Tuesday, August 3, 2021
It's Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Looming Crisis of Conscience: U.S. Congress Threatens Complicity in Abortion, Both Nationally and Internationally, For Every American Taxpayer
The nation is staring squarely at a crisis of conscience and Congress is threatening to put us there, every single American taxpayer. Threatening to put every single American who pays taxes on the line, paying for abortion, not only in the United States, but around the world.
The power to tax is one of the most awesome and powerful aspects of government. Government has the power to confiscate our money. When it confiscates our money, it then makes us complicit in its activities. When it comes to abortion, Congress for a matter of decades, about four decades has understood that it would be immoral and wrong to confiscate tax monies from citizens of the United States and then to use those monies to pay for abortion, thus Congress acted in a bipartisan manner in the 1970s to protect the conscience of the American taxpayer on the issue of abortion by adopting two different budgetary amendments.
These amendments have been attached to every major budget bill since the 1970s. The amendments are known as the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment. Both of them basically get to the same issue but in a different context. The Helms Amendment named for the late former US Senator, Jesse Helms, prevents the use of American taxpayer money for abortions abroad, abortions overseas that as a part of American foreign policy and health aid internationally.
The Hyde Amendment is the one that is more famous, more well-known among Americans because the Hyde Amendment prevents the American government from using taxpayer money in particular for programs like Medicare in order to pay for abortion within the United States. The urgency in our consideration of this issue today is the fact that in the last several days, Democrats in the house of representatives have moved forward on their threat to remove both the Helms and the Hyde Amendment from spending proposals. And they have done just that.
That means that the fate of the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment now basically rests in the United States Senate. It's a complicated issue when it comes to the congressional action. It's not complicated when it comes to the morality. The Hyde Amendment is known for the late US Representative, Henry Hyde of Illinois. And it was back in the 1970s in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the nation's shock over that decision, that Congressman Hyde made the proposal that spending from the United States government, particularly spending on health programs such as Medicare should not apply to abortion because that would coerce the American taxpayer into complicity for abortion and that means even paying for abortion.
He proposed his amendment on September the 30th, 1976, and he attached it to what was known as the department of labor and health education and welfare appropriations act of 1977. That amendment prohibited the use of funds "used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term." Since that time Congress has put on other exceptions, limited exceptions, but the point is that the Helms Amendment and the Hyde Amendment have withstood efforts to try to subvert them in the past.
But all of this changed politically and it reflects a great change in the culture. And in particular, a change on the political left, a change in the Democratic Party. Just to make the issue very clear, when he was a member of the United States Senate for about three decades, Joe Biden, then Democratic Senator from Delaware was an insistent supporter of the Hyde Amendment. He went so far as to say that it was necessary in order to uphold Congress's responsibility. It would be wrong, he said as a United States Senator to force Americans into complicity in abortion, and he described himself as a proud defender of the Hyde Amendment.
But all of that changed in the period of 2019 to 2020. As a matter of fact, it changed in a matter of hours when Joe Biden then running for the Democratic presidential nomination was presented with what amounted to an ultimatum. He would have to reverse his support for the Hyde amendment if he were to gain th.e party's nomination and go on to the general election. We now know the history. In the period of about 24 hours, he just completely reversed his opinion, his position on the issue that he'd held for decades.
He did so trying to deny that it was simply a political calculation, but even his advisers admitted at the time working for his campaign that it was precisely that. Rarely do you have a politician who can actually pull off a 180 degree turn on a major issue, certainly a politician who has been in office for a matter of decades and remember when it comes to Joe Biden, he not only supported the Hyde Amendment all the time that he was in the United States Senate, he supported it for the two full terms he served as vice president of the United States under Barack Obama.
But in the Democratic Party, let's just be honest, Barack Obama is so yesterday, he is so far in the political rear view mirror that you have major Democratic figures arguing that Joe Biden's success will be in refusing to continue president Obama's errors. President Obama's administration certainly in the first two years is often described by Democrats as a failure. They're telling Joe Biden not to let up, to press a leftist agenda all the way because they promise that will lead to a victory in a stronger Democratic Party.
