WI Supreme Court Decision ‘Entangles Gov. in Spiritual Affairs’

WI Supreme Court Decision ‘Entangles Gov. in Spiritual Affairs’

Last Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Wisconsin Catholic Charities, run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Superior, are not operated primarily for a religious purpose and therefore are not exempt from participating in the state’s unemployment tax system.

The Court decided that while the Superior-based Catholic Charities Bureau is motivated by Catholic doctrines to assist the elderly, disabled, and low-income individuals, the nature of the services they provide is considered non-religious.

Justice Rebecca Bradley, voting with the minority, wrote a dissenting opinion, in which she said, “The majority’s misinterpretation also excessively entangles the government in spiritual affairs, requiring courts to determine what religious practices are sufficiently religious under the majority’s unconstitutional test. The majority says secular entities provide charitable services, so such activities aren’t religious at all, even when performed by Catholic Charities.”

The legal counsel for the Catholic group has vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the high court decide to review the case, its decision could potentially set a precedent with widespread effects across the nation.

Wisconsin Family Council was part of a friend-of-the-court brief filed in this case, urging the Court to protect the rights of religious organizations. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court got this case wrong. This decision is pure judicial activism. Having any court determine for a religious entity which of its purposes are sufficiently religious is so obviously in violation of the First Amendment.

The implications of this decision are far-reaching, not just for Catholic entities but for all faith-based organizations that could find their religious missions scrutinized and secularized by poor judicial interpretation. This case underscores the importance of continuing to defend religious liberty at all levels of the legal system, as the fundamental right to live out one’s faith in all aspects of life — including acts of charity — is a cornerstone of the principles our nation was founded on.

Gambling: A Bad Bet for Families

Gambling: A Bad Bet for Families

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling recognizes March as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Problem gambling is defined as all gambling behaviors that compromise, disrupt, or damage personal, family, or vocational pursuits. This month serves as an important opportunity to highlight gambling’s destructive impact on families and society in general.  

As gambling has grown and evolved in Wisconsin, we’ve witnessed increased problems. In 1993, coinciding with the expansion of gambling in the state, especially casinos, the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling was formed and funded. Ironically, funds for this organization now come almost exclusively from Indian casino profits.

As the state agrees to expand gambling, they know they are asking for trouble; so, they create an organization specifically to help problem gamblers and appropriate money. Remember that the state gets money from the casinos by virtue of the compacts we have entered into with the tribes. As the casinos increase their take, the state gets more money for its budget, making the state the “winner” and its citizens the “losers”

Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling estimates that over 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem, which is defined as affecting their finances, their families, and their employment. This number is conservative but still represents almost 6% of Wisconsin’s total population and over 7% of our population over the age of 18.

Calls to the Council’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 343% since 1996, the first year the line was implemented. According to the 2022 report, the average debt of callers contacting the Helpline was over $45,000. Experts seem to agree that in this challenging economy, more people are trying to get out of economic difficulties by gambling; and instead of improving their situation, they are making it significantly worse.

To make matters worse, 65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling, 6 to 20% of adolescents develop gambling problems, suicide rates are 20 times higher among pathological gamblers compared to non-gamblers, and people who have other addictions are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to gambling.

None of these statistics are good for families. Studies continue to show that gambling increases the likelihood of family breakdown through divorce and increases the likelihood of child abuse and neglect as well as domestic violence. The National Library of Medicine reports that “Disordered gambling in one individual is estimated to affect six others on average, among whom spouses/partners report the most distress. This includes a wide range of psychological and emotional difficulties, alongside higher prevalence of divorce.” Talk about high stakes. Families are the ones who end up being the biggest losers, which becomes a significant loss for everyone since fragmented families cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year, not to mention the long-term non-financial costs communities endure.

