MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
How fair is that so-called Fairness for All bill attempting to bridge the gap between religious liberty and LGBT rights?
And what about charitable giving tax incentives? Did last year’s tax reform do some unintended harm?
NICK EICHER, HOST: We will talk to John Stonestreet about that later today on Culture Friday.
Plus, a review of the new Clint Eastwood movie, Richard Jewell. It’s causing a lot of controversy.
BASHAM: It sure is, and I’ll talk about the reasons why. And we’ll end today, as we do in this season, with music of advent.
It’s Friday, December 13th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BASHAM: Here’s Kent Covington now with the news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Judiciary Committee to vote on impeachment today after surprise delay » The House Judiciary Committee will vote this morning on articles of impeachment against President Trump.
After 14 hours of debate Thursday that stretched late into the night, Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler surprised Republicans by pushing the vote back one more day.
NADLER: Therefore, the committee will now stand in recess until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. at which point, I will move to divide the question so that each of us will have the opportunity to cast up or down votes on each of the articles of impeachment and to let history be our judge. The committee is adjourned…
That angered Republicans, who said both sides had agreed on the process and the timetable and that Nadler made the change without warning and without consulting minority leaders. GOP members howled as Nadler turned and walked out of the hearing room.
AUDIO: This is the kangaroo court that we’re talking about. It’s more Stalinesque … It’s more Stalinesque — not even consult — unbelievable.
Ranking Member Doug Collins called the delay a stunt to hold the vote in front of more TV viewers in the morning.
If the vote passes today in committee as expected, the full House will likely vote on impeachment before Christmas.
U.K. exit poll projects majority for Conservatives in Parliament » Election officials in Britain were still counting ballots this morning after Thursday’s election. But an exit poll last night projected that Conservatives have likely won a majority in Parliament.
If that holds up, it would give Prime Minister Boris Johnson the backing he needs to deliver Brexit ahead of a January 31st deadline.
The survey predicted the Conservatives would get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats—compared to 191 for the Labour Party. That would be the biggest Tory majority for several decades, and a major setback for Labour.
The poll is conducted for a group of UK broadcasters and is widely regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result. The poll also projects 55 seats for the Scottish National Party and 13 for the Liberal Democrats.
Official results are expected today.
Israel preps for third election in less than a year » Meantime, voters in Israel are now gearing up for another election. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones reports.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Israel’s deadlocked parliament this week failed to meet a deadline to form a coalition government. That triggers an unprecedented third election in less than a year to be held March 2nd.
Voters went to the polls just three months ago, but no party came out with a majority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried and failed to bring parties together to form a governing coalition. His chief rival Benny Gantz then tried his hand, but he also failed.
Then, during a final three-week window that ended Wednesday, they were unable to reach a power-sharing agreement or find an alternative leader.
The country now enters what is sure to be a bitter three-month political campaign.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.
Regulators to set up 3-digit suicide hotline » Federal regulators are setting up a new three-digit number, similar to 911 to reach a suicide prevention hotline.
Once it’s implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK. Counselors answered 2.2 million calls last year.
The next step is a comment period before the FCC moves to an order.
Boeing Max jets to remain grounded into 2020 » The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, said this week that it’s still unclear when Boeing Max jets will be cleared to fly again. But it won’t be this year. He told CNBC…
DICKSON: There are about 10 or 11 milestones left to complete. We’re in the portion of the process right now where we’re looking at the validation of how the software was developed.
On Capitol Hill this week, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel grilled Dickson and other officials. Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio revealed a troubling warning that he said the FAA ignored.
After the first Boeing Max jet crashed last year, safety officials said Boeing needed to fix a critical flight-control system. And they estimated that if Boeing did not fix it, 15 more Max jets could crash over the next few decades. Still, the FAA did not ground the plane until a second deadly crash five months later.
DEFAZIO: Despite its own calculations, the FAA rolled the dice on the safety of the traveling public and let the Max continue to fly until Boeing could overhaul its MCAS software.
Dickson declined to call that a mistake. He said—quote—“The decision did not achieve the result that it needed to achieve.”
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Christian opposition to the Fairness for All Act. Plus, a film about the consequences of government and media bias. This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Friday, December 13th, 2019. Glad to have you along for The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham.
