5.20.2016

Ministry? In a Law Office?

“And of some have compassion, making a difference.” – Jude 22 (KJV)

This guest post is from Regent Law rising 2L Hannah Hempstead:

            This summer I have the opportunity to intern in a general practitioner law firm. Since my interest is family law, the attorney I am working under assigned a contested divorce case to me. “My first real case,” I thought. “This is going to be exciting!” He wanted me to go through the documents, piece together what had happened so far, what needed to happen, and what questions we needed to ask the client during an interview. “No problem,” I thought. “I can do that. Sounds like a piece of cake.” Over the next few days, I looked over everything and made several notes.

Yesterday, I briefed the attorney on the important issues and documents essential to our case a couple hours before we were to interview the client. When the client walked into the room for the interview, I stood, shook her hand, and smiled as the attorney explained I would be helping him on the case. I am not sure what I expected from the interview, but as I watched the attorney and client interact and listened to the questions being asked, I understood for the first time just how much influence attorneys have on their client’s lives, on their freedom, on their money, and on their future happiness. She began to cry as she spoke of her kids. “If something happens to me, what is going to happen to my children?” At that moment, I realized – these are real people with real concerns, real problems, and real issues. They are not just names on paper. This is real life.

I entitled this post “Ministry? In a law office?” because that is exactly the opportunity I have in these individuals’ lives. I get to have a ministry – to try to make a difference for their best interests and for eternity. In the future as an attorney I will have the responsibility and privilege to be there with clients in some of their darkest hours. I will have the opportunity every day to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are hurting and struggling. Ministry is not just in the church; ministry can also be found in the unlikely setting of a law office.    

 

To learn more about how an attorney can make a difference in a troubled marriage or in a potentially broken family see Understanding Realistic Reconciliation in an Age of Divorce and Tracing the Foundations of the Best Interest of the Child Standard in American Jurisprudence.  Both concepts of marital strength and the best interests of children can help families toward restoration. At Regent, law students just like Hannah learn how to make a real difference in the world right away.

5.17.2016

Religious Liberty, Family Restoration, and Contraceptive Mandates

The U.S. Supreme Court's action this week in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, Zubik v. Burwell, and six other related cases has temporarily relieved the burden on religious charities’ core beliefs. These religious charities had faced extreme fines for refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs that violate their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court vacated seven lower court decisions that had ruled against the religious charities, and has sent the case down to the lower federal courts for the parties to “work out” their differences. In so doing, the Supreme Court vindicated the religious charities’ claim that the government had substantially burdened their religious beliefs. 

In the supplemental briefing that the Court ordered in April the US government acknowledged that it had less restrictive means for accomplishing its interest other than forcing the religious charities to abandon their core religious beliefs.  The Christian Legal Society (CLS) filed an amicus brief supporting the religious charities, which urged the Court to protect all Americans' religious liberty by fully enforcing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The brief CLS filed in Zubik v. Burwell can be found here

Religious liberty is essential to family restoration.

5.10.2016

Transgender Bathroom Accommodations Should Protect Everyone - The Truth Behind Title IX

Every person, child, or student should feel comfortable using the locker room or the restroom – regardless of gender identity.  That’s why the general public desires to accommodate transgender individuals in their gender identity selection.  So yes - access to proper and appropriate locker rooms and rest rooms should be given to transgender individuals.  At the same time there should that matching level of care and support afforded to those who do not identify as transgender who may wish a bit more privacy than sharing a locker room or dressing room with a person of the opposite gender would provide.  This debate is about the law, fairness, families and public safety.

 

Title IX, a landmark federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education, requires schools to protect all students from gender discrimination.  Originally designed to provide equal opportunities for female students, Title IX addresses discrimination against pregnant and parenting students and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. It also addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes rape or sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence. Title IX protects all students from sexual harassment.  No student - transgender or not – should be sexually harassed. 