Problem gambling is growing in Wisconsin. The Internet is becoming more and more of a means for people to gamble—in private, without leaving their homes. Casinos, thanks to former Governor Jim Doyle, have increased their games and their hours. Governor Evers has approved the first off-reservation casino, which is scheduled for Beloit; and Kenosha authorities earlier this month approved an off-reservation casino there. Governor Evers also unilaterally approved sports betting here a couple of years ago when he allowed for such gambling on casino property.

Here’s the stark reality: those who run gambling enterprises are in it for one reason—to make money. The odds are stacked against those who play the games—always. The “house” wants people to lose. The “house” needs people to lose in order to make money. What gamblers don’t understand is that they stand to lose a lot more than money when they play this very high-stakes game. That’s why gambling is a very bad bet for families. The best thing families can do is to warn their children about this vice that is so very present via the internet. Remind them that a dollar doesn’t buy hope, but it can result in addiction.

Pro-Life Groups Intervene to Prevent Abortion From Becoming a “Constitutional Right” in Wisconsin

Pro-Life Groups Intervene to Prevent Abortion
From Becoming a “Constitutional Right” in Wisconsin

Today, Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action, and Pro-Life Wisconsin filed together to block Attorney General Josh Kaul’s pursuit to find a right to abortion in the Wisconsin Constitution. The Pro-Life organizations are petitioning the Wisconsin Supreme Court to accept them as intervenors and are being represented by The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and the Thomas More Society.

Attorney General Josh Kaul’s original case raised various arguments as to why Wisconsin Statute 940.04 no longer applies as an abortion prohibition. Importantly, the Attorney General did not raise any constitutional challenges in his original filing. Only upon appeal, in his recent supplemental bypass petition, Attorney General Kaul seeks to inappropriately insert a constitutional claim into his own case in order to create a constitutional right to abortion in Wisconsin. This is procedurally improper.

The claim is also without merit. There is no right to abortion in the Wisconsin Constitution.   Further, the Supreme Court of the United States in Dobbs recently and properly returned this issue to the duly elected state representatives in the legislative branch. That the Attorney General is attempting to take this issue from the people of Wisconsin is unjust and unwise. Yet there are those who support abortion at all stages and take every opportunity to find a path to full legal abortion.

All three pro-life organizations have been working for years to offer alternatives to abortion and help Wisconsin women make life-affirming decisions.

Attorney General Kaul is attempting to bypass the legislative process to settle the issue of abortion in Wisconsin by enticing the Wisconsin Supreme Court to accept a procedurally unfit case to find an unfounded constitutional abortion right.

Heather Weininger, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life, stated, “The purpose of three branches of government is to ensure each one remains in their appropriate role. Regrettably, those who support taking the lives of our preborn children are now taking it right to the top of our state judicial system to find a right to abortion in our constitution. This is dangerous to our other laws that are in place to protect and inform those who are making life and death decisions about their preborn baby; this is not a precedent that should be set in our state.”

Christine File, President of Wisconsin Family Action stated, “The Attorney General’s attempt to turn his own statutory case into a constitutional abortion case on appeal disregards basic procedural principles. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin should not allow it. Further, under our constitutional republic, creating laws is reserved for the legislative branch, and there are many Wisconsin laws that protect women, girls, and unborn children from the lucrative abortion industry. The Wisconsin Supreme Court should not allow this case to create a purported constitutional right that strips the legislature’s lawfully enacted protections for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable.”

Dan Miller, State Director at Pro-Life Wisconsin stated, “If the Wisconsin Supreme Court were to find a ‘right to abortion’ in our state constitution, it would be the most grotesque form of legislating from the bench in Wisconsin’s judicial history. For Attorney General Kaul and Planned Parenthood to petition the Court to do this demonstrates their total disregard for the rule of law in pursuit of unrestricted abortion until birth.”

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Wisconsin Family Action, Inc. is a statewide organization engaged in strengthening, preserving, and promoting marriage, family, life, and religious freedom in Wisconsin.

Read online here.

