The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 week ago

American institutions losing competence, losing trust

(API/Contributed, YHN)

From our American press corps to major political parties, and in some cases even state and national government, American institutions appear less and less competent and trustworthy by the day.

In my adult life, the first taste of it was in 2000 with the dangling-chad disaster in Florida’s general election. Granted, statewide margins had probably never been thin enough to make the percentage of error possible with hole-punch ballots a factor until the Bush-Gore race. But when the race was tight, accurately tallying the ballots was a problem.

It was the first time that I realized that we can’t take it for granted that these processes are airtight, or that the people charged with running them know what they’re doing.

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We live daily in a morass of “news” coverage, some from credible news agencies, and some from propaganda machines parroting partisan talking points or even baseless allegations.

That, combined with old-school news organizations operating mostly in facts, but tripping regularly over their own biases, has left Americans with no sources of information in which they can fully trust.

No mutually agreed-upon sources of information mean that Americans across the ideological divide possess no shared facts. If we can’t even agree upon the facts, you can forget compromise. We can’t even start a good-faith negotiation.

And now major elections — we’re looking at you, Iowa Caucuses — are clearly run by some kids from the A/V club who coded a new app this week, and are curious to see how it works.

The storyline in Iowa is one that will be used to craft lesson plans in organizational management and crisis communications classes for years to come. The entire debacle will be a lesson in what not to do. Terrible planning. Non-existent contingency planning. Sloppy execution. Disastrous messaging when the ship was going down.

Here in Alabama, we thought our own iteration of the Democratic Party was likely the least competent in the nation. They can’t even agree on who is in charge and should have the keys to the office.

Then the Iowa Dems said, “Hold our beer.”

So what’s the point in all this? It’s that for all of our advancement, all of our technology, and all of the tools at our disposal, we are no better off. In fact, we may be less competent within key national institutions than ever before.

That’s a problem. It is tearing at the fabric of our increasingly fragile national unity and stability. We can’t afford the level of incompetence that we’re suffering at the moment — a moment when we need the best and brightest minds and most diligent taskmasters at the helm of key institutions and processes.

Every time we have a failure of competency, it cracks the door for the conspiracy theorists to create more fear, stir more dissension, and deepen the divide. And while there are certainly instances wherein there is an intentional effort on the part of foreign governments or other bad actors to corrupt our processes and weaken our nation, it is more often the product of incompetence.

At this rate, hostile foreign powers and jihadists may be no more threatening to the future health and safety of our nation than our own laziness and ignorance.

Get it together, America. The stakes are high.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

4 weeks ago

The refugee question

(API/Contributed, YHN)

Alabamians have been watching in recent weeks to see how Alabama will handle the question of refugee resettlement. Other Republican governors have been split on the question, with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowing refugees into his state and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ending his state’s participation in the program.

As Gov. Lee pointed out in public comments following his decision, there is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the issue.

Many Americans hear the word “refugee” and think of undocumented migrants seeking asylum at our southern border, unvetted and unsorted. In reality, individuals who are termed refugees and thus eligible for resettlement have already gone through an average of two years of vetting, first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and then by the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

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People do not apply to be refugees. They are identified by the UNHCR based upon their displacement from their home country and a high degree of vulnerability: women, children, and those with significant medical needs rise to the top of the priority list. Ditto for those who have survived violence or torture. Once identified by the UN as qualified for consideration, the UNHCR conducts an extensive screening process to weed out individuals who might present a security risk.

The U.N. then refers those who qualify on to the US or other nations who offer resettlement opportunities. With the referral comes a great deal of data to aid the potential host nation in completing its own screening: iris scans, fingerprints, bio scans and records from numerous interviews and background checks.

The U.S. then conducts a second, equally thorough screening process to confirm the need for resettlement and rule out security risk.

