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Updated: 3 hours 22 min ago

GOP-Leaning States Line Up to Require Work for Medicaid

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 17:25

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Republicans this past week began to realize their long-held goal of requiring certain adults to work, get job training or perform community service in exchange for getting health coverage through Medicaid.

Whether that’s a commonsense approach or an added burden that will end up costing many Americans their health insurance will now be debated in states across the country considering the landmark change to the nation’s largest health insurance program.

To Medicaid recipients such as Thomas J. Penister of Milwaukee, it’s created uncertainty about their ability to have health coverage.

He has been unemployed for the last four or five years and has received Medicaid for the past two. He sees a behavioral health specialist to deal with anxiety and said Medicaid has made a big difference in his life.

Penister, 36, said he is not yet ready to rejoin the workforce and is unnerved by the prospect of potentially losing Medicaid. His state, Wisconsin, is one 10 that applied to the federal government for a waiver seeking to implement work and other requirements for single adults.

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“Would it be advantageous for me even to go into the workforce instead of me therapeutically transitioning to a state where I’m actually ready to perform in the workforce?” he said. He compared it to someone recovering from a car accident “and saying that in order for me to give you this medication, you got to go to work. Well, I can’t.”

Yet his story also helps make the case for those who favor some type of commitment from working-age adults who benefit from Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for poor and lower-income Americans. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, sought federal approval for a work requirement last year and said it helps prepare recipients to leave public assistance.

Penister’s status is unclear, because Wisconsin’s proposed changes would exempt anyone diagnosed with a mental illness or who is mentally unable to work.

Republicans say work and other requirements will return Medicaid to its original intent -- to act as a stopgap until people can find work. They say it has expanded far beyond its basic mission.

The program, created in 1965 for families on welfare and low-income seniors, now covers more than 70 million people, or about 1 in 5 Americans. It expanded under President Barack Obama’s health care law, with a majority of states choosing to cover millions more low-income people.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it will allow states to implement certain requirements as a condition of receiving Medicaid benefits. Generally, it will mean that states can require many adults on Medicaid to get a job, go to school, take a job-training course or perform community service to continue their eligibility.

Ten states had previously asked the federal government for the requirement waiver, and others are sure to follow. On Friday, Kentucky became the first to have it approved. Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, called the new requirement “transformational.”

Bevin has said he expects the move to save the state more than $300 million over the next five years in Medicaid costs. But he also estimated that as many as 95,000 Kentucky residents could lose their Medicaid benefits, either because they will not comply with the new rules or will make too much money once they begin working.

Critics of the policy shift point to the number of people who could lose coverage, even if they meet the new requirements.

“We just have concerns that a lot of people who still are legitimately eligible, who do meet the work requirement, will end up falling off the rolls because they don’t know how to verify or there’s a technology glitch,” said Marquita Little, health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

In Arkansas, the work requirement is among several new restrictions the state has proposed for its hybrid Medicaid expansion. About 285,000 people are on the program, which uses money from Medicaid to buy private health insurance for low-income people.

Supporters of the work requirement cast it as a way to move more people into the workforce and eventually off the program.

“These are people that are either underemployed or do not have sufficient training, and this is a mechanism to put into place to make sure that the health care coverage is really a bridge to training and better employment,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told The Associated Press. “I think it really fits in with the goals of our state in increasing our workforce and training our workforce.”

States face limits on how far they can go. The administration has said states should exempt pregnant women, the disabled and the elderly, and that they should take into account hardships for people in areas with high unemployment or for people caring for children or elderly relatives. States also have to make accommodations for people in treatment for drug and alcohol problems.

Arkansas’ waiver request to the federal government says it would require childless, able-bodied adults on expanded Medicaid between the ages of 19 and 49 to work 20 hours a week or participate in other activities such as job training or volunteering.

In Maine, where Republican Gov. Paul LePage is pushing for a work requirement, Democrats are deriding the idea as essentially a political stunt to punish the poor.

“They aren’t about getting people back to work. Instead, it’s a political move to take health care away from people who have already fallen on hard times,” Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon said. “The reality is that Medicaid supports work, and the sooner Governor LePage and the Trump Administration realize this, the better.”


Ehlke reported from Milwaukee. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky; and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine contributed to this report.


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

‘The Fight is Not Over’: Walk for Life West Coast Holds Its 14th Annual Pro-Life Rally January 27

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 16:08

Walk for Life West Coast will hold its 14th annual pro-life rally on January 27 this year in San Francisco, California.

Started as an awareness campaign, Walk for Life West Coast seeks to "be a vocal and visual message that people of the West Coast stand for life," the organization states on its website.

Abortion Hurts Women

In an interview with The Stream, co-chair and co-founder Eva Muntean said she saw a need to bring awareness that abortion hurts women. "We feel that the Bay area, California West Coast really needs that message. There are a very high number of abortions here ... and so we started this as an awareness-raising campaign for women to know that there's help out there if you're pregnant, or if you've already had an abortion there are support groups. It's an awareness-raising event."

According to their website, Walk for Life West Coast is a way to "peacefully protest abortion, walking through San Francisco every year" on or near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year the event will take place on Saturday, January 27. The rally is from 12:30-1:30 p.m, starting at the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.

Walk for Life West Coast also hosts speakers just before the main event. This year, speakers include Terri Beatley, author and pro-life activist; Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist who now directs a pro-life medical clinic; Pastor Clenard Howard Childress, Jr., pro-life activist to the black community; and Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League.

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There will be an "Info Faire" with exhibits where pro-life organizations can set up and pass out material. There will also be a "Silent No More Awareness Campaign" for women recovering from abortion, hosted by Georgette Forney and Fr. Frank Pavone from Priests for Life.

In addition, Walk for Life West Coast has spurred 16 other pro-life groups to hold events of their own near the main event on the days leading up to and following Walk for Life West Coast. This year there will be events ranging from prayer vigils to barbecues with a pro-life message. The groups include 40 Days for Life, Students for Life of America and others.

‘The Fight is Not Over’

Muntean said she hopes that the event will raise awareness not only about how much abortion hurts women, but will also "let people know just how much the pro-choice groups lied to get abortion legal. ... So many people don't understand or realize that happened and how we were manipulated [to pass Roe v. Wade]. I'm trying to focus on that in terms of young people today -- especially the young people -- [who] haven't really heard or know about how this all happened."

"We're really out there to let people know that the fight is not over, that we're still here making sure that all life is sacred," said Muntean. "[We’re] raising awareness."

This year thousands are expected to participate. "We've been pretty steady the last few years," Muntean said. "We're estimating [that] between 40,000-50,000" people [will] attend.” Buses will be transporting many people from the surrounding areas.

For more information on the event or how you can become involved, go to

University President Resigns Under Pressure for Not Firing Prof Cleared by Three Investigations

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 15:18

Joel Seligman, University of Rochester's president, announced his resignation Thursday under pressure from activists who faulted him for not firing a professor accused of sexual misconduct, even though three separate investigations found no cause to do so.

A former Obama administration official who had been enlisted to re-litigate the charges for the third time concluded that there was no evidence of "a hostile work or academic environment for any female graduate students," instead saying that a federal complaint against professor Florian Jaeger contained misrepresentations.

"Some have urged us to simply accept as fact the allegations in the EEOC Complaint and the federal complaint. We cannot do that," reads the final report from former Securities and Exchange Commision chair Mary Jo White's law firm.

University President Joel Seligman's decision to resign was made minutes before receiving the findings of the third investigation. Though the findings turned out to be favorable to him, he wrote "it is clear to me that the best interests of the University are best served with new leadership, and a fresh perspective to focus on healing our campus."

Four hundred professors urged their students not to apply to the university because of the allegations against Jaeger. The university did not fire him, however, because "through two separate investigations -- one by an internal investigator and one conducted by an external investigator--no violation of the law or University policy was found."

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Academics working under him then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), laying out a series of claims against the professor, but White's report found that not all its claims were supported.

After a Mother Jones story about the complaints, students were worked into a frenzy.

"I would urge you not to reach any conclusions about what may have occurred based on the allegations in the complaint itself or in media reports," Seligman wrote in a September 2016 statement. "Allegations are not facts, and as we saw in Rolling Stone's withdrawn story about sexual assault at the University of Virginia, even established media outlets can get it wrong."

The reference to fake news only angered students more, and under pressure, the university quietly edited the statement to remove the Rolling Stone reference. It agreed to hire the white-shoe law firm and said it would be completely fire-walled, with the report released publicly at the same time that the university's leaders saw it.

Before the findings were even released, however, students were attacking the independent commission. There have been "attacks on the Special Committee and on our independence and competence since being retained to conduct the Independent Investigation," the report read.

The complainants refused to cooperate with the investigation, saying it could compromise their federal litigation. Celeste Kidd, one of the complainants, said that the report's findings were "obviously biased and designed to falsely call us into question."

Forty thousand people signed a petition, and student Lindsay Wrobel went on a hunger strike and wrote emails to Seligman, holding him personally responsible.

