MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The days of college entrance exams are over, at least for some students.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Also you’ll hear an update on Coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job for praying in public.
Plus we’ll meet a former Olympian who teaches kids to skate with a purpose.
And Cal Thomas on an unusual approach to state taxes.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, March 25th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: CDC concerned about pandemic trends, hails vaccine progress » CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she’s encouraged that the U.S. vaccination effort is now largely firing on all cylinders. But she’s concerned that progress in halting new COVID-19 cases has stalled out.
WALLENSKY: We’re still hanging out at 55,000 cases a day, and we’re watching what’s happening with people who are vacationing right now, and that concerns me a lot.
A rolling 7-day average showed new U.S. infections peaking in mid-January at about a quarter-of-a-million per day. After that, new cases plummeted more than 70 percent. But over the past four weeks, very little has changed as new infections have plateaued.
What has not stalled are the rates of new hospitalizations and deaths. The latest data show those numbers falling just as rapidly as they were a month ago.
And that could speak to the early vaccinations of high-risk Americans.
And Wallensky said all Americans will soon have access to vaccines.
WALLENSKY: We are now vaccinating between 16 and 20 million people a week.
She said that puts the United States on pace to make vaccines available to everyone no later than May.
Biden extends window for Obamacare signups » President Biden has extended the signup window for Obamacare, pushing the enrollment deadline back to August 15th.
He made the announcement this week as he pitched his healthcare agenda while marking the 11th anniversary of Obamacare.
BIDEN: We have a duty not just to protect it but to make it better and to keep becoming a nation where healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for a few.
Biden pledged that his $1.9 trillion rescue spending package would build on the promise of the Affordable Care Act. The relief law pumps up “Obamacare” premium subsidies, particularly for people with middle-class incomes.
The Biden administration is continuing a nationwide blitz to sell the benefits of the relief package to the American public.
Biden shrugs off North Korean missile tests » President Biden on Wednesday shrugged off recent North Korean missile launches. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown reports.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: North Korea fired short-range missiles this past weekend, just days after Kim Jong Un’s sister threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises.
But President Biden said he did not see the missile tests as a provocation, adding—quote—“There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”
Biden administration officials noted that the missile tests were not covered by U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to deter the country’s nuclear program.
North Korea has ignored offers from the new administration to resume diplomatic talks. Secretary of State Tony Blinken last week pressed China to use its influence to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Virginia bans death penalty » Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation into law on Wednesday abolishing capital punishment.
NORTHAM: There is no place today for the death penalty in this commonwealth, in the South, or in this nation.
That makes Virginia the 23rd state to do away with the death penalty.
The bills were the culmination of a yearslong battle among state lawmakers. Democrats argued that over the years, courts had disproportionately given death sentences to people of color, the mentally ill, and the poor.
Republicans argued that the death penalty should remain a sentencing option for especially heinous crimes and to bring justice to victims and their families.
Gov. Northam, a Democrat, signed the House and Senate bills in a ceremony under a tent Wednesday after touring an execution chamber south of Richmond.
Myanmar junta frees hundreds of protesters » Myanmar’s ruling military junta has released hundreds of jailed pro-democracy demonstrators. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has that story.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Witnesses outside a prison in Yangon saw buses carrying mostly young people away from the prison grounds. State-run TV said a total of more than 600 were freed.
Wednesday’s prisoner release was an unusual overture by the military, likely aimed at placating the protest movement.
Myanmar’s security forces have cracked down violently on protests against the Feb. 1st coup. An independent watchdog group said those crackdowns have killed at least 275 people. Security forces have also arrested thousands. More than 2,000 remain in custody or have charges against them outstanding.
Demonstrators tried a new tactic Wednesday that they dubbed a silence strike, calling on people to stay home and businesses to close for the day.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: new college admissions policies.
Plus, Cal Thomas on tax breaks in West Virginia.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday the 25th of March, 2021. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It.
Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: skipping college admissions tests.
Last year, many SAT and ACT test centers shut down due to the pandemic. That left students without the test scores usually crucial for getting into college. So last year, many universities made standardized tests optional.
BASHAM: Taking tests should be easier this year, but students may not need to bother. WORLD’s Esther Eaton explains why.
ESTHER EATON, REPORTER: When Illinois high school senior Clay Lindner signed up for the ACT last summer, students were waiting hours in digital queues hoping to snag seats at test centers COVID-19 hadn’t shut down.
So when a computer glitch transferred Lindner’s registration to Arkansas, he didn’t risk competing for another spot in the Chicago area. Instead, he switched his registration again: to Kentucky, where there was less risk of cancellation and he could stay with relatives.