As you heard on this program earlier this week, Utah Republican Chris Stewart introduced the Fairness for All Act. The bill introduced last week would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and add to it sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, just the same as race, sex, religion, age, and disability.
Congressman Stewart is himself Mormon, and Mormon leaders are publicly backing the legislation.
Here’s Stewart explaining why he believes Republicans must offer a legislative compromise that balances religious freedom with LGBT protections:
STEWART: We don’t think anyone should be discriminated against based on their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, religion, whatever it might be. We also have this other principle that says if you are a member of a faith that has sincerely held religious beliefs you shouldn’t have to abandon that faith.
Eight other Republicans co-sponsored the bill. Notably, no Democrats signed on. That’s likely because it’s seen as a competing measure to the Equality Act the House passed back in May, which has stalled in the Senate.
That legislation also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under federal civil rights law. But it doesn’t carve out any religious exemptions.
EICHER: John Stonestreet joins us now for Culture Friday. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
John, good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
EICHER: So, John, we know, even the bill sponsors know this bill isn’t going anywhere this year. They say, this is just to get the conversation going. So let’s get it going.
Here’s the pitch for it: this kind of bill, they say, is absolutely necessary to protect religious freedoms. Their argument is, yes, it expands LGBT protections, but it also enshrines religious liberty for churches, religious organizations, and some business owners.
For example, it would allow small wedding vendors like Baronelle Stutzman, the florist, and Jack Phillips, the baker, to do business in accordance with their biblical convictions. It would also allow religious organizations to hire employees who share their beliefs and let faith-based hospitals opt out of performing abortions and controversial so-called sex-reassignment surgeries.
I know you’re against it, but, devil’s advocate here, religious liberty seems to be losing supporters by the day. Why is it not time to sue for peace?
STONESTREET: Well, I think there’s a number of things.
Religious liberty is, I think, struggling in the cultural imagination and that’s a long-term problem that we need to solve. But the judiciary is a completely different judiciary than it was when Fairness For All was initially imagined.
In fact, you know, Fairness For All was initially imagined when everyone was almost certain that Hillary Clinton was going to be the president of the United States, that she was going to be the one that fills the vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, that she was going to be appointing lower court judges as well, and that she was going to have a similar policy agenda along with—that we saw in the last term of President Obama, in which it seemed like his singular policy priority in both domestic and foreign affairs was to advance the LGBT agenda in one way or another. And none of that’s really come to pass. Now, that’s not a long-term solution, as we’ve said, but it is a reprieve of sorts. And we do have a completely different judiciary because of it.
I think this is also not the right solution not just because we’re dealing with a different reality than what we had assumed when all of this started, but it’s also because of what you said. Not a single Democrat wants to support this bill. You can only compromise if those on the other side also want a compromise. It takes two to tango. It also takes two to have peace. And so this is a non-starter not just because some of us on the conservative side of the aisle think it’s problematic, but because no one on the left wants to play. And I just don’t see that as a reality that’s taking place.
BASHAM: OK, but John, as you said both the progressive left and the Christian right find certain provisions of this bill unacceptable. So no one really thinks it’s going to pass.
But the concessions Stewart and the other Republicans are willing to make still seem pretty telling. As does the support the bill is getting from a lot of religious groups like LDS leadership and then on the Christian side Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The National Association of Evangelicals voiced support at one point. I’ll add to that I’ve seen several op-eds from political conservatives arguing that given where our culture is now, a bill like this is the only way forward.
So I guess I have to ask, if they’re wrong, what do you see as the way forward on protecting religious rights in the face of rapidly changing public opinion?
STONESTREET: Well, I think at least as telling as the groups—or maybe more—as those who have lined up in support of the Fairness For All are those who haven’t, and even those who were at one point and grew silent. Even the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities have kind of been the primary advocate on the evangelical side of things. Many Christian college presidents do not support it, that are even part of the CCCU. So there’s just not universal support for this. In fact, I would say most evangelical groups are not behind this because of who it leaves out—I think most notably groups like C12, which is a group of Christian business owners. Because as Mike Sharrow, the CEO, has said very clearly, the sort of line that Fairness For All draws between who is protected and who is not basically leaves him and all of his CEOs that he works with kind of already on the wrong side of history there in the category of bigot.
