- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The American way of life is in crisis and is in need of a spiritual, moral and cultural renewal, a traditional values leader said Monday night in a first-of-its-kind address.

“The state of our union is only as strong as the state of our family,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said in the first “state of the family” speech, presented on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Mr. Perkins singled out religious freedom as the foundation for “the whole of our republic” and lamented that religious liberties seem to be “chipped away” with “each rap of the gavel of an activist judge or human rights tribunal.”

He first called on Christians to “pray and to act,” to renew the pledge to keep American “one nation, under God.”

Mr. Perkins also asked the Obama administration to elevate religious freedom in its foreign affairs activities, and to enact, with Congress, laws to stop human trafficking, taxpayer funding of abortion and abortions after 20 weeks gestation, due to the unborn child’s capacity to feel pain.

His further asked for the passage of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act to prevent “government discrimination against those whose conscience and beliefs view marriage as a union of a man and a woman.”

His final request, in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., were for faithful Americans of different races to march together, “all as one in Christ Jesus,” to rebuild the key elements of U.S. society, and for Americans not to be silent or retreat into their churches or homes “in the face of threatening winds of intolerance and irreligion.”

The FRC president singled out four families in the audience who endured, or are enduring, a crucible of faith over abortion or same-sex marriage.

These included the Hahn family, the Mennonite cabinetmakers who could not abide the federal government’s new health care rules for employers.

Their family won a Supreme Court judgment last summer that said religious owners of closely held family businesses did not have to cover certain contraceptive products. At the event Monday night, Anthony Hahn, president and chief executive of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., said their business is “back to normal” and sales are expected to get even better “as the economy does.”

Another family, Barth and Abbie Bracy, who are pro-life leaders in Connecticut and Rhode Island, fought and won a legislative battle to ensure that at least some health insurance plans in Connecticut do not subsidize abortions. Similar actions are active or planned in other states, said Casey Mattox, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, who works with the Bracys.

On the marriage front, the Miller family, who have run a wedding boutique for two decades in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, said they saw their world “explode” after gay marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania and they, as a family, agreed they could not provide wedding garb to same-sex couples due to their Christian beliefs that marriage is a sacred union of a man and a woman.

When the Millers declined to work with gay couples, they were subjected to public ridicule, verbal attacks and even threats against their children, Victoria and Tom Miller said Monday. Local officials considered a law to force them to participate in same-sex weddings but it was not enacted, thanks to community support.

Today, the Millers are still in business, despite continuing criticisms.

“I believe we all have to stand in front of Christ and account for our lives … and He was willing to die for us,” Mrs. Miller said tearfully, as her husband nodded quietly beside her.

Business owners Aaron and Melissa Klein also attended the event Monday. The Oregon parents of five have already been subjected to a $150,000 fine for declining to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple; they are fighting this legally and have a March 10 court date.

“We believe God should be with you at all times and in the workplace,” said Mrs. Klein, noting that she and her husband start their work days with prayers, and they posted Scripture messages all over their former business offices for Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

Ours is not some “isolated” incident, Mr. Klein said. This kind of conflict between religious conscience and secular law is something that could affect “every family.”

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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