For the lucky ones who survive this two-year gauntlet of questioning and waiting, this is where they are connected with one of nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for resettlement and subsequent support. Many of the NGOs are faith-based organizations like World Relief or the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

All of this occurs before any refugee is placed in a state like Alabama, Tennessee or Texas.

When asked why he chose to maintain Tennessee’s participation in the program, Lee defended the decision and shared about his wife’s work with female Kurdish refugees who have resettled in Nashville. The women became refugees after their husbands, translators for the U.S. military, were killed.

“I’m not turning my back on those people,” he said.

Lee, like all Republicans, believes in the need for a secure border and a safer, more orderly immigration process for our nation.

But he understands the difference between an illegal immigrant and a refugee. That difference is vast.

Alabama is a very red state largely because Alabama is a very Evangelical Christian state. We are bent toward conservatism because of our deeply held convictions about the value of human life, the necessity of religious liberty, and our distrust of big government.

But it’s those same core beliefs about the value of human life and the right to practice our faith as we see fit that should combust in the people of Alabama and set fire to a yearning to minister to women and children in crisis.

It’s that same gut-level desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to the “least of these” that should have us crawling over one another trying to get to our nearest NGO to help with resettlement efforts.

To welcome refugees is not to risk ourselves. It is simply to give a tiny portion of our abundance of safety, economic opportunity and liberty to those who have none.

You and I will incur more risk getting on the freeway to get home from work tonight than we will at the hands of resettled refugees.

There is, of course, a discussion to be had about how many such people we can accommodate, and how to best accomplish resettlement and assimilation into our culture. But as a Christian — and in light of the facts, rather than unfounded fears ginned up by political rhetoric and an erroneous conflation of the illegal immigration problem with the refugee question — I believe that Tennessee Governor Lee’s persistence in offering a safe harbor to the hurting is correct.

I hope Alabama will join Tennessee and make a decision that fully reflects the Christian faith of which our state is so quick to boast.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

2 months ago

Christ, Christmas and counseling

(API/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

We call it “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, it simply is not.

Those who suffer from depression or anxiety often struggle more during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. The loss of loved ones seems magnified when we are faced with the rituals of the season without them. The consumerist American version of Christmas generates financial stress. The relentless promotion of a saccharin, Hallmark-movie ideal leaves even those with relatively good lives feeling as though they aren’t experiencing the “magic” as intended.

These realities are the reasons I flinched when I saw a tweet last week from a prominent (50k+ followers) Christian. It simply read, “You don’t need a therapist. You need Jesus.”

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What a reckless thing to say to people in pain.

I understand what the writer’s intent was: to point people toward addressing the spiritual poverty that often lies beneath emotional brokenness. But the terse tweet was a swing and a miss for several reasons.

First, it shames people who do have faith in Christ yet are still in deep psychological or emotional pain. It suggests that those who suffer from seasons of despair are themselves to blame for these valleys because they haven’t “found Jesus.” I’ve got news: you can be walking closely with the Lord and still need help.

Additionally, this attitude essentially spits on the calling and ministry of legions of Christian counselors and mental health workers. People who have been called and gifted to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are hurting. People who have dedicated their lives to the selfless carrying of others’ burdens, and the patient nurturing of the wounded.

God uses us to represent Jesus to one another. To hand-deliver his love and healing to those around us.

He uses pastors to illuminate the truth of his word and help us understand how to apply it to our lives.

But no one ever says: You don’t need a pastor. You need Jesus. I mean, you have a Bible. Isn’t Jesus sufficient to make it clear to you? What are you, stupid?

He uses doctors to help bring physical healing to those who are sick or in pain.

Yet no one ever says: You don’t need a cardiologist. You need Jesus. All healing ultimately comes from him so you might as well just cut out the middle man.

He uses teachers to help us understand information and apply that learning to our lives.

But I’ve never heard anyone say: You don’t need a teacher. You need Jesus. After all, Christ is where all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are kept. Why are you looking elsewhere?

