Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor
Julaine K. Appling, WFA President
August 20, 2013
Thank you, Chairman Grothman and committee members, for the opportunity to testify today in support of Senate Joint Resolution 38. 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. Our mission affords us the privilege of working extensively with churches and religiously-affiliated or faith-based organizations statewide.
We are grateful to Sen.Leibham and Rep. Craig for introducing SJR 38, the Religious Freedom Amendment. Wisconsin Family Action strongly supports this preemptive, proactive amendment that is designed to ensure that Wisconsin citizens have their constitutionally provided religious freedom and conscience rights protected for years to come.
SJR 38 adds language to Article I, Section 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution. It does not delete or change any existing language. Rather, the additional language clarifies and delineates the approach a court must take when deciding a case dealing with a citizen’s religious and conscience beliefs. By adding this language, we lessen the likelihood that the state through a court or even legislative action can compel a person to act—or, as important, not act, in a way or in ways that violate his religious beliefs or conscience.
Wisconsin Family Action has closely studied the language of this amendment for some time. We have talked with religious freedom legal experts extensively. We have hashed over various scenarios that might come before courts in our state under this amendment. Each time, we have come away more convinced that we need this amendment in Wisconsin, that the wording is strong and is the very best wording available to ensure our citizens’ religious freedom is appropriately regarded and safeguarded.
Prior to 1990, in this nation, we had a clear “compelling interest” precedent that required the state to unequivocally prove its “compelling interest” in abrogating a person’s or organization’s religious freedom or conscience rights. However, with Employment Division v. Smith, the US Supreme Court dramatically lowered the test and standard of protection for citizens. In response, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In an ensuing legal challenge this new law, the US Supreme Court eventually struck down the portion of the law that extended the reach of the RFRA to states and local governments. However, the Court left the door open for states to take their own action to ensure that they do not have to have the same low standard for religious freedom as is now in place federally. States such as Wisconsin have been fortunate that our courts have over the past twenty-plus years essentially retained a pre-Smith approach. However, again, nothing, absolutely nothing in Wisconsin’s current statutes or constitution require the use of the “balance test.” That is the entire purpose of this amendment.
Some will ask for specific examples of where religious freedom has been threatened in Wisconsin. We can provide those, but more important to us is what we might face in the future. While Wisconsin courts have actually been pretty good on cases regarding religious freedom over the last 20 years, we know that a single election or even a vacancy appointment could change that in any given court. The protection of a freedom as important as our religious freedom should not be dependent upon either the good will or the whim of any particular judge or court. This amendment gives judges and courts clear language and directives by which to determine a case involving religious freedom.
Some have inquired about whether or not this amendment creates any new or additional rights for any religious activity or potential litigant. Religious freedom experts assure us that the amendment does not do this. It merely restores the former, heightened standard of review of religious liberty claims that served our country and our people well for so many years. That standard requires courts to always weigh legitimate free exercise claims against compelling state interests.
In addition. no problems have been created or abuses noted since the passage of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, nor in any of the numerous states where the “compelling interest test” has already been restored by statute or amendment over the last decade or so. Prior to the passage of many of those laws, detractors warned the legislation would spark waves of subversive litigation. Those abuses simply never materialized.
Quite honestly, we see no way that Wisconsin is exempt from more and more challenges involving citizens’ religious freedom, just as other states are experiencing. Now is the time to ensure that the very best and most responsible legal protection is in place for our citizens, people who believe in strong religious freedom protection. Waiting or taking no action is a risk that we are not willing to take. Giving our citizens the opportunity to vote on this important matter is altogether appropriate.
Thank you for your time. Wisconsin Family Action urges you to vote in support of SJR 38.
“WISCONSIN FAMILY MINUTE”
“Wisconsin Family Minute” is a daily program (Monday – Friday) launched by Wisconsin Family Council and designed for Christian radio. A single news item pertaining to marriage, family, life and liberty is featured each day in an effort to inform listeners so that they can pray, educate others, protect their family, or in some other way get involved in the important issues of our day.