That remains to be seen when it comes to whether or not it produces a victory, but the American people are likely, at least we can hope they are likely to be outraged by this effort to subvert the Helms Amendment and the Hyde Amendment.
There had been even in a politically divided America in generations past, a respect for the fact that the divide over abortion as a moral issue, as a conscience issue was so deep that the Helms and the Hyde Amendments were just responsible on the part of Congress. Even those who declared themselves to be pro-abortion, even as they might've voted against it, they understood that it was rather necessary as a part of the civil pact.
That civil pact is coming apart. And what we see now is that the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, has put herself on the line calling for the Hyde Amendment to be undone. Just a couple of weeks ago, the speaker of the house made very clear her intention to eliminate the Hyde amendment and the Helms amendment. Speaking of the Hyde Amendment, she went on to say that she believed it was a matter of justice, a matter of equity, siding with the most extreme proponents of abortion in the United States, the Speaker of the House said that Hyde should be repealed because it is "an issue of health of many women in America, especially those in lower income situations and in different states."
Here's where we need to understand something that's very, very important. The argument that is being used here is that it is unjust if there is an inequity and inequality, when it comes to abortion access, when it comes to say wealthier and less wealthy Americans. The argument here is not only about money however, it's also about geography. The argument is that abortions should be funded by the American taxpayer in order to make it easier and more equitable for any woman who wants to destroy the baby within her womb to have the ability and the access to do so.
One of the arguments that's being used by the proponents of the repeal of Helms and Hyde is that women actually don't have a right to abortion if they don't have access to abortion. Now let's just consider that for a moment. There's so many issues here. The argument that the right doesn't exist, and by the way, we actually don't believe the right exists. But nonetheless, as the left argues, a right doesn't exist if access to exercising that right does not exist.
One of the most obvious things to point out is that the left certainly doesn't make that argument when it comes to something like a right to own guns. They don't make the argument that the right doesn't exist if the access doesn't exist. After all, they're all about trying to eliminate that access at least to some extent or another.
But when it comes to the Hyde Amendment, you also have the argument that there needs to be equity. And this equity you need to understand is a really, really dark issue because in this context it means an equal ability and an equal access and an equal financial capacity to obtain an abortion to kill the baby within you. That's the argument that's being made here.
There is a disproportionality. There is no question about that. And by the way, there a disproportionality when abortion was illegal. The disproportionality comes down to this. There were wealthy women who could get on a plane and fly to a foreign country or fly to a more liberal state in order to obtain an abortion. Those who had less financial ability did not have the means to do so. That is, we need to know and inequity, that is to say, they're not two absolutely equal situations.
But Christians understand that equity is exactly the wrong moral standard to apply here. Equity when it comes to the destruction of unborn life in the womb. The Charlotte Lozier Institute by the way has estimated that the Hyde Amendment alone probably prevents about 60,000 abortions a year. That's just on an annual basis because the American tax payer doesn't foot the bill for abortion under Medicare and other federal funding.
But the issue is this, if anything, that number is likely to be far larger than that report, which is to say that when the federal government goes into the abortion funding business, it's just a matter of simple economics that abortions are almost certainly going to expand. The number of abortions may actually even explode.
Not So Devout After All: Nancy Pelosi’s Pro-Abortion Argument for Repealing the Hyde Amendment Prompts Blistering Response from Her Bishop
But we talked about Joe Biden, now President Biden, let's go back and speak about the Speaker of the House for just a moment. I mentioned that in a press conference, a matter of days ago, she indicated that it was her intention to have Helms and especially Hyde repealed. She defended her efforts and she went on to support federal funding of elective abortions. The interesting thing is, she did so while claiming her own identity as a devout Catholic.
Now here's what's really interesting. Obviously in her case, devout does not mean holding to nearly universal Catholic teaching, holding to the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that is ardently defended by the bishops of that church in the United States of America.
The Catholic Bishop of San Francisco, that means that Nancy Pelosi is one of his parishioners, is Salvatore Cordileone. And the arch Bishop made very clear in response to the speaker of the house that a devout Catholic cannot and would not support abortion, the destruction of unborn life, much less the funding of it.