Scripture is clear about the wisdom of multiple counselors and explains how we each use our gifting in the Body of Christ for the good of the whole. So who in their right mind could flippantly discount the valuable contributions of godly mental health professionals?

Who could be cruel enough to deny a brother or sister in Christ the healing that God often uses therapists to bring?

It’s a blind spot in the reasoning of some in the faith community that is rooted in a dual ignorance: ignorance of what a mental health crisis is made up of, and ignorance of what therapists, psychiatrists, and others do to address it. They view it as a cultural band-aid slapped on cancer, when it is more like chemotherapy designed to eradicate lies that have been believed, and to repair neurological pathways. Sometimes it even involves a dual solution: a medical intervention to address a naturally-occurring chemical imbalance plus cognitive therapy to complement the healing. (Much like the dual process of healing an orthopedic injury: surgery to correct the structural problem, and physical therapy to restore strength and flexibility for more complete recovery. No one ever accuses you of being a bad Christian when you go to PT.)

But this is ignorance that — if left unchallenged — can do real harm. So challenge it we must.

If you have diabetes, pray for healing and go see your endocrinologist.

If your marriage is falling apart, pray for God’s help and seek the advice of a godly marriage counselor.

If you have a legal problem, pray about it and seek the advice of a principled attorney.

These are not either/or situations. They are often both/and situations. Don’t let someone else’s flawed doctrine strip you of all that God — in his mercy and wisdom — has provided for your care.

We all need Jesus. And sometimes we need therapy, too.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

2 months ago

Should all rights give way to the transgender revolution?

(API/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

Ever heard the maxim “Your right to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins?” It’s one the federal courts need to remember this week.

On Thursday, the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals will hear a case that originated in Florida related to transgender students and school bathroom usage. This decision will affect schools in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and may ultimately force the issue up to the Supreme Court.

The original suit was filed by a transgender student, Drew White, who was born female but transitioned to a male gender identity just before the freshman year of high school (in keeping with the student’s genetic gender, I will use the female pronoun). Last year the student won a lower court ruling against the school district which ordered the school to allow her to use the boys’ bathroom, rather than a single-occupancy gender-neutral bathroom. The school district has appealed that ruling to the 11th Circuit, asserting that providing the accommodation of a gender-neutral bathroom should be enough and that they shouldn’t be forced to allow students to use bathrooms that don’t align with their genetic gender.

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One of the primary problems with the plaintiff’s argument, in this case, is that she doesn’t believe her fellow students have any rights. All that is to be considered is her desire to participate fully in all of the male cultural norms and rituals — right down to the bathroom, with young men partially exposed as they use the urinals common to men’s restrooms — whether it leaves them feeling compromised or not.

Our culture decided long ago that restroom usage was a private affair, and one that was sensitive to gender.

Men shouldn’t be asked to bare themselves in the presence of women, and women shouldn’t be forced to be that vulnerable in the presence of men. I wish that all public restrooms were single-user and fully private. But in the absence of that, I am far more comfortable using facilities in close proximity to other women, rather than men. I think most men share that sentiment.

It matters. Particularly in a world where women and girls often struggle to feel safe.

At the same time, I understand that civil liberties require that all people — including transgender people — have access to the same level of public accommodation as others. If public restrooms are available, it makes sense that there must be an option that is either private or gender-neutral to meet their needs.

But to say that the rest of us must surrender our need to feel safe and comfortable in these public spaces is to strip us of our rights simply to make transgender people feel better.

The logic of the argument of the LGBTQ community is seriously flawed on this issue, as well.

On the one hand, we are asked to accept that there is an endless number of ways to identify and express one’s gender. It is without boundary –genetic or physical or cultural – -and can be utterly fluid. Yet at the same time, we are told by transgender advocates that in a case like this there are only two acceptable types of public accommodation: the traditional girls’ and boys’ bathrooms.

So, while there are innumerable gender identities, there can be no “third way” of accommodation that seeks to respect the rights of all practically?

