyone can create, and we can have excellent teachers in our schools and we will still likely be disappointed in our rate of success. Fundamentally, we are dealing with a problem that is beyond the ability of standards and educators to fix and that is the breakdown of the family unit. As more and more students come from broken or dysfunctional homes, we will find it increasingly difficult to move these students to acceptable, let alone exceptional, academic performance. If state government is really interested in improving the academic performance and readiness of students, then at some point it must address strengthening families in a variety of ways.

That said, we find this particular bill to be a good step in establishing a clear process by which state academic standards are developed and adopted in Wisconsin. Heretofore, we have had no established process, at least not at the legislative level. Whatever process we have had has resided exclusively within the Department of Public Instruction.

To summarize, the positives we see in this bill are as follows:
1. It establishes a clear process for the development and adoption of state academic standards.
2. It ensures more involvement by Wisconsin stakeholders.
3. It involves more than DPI in the appointment of people to the advisory board.
4. It brings the process more into the light of day.
5. It requires opportunity for public input on the adoption of state academic standards by requiring three public hearings at various steps in the process and before different bodies.
6. It requires an appropriate measure of legislative oversight.
7. It ensures school districts retain discretion in curriculum choices and adoption.
8. It establishes a systematic review of and potential revision of state academic standards.
9. It ensures new model academic standards in English, reading and language arts and mathematics are proposed per the process within one year of the bill’s enactment.
10. It emphasizes that all interested parties should be able to clearly discern that the standards are setting high standards.
11. It retains local control in that it makes no change to the current law that clearly does not require any school district to adopt the state model academic standards but does require all school districts to adopt standards.

Also, we are pleased that this bill addresses both of the concerns we have with and recommendations we made regarding AB 617, related to who appoints advisory committee members and the amount of time before the current standards in math and English were reviewed.

We do have one concern with SB 619 and that involves the literacy standards that Dr. Evers and DPI also unilaterally adopted for all of Wisconsin. These literacy standards for English and math are incorporated in the academic standards, but DPI also has adopted “Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects” which fall under the Common Core State Standards umbrella. I believe the author, co-sponsors and this committee should look at potentially amending this bill to include these standards in the review, development and adoption process proscribed in this legislation.”

Religious liberty in America about to become a figment of our imagination?

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:

“Believers will always be strangers in a strange land – the question is how much freedom they will have to follow that belief in that land as they become all the more out of sync with the times, and how much we will deploy government to compel them to violate that belief. And that’s one more reason why the culture wars are just getting started.”

That’s what Ben Domenech wrote in an online publication just one day after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed that state’s recently passed religious freedom bill.

ImageI’ve been shouting the same thing from the rooftops here in Wisconsin for almost two decades. Religious liberty is being seriously threatened in the United States of America, in spite of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Few seem to understand that or if they do understand it, they don’t seem to care.

So what did happen in Arizona last week?  In the wake of the federal level Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Arizona had in 1999 adopted a state version of this federal law.  The bill introduced last month in Arizona was giving just minimal tweaks to the state’s existing language. Legal scholars tell us that SB 1062 “provided a) that RFRA protects corporations just the same as natural persons, b) that RFRA can be used as a defense in court against a suit by a private citizen, and c) that RFRA claims can be brought not just against the state government, but against all municipalities and “state actors” in Arizona.”

These tweaks are necessary in the wake of state supreme court decisions like the one this past summer in New Mexico. Elane Photography declined to do the pictures for a same-sex commitment ceremony and was sued and lost partly because the state claimed the owners of Elane Photography were being sued by private citizens and not the state and the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied only if the state brought the lawsuit.  Proponents of the bill were just trying to make sure the state’s business community and private citizens had a fair chance in court.

ImageSB 1062 didn’t do any, not one, of the things opponents were alleging.  That was all emotion, hype, and lies—all designed to do exactly what they wanted and accomplished—kill the bill.  It was messaging on a mission; destroy the credibility of the people promoting the bill. Paint them negatively; accuse them of hate and bigotry; invoke racial overtones with accusations of re-instating Jim Crow laws against homosexuals and more.  Since the opponents owned the media, it worked. Reason and reality were trampled while people from all walks of life, from both ends of the political spectrum, weighed in—almost all of them without having read the bill or at least understanding it.  Zeal without knowledge—a dangerous combination.