WILL Secures Victory Against Racial Discrimination

WILL Secures Victory Against Racial Discrimination

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has achieved a historic legal victory against the Biden Administration. U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman ruled the racially discriminatory federal laws creating the Minority Business Development Agency are unconstitutional. Specifically, the agency’s practice of assuming minority-owned businesses are inherently disadvantaged breaches the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

As WILL notes, this agency “was designed to help Americans of some races, but not other races.” Its “very design” “punishes” those of certain racial groups, said Pittman. The federal government is now prohibited from using the agency to discriminate against businesses based on race.

The court declared that the MBDA “can still operate its Business Centers, [but] it must simply do so without vetting applicants based on race.” This ruling is a serious blow to affirmative action initiatives and aligns with the Supreme Court’s decision last year that upended race-based admission policies at universities.

The Minority Business Development Agency was formed under the left’s new religion of “equity,” along with Critical Race Theory (CRT) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. The left is intent on ensuring equality of outcome rather than the equality of opportunity that our country was built on. This dangerous ideology undermines the importance of merit and of treating every person as an individual with unique, God-given talents rather than a member of a group with certain immutable characteristics.

Racial equality is a worthy goal, but it can’t be a one-way street. All students at all levels of education, all business entrepreneurs, all employees, and all athletes need to be judged on their ability to meet the standard, do the work, accomplish the task, and fill the need, not based on their race. Federal agencies should never be permitted to cater to one race over another, as it only sows more division and perpetuates racism.

This ruling underscores a return to principles that value individual merit and the inherent dignity of every person. It reaffirms the importance of ensuring opportunities are based on one’s abilities and character rather than race and serves as a reminder that true justice and equality are achieved through upholding these timeless values. Thanks, WILL, for another victory for all Americans.

Missouri Court Excludes Christians from Jury Duty 

Missouri Court Excludes Christians from Jury Duty 

Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to review a Missouri case involving the dismissal of potential jurors who, despite affirming their ability to adhere to the law, were removed because they attended a “conservative Christian church” with teachings against homosexual acts. 

The case started when Jean Finney, a lesbian woman, claimed she was dismissed from the Missouri Department of Corrections due to her masculine appearance, violating anti-discrimination laws. This incident reflects broader legal debates influenced by the Obama administration’s interpretation of civil rights laws extending protections to LGBT individuals. During jury selection, Finney’s lawyer probed potential jurors on their religious beliefs about homosexuality, leading to discussions on sin and morality.

Finney’s lawyer asked whether any jurors attended a “conservative Christian church” with teachings against homosexuality. Responses from jurors, including a pastor’s wife, affirmed such teachings but also noted that everyone sins, and it is irrelevant to the case’s context. Still, Finney’s attorney claimed that “there’s no way…somebody [who] looks at a gay person and says…‘You are a sinner’” could impartially apply the law. As a result, he denied the Christians their right to fulfill their civic duty.

The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the dismissal of Christian jurors was justified, not due to their Christian faith, but because their church’s traditional views on same-sex behavior could compromise their impartiality in a case related to alleged harassment over homosexuality, despite assurances they could remain unbiased. This is a deeply concerning and chilling decision. A judge ruled that three individuals were unfit for jury service simply due to their belief in the sanctity of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Then, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case between the Missouri Department of Corrections and Jean Finney. Justice Alito, while concurring with the decision based on procedural issues, still expressed his concerns about the case. 

Jordan Lorence, writing for the Daily Signal, reported that Alito harkened back to the risks he foresaw in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. He said then that people who opposed homosexuality and same-sex marriage would eventually risk being unfairly “labeled as bigots and treated as such” and expressed skepticism towards the majority’s assurances that the rights and conscience of Christians would remain protected. “We will soon see whether this proves to be true,” wrote Justice Alito. “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

Unfortunately, his warning has come to fruition. “I see no basis for dismissing a juror for cause based on religious beliefs,” wrote Justice Alito last month in response to the Missouri case. “I am concerned that the lower court’s reasoning may spread and may be a foretaste of things to come.”

“When a court, a quintessential state actor, finds that a person is ineligible to serve on a jury because of his or her religious beliefs, that decision implicates fundamental rights,” Alito continued.