But not everyone can hop states for a test. A lot of students were stuck without scores, so colleges and universities switched their admissions policies to test-optional. That meant applicants could skip SAT and ACT scores and still get in.
Jon Bahr is head of enrollment at Michigan’s Spring Arbor University.
BAHR: In addition to the entire spring run of tests being pulled off the calendar, the fall run was impacted by restrictions on the number of students that could reasonably sit in a location to take a standardized test, and so we were trying to be responsive to the experience that our students were going through. And in doing so, you know, eliminate barriers or burdens that they might have for accessing higher education.
Some schools had already made the SAT and ACT optional for applicants. In New York, Roberts Wesleyan College found SAT scores didn’t predict success for the school’s African American and first-generation students. So in 2016, it made standardized test scores optional for those with high enough grade point averages.
Kimberley Wiedefeld is enrollment head at Roberts Wesleyan. She said the college has enrolled more racially and economically diverse students since making the switch. And she considers that part of its mission as a Christian school.
WIEDEFELD: When confronted with the information that says the SAT and the ACT have zero predictive value for a Black or African American student at Roberts’ campus, I believe it’s an ethical responsibility to say—we can’t continue using this metric.
Not all school administrators felt that way. But COVID-19 pushed many to reconsider. Testing improvement organization FairTest estimates more than 13-hundred institutions are test-optional for fall 2022, up from just over 1-thousand pre-pandemic. A handful have extended the change for three years. Some have made it permanent. And almost 70 schools are now test-blind, meaning they won’t consider scores even if students submit them.
So how do schools weigh applications without tests? Some have kept minimum GPA standards or require scores only from certain applicants, such as homeschoolers. At Alabama’s Samford University, where about 35 percent of this year’s applicants didn’t submit scores, enrollment head Jason Black said admissions counselors focused on transcript reviews, essays, and letters of recommendation.
BLACK: We would say previously before the pandemic that there are many factors and test score was not any more weighted than something else was, which was absolutely true. But when you remove it, no matter what portion of the pie it is, and you don’t have something to replace it with that is an equal, then it’s really, the pie’s not edible, right? It’s useless. And so, we had to rethink the entire process. It probably doubled the time that it took to review an applicant.
Not all students are happy about dropping standardized tests. Some feel extra pressure on other portions of their application, such as grades and extracurriculars. And the pandemic disrupted those, too. Test-blind admissions also frustrate those who hope high scores will offset weak GPAs.
Whether more schools will stick with test-optional policies for good depends on how new students fare. In the past, schools that tried a test-optional policy usually kept it. But those schools tried the policies after extensive planning, not out of necessity.
For now, admissions counselors are focused on helping those admitted during the pandemic as they wait for data on student retention and academic success. Jason Black says that includes the team at Samford.
BLACK: Going test-optional does not strike fear in us. We can make these decisions about permanent policies as, you know, as the weeks and months unfold.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Esther Eaton.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: a loss of religious liberty on the gridiron.
Last week, a federal appeals court rejected the claim of a high school football coach who asserted his right to pray after football games.
Coach Joseph Kennedy had done this for some time, often joined by others. But the Bremerton, Washington School District ordered him to stop, citing concerns about establishing a religion.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: The district fired him in 2015 for defying that order. Kennedy sued, citing violation of his right to free exercise of religion. But he lost in federal district court and then again last week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Here to talk about this latest decision is Steve West. He’s an attorney and writes about religious liberty issues for WORLD Digital. Good morning, Steve!
STEVE WEST, GUEST: Good morning, Mary.
REICHARD: We just talked about the origins of the case, but let’s fill in a little more background. The U.S. Supreme Court back in January 2019 declined his appeal and sent the case back to the district court. But within that decline to hear his appeal, the conservative justices offered some hope. How so?
WEST: Justices don’t usually make a statement when they decline to review a case, but here Justice Alito felt compelled. And Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch joined him. Alito said the case wasn’t ripe for review, as there wasn’t enough information about how the school enforced its policies, but then he said this: “[T]he Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.” Not only that, he went on to say that if this was the kind of case that was before them for a mandatory jurisdiction, that is, it’s a case case they had to hear, then their clear obligation would be to vacate the decision below. In other words, do away with it. So, you can see why Coach Kennedy was hopeful after that.
REICHARD: And what happened?
WEST: Back down to the district court the case went, and there, once again, the district court sided with the school district.
REICHARD: Okay, so one week ago, a three-judge panel of the liberal-leaning appeals court rejected Coach Kennedy’s appeal. So is that the end of the road for Kennedy as far as this case goes?
