From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:
Unless something odd happens, the current state legislative session is over this week. Unless the Governor convenes a special session or the legislature calls for an extraordinary session, the legislators will go home this week and begin campaigning for the fall elections.
I started in this work nearly 17 years ago. That means I’ve endured 8 two-year sessions of our state legislature. You start thinking you’ve seen it all, especially after the 2011-2012 session when we had weeks of the state capitol being closed because of tens of thousands of protestors swarming the building. I really figured that would be the most bizarre session I—or anyone else, for that matter—would ever be involved with.
However, in my opinion, this legislative session tops even that session. Words I would use to describe this session include “incredible,” “unreal,” “disappointing,” and “maddening.”
The session began in early January 2013, following the 2012 fall elections. Governor Walker was beginning the third year of his four-year term. The Republicans had majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly.
Whichever party has the majority controls the respective house. That means Republican leadership has control in both the Assembly and the Senate. That majority determines the committee to which bills are assigned, has input on which bills get hearings and committee votes and certainly determines which bills get to the floor for a full vote on passage.
Frankly, to a large degree it’s fair to say the Republicans “own” state government right now in Wisconsin. If pro-family, pro-life, pro-liberty bills don’t get passed, it’s pretty safe to say Republicans didn’t want them passed.
And that is precisely why I find this legislative session the most frustrating of all the sessions I’ve been involved with. Unless something dramatic happens in the next couple of days, at least 3 solid pro-life bills will die in the Republican-controlled state senate. Assembly Bill 216 would keep taxpayers from having to pay for the abortions of state employees and would also provide a narrow religious exemption for churches and certain other religious organizations regarding health insurance. Right now, it is illegal for insurance companies in Wisconsin to sell health-insurance coverage that does not include a fully array of contraceptive drugs and devices, some of which cause early abortions. Assembly Bill 216 would permit insurance companies to write policies for churches and other religious organizations that do not cover contraceptives, if the church or organization wanted such a policy.
Assembly Bill 217 would ban sex-selective abortions—abortions sought simply based on the sex of the baby. Assembly Bill 206 authorizes the production and sale of a Choose Life Wisconsin specialty license plate. The proceeds from the sale of this plate would go to Wisconsin’s wonderful Pregnancy Resource Centers—places where women receive real help during crisis pregnancies—help that focuses on both the unborn baby and the health and well-being of the woman.
In addition, Republican Senators have killed a bill that would put a process in place for the development, adoption, and implementation of state model academic standards, a process that would prevent a repeat of the Common Core State Standards disaster we’re all living through right now.All four of these bills had solid support in both houses. In fact, the 3 pro-life bills all passed in the State Assembly. All that was necessary for them to become law was for the Senate to vote on them and send the bills to the governor.
Instead, all 4 bills are dead, in spite of ongoing, repeated, and aggressive efforts by outside groups to get them on the senate floor for a vote. Senate Republican leadership has blocked them, determining them to be unnecessary, unimportant, messy, divisive or something. We’ve heard all kinds of reasons for these bills dying. We’ve heard whining about its being an election year and insinuations that the Governor doesn’t want them and recently that the Senate leadership says they don’t have enough Republican votes to pass them.
What I know is in a session where any reasonable person would assume these bills would all pass, they have not passed. They remain buried in the Republican controlled Senate. And yes, that makes this session one of the most bizarre, if not the most bizarre, I’ve ever been part of. It’s maddening, frustrating, and downright reprehensible and inexcusable.
This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard two very important religious liberty cases - Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, and the Hahn family, owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, are taking a stand against the HHS mandate, a controversial portion of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that forces employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives to their employees against their firmly held religious convictions. Both companies face fines of up to $100 per day per employee if the mandate is upheld.
The SCOTUS decision on these cases is not expected until at least June. Family Research Council provides a summary of the SCOTUS hearings HERE.
This Saturday, March 29, is national “Hobby Lobby Day.” Show your support for the Greene family and others who are courageously taking a stand for religious freedom.
HOW YOU CAN SHOW YOUR SUPPORT:
- Make a purchase from Hobby Lobby on Saturday, March 29 (on-line or in the store). go shopping with friends! Say “thank you” with a card from your family; make your own, or download and print one HERE.
- Change your Facebook profile picture to show your support. Get your “twibbon” HERE.
- Do you have a Twitter account? Tweet your support using hashtags #HobbyLobbyDay starting now and throughout the day on March 29th!
- Update your Facebook cover using the graphic HERE.
- Pray for a positive outcome from the SCOTUS decision for these companies, and for religious liberty in the United States.
From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:
So, do you know who is on your ballot for the upcoming election? If that question takes you by surprise, please allow this commentary to be your wake-up call on this important issue.
While thankfully we don’t have never-ending elections like we did a couple of years ago, 2014 is an election year, meaning in Wisconsin we have both spring and fall elections. The election on Tuesday, April 1, is our annual Spring Nonpartisan General Election.
Rather than a being a yawner, this should be one of the most important elections each year. This is the election when we elect to office those whose decisions most directly affect our individual and family lives. On Tuesday, April 1, citizens across this state will be voting for such offices as city mayors, city council members, county board supervisors, town and village board members, and school board members. Some areas will see contested municipal judge races and a few will have contested circuit court judge races.
When we have big elections such as the one coming this November when we will be electing a governor and lieutenant governor, all of our state assembly, half of our state senate, a new attorney general and all of our congressional delegation, many people get at least a little interested and involved. Sad to say, it’s way too often a different story for these spring local elections.