Alito is right. Religious beliefs shouldn’t exclude anyone from serving on a jury, just as sex and race can’t be the basis for exclusion. Thankfully, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey agreed and also spoke out against the ruling. “We’re not going to let radical left-wing progressives relegate Christians to second-class citizen status… We can’t let that happen,” Bailey said. “The right to participate on juries is codified in the United States Constitution. And that’s a right of citizenship…The only people being discriminated against when the states pass these anti-discrimination laws too often are Christians, Christians who believe in biblical truth.”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to revisit the Missouri courts’ judgment should not be taken as an endorsement of future discrimination against traditional viewpoints on gender and sexuality. Such a precedent could dangerously open the door for government officials to exclude individuals from public life based on their belief in the Christian principles on which our nation was founded.

Remember, what happens in other states is bound to make its way to Wisconsin. The freedom of religion and the right to participate fully in public life, including jury service, are cornerstones of the American republic. These rights must be protected fervently, not eroded subtly through court decisions. 

 

Gov. Evers Vetoes Tax Cuts Again

Gov. Evers Vetoes Tax Cuts Again

Last Friday, Governor Evers vetoed for the third time bills that would cut middle-class taxes, expand the married couple tax credit, and give retirees an incentive to stay in Wisconsin rather than leave the state. The Republican-majority state legislature passed the bills last month, in part, as an effort to deal with the nearly $4 billion surplus of taxpayer monies accumulated over the last several years.

Senator Duey Stroebel (R – Cedarburg) issued a statement in response to Evers’ veto saying, “Wisconsin’s current budget surplus is just under $4 billion. This surplus is a result of a decade-plus run of fiscal conservatism in both the Senate and the Assembly, which has allowed us to adequately fund our priorities while putting Wisconsin in a strong financial position. The nearly $4 billion budget surplus also tells us that we are over-taxing our residents.”

“This budget surplus belongs in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin, not in the hands of Madison bureaucrats or far-left special interest groups. That is why the legislature has made repeated attempts this session to deliver tax cuts for families and return the surplus back to the people. It is unfortunate that Governor Evers has repeatedly blocked our efforts to provide necessary relief for middle-class families despite the legislature’s willingness to come to a compromise.”

He went on to say that the governor’s vetoes “deny the average middle-class filer $454 in tax cuts that could be used to help fight the costs of inflation from within their own homes, penalize married couples by rejecting the expansion of the married couple tax credit, and discourage seniors from retiring in Wisconsin and spending time with their grandchildren by making it more expensive to retire in our state.”

Putting more money in middle-class families’ pockets, incentivizing marriage, and giving tax relief to retirees, all ultimately help Wisconsin’s families. Further, individuals and families are better stewards of their earnings than the government. Empowering families to make decisions that best suit their needs regarding how they spend their money contributes to the overall prosperity of the state.

Strong and independent families, led by strong marriages, and bolstered by strong extended families make for a strong and prosperous Wisconsin. That should be the goal of every one of our elected officials.

A Letter From the New WFA President

Dear Friends,

I’m thrilled, humbled, and honored to serve as the next president for Wisconsin Family Action. I’m grateful to the Board of Directors for their support and direction. I’m thankful for Julaine’s incredible leadership over the last quarter of a century. She has dedicated her life to building WFA to serving Wisconsin families, children, churches, communities, and lawmakers. What a legacy! Julaine will continue to serve the organizations as President Emeritus during the transition.

WFA has been leading the Judeo-Christian response to the cultural battles that have engulfed our state and our nation and affected our families and communities. These organizations will continue their mission to preserve, promote and strengthen the foundational Judeo-Christian principles of life, marriage, family, and religious freedom.

Please cover Wisconsin Family Action, Julaine, our people, and me with prayer as we move, lead, and serve where God leads. Thank you, thank you, for continuing to partner with us during this transition.

Soli Deo gloria.