"You are causing people direct and immediate harm -- and you deserve to have to face that harm on someone's physical body so that you cannot avoid it in the ivory tower," she wrote, adding, "I don't think anybody has the right to criticize how oppressed groups protest their oppression."

"There is no evidence of which we are aware suggesting that there is currently, or has been since at least 2014, a hostile work or academic environment for any female graduate students" in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department, the report concluded, where Jaeger taught until he went on administrative leave.

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Midwest Democrats Warn Party to Change or Get Used to More Losing

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 14:58

A group of Democratic politicians from Midwestern states is calling on the party to change or face being a minority for years to come.

"The number of Democrats holding office across the nation is at its lowest point since the 1920s and the decline has been especially severe in rural America," Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, wrote in a new report.

After years of dominance in state and local offices, eight midwestern states turned solidly red around the time of President Donald Trump's defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Democrats have lost their authority.

"Hope from the Heartland: How Democrats Can Better Serve the Midwest by Bringing Rural, Working Class Wisdom to Washington," a report compiled by Cher PAC, an organization for Bustos, offers suggestions for how Democrats could accomplish such a feat.

Busto's report includes interviews with 72 Democratic politicians from "the Heartland" -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin -- who have won local and statewide elections despite the GOP sweep of the rural Midwest.

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At the national level, midwestern Democrats appear to be doing fine: 10 of the 16 U.S. senators from heartland states are Democratic. But the report warns that after 2016, "the rural vote in states like Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana will be critical in determining whether Democrats hold those seats."

To regain influence in the Midwest in 2018 and beyond, Democrats must change their messaging, focus on jobs and the economy, reach out to Midwestern voters more and adapt campaigns to rural America, Bustos, who is up for reelection in 2018, says in the report.

One of the big problems is that Democrats seem to be most interested in national identity politics driven by urban centers than reflecting values of voters in rural areas.

"We say we're diverse and tolerant, but we're really not tolerant of certain groups," said former Democratic Indiana state Rep. Dennie Oxley, according to the report.

"The Democratic brand is hugely damaged, and it's going to take a while to bring it back," Illinois state Rep. Jerry Costello Jr., also a Democrat, said. "Democrats in southern Illinois have been more identified by bathrooms than by putting people back to work."

The big policy areas Democrats should focus on to attract rural voters to, or back to, the Democrats are infrastructure, education, small business, economic and national, agriculture, and reducing government waste, according to the report.

"If we don't get this right in the next two cycles, we're done," Robin Johnson, a consultant and adviser to Bustos told Politico, adding that the report is "a cold reality check."

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Let It Go

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 14:19

The movie Frozen grossed over $1.2 billion when it was released in 2013. And despite it being my wife's least favorite movie, I was reminded of the song this past Sunday as a priest's homily tied Christ's roles as priest, prophet, and king to Lord of the Rings.

Yup, this is going to be one of those kinds of pieces.

Christ Let It Go

In his homily, the priest outlined how The Lord of the Rings has characters representing the three roles of Christ. Aragorn represents Christ the King, Gandalf represents Christ the Prophet, and Frodo represents Christ the Priest.

The priest pointed out that Frodo is the champion who got the ring -- representing humanity's sins -- to the Mount of Doom. Unlike everyone who came before him who had tried to destroy the ring, Frodo got right to the edge of the volcano that would destroy the ring.

But Frodo didn't do it alone. Sam Gamgee was with him every step of the way. Without him, Frodo would have failed a dozen times. And even then, ring's temptations are too strong for Frodo. It was only when Gollum's greed for the ring caused it -- and him -- to fall into the volcano.

Unlike Gollum and Frodo, Christ let it go. He bore all of our sins, and when it was too much he asked God why He had forsaken him. And then he let it all go, trusting our Lord to bear him to Heaven even though he didn't feel God's presence.

Let God

The oft-repeated phrase "Let Go and Let God" is an apt lesson for me right now. Unexpected financial challenges and other circumstances left me emotionally despondent last week. I hadn't been this down in almost two years, when an ex-girlfriend I thought I would marry broke up with me.

To summarize, I began to question my ability to make decisions after some unexpected and substantial work, personal, and financial challenges. I have also been not doing my part to ensure proper prayer at home, among other daily challenges. To add insult to injury, the pipes at our home froze and our dishwasher leaked water across half of the kitchen.

While I was not letting my emotional despondency take me away from my basic responsibilities to my wife, I was also struggling just to get through the day. She was a real trooper despite being ill. She did a great job of not letting me sink into any sort of long-term depression.

But I didn't really begin to come out of it until I reflected on Frodo and the image of Christ hanging above the altar. While Frodo couldn't let it go, Christ did -- and that's why He is the ultimate hero, while Frodo needed sin's greatest addict to ensure final victory.

I needed to let my expectations go. I needed to trust God with it all. Unknowingly, the priest doubled down on this point in a conversation after Mass. He said that it sounded like I needed to lead better at home with prayer, and that rather than put faith in the plan my wife and I put together -- I needed to put faith in God.

To paraphrase the priest, my family doesn't need my plan. They just need me. And I don't need the plan, I just need God.

Time to let it go. Here's hoping I can do so for the long term.

‘Hypocrite’ De Blasio Got Savaged by the Media for Suing Oil Companies Over Global Warming

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 13:23

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday stood side-by-side with environmentalists as he unveiled his plan to sue five oil companies for damages supposedly caused by man-made global warming.

De Blasio blames five major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, for damages caused to New York City by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The mayor wants companies to pay for the damages and for future projects to make the city more resilient to flooding and storm surge.

But while environmentalists applauded de Blasio's anti-oil effort, it fell flat among media outlets that have been covering his repeated use of SUVs and helicopters. Outlets were quick to point out de Blasio's own hypocrisy when it came to fighting global warming.

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New York Times writer Jim Dwyer pointed out the NYC mayor "regularly rides around town in an SUV" In fact, de Blasio regularly cruises around with a fleet of SUVs, including when he goes to the gym.

Dwyer pointed out that shortly after the announcement, de Blasio attended a prayer breakfast. His entourage left the gas-guzzlers "running while the mayor was inside, for about two hours," Dwyer wrote.

The New York Observer called de Blasio an "Imperial Hypocrite." the outlet pointed out that de Blasio has made excuses for taking a fleet of SUV's to the gym five days a week. De Blasio's fleet regularly includes GMC Yukon XL and a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, which only gets 20 miles per gallon.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson called out de Blasio for his past helicopter use, singling out an incident when he used a police helicopter from Brooklyn to Queens.

You used a helicopter to avoid the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway:

— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) January 11, 2018

Former New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin, who now writes for ProPublica, pointed out that de Blasio has opposed policies environmentalists believe can cut emissions linked to global warming.

Revkin also asked a very important question: who used all the oil de Blasio is blaming for damaging New York City?

There'll be heaps of retweets as @nycmayor di Blasio joins @oakland @sfgov in suing oil companies to pay for climate change costs. (@climatelawnews) But is he suing all the *users* of that oil? And.. 1/2

— Andy Revkin (@Revkin) January 10, 2018

New York City is not the first to sue oil companies over global warming. A handful of California local governments sued oil companies for selling fossil fuels that allegedly made sea level rise and extreme weather worse.

De Blasio's anti-oil effort also includes a plan to divest New York City's pension fund from fossil fuels over the next five years. Again, it's a policy wholeheartedly endorsed by environmental groups, but one that doesn't mean much if you continue to use oil to get from place to place.


Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Twitter Says Employees Were Openly Speaking of Censorship ‘In a Personal Capacity,’ Not for Company

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 13:10

Twitter says that individuals shown in an undercover video casually talking about how they plan on censoring certain viewpoints on the social media platform were speaking only "in a personal capacity."

They "do not represent or speak for Twitter," a company spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The video in question, secretly recorded by Project Veritas, shows eight current or former Twitter employees explaining how they will employ algorithms and "shadow banning," the act of blocking certain unsuspecting users from accessing an online forum, according to the conservative activist organization. The ultimate goal, according to the people with alleged inside information on Twitter, is to squash political beliefs that aren't acceptable to employees.

"One strategy is to shadow ban so you have ultimate control," said Abhinov Vadrevu, a former Twitter software engineer. "The idea of a shadow ban is that you ban someone but they don't know they've been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it."

Twitter as a company denies the veracity of such statements, saying it "does not shadow ban accounts," but does "take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still to click through and see these information (sic) if they so choose."

Providing further detail, the spokeswoman says this means that if such content is marked as abusive, or flagged as inappropriate otherwise, it makes it "less visible on Twitter, in search results, replies, and on timelines."

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"Limiting tweet visibility depends on a number of signals about the nature of the interaction and the quality of the content," she continued.

What these signals specifically are, however, is not perfectly clear. The overall process, while ostensibly automated, seems liable to subjectivity and the personal whims of a Twitter employee or engineer, as algorithms are designed by humans and thus susceptible to any biases of the creator.