Hogwash.

The gender activist crowd can’t have it both ways: gender and sexuality can’t be a free-for-all of expression, while the state and the rest of us are simultaneously restricted to the traditional remedies, oriented around binary gender, to accommodate it.

That’s not asking for equal access. That’s asking for affirmation.

I have rights as a woman to feel safe in the vulnerable, partially-unclothed world of restrooms, dressing rooms and the like. My 16-year-old daughter has the same right. A tiny minority of individuals, while entitled under the law to have access to reasonable accommodations, can’t exercise their civil liberties at the expense of the civil liberties of others.

It is untenable to say that all rights should bow at the altar of the sexual revolution, which includes the ever-increasing category of transgendered people.

So, go ahead, swing your fist. But you better watch out for my nose.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

3 months ago

Educational freedom enables personal, economic hope for Alabama’s children

(API/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

Part of the promise of school choice is that access to better education will result in increased economic mobility for those trapped in poverty. In our state, programs like the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) give children in underperforming schools or lower-income homes scholarships to private schools. It provides access to choices that have historically been reserved for the affluent.

The reasoning goes that if you take a poor child from a poor school and give that child a better K-12 education, he or she will have access to better options for college or job training. That better job opportunity will be the on-ramp to a higher socioeconomic class and all that comes with it: more social stability, better healthcare, etc. It also enables that person to contribute more to the tax base and consume less public assistance over their lifetime, which is another common good.

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There is growing evidence that it works.

Cities and districts which adopted school choice measures years ago, like the District of Columbia, have enough data to see marked improvement in graduation rates and parental engagement among parents empowered with the ability to choose the best school for their child. That boost in the graduation rate alone is a proven predictor of increased future income.

Only in a more market-based educational system, driven by vouchers that give the power of choice to all regardless of income, can all families gain a sense of ownership over their child’s education.

The majority of Americans understand that in almost all cases, they are better at making decisions for their families than the government. The Cato Institute’s 2019 Welfare, Work & Wealth national survey showed that 58% of Americans favor taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

And who favored them most overwhelmingly? The poor.

They know better than the rest of us that the nanny-state promise of a quality education doesn’t deliver for those in lower-income districts. In true American fashion, they desire the freedom to make some of their own choices, rather than being forced to eat what the one-size-fits-all system of mass education is serving.

To be clear, the improved outcomes associated with school choice are not simply about teachers and test scores.

Some schools — public or private — may offer a curriculum that is a better match for your child’s learning style than others. Some may offer unique extra-curricular opportunities that give your child a sense of belonging and investment in the school, driving better academic performance. And some schools offer education complemented by religious instruction or a disciplinary environment that is valued by parents and students.

We have to let people drive. We can’t preach that people should have a greater sense of personal responsibility while simultaneously stripping them of the autonomy required to be responsible.

And what if the economic mobility driven by school choice is fueled by more than pure academics? What if it’s far more nuanced and … human than that?

Transcending social and economic barriers is multi-faceted, and requires more than educational adjustment.

It’s about freeing children and parents from silos of cultural disadvantage and allowing them to wander across the boundary lines and “do life” with people who haven’t been trapped in poverty for generations. It’s about allowing children to have exposure to families where two-parent households are the norm. It’s about rubbing shoulders with kids who expect more out of life, and know — because of their own parents’ and grandparents’ education and professional experience  — how to get there.

If all you ever see and know is brokenness, you have a hard time believing anything else is even possible.

You don’t realize that the combination that opens the lock is not a single choice, but a series of choices: better education, work ethic, managing your money wisely, staying married, taking care of your children, etc. We learn these things through exposure.

It’s a mistake to think that support for school choice and support for public education are mutually exclusive concepts — they are not. School choice just introduces a level of accountability to public education that its bureaucrats have never had to cope with: customers who can choose to spend their tax dollars elsewhere when dissatisfied. Great public schools will continue to thrive in a more market-based educational model, and the bad ones will give way to other options.