We now air the “Wisconsin Family Minute” on:
The Family - at 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on stations:
WEMI 91.9-FM Appleton/Oshkosh
101.7-FM Fond du lac
WEMY 91.5-FM Green Bay
96.5-FM Two Rivers/Manitowoc
View listening areas for these stations HERE.
89Q (89.5-FM) in Schofield at 10:30 a.m.
On VCY America Stations:
WVCY-FM 107.7-FM Milwaukee at 5:07 p.m.
and on the following VCY America stations at approximately 3:35 p.m.:
WVCX 98.9-FM Tomah
WVCS 90.1-FM Owen
WVCF 90.5-FM Eau Claire
WEGZ 105.9-FM Washburn
WVRN 88.9-FM Wittenberg
WVFL 89.9-FM Fond du Lac
WVCX 91.1-FM Madison/McFarland
WVCY 90.1-FM Monroe
WVCX 89.5-FM Prairie du Chien
WVCY 94.9-FM Sheboygan
WVCX 92.1-FM Ripon
WVCY-AM 690-AM Oshkosh
Pastor Jon Arneson from Baraboo Assembly of God delivers a prayer for marriage and families on the front steps of the Baraboo Courthouse during National Day of Prayer today, May 2, 2013. A group of over 100 community members from various denominations joined together at noon in Baraboo to “Pray for America.” Though the winds picked up and the rains came down, folks stood their ground on behalf of the nation today, interceding in prayer for the nation, our leaders, marriage, families, our citizens, and the Armed Forces.
“America is exceptional because her founding principles are exceptional.”
-WFA President Julaine Appling
Weekly commentary from WFA President Julaine Appling:
“So, did you enjoy going from your warm house or apartment to your warm church yesterday so that you could freely worship the Lord with other believers? How was the technology? And I’m guessing you even had a choice as to which Bible you would take to church with you. You probably were dressed pretty nicely, too, and had a decent breakfast—or if you didn’t it was your own fault. I’m pretty sure you also rode in a vehicle that you own or are purchasing. You may have even gone out for lunch after church.
The foregoing pretty much accurately described how my day went yesterday. Now maybe your situation is vastly different from mine, but I can tell you I am distinctly middle-class by just about any economic standard, just like the vast majority of Americans. I’m definitely not wealthy but I’m also not poor. The truth is, statistically, in comparison to the rest of the world, you and I are wealthy. In fact, we are pretty exceptional.
Recent studies, even those after the economic crisis started, continue to show that an American who is at what we call the “poverty line” is in the top 14% of the global income distribution. Think about that. That means a person we say is poor in America is wealthier than 86% of the rest of the world.
That statistic all by itself ought to bring some perspective to all of us. We are blessed, truly blessed. We are exceptional. American Christianity is really very unlike Christianity around the world.
For well over 100 years, American has been, humanly speaking, the primary means by which the world has heard the Gospel. And it has not been our wealthy who have been completely responsible for this. It has largely been middle-class people who work hard, attend church faithfully, and give their tithes and offerings each week who have been the financial powerhouse behind sending missionaries around the world, printing and distributing Gospel tracts, translating the Scriptures into foreign languages and more.
Our incredible affluence, even in tough economic times, is unheard of in most of the rest of the world. Our way of life is truly foreign to most people. This is all part of American Exceptionalism. American Christians are part of the American Exceptionalism. Exceptionalism doesn’t mean we are inherently better than others; it means we are different from others—we are exceptional. I am convinced that we are exceptional here in this great country because of how we were founded.
Our forefathers who settled Plymouth Colony in 1620 and became the strongest influence on our system of government and way of life, did not risk their lives to come to an unknown land because they heard about the better economy in the new world or because they thought the job prospects were better or the crops were improved. No, they risked their lives for religious freedom—for the opportunity to rear their families and live their lives according to the dictates of their conscience and the teaching of the Word of God.
When they established this country, the principles and values they put into practice—principles and values largely based on the Bible—became part and parcel of this country, including being part of our founding documents and form of government. Out of these values and principles came, for example, self-government, capitalism and free enterprise and limited government, all of which contribute to economic prosperity. Make no mistake: America is exceptional because her founding principles are exceptional.
