The Left's Collateral Damage

Modern armed forces must contend with that which is euphemized as “collateral damage.” Every military is expected to do its utmost to reduce harm to innocent civilians and is condemned if it is negligent in this regard.

A similar standard must apply in our quest for universal human and civil rights. If activists claim to fight for civil rights, but disregard the harm their efforts cause to third parties, this negligence should compel us to reevaluate their actual commitment to social justice.

On multiple fronts, left-wing “progressives” demonstrate calculated indifference to the most vulnerable Americans while demanding privileges for their preferred classes -- all in the name of civil rights. Time and again, social justice warriors insist that it is moral to deny crucial aid to those in pain, when that aid comes from a religious group working within the parameters of its faith.

In 2014, Army Chaplain Captain Joe Lawhorn was designated primary instructor for an annual course on sexual harassment, alcohol awareness, and suicide prevention training. He spoke in his capacity as military chaplain, and even shared his personal struggles with depression. He discussed the methods he uses to combat it, including, of course, his personal faith. He also provided a handout with Army resources and what he described as biblical approaches to handling depression.

Belief that we were Created with a purpose and mission by a beneficent Supreme Being is an empowering thought, regardless of the particulars of our faith denomination. Chaplain Lawhorn was not preaching a particular religious faith, but using his own as a model that listeners of all faiths could replicate within themselves.

One listener, however, an atheist, was offended, and complained to an atheist advocacy group, which then filed a complaint with the Army. A “letter of concern” was issued and placed in Captain Lawhorn’s record -- until he obtained legal counsel, who succeeded in expunging the letter from Lawhorn’s file.

This was more than a career-damaging attack on one chaplain.

Had the atheist advocacy group succeeded in its efforts, it would have had a chilling effect on future prevention efforts by military chaplains throughout -- at a time when the military suicide rate in the United States is far higher than that of the general population. Chaplains of all faiths would be prohibited from sharing faith-based tools and resources with soldiers who need it the most. The obvious consequence, increased suicide in the military, was of no concern to the purported advocates for human rights.

Late in the Obama administration, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services erected new barriers for children in the foster care system -- demanding that faith-based providers act contrary to traditional religious beliefs. Under the new regimen, religious groups are to be denied license to care for children if they work exclusively with host families who share their faith, or even if they simply expect hosts to be married by their denomination’s own definition, rather than the government’s.

Catholic Social Services, a provider of foster care in Philadelphia for generations, had its license revoked when the city discovered that CSS expected host families to be engaged in a Biblical rather than “alternative” marriage. As a result, 35 children were left languishing in group homes, rather than under the individual care of loving hosts. Across the country, other faith-based providers are facing similar challenges -- just last week, Health and Human Services granted South Carolina a waiver, without which Miracle Hill Ministries would have been forced to stop providing foster care services to hundreds of children.

In many cases, critics freely acknowledge that the targeted agencies are the most competent providers of care available. Yet they demand that these agencies abandon faith-based standards for the families with whom they work, ignoring the fact that it is their religious faith which motivates their pursuit of excellence. The purported civil-rights advocates offer no alternatives or solutions for children denied service due to their efforts.

Early last year, Timothy Paul Coyle appeared at the doorstep of the Hope Center in Anchorage, a Christian women’s shelter, following a drunken fight at another shelter. The staff of the Hope Center sent him to the emergency room for treatment of his injuries, and even paid his cab fare. They would not admit him, however, despite his claim to be a transgender female while appearing obviously male.

One would be hard pressed to identify a more vulnerable group of American adults than those in women’s shelters. Many of those residing in the Hope Center reacted with horror to the idea of sharing their dormitory-style bedroom with a biological male; one said she would rather sleep in the Alaskan forest -- in January.

Leftist advocates uniformly disregarded these frightened and abused women gathered for shelter in favor of a violent drunk. He claimed to be transgender, a member of a “protected class,” in his discrimination complaint to the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission. To progressives, his feelings were the only ones that seemed to matter; the biological women would have to “choose” between sharing their bedroom with a violent man or sleeping in the woods. So much for safe spaces.

In their unending crusade to rid America of religious influence, leftist zealots display no concern for the obvious harm to the vulnerable attributable directly to their efforts. Their agenda not only threatens religious freedom across the United States, but the very lives of those most in need of our protection -- and the moral foundations of our civilization.

It is time for our courts to restore sanity to First Amendment jurisprudence and hold to account those whose agenda turns a blind eye to collateral damage.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America. Lathan Watts is Director of Community Relations for First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest non-profit law firm exclusively dedicated to restoring and protecting religious liberty for all Americans.