WEST: Not yet. Kennedy’s attorneys have indicated that they will once again ask the Supreme Court to review the case. And so the hope is that this time, with a more fully developed record—that is, more facts—and, perhaps, the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett–they just might be heard.
REICHARD: What was the court’s reasoning for that ruling?
WEST: Well, the judges said that even if Kennedy engaged in private and personal activity, the publicity that surrounded his prayer suggested it had the school’s stamp of approval. So, you get the sense from the opinion that they believed Coach Kennedy was grandstanding. That he was eager for the media attention, which there was a lot of ultimately. Here’s a quote: “At issue was—in every sense of the word—a demonstration, and, because Kennedy demanded that it take place immediately after the final whistle, it was a demonstration necessarily directed at students and the attending public.” Judges said that basically, due to all the attention that this prayer brought, any reasonable observer would have to think it had the school’s stamp of approval.
REICHARD: And what was Kennedy’s counter argument to that?
WEST: He said, “Look, I’m praying after the game, silently, briefly, and on my own. I’m not requiring or telling students they have to participate.” And then we know that when students asked if they could join him, he told them “This is a free country. You can do what you want.” He’s basically saying I have a right to the free exercise of my religion. He understands that he can’t lead students in prayer in the locker room or preach to them. But this is on his own.
The school wanted to accommodate him by allowing him a place to pray outside of public view, but Coach Kennedy felt led to a public expression of thanks–and many students and parents ultimately agreed with him and joined him.
REICHARD: What are the broader implications of last week’s ruling? Does this mean teachers or public school employees can’t pray in plain view of others? Or that they’re in danger of being fired with no legal recourse if they do?
WEST: It certainly casts a shadow over other religious expressions by school teachers, coaches, and employees—praying over a meal in the lunchroom, quietly reading a Bible at their desk, wearing a cross. Concurring Judge Christen tries to head that off in a separate opinion. I smiled at what she said, “No case law requires that a high school teacher must be out of sight of students or jump into the nearest broom closet in order to engage in private prayer.” She contrasted what Kennedy did with a teacher bowing in prayer before a meal in the high school cafeteria or giving thanks after an “all clear” announcement following a safety scare.
But you have to wonder: are they really distinguishable from what Coach Kennedy did? And you also have to question whether that reasonable observer—that’s students or parents watching—will really think Kennedy’s praying was endorsed by the school. The reasonable observer always seems to be the perpetually offended observer.
High school students are smarter than that. Parents and others definitely ought to be smarter than that. They can make distinctions between Coach the school employee and Coach the private citizen. So, let’s give them some credit.
REICHARD: Steve West writes about religious liberties for WORLD Digital. You can read his work at WNG.org. You can also subscribe to his free weekly newsletter on First Amendment issues, Liberties. Steve, always good to have you on. Thank you!
WEST: Thanks for having me, Mary.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, the past year’s lockdowns led lots of people to be more outdoors-minded, just to stave off boredom.
But a 10-year-old boy from Surrey, England has taken it to a whole different level.
Freddie Owen decided to trade his bedroom for a backyard tent.
OWEN: In the first night it was a bit rocky and rather uncomfortable, but I ended up enjoying it. It was fun.
Forward-thinking Freddie tied his outdoor adventure to a good cause. He’s raised more than $20,000 for a charity that supplies food banks.
Lest you think the young lad soon would tire of his outdoor bedroom, well, it’s been a year already.
Turns out, he’s a real nature lover, as he told ITV News.
OWEN: Well, it’s really the owls at night, the birds in the morning, the rain on my tent, the wind.
And rain, sleet, or snow—he’s got no plans to return to his room anytime soon.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Next up: the Olympics.
Last year’s games got postponed. You well know why! And you probably know the build up to the games starts with the Olympic flame being passed from runner to runner.
Today, a year after the Olympic Flame arrived in host country Japan, the Torch Relay gets underway once again. Runners will pass the torch to each other until the flame arrives in Tokyo in time for the opening games ceremony in July.
REICHARD: Forty nine years ago, figure skater Bibi Moritz of New Jersey carried the Olympic torch for the games in Munich, Germany.
World Journalism Institute mid-career graduate Amy Lewis has her story.
[MUSIC: BUGLER’S DREAM]
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: Figure skater champion Bibi Moritz still has the Olympic torch she carried in 1972.
MORITZ: I carried the torch for the Olympics in Munich. I just said the other day, I don’t even know where it is. It’s somewhere.