But consider the decisions these local officials make. They determine the assessed value of your home and property which figures into how much you pay in property tax. They determine what you can and cannot do with your property. They determine when and how roads will be built and maintained. They make decisions about curriculum in your local public schools, about what surveys will be administered, and how much school employees will be paid—using your tax dollars. They set the rules for whether or not sexually oriented businesses can move into your community and how many liquor licenses will be issued. They’re the ones who establish contracts with organizations such as Planned Parenthood. They hire the people who make up police and fire departments in your community and those who make sure the water is safe to drink.
That’s an incomplete list, to be sure. But I hope it gives you the proof you need so you understand that truly local government is the level of government that most directly impacts you and your family—every day in a multitude of ways.
The election on Tuesday, April 1 is important. In these elections, we’re often voting for people we know. On the ballot in my community are 3 people from my church. In local elections we frequently vote for friends, acquaintances, fellow church members, family members, neighbors. This should be the most important, not the least important election for us.
To find out what races and candidates will be on your ballot on Tuesday, April 1, you can either call your municipal clerk or visit myvote.wi.gov online. Both sources will give you the information you need. Many local newspapers also print the ballots the Thursday or Friday before the Tuesday election.
Once you know who is on your ballot, you need to make sure you find out what they stand for. It’s not too late to do that. It’s not too late until the polls close on Tuesday, April 1—which, by the way, is 8 p.m. statewide.
You can learn about the candidates by calling them directly—at home—because most don’t have offices for local elections. Ask them questions about why they are running, ask about issues you are concerned about, find out about their view of government, their background. Most local candidates today have websites. Check them out. Read the newspaper. Listen to the radio. Watch your local cable channel. Go to forums. Read literature they may be mailed or dropped off at your house. Call friends whom you trust and who you know are following local politics. The bottom line is it’s up to us as citizens to get educated on the candidates so we can vote our values.
Do yourself, your family and your community a favor. Get Tuesday, April 1 plugged into your electronic calendar. Circle it on your refrigerator calendar. Call friends and family members and make sure they, too, are ready to vote on Tuesday, April 1—and to truly vote their values by voting for people who will represent them well right in their own communities. Ignorance is no excuse. Let’s all be the Christian citizen and example we should be.
Today’s op ed published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Julaine Appling, Wisconsin Family Action president:
“By now, we are all painfully familiar with the refrain “war on women” from those on the left. Contrary to what they want us to think, liberal progressives are actually the ones waging a war on women with policies bent on making women — particularly single women — dependent on government. You may be surprised by the brilliance of their agenda.
Consider the liberal policy of excessive business regulations. It is not easy for anyone to raise the capital necessary to start a new venture, but it can be especially difficult for women for a number of reasons. When legislators pile regulatory policies on start-ups, they raise the cost of doing business, make compliance and reporting a nightmare and limit profitability for women trying to pursue the dream of owning their own company.
Then consider the high taxes that diminish the family’s bottom line, often eliminating the option for women who want to stay home with their children. Instead, to make family ends meet, moms often are compelled to go into the workforce — at least part time — which frequently puts a strain on their families and marriages.
Wisconsin Family Action has done a rather detailed analysis — to be published soon — of government benefits for single mothers compared to married mothers, and by our cautious calculations, the state and federal governments pay working single moms in Wisconsin approximately $31,000 per year to not marry the working father of their children. From an economic standpoint, government encourages single moms to remain single and incredibly dependent on government welfare, which, incidentally, could change at any time, significantly affecting their monthly income. Policies that essentially pay single moms to remain single condemn women and children to poverty rather than help them become strong and independent.
Liberals are adamant that unregulated, taxpayer-funded, elective abortions at any time during pregnancy is a woman’s right. Yet abortion comes with great risk to a woman and is sometimes accompanied by years of physical, psychological and emotional issues. Keeping a minor girl’s reproductive health information from her parents is dangerous — even medically — for the girl. Opposing parental consent for a minor girl to have an abortion leaves girls at the mercy of abortion clinic staff.
Fighting efforts to have women get an ultrasound prior to an abortion limits information and choice for women. Perhaps most ironically, actively working to make women dependent on government for abortion and contraception effectively puts women’s so-called reproduction rights at the mercy of the appropriations power of the legislature. These policies are the real war on women, yet liberals have vigorously and aggressively supported these policies over the years.
Conservative policies, on the other hand, respect individual liberty — for men and women — and encourage entrepreneurship, job creating, saving, wealth creation and pro-family, pro-life initiatives. Why then accuse conservatives of waging a war on women?
It is really no secret. Liberals desperately want the significant voting bloc of single women in America who lean Democratic. It is a large but sometimes inactive voting bloc, which means liberals need to create a boogeyman for single women in order to galvanize their vote, particularly in an off-year election. Thus we end up with the ominous, but wrongly-attributed, war on women rhetoric from Democrats.
There is a real war being waged on women, but it is in fact the work of liberals who want to make women dependent on government and who are willing to sell out the independence of our women for the price of a vote.
Julaine Appling is president of Wisconsin Family Action, a statewide organization dedicated to strengthening, preserving and promoting marriage, family, life and liberty in Wisconsin.”
Religious freedom is under attack like never before.
“The freedom of religion is the ability to live your life according to the religious teachings of your choice. However, President Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for the freedom of worship, not the freedom of religion. His HHS mandate is a byproduct of his truncated view of religious liberty and the First Amendment.” – Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president
On Tuesday, March 25, the Supreme Court of the United States will be hearing two very important cases; both are challenging the HHS regulations coming from Obamacare concerning the mandate that employers provide coverage for services to which they are morally opposed (abortion-causing drugs, sterilization, contraception).
The future of religious freedom is at stake.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Yesterday, 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.”
“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.
I’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.
SB 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.
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.”
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.”
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Late yesterday evening, AZ Governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed SB 1062. Click HERE 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.
“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.”