Out of the Ashes

The Cross at Ground Zero in June 2002

The Cross at Ground Zero in June 2002

On September 11, 2001 Sujo John sat at his desk on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. He could hardly believe what the past several months had brought. Having wed Mary in January of 2000, he was still a newlywed and she was four months pregnant with their first child.  Just six months before, the two had left their native Calcutta, India with only $50, a couple of suitcases and dreams of a better, more prosperous life in the United States. In that short time in America, the two had landed good jobs.  Mary worked nearby—on the 71st floor of the WTC’s South Tower.

As he sat typing an email to a friend from church, Sujo confided that he believed God wanted more for him. Having read the Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, Sujo wrote, “I’ve been chasing stuff in America. I want to be used of God.”  He finished his email and hit “send”.  It was 8:05 on a beautiful Tuesday morning, and it was time to start working. About 40 minutes later, Sujo was sending a fax and heard a huge explosion that we now know was American Airlines Flight 11 striking the North Tower between the 94th and 98th floors.

Down on his floor, Sujo watched as the world seemed to crumble around him- a huge hole allowed him to see ten floors up.  The building shook violently, walls started to fall apart and jet fuel from the planes caused fires to break out everywhere, making every minute more treacherous for those in the building. Sujo made his way to the stairs along with his co-workers and thousands of other workers in the building.  He remembers the people’s faces saying the “fear of death was written on the face of everyone.”

A short time later, he heard another loud crash when United Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower around the 81st floor, just ten floors up from where Mary worked.  Wondering whether he would get out alive, he was now more worried about what was happening with her.  Sujo tried to use his cell phone and those of people escaping down the stairs with him, but he couldn’t get through to her.  By the time he made it to the ground level of the tower, an area called The Plaza, the horrors of that day really hit Sujo.  Normally, The Plaza was a bustling, lively place, but what Sujo saw was beyond human comprehension.  He said, “This place of life, this place of just exuberance where life would be celebrated has now been turned into a place of death, a place of destruction, as I see hundreds of bodies of people that jumped out of those buildings, people who were in those planes.”

As time ticked away and he made his way through the chaos, away from the North Tower towards the South Tower, he felt the ground beneath his feet begin to rumble. Sujo described feeling as if he were being “sucked into a vacuum” as he heard the roar as the upper floors of the South Tower began to crumble.  He stopped momentarily and huddled with a group of 15 or 20 people and suddenly became very concerned of what would become of them if they all died without hearing about Jesus.

Until this point in his life, Sujo described himself as a “closet Christian”, keeping his faith to himself and never sharing what he believed about Jesus Christ.  Now facing death, Sujo found a boldness he never had and began praying out loud, crying out the name of Jesus.  He then realized those people he was with were also joining him in unison as he prayed.  He went on from there, stumbling through the dust and debris, covered in soot and wondering what became of Mary.

After the dust settled somewhat, Sujo decided to try to crawl back to the group of people he had prayed with a short time earlier, only to find they had not made it, and had been crushed by the hurricane-force wind and debris cloud caused by the South Tower’s collapse.  Downhearted and questioning God as to why He would allow him to survive and not them, Sujo said he felt God’s presence and believed those people were at peace now.  After the North Tower followed its twin and imploded, Sujo was shocked and couldn’t believe he was still alive.  He found himself out in the street, certain his beloved Mary was gone.

After wandering into a shop, he met a young woman who helped pull bits of glass out of his hair and offered to call someone for him.  Just as he handed his phone to her, it began to ring for the first time in many hours.  It was about noon by this time, and the clerk handed the phone back to Sujo.  The caller ID said it was from Mary’s number, but he was certain it was going to be the worst news…that someone was calling from her phone to let him know she didn’t survive.

He was wrong.  When he answered, he heard Mary’s voice.  She told him she had wanted to get to work early that day, but ended up running late.  When they reunited that night, they made a vow to each other and to God that they would make every day of their lives count.  Sujo prayed for God to “rewrite the history of my life”.  He knew that he and Mary had not come to America just to make money, pursue success or have financial security.  He believed that what was important to God was people…all people.

Fifteen years later, Sujo and Mary live near Dallas with their three children and have started an organization called You Can Free Us.  This organization works to abolish the modern-day slavery of human trafficking by rescuing women and children forced into prostitution in the U.S. and around the world. As 21st century abolitionists, Sujo and Mary have made good on their promise to God and have taken their message of survival and hope to people of all ages all over the world.