Bibi Moritz, known simply as Bibi, was born Eileen Zillmer. She was only 14 when she skated in her first Olympics for West Germany. Twenty-five years earlier, her Austrian mother qualified for the Olympics but never got to compete because World War Two cancelled the games—twice.
Bibi started skating before she was 2 years old. Her mother handed off her Olympic dreams to the young skater. She coached Bibi and pushed her to success. Skating—and her mother’s expectations—dominated Bibi’s days.
MORITZ: I used to love the exhibition. Other than that, I think it was tough. I think all of it was just so much practice. Before school, after school. Back on the ice till about seven at night. I mean, I did homework in the bathtub, more or less.
Her home wasn’t a restful place.
MORITZ: ‘Cause she brought skating home. So it wasn’t ended at the rink, where it would with a coach. So it was at home too. You know, if you didn’t do something right, or, you know, she was still mad at you because you didn’t land the jump or whatever it was. It’s tough to bring it home.
Even food became a means of control.
MORITZ: I don’t know, there must have been something that maybe would have been better than just locking up the kitchen, because then I wanted it twice as much. One time I ate a whole box of Honey Buns and then I was so worried that my mother would find out I ripped the whole box up and flushed it down the toilet.
Her mother’s expectations and coldness made Bibi call out to God. She remembers praying daily at each crucifix she passed at her private school.
MORITZ: And I prayed every night in bed, I used to just have my stuffed animals lined up on my bed and pray with them. Because I was, you know, upset because I couldn’t understand her. I was never angry with her. I just was sad that she couldn’t understand, maybe, the love I think I expected.
Even if she couldn’t express love for her daughter, Bibi’s mother was an effective coach, and Bibi earned a place on the 1968 German Olympic team.
ARCHIVE AUDIO: [PEGGY FLEMING]
That year, American Peggy Fleming won gold…Bibi placed 19th.
ARCHIVE AUDIO: [1970 WORLD FIGURE SKATING]
For the next three years, Bibi won Germany’s National Championships. She rocketed to the world’s top-10 skaters and qualified for the 1972 Olympics.
But she contracted sarcoidosis—growths of inflammatory cells in her lungs. She missed the Olympics—just like her mother.
She hung up her competitive skates at age 18.
MORITZ: Well, I was very sad, of course. And I wrote an essay, that I used to be the main entrance of a hotel door. And now I’m just the side door for the servants because suddenly you feel like you’re nobody. But then I was immediately thinking, I need to do some things. I love skating so much. What can I now do for skating? I can teach kids. And that’s exactly what I did, then right away, you know, at 18. I started at 18 already, I started teaching.
Her ability to change direction on ice translated well—from competitive skating to coaching athletes. She coached with her mother in the U.S. for several years. She says that worked only because she kept her expectations low and prayed for her mother. But their relationship remained distant.
Bibi attended college in the U.S. She married Chris Moritiz, who managed an ice rink. His faith in Christ ran deeper than hers. He gently influenced her deepening understanding of the gospel as she continued coaching.
Training Olympic hopefuls demanded a lot of energy and focus. She preferred spending time with her husband and their young son. So she changed course again. Instead of working primarily with athletes, she began teaching children the joy of skating. It lacked the wow-factor of a triple lutz, but she was passing on the artistry and beauty of the sport.
AUDIO: [SKATING RINK]
On a 50-degree March day in northern New Jersey, Bibi—now in her 60s—pulls on ski pants, tucks toe warmers into her fuzzy winter boots clad with extra traction, and cues the music for her first lesson at the Englewood Field Club. The sun has melted the rink’s north end into a giant puddle, so she’ll spend the next five hours on the south end, calling instructions to her students…
AUDIO: [SHARPENING SKATES]
…sharpening blades, petting dogs the moms bring rink-side, and fielding temperature checks.
Her students love their coach, responding well to her care.
SOFIA: I’m Sofia.
AMY: Tell me, how old are you?
SIENNA: My name is Sienna Vargas. I’m nine years old. Before, I couldn’t do a Chinese spiral. Before, I couldn’t do a spiral. Before, I couldn’t do a lunge. I couldn’t do a lot of things before. She’s strict, but, in like, in a good way, because a strict way, because it gives you more confidence to, like, try it again.
What could be more important than passing on to her students the love of skating?
Sharing God’s love brings Bibi the most joy. Coaching provides opportunities to talk about Jesus. She regularly prays for her co-workers and her students and their families. In the end, it’s not mainly about skating:
MORITZ: I think, altogether, just that I can bring Christ to as many people as I can. And I think really that’s my main mission. Listen, we can’t do anything without God.
