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Late Summer 1998
David Barton - 08/1998

A "Do-Nothing Congress"? Says Who?

America is unquestionably engaged in a culture war. On one side are Christians and other devout people of faith who embrace traditional and Christian family values, and on the other side are the secularists, humanists, separationists, and others who want a society free from Christian influence or traditions. The battlegrounds for the culture war are the primary power centers of the pulpit, education, government, and media. How are we doing in each?

Generally, the pulpit is still strongly supportive of Christian values in public; while occasionally silent, only rarely is it antagonistic. Despite positive gains in recent years, by and large the education establishment remains generally hostile to Christian values. In government, the Executive and the Judicial branches demonstrate a clear hostility while the Legislative branch is becoming an ally. And although the media is beginning to improve (as evidenced by the explosion of conservative talk-radio), the major outlets continue to be hostile. Yet, despite the fact that three of the four power centers currently reject Christian values, the overwhelming majority of Americans embrace those values, as confirmed by polls on belief in God, church attendance, support for school prayer, opposition to sodomy, support of traditional marriage, etc.

Therefore, since those parties advancing anti-Christian values are actually in the minority, to gain public support, they must do everything they can to portray themselves as the majority, pursuing reasonable and rational goals. Thus, they publicize their own victories (which means highlighting our defeats) while minimizing word of their defeats (by suppressing the reports of our victories).

An excellent example of this tactic is the media’s current characterization that we have a "do-nothing Congress." This charge means either that (1) Congress actually has done nothing (at least according to the media’s agenda) or (2) Congress has furthered the Christian values agenda, and thus every effort must be made to halt this progress. Both suppositions are correct, especially the second one. As proof, consider the following facts:

Protecting Human Life

  • Congress expanded the Hyde Amendment ban on taxpayer-financed abortions in federal health programs to also include managed-care arrangements, Medicaid, Title X family planning assistance, Title XX social services Block Grants to States, and the Children's Health-Insurance Block-Grant Program (Public Law 105-33).
  • Congress restored the ban--which President Clinton had lifted--on taxpayer-financed abortions in U.S. military facilities (Public Law 104-106), on abortion coverage in the federal employees health benefits program (Public Law 104-52), on taxpayer-financed abortions in the District of Columbia (Public Law 104-134), and on taxpayer-financed abortions in federal prisons (Public Law 104-134).
  • Congress permanently prohibited the American Council of Graduate Medical Education from forcing medical schools to require the performance of abortions (Public Law 104-134).
  • Congress also banned abortion litigation by the Legal Services Corporation (a government funded legal service), federal funding for assisted suicide and euthanasia (Public Law 105-12), and taxpayer-funded human embryo research (Public Law 104-134).
  • Congress has twice banned the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortions, and has fallen short of the two-thirds vote necessary to override President Clinton’s veto by only three votes in the Senate.
  • Promoting Marriage and the Family

    • Congress passed the "Defense of Marriage Act" which (1) federally defines "marriage" as "the union of one man and one woman as man and wife" for purposes of all federal benefits, and (2) allows each State (rather than unelected judges) to define marriage according to their traditions and values (Public Law 104-199).
    • Congress enacted several strong pro-marriage provisions as part of welfare reform, including a bonus system to reward States which reduce out-of-wedlock birth rates without increasing abortions (Public Law 104-193).
    • Congress enacted a permanent $500 per-child tax credit (Public Law 105-34) and passed homemaker IRAs so that work-at-home spouses could set aside up to $2,000 a year in a tax-deferred retirement savings (Public Law 104-188).
    • Congress made major reforms in adoption policies, including enacting (1) a $5,000 tax credit for adoption expenses, (2) a $6,000 tax credit for hard-to-place special-needs children, (3) a ban on "race matching" by adoption agencies so minority children can be placed in any loving family (Public Law 104-188), and (4) an accelerated procedure for moving abused and neglected children from foster homes into adoptive homes (Public Law 105-89).