Title IX also works to hold schools accountable for every student’s safety.  Regarding bathroom accommodation, Title IX does not require schools to eliminate distinct facilities for boys and girls. Rather, it recognizes that there are privacy and safety concerns justifying those distinctions. It allows schools to “provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” without committing sex discrimination, largely to protect from sexual harassment.  More specifically, Title IX characterizes the sense of discomfort that a student may feel as “a hostile sexual environment.”  All types of students can sense sexual hostility.  Some may prefer private changing rooms within the locker rooms where anyone – transgender or not – can have a bit more privacy if needed to feel comfortable.  This means a school may provide this accommodation by giving transgender students access to a private changing room but not necessarily the open locker room, or provide the private changing room for anyone who feels uncomfortable with an open locker room or restroom policy.  Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of gender identity or expression.  The bottom line is that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, schools and school districts could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights.

Fairness must be balanced with public safety. Many states have tried to address concerns for public safety in the wave of transgender lifestyle accommodations.  An innocent desire to accommodate those questioning their gender identity, however, could be manipulated by a predator taking advantage of that accommodation opportunity.  The protection of children ought to be at the heart of this issue.  It is painful to admit that there are deviant people in the world who will pretend to be transgender as a means of gaining access to the people they want to exploit, namely children.  According to the United States Department of Justice 99 percent of single-victim incidents are committed by males.  Consider how a female rape survivor would feel about being told she must share a bathroom with a man? According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, one in four girls will be sexually abused during childhood. Giving a predator masquerading as a transgender individual free access to girls and boys in the bathroom is unwise at best.  Because transgender identity is not well defined apart from an individual’s stated feelings, it can be manipulated by those interested in sexual contact with unwitting others. 

 

Families should know that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, schools and school districts could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights.  Attorney Jeremey Tedesco, Regent University School of Law graduate and Senior Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom states, “Schools have a duty to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students. No child should be forced into an intimate setting – like a bathroom or a locker room – with a child of the opposite sex.”  Schools can accommodate the desires of a small number of students without compromising the rights of all other students.  Any privacy and safety policy should respect all students and prevent students from being exposed to potential threats to their privacy and safety.

 

Sometimes in an effort to protect vulnerable minorities, laws may be applied to diminish or forget the need to protect family strength.  Transgender bathroom accommodation is an example that should work to protect everyone.

 

Additional Resources:

-         Know Your IX, http://knowyourix.org/title-ix/title-ix-the-basics/.

-         6 Myths About Allowing Transgender Students to Use Restrooms of the Opposite Sex, Alliance Defending Freedom, http://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2016/02/16/6-myths-about-allowing-transgender-students-to-use-restrooms-of-the-opposite-sex.

-         An Analysis of Rape and Sexual Assault, U.S. Dept. of Justice, http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF.

-         Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf

-         A Christian Perspective on Gender Equality

5.05.2016

Families Left Behind by China's One-Child Policy

China’s latest modification to its family-planning rule doesn’t help ‘Parents of the Lost Only Children’ according to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Laurie Burkitt.  She explains, The abolition of China’s one-child policy came too late for one group of middle-aged Chinese: those whose only child has died and whose financial security in old age is now in jeopardy. Amid falling birthrates and a rapidly aging workforce, China said late last year it would allow all couples to have two children, ending one of modern China’s most controversial decrees.” Wearing white hats that said ‘Parents of the Lost Only Children, hundreds of them protested outside the national family-planning office in Beijing on Monday.  They had gathered from various parts of China to lobby for financial support. Many held pictures of their children and wore signs saying that they were the victims of China’s family-planning policies.”

Jie Dongsheng and his wife, Li Xurong, stand amid hundreds of bereaved parents who have lost their only children and are seeking government benefits to support them in their retirement. Photo: Laurie Burkitt

As required by Chinese law, adult children must provide for their parents, but that law does not mention any contingency support for those who have lost their only child.  The costs of supporting families can be devastating to nations.   The cost of losing the only child they were allowed to have is devastating to their family, and now to their survival.