In her statement, the speaker of the house had cited her Catholic identity, calling herself, "a devout Catholic and a mother of five and six years." She went on to say, "I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family, five children in six years almost to the day." But she said that nonetheless, she would not presume to have other women have to follow her morality. No, no to something just in Catholic culture the fact is that in one sentence the speaker of the house repeated the fact that she was the mother of five children in six years and she called herself a devout Catholic.
That raises a huge question of importance, not only to Catholics but to evangelical Protestants, who gets to decide who is devout? Well, on the Roman Catholic church the answer is, if your Archbishop says you're not devout, you are profoundly not devout. And the Archbishop was both insistent and clear stating, "Let me repeat, no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it."
The Archbishop continued, "The right to life is a fundamental, the most fundamental human right and Catholics do not oppose fundamental human rights." The speaker has been caught in embarrassing situations related to this and other issues over the last several decades. She has found herself, for example, in the position of misstating Catholic official teaching on this issue and frankly becoming angry when she was pressed to describe when she believes that human life begins.
That's obviously a question she doesn't want to answer. It would be very inconvenient to answer that question, because any way she answers it, she's in trouble. If she answers it according to her politics, she's in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. If she answers it in terms of anything consistent with historic teaching in the history of Christianity on the issue of abortion, then she will subvert her own politics. But the fact is that it's really clear that when it comes to Nancy Pelosi is the politics that drives her. But it's also clear, she is an ardent, honest, and very eager defender of abortion rights. The issue is it is in direct contradiction to the church of which she claims membership. That is an important issue for us to recognize.
And I'm speaking as an evangelical Protestant, and I'm speaking to my fellow evangelicals when I say, the time is going to come when we are going to have to make clear and the church discipline of our own congregations and of our own denomination, that we will have nothing to do with those who will support the abortion of the unborn human being, who will support the scandal of abortion, much less go on to fight for political access to abortion or the funding of abortion. This is completely incompatible with Christianity. It needs to be recognized as such.
Is this a political issue? Yes, but it is far more than a political issue because in this case it is a political issue that is directly tied to the sanctity and the dignity of human life, which is a pre-political reality by the gift of the creator. It is the responsibility of government to respect the imago Dei, to respect the sanctity of dignity of human life.
And when a government places itself in the position of destroying that life, its citizens have every responsibility to correct that error, to change the law and to contend for the sanctity and dignity of every single human life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death. Let's remind ourselves that our current situation is that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has already moved forward on funding bills, stripped to the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment.
That means that the issue now shifts to the United States Senate, where as you will remember, the Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. That means that at least on some budgetary matters, if it falls under the category of what's called budget reconciliation, the Democrats could move forward on this using the vice-president of the United States as the tie breaker on the issue.
But there's something else to consider here and that is the fact that even when it comes to the issue of abortion, right now in the Democratic Party, there are likely to be, we can at least hope that there are likely to be at least a few, maybe even one member of the Democratic contingent in the United States Senate, who would vote to uphold at least the integrity of the American people by keeping the Helms Amendment, most importantly, the Hyde amendment in place.
The Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee was proud of the action. How do I know that? Because she said so. She used the very word, "I am proud that this bill promotes equal treatment for women through increased funding for Title X and by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment." She continued, "But I do believe repealing the Hyde Amendment is the best thing we can do to support our mothers and families and help prevent rather than penalize unwanted pregnancies and later riskier and more costly abortions."
Just consider the moral calculation behind that statement in which the House chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee says that she is proud of her committee's action and later of the house of representatives and his Democratic majority in eliminating Helms and Hyde. There was another pathetic statement made about this issue about the Hyde Amendment and it was made by Senator Bob Casey, that's right a Senator. In this case, Democrat of Pennsylvania often identified as a pro-life Democrat.
