Thursday, July 30, 2015

It's Time to Make a Difference. Together.

The following article was written by Peter Baergen, the recipient of the 2014 Generation Joshua Future of America Leadership Award. 

So, you’ve been to iGovern. Maybe you’ve participated in a Student Action Team. perhaps you’ve taken one of Generation Joshua’s online courses, or been a member of a GenJ club. If any (or all!) of these are the case, you’ve experienced some of the best training that middle school and high school students can receive in the world of politics. Through Generation Joshua, you have had the opportunity to experience government from the inside, to put conservative principles in action, and to learn the ins and outs of political activism. Not only do you get to hear about the foundations of our country and learn how to walk (if you're wondering what I mean, you need to sign up to go on an SAT with Jeremiah Lorrig), but you get to hear it from the best -- caring, committed, and courageous leaders who have been doing and studying these things for years..

iGovern 2015 Presidential/VP Candidates
At iGovern, perhaps you dived into the world of campaigns, fundraising, and FEC regulations. Maybe you found the study of legislative process and parliamentary procedure to be fascinating. Those in the International Summit experienced first-hand the ever-changing nature of foreign affairs and the challenge of working with other nations and competing interests. Or, for a select few, the intricacies of the Oval Office and presidential cabinet may have caught your fancy. No matter what part of iGovern you enjoyed the most, the fact of the matter is that if you walked away from iGovern without learning anything, you accomplished a feat that I dare say no human being has accomplished before -- campers, counselors, and staff included.

On a Student Action Team, once you made the choice to sign up, there weren't necessarily many choices left... you learned about grassroots campaigning and get-out-the-vote operations. And you learned a lot about it. You saw very quickly (either because you knew it already, or figured it out the hard way) that teamwork is key to an efficient campaign operation. Perhaps we can even draw some comparisons between your van team and a campaign... your van driver, the campaign manager, made things happen, while depending on how your van worked, your navigator might very well take on the title of strategist. Further back in the van, you probably had one or two (maybe more!) people really interested and knowledgeable in politics, while others were great at communicating with people, whether in the van or at a door. All in all, you probably packed up for the trip home knowing a lot more about grassroots campaigning than you did when you were putting those GenJ t-shirts in your suitcase before you came.

So by now we've pretty well established that your experiences with Generation Joshua have taught you some valuable lessons, whether they be campaign-related, more focused on the legislative process, or anything in between. So here's my challenge to you... Take what you have learned and use it.

Don't let the training you have received go to waste. Find a candidate that you agree with and can get excited about, and offer to help with their campaign. Become involved in your local county Republican party. Keep an eye on your state legislature, and write your legislators when an important vote is coming up. Volunteer for a legislative advocacy group, such as the Parental Rights Organization or the Convention of States Project. If you prefer communications-type roles -- maybe social media? -- you could offer to help your local Right to Life group set up a Facebook page or Twitter account. The possibilities are nearly endless.

For me, this meant stepping out of my comfort zone and, with another GenJer, organizing three student get-out-the-vote efforts (not through GenJ, but still patterned after the Student Action Teams) in two states for the 2014 US Senate primaries. For some of my friends, it has meant interning for a conservative state legislator. A couple Virginia GenJers got together with young activists in the area and started a community discussion group. Others have become campaign managers and staffers, or gone on to work for groups like Americans for Prosperity.

That all sounds great and grand... but maybe you're thinking that these things are too big, too grand.
"Yeah, iGovern was great, but campaign manager? That's a little too far." Well, my friend Zachary has started writing letters to the editor and submitting them to local newspapers. It may seem small ("Who even reads the newspaper anymore?"), but in reality, it's a great way to spread your message to people who will often be very encouraged by a young person who cares enough to get involved. In Minnesota, my friend Sarah helped with a voter registration drive run by her GenJ club at the county fair. Maybe you're able to keep your family and friends informed about legislation going through Congress or your state legislature, like Celtin was able to do in New York. All these things seem small, but they make a real difference. And when you take thousands of GenJers, each making a seemingly small difference in their sphere of influence... suddenly, together, we're making a big difference.