Now, the argument for Fairness For All—one of them—that’s been made over and over is if we’re not going to do this, we’ve got to do something. What do you guys have? And the answer is, the thought is, well, you don’t have anything. I think we do. First of all, again, we have a new judiciary and we have kind of a track record now of many, many ways in which the Supreme Court—many, many incidences of when the Supreme Court has stood on the side of religious liberty and has not tolerated sort of mistreatment, for example, that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission directed at Jack Phillips. And they haven’t weighed in fully, yet, on where some of these lines are. And so for us to give up the 50-yard line and some would say with Fairness For All, more than the 50-yard line, before the game starts is, I think, a really unfortunate and unwise thing to do.
In other words, we have an established tradition in America of protecting religious freedom. That religious freedom is beyond just personal rights to worship in our own houses and houses of worship and in our own hearts. But it actually does allow us to order our public lives at some level. And the court has consistently supported that, not forced people who communicate to give messages against their deeply held beliefs. And has certainly protected houses of worship without us needing to draw a specific line that’s going to immediately put everybody else into the category of bigot. So I think there’s already been a way forward and that way forward right now is actually working and we’re doing it right now with a much more friendly court than we ever have before.
And I think we need to continue along those lines, and then continue to make that public case that we want the sort of culture where people can coexist with different deeply held beliefs, without coercing some people to violate theirs.
BASHAM: I’d like to turn the corner a little bit now. I know we call this Culture Friday, but I kind of joked to Nick that this is sort of our legislative edition of Culture Friday. I think, though, that this is some legislation that maybe is a little easier to get on board with. Republican Mark Walker of North Carolina introduced for the second time a bill called The Universal Charitable Giving Act.
The first time Walker introduced the bill was in 2017 in part as a response to research showing that the percentage of Americans who donate to charity has dropped significantly since 2002. It didn’t pass.
This year, he brought the legislation forward again in time to coincide with Giving Tuesday. It’s aim is to encourage more tax filers to give to charity by allowing a charitable tax deduction even if they don’t itemize.
So, John, as, I assume, a taxpayer yourself, what do you think of this idea?
STONESTREET: Well, I think the new tax plan—even though it simplified an awful lot under Trump—it did take away sort of the tax incentive for people who don’t exceed the general deduction, which actually includes an awful lot of givers because it’s a very generous general deduction. I think organizations are now reporting, as I’ve seen in the various reports, it didn’t affect so much things in year one but it does seem to be affecting things in year two. And I think it’s worth considering. I don’t think—at least I know the folks who are so generous and kind to support the work of the Colson Center, they don’t seem motivated by tax deductions alone. In fact, someone just told me that. I asked about a gift and I said, you know, about the timing of it before tax deduction. And he said, ah, I don’t care about taxes. I think most people want to be wise, because we don’t want our money just to go to the government when it could go other places and we want to maximize those things. And I’m appreciative, for example, of the National Christian Foundation and many others who have made things like donor-advised funds for lower income donors and for lower givers more accessible and easier and that becomes now another option around the taxes. But, look, anything that encourages people to take responsibility for their own communities, for their own works of charity, and so on, I think is a good thing. And we all know that the net contribution that organizations, faith-based organizations bring to the GDP is unbelievable. And that the government literally could not have any sort of social safety net that really worked without so many groups that need to be supported. So, sure, yeah. I’m not an expert on tax policy, but you don’t have to twist my arm on this one.
EICHER: Yeah, I mean, we’ve basically heard the same at WORLD that the tax deduction is not the motivation. The mission is the motivation. But, yeah, as you say, anything that drives people to be more charitable and in support of a community-based social safety net has got to be a net positive.
Well, John Stonestreet is the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday.
John, thanks so much.
STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick. Thanks, Megan.
NICK EICHER: One more word before we move on. This week, we kicked off our very important December Giving Drive. You’ve heard from Kim Henderson, from Anna Johansen, from Janie B. Cheaney, and yesterday from Sarah Schweinsberg—all emphasizing the importance of supporting Biblically sound journalism, grounded in God’s word.