Yours Faithfully,

Christine M. File

President

Wisconsin Family Council and Wisconsin Family Action

A Person’s A Person No Matter How Small

A Person’s A Person No Matter How Small

In Dr. Seuss’s book Horton Hears a Who!, we read, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” Little did Theodore Seuss Geisel know how poignant his words would become over the next decades. Dr. Seuss clearly wasn’t making a political statement about abortion, but what he expressed is profoundly biologically accurate.

The moment a human egg is fertilized, a human person is formed—a human person distinctly different from his or her biological mother—right down to distinct DNA. Yes, a person’s a person no matter how small.

That reality played into the news this week here in Wisconsin and around the country. Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court handed down a decision in a case involving in vitro fertilization that seemingly set the world on fire. Much of the firestorm is because people don’t understand what happens with in vitro fertilization. Typically, in this process, many eggs are fertilized creating many embryos. Only a few embryos are implanted in the woman using this process. The embryos that are not implanted are usually frozen. If they are not used or adopted in a certain amount of time, they are destroyed.

The Alabama case focused on whether someone responsible for destroying some of these frozen embryos could be held liable under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor law. In this instance, someone had wandered into the room where these frozen embryos were stored and removed several, ultimately dropping them, which in the wording of the majority opinion author, “killed them.”

Bear in mind that these tiny human persons were the developing children of identified couples. The couples bringing the lawsuit alleged their minor children were killed. The high court agreed, ruling that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act “applies on its face to all unborn children, without limitation.” The majority opinion also stated, “Unborn children are ‘children’ under the Act, without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” meaning the fact that these embryos were not implanted did not make them less human.

Essentially what the Alabama high court said was a person’s a person no matter how small and no matter whether that person is in utero or in a frozen suspended state.

Some are saying this ruling means IVF will be deemed illegal in Alabama and perhaps elsewhere if other courts follow suit. That’s not what this decision says. What it says is you cannot destroy these tiny humans with impunity. We have long said every embryo—every tiny human— created in the IVF process must be implanted and given the opportunity to grow and develop. Creating excess embryos to freeze them and then most likely destroy them is wrong. You don’t have to stop doing IVF, but it must be done ethically.

Then, here in Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced last week that they have petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to, in their words, “clarify” whether our State Constitution provides an unfettered right to abortion, apparently right up to birth. Planned Parenthood says our Constitution’s Declaration of Life, Section I, includes a right of “self-determination,” meaning women have a right to decide if they want to carry to term their tiny unborn human baby.

That section includes language declaring people “have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It appears Planned Parenthood takes the “self-determination” idea from “the pursuit of happiness,” conveniently ignoring the first inherent right—life. Tragically, the abortion giant has never acknowledged that a person is a person no matter how small, and now wants our state’s highest court to agree with them.

Rounding out last week on the life issue here, another abortion facility, one that has been shuttered since Roe was overturned, is reopening on March 5, putting our state back to where we were with abortion before the Dobbs decision.

Societies that do not operate by the biological reality that a person’s a person no matter how small are on a disastrous, destructive path—especially when you consider that at the moment of conception, a tiny human is bearing the image of God.

 

Leadership Transition at Wisconsin Family Action

Leadership Transition at Wisconsin Family Action

Julaine Appling, former president of WFA

Christine File, new president of WFA

In late 1997, I, Julaine Appling, started working at Family Research Institute of Wisconsin. It was a small operation but had considerable impact, especially in the state legislature. In the first year I was with the organization I did research, wrote copy for various needs, processed gifts, answered phones, attended public hearings, and in general did whatever was needed. I have somewhat jokingly said to people that we pretty much ran the 3-person organization out of a shoebox!

I also told the president of the organization that while I could and would act as a kind of office manager, it would eventually become uncomfortable for me because that wasn’t who I was and was not using well my God-given strengths, talents, interests, or experience.

Some board members understood what I was saying, and in late 1998, the board asked me to be the Executive Director. After considerable prayer, thought, and counsel, I accepted. And thus began the ride of a lifetime!