Sujo, Mary and their children

Sujo, Mary and their children

Lost Ground Zero Flag Returns to NYC

Firefighters raise a flag at the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as work at the site continues after hijackers crashed two airliners into the center. (AP Photo/The Record, Thomas E. Franklin)

Famous flag finally home at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York   (AP Photo/The Record, Thomas E. Franklin)

In the 15 years since the terrorist attacks in New York City, northern Virginia and Shanksville, PA, many stories—real and unreal—have been told.  Over the years, we’ve been intrigued and inspired by stories of heroic actions, strange “coincidences” that kept people from going to work that day, conspiracy theories and miraculous tales of survival.

Perhaps one of the most amazing stories is the one behind the iconic photo of three firefighters raising the American flag among the ruins of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. What most people don’t know about that flag was that it disappeared just hours after it was put in place, only to be found more than a decade later and nearly three thousand miles from where that famed photo was taken.

On September 11, 2001, the three firefighters from Brooklyn—George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein—could never have known what their spontaneous display of patriotism would mean to the nation.  What was their private tribute to honor all of those whose final resting place was a multi-story pile of steel and cement would become an indelible scene that is now etched onto the collective memory of Americans of a tragic day long ago.  So moving was the photo, it was immediately compared to another momentous flag-raising in American history—the one at Iwo Jima during World War II. The photograph earned a Pulitzer Prize and inspired many artists and was captured on a US postage stamp.

The firefighters didn’t know that as they paid their respects and showed their love of country, photographer Thomas E. Franklin was standing nearby and took the photo late that afternoon for the New Jersey newspaper that he worked for at the time.  It appeared in papers all over the world the next day.

Oddly enough, the flag didn’t belong to any of the fire departments working at Ground Zero.  McWilliams had taken it off of a yacht that was docked nearby on the Hudson River—a vessel called Star of America that was owned by a woman named Shirley Dreifus.  He had sawed off the yardarm holding the flag and the three found a pole to display it about 20 feet off the ground.  It disappeared late that night, and no one knew who took it.  It was assumed that the city took possession of it, and a flag owned by the city and believed to be the flag from the photo was signed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki.

That flag made its rounds all over the world.  It was flown at New York City Hall, Yankee Stadium and aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  After its many adventures, the original owner of the Ground Zero flag—Ms. Dreifus—decided to officially turn it over to the city.  That’s when she noticed that the flag she thought came from her yacht was actually a different size than the one she had. She even started a website in an effort to recover her lost flag. CNN also aired a documentary in 2013 about the mystery of the lost Ground Zero flag.  It was during this filming where video evidence was found that confirmed the flag’s disappearance took place the night of 9/11/01 around 11 p.m.

Flash forward to the fall of 2014 when author, history buff and host of the History Channel’s “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” enters the picture. He did a story about the missing flag on the show’s first episode, offering a $10,000 reward to the person who had it to turn it in. A few days later, a man who said he was a Marine named Brian turned it in to a fire station in Everett, Washington–more than 2800 miles from Ground Zero.  That news just came out this week because Brian’s flag had to undergo rigorous testing to verify that it had in fact been the one from Ground Zero. After almost two years of experts conducting their research, it passed every test.

According to a report in the Everett Herald, Brian did not give the firefighters his last name when he turned the flag in and didn’t want the reward money.  He reportedly had gotten the flag from an unnamed worker with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, who had gotten it from one of the 9/11 widows.

Police in Everett have released a composite sketch of the big-hearted Marine named Brian and hope he comes forward to tell the rest of the story of the Ground Zero Flag. The flag was found as mysteriously as it disappeared 15 years ago and now takes its rightful place  at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York just in time for Sunday’s anniversary remembrance.

The History Channel will be airing another special on Sunday night (“America’s 9/11 Flag: Rise From the Ashes”)  hosted by Meltzer and will give all the details on the Ground Zero flag’s strange journey that took it across the country and how the experts were able to verify its authenticity as the flag raised by those three resolute firefighters 15 years ago.

Golden Girls

It’s been a long, hot summer full of tragedies and triumphs. Just when you feel like you can’t take another day of the latest presidential election news, scandals and lies told by politicians and their political cronies—along came the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio like a cool breeze off the water on a stifling hot day.

Even if you don’t particularly follow the games, it would be hard not to be amazed by the results of years of hard work these athletes from all over the world exhibit in their competitions. Sure, the Olympics in Rio have had their share of low points like the earlier reports of bio-hazardous pools and rivers and the fake hold-up story from last weekend involving American swim team members.

