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The AACS Legislative Office monitors issues that affect the educational freedom and religious liberty of Christian schools.
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The Washington Flyer
September 9, 2016

 
“The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God.”
Daniel Webster
 
Pennsylvania Considers a Bill That Threatens Religious Liberty
The Pennsylvania state senate is
considering a bill that presents a grave threat to religious liberty in the state. Last week, the Senate Labor & Industry Committee held a hearing on SB 1306, a bill that is part of what conservative, pro-family groups are calling “Governor Wolf’s bathroom bills.” Last spring, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders that expanded the current understanding of the idea of equal protection for LGBT individuals employed by the state, and he urged the state assembly to pass legislation that would apply the same policy to all places of business. Currently, several bills have been introduced which add sexual orientation or gender identity to all or part of the current Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the nondiscrimination law which basically mirrors the federal Title VII Act. Specifically, SB 1306 would force all employers to open up bathrooms and locker rooms for use by any person based on his self-identified gender identity and would make it illegal to keep sex-specific bathrooms and locker rooms. Additionally, conservatives are expressing deep concern that the proposed bill would also threaten the freedom of religious organizations, including churches and Christian schools, to hire people in accordance with their religious convictions regarding marriage, gender, and sexuality. In the words of Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a group that is working to stop the bill, “This proposed bill presents a serious threat to religious liberty because it would give the government power to interfere with core religious values of churches and religious organizations.” Supporters of SB 1306 are claiming that discrimination against the LGBT community can be compared to racial or ethnic discrimination. However, Liberty Counsel’s Director of Public Policy Jonathan Alexandre testified at the bill’s hearing that this comparison is faulty: “This bill strips that right away from religious employers, using an utterly false and offensive comparison to someone’s skin color. They want you to believe that, if a religious organization didn’t hire such a person, it would be no different than refusal to hire a person because of skin color. This is a lie. The color of my skin is not a feeling or desire. It is not something I can choose to act on or not act on. I simply am black.”
 

Pro Life

Proposed Guidelines for Title X Support Abortion
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposal for new rules regarding the distribution of funds through Title X, the 1970 law that created a family planning program run by the Office of Population Affairs in HHS. Although Title X has not been reauthorized since 1985, appropriations bills have continued to allocate funds for the program, with $286 million being appropriated in 2016. In recent years, several states have redirected Title X funds away from Planned Parenthood abortion services and to country health departments, community health centers and other clinics providing health services. However, the proposed rules would prevent states from redirecting Title X funds and thereby ensure that Planned Parenthood receives the funding. Congressman Diane Black (TN), who serves on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and authored the Defund Planned Parenthood Act in 2015,
recognizes that this is an “unprecedented step [by the administration] of thwarting states’ rights with a shady proposed rule change that prevents states from funding the providers who will best serve their citizens.” Congresswoman Black further stated that she “intend[s] to lead a letter expressing the deep concerns of Members of Congress on this proposal,” and she also calls on the “national pro-life movement to defeat this absurd rule and prevent the Obama administration from acting unilaterally to carry out political favors and prop up a scandal-ridden abortion provider.” The administration is currently accepting public comments on the proposed rule.


Education

FBI Investigates Stolen SAT Test Questions
The FBI
seized computers and other materials in a search of the home of a former College Board employee, as part of an ongoing investigation into the breach of over 400 questions from the new SAT college entrance exams produced by the College Board. The employee, Manuel Alfaro, a former executive director of assessment design and development at the College Board, has been accusing the College Board of lying about its development procedures in order to win bids for contracts with states to produce the SAT exam testing materials. In May, Alfaro sent letters to the heads several state Department of Education bureaus, writing “to let you know that the College Board had made false claims in proposals it submitted in bids for assessment contracts with your states.” Alfaro further claimed that the officials “have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.” The College Board’s attorney, however, has called Alfaro a “disgruntled former employee” who is just expressing anger at the organization.

AACS National Legislative Conference Next Week
The AACS will be hosting our annual National Legislative Conference next week in Washington, D.C. Due to the conference, we will not be sending out the Washington Flyer but will resume the following week. We appreciate your prayers for the conference details, the attendees, and our contacts with elected and government officials.


 

 


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American Association of Christian Schools
Jamison Coppola: Legislative Director
Maureen Van Den Berg: Policy Analyst

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