Here’s what Attorney Brandon McGinley, writing in the wake of all this said about this bill and the near hysteria that resulted: … the fact of the matter is, if SB 1062 was unacceptable, then no substantive religious liberty protections will ever be acceptable.

That ought to get your attention.  Mr. McGinley and Mr. Domenech are both saying, religious liberty in America is about to become a figment of our imagination.

By now you should be asking as a Wisconsin citizen what protection do you have here should you be sued for denying a service to a customer?  I would say, we don’t really know. We do have a strong religious freedom statement in our state constitution in Article I, Section 18, which states, the right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed.”  But we also have a Human Rights Protection Act similar to that of New Mexico’s that hung Elane Photography. We’ve not had the same kind of legal challenges here—yet—that have happened and are happening in New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont, Oregon and other states.  The courts would tell us how much religious freedom we have depending on the courts’ interpretation of the State Constitution, the US Constitution and any pertinent case law.  That ought to be enough to scare you right there.

Religious freedom is no trifling matter. It’s important; it’s what our country was founded on and for.  Yes, Believers will always be strangers in a strange land, but that doesn’t mean we don’t engage in the culture wars.  Too much is at stake not to.

 

WI Governor Issues Statement on New Marijuana Legalization; WFA President Responds

ImageWisconsin state representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison, photo, left) has introduced LRB 3671, a bill that legalizes marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, citing it as “good for Wisconsin citizens” and provides “additional revenue for the state.”

Governor Scott Walker (R) has not shut down the idea entirely and, in fact, indicated that he doesn’t see any movement for it “right now.”

WFA president Julaine Appling says the Governor’s statement raises some red flags, “Governors talking about an addictive, gateway drug such as marijuana in terms of how much sales tax revenue is or could be generated by legalizing the sale of it, alarms me.  As with gambling, any economic gain that comes at the expense of potentially ruined lives is at best a double-edged sword.  Ruined lives generally end up costing taxpayers a great deal of money.

>>>>>read more HERE

Planned Parent selling…….Baby Onesies?

                    Care – No Matter What.

Seems ironic that the nation’s abortion icon, Planned Parenthood, should be selling, of all things, baby onesies with the above slogan.  Since only 8 out of 100 unborn babies make it out of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities alive, we doubt the sales will skyrocket any time soon.  If anything, this latest money grab attempt appears to be more like a major marketing faux pas.

Wisconsin Attorney General Defends State Constitution

This week, United States Attorney General Eric Holder (D) made a statement indicating he doesn’t think attorneys general in states that have laws, from his perspective, banning homosexual “marriage” should feel obligated to defend them.  Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) (photo, left) disagrees: “It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job.”  Van Hollen further stated, “We are the ultimate defenders of our state’s constitutions.”

Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling says Van Hollen is right, “I suppose we should be used to this current administration in Washington telling the states what they will, must or at least should do.  However, Attorney General Holder’s remarks show a whole new disregard for the rule of law and states’ rights.  Fortunately, we have a state attorney general who understands his job of defending our constitution.”

>>>>>read more HERE

National Pundit Scoffs AZ Religious Freedom Bill as “Abomination”

American political pundit and columnist, Kirsten Powers, has taken aim at the latest state to propose a bill that protects religious liberty.  According to our friends at The Foundry, the Arizona bill SB1062 is an amendment to the 1999 state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that “protects all citizens and the associations they form from undue burdens by the government on their religious liberty or from private lawsuits that would have the same result.” Powers recently wrote a column that she purposefully and erroneously titled “Arizona Latest to Attack Gay Rights,” calling SB1062 “an abomination of a bill.”

>>>>>read more HERE

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Late yesterday evening, AZ Governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed SB 1062. ClicHERE to read Cathi Herrod’s, president of Center for Arizona Policy, statement on this veto.  Cathi (pictured left) and the state family policy council that she leads in AZ were strong proponents of this bill to protect individual liberties.

 

 

RESPONSE FROM FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL 2.26.2014:

Family_Research_Council_Logo“This measure should have been a political no-brainer but only went down because people either chose to ignore the plain language of the bill or refused to read it altogether. Apparently, they’re graduates of the Pelosi School of Policy, where they dispose of bills before they find out what’s in them.

