New Obama Admin Rule Could Bar Religious Charities from Federal Funding

President Barack Obama (photo credit: LBJ Foundation via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Religious freedom is under assault once again by the Obama administration, this time thanks to a new rule announced last week by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to the rule, recipients of federal grants from USAID are now prohibited from discriminating in the provision of services on the basis of, among other things, “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” While innocent sounding on its face, as the Washington Times reports, the new rule could have an enormous impact on who the federal government contracts with, particularly when it comes to faith-based groups:

Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said the rule will create more problems than it solves.

“Of course everyone that is eligible for aid should receive it, but the new rule is a solution in search of a problem and threatens religious aid organizations that provide vital services in reasonable and culturally sensitive ways,” Mr. Severino said. “For example, disaster relief agencies may now be required to open their women’s shower and sleeping facilities to biological males who self-identify as women or be stripped of all funding for alleged ‘gender identity discrimination.’”

Private contractors and nonprofits, many of them Catholic charities or religious humanitarian organizations, receive $16 billion in funding from USAID every year to fight poverty, start schools and eradicate disease, among other endeavors.

[…]

“Time and again, we see that when the LGBT agenda conflicts with religious liberty, according to President Obama, religious liberty must lose,” Mr.

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Poll: Voters Reject Democrats’ “Gender Identity” Agenda in This Swing State

Score another point for sanity.

A survey taken of voters in Arizona earlier this month shows that many Americans still have not bought into the idea that biology is completely irrelevant when it comes to bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other such public facilities.

According to the poll, just over half of respondents — 50.6 percent — said that individuals “should be required to use the restroom that matches their gender at birth.” Only 39.3 percent said that bathroom usage should be determined based off of how people “define their own gender.”

These results come amidst increasing opposition nationwide to the left’s radical “gender identity” agenda. Last week, a federal judge upheld a ruling against the Obama administration’s transgender school bathroom edict, preventing the president from enforcing a policy which would have forced schools across the country to allow students to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers and to participate on sports teams and in other sex-segregated activities based on their “internal sense of gender.”

We also reported here on The Pulse last week about recent developments in Massachusetts, where a number of churches have sued the state government over a law which would severely penalize houses of worship for failing to adhere to the new transgender ideology. Now, it’s possible that law could be voted down by statewide ballot in 2018.

And in North Carolina, ground-zero for the left’s bullying tactics, Gov. Pat McCrory’s odds of winning his race for reelection have greatly improved in the last couple weeks despite attempts by Democrats and the corporate-entertainment establishment to vilify him over his support for HB 2. Continue Reading

Obama Touts Education Legacy, But Ignores Dismal Reality

President Barack Obama (photo credit: Daniel Borman via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Susan Berry of Breitbart reports on President Obama’s recent speech to an audience of high-school students, describing the state of his administration’s education policy. Parts of the speech obviously emerged from his parallel universe. Other parts provided warnings, disguised as promises, about what the federal government might do to children and families in the future.

Obama claimed “real progress” in educational achievement during his almost eight years in office. He bragged about his Race to the Top program, which “inspired students to set higher, better standards [Common Core] so that we could out-teach and out-compete other nations.” Like his comrade-in-arms Jeb Bush in a Harvard speech last week, Obama didn’t explain why he considers Common Core “higher” or “better.” Maybe because college-dropout and well-known education expert Bill Gates says so.

As evidence of the effect Common Core has had on educational achievement, Obama could have cited scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP, called the “nation’s report card”). But he chose not to, perhaps because NAEP scores have stagnated or fallen since most states fully implemented Common Core.

But what about his claim that his Common Core and other policies will improve college-readiness, especially for minority students? NAEP college-readiness scores also declined last year. And in Kentucky — the state that has implemented Common Core longer than any other — the achievement gap between white and non-Asian minority students is increasing. Well done, Mr. Obama.

Now for the threats. Continue Reading

Frustrated Jeb Bush Still Won’t Give Up on Common Core

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jeb Bush is disgruntled. The grand Common Core edifice is crumbling around him, and he can do little other than lash out at the people responsible. He did so last week in a forum held at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he has spent several weeks co-teaching a class on education reform.

