wallet and ultrasound of baby

Pro-Life Pocketbooks Speak Louder Than Words

If you vote Republican, then you’ve probably noticed that no Republican runs for office in Tennessee who is not pro-life. So, how might a voter in a Republican primary know which Republicans are pro-life in word or deed? Here are some thoughts when it comes to the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Last week I urged readers to be wary of endorsements by political candidates, particularly those from outside the state, and provided links for those who wanted to verify the veracity of what I said. But what about PAC endorsements?

The Value of PAC Endorsements

Unlike endorsements by politicians, organizations with PACs generally only support those who are true to their particular cause. The candidate an organization endorses may be horrible on every other issue you care about, but that organization believes the candidate to be strong on its issues.

The Shortcoming of PAC Endorsements

One shortcoming with a PAC is it tends to favor an incumbent who has a strong voting record on that PAC’s issues over political newcomers. Newcomers may prove to be good to their word, too, but a “tie” almost always goes to the office holder whose word has been backed up with a strong voting record.

There is a good reason for this. Many newcomers who talk strong on the campaign trail wilt under the spotlight when it’s time to vote on a bill. I’ve seen it so many times.

How That Applies to the Governor’s Race

When it comes to the Republican primary for governor, National Right to Life and Tennessee Right to Life have both endorsed Diane Black. What does that mean if you’re a pro-life voter?

Given my 17-year working relationship with Tennessee Right to Life on the pro-life amendment on Tennessee’s ballot back in 2014 (Senate Joint Resolution 127 that became Amendment 1), its endorsement doesn’t just mean that it believes Diane will do the right thing on pro-life legislation and administrative policies if push comes to shove; it means Diane will be in the foxhole with them when the abortionists start shooting.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell, or Bill Lee are not pro-life or that they would not be strong when pro-life legislation is under consideration, but except for Harwell, Lee and Boyd have no track record upon which an endorsement over someone like Diane could be made.

Is there, then, any additional way to evaluate the seriousness of the pro-life claims of Black, Boyd, Harwell, and Lee? Yes.

Show Me the Money

There’s an old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is” and, so, I took the time to review all the financial reports showing contributions in support of the biggest pro-life political issue and campaign in the history of our state—Amendment 1—to see who among the gubernatorial candidates put their money where their pro-life mouths are.

Now, I am mindful of the “widow’s mite,” and I appreciate that a $100 contribution to the Amendment 1 ballot measure campaign may be more sacrificial for some people than $50,000 from another. But when I consider that Randy Boyd and Beth Harwell have so far put over $10 million and $3 million, respectively, in personal funds into their campaigns to be governor, I find it interesting that their names don’t show up on any of those contribution reports. Not one time; not one personal dollar.

Perhaps Boyd didn’t know about the largest pro-life issue and campaign in the history of our state, but that shows a significant level of disconnectedness from the pro-life cause he professes, if you ask me, particularly considering he lives in Knoxville, which has one of the strongest and most active Right to Life chapters in the state. That chapter was extremely active in the push for Amendment 1.

Beth Harwell’s PAC did give $1,000 on October 28, 2013. The Harwell PAC is funded by some individuals, but mostly lobbyists and their PACs, not Harwell personally. The balance in the Harwell PAC at the time of her $1,000 contribution was more than $560,000. Thankfully, the amount given to Amendment 1 was greater than the $873 she spent from her PAC on “flowers/gifts” during that same reporting period.

Oh, it’s the same PAC from which Harwell spent $175,000 back in February bolstering her name recognition for her gubernatorial campaign by touting her service as Speaker.

As to Bill Lee, his company did contribute $1,000, and he personally contributed another $10,000.

Diane Black made a personal contribution of $250,000.

Hopefully, pro-life Republicans now have more information by which to judge the pro-life bona fides of Republican candidates running for governor.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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endorsing a candidate

Be Wary of Politicians Bearing Endorsements

I just gave some friends advice on deciding whom to vote for. One of my suggestions was not to give too much credence to endorsements by “political personalities.” One of the reasons I don’t give them much weight is demonstrated by the endorsement of Randy Boyd by my friend Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.

In that recent television advertisement, Huckabee shares a “secret” about what all politicians know—that “politicians” who attack people like Randy Boyd do so for the sake of their own political power—or words to the effect. In other words, don’t believe what a politician says about Boyd. Of course, I guess that admonition could apply to Huckabee’s endorsement, too, since he’s held office and run for president twice!

I’m not here to say that any particular attacks made by a politician are or are not true, but having been in politics myself, I’m going to take a turn at sharing a “secret” about endorsements by politicians, even those made by Huckabee, that voters may want to know.

How Huckabee Came to Endorse Me

In 1994, then Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, through a series of truly providential contacts, flew to Chattanooga to endorse my candidacy in my primary against a 26-year incumbent state senator. So, of all people, I appreciate his willingness to weigh in on a primary.

But here is what I know about that endorsement. Huckabee supported me because a friend of Huckabee’s friend happened to be my friend! After connecting us, I spoke with Huckabee by phone for about 20 minutes and gained his endorsement. That was that.

I am forever grateful to God for Huckabee’s confidence in those who connected him to me, but here’s the point—politicians may endorse people without knowing much, if anything, about the person or the person’s opponents. And, at times, they may endorse a candidate in order to simply help a friend they trust.

Who Was Huckabee Trying to Help?

Applying this to the present situation, I don’t know how much Huckabee really knew about Randy Boyd; but I do know he is good friends with Boyd’s campaign manager, who was his own campaign manager in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. It’s not the first time Huckabee has endorsed a candidate being managed by his former manager.