"Yeah you look for Trump, or America, and you have like five thousand keywords to describe a redneck," Pranay Singh, Twitter's direct messaging engineer, explained on camera. "Then you look and parse all the messages, all the pictures, and then you look for stuff that matches that stuff," he continued while describing how shadow ban algorithms could be engineered to specifically target right-leaning content. 

"I would say majority of it are for Republicans," he said.

The video has stoked already-impassioned concerns from those not on the left side of the political spectrum, many of whom have long said that tech companies like Twitter, Google, Facebook and others in Silicon Valley are partisan and deceptive.

"We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative," said the Twitter spokeswoman. "Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules."

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This Man Received 167 Sex-Change Surgeries. He Lives in a World of Regret.

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 12:34

Recently I interviewed a person whose experience with gender change surgeries was so extreme, it gained him entry in the Guinness World Records book for the most gender reassignment surgeries for an individual person.

Blair Logsdon's story is a cautionary tale for anyone today who is considering the use of cross-gender hormones and gender change surgery to feel better about themselves.

Blair underwent 167 surgeries from 1987 to 2005 in his quest to resolve gender dysphoria with surgery. On a cold, snowy December morning in a Maryland coffee shop, he shared with me his story.

In 1987, at the age of 26, he underwent the first of many cosmetic surgeries to change his gender/sex appearance from male to trans-female. Within a few months, he said he deeply regretted becoming a trans-woman.

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For the next five years, he struggled in his life as a woman before undergoing a genital surgical change to restore his original male self.

But peace with his gender eluded him.

With gender dysphoria still present and feeling unsettled, Blair underwent yet another gender change and returned to self-identifying as trans-female.

Doctors, apparently with total and reckless disregard for Blair's emotional, psychological, and sexual well-being, ignored his obvious distress about previous cosmetic surgeries and indulged his requests for more.

Blair said he continued to have regrets about the feminizing surgeries, even as he strongly felt the need for more, caught in a cycle of hope followed by disappointment.

By 2005, seven cosmetic surgeons had performed 167 gender-affirming surgeries on his body, filling their bank accounts to the tune of more than $220,000 and leaving him, in his words, "disfigured."

Blair says he regrets all 167 surgeries. No longer turning to the surgeons to discover his "true self," he has found his true male self in following Jesus Christ.

I do not blame Blair one bit in his case. The doctors and surgeons failed him in their responsibility to "first, do no harm" -- as the Hippocratic Oath says -- and wrongfully profited from the 167 disfiguring surgeries. Yet they will not be held accountable or responsible for gross medical misconduct or malpractice against this good man.

At some point, these surgeons should have refused requests for more surgery and protected Blair from harming himself further. Instead, they chose to take advantage of his emotionally, psychological, or sexually unhealthy and unstable psyche.

Transgender People Could Benefit From Hearing the Truth

As a society we, too, fail transgender people by withholding the truth from them in the belief that telling the truth is somehow offensive and hateful. No -- following the evidence is not hate speech, it is the foundation of the scientific research.

Several core truths have been relegated to the category of hate speech. For example:

There is no objective evidence to show that transgender people even exist, beyond the person's own feelings and gender-dysphoric imagination. Strong persistent feelings of being the opposite sex are not based in biology ("born this way"), but stem from emotional, psychological, or sexual factors. Ignoring the protocols of effective psychological diagnosis harms trans-people because it guarantees they will not get effective treatment for co-existing disorders. The Truth: Psychotherapy Is Important

For the last 50 years, the transgender ideology has grown progressively more deadly and destructive as it takes lives via suicide, destroys marriages, rips family relationships apart (including my own), and now expects the whole of society to reject the physical truth about sex and gender in public places and in social interactions, under the threat of ostracization and legal prosecution.

Transgender people are provided only one remedy: to wholeheartedly embrace an alternative gender/sex ideology that attempts to redefine their gender/sex and promises healing.

When the cross-gender hormonal and surgical protocols and lifestyle changes fail to bring relief those experiencing gender dysphoria, as Blair found, often what remains is depression, despair, and regret, leading some to attempt suicide.

Doctors should focus on uncovering the parallel disorders that often lie at the root of the trans-person's distorted self-identity. These often include alcohol abuse, drug usage, chronic depression, and personality disorders.

Uncovering these disorders results from engaging in effective psychotherapy, not surgery.

Providing psychotherapy first in the treatment of gender dysphoria could be a key factor in reversing the staggering 41 percent rate of suicide attempts among transgender individuals.

It could also reduce the number of people who seek out self-mutilation in an attempt to find inner peace, and thus prevent these people from digging deep wells of regret.

I'm sure I will catch some heat for publicly sharing the truth here. But saving one life is worth the heat.

If you've seen the 1992 film A Few Good Men, you'll remember the pivotal courtroom scene where Colonel Nathan Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) shouts at the cross-examination lawyer (played by Tom Cruise) the now-famous line, "You can't handle the truth!"

The same can be said today to those who declare that the only treatment for gender dysphoria is to affirm it, to give patients cross-gender hormones, and to perform gender-change surgeries: "You can't handle the truth!"


Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker. Through his website,, and his blog,, Heyer raises public awareness about those who regret gender change and the tragic consequences suffered as a result.


Working for Justice and Persistent Prayer Go Hand-in-Hand, Says Worship Leader Jon Thurlow

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 12:17

Days ago, as millions gathered in the icy cold of New York City to ring in the new year, another group met 1,200 miles away to celebrate. They were also dancing with their hands raised as music blared, much like in Times Square. Rather than partying on alcohol, though, these young adults were gathered to worship the Lord.

More than 17,000 people came together in Kansas City for the 15th annual OneThing Conference on December 28-31, hosted by the International House of Prayer of Kansas City (IHOPKC) at the Kansas City Convention Center. They came to join in worship with believers nationwide and hear from Christian leaders who shared testimonies and taught from the Scriptures.

Event speakers included church planter Francis Chan, Bible teacher Mike Bickle, evangelist Todd White, seminary teacher and The Stream contributor Dr. Michael Brown and author Dana Candler. Worship artists Brian and Katie Torwalt with Jesus Culture in Sacramento, California led alongside several IHOPKC musicians.

One of those opening the sessions in song was Jon Thurlow, who had just released his latest worship album Different Story. He has served on full-time staff with the prayer ministry since 2004. In our interview, Thurlow shares about the recent large-scale event, how he sees worship and justice linked, and why adoption is a vital part of standing for life.

When Thousands Gather for One Purpose: Jon Thurlow Interview

The Stream: You and your team just wrapped up the OneThing Conference in Kansas City. What was unique about this year's gathering?

Jon Thurlow: This year was really special. The worship team is where I lead within IHOPKC. Our prayer and worship leaders agreed upfront to be intentional to do what we do in the prayer room during the main stage sessions at OneThing.

Let me explain that a little. In our prayer room in south Kansas City, we do two-hour worship and prayer meetings back to back to back. Night and day, it never stops -- it just keeps going. We've been doing that since 1999 here at the missions base. Oftentimes we take a Scripture passage and do a two-hour musical Bible study as a team. We dig into the passage and isolate phrases from it. We sing it. We repeat the phrases, paraphrase some and cross-reference with other verses. It's coming together as musicians and connecting with the Lord through the Scriptures.

"Wait a minute: this is really about coming together as believers to connect with Jesus. He is all we need." -- Francis Chan

To incorporate that element into a larger corporate worship setting led to a real flow. We had our spiritual antennae, so to speak, raised up. We asked the Lord in the moment: God, what are you saying? What's on Your heart right now? What's the Word that You are wanting to emphasize?

We experienced a unity of team ministry during the sessions, both the worship and teaching. We just did what we do at the prayer room down at the conference. We're about coming together, two or more, and touching the heart of the Lord. That really came through in Francis Chan's message.

Chan was talking about how we come to church with our cultural expectations. These evaluations go through our heads sometimes: Is this worship going to be “good” this morning? Is the message? That is so normative in our culture. He debunked that by breaking it down. He said, "Wait a minute: this is really about coming together as believers to connect with Jesus. He is all we need." If that's happening, there's not going to be anything greater or more powerful than that. It sent some shockwaves through the room when he was speaking.

I also love what Stuart Greaves taught. He carries so much in his heart about the revelation of the beauty of Jesus. Stuart shared how that relates to justice, even currently in our nation regarding the racial divides. I believe people were impacted.

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The Heart of Worship -- and Justice

The Stream: Your new album Different Story marks your first time recording with Nashville producer Brown Bannister. He's known for his work with MercyMe and Mandisa, among others. Was it a change from your other records?

Thurlow: It was a big shift. My previous albums have been either live worship or a raw, unplugged vibe. I had explored that raw, acoustic sound over several albums, so I was ready to change it up.

Brown Bannister connected with our ministry a few years back and began to record some of our worship artists like Misty Edwards and Laura Hackett Park. I knew a project with Brown would be more polished and professional, and I was cool with that. I was ready to get into the studio and make it more pop, in a sense.