Today we are still relatively free and relatively prosperous. We’re still able to help the persecuted church worldwide and we are able to send the Gospel around the world. But, mark my words, as we move further and further from our founding principles and show less and less exceptionalism, we will have less prosperity and less freedom, especially for the middle class, and eventually, this profound change will show up very dramatically in how we evangelize the world—and our own communities.
Next Sunday as you prepare to go to church remember how very exceptional you are in comparison to the rest of the world. Reflect on how very blessed you are. And then remember that to whom much is given, much shall be required.”
This is a time where Wisconsin friends and families have the opportunity to ask WFA president Julaine Appling questions about the issues that concern them most. Whether the topic is legislation, about our organization, or something you’d like to know about that you feel Julaine can assist you with, Wisconsin Family Action stands ready to receive your questions and lend our very best answers! (To submit a question, email WFA at email@example.com OR sent via USPS mail to P.O. Box 1327, Madison, WI 53701 – No phone calls, please!)
“This week we observe the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade US Supreme Court decision, in which by judicial fiat, literally breath-taking judicial activism, America embarked on its own holocaust. The result to date—nearly 55 million unborn Americans have been murdered. While it is a bit difficult to get any consistently reliable numbers, it appears that the US, categorized as a “developed country,” ranks high on the international scene for how many babies we legally kill each year.
In Wisconsin, it’s easier to get reliable numbers. Since 1973 and the legalizing of this insanity, we have killed over 530,000 babies—a number that is more than the combined populations of Madison, Green Bay, Racine, Eau Claire and La Crosse.
In 2011, Wisconsin suffered 7,249 abortions, which is about 20 abortions a day. Abortions…that word seems so sterile. No, we legally killed about 20 unborn babies each of the 365 days of the year. Why did we kill these babies? Well, according to the women, the top reason was either they were “unready for responsibility” or they “[couldn’t] afford [a] baby now,” followed fairly closely by being “concerned about how a baby would change [her] life.” Now, aren’t those just stunning reasons for murdering a child in utero?
What’s especially troubling to me in all these statistics is that in 2011, 78% of the abortions performed in Wisconsin were on women who were never married. And another 8% were performed on women who were divorced, which means 86% of the abortions were performed on single women. Please, please, please stop telling me that marriage doesn’t matter. If you are pro-life, you ought to be avidly, rabidly pro-marriage. The safest place for babies is to be conceived by men and women who are married to each other.
Moving on, just think of what we have lost with the killing of over 530,000 potential Wisconsin citizens: teachers, preachers, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, musicians, engineers and, for all those concerned about Wisconsin’s economic future—workers and taxpayers. The loss in every way we want to think about it is absolutely staggering.
Now, that’s the bad and the bleak news. There is some good news for us in The Badger State. In 1980, Wisconsin killed 21,754 babies, which was 29 out of every 100 live births in this state, and represented 20 out of every 1000 women. After 2000, we saw our abortion numbers begin to drop and to drop pretty significantly.
In 2005, we were down to 9,817 and in 2008, we dropped to 8,229 and in 2011, we reached a record low for this post-Roe v. Wade world, with 7, 249 abortions in Wisconsin. Those statistics are significant and impressive—but we know they aren’t just statistics. They are real babies, real women, and real men who are affected by this life-taking decision and procedure.
Much of the drop in abortions is directly related to the excellent work by the organizations in Wisconsin that are pro-life and our collective work in getting good laws passed—laws that make it harder to get an abortion, laws that protect women from coercion, laws that require that women face some abortion facts prior to the procedure, and more.
These statistics also reflect the entire pro-life community in our state. We have thousands of passionate, committed pro-life citizens who devote hours every year to standing up for life, leading prayer vigils, doing sidewalk counseling, working in pregnancy resource centers, post-abortive women telling their own painful stories, and citizens changing insurance companies and health care providers.
All of these have and continue to contribute our abortion numbers moving in the right direction. However, the numbers are still way too high, and we all need to commit to trumpeting the pro-life message and doing everything we can so that one day we will see the dastardly Roe v. Wade overturned and we will recognize the personhood of the unborn in Wisconsin and give to them the most basic of all constitutional protections—life.”