So, be a part of that big difference. Take what you've learned and get involved. Write a letter, ask your neighbor if they're registered to vote, or call your state legislators asking them to support or oppose a bill moving through the legislature.

And hey, I'm sure there will be some GenJers running for office who will need campaign staff in the future... so make sure you don't let those door-knocking skills get rusty!

By Peter Baergen (18)
Generation Joshua member
The views expressed in this post are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Generation Joshua. Photo Credit: Mamie Carlstrom 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Firestorm in Indiana: The History of RFRA

President Clinton Signs RFRA
You may have noticed that there has been a large firestorm over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday. Indiana’s law is based off the federal Religious Freedom Protection Act. To understand the whole issue, we need to look at the history of the federal law, and then see why states have begun enacting their own laws.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was introduced by then Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) and had 170 cosponsors in the House of Representatives (including 121 Democratic cosponsors). It was introduced to ensure that no government could substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. This was known as the Compelling Interest Test, and had been set by the Supreme Court in cases such as Sherbert v. Verner and Wisconsin v. Yoder. However, in 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that the Compelling Interest Test did not apply to “neutral laws of general applicability.” RFRA was introduced to restore the Compelling Interest Test whenever government would substantially burden a person’s exercise of Religion.

The House of Representatives passed RFRA unanimously, and the vote was nearly unanimous in the Senate. It was signed by President Clinton on November 16, 1993. The law was supported by both conservative and liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Evangelicals among others.

The law originally applied to all levels of government, including state and local government. However, in City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court ruled that the RFRA could not apply to states, but that it still applied to the federal government.

After the Boerne ruling, many states passed their own version of RFRA. Including Indiana’s new law, there are currently 21 states with a version of the RFRA. In fact, when President Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he voted for Illinois’ RFRA.

So, if there has been so much bipartisan support for both the federal law and state versions, why is there so much outrage towards Indiana’s law? The outrage seems to stem mainly from the current political debate over same-sex marriage and a fear that the law will lead to discrimination against homosexuals. However, there is nothing in the RFRA that mentions same-sex marriage or opens the door to discrimination.

The timing of the passage and signing of the RFRA does not change the language of the law. The language is still substantially the same as the federal RFRA as well as the other state versions of the law. The only difference between Indiana’s law and any of the other laws is that Indiana’s law includes a broader definition of who is protected by the law. This broader definition was written to be consistent with the application of the federal RFRA in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

In conclusion, Indiana’s RFRA is not opening the door to discrimination any more than the federal RFRA or state versions already has. The law is simply ensuring the residents in Indiana have the same protections of their religious liberty as residents of Illinois and 19 other states currently have. The federal RFRA and state versions have been crucial to protecting the religious liberty of many religious minorities. For more on how the RFRA has helped, check out this blog post at The Federalist.

The liberals attacking Indiana’s new law are using unfounded fear-mongering to whip up opposition to the law. However, the simple truth is that the RFRA is an important protection for religious liberty.

Post by Glenn Bertsch

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Powerful Lesson

As director of Generation Joshua, I work with thousands of teens across the nation. At one of our events, a student tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we could talk. Ten minutes of trivialities passed before he worked up his courage to tell me what was really on his mind.

“I hate you. You’re a hypocrite. You say you love me, but no one really loves me.”

The GenJ staff and I confused him, he said. He assumed all Christians were hypocrites. His parents were Christians, and he thought he knew what that meant. But my team and I also said we were Christians—and we were different from what he expected. To him, our Christianity and his parents’ Christianity were worlds apart.

We talked for almost six hours. As I listened, I saw a familiar pattern repeat itself.

This young man had come to believe that his whole world was governed by rigid rules. If he broke those rules, he would face the consequences. The rules were clear and the consequences were consistent, but that was all there was. His entire understanding of his relationship with his parents, as well as his relationship with God, had been reduced to a series of if-then statements.