His father, the former late governor of Pennsylvania was actually pro-life so much so that he was banned from speaking at the Democratic national convention meetings a generation ago. But his son is sometimes identified as pro-life and sometimes he does vote in some ways that could be described as more pro-life than those that are ardently pro-abortion. But in this case notice something he said. When he was asked about how he would vote on the funding mechanism, coming to the Senate without Hyde, he said this, "We're in the early stages of a long, long budget process." He said, "I don't make a budget decision based upon one provision."
Well, if you're talking about the provisions in the budget, which is by the way, a very complex document coming down to just one provision that is make or break, you might make the argument that there would be many funding issues that simply wouldn't make or break a budget. But in this case, remember that the one provision we're talking about is the provision that would coerce the American taxpayer into paying for abortion.
Let's just take the obvious, you are by no means pro-life any more than a Catholic is devout if you are supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and supporting taxpayer funding of abortion. By the way, one other interesting from the speaker of the house, back in December of 2020 in another press conference, she had said, "Way before I was in Congress, the Hyde amendment was there, I was thinking, how can we get rid of that? So it's long overdue getting rid of it in my view."
Well, now the speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America believes that she is in a position to do something about it, to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and the conscience of the nation is now riding on the outcome of this legislative question, because it's far more than a legislative question, it is undeniably a moral question. And the answer to this question will have a great deal to do with the moral character of the United States of America.
Elections Have Consequences: Biden Appoints Lesbian Rabbi to to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
Next, we are so often reminded that elections have consequences as true in terms of every election, but most importantly, in the United States, the election of the president of the United States. The election of Joe Biden as president of the United States has come with consequences. One of those consequences was documented just in recent days. The advocate, one of the most influential media sources of the LGBTQ movement reported this way, telling us that while president Donald Trump had named Tony Perkins head of the family research council to the United States commission on international religious freedom, "President Joe Biden is nominating a lesbian rabbi."
The advocate continued, "Biden Friday announced his intent to nominate Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, leader of LGBTQ-focused congregation Beit Simchat Torah to the commission, a bipartisan federal government body that monitors the right to religion and belief abroad." Now remember, this is an official United States commission, the United States commission on international religious freedom and appointed to it now by the president of the United States after serving, we should note, one year by appointment of the Senate majority leader.
We are told that this rabbi "became congregation Beit Simchat Torah's first full-time rabbi in 1992." The article continues telling us, "The New York city synagogue was founded in 1973 to serve the needs of queer Jews." That's the way it's written right in the article in The Advocate. We're told that the rabbi arrived "at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership."
The White House said about the rabbi, "She guided the congregation to a period of loss and change while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as Senior Rabbi," the synagogue has become "a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice, for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions." At the same time, the president, by the way, indicated his nomination of a Muslim as the new US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom and he also appointed another well-known Muslim figure to the US commission. That will be Khizr Khan.
He was known for speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, speaking very movingly about his late son, United States Army Captain, who had died in Iraq in 2004. But the big issue here is the appointment by the president of the United States of an openly declared and historically now well-known lesbian Jewish rabbi.
The point is this when you think about it, this is the US commission on international religious freedom. Just consider the United States where religious liberty is now in a direct confrontation with the newly identified artificial rights of sexual liberty in something such as the Equality Act. The Equality Act is probably the greatest challenge to religious liberty inside the United States in generations.
Given her well-documented activism and her position on these issues, it's very unlikely that this rabbi would support religious liberty when it comes to something like the threat of the Equality Act inside the United States, much less around the world, where the United States under the state department of the Biden administration is putting pressure on nations all over the world to adopt the basic understanding of the LGBTQ revolution.
As we have said, elections have consequences. Here we see a very specific consequence of the 2020 Presidential Election. And keep in mind something else, and that is that when it comes to the election of say members of Congress, the legislation adopted often lasts far beyond the imagination of the voters who actually put those representatives and senators in office. The same is true in presidential elections.
Elections have consequences, and it's very, very important that voters understand not only the immediate consequences but the long term consequences. It's also interesting to note that this rabbi is married, we are told, to Randi Weingarten. She is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has now become yet another very liberal labor organization with vast influence in the Democratic Party. You can count on the fact that that's not an accident.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.