MEGAN BASHAM: They’ve all been so good, so powerful. And if you’re like so many listeners who miss some days and then go back and binge-listen to catch up: I want to encourage you to pay special attention to those messages. If you have heard them, I’d just say, I hope you’ll give prayerful consideration to your part in our December Giving Drive. wng.org/donate
EICHER: It takes a strong team to produce 260 daily radio programs a year, as well as Listening In, and The Olasky Interview—and a new program I’m excited to be able to tell you about next week.
EICHER: Yes! And that’s just our radio team. We also have a digital journalism team that produces a really useful daily news summary called The Sift, as well as a big package of news roundups on Life, Education, the Arts, Poverty-fighting, Family, Origins, and Religious Liberty.
And our magazine team, producing the crown jewel: WORLD Magazine, a journalistically rigorous, painstakingly reported, beautifully written, tightly edited magazine 24 times each year—delivered on paper and via digital app.
To keep all that rolling takes your investment in sound journalism, grounded in God’s word.
I hope you’ll support our December Giving Drive today at wng.org/donate. Thanks for considering it.
NICK EICHER: You might recall the story last year of an airline passenger who wanted to bring her emotional support peacock with her on the plane. That was part of a growing trend toward designating unusual pets as emotional support animals.
Well, an Arizona man created quite a buzz recently when he registered a highly unusual pet. Actually, he registered hundreds of them—an entire hive of bees.
David Keller told WTRF TV he believes many people abuse the “service animal” designation. So he registered the beehive on a service animal registration website to prove a point.
KELLER: To bring awareness to the issue that anyone can do this.
Many service animal registration websites may give users the impression that they’re officially or legally designating their pets as service animals. But in many cases that “registration” is entirely meaningless.
KELLER: It’s making people believe that all animals are service animals when they’re not, and there’s a clear difference.
Under federal law, only specially trained dogs can serve as service animals and in some cases, miniature horses!
Now, I’m no lawyer and Mary’s not here today to ask, but that seems like no peacocks or honeybees allowed.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, December 13th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we are glad you are!
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The new film Richard Jewell.
Clint Eastwood’s latest movie details the travesty of justice that Jewell endured after the Olympic Park bombing in 1996. It’s raising a lot of ire in some circles. For that reason, and because it’s extremely well done, it’s worth talking about, even though it’s rated R for heavy language and brief, realistic violence.
There’s a moment early in the film, when a perfectly pressed, iron-jawed FBI agent looks around at a mass of doughy Southerners gleefully doing the macarena. “I’m made for better things than this,” he grouses in disgust. A beautiful, young reporter stands next to him at the same Atlanta park during the 1996 Olympics trying to scrape up a story. She shoots back, “You think I’m not?”
It’s a scene ironically echoed later by Richard himself. Leaving to work security at that event, the wannabe cop tells his mother the world owes them more from life. “Maybe it does,” she replies, “but this is what we’ve got. Now go to work.” So Richard does, diligently.
CLIP: Well it ain’t theirs Richard. I don’t like this. We got ourselves a suspicious package. We better call it in. It’s probably just somebody run off drunk and forgot their backpack. I still think we have to call it in. Just take it to the lost and found Richard. Shouldn’t we unzip it and see what’s inside first? No, no, you don’t want to touch that. You got to follow protocol.
The true story of how the hero of the Olympic Park bombing came to be falsely cast as its villain offers searing indictments of unethical media and governmental abuse of power. But behind this, we mostly see the wages of our sinful tendency to strive for superiority.
Wanting to believe we could be, should be doing something better is a common failing of mankind. But how quickly we slide into corruption when we believe our good looks, intellect, or professional achievements entitle us to the submission of those we view as our lessers.
It’s all too easy for both the FBI agent (played by Jon Hamm) and the reporter (played by Olivia Wilde) to assume the worst of Richard. He’s lower-class, overweight, socially awkward. Even worse, he’s the kind of guy who questions whether the NRA is a fringe group. They view him not as a human being but as a type, a stepping stone to those better things they were made for.
Because of this, they cut corners and miss obvious evidence. And they ruin an innocent man’s life in the process.