Some individuals will grab hold of the opportunity for economic mobility inherent in school choice and others will not.

But it will be by their own hand, not by that of the government.

That’s what liberty looks like.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

3 months ago

Thanksgiving to God is profoundly American

(API/Contributed, YHN)

Aside from Independence Day, no other holiday is as profoundly American as Thanksgiving. With its historical roots in the first English settlers to these lands and their Native America counterparts, it’s even older than our republic.

Days of thanksgiving were a regular occurrence during colonial times, usually called for by the church to encourage parishioners to give thanks to God for blessings big and small. The Continental Congress, which governed from 1774-1789, issued proclamations for several national days of prayer and thanksgiving, a tradition that continued under Presidents Washington and Adams under the US Constitution.

Successive presidents issued similar if irregularly time proclamations. They offered thanks to God for the blessings he had bestowed upon our young nation and its people and encouraged the citizenry to do likewise.

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But it was President Abraham Lincoln who canonized Thanksgiving as a permanent feature in the civic culture of our nation.

In 1863, in the first year of the American Civil War, he called for an official day in late November to give thanks for the many blessings God had bestowed upon the nation that year. It seems counterintuitive to suggest that there was much to be thankful for as a bloody civil war ripped the country at the seams. But Lincoln reminded Americans that there had, in fact, been blessings: fruitful fields, no aggression from foreign powers eager to capitalize on the weakness of the Union, a growing population, and more.

About those things he wrote:

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.”

We’ve been doing the same on the last Thursday of November ever since.

But in our increasingly secular culture, I fear that it gets lost that we’re thanking a very specific, very real deity. That we’re offering praise and gratitude to the one Lincoln called the Most High God.

Modern Americans like to talk in therapeutic terms about gratitude. We speak as if we can be grateful for things without clarifying an actual recipient of that gratitude. But that doesn’t even make sense.

When you say “thank you,” you’re thanking someone.

So why has much of our culture pulled back from the obvious association between our national holiday of Thanksgiving and God?

It is because some don’t want to acknowledge that he’s there, let alone owed thanks.

They want to avoid the slippery slope of acknowledging God, because the next thing you know, your conscience will be prompting you to obey him. They fear that relationship because they think it will cost them something.

Little do they know, it’s only within that relationship that real liberty can be found.

However our individual citizens see Almighty God or their relationship to him, there’s no getting around the fact that the founders of our nation, and generations of leaders since that time, have held a clear understanding of the role of providence in our founding and subsequent survival.

Men of faith set out to build a nation, and with God’s help, they did.

Families of faith—protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and others—have sent their sons and daughters to die on distant battlefields, covered in prayers.

And those prayers weren’t to no one in particular. They had a specific destination.

It’s also true that the founders wanted faith to be practiced out of personal conviction and motivation, rather than compelled by the state, or even interpreted by the state. So, they baked into the American pie freedoms that keep our relationship with God in our own hands, and the government out of it.

That means that America is a nation of religious pluralism, and increasingly, those who don’t associate with any religious faith at all. But our cultural and spiritual heritage is one of a people who acknowledged, worshipped and thanked God.

Faith is a profoundly American virtue.

So, when we gather with loved ones this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that thankfulness is more than just a vague feeling, more than an emotion. It’s an acknowledgment and an offering.

We acknowledge that the blessings we have are from the hand of a loving God and that he’s due our praise and thanks for those good gifts.

It’s the American way.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, alabamapolicy.org.

3 months ago

Those shouting for equality don’t want equality, they want domination over ideas

(Salvation Army/Facebook)

I remember when it was tolerance and equal protection under the law that LGBTQ+ activists wanted. They said we could each practice our respective values, and should give one another the constitutionally-afforded space to do so. It was a fair ask, in a nation built on the ideas of individual liberty and pluralism.

Now a level playing field isn’t enough.