Sometimes in the worship world, we can have a negative spin on the term pop because of our culture. But when I think pop music, I think catchy and singable by a broad audience. Pop is short for popular. I love the pop music style, so I was excited to take worshipful content that connects the listener to the heart of Jesus and put it in a format that is more polished and catchy.

Worshiping the One Who Cares

The Stream: The album includes a new version of your worship chorus "Shout Your Name." You sing an interesting refrain directed to God: "No one wants to make things right more than You." How do you see worship linked to justice issues?

When we sing to the Lord, we should be declaring what He's like -- His name and His nature. We're coming into agreement with who He is.

Thurlow: "Shout Your Name" originally came from a place of wrestling with a physical challenge that my wife was working through. She's struggled with chronic pain over the last several years in a heightened way. When you contend in prayer for healing and don't see results immediately, the disappointment is real. It's a place of wrestling with the Lord.

Building that song, this truth struck me: "No one wants to make things right more than God." It's true of who the Lord is. Whatever the issue is -- whether it's physical pain or a justice issue like human trafficking or abortion -- the Lord is very clear in the Scriptures how He feels about the oppressed, overlooked, marginalized and abused.

There's no gray area for the Lord with those things. He cares about making wrong things right. He will make them right in time. Sometimes He breaks-in in the moment, but sometimes it happens over a process. That phrase is applicable in many different contexts. To be able to take His heart for justice and put it into song, that is worship.

When we sing to the Lord, we should be declaring what He's like -- His name and His nature. We're coming into agreement with who He is. Lord, You care about this stuff more than we do. Justice and worship are not two disconnected realities. They go hand-in-hand. From the Lord's perspective, it's one thing and one idea.

Standing for Life and Adoption

The Stream: You and your wife are adoption advocates. Could you share about your ministry together and how your family has expanded lately?

Thurlow: I grew up in an adoptive family. I wasn't adopted myself, but my parents began adopting when I was in my teens. I have two siblings who joined our family from the nation of Haiti. Then I have two siblings who were adopted from within the U.S., who are African American.

When my parents began that process, I recall being 14 years old. My mom and dad sat my sister and me down and said, "Hey guys, here's the plan and what we're going to be doing." I remember thinking, This is going to be so much work! Why are we doing this? Diapers, bottles -- so much work?! In my young, immature, unsanctified, little mind, that was all I could think about.

But I'll never forget when my parents walked off the airplane carrying my little sister, who was six months old at the time. She was seeing a new nation for the first time after flying from Haiti. Even in my immaturity at that stage in my life, the idea hit me really hard. This is a person. This is a real life we're talking about. You can't put a price on a life.

The whole idea of the work and hassle just went out the window. It really did. That's where my own heart for adoption began. As for my wife, in college she began to go overseas to Russia on her summer breaks with a missions organization. She would work among the fatherless in Russia for months at a time during the summer. The Lord really began to stir her heart for the fatherless in that season.

When she and I met and married, adoption was something that was in our hearts. My wife really carries a heart for the fatherless in America. In the evangelical church, when most people hear the words fatherless or orphan, the first thing that comes to our minds is orphans in Africa or in eastern Europe. That's not a bad thing! That's good, we should be thinking about those kids and those nations. We should be thinking about the babies in China that barely made it out of the womb. We should be adopting from those nations.

Let's not stop what we're doing in other nations, but add to that. We can walk down the street and affect the lives of these kids who are right here in our own nation.

But if we limit our view of the fatherless to those environments, that's not a complete picture. Most of us in any given U.S. city can actually take a five-minute drive and find what's today called a residential treatment facility. You will find 50 to 100 kids living in these group homes. They've been pulled from their families because of abuse or drugs or whatever. They don't have parents. They're so close to home, right in our own backyards.

So we don't have to get on an airplane and travel 5,000 miles to touch the fatherless. We can walk down the street and actually affect the lives of these kids who are right here in our own nation. Let's not stop what we're doing in those other nations, but add to that. We've worked to get that message out to the church in America for several years now.

As of about a year ago, my wife and I entered a whole new world because our daughter was born. This mom-and-dad life is totally new to us. Now we're figuring out diapers and bottles and sleep -- how to make it all work! In the process, we've fallen so in love with our little girl. We're so blessed by her life and the joy that she brings. She loves hugs. She has lots of smiles and energy. She makes us laugh all the time. We're having a blast with her.

We desire to adopt in the future. The Lord has put that in our hearts, and we're trusting Him with the timing.

Prayer and Pro-Life

The Stream: You spoke earlier about pro-life prayer as a justice issue. As you may know, the 45th annual March for Life is coming up in Washington, D.C. Why is it that the prayer movement has been so involved in the pro-life cause?

Thurlow: One thing the prayer movement has taken hold of is the revelation of Jesus as a judge. In many circles in the Body of Christ -- and I'll include myself in that, for many years -- that idea of Jesus as a judge has had negative connotations.

Scripture speaks about how the Lord is a father to the fatherless. He's an advocate for the widow, orphan and oppressed.

We've so emphasized salvation by grace through faith, which we should because that's biblical. But I feel we've swung all the way over to: It's all about grace. Yes, it is all grace; I'm not minimizing that. Yet in our embrace of the God of grace and love, we forget what the Bible teaches. He is also a God of justice. He carries it all. He doesn't suspend one attribute for another.

The church has sometimes overlooked the heart of Jesus as a judge. This judge isn't a mean, angry God waiting to squash us. That's not what the Bible talks about when it speaks of the Lord as a judge. Scripture speaks about how the Lord in His holy habitation is a father to the fatherless, as in Psalm 68. He's an advocate for the widow, orphan and oppressed.

When you think about all the injustice in the earth right now -- specifically, in this case, abortion -- you have a people group who don't even have the chance to speak for themselves. Their lives are just being taken away from them. The Lord sees them. He is a God of justice. He cares about these kids that we as a nation are discarding.

It gives us great sobriety when we see our nation has the blood of millions of babies crying out from the ground. The Scriptures are really clear: that's a big deal to the Lord. When there are leaders in our nation who are not taking a stand for life, the Lord takes that seriously.

We want the Judge to come and bring justice, to actually save these lives. That's what He longs to do also for human trafficking victims, for orphans -- in the third world and here in America. We're calling on Him to break in, intervene and spare the lives of these kids. That's His heart. The Lord is always for life.

Jon Thurlow's album Different Story is available online including iTunes and Amazon. As part of the March for Life, several faith-based groups are co-hosting a prayer gathering called OneVoiceDC on Thursday evening, January 18. Watch for part two of this interview coming soon.

Military Photo of the Day: Treating a Patient

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 08:00

The caption reads “Hospital Corpsman Third Class Thomas J. Higginbotham, 23, administers cough medicine to a patient from Phong Bac hamlet south of DaNang. Hamlet elders received medical treatment, entertainment, gifts, and dinner during a January 8 elders’ day festival sponsored by the 3rd Tank Battalion.”

From the 1st Marine Division Press Releases and Photographs Collection (COLL/4532) at the Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

Supreme Court Could Pave Way for Internet Sales Tax

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 00:57

The Supreme Court will decide whether to expand the power of the states to collect sales tax from online sales, which could precipitate a vast increase in internet sales tax.

The justices announced Friday that they will take a challenge to a 1992 precedent which allows states to collect sales taxes only from those companies with a physical presence in their jurisdiction. As such, many states cannot collect sales taxes off of e-commerce behemoths like Amazon.

The 1992 case, Quill v. North Dakota, was occasioned when North Dakota attempted to collect a state use tax from the Quill Corporation, a mail-order office equipment company. In an 8-1 opinion, the Court concluded the state was interfering with interstate commerce, in violation of the so-called dormant commerce clause.

South Dakota, seeking new sources of revenue, set off a challenge to the Quill precedent in 2016 by adopting a 4.5 percent tax on all sales. Internet commerce platforms Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg challenged the new tax in short order.

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Skepticism of Quill grew with internet sales, even among members of the Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in a 2015 case urging his colleagues to reconsider the ruling at an appropriate time in the future.

"When the Court decided Quill, mailorder sales in the United States totaled $180 billion," Kennedy wrote. "But in 1992, the Internet was in its infancy. By 2008, e-commerce sales alone totaled $3.16 trillion per year in the United States."

"Given these changes in technology and consumer sophistication, it is unwise to delay any longer a reconsideration of the Court's holding in Quill," he added.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have also criticized the decision, according to South Dakota's petition.

Thirty-five states filed a brief supporting South Dakota's position, a startling number given that the states often divide over contentious questions at the court.


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California Mudslides Kill a Couple of 50 Years, 4 Children

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 20:36

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) -- The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

“At this moment, we are still looking for live victims,” Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said. But he confessed: “The likelihood is increasing that we’ll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that.”

The Mitchells were in love with their home in the seaside enclave of Montecito where they moved in 1995, according to their daughter. They also loved their dog, Gigi, who is missing.