During the 93-minute conversation, Bush advocated a number of reform-y ideas, such as school choice (the tax money should follow the child), digital learning (technology should be “integral to the learning experience”), expanded preschool (with training for teachers to handle “every interaction with a four-year-old”), and competency-based training (as opposed to genuine liberal-arts education). But nothing engaged his emotions — primarily anger and frustration — more than discussion of the politics of the Common Core national standards.

When asked about his support for Common Core, Bush doggedly repeated and expanded on his mantra: “I’m for higher standards. High standards, assessed faithfully, will yield college- and/or career-readiness after 12th grade.” He didn’t explain why the Common Core standards are “higher,” but then he never has.

Interestingly, Bush also admitted that the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards were “probably” higher than Common Core: “I’m not sure why Massachusetts had to change — that was their decision.” If Bush really isn’t sure why Massachusetts ditched its superior standards for Common Core, he’s the only one in the education universe who is still puzzling over that one. A federal payout of $250 million can be a powerful inducement. Continue Reading

House Leaders Concerned by Obama Rule Forcing Doctors to Perform Transgender Surgery and Abortions

Amidst this tumultuous election season, it has been easy to lose sight of the shockingly radical policies being quietly enacted by the Obama administration as the president approaches the end of his term.

One of the most extreme of these policies was covered by The Pulse back in May: a new rule promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which forces hospitals and doctors who accept Medicare and Medicaid — so, in other words, nearly all of them — to perform “gender transition procedures” on both adults and children. The rule also goes even further, suggesting that health professionals who do not refer to a patient by the patient’s preferred pronoun are guilty of “illegal sex discrimination” since refusing to do so might constitute “creat[ing] a hostile environment.” And to cap it off, the rule suggests that sex discrimination might be expanded to include discrimination “on the basis of…termination of pregnancy,” implying that hospitals or doctors who do not perform abortion might be penalized as well.

The administration is already facing a lawsuit filed by five states and a number of Christian healthcare providers in August who argue the rule could force doctors to violate both their conscience rights as well as their medical judgment. And last week, 45 congressional leaders wrote HHS to express their “significant concerns” with the rule:

…[T]his rule, for the first time in history requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments on patients including children even if the doctor believes the procedures could be harmful.

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Obama Administration Wants to Kiss Your Local Schools Goodbye

President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom in Georgia (photo credit: The White House via Flickr)

If the Obama administration and its supporters have their way, the suburban neighborhood school could be headed for extinction. In a veritable symphony of bureaucratic coordination, the administration has figured out how to recruit three cabinet departments, liberal non-profits, and deep-pocketed foundations to this effort. It can be tough even to follow the sophisticated strategy for accomplishing this (and the president prefers it that way), but if we value our liberty, it’s worth a bit of effort to understand this scheme.

The administration is maneuvering to replace local control in education (and in other areas) with school systems that extend across entire metropolitan regions. This effort is bolstered by advocacy groups promoting “economic integration” to force suburban jurisdictions to either admit low-income students from outside their districts or redistribute the tax money that supports their schools to less affluent nearby districts. Lurking behind this plan—as with practically every nationwide education policy—is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The pincer created by Obama’s coercion from coordinated federal agencies on the one hand and Gates’s advocacy of supposedly social-justice taxing and redistribution on the other could squeeze the life out of the suburbs and suburban schools.

We Don’t Like Your Neighborhood

First, let’s have a look at the Obama coercion scheme. This ambitious plan is bound up with a new rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

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Civil Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration’s campaign to force schools to open up restrooms, locker rooms, overnight sleeping accommodations, and probably sports teams to students of either sex is not going well. The latest opposition comes from several brave students in Minnesota’s Virginia Public Schools, who are reminding the administration that they, too, have rights.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of these students and their parents, alleging the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Justice (DOJ) and the Virginia Public Schools are endangering student privacy and safety by instituting the DNA-denying policies. The complaint describes in shocking detail what the female students have encountered since the schools caved to USED and DOJ pressure. For example, “a biologically male student who identifies as a female — and who is allowed to enter the girls’ locker room under the district’s policy — went on to dance in the locker room in a sexually explicit manner — ‘twerking,’ ‘grinding’ and dancing like he was on a ‘stripper pole’ to songs with explicit lyrics . . . .” When not gyrating, he commented on the girls’ body parts and suggested he would like to “trade.”