CLIP: Time? Six minutes. OK we know the second 911 call was placed at 12:58 on a payphone that was right here. We also know that Richard was inside the park near the light tower at 12:57. When Bill Miller called the backpack in he would have had to cover the distance in one minute. He really didn’t do this. This kid’s getting railroaded. We’re going to help this guy.
Richard, on the other hand, for all his excessive enthusiasm, is faithful in his work. The only thing he’s guilty of is being so passionate about it and its tangential relationship to law enforcement, he doesn’t know when to stop. He even offers to help the FBI in their search for evidence to charge him.
CLIP: They took all my Tupperware. What would they need with my Tupperware? The bomber used the Tupperware to hold the nails. That’s standard. Well, what does that have to do with you? And they took my babysitting tapes. My Disney movies. Yeah I think they did that because they wanted to see if we might’ve recorded something on the tapes like a political statement or something. Why do you keep defending these people? I’m not defending them, I’m just explaining. Well stop it.
Eastwood’s film has prompted angry media reactions for offering a largely accurate portrayal of the injustice perpetrated against Richard Jewell. That’s telling. The movie’s focus stays tightly on the year 1996. It never even alludes to anything relating to current politics. Snide comments about a throwaway bit of dialogue using the phrase “quid pro quo” are ridiculous. Lawyers used that phrase long before the current impeachment saga. And even Eastwood doesn’t make movies that fast.
If there are parallels to today—and there are—that’s not Eastwood’s fault. It’s the fault of the media and the officials creating the parallels.
Eastwood uses real footage of newsman Tom Brokaw blithely asserting the Feds probably have the goods on the accused bomber. Faced with such glaring bias from such a big megaphone, where does an average guy like Richard turn to get his reputation back?
CLIP: My son is innocent. Richard is not the Olympic Park bomber. He saved people’s lives. Please hear me, Mr. President and help me. My son is a hero. If they do not intend to charge my son, please tell us. Please tell the world. Mr. President, please clear my son’s name.
The Daily Beast calls Richard Jewell a “MAGA screed calibrated to court favor with the red hat-wearing faithful.” The Washington Post deems its “vilification of reporters and the feds [scary].” Their reactions smack of defensiveness and entirely miss the cautionary lesson Richard Jewell offers.
Vilification is warranted when those in power are motivated by prejudice. It’s warranted when arrogance prompts the media and the government to barrel ahead even when their mistakes are staring them in the face.
In 1996, government officials and journalists said, how dare you question us, the smart people, the ones made for better things than the masses.
As the reaction to Eastwood’s latest work shows, they’re still saying it too often today.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, December 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. The four weeks leading to Christmas, known as the season of Advent, can be marked by preparation, meditation, fasting and longing.
Today, we’re ending our program with a song that captures another hallmark of the season: joy. Singer Sara Groves talks with Myrna Brown about her arrangement of a well loved Advent hymn.
SARA GROVES: I was really drawn to this song because it’s this invitation. You have the collective kind of groan of mankind. We have all of this brokenness and spaces around us. And there’s a longing, come, would you come.
SONG: Come thou long expected Jesus. Born to set Thy people free.
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: John Wesley’s “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” reflects the dual aspects of Advent: Christ’s first coming and the anticipation of his second. Sara Groves’ rendition of the classic hymn draws from both.
SARA: I think Jesus is born into a day that is much like our own. He comes in a very chaotic time. Our longings are real and they’re rooted in real issues and real dynamics and real trouble that we face in the world. And then the joy is real because we have cause to have hope.
Author, Peter Mead writes, “At the centre of heaven is Christ, lovingly adored as the forever Lord of all. At the centre of Christmas is Christ, frail and cradled in the tender arms of a young mother. How can the two be put together? Heavenly glory and human frailty? That is the real wonder of Christmas.“
SARA: That’s what I love about the whole hymn. It speaks to the limit and the realities of the heaviness that we carry and then it speaks to our call for joy.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER: Well, it’s time to thank the people who put the program together this week: Our thanks to these hardworking folks: Myrna Brown, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Bonnie Pritchett, Mary Reichard, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz stay up late to get the program to you early. J.C. Derrick is managing editor and Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief.
1 Peter says in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
Go now in grace and peace.