As discussed here, the US Senate has scheduled a vote for 5:30 pm on Monday, November 28, on what supporters have dubbed the “Respect for Marriage Act.”
For many, the timing of the vote does not pass the “smell test.” It comes during Congress’ “lame duck” session less than three weeks after the midterm elections, when accountability for politicians is at low-ebb. Plus, it comes on the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday week, when most (normal) Americans are occupied with travel, cooking, being with family, finishing the semester, preparing for Hanukkah or Christmas, and after the months-long campaign season, sick of politics. To lots of us “normal Americans,” we’re not paying attention to Washington DC and so ramming through a controversial vote on the Monday after Thanksgiving just seems sneaky and “swampy.”
Supporters claim their bill will codify into law the right of Americans to enter into an interracial marriage or for two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other. They threaten a more conservative US Supreme Court might try to send the marriage issue back to the states, as the Dobbs decision did with abortion this year. They claim any concerns for religious liberty are addressed in the language of the bill, and there is nothing to be concerned about.
Opponents, some of whom have labeled it the “(Dis)Respect for Marriage Bill,” disagree for several reasons. One, they claim the bill is not needed. Americans have been having interracial marriages for generations, and the number of biracial or multiracial children is skyrocketing. Moreover, in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges US Supreme Court opinion, a closely divided 5-4 Court struck down the states’ marriage laws and approved man-man or woman-woman marriages across the land. Three times in the Dobbs written opinion, the conservative majority said they would not revisit Obergefell.
More ominously, opponents claim the bill is a Trojan Horse that is not actually about marriage at all, but rather a political tool to persecute those who disagree.
The bill does include some protections for religious institutions that hold to the belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. However, there are no protections for faith-based businesses or artists such as bakers, photographers or florists who have such beliefs and wish to follow their consciences. Moreover, even though the bill states Congress cannot penalize those who hold to the traditional or natural view of marriage, there is no protection that the IRS cannot target them.
In his popular “Verdict” podcast, that during the week of November 13-19 was downloaded between 700,000-800,000 times, US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a chilling prediction.
At timestamp 18:07 in his November 21 episode, Cruz claims he believes, if this bill passes on Monday, the first target of a weaponized Biden IRS will be Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the largest Christian university in the world.
Not holding back, Cruz predicted if “this bill passes, the IRS will deny tax-exempt status for any institution based on their views of marriage.
“This is about empowering the Biden IRS to persecute the people that they believe are their enemies. And it’s not just the people that they deny tax-exempt status to. These abusive thugs that Biden employs are going to one hundred different schools, universities and charities and demand ‘change your position, abandon what you believe your faith teaches you, (…) or else we’ll deny your tax-exempt status.'”
In addition to cutting 501(c)(3) status, Cruz claims the weaponized Biden administration will use the law to make these groups ineligible for any government benefits or contracts, including cutting off Pell grants.
Cruz summarized the Biden administration’s goal: “We’re going to use the muscle of the federal government to persecute you.” Cruz has a personal connection to persecution that most of us Americans don’t have. His father fled from persecution and torture in Communist Cuba to seek freedom in the US. Cruz also has a personal connection to interracial marriages and biracial children. In addition to his father being ethnic Cuban, his mother is a white American. Cruz, thus biracial, is married to a white American and they have two daughters.
Due to the quickly-developing nature of this story and the fact that the nation is enjoying a Thanksgiving holiday, no one was available for comment from the offices of Liberty University or Virginia’s senators, Mark Warner (D) or Tim Kaine (D), who for 28 years lived on Richmond’s Confederate Avenue. However, the first part of the November 21 podcast episode does include some back and forth excerpts from both Warner and Cruz. Warner makes his points in favor the bill, which Cruz then seeks to debunk.
The Roanoke Star did, though, receive some comments from a Roanoke Valley father of a Liberty University graduate, to see his perspectives on the controversy. Tim Shepherd stated, “Unlike the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, that returned the abortion issue to the states, this is just the opposite. It doesn’t matter what your state wants. You lose your state sovereignty because it’s all being decided by the federal government.
“God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. You can call it a ‘union,’ but how can you call it ‘marriage’ if it’s not between one man and one woman?
“The government is telling you what to believe and how to believe, and if you don’t believe this way, we’re going to whip you into submission. We’re going to pull your tax-exempt status and you’ll pay for it.
“Freedom is not only believing how you want to, but also having the right to act and react according to what you believe. But now it’s like the government is saying, ‘You’re free to say what you believe, but not to act upon it.'”
In recent years, many colleges have struggled with declining enrollments. Most people don’t like to talk about it, but one reason for declining enrollments is a natural consequence of fewer young people, due to decades of widespread abortion. Moreover, the Covid pandemic and draconian lockdowns, closures, and vaccine mandates for healthy young people have driven even more people from campus. Forbes recently claimed that college enrollments nationwide in spring 2021 were down some 600,000 relative to spring 2020, when Covid hit. As reported here, VMI in 2022 saw a 25% drop in new cadet matriculation.
In contrast, Liberty University is booming. This statement from LU claimed they set a new enrollment record in 2021. “’After all the challenges that hit universities this past year, we’re overjoyed to see our largest incoming class of nearly 5,500 new and transfer students come to LU,’ said Ron Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing. ‘Because our online enrollment grew by another 6,000 students to over 114,000 students, we know that Liberty’s impact is felt across the nation. We feel gratitude to God for what He is doing through this institution to train and send out Champions for Christ.’”
“’God is doing it. We are truly seeing the work of His hands. None of us, our students, our faculty, our staff, our administration could pull this off without his favor and blessing. It is truly amazing to see what He is doing in our lives,’ Provost and Chief Academic Officer Scott Hicks said.”
With its online programs, Liberty’s national and international impact is considerable. LU has more online students that Roanoke City and the Town of Vinton have population combined. Moreover, LU’s popularity and impact here in Southwest and Central Virginia is huge.
Since senators serve staggered six-year terms, Senator Kaine will face re-election in 2024 and Senator Warner in 2026.