What they really want is to destroy organizations that don’t fully affirm their worldview. Those who resist will suffer the consequences in the business and nonprofit marketplace. All opposing ideas must be eradicated.

Of course, we’re talking about the Chick-fil-A fiasco.

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The highly successful Atlanta-based chain has always taken flack for the conservative Christian views of its founding family, the Cathys. Years ago, they gave personal money to nonprofits that promoted biblical views of sexuality and marriage, and the left came unglued. The Cathys and Chick-fil-A gave in and backed away from the donations. They pivoted to nonprofits that largely served the needy, many of them faith-based.

It’s important to note that there have been no credible allegations of LGBTQ+ individuals being mistreated either as employees or customers of the chain. It’s their pleasure to prove that we can disagree on some things and still be unfailingly kind. We can even enjoy a tasty chicken sandwich together.

GLAAD and others have had to dig deep to keep this rivalry alive, because the chicken people are, inconveniently, nice and generous people. They’ve given millions to organizations that serve people in poverty. Millions in scholarships for kids trying to make a better life. Millions to alleviate the suffering of homelessness.

Monsters.

The extremists have decided that it’s out of bounds for Chick-fil-A to support any organization that—no matter how much that charity helps those in need—espouses a conservative Christian worldview on social issues. We’re not talking about anything that deprives LGBTQ+ people of equal access to services or opportunities.

We’re talking about the right of charitable people to act like Christians.

Don’t look now, but there are some bigots in our midst. And what they won’t tolerate is the mere presence of a religious faith they don’t agree with from top to bottom; they demand the total eradication of values they don’t like from the public square.

One of the organizations Chick-fil-A has taken flack for supporting is The Salvation Army, which serves more than 23 million people in poverty annually. They do this as a response to Christ’s command to care for the least of these. They are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ community in the world.

I know, it’s a horror show. Cover the children’s eyes.

My grandfather was an alcoholic. His addiction wrecked his life, and caused him to cycle through lengthy bouts of homelessness. He would disappear for months at a time.

When those absences stretched over the coldest months, with no word from him, we would pray that he was safe. That someone would care for him. Often, when he returned home, he would tell us of how he was able to find a warm bed, a hot meal, and someone to pray for him if the city had a Salvation Army.

But Dana, you say, isn’t the problem that they discriminate against LGBTQ+ people?

In short, no.

The Salvation Army goes further every year to meet the unique and profound needs of LGBTQ+ people. The left’s case against them, and by extension the pressure on Chick-fil-A, is a gross exploitation of a few isolated incidents that the organization disavowed. It is deeply dishonest.

And this is what I would say to the fine folks at Chick-fil-A: you mean well, but this decision is a road to nowhere. Until you worship fully at the altar of secularism, it will never be enough.

The way The Salvation Army is currently being treated, despite all it has done to show love to people from all walks of life, proves this.

So if people with conservative religious values are no longer welcome in nonprofit America, get ready to dismantle not just the Salvation Army, but the massive Catholic Social Services network, and a host of Islamic charities. Oh, and most of the groups ministering to immigrants and refugees. Also, most of the organizations housing orphans. I could go on.

People of faith are the backbone of mercy and charity in this country because of—not in spite of—our religious beliefs.To bench us because you don’t agree with us on every little thing is to deprive people in crisis of desperately-needed relief.

So don’t preach to me about love if you are willing to separate suffering people from critically-needed help.

If you need me in December, I’ll be by a red kettle at the mall. I’ll be the one ringing a bell with one hand and eating a chicken sandwich with the other.

If my eyes are a little teary, it’s because I’m thinking about Granddaddy, and thanking God for the Salvation Army.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, alabamapolicy.org.

3 months ago

Children with gender dysphoria need love and compassion, not gender reassignment

(Pixabay, YHN)

A recent case in the Texas courts became a catalyst for loud debate regarding the intersection of parental rights and appropriate treatment for gender dysphoria in children. A 7-year-old child of divorced parents, born male, is believed by his mother to be transgender and that his desire to be female should be affirmed. The father denies the claim that the child consistently asserts a female identity and says that the types of treatment the mother would approve for him are not in the child’s best interest.