Determined to defend their dignity, the plaintiffs complained to school authorities about this harassment and invasion of privacy. But instead of removing the male, the authorities forced the girls into less convenient restrooms and locker rooms. One of the plaintiffs was so upset by these developments that she chose to attend a different school this year. Continue Reading

New Obama Administration Rule Could Be Next Step to Taxpayer-Funded Abortions

President Barack Obama (photo credit: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services proposed Rule RIN 937-AA04 on Wednesday morning, in an attempt to further weaken safeguards preventing taxpayer funding of abortion. Focusing on the exclusion of Planned Parenthood from these grants, this move by the Obama administration could be seen as trying to set a precedent for the eventual repealing of the Hyde Amendment.

Under Title X, state governments can apply for federal funds for healthcare, which they turn around and distribute to health care providers directly. These funds are for family planning and related preventive services, including preconception, prenatal, and other family planning care. By federal statute, they are not allowed to be used by “programs where abortion is a method of family planning…except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother would be endangered.”

The Obama administration seems to forget that Planned Parenthood is an organization where abortion is offered as a method of family planning.

HHS has introduced the new rule to prevent states from restricting access to Title X funds from organizations like Planned Parenthood, except in cases “related to their ability to provide required services in an effective manner.” For charity’s sake, let’s assume that HHS fully intends to provide these funds to Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood has promised not to use them for abortions. Fine. This means that Planned Parenthood in Kansas (one of the states targeted in the proposed rule) will take, let’s say, $500,000 in Title X funds and use it for approved activities. Continue Reading

WATCH: Justice Dept. Training Video Pushes Transgender Ideology on Nation’s Police

The Justice Department’s Community Relations Service recently released an instructional video purporting to teach police officers across the country how to handle interactions with transgendered citizens in a politically correct way.

“If someone feels disrespected, they are less likely to trust us or cooperate,” said Sgt. Brett Parson, the video’s narrator. “If officers understand who transgender people are as part of their community, interactions will be a whole lot better.”

The instructional video then goes on to explain to police officers the nuances of contemporary gender theory, including terms like “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and “assigned sex.” An emphasis is put on asking people for their “preferred pronoun” as to avoid “triggering” them.

The narrator of the video details multiple situations in which a police officer may have to interact with a transgender person, and encourages them to prioritize the wishes and comfort of transgender people in order to provide them a “safe space” during police interactions.

Under the leadership of Obama-appointed attorneys general, the Justice Department has been on the cutting edge of LGBT activism. For instance, the Justice Department is currently suing the state of North Carolina over its controversial “transgender bathroom law.”

As The Washington Times points out, this video does not address these ongoing legal and political battles surrounding public policy and transgenderism. Instead, it encourages police officers to act as though these have been decided in favor of leftist gender ideologues already.

Really, the Justice Department has no business telling local law enforcement officers how to act professionally. Continue Reading

Federal Judge Blocks Obama’s Transgender School Mandate

This month has been full of reasons to celebrate for social conservatives. First, religious liberty activists won a major victory in California, putting pressure on far-left legislators to back down from an aggressively anti-religious freedom bill. Then, new polling came out, confirming that the American people think the Democratic Party’s position on abortion is unconscionably radical. More recently, Target had to change their “transgender bathroom” policy because a boycott orchestrated by social conservatives cost them over $10 billion in revenue.

The latest good news is that a federal judge has blocked President Obama’s most recent unconstitutional executive order, mandating dramatic changes in bathroom and locker room policy in local schools to accommodate transgender minorities.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor found that forcing schools across the country to change longstanding policy on such short notice — the changes are meant to be implemented for the new school year in September — presented “severe disruption” to schools’ functioning, as well as threats to local control of education and privacy matters.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” O’Connor said. “The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not, however, the subject of this order.”

As the legal battle lines are being drawn around this policy, the science surrounding gender dysphoria (the medical term for transgenderism) is turning increasingly against LGBT activists’ ideology. Continue Reading