The other children killed were 6-year-old Peerawat Sutthithepn, 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez and 12-year-old Sawyer Corey. None of the adult dead shared their last names.

All of the dead were killed by “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides,” authorities said.

Five people were missing as of early Friday, down from as many as 43 a day earlier, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.

Sheriff Bill Brown gave the larger number Thursday but cautioned that many or most of those people may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported they couldn’t find them.

“We were able to find people,” Anderson said, but added that the number could continue to fluctuate greatly. She said some missing-person reports are quickly cleared but others take time to resolve.

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Pitney said many rescues were still happening Wednesday and Thursday, but most if not all were of people who were safe but just wanted to get out of the area.

Among the searchers were more than a dozen firefighters who climbed through rubble in the backyard of a mansion that had been torn apart. Some rescuers used poles to probe the muck for bodies, while others waded chest-deep in the mire. Two black Labrador retrievers swam around a debris-filled swimming pool, trying to pick up any scent.

Crews marked places where bodies were found, often far away from a home, and used that information to guess where other victims might have ended up as the surging mud carried or buried them.

The mudslide, touched off by heavy rain, took many homeowners by surprise early Tuesday, despite warnings issued days in advance that mudslides were possible because recent wildfires had stripped hillsides of vegetation that normally holds soil in place.

The disaster was already unfolding when Santa Barbara County officials sent out their first cellphone alert at 3:50 a.m. County emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to send one sooner out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

As the rainwater made its way downhill with gathering force, it pried boulders from the ground and picked up trees and other debris that flattened homes, cars and carried at least one body a mile away.

From an aerial view, the community that is home for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Bridges looked like two vastly different places.

Trashed areas were awash in a sea of mud, with only the tallest trees standing and some homes buried up to their roofs. Next to some of the devastated areas sat large estates untouched by the torrent, their lawns still green and the landscaping lush.

After a better look at the damage, officials lowered the number of destroyed homes from 100 to 64 and raised the number of damaged ones from 300 to 446.

Searchers had checked most of the debris zone for victims and some were doubling back to leave no stone unturned Thursday when a crew ended up in the backyard of Bill Asher, who lost his palatial home and a similar one he was restoring next door.

Asher returned with a pickax and five friends and trudged through the debris to salvage any possession he could find.

He was still shaken by his harrowing experience Tuesday with his pregnant wife and two young children as the violent gusher arrived with a deafening rumble.

“I looked out my front window and saw my car fly by,” he said. “I screamed at my family and water started coming into the house. Windows went flying, doors went flying.”

The family rode out the storm unharmed on kitchen counters as the debris smashed through the walls and water swirled around them.

Asher’s return to the scene, where murky water was knee-deep, turned up at least one gem: his wife’s engagement ring, the only keepsake she wanted him to find.


Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers, John Antczak, Michael Balsamo and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles and Aron Ranen in Montecito contributed to this report.


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Facebook Fundamentally Changes Its News Feed to ‘Bring People Closer Together’

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 20:35

Facebook is fundamentally changing its arguably most integral news feature in order "to bring people closer together and build relationships."

But the modifications to the News Feed aren't being received so well, at least by some, as Facebook shares fell more than 4 percent in pre-market trading Friday.

One of the primary changes is substantially limiting the amount of content from publishers, and in turn attempting to cultivate more organic social interactions between friends and family.

"Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his profile Thursday night. "But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other."

Zuckerberg, in a way, tries to portray the move as a concession, saying he expects that people will spend less time on Facebook, while making engagement "more valuable."

If people ultimately use Facebook less, then the ads viewed will also likely decreased, meaning investors and the company's bottom line could conceivably take a hit, something at least temporarily evident in the stock market dip.

The effects of the alteration will stretch well beyond just Facebook, shareholders and its casual users. Publishers, like media outlets and businesses, will likely find it more difficult to advertise products or promote content. Many such organizations are almost dependent on social media marketing, with Facebook, of course, having a very large stake in that industry.

Facebook admitted last month that spending "a lot of time passively consuming information -- reading but not interacting with people" leads to reports of "feeling worse afterward," citing several studies. And the way in which people consume and treat content isn't the only important reason for the decision, as the type of information, like disinformation, is also possibly a contributing factor.

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Facebook's network referrals to publishers in 2017 decrease significantly, while Google's increased in an almost perfectly inverse fashion, according to Axios, with the correlation not surprising considering the dominance the two have in digital ad marketing.

Facebook received an enormous amount of flak for "fake news" on the platform, like during the probes into Russia's election influence, even though the amount of ad dollars allegedly spent by the foreign adversary were fractional compared to the overall digital and political ad landscape.

"Campaigns spent hundreds of millions advertising online to get their messages out even further. That's 1000x more than any problematic ads we've found," Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that was both apologetic and defensive. "The data we have has always shown that our broader impact -- from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote -- played a far bigger role in this election."

And the diminished amount of news stories and other related content on the platform may have already started prior to the announcement Thursday.

"Half the people in our survey saw no news at all in the first 10 posts in their feeds -- even using an extremely generous definition of 'news' that counted everything from celebrity gossip to sports scores to history-based explainers, across all mediums," a Nieman Lab investigation found.

Facebook says users can readjust their respective News Feed preferences if they want to see more posts from pages and accounts they follow.


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What the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Means for Homeschoolers

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:18

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 brings some welcome changes, one group of people was left out in the cold. Homeschooling families will not benefit from the changes brought about by the 529 expansion amendment.

529 allows families to save their own money to pay for tuition and educational expenses. Traditionally, families could only use the savings account to pay for college-related expenses. The 529 expansion, as part of the tax reform, was proposed by Senator Ted Cruz. It expanded to include K-12 tuition for public, private, religious and home school students, rather than just college expenses. 

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While the Senate passed the tax reform bill as it was, Democrats in the House used a parliamentary procedure called the Byrd Rule to carve out homeschooling families, wrote William Estrada, Director of Federal Relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) on their website.

Senator Cruz gave a blistering speech and called out democrats for failing to include homeschooling families from the expansion. Watch his defense of homeschooling families at the 6-minute, 10-second mark:



While the 529 college savings accounts may still be used by homeschooling students for their college tuition, only students at public, private or religious schools will be able to take advantage of the 529 to pay for K-12 expenses.

According to Estrada, HSLDA is working to “fix this discrimination against homeschoolers in 529 plans.” Senator Cruz along with Representative Luke Messer (IN-R) have promised to introduce legislation to correct the discrimination. Representatives Jason Smith (MO-R), Steve King (IA-R) and Karen Handel (GA-R) have already introduced such legislation. 

Women’s March Plans New Event, But Rejects Human Rights

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:51

On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Washington became the largest march in American history. On January 21, 2018, Women’s March, the organization behind last year’s historic protest, will hold an anniversary event in Nevada. Like last year, similar events will be held in cities around the nation. 

This year’s event is called “Power to the Polls.” According to the website, it’ll “launch a national voter registration tour” and “channel the energy and activism of the Women’s March into tangible strategies and concrete wins in 2018.”

But something else is happening on January 21. It’s Sanctity of Life Sunday. Every year around this time, pro-lifers observe the anniversary of Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Often it’s with sermons about the value of life, and education on how to get hands-on in the pro-life movement. It’s sometimes marked with a presidential proclamation.

There are plenty of problems with Women’s March and its events. But the fact that Sanctity of Life Sunday falls on the same day as its next event highlights the worst problem of all. 

Human Rights are Human Rights

Let me put politics aside for a moment. To be honest, I sympathize with Women’s March’s desire to lift up the marginalized. Though its solutions are often misguided, the organization’s desire fight for minority communities, disabled people, immigrants and others is clear. Those involved want to make life better for people who have traditionally struggled and held little influence. 

And this is where -- politics still aside -- the movement is choked by sad irony.

While claiming to exalt the marginalized, members marginalize the most vulnerable group of all: unborn children. They brush aside the very group that we as women, by our biology, have the privilege of carrying, nurturing and bringing into the world. 

If any Women’s Marchers are reading this, they probably rolled their eyes at that last sentence. Maybe they’d say I care more about fetuses who haven’t been born yet than real-live people. That’s false. 

Human rights have to start in the womb, otherwise they’re meaningless outside it.

Here’s the deal: you can’t value any human life if you rob it of its inherent right to exist. 

The Women’s March website lists several “unity principles.” Among them are statements like “Women’s rights are human rights,” and “LGBTQIA rights are human rights.” But it fails to include the most obvious statement of all: Human rights are human rights.

The Other Women

This is why so many women cannot join in Women’s March events. It’s not just that Women’s March rejects pro-lifers -- which the organization has done at an official level, by the way. It’s that, despite touting so many “human rights,” the movement has rejected the most basic human right. 

There are plenty of other reasons to criticize Women’s March and its efforts. Their affiliation with an anti-American, terrorist-supporting activist, for one. The fact that they include as “women” people who are biologically male and only undermine true women’s causes, for another. And the fact that the only women they care about promoting are those who will further an extremely progressive agenda. 