Now, going on 27 years with this organization (renamed Wisconsin Family Council, with Wisconsin Family Action formed in 2006), 26 of which have been as the leader (currently president), I know it’s time for a leadership change here. I know that as surely as I knew I was to say yes way back in 1998.

Honestly, because I have long been a “student” of organizations and administration, I knew when I started this position, that I needed to begin looking for a successor. I’ve kept my eyes and ears open for years, and we’ve had a couple of hires that we thought might work out to be the next president of both Wisconsin Family Council and Wisconsin Family Action. However, we ended up still looking for the next leader.

A couple of years ago, I told the board I would like to step down as president by the end of 2024, and my announcement set in motion a very serious national search for the next president of WFA and WFC. No longer are we a 3-person organization operating out of a shoebox. By God’s grace, and because of friends like you, WFC and WFA have become the state’s premier pro-family organization.

Over the years, our budgets have increased significantly, we’ve added new programs, our outreach and impact have grown exponentially, and our team has more than tripled. And all of this has been because of God’s good hand upon us and because of the ministry friends He has brought our way. Certainly, our leadership needs have changed over these years of growth as well.

Our nationwide search actually resulted in finding a remarkable successor-leader right here in Wisconsin. I am so pleased and excited to announce that the next president of WFA and WFC is Christine M. File, who grew up in Wisconsin and has lived here most of her life. As you will see in the accompanying letter from our Board Chairman Lee Webster, Christine is well qualified to lead WFA and WFC into the future.

Being the president of WFA and WFC has been an incredible honor and a privilege. I have been humbled to serve in this capacity and am grateful to the Board of Directors for the opportunity to provide leadership for the organizations and for their godly guidance and wisdom through these years as we have expanded our operation and reach in every way. I am especially thankful for the Boards’ thorough, prayerful work as we together sought the next leader for WFA and WFC.

While I am stepping out of the role of president of WFA and WFC, as President Emeritus, I will be working closely with Christine as we make this transition. Christine joins us on February 19, 2024. When the time is right at some point this year for me to step completely away from WFA and WFC, I will continue to be involved with making Wisconsin a great place for families by encouraging people of faith to put their beliefs into action.

The future is so bright for WFA and WFC! Because we have a faithful God and incredible partners and friends like you, and now an exciting, immensely qualified new leader for these organizations, I am more convinced than ever that the best days for WFA and WFC lie ahead as they, in partnership with you, continue to strengthen, preserve, and promote God’s plan for marriage and family, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom in our great state.

We have planned for this time for years; now is the time to put the plan into action. Thank you for standing with us over the years of my leadership and now as we pass the baton to the next-generation leader!

May God grant His incredible blessings to you, our dear friends, and also to the WFA and WFC Boards of Directors and Christine File in the days ahead.

Serving with gladness and gratitude,
Julaine K. Appling
President

 

As Chairman of the Board of Directors, it is my pleasure to inform you of some exciting transitions that are taking place with Wisconsin Family Council.  Julaine Appling has been diligently serving as President of the organization for over 25 years.  Approximately two years ago she informed the Board that it would soon be time for a leadership change. She has worked closely with the Board to move in that direction and—after a nationwide search and much prayer—we have found an exceptionally qualified candidate to step into her position as of February 19th.

We are pleased to announce that our new President, Christine M. File, comes to us with great credentials and experience.  She is a Hillsdale College graduate and has a master’s and a law degree from Regent University. Christine interned at The Heritage Foundation and has experience working for State Supreme Court Justices in both Indiana and Wisconsin. Additionally, Christine is a Blackstone Fellow with Alliance Defending Freedom. She most recently joins us from the corporate world where she continued to stay involved with grassroots efforts on issues currently impacting her community, state, and nation. Christine and her husband and family live in Southeastern Wisconsin and are active in their church and community.

Under Julaine’s leadership Wisconsin Family Council has over these years become a nationally recognized leader as a state family policy council and, by God’s grace, has been effective in strengthening, preserving, and promoting marriage, family, life, and religious freedom in our home state.