Modern armed forces must contend with that which is euphemized as “collateral damage.” Every military is expected to do its utmost to reduce harm to innocent civilians and is condemned if it is negligent in this regard.

A similar standard must apply in our quest for universal human and civil rights. If activists claim to fight for civil rights, but disregard the harm their efforts cause to third parties, this negligence should compel us to reevaluate their actual commitment to social justice.

On multiple fronts, left-wing “progressives” demonstrate calculated indifference to the most vulnerable Americans while demanding privileges for their preferred classes -- all in the name of civil rights. Time and again, social justice warriors insist that it is moral to deny crucial aid to those in pain, when that aid comes from a religious group working within the parameters of its faith.

In 2014, Army Chaplain Captain Joe Lawhorn was designated primary instructor for an annual course on sexual harassment, alcohol awareness, and suicide prevention training. He spoke in his capacity as military chaplain, and even shared his personal struggles with depression. He discussed the methods he uses to combat it, including, of course, his personal faith. He also provided a handout with Army resources and what he described as biblical approaches to handling depression.

Belief that we were Created with a purpose and mission by a beneficent Supreme Being is an empowering thought, regardless of the particulars of our faith denomination. Chaplain Lawhorn was not preaching a particular religious faith, but using his own as a model that listeners of all faiths could replicate within themselves.

One listener, however, an atheist, was offended, and complained to an atheist advocacy group, which then filed a complaint with the Army. A “letter of concern” was issued and placed in Captain Lawhorn’s record -- until he obtained legal counsel, who succeeded in expunging the letter from Lawhorn’s file.

This was more than a career-damaging attack on one chaplain.

Had the atheist advocacy group succeeded in its efforts, it would have had a chilling effect on future prevention efforts by military chaplains throughout -- at a time when the military suicide rate in the United States is far higher than that of the general population. Chaplains of all faiths would be prohibited from sharing faith-based tools and resources with soldiers who need it the most. The obvious consequence, increased suicide in the military, was of no concern to the purported advocates for human rights.

Late in the Obama administration, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services erected new barriers for children in the foster care system -- demanding that faith-based providers act contrary to traditional religious beliefs. Under the new regimen, religious groups are to be denied license to care for children if they work exclusively with host families who share their faith, or even if they simply expect hosts to be married by their denomination’s own definition, rather than the government’s.

Catholic Social Services, a provider of foster care in Philadelphia for generations, had its license revoked when the city discovered that CSS expected host families to be engaged in a Biblical rather than “alternative” marriage. As a result, 35 children were left languishing in group homes, rather than under the individual care of loving hosts. Across the country, other faith-based providers are facing similar challenges -- just last week, Health and Human Services granted South Carolina a waiver, without which Miracle Hill Ministries would have been forced to stop providing foster care services to hundreds of children.

In many cases, critics freely acknowledge that the targeted agencies are the most competent providers of care available. Yet they demand that these agencies abandon faith-based standards for the families with whom they work, ignoring the fact that it is their religious faith which motivates their pursuit of excellence. The purported civil-rights advocates offer no alternatives or solutions for children denied service due to their efforts.

Early last year, Timothy Paul Coyle appeared at the doorstep of the Hope Center in Anchorage, a Christian women’s shelter, following a drunken fight at another shelter. The staff of the Hope Center sent him to the emergency room for treatment of his injuries, and even paid his cab fare. They would not admit him, however, despite his claim to be a transgender female while appearing obviously male.

One would be hard pressed to identify a more vulnerable group of American adults than those in women’s shelters. Many of those residing in the Hope Center reacted with horror to the idea of sharing their dormitory-style bedroom with a biological male; one said she would rather sleep in the Alaskan forest -- in January.

Leftist advocates uniformly disregarded these frightened and abused women gathered for shelter in favor of a violent drunk. He claimed to be transgender, a member of a “protected class,” in his discrimination complaint to the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission. To progressives, his feelings were the only ones that seemed to matter; the biological women would have to “choose” between sharing their bedroom with a violent man or sleeping in the woods. So much for safe spaces.

In their unending crusade to rid America of religious influence, leftist zealots display no concern for the obvious harm to the vulnerable attributable directly to their efforts. Their agenda not only threatens religious freedom across the United States, but the very lives of those most in need of our protection -- and the moral foundations of our civilization.

It is time for our courts to restore sanity to First Amendment jurisprudence and hold to account those whose agenda turns a blind eye to collateral damage.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America. Lathan Watts is Director of Community Relations for First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest non-profit law firm exclusively dedicated to restoring and protecting religious liberty for all Americans.