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But the fact that they reject the most basic human right -- life -- and evangelize for the cause, is the most telling. 

So on January 21st, thousands, or maybe millions of women will gather around the nation for the “Power to the Polls” event. But millions of others will gather in churches. They’ll gather in pregnancy centers, shelters, and ministries. They’ll be helping women and their babies to not only make it, but thrive.

And they’ll be praying. Praying for the restoration of the most basic human right, and the liberation of America’s women from this lie that unborn life is the enemy.

Two Christian Leaders Have Branded Me ‘Dangerous.’ Here’s My Response

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:19

In a remarkable interview on Too Wretched for Radio, Todd Friel and Phil Johnson branded me "dangerous," called me "sub-orthodox," said I was "willfully self-deceived," stated that I've done "enough damage," and alleged that I'm "on too many radio stations." These are just some of the charges they brought. They joined a recent wave of hypercriticism which included social media posts by people like Pastor J. D. Hall, who referred to me as more dangerous than most murderous jihadis. (He since removed that post, as far as I know.)

What do we make of such charges? And are they worthy of response?

I Take ‘Dangerous Dr. Brown’ as a Compliment

To put this in context, I get slandered, maligned, misrepresented, and attacked on a daily (or hourly) basis for many reasons. Like standing against LGBT activism. Critiquing radical Islam. Presenting Jesus as Messiah to my Jewish people. Challenging atheism. Confronting doctrinal errors in the Body. Not being a Calvinist (or a Catholic or something else). Being pro-life. Being pro-Israel. Being pro-Holy Spirit.

I actually have a "hate mail" file where I store the latest attacks, which often include death wishes (like, "I hope your heart fails," or, "You're an idiot; I hope you die slow from pancreatic cancer" -- misspelled, in the original, of course). I even receive death threats.

To me, this is a crown of honor, a sign of the Lord's favor, and another indication that our message, by God's grace and to His glory, is making an impact. I rejoice, in accordance with the Lord's words in Matthew 5:10-12.

And so, when I was informed that Todd and Phil had branded me "Dangerous Dr. Brown," I took this as a compliment from heaven (the exact opposite of what they intended). Their malicious words were like water to my soul.

When I was informed that Todd and Phil had branded me "Dangerous Dr. Brown," I took this as a compliment from heaven.

You see, I have often prayed that the Lord would make me dangerous: dangerous to the kingdom of darkness, dangerous to the devil, dangerous to dead religion, dangerous to the status quo of a sinning world. May we all be dangerous in that sense of the word!

As for Todd saying I was on "too many radio shows," I was shocked that a brother in Christ would say such a thing. Was he calling for some kind of censorship? Was he suggesting that only shows that line up with his particular definition of orthodoxy should be on the air? Aside from that, I felt great encouragement here too. To me, it was another sign of coming ministry expansion, allowing us to reach more and more people with the Word of God.

So, these zealous brothers have not hurt me in any way, and I hold no ill will towards them. Sadly, though, they have hurt themselves, they have hurt those who follow them, and they have dishonored the name of the Lord by being divisive and sowing discord. (See Proverbs 6:19, which teaches that it is hateful in God's sight to sow discord among brothers.)

Unbiblical and Self-Righteous Criticism

You might say, "But you're missing the whole point. These men are doing God's work. They are exposing error and rebuking false teachers. This is healthy and positive."

I don't doubt that in some cases, they are doing God's work, and I deeply appreciate that. Constructive criticism is a lifesaver. And I don't doubt that there are plenty of problems in the charismatic movement, of which I serve as a leader. (For more on this, see below.)

Unfortunately, their criticism, which can only be branded hypercriticism, does far more harm than good. It is destructive, not constructive. It tears down without building up. It strains out a gnat and swallows a camel. It uses double standards. It pronounces people guilty by association. And much more.

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The recent wave of hypercriticism says this: We will not evaluate you by your life work. We will not evaluate you by what you have written (in my case, more than 30 books and more than 1,000 articles) or taught (thousands of sermons and teachings and broadcasts and debates). We will not evaluate you by the fruit of your ministry (souls won, disciples made, churches planted, Bible schools launched, or humanitarian works started). We will not evaluate you by your character. No, we will evaluate you by this criterion: If you will not condemn so-and-so as a false teacher, you yourself are suspect.

Not only is this unbiblical, it is ugly, it is judgmental, and it is self-righteous.

What the Controversy is All About 

So, in recent days, on social media and elsewhere, I have been challenged to condemn Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, and Carl Lentz (among others), since they are allegedly false prophets and false teachers, all of them hell bound (I kid you not). And if I don't say they are hell-bound sinners? That proves that I'm willfully self-deceived and dangerous (in the bad sense of the word).

And what does that say about friends of mine, like Dr. James White, who is a cessationist and a Calvinist? He is now suspect too, since he remains my friend! (For our responses to this nonsense, see here and here.)

To repeat: These hypercritics do not hurt me at all. I live for God's favor, and His favor is more than enough. Plus, by His amazing grace, we are reaching more people today than at any other time in our ministry work, by far. (Any good that comes of this is all to His glory.) But these hypercritics do hurt many others, sowing discord, engaging in unequal weights and measures, and even rejecting wonderful biblical truths in the name of a hyper-narrow orthodoxy. In short, they have things totally upside down, majoring on the minors and throwing many healthy babies out with some bathwater. (In their view, there are no healthy babies in the bathwater.)

For example, during the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards wrote The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741) "in which he gives a list of signs which are not evidence that a work is not from the Holy Spirit." In other words, these things do not prove that a work is not from God.

He elaborates that if a work (1) is unusual, (2) is attended by bodily effects such as groanings, tremblings, and outcries, (3) occasions attention and talk about religion, (4) constitutes great impressions on the mind, (5) incorporates various means, such as good examples, for its success, (6) has imprudences or irregular conduct, (7) is intermingled with delusions from Satan, (8) has someone who falls into errors, or (9) earnestly promotes judgment from God's law, none of these signs indicates that a work is not from God (B. J. Oropeza, Time to Laugh).

Instead, the work was to be judged by the fruit it produced. Did it draw people to the Jesus of the Bible? Did it bring people under the authority of God's Word? Did it produce repentance from sin to holiness? Did it result in a burden of love for the lost?

If it did these things, Edwards reasoned, then the work was clearly from the Lord, since the flesh can't produce this and Satan won't produce it (nor could he).

The hypercritics are either ignorant of these wise words or reject them. They are willing to condemn charismatic brothers and sisters to hell because some of them shake or fall in meetings or some of them have been guilty of secondary doctrinal aberrations. Forget the overall fruit. Forgot your otherwise orthodox teaching. You shake too much in the meetings!

Is Heidi Baker a Non-Believer?

In the case of Heidi Baker, forget about the thousands of gospel-based churches she and her husband Rolland have planted in Mozambique. Forget about their sacrificial ministry to the poorest of the poor. Forget about her Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from the Kings College in London. Forget about the content of her books. Just look at her shaking and acting like she's drunk! She's obviously a false teacher, going to hell, and if I won't condemn her, then I'm willfully deceived. (If you think I'm exaggerating, go here.)

What's interesting is that I have no official ministry relationship with Heidi. I've ministered together with her in a conference once (in Germany, a few years back), and I had her on my radio show once. That's it. Her ministry in Germany was great, our fellowship between meetings was solid, I found her to be very serious about the Lord and quite compassionate, not to mention with high ethical standards. And I was blessed by two of her books that I read.

The hypercritics are willing to condemn charismatic brothers and sisters to hell because some of them shake or fall in meetings.

Is it possible that she might sometimes minister in ways that would be out of my comfort zone? Could be. Is it possible that I might question whether she was always under the influence of the Spirit when ministering? Maybe so. (I'm simply answering hypothetical questions. Nothing controversial happened when we were in Germany.)

But even if I differed with the way she ministered in a meeting, the last thing in my mind would to be condemn her as a non-believer. Yet that's exactly what hypercritics do (and want me to do). In fact, some of them have damned me to hell for simply affirming what the Bible says about the gifts and power of the Spirit for today.

Truly, my heart goes out to these critics. They have no idea what they are missing.

‘Wingdings,’ Augustine and Miracles

What's ironic is that I wrote a book in 1991 titled Whatever Happened to the Power of God: Is the Charismatic Church 'Slain in the Spirit' or Down for the Count?, addressing abuses in our movement. And in April of this year, I have a new, quite different, and far more detailed book coming out titled Playing with Holy Fire: A Wake-up Call to the Charismatic-Pentecostal Church. So, yes, there are serious abuses in our movement, and we've done a poor job of self-policing, hence the need for this book.

But none of this is enough for the hypercritics. Unless I affirm that Bill Johnson and Mike Bickle are hell-bound false teachers, I am sub-orthodox and highly suspect, if even saved. May the Lord have mercy on these critics.