    Religious Liberties

    • Congress has advanced a number of religious liberty bills, including the first ever vote on a School Prayer Amendment by both the Judiciary Committee and the whole House, a bill to penalize those countries who participate in or condone the persecution of Christians and other people of faith (e.g., China, Sudan, Pakistan, Laos, etc.), a bill to protect the public display of the Ten Commandments, and a number of other positive bills. While not all of these bills were signed into law by the President, nevertheless, this is the best session the Congress has had on the issue of religious liberty in recent memory.
    • Congress passed a bill to allow faith-based charities to participate in delivering welfare benefits (Public Law 104-193).

    Education

    • Of the 260 federal education programs overseen by the House Education Committee, 105 of the programs have been eliminated.
    • Congress passed a permanent ban on funding for Clinton’s federal testing scheme (the foundation for his plan for a national curriculum).
    • Congress killed a proposed new tax on education benefits for the children of school faculty members--a tax specifically targeted at teachers in religious schools (this was a big win for private religious schools).
    • Congress enacted educational IRAs to cover expenses for public, private, and home schools, and passed a school-choice voucher bill for students in Washington, D. C., (both bills were vetoed by the President).

    Morality

    • Congress banned the funding of obscene art (Public Law 104-134), the distribution of indecent or patently offensive material to minors over the Internet (Public Law 104-104), the sale of pornography at military facilities (Public Law 104-106), and taxpayer-funded needle-exchange programs.
    • Congress strengthened child pornography laws (Public Law 104-71).
    • Congress funded $50 million dollars for abstinence-education programs (Public Law 104-193).
    • Congress moved against the gambling industry, appointing pro-family hero Kay James as the Chairman of the National Gambling Impact Commission to investigate and report on the effects of gambling (Public Law 104-169).

    Other Issues

    Also, Congress has pursued a number of measures to reverse judicial activism and to limit judicial intrusiveness and micromanagement. Additionally, Congress prohibited the United Nations command of U. S. troops, but that bill--like so many other good bills--was vetoed by the President.

    Upcoming Votes

    There are still a number of important votes scheduled for the final weeks of this Congress, including:

    • A ban (for the third time) on partial-birth abortions.
    • A ban on transporting minors across State lines in order to evade parental-consent or parental-notification abortion restrictions.
    • A ban on discrimination against homeschoolers and Christian schoolers in college admissions.
    • A Constitutional Amendment to prohibit the desecration of the flag.

    Obviously, Congress has done much to advance Christian and traditional family values, and just as obviously, most citizens have not heard of these victories. Instead, they have been told that we elected a "do-nothing Congress."

    To understand the reason for this fallacious charge, recall how this Congress came to be. Between 1988 and 1994, the numbers of evangelical Christian voters rapidly increased. Those Evangelical voters were largely responsible for the infamous "Voter Revolution" of 1994 followed by the 1996 Senate elections. Those two elections swept scores of conservative Christians into Congress and thus changed not only the composition but also the agenda of the Congress. The secularists understand that they are in serious trouble if Christians return to the polls in 1998. And what better way to keep Christians home in this year’s elections than by telling them that all their hard work of recent years was a complete waste of time--that all it produced was a "do-nothing Congress."

    Unfortunately, many Christians have believed this propaganda. But the truth is that we are making a difference--our efforts are having an effect! Don’t be talked out of your vote in November! Remember the advice of two ministers of the Gospel, James A. Garfield and Charles Finney. Finney--a leader in America’s Second Great Awakening--reminded the Christians of his day that:

    The Church must take right ground in regard to politics. . . . The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics. . . . God cannot sustain this free and blessed country which we love and pray for unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. . . . [God] will bless or curse this nation according to the course they [Christians] take [in politics].

    Then, fifty years later, James A. Garfield, our 20th President, reminded the Christians in his day:

    Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. . . . If the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

    The message of the last two centuries still resounds for us today. We must "take right ground in regard to politics" and "aid in controlling the political forces" by being active in this year’s elections.

    One of the tools which can help motivate those around you to be involved is our award-winning video "Keys to Good Government." I encourage you to get a copy of this video and show it to you family, friends, church, and others within your sphere of influence. Our duty is not only to vote, but to vote for the right type of leaders. As Proverbs 29:2 reminds us, "When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan." This video will help motivate citizens to vote--and to vote according to Biblical principles.



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