How much that friendship weighed in his endorsement is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it was significant because some things that are public knowledge about Boyd seem inconsistent with Huckabee’s values, both as a pastor and a politician.

Did Huckabee Consider Boyd’s Connection to LGBT Advocate Tennessee Thrives?

Boyd’s business, Radio Systems Corporation, was one of the early, if not among the first, members of Tennessee Thrives, an organization that Tim Gill’s Freedom for All Americans, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT rights advocacy group, helped launch. Its members believe, “Tennesseans must support policies of inclusivity and nondiscrimination.” (emphasis supplied)

That sounds good, but let me translate what it really means: The organization’s members are and have been opposed to any legislation that protects the natural family relationships between (and even definitions of) husbands and wives, and a child and that child’s biological mother and father (i.e., opposing laws that would keep judges from redefining marriage and what constitutes a mother and a father in relation to a child).

The organization’s members oppose the law that protects Christian counselors from losing their license if they make a referral to another counselor when they cannot in good conscience encourage clients in their pursuit of same-sex relationships.

Apparently, Boyd’s business agrees with what Tennessee Thrives says on its website, that commonsense laws like these are discriminatory and make Tennessee a bad place in which to live and work.

Did Huckabee Consider Boyd’s Support for Pride Day?

I also have a feeling that Huckabee didn’t know that last month, LGBT Pride Month, Boyd and his wife used their Knoxville restaurant to “host” (their word, not mine) “Dine out with PRIDE.”

Certainly, Boyd and his wife should serve every customer who enters their restaurant’s door; but allowing one’s business to serve as “host” venue for an event promoting pride in a homosexual lifestyle is quite another thing.

Given that Huckabee championed the pro-marriage values of Chick-fil-A’s owners a few years back, I bet even he would say it’s a bit incongruous to now support someone who uses his business to support the agenda of those who redefined marriage.

So it would appear that Boyd has committed to advancing and supporting the LGBT political agenda through Tennessee Thrives and his Knoxville restaurant.

These are things I doubt Huckabee knew. Maybe they wouldn’t have made a difference in his evaluation; but knowing his values, I think it’s possible.

You can make of them as you wish, but that’s why I advised my friends: Be wary of politicians bearing endorsements. They just may not have all the facts or may be doing a favor for a friend!

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Green chalkboard with the Tennessee flag star emblem

Gubernatorial Education Forum Questions Were Educational

The gubernatorial candidates at this week’s televised forum on public education answered, for the most part, the questions that were asked of them. But the questions themselves, particularly the big one not asked, were very educational.

The questions dealt with the usual topics: supporting teachers in the classroom and teacher pay, education spending, testing, school safety (the Kentucky school shooting was earlier that day), and other like questions, which, in my view, were intended to gauge how much the candidates loved and supported public education.

None of those are bad topics for discussion, and knowing a candidate’s views on those topics is worth knowing, but the one question not asked was this: “What is the purpose of an education” or, alternatively, “What makes one an educated person?”

You have to know what the goal of an education is to know if the answers to the other questions even make sense. You have to know where you are going to know how to get there and to know whether you’ve arrived.

In that regard, the observation of Christian theologian Abraham Kuyper comes to my mind. In the political platform he put together in 1879 and which led to his eventual election as Prime Minister of the Netherlands, he wrote, “The real motive in the interest behind [public education] is not just to educate the people, but to educate them in a specific direction.

How true. We might say that an education without a direction is pointless.

The direction of the formal education I was given was pointed toward being able to support myself as an adult through a suitable means of employment. And, in that sense, my education was good and successful. I have been able to support my family financially. But, as a Christian, I have come to see that this is a compartmentalized way of thinking about education.

There is probably no Christian parent who does not want to see his or her children support themselves financially as adults. But our goal should be more than that.

God told His people that they were to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind, and Jesus reaffirmed it as the “greatest commandment.” To do that, however, means that this should also be the direction in which the Christian parents want the education of their children to go.

And it is here that a great conflict with public education, as it exists today, arises. I do not say this meanly, but we have to recognize that public schools will provide a worldview education to the children they serve—a basic sense of direction for navigating their way through the world—and, today, that education, whether explicitly or implicitly, will exclude the religious principle. When I was a child in public schools, there was still a general Christian ethic, so the conflict was not as apparent as it is today.

We find examples of this conflict almost every week, even in Tennessee. For example, just this week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened Bradley County schools with legal action because a student led a public prayer before a sporting event. Last week, advocates of the “transgender” agenda went apoplectic over a proposed bill that simply protected public schools from exorbitant legal bills if the ACLU sues them for not allowing a biological boy to use a junior high girls’ locker room.

But, some might say, this is moderated in our public schools by the presence of Bible clubs and other forms of campus ministries. They do, and that is good. I was part of one of those ministries in high school.

But, to be honest, the way in which these organizations are allowed into our public schools sends a worldview message itself—Christian things are separate and apart from the regular academic day and from the understanding of history, social studies, science, and family life we’re taught in the classroom. This structure reflects the compartmentalized thinking that public education requires.

This is not to say that any candidate should call for the present and soon abolition of public education, nor is it to say that public school Christian ministries are bad or should not be supported. But, given the direction of public education, it is to say that Christians need to begin having some principled discussions about how to make educational opportunities more available and affordable to those families among us who want to live out the first and greatest commandment and to educate their children in that direction.

But they best not wait for the public education reformers to lead in that discussion. They’ve yet to ask the first, most important question there is about education. Then again, perhaps by not asking that question, they’ve told us they are okay with the current direction of public education.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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