As a result, the young man believed that everything in life, including his parents’ love, was dependent on his own actions. During our conversation he could not think of a single example of unconditional love that had been shown to him in his life. I have no doubt that he had received such unconditional love; my point is that he was unable to recognize it.

I have seen this example repeated again and again as I work with teens across America. There was the boy who told us how he used to cut himself because it gave him one small part of his life where he felt he could determine the consequences. There was the girl who abandoned her faith because all she had experienced was judgment, and the boy who felt that attempting suicide was the only way to get empathy. And there was the young man who killed himself because he believed that no one, not even his parents, loved him.

Again and again I meet broken young men and women who are drowning under a tidal wave of crushing rules and expectations, just as they are finishing high school and trying to enter adulthood. The result is often manifested in severe depression, self-destructive behavior (such as cutting), involvement in witchcraft, or suicidal thoughts.

I don’t think these extreme situations happen because of strict parenting. Having clearly defined, consistently applied rules in the home is not the problem. The problem is when relationships are contingent on the rules.

In responding to student crises over my past seven years at Generation Joshua, I’ve seen a common theme. In most of these cases, the students do not believe that their parents love them, or else they are convinced that their parents’ love is conditional. When I get the opportunity to talk to their parents, it is usually clear that they deeply love their children. But they have not included regular, tangible demonstrations of unconditional love in their parenting. The love is there—but the children never get the chance to see it.

We pour our energy into raising our children, conscientiously trying to discipline and educate them so they can have responsible, rewarding lives. We push ourselves to make sure we teach our children that actions have consequences, and that lesson is crucial. But sometimes I think we don’t make an equal effort to demonstrate unconditional love to our children. I find it ironic that, as a person whose life has been changed by Jesus Christ’s extreme act of unsolicited love and unexpected grace, I still find it so hard to always show that same love to my own children.

Sometimes when I recognize that I should be showing more grace and love to my children, I also find myself concerned that doing so will undermine my attempts to teach discipline. This is the wrong way of thinking, and often stems from an unclear definition of grace. In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer defines grace as “the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” I simplify that to say that grace in parenting is the idea of unmerited favor toward my children.

Grace is the natural outworking of unconditional love. If we love our children, we should be looking for opportunities to show them grace. I should not be so obsessed with making sure my children recognize the consequences of sin that I neglect to show them the amazing power of grace and unconditional love. Teaching consequences without ever showing grace will crush the joy, and often the faith, out of our children.

Look for moments when you can show grace and love in your children’s lives, then take those opportunities and explain them. God’s unconditional love may be the most powerful lesson our children learn from us.

For the young man I spoke with that day, experiencing unconditional love resulted in a new faith in God. That change led to a restoration of relationship with his parents as well. For him, love was the most important lesson he needed. 

Joel Grewe is the director of HSLDA’s
Generation Joshua. He and his wife, Christie, have three young sons.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

If Not Us, Who?

The following article was written by Hannah Fritz after she testified before the Washington State legislature taking a stand for the life of the unborn.  

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” - Ronald Reagan 

Me, sorting through letters that constituents
gave me to give to legislators
So often in today’s society of millennials, we put off, procrastinate, and push aside things that aren’t right at the top of our, what’s going to make me happy or give me instant gratification, list. This isn’t the kind of generation or culture I want to remember when I look back and ask, “What did we do?” Did we hold fast, and take a stand to defend our God given beliefs? Did we do anything?

I’ve only had the privilege of being involved with Generation Joshua for a little less than a year now, but the time spent working on Student Action Teams was not only life changing, but eye opening. There’s a reason HSLDA is willing to pay for teens and youth to work on campaigns around the country. It’s simple. We have an impact. We’re a young new blooded and new faced generation, with hopes and dreams for our country and its future. Because of the rarity of this, we make an impact when we not only stand but speak out for our beliefs. We’re noticed because we are the minority.