This bill like the federal RFRA, bars government discrimination against religious exercise, so by vetoing this bill Gov. Brewer is saying she supports government discrimination against people’s religious freedoms.

Under the amended Religious Freedom Restoration Act, what was legislative intent (but ignored by certain courts) would have been clear: individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce. In other words, whether it’s a wedding vendor, whose orthodox Christian faith will not allow her to affirm same-sex ‘marriage,’ or a business like Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood, whose faith bars them from providing drugs that have the potential to end a pregnancy, the provisions of RFRA would apply.

Unfortunately, at a moment of testing, Governor Jan Brewer yielded to the cultural bullies and their frenzy-driven opposition instead of consulting the facts,” concluded Perkins.”

Of Casinos and Promises; Gov. Walker’s Criteria Right On Target

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:

ImageThe proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha.  Governor Walker’s three criteria that must be met before he approves a new casino in Wisconsin. Remember that issue?  

To refresh your memory, after years of seeking permission from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., those pushing for a new casino in Kenosha were finally given the ok late last year. All that is left for that casino to become a reality is for Governor Walker to approve it.

Early in this process, Governor Walker reminded Wisconsin citizens and the tribes that in 2011 at a meeting of all the tribes, he laid out three very clear criteria that must be met before he would approve a new casino in The Badger State.  He based the criteria on a 1993 referendum that the voters passed indicating no expansion of gambling in Wisconsin. Those criteria are community approval, all the Wisconsin tribes agreeing, and no net increase in gaming in our state.

The governor originally imposed a deadline for himself to make a decision of about a week.  Surprisingly, as that deadline approached, our action-oriented governor said he was going to extend it by a few days. That deadline passed and we were given another deadline, which also passed with no decision announced.  In all, we missed three deadlines and our typically very decisive governor eventually said there was no deadline.  We’d know his answer when he was sure he had all the facts and information he needed.  Suddenly, the criteria weren’t even mentioned anymore.  And that’s where we currently are with this issue.

The Menomonie tribe for 20 years has been seeking approval for this casino in Kenosha.  If it is ends up being approved, it will be the first off-reservation gaming facility of its kind in the state.  In other words, it will be precedent-setting and therefore will make it hard to tell the next tribe no when it wants a similar off-reservation casino in our state.

If you listen to the Menomonie officials and others who support this project, you’d think a new casino is Wisconsin’s answer to all our jobs and economic woes.  They claim that now that Hard Rock Café is involved, it’s not just a place to gamble but it’s a destination point, a must-see, big-draw, can’t-miss entertainment spot.

ImageTo all of this I say, baloney.  Even if all their pie-in-the-sky promises and projections were true, I think the tradeoff is horrible. To put it bluntly casino gambling is bad for Wisconsin because it’s bad for her best natural resource, her families. 

Institute for American Values recently did some extensive studies of casino gambling. One of their studies, Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-one Evidence Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences shows clearly that one thing Wisconsin does not need is another casino.

Here are some of the very pertinent highlights of this report:  A modern slot machine is a sophisticated computer, engineered to create fast, continuous, and repeat betting. Modern slot machines are carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you lose.  Modern slot machines are highly addictive. Modern slot machines are engineered to make players lose track of time and money. Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base.

Living close to a casino increases the chance of becoming a problem gambler. Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim. Problem gambling affects families and communities as well as individuals. Young people are viewed as the future of casino gambling. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having gambling problems. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having health problems.

Casinos extract wealth from communities. Casinos typically weaken nearby businesses. Casinos typically hurt property values in host communities.

There’s more in this report and all of these assertions are supported with carefully cited research.  After hearing this information, if anyone really cares about our state and its future health and prosperity, why would we encourage more gambling with another casino? 

The Governor’s criteria are right-on target.  Expanding gambling in our state is likely unconstitutional, but that aside, it’s most assuredly not in our best interest. We would all be well-served if our governor will keep his promise and use the criteria he so wisely established.

Green Bay Alert: Alderman wants city to revisit domestic partnership benefits

ImageEarlier this month, Green Bay alderman Amy Kocha asked the city to reconsider providing domestic partnership benefits to homosexual couples.  In 2011, the Green Bay Common Council voted down this very same provision.