Phil Johnson once commented that Bethel Church's Jesus Culture worship was a "bigger" and "far more important issue than abortion" since the leaders of Jesus Culture were "false prophets who are ushering people into hell." (This is an exact quote.)

Todd Frield once said, "Take a look at 2,000 years of church history. The only time you see any of these miracles, signs and wonders within the last 2,000 years, since the time of the apostles, were from fringe wingding groups." I guess he'd include people like Augustine among the wingdings.

Augustine once held to Todd's view but had to change his position after documenting more than 70 miracles in a two-year period. In his magnum opus, The City of God, he explained that he "realized how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old and also how wrong it would be to allow the memory of these marvels of divine power to perish from among our people," noting that these miracles attest "the faith which proclaims that Christ rose in the flesh and ascended into heaven with the flesh.")

John MacArthur is Wrong About Charismatics

Pastor John MacArthur, whom I respect and honor, and with whom I have some deep disagreements, once said, "the Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine."

It would appear that he has forgotten men like Oswald Chambers and A. W. Tozer, whose deep spirituality was directly connected to their experiences in the Spirit. Or leading charismatic biblical scholars like Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, and Peter Davids, among many others. Or leading charismatic philosophers and theologians, like J. P. Moreland and Wayne Grudem, among many others.

Rather than us coming together as believers to make a glorious impact for Jesus, we are condemning each other, sniping at each other and warring against each other.

Pastor MacArthur also alleged that "there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where's the charismatic hospital? Social services? Poverty relief? This is a scam." (This statement boggles the mind and is refuted thousands of times a day by charismatic churches and ministries worldwide. Yet Phil Johnson affirmed it on my radio show.)

Pastor MacArthur even said that the charismatic "movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship." (Sorry about that Hillsong, Bethel, IHOP, and an endless stream of other charismatic songwriters and worship leaders. For documentation of all these statements, with fuller responses, see my book Authentic Fire.)

Yet it is aberrant statements like this which have become the test of hypercritical orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that is sadly out of step with the testimony of Scripture and the ongoing ministry of the Spirit worldwide.

We Should Trade Condemnation for Unity

The real shame is that the world is dying without God and America is sinking into moral and spiritual oblivion. Yet rather than us coming together as believers to make a glorious impact for Jesus, we are condemning each other, sniping at each other and warring against each other.

My appeal, as always, remains the same: My brothers, if you have differences with me, then let's sit down behind closed doors and open the Word together and pray. And, if you're a respected leader in the Body and want to engage me in a constructive, non-name-calling, formal debate on the essential issues, let's do it. The more, the better!

If, however, you insist on branding me "Dangerous Dr. Brown," then I will wear the insult with honor, remembering that Paul's accusers called him a plague, an agitator, and a troublemaker (see Acts 24:5). Sounds pretty dangerous to me.


I have written this response at the invitation of The Christian Post.

Steelers Linebacker Gives God Credit for Healing After Injury: Mainstream Media Deletes It

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:02

Pittsburg Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier attended practice for the first time Wednesday since a spinal injury on December 4 during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Although he credits God with the progress he’s made following the accident, you’d never know it by reading mainstream media reports.

Instagram Post

Shazier posted a picture on Instagram of himself at the Steelers indoor practice facility yesterday. His post read:

I want to thank the Lord for the first downs that he has been allowing me to achieve. The touchdown is going to come in his timing, but today was a first down. I was finally able to make it to practice with my teammates. It's great to be back for practices and meetings. Just to be able to feel a part of it means the world. So I'm working harder than I ever have to get back. Ive been making strides over the past month and continue to make progress. Taking it day-by-day, but I'm far from done. The Lord has not finished his work yet. I want to say thank you to the fans and Steelers Nation for the prayers. If it wasn't for my family, friends and your prayers I wouldn't be were (sic) I am now. They have lifted me and my family through this journey and I ask for you to continue praying for me, as I continue to work daily on improving my health. #Shalieve#Steelers#prayfor50

I want to thank the Lord for the first downs that he has been allowing me to achieve. The touchdown is going to come in his timing, but today was a first down. I was finally able to make it to practice with my teammates. It's great to be back for practices and meetings. Just to be able to feel a part of it means the world. So I'm working harder than I ever have to get back. Ive been making strides over the past month and continue to make progress. Taking it day-by-day, but I'm far from done. The Lord has not finished his work yet. I want to say thank you to the fans and Steelers Nation for the prayers. If it wasn't for my family, friends and your prayers I wouldn't be were I am now. They have lifted me and my family through this journey and I ask for you to continue praying for me, as I continue to work daily on improving my health. #Shalieve#Steelers#prayfor50

A post shared by Ryan Shazier (@shazier) on Jan 10, 2018 at 11:13am PST

Shazier had spinal stabilization surgery on December 7 and has recently regained feeling in his legs. 

Passionate Pleas for Prayer

Shazier’s father, Vernon Shazier, is a chaplain with the NFL. He has been asking for prayer on Twitter through many posts. Regardless, the mainstream media deleted parts of Shazier’s Instagram post and ignored his father’s passionate pleas on Twitter. 

While The Washington Post printed Shazier’s Instagram post, they deleted all references to God in their reporting.












The Washington Post mutilated Shazier’s quote and reported that Shazier “promised that the ‘touchdown is going to come.'” In fact, Shazier said, “I want to thank the Lord for the first downs that he has been allowing me to achieve. The touchdown is going to come in his timing, but today was a first down.”

WaPo also deleted Shazier’s sentence, “The Lord has not finished His work yet.” They further chose not to print Shazier’s references to the Lord in the beginning of the tweet.

According to CBN, The Associated Press also deleted references to God or the Lord in its reporting.

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Court Decision Protects Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Centers in Baltimore

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:57

In a ruling seven years in the making, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the city of Baltimore to "lay down the arms of compelled speech" it had taken up against pro-life pregnancy centers, once and for all, last Friday.

The decision upholds a series of previous rulings in favor of Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, the named plaintiff who challenged a 2009 city ordinance that forced the city's Christian nonprofit pregnancy centers to post signage in their waiting rooms saying they do not offer or refer for abortions.

City politicians will no longer be able to abuse their power to silence those with differing messages.

Now, rather than strong-arming their opponents, they must -- in the words of the court -- "wield only the tools of persuasion" in their effort to appease Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and others in the abortion lobby who backed the law from its inception to its recent demise at the 4th Circuit.

At least 10 pregnancy help centers in the city of Baltimore are being spared the city's "weaponized" attack on their work -- including Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which opened its fifth location in May 2017, right next door to a Planned Parenthood.

A legal process that has played out since early 2010 has failed to establish even one instance of pregnancy centers deceiving or misleading women into their offices, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the ruling.

"After seven years of litigation and a 1,295-page record before us, the city does not identify a single example of a woman who entered the Greater Baltimore Center's waiting room under the misimpression that she could obtain an abortion there," Wilkinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee, wrote.

With pregnancy centers awaiting the Supreme Court's say on a 2015 California law that forces state-licensed pro-life medical clinics to tell women where and how to get taxpayer-funded abortions, the 4th Circuit's ruling could play into a number of state and local efforts to curb life-saving alternatives to abortion.

As Wilkinson pointed out in his decision, the Baltimore and California cases are distinct from one another because of the actual wording of their respective mandates, as well as the nature of clinic licensure in each state.

However, both laws are the result of a hostile effort to silence one side of the debate. That's why both -- as well as those in Hawaii, Illinois, New York City and Hartford (Connecticut) -- run afoul of the First Amendment and could be struck down in the long run.

"A speech edict aimed directly at those pregnancy clinics that do not provide or refer for abortions is neither viewpoint nor content neutral," Wilkinson wrote. "We do not begrudge the city its viewpoint. But neither may the city disfavor only those who disagree."

Abortion Fans Neck-Deep in Science Denial

While the decision likely marks the end of the road for Baltimore's attack on pregnancy centers, it's also just one of a recent flurry of failed hit jobs from abortion advocates aimed at alternatives to their only solution in an unexpected pregnancy.

In addition to the more significant loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, abortion crusaders have recently been dealt two stunning defeats in their all-out war on pro-life centers.

In December 2017, the California Board of Registered Nursing cleared a path for Heartbeat International -- a worldwide network of over 2,400 pregnancy help locations, which includes Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns -- to educate U.S. nurses on a life-saving intervention known as Abortion Pill Reversal.

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The decision from California's nursing board came at the tail end of a nearly two-year battle sparked and fueled solely by abortion extremists bent on robbing women of the choice to reject a chemical abortion once they'd started the procedure.

Having successfully saved 400 babies and counting -- and backed by a provider network of 350 physicians -- Abortion Pill Reversal is consistently and relentlessly decried by abortion devotees as "unproven" and "junk science" despite the fact that it's responsible for rescuing babies like Giselle, born Dec. 1, 2017.