An initial ruling granted sole conservatorship to the mother, giving her full control of the type of medical and mental health treatment the child would receive. A later court ruling turned that on its head by granting joint custody to the parents, creating a situation wherein they must agree about the best care for the child.

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Transgender activism is the newest and most aggressively pursued cause of cultural progressives.

A term we rarely heard a decade ago is now in the headlines every day, whether it relates to public restrooms, women’s sports or child custody cases like the one in Texas. But multiple things have been conflated in the debate in a way that clouds careful examination of the moral, ethical and public health questions at hand.

The first hurdle is understanding the nature of gender dysphoria. This type of inner conflict regarding personal gender identity has long been recognized by mental health experts as a mental disorder and was listed in the DSM (the diagnostic manual which defines all mental health conditions) as “Gender Identity Disorder.” However, with the release of DSM-5 in 2013, it was renamed “Gender Dysphoria” to destigmatize the condition.

Why is this significant? Because the cultural progressives of the American Psychiatric Association decided that a total disconnect between one’s obvious biologically-determined sex and one’s psychological recognition and acceptance of that same gender is not an anomaly in need of correction. They wanted to move the mental health and medical communities away from seeing this as a tragic mental health disorder, and toward seeing it as an alternative way of being, that can and should simply be affirmed in many cases. The American Academy of Pediatrics has lurched quickly forward with its views and recommendations on the issue, as well.

But reason and science are stubborn things, and as yet, they refuse to get on the bus with the APA and the AAP for this journey.

Let me pause here to say this: my heart breaks for individuals who suffer, and for parents whose children suffer with gender dysphoria.

It is often accompanied by other mental health struggles like depression and anxiety, and I can only imagine the desperate desire a parent would feel to alleviate that psychological pain for their child. So those of us who observe and comment on this issue must do so with compassion. To approach it with the harshness or dismissiveness that often characterizes our culture wars is wrong.

But just as we would never look a person whose mental health condition predisposed him or her to some other sort of delusion — divorced from observable reality — and affirm that delusion, we must not cave to the cultural pressure to similarly harm those who suffer from gender dysphoria.

This is especially true where vulnerable children are concerned. We do not serve them or love them well to simply affirm that which is not true, encouraged by a desire to create a new cultural reality.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics has pushed its membership toward more affirming treatment, individual pediatricians are all over the board in how they approach gender identity issues in their young patients. But most agree on this much: there is little to no research that meets the normal threshold for establishing what appropriate treatment should be. And because the vast majority (some studies suggest more than 80%) of children who present with gender dysphoria see their symptoms resolve by adolescence, it casts tremendous doubt on whether medical intervention with inherent risks — like puberty suppressing hormones — would ever be appropriate.

So whether or not you have a moral objection to affirming transgenderism, it should give everyone on all sides of this debate great concern that children who are experiencing a mental health crisis might have their burden compounded by agenda-driven medical intervention which may have lasting negative effects on their bone density, their reproductive health, and even their mental health.

Even those who see no moral conflict in transgenderism should care enough about children to refuse to make them guinea pigs or pawns in a cultural battle where the data doesn’t support the treatment.

The scarce research that we do have tells us that the psycho-social problems of transgenderism do not disappear with affirmation, even when that affirmation goes all the way to sex-reassignment surgery. Can’t we at least give children the time they need to see where their symptoms do or do not lead, and give medical and mental health research the time it needs to formulate treatment recommendations based on good science, rather than cultural agenda?

For these reasons, I think the most recent ruling in the Texas case is wise. Empowering both parents reduces the chance of the child being subjected to treatment that is not fully supported by adequate research.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, alabamapolicy.org.