Thankfully, Julaine is not retiring.  She will continue to partner, serve, and consult with us as President Emeritus. Words can never express our appreciation for Julaine’s vision, leadership, and faithfulness to God as well as to the citizens of Wisconsin and our organization. We will keep you posted on details for a special recognition event later this year.

Thank you for your ongoing support!  Please keep us all in your prayers as we move forward in our Lord’s service!

Sincerely,
Lee Webster
Chairman, Board of Directors
Wisconsin Family Council

 

The Danger of Political Pragmatism: WI Bills Add “Gender Identity” to Non-Discrimination Language

The Danger of Political Pragmatism: WI Bills Add “Gender Identity” to Non-Discrimination Language

When is it right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right? The answer is never! That’s pragmatism…and it takes us places we should not be going.

Wisconsin has the unfortunate distinction of being the first state in the nation to add sexual orientation as a protected class in non-discrimination laws related to employment, housing, and public accommodations. That was in 1982.

Non-discrimination laws had previously been used to protect innate or immutable characteristics such as sex, age, race, nationality, ethnicity, and disabilities, or to protect strongly held religious beliefs. The addition of sexual orientation violated that premise since sexual orientation is not an immutable or innate characteristic nor is it part of some strongly held religious belief.

Through the years, this non-discrimination language has remained largely unchanged. In recent years, however, and not surprisingly, there has been talk and effort to add “gender identity” to non-discrimination statutory language. Of course, “gender identity” is not an immutable or innate characteristic, nor is it part of some strongly held religious belief. Despite that reality, recently, Republicans in the state Legislature turned talk into action in a surprising bill.

Assembly Bill 953 and its Senate companion Senate Bill 905 deal with direct primary care agreements. These bills exempt valid direct primary care agreements from the application of insurance law. In layman’s language, direct primary care is one option for covering the cost of medical care. It’s an agreement you make directly with your provider. It doesn’t use insurance claims. More and more people are seeking direct primary care providers to cut out insurance.

On the face of it, we shouldn’t have any problem with this bill. In fact, all things being equal, we might even actually support such a proposal because in many ways, protecting direct primary care providers in our state helps families.

Unfortunately, this is the bill Republicans decided to use to add “gender identity” to the non-discrimination language. This is not the first time a bill to protect direct primary care providers has been introduced in our state. Two sessions ago, such a bill passed without this non-discrimination language. The governor vetoed it, saying he did so because the bill did not include “gender identity” in the non-discrimination section.

This year, the bill is back with the non-discrimination language that includes “gender identity.” In the public hearing in the Senate, the bill’s author said she included “gender identity” because she believes the governor will sign the bill as long as that group is given special rights and protections.

Adding “gender identity” as a protected class in this bill is dangerous. First, it sets a precedent for “gender identity” being added in other areas of the law. In this particular case, and with the specific wording in the bill, this could mean that a direct primary care provider’s religious liberty and conscience rights could be violated, in addition to having to violate his or her best medical judgment.

One argument the Republican authors and supporters are using to defend including “gender identity” is the very poor US Supreme Court Bostock decision. That decision dealt with Title VII employment matters and the court opined that employers cannot discriminate based on “gender identity,” essentially changing the definition of “sex” to include “gender identity.” In the majority opinion, the justices made it clear that this decision applies only to Title VII employment matters.

That reality apparently doesn’t matter to the authors and co-sponsors of these current direct primary care bills. They maintain this court decision demands including “gender identity.” It does not, nor does any law or Wisconsin court decision demand its inclusion. This is an inclusion for one reason—to attempt to get the governor to sign this bill. This is raw political pragmatism where the desired ends supposedly justify the means.

If this bill passes with “gender identity” language this session and the governor signs it, you can be sure that “gender identity” as a protected class will be enshrined in Wisconsin law. It’s profoundly sad that an otherwise good bill that could help many in our state is being used pragmatically, trouncing on rights, and taking us places we should not be going.