>>>>>read more here

Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling addresses this issue, “The Green Bay City Council would be well-advised to table this idea.  The registry they are trying to use is being challenged in the State Supreme Court and taxpayers shouldn’t have to absorb more costs. Essentially nothing’s changed since the last time the council considered this ill-advised idea.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

If you live in the City of Green Bay, call your alderman and mayor.  Tell them you do not agree with the provision of domestic partnership benefits and that you do not want the City Council to vote on this issue again.

Green Bay Common Council Members: Contact information HERE.

Green Bay Mayor James J. Schmitt: Contact information HERE.

ACLU: Attacking Marriage; Usurping the Process

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:

The debate went something like this, Attorney one: “If the people of Wisconsin want to change the definition of marriage, they can do that if they want to. But right now they’ve made a decision, and it’s a wise decision to promote both sexes, the diversity of mothers and fathers in our families.  That’s not an unreasonable thing at all, recognizing that kids have mothers and fathers. That’s the decision they’ve made, and they’ve made since the beginning of their statehood; and the Supreme Court has affirmed that that is constitutional for them to do.”

Attorney 2’s response: “How long do we ask people in loving, committed relationships, raising children together already, to wait for fair treatment for recognition of their loving relationships? Do we ask the legislature, this legislature in Wisconsin which is very unlikely, to put that to the voters?  Do we ask them to wait for two separate sessions of the legislature, two-year sessions of the legislature and another vote….?”  

ImageThat was a virtually word-for-word repeating of the debate I listened to last week about the lawsuit that the ACLU has filed on behalf of four homosexual couples.  The lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin’s Western District Federal Court and alleges that the Marriage Protection Amendment that nearly 60% of the voters approved in 2006 violates the US Constitution. 

Beyond undoing the amendment, this lawsuit also asks the court to strike any gender specific language in relationship to marriage from our state statutes.  So, essentially, if the court agrees with the ACLU and these eight homosexuals, then theoretically, Wisconsin will have redefined marriage with the stroke of a judge’s pen. 

Now, I am not saying this happens at the first level of the judicial process. Typically what the judge does is make his or her determination and then, if the decision is an overturning of current law, will put a “stay” on the order, pending the case working its way through the appeals process.  The stay basically says nothing changes in the law until all appeal options have been pursued and a final decision rendered, usually by the US Supreme Court by taking the case and rendering a decision or by that court not taking the case and forcing the decision of the appellate court to stand.  However, it would still be true that marriage would be essentially redefined in the judge’s opinion.  All that stops that from happening is the judge being prudent and exercising the stay.  And the judge does not have to exercise that option.

ImageSo that brings us back to the debate between the ACLU attorney and the attorney defending our marriage protection amendment.  Basically what the ACLU attorney is saying is, “We don’t care about the rule of law.  We don’t care about the constitutional provision that dictates how we amend the state constitution.  We want what we want, when we want it and we’ll use whatever means we have to in order to get what we want.  We don’t care about children. We don’t care about religious freedom.  We want these loving and committed same-sex couples to have their relationships recognized and affirmed now.”

Quite honestly, there is no other reason for them to circumvent the rule of law in this situation than that they, like two-year-olds, are demanding their way right now. 

The Wisconsin Constitution says to amend the constitution, you need to pass the exact same resolution in the state legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions and then get a simple majority vote among the state’s voters on a statewide ballot.  It’s purposefully rigorous and time consuming. 

But those bent on redefining marriage for everyone have once again run to the courts hoping to avoid this prudent process and mostly hoping to avoid having to take their proposed redefinition of marriage to the people for a vote.

You should be appalled by this ACLU-led lawsuit. If you were one of the over 2 million Wisconsin citizens who voted for the amendment in 2006, you should be outraged that your vote could be negated by a single judge.  You should be alarmed that the rule of law is being blatantly ignored and bypassed. You should be very concerned about what this lawsuit could mean to you, to your family-owned business, to your religious freedom, to what your kids learn in the public school and more. 

Marriage is once again under attack in Wisconsin.  We urge you to pray and to stay informed.  Be prepared to talk knowledgeably and wisely about this issue with people in your sphere of influence, including your family members and your church leadership.  Much is at stake as these whining and demanding plaintiffs usurp the constitutional process to get their way. 

ACLU Attacks Marriage in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling gives initial response to ACLU’s lawsuit filed on Feb. 3, 2014, alleging Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment is unconstitutional. The amendment was passed in 2006 by nearly 60% of the voters.