FRC Recants, Clarifies Criticism of Evangelical Groups

Associates of Family Research Council recanted an earlier criticism, and clarified their primary concern, regarding the involvement of evangelical groups on issues of religious freedom.

“We acknowledge and deeply regret the factual error we made in asserting that these groups have been silent when, in fact, they have addressed this issue thoughtfully,” Robert Schwarzwalder, senior vice president at Family Research Council, and Julia Kiewit, associate editor at Marriage and Religion Research Institute, an affiliate of FRC, stated Wednesday.

Schwarzwalder and Kiewit had claimed on Monday, in a First Things blog post, that the National Association of Evangelicals, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and evangelical publications had not advocated for religious conscience protections.

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At issue was a proposed Health and Human Services rule change that would have required Catholic hospitals and health service organizations to provide contraceptive services if they received government funds. Also, a Catholic organization that provides help to the victims of human trafficking was recently denied a federal grant because it does not provide referrals for abortion.

On Monday, The Christian Post reported that Schwarzwalder and Kiewit's criticisms were inaccurate. The NAE, CCCU and evangelical publications have been involved in those issues.

Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, also criticized the First Things post in an email to supporters, writing that the post “shows insufficient research in supposing that only Catholic leaders have spoken up about this vital matter.”

IRFA has built a coalition of groups, including the NAE and CCCU, to advocate on behalf of freedom of conscience protections.

After consideration of The Christian Post's article and other criticisms they received, Schwarzwalder and Kiewit wrote a follow up blog post Wednesday admitting their failures and clarifying their position.

They acknowledged that their error was not consistent with Scripture. “Christians are charged with 'preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' (Ephesians 4:3). In not doing our homework – in not contacting those we complained were silent – we failed to fulfill this charge.”

Schwarzwalder and Kiewit also quoted a sentence from The Christian Post that “captures both the inaccuracy of our criticism and also the subtext of our argument:”

“It may be that Schwarzwalder and Kiewit would like to see a more robust and vocal outcry than what they have seen so far, but to say that these organizations have not spoken out is not true.”

While they applaud the efforts that have been made, Schwarzwalder and Kiewit went on to clarify that they believe the efforts of the NAE and CCCU would be more effective if they did a better job at grassroots mobilization on the issue of freedom of conscience protections.

“In other words, while we applaud the efforts of Evangelical groups to advance their arguments through letters and private meetings with government officials,” Schwarzwalder and Kiewit stated, “such efforts will have a limited effect on the way public policy actually is crafted unless they are accompanied by broader and deeper, 'more robust and vocal' activities on the part of their advocates.”

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama has not made a decision on whether Catholic hospitals and institutions would be granted an exemption from the requirement to provide contraceptive services.

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