While the abortion-only ideology is clearly pervasive in California politics, the board of nursing withstood heavy pressure from abortion lobbyists and kowtowing lawmakers alike, choosing instead to agree with Heartbeat International's argument that Abortion Pill Reversal is both science-based and effective -- even though it's unpopular with the left.

A Big Waste of Time

A third strategy now backfiring in real time is abortion zealots' ongoing effort to smear pregnancy centers with fake clients and fake online reviews.

Former comedienne Lizz Winstead launched the latest wave of vitriol last summer with her so-called "Expose Fake Clinics" campaign. The campaign not only failed, it failed spectacularly.

In Winstead's opening salvo, a phony rally outside of a life-saving center in Pittsburgh, a man and his son -- a toddler whose life had been saved through the center's work -- interrupted Winstead's snarling crew and forced them to face the fact that his son was there as a result of the center's ongoing work.

Winstead's efforts continued to flounder, but she tried to resurrect the project this fall, this time with a special emphasis on ginning up negative pregnancy center reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and Yahoo.

Rather predictably -- considering 99 percent of pregnancy center clients report a positive experience -- the online plank of Winstead's campaign failed just as spectacularly as its in-person version, with Google removing several dozen fake reviews by late October.

Shades of Winstead's online crusade continued through late 2017 and into the new year, but Tim Stephens of Extend Web Services -- which creates and hosts websites and monitors online ratings for 169 pregnancy centers -- said Google has removed hundreds of negative reviews to date, with more reviews coming down every day.

"We've finally been able to get Google to take a stand against these slanderous campaigns that are using Google's own tools to spread false information and attack pregnancy centers," Stephens said.

"The campaigners thought they were going to lay waste to the online reputations of pro-life organizations, but really the only waste left behind was their own time."

As the abortion industry continues to spin its wheels in opposition to pro-life efforts, the pregnancy help community continues to celebrate lives saved and families transformed, one woman at a time.

And, should the courts continue to shift the battlefield from government coercion to compassionate persuasion, the pregnancy help community can expect to go on celebrating more and more lives in the coming year.


Jay Hobbs is director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, the world's largest network of pro-life pregnancy help centers, and editor of

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Missouri Governor Fighting for Political Life After Affair

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:18

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Admitting to an extramarital affair but denying anything more, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens appears to be digging in for a fight to preserve his political life as other public officials weigh whether to stand with or against the once rising Republican star.

Greitens met with Cabinet members and placed phone calls to rally support Thursday while his attorney fended off with firm denials a smattering of accusations that Greitens had acted violently, taken a revealing photo or tried to blackmail the woman to remain silent about their 2015 affair.

Within 24 hours of acknowledging the affair in a contrite statement late Wednesday, Greitens’ camp had shifted to suggesting he was the target of “a political hit piece” -- even as the St. Louis circuit attorney launched a criminal investigation.

“This is a three-year-old personal matter that presents no matters of public or legal interest,” Greitens’ attorney Jim Bennett said in a statement. “The facts will prove that fully.”

For Greitens to survive politically, it’s vital that the facts remain exactly as he said -- that he had an affair and nothing more, said several Republican political consultants with decades of experience.

“The most important thing in a crisis is your very first public communication. It has to be the truth, and it has to be airtight,” said Republican consultant John Hancock, who has survived his own personal and political crises, most recently as a former state party chairman.

Greitens acknowledged being “unfaithful” in his marriage after St. Louis television station KMOV aired part of an audio recording of a woman telling her husband about a sexual encounter with Greitens. The woman, who was Greitens’ hairdresser, is now divorced from the man who had secretly recorded their conversation.

On the recording, she said Greitens had taped her hands, blindfolded her and taken a photo while warning, “‘You’re never going to mention my name.” The ex-husband’s attorney said Thursday that his client had told him Greitens also slapped the woman at a later time.

Greitens’ attorney denied each of those allegations.

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The TV station did not name the woman. The Associated Press learned of her identity but has chosen not to name her because she could not be reached for comment.

The affair occurred as Greitens was preparing to launch his campaign for governor. The former Navy SEAL officer and veterans’ charity founder won election in 2016 as a self-described outsider ready to blow up the political establishment in Jefferson City. In his first year in office, he had a variety of political confrontations with fellow Republican lawmakers.

Now he’s trying to address their concerns that he can still be effective during a session in which he has promised to deliver the boldest state tax reform in the U.S.

Republican leaders in the Missouri Senate and House released statements urging Greitens to be “forthright” and “accountable for his actions.”

Republican Sen. Dave Schatz said he received a brief phone call Thursday from Greitens and his wife, Sheena, to discuss the allegations against him. Schatz said he explained to the governor: “Before I render judgment, I want to see all the facts.”

Others had seen enough. Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington both said Greitens should resign.

Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, a frequent Greitens critic, stopped short of suggesting he step down but said: “I don’t see how he weathers this political storm.”

His reputation also took a hit in Iowa, a traditional presidential testing ground that Greitens had visited last fall. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement saying she was “disappointed and saddened” by allegations against Greitens. She didn’t address Democratic Party calls for her to return the contributions that Greitens helped her raise.

Greitens stayed out of the public eye on Thursday. But it’s unclear how long that will last. He had promised in his State of the State address earlier Wednesday evening to release details of his tax-cut plan early next week.

Hancock suggested Greitens should address questions from the public -- and the press -- in person.

“The worst thing you can do during the life of the crisis is hunker down,” he said.

Another Republican consultant, David Barklage, who worked for one of Greitens’ opponents in the Republican primary, said he doesn’t expect him to back down.

“He owes nothing to the party, nothing to the institution and has no reason not to take this to the end and fight it,” Barklage said.


Associated Press writers Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Jim Salter in St. Louis and Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.


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Trump Joins Governors in Backing Prison Reform

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 12:56

President Donald Trump has dedicated his administration to "law and order." Perhaps keeping that in mind, ahead of his meeting with the president, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said prison reform isn't soft on crime, but "smart on crime."

Numerous states have enacted criminal justice laws to lighten penalties for non-violent offenders and help ex-prisoners transition into society to reduce recidivism. At the encouragement of White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump is taking a national look at the matter.

Brownback, a Republican, said his state can offer a national example for what the country wants to do with the federal Bureau of Prisons, talking about two things that worked in Kansas.

"One is mentoring. Mentoring is critical. We've matched 7,500 prisoners who came out with a mentor on the outside. They've got to be matched," Brownback told The Daily Signal outside the White House before the meeting with President Donald Trump and other governors Thursday about prison reform.

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Brownback joined the Trump meeting in the Roosevelt Room with fellow Republican governors, Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Nathan Deal of Georgia. Both enacted similar policies to shift the focus to better integrate former prisoners for reentry to become productive and not return to crime.

"The second is to really engage their inside, their hopes, their dreams, their soul, that you can be better," Brownback continued. "We have a lot of people [who] are generally faith-based that become involved in these programs. They mentor, but they also engage the person's soul. Everything is voluntary. We've dropped the recidivism rate in half with mentoring and really engaging the soul."

Reforming the justice system to help focus on job training and rehabilitation for inmates about to be released has bipartisan support. Many conservatives back it, asserting fiscal success at the state level, while effectively reducing crime and recidivism. Also, liberals have long opposed overcrowded prisons and mandatory sentencing.

In Texas, crime dropped by 31 percent over the last decade, while incarceration has decreased by 21 percent over that time, with eight prisons closing even as the state's population has sharply increased, noted Brooke Rollins, president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which founded the Right on Crime initiative.

"This is a big opportunity for the country," Rollins told The Daily Signal before the meeting.

"Texas has closed eight prisons even while our population has exploded. These people are all nonviolent offenders," Rollins continued. "We've done this through drug courts, mental health treatment, and probation to keep people out of prison and put people back to work."

Trump told the gathering that the administration "is committed to helping inmates become productive law-abiding members of society" through job-training programs, mentoring, and drug addiction treatment.

"We'll be discussing a number of opportunities to improve our prison system and promote public safety," Trump said. "We can help break this vicious cycle."

Trump added that rehabilitation and re-entry initiatives could be "a ladder of opportunity for the future."

The policy is not at all contrary to law and order, said John Malcolm, head of the Institute for Constitutional Government at The Heritage Foundation.

"If you focus on the population that is going to be released from prison and is reentering society, you should want to reduce the risk they will go back to a life of crime," Malcolm told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the number one topic at the meeting was reducing former inmates returning to crime. She also confirmed that Kushner was leading the effort.

"He's hoping to lead that conversation and put stakeholders together from a number of different areas that have expertise on this matter," Sanders said during the press briefing Thursday.

Bevin made an economic case.

"The workforce in America demands this, is begging for this," Bevin said during the top of the meeting. "There are millions of jobs that need to be filled … We need them to become a functional part of our economic society."

Sessions, who has made tough action a hallmark of the Justice Department, welcomed the ideas.

"Frankly we got a report late last year that the money isn't being spent well," Sessions said, speaking of the federal prison system.


Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred@FredLucasWH

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal


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