Someday while spring cleaning, Bibi may come across her medals and the Olympic torch again, but those things don’t define her.
MORITZ: Yes, it was great that I did it. Don’t get me wrong. I think it was a great experience. And I wouldn’t want to change it for anything. However, I don’t define myself as you know, this wonderful skater. I want to be, you know, a Christian,anda wife, and a mother, and then I want to be a champion, you know, because that’s not really who I am.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis, in Englewood, New Jersey.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In. This week, host Warren Smith talks to Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College. That’s a private Christian school in Massachusetts.
Mentoring Christians through the years, Lindsay has discovered some guiding principles when it comes to making life-changing decisions.
WARREN SMITH: You say that failure is the wake up call to transition. Say more about that idea.
MICHAEL LINDSAY: Oftentimes we experience failure in our life. And if we don’t pause to see what really happened, we missed the great lessons that God wants to teach us both personally about our character, about how we relate to other people, about how we get things done, but also thinking sort of comprehensively about our life. Failure can become the crucible of great transformation and change.
I find looking at scripture, most of the time, it is in defeat, disappointment, loss and grief, that the Lord speaks most dramatically to his people. And it is in those contexts, that He does the most. Transformation of who we are, our value, our values, our character, the way we live out our life. Now, it’s not to say that the Lord brings all that into our life, because we can’t learn character, we can’t develop virtue in the good times. But the human condition is much more open to that kind of transformational work of the Lord in those moments of great loss.
And so what I try to encourage my students to think about, and I’d say, I try to think about it in my own life, is how we can use disappointment and loss. And those moments when we fail in achieving our hopes or dreams, how we can really learn from that? If you can fail early and often, it dramatically increases the possibilities of your upward growth and trajectory. And I think all of us want to get better, stronger, want to be more effective in what the Lord has called us to do, but you actually have to learn that through some of the disappointments and setbacks that are just part of learning and growing up.
BASHAM: That’s Michael Lindsay talking to Warren Smith. To hear their complete conversation, look for Listening In wherever you get your podcasts.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 25th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Well, it’s tax time. And for many Americans, that means paying federal taxes and state taxes. And we’re starting to hear more about having to pay even more taxes.
But people living in one state may actually get a tax break. Commentator Cal Thomas explains why.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: West Virginia is unique among America’s 50 states. At a convention in Wheeling, Virginia, in 1861, delegates from Virginia’s northwest counties voted to break away from that state over the issue of slavery.
West Virginia is again attempting to “break away,” this time on the issue of taxes. While the Biden administration wants to raise federal income taxes to cover overspending, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice wants to reduce and eventually eliminate his state’s personal income tax. If successful, West Virginia would join nine other states that do not impose state income taxes on their citizens.
I recently asked the governor why he wanted to erase his state’s major revenue source. He told me the state’s economy is booming. It now has a “$100 million surplus,” in spite of the pandemic. That’s because, he says, businesses, including restaurants, “are 100 percent open” and people are flocking to the state to spend time and money.
Gov. Justice estimates that if his tax cut proposal passes the majority-Republican legislature it will “put $2,200 more in people’s pockets.” He says every single person in the state will end up, quote— “cash positive.”
What about those who don’t earn enough to pay state income tax? “I’ll just write them a check,” he says. The governor says that expenditure will be paid for and the lost revenue recovered by raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.9 percent “on beer, sodas, tobacco and luxury items.” He predicts his proposal will raise property and home values, and lead to more jobs and higher wages.
With such an improving economy, will the governor accept the state’s portion of the $1.9 trillion relief bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Biden?
“Absolutely,” he says.
But that could cause problems for his tax cut plan. The bill includes this caveat: “A state or territory shall not use the funds to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue.”
Gov. Justice blames his state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, for including that language in the bill. But he says he will abide by the law if it is interpreted in a way that frustrates his proposed tax cuts.
If Gov. Justice manages to navigate the legal challenges that will likely come from his proposed cut in state taxes, West Virginia could be a model for other states and even the federal government.
A flat tax—even a “use” tax—instead of a graduated income tax, has been a dream of many Republicans and conservatives for decades. Not only would it give everyone “skin in the game,” as opposed to the current situation where half the country pays no federal income tax, it would also eliminate much of the class warfare the left uses to raise taxes on “the rich” and successful.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Tomorrow: The governor of South Dakota caves in and fails to protect womens’ sports. John Stonestreet joins us once again for Culture Friday.
And, Sarah Schweinsberg reviews a new family film about saying yes to adventure.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Go now in grace and peace.