4 months ago

Christians should protect freedom of expression for all people

(W.Miller/YHN)

It’s an idea that we Evangelicals like because we usually hear it discussed in the vein of protecting our particular right to express and live out a Christian worldview. But do we really know what our constitutional right to religious liberty is rooted in, and what protecting it for the long haul will require of us?

This tension was clear in the substance of a recent debate between fellow conservatives David French and Sohrab Ahmari. Both men are Christians but have markedly different views on how people of faith should counter pressures from the secular left to protect religious freedom and foster human flourishing.

The issue they used to hash out the different approaches was Drag Queen Story Hour.

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Some public libraries nationally have been hosting events for children in which drag queens read stories to children. Obviously, the idea of cross-dressing and fluid gender identity conflicts with a biblical view of human sexuality and is objectionable to orthodox Christians. As a result, some conservatives have launched efforts to ban these events from their local libraries. They argue that as taxpayers, they don’t want a facility they subsidize to be used in this way. Ahmari believes that this is the right approach and that Christians are obligated to suppress the promotion of ideas that we deem spiritually or culturally damaging, especially where children are concerned.

French, on the other hand, sees it differently. As one of the foremost legal advocates for Christians in the public square, French has been very effective in arguing on behalf of faith-based organizations to ensure equal access to public facilities. The argument that he and others have used—with great success—to protect Christian access to public spaces (think these same libraries or public college campuses) has been that the government must maintain viewpoint neutrality in such matters, in deference to the First Amendment.

French’s solution for Drag Queen Story Hour? Don’t attend it. Better yet, use your equal access to the same space to offer an alternate event that you think is more in line with Christian values.

Win the culture over with the power of the gospel, which we do and should have the freedom to share.

Expressing disapproval of such events or ideas is one thing. Applying cultural pressure to entities (like the American Library Association, which actively promotes Drag Queen Story Hour) by voicing dissent is our right.

But we cross a constitutional line when we use the power of the government to restrain free speech we don’t agree with. And the other side of that line is dangerous ground for the church.

The government should never be in the business of picking religious winners and losers, and the founders knew that.

In the Constitution, they provided us with what French calls “18th-century solutions to this 21st-century division.” If we get nervous and jettison that, we will not survive as a united nation. Evangelical leader Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention puts it this way: “Once you give Caesar the power of the sword to coerce the conscience in terms of religious matters, that sword is going to be turned on you.”

Both French and Moore understand that we are a missionary people in a land that is not our home. It is impossible to build and sustain a political power structure that ensures that Christians (or any other religious group) maintain power forever. If we fail to advocate for religious liberty for all—even for those whose belief systems we disagree with—freedom of religion or expression may one day be a luxury limited to those in political power at a given time.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

So what does that mean on Main Street?

It means that the future of Christianity in America depends on the preservation of the constitutional rights of all Americans, and the evangelistic efforts of the church. The Constitution doesn’t promise us government endorsement of the Christian faith, even if you hold to the view that most of the founders were themselves Christians.

Instead, the promise of the Constitution is a level playing field upon which to compete for the hearts and minds of the individuals that make up our nation and our cultural fabric.

What that also means, of course, is that we will have to do life alongside some people whose values and worldview make us very uncomfortable. There will be things that we choose to shield our children’s eyes from, and environments that we avoid. But this uncomfortable religious pluralism is the only way America can work.

Advocating for a person’s constitutional right to worship or speak as they choose is not an endorsement of what they say or do. Historians can’t agree on who to attribute this maxim to (Was it Voltaire or Evelyn Beatrice Hall? Or kind of both?) but it represents the heart and wisdom of free speech rights: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Our efforts to preserve religious liberty for the Christian faith must be grounded in the defense of government neutrality toward free speech and free expression.

It is hard work, to be sure.

But wouldn’t we rather the culture look Christian because it is truly Christian, rather than looking Christian because it’s illegal to look otherwise?

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, alabamapolicy.org.