My boss, Danille, Rose
and I at the March for Life
God has gifted me with a strong passion for the political arena, and I have been blessed to be able to take that passion and turn it into action. Throughout 2014, I had the amazing privilege to intern for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an organization built to promote the ideas of life, marriage, religious liberty and parental rights in the state of Washington. In early January this year, I was hired as a part time session assistant to the Grassroots Director. Through this opportunity, I was given the chance to help with Washington State’s Annual March for Life, as FPIW was the organization orchestrating it this particular year. It was amazing to see families, citizens, legislators, and young groups such as the Students for Life come out and stand for their beliefs. Seeing how many people cared, and what they were doing about it made me want to do more too.

So, when the opportunity came for me to testify against an Abortion Insurance Mandate before the House, I took it. This mandate would be taking away my choice to choose an insurance plan that did not directly subsidize someone else’s abortion, contraception, or sterilization. They said they wanted to give women more choice, but in doing so, they were taking away my individual choice to not support the killing of babies.
Two other people testified with me
I didn’t do much in the big scheme of things, but I did something, and I know I affected my legislators, glaring at me from their seats on the committee, and the cluster of Planned Parenthood supporters who froze when I said my age. To say the least, they were shocked to see that someone so young cared enough to speak up against their double standard. They heard me, now let them hear you.

By Hannah Fritz (18)
Generation Joshua member from Washington State 

Check out the below 3 minute video of Hannah's testimony

The views expressed in this post are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Generation Joshua.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tax Day

Tax day is coming quickly and Generation Joshua's Deputy Director, Jeremiah Lorrig, started a new tradition. He was inspired by Donald Rumsfeld's example to write a letter to the IRS and copy it to his elected officials.

Here is that letter.

One of Generation Joshua's core principles is "Personal Responsibility." There is a problem if the government takes away the capacity of an individual to be responsible for his or her actions. In this case bureaucracy has stolen that person's ability to be responsible. We should not have a system of government that destroys a persons ability to be responsible, even in taxes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Standing 4 Life - Making a Difference

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending the March for Life with the rest of the GenJ staff. I look forward to attending the March every year, and joining with thousands of people as we take a stand for life. Although I enjoy going to the March every year, this year was different – in a good way. 

Basically, the attitude at all the previous Marches that I’ve attended has been “hopefully this is the last year we will have the March for Life, that abortion will be banned before next January.” The problem was a complete nationwide ban on abortion was not going to happen at that time. It couldn’t pass Congress, and even if it did, the President would not have signed it. But because that was the attitude, it seemed like the pro-life movement made just about no progress from year to year.

However, this year, the attitude seemed to change. It seemed like we, as the pro-life movement, have realized that this is not an all-or-nothing game. Yes, our ultimate goal is still to see a complete ban on abortion. However, that isn’t the only step. We have a lot of other steps on the way there. There are a lot of other things we can do to move the pro-life movement forward and pave the way to a complete ban.

Advancing policy positions is a lot like training to run a marathon. Just like you can’t just decide to run a marathon and then go and run 26 miles without training, you can’t always make a huge, sweeping policy shift overnight. This isn’t common knowledge, but I’ve recently decided that I want to run a marathon eventually. When I first started running with that as a goal, I was lucky if I could run a mile. But as I kept pushing, I was able to go from one mile to two miles, and now I’m at a 5K (3.1 miles) and my next goal is a 5 miler. That’s still a long way from the 26 miles of a marathon, but it’s a lot of progress, and is getting me closer to my goal.

Policy and legislation works the same way. Although we can’t pass a complete nationwide ban on abortion right away, there are other things we can do as we work to change the hearts and minds of people and change the political will of the nation to support a complete ban. At the federal level, the House just passed the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act on Thursday, and House Republican leadership have said that they will pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. However, both of those bills will be vetoed by the President, and it is extremely unlikely that Congress will have the votes to override the veto.

Therefore, we must start working at the state level. We must encourage our state legislators to write, support, and pass pro-life legislation. Exactly what this legislation should look like will depend on the state. Some states will be able to pass much more strict legislation than others, but we should work to get whatever progress we can. Some states may be able to pass a state version of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act while others may have to start with stricter medical standards on abortion clinics that will cause some, if not all, to close (see what happened in Texas in 2013).

This is not a “quick fix” solution; unfortunately there is no quick fix. This is going to be a long and hard fight, but if we truly believe in the sanctity of human life, then we need to stand up and fight. And although we cannot stop fighting until we have achieved the end goal, if we can do something to save any lives, we must do it. When we are talking about human life, our approach cannot be all-or-nothing. We must do everything we can to save every life we can. 

Post by Glenn Bertsch

Friday, January 9, 2015

A New Congress: What should we expect?

United States Capitol
As I’m sure you are aware, the 114th Congress began on Tuesday. For the first time since 2006, Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate. This has given conservatives hope of achieving conservative goals that we have not been able to pass in the last 8 years. Although we do have a conservative Republican majority, we need to make sure that we have realistic expectations for the 114th Congress.

There are three factors that could inhibit the “New American Congress” as it has been called, from passing conservative bills. First, we still have a Democrat president in the White House; second, although there is a Republican majority in the Senate, we do not have a filibuster-proof majority; and third, the House Republican Conference tends to be anything but united.

President Obama
The first and most obvious of the issues is President Obama. The president has veto-power, so he can veto any conservative bill that Congress passes. We have seen this as the White House issued two veto threats within hours of the 114th Congress beginning. Now, on some issues, Congress may be able to force the president’s hand, but on others, they will need to work out a deal with the White House. So, for the next two years, congressional Republicans will not be able to get everything they want, however, they are in a much better negotiating position than we had the last four years.

Make Up of Senate
The second, and slightly less obvious issue is the size of the Republican majority in the Senate. Unlike the House of Representatives, which is a majority rules legislative body, the Senate has long established protections for the minority. Any one Senator can basically put a stop to the consideration of any bill.  If a Senator (or group of Senators) try to stop the consideration of a bill, it requires a 3/5ths majority of all members of the Senate (60 votes if there are no vacancies) to invoke a procedure called “Cloture.” This essentially ends debate on the measure and forces a vote. Because the Republicans only have 54 members in the Senate, they will need 6 Democrats to “cross the aisle” and vote with the majority to invoke Cloture. Therefore, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans will need to make concessions to Senate Democrats in order to pass legislation.

Make up of House
Finally, and I think the least obvious (in many cases even unknown) issue is that the House Republican Conference tends toward disunity. Over the last four years, in my opinion, Speaker John Boehner has had the most difficult job in Washington. Throughout American history, most Speakers have had the assurance that the majority party’s conference would support any legislative deals made with the White House and Senate. Boehner has not had that sort of unity. In both the 112th and 113th Congresses, Boehner has, at times, been forced to offer additional concessions so he could receive Democrat support to pass bills through the House. That is because many Tea Party House Republicans were unwilling to support any sort of bill that wasn’t perfect or did not include provisions that Senate Democrats could not support (such as a complete repeal of Obamacare). This significantly weakened Boehner’s ability to negotiate with the White House and Senate Democrats. If the House Republican Conference will stay unified throughout the 114th Congress, it can help strengthen the GOP’s negotiation power with the White House and Senate Democrats. However, if it follows the course of the last four years, our chance to pass good, conservative legislation significantly drops.

Speaker of the House
The 114th Congress has the potential to achieve many conservative goals, and to help get America back on the right path. However, we conservatives need to realize that due to current political realities, we will not be able to get everything we want over the next two years. It is critically important that we support and encourage congressional Republicans to get as much as they can while at the negotiation table, but also that we don’t tear them apart because they compromise with the president. Politics is not a short game, and there are times we need to take a short term hit in favor of long term benefits. If we truly want to advance conservative principles, we need to have a long term strategy, and not just look for quick fix bills.

Post by Glenn Bertsch 
Photo credits: All photos from Wikimedia Commons