Aside from those, Team USA has certainly shown up and out:  as of now, US athletes have won the most medals of any nation—111 in all, including 40 gold. One of the most successful athletes from this Olympics is first-time Olympian Simone Biles, a 19-year-old gymnast. Her strength and amazing ability to do multiple twists, turns and flips seem to defy the laws of gravity. Biles will go home to Texas with five medals—four gold and one bronze—and most likely will be getting some lucrative endorsement opportunities as well.

That’s not too bad for a young lady who had a pretty rough start in life. Born to a drug- and- alcohol-addicted mother, Biles was raised and later adopted—along with her younger sister—by her maternal grandparents. Faith and family supported her on her path to gold, and during tomorrow’s closing ceremonies in Rio, Biles will have the honor of carrying the American flag.

Another medalist that made headlines was beach volleyball team member Kerri Walsh Jennings. A veteran of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics where she won gold medals, Walsh Jennings will leave Rio with a bronze medal. She raised the collective ire of liberal feminists everywhere—not an amazing fete—because she had the audacity to share with NBC during an interview that she was “born to have babies and play volleyball.”

Not only that, but Walsh Jennings gave credit to her children for inspiring her and giving her a new perspective saying, “It took my game and my desire and my passion for life to the next level. I am hugely indebted to my children.” Ouch…in the mind of some, you just don’t flaunt motherhood above your exceptional athletic abilities. Feminists lit up the Twitter universe complaining that NBC would run such an interview. Lefty online magazine Salon had one exasperated writer gripe “…I could do without upbeat stories on what great moms some Olympians are…” as she bemoans how female athletes are covered in the sports media.

That writer would absolutely hate the story of one female track star who likely would have graced a medal podium but for the fact that she and her husband had an unplanned pregnancy that caused her to get a little behind in her training for the Olympics. As a result, she didn’t qualify for the Olympic trials in July. Had Sarah Brown been of the same mindset as the writer from Salon, she would have “taken care of business” and gone on with her training. She chose motherhood above the Olympics and ended up with a baby girl instead of a gold medal. Not a bad choice in my humble opinion, but it must be quite a blow to femi-nazis who get tired of upbeat mom stories.

Finally, 19-year-old Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal for Team USA during the 2016 Olympics. The chances are pretty good that Hillary Clinton and other liberal feminists won’t be tweeting about her accomplishments anytime soon since she won in the women’s ten meter air rifle competition. Thrasher had originally wanted to be a figure skater, but realized as a young teen that she just didn’t excel in that. She switched to shooting after going hunting with her grandfather, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Final Five of the US women's gymnastics team receive their gold medals in Rio.

The Final Five of the US women’s gymnastics team receive their gold medals in Rio.

Interview With a Songwriter- “One Nation Over God”

One Nation Over God grfx

As we celebrate the 240th birthday of the U.S.A., we’re standing on the brink of another presidential election, terrorist threats now loom regularly here and abroad, and many feel like there’s no reason to trust that God’s got this anymore. Have the American people—as a whole—declared their independence from what our Founding Fathers often referred to as “Divine Providence”?

Recently, Nashville singer and songwriter Stephanie Layne took a few minutes to answer some questions about a song she co-wrote titled “One Nation Over God” that talks about this very idea of our nation being much different than what the Founders had in mind in 1776.

Liberty Bell Blog: How did “One Nation Over God” come about?

Stephanie Layne: Heading into a presidential election year, we were discussing the political and moral climate in which we found ourselves. When we got around to throwing out potential song ideas, I said, “What do you think about One Nation Over God”?  It was one of those rare moments when there was no hesitation for any of us. That’s the song we wanted to write!  There are a lot of people in this country who have a growing sense of loss, sadness, and even outrage that the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded and became a great nation have slowly eroded– and now are even being brazenly cast aside.  We wanted to take a stand with Americans who believe we are headed down the wrong path. This song is our way of letting our voice be heard, but is also offered in the hope of stirring the voices of so many in this country who want to speak up and stand up for the ideals and values that have characterized America for almost two and a half centuries.

LBB: Who was involved with you in writing this song?

SL:  Debbie Hall, Jason Wyatt, and Monte King, all Nashville songwriters. I’ve been writing with these great friends and songwriters for years.

LBB:  What kind of reception has the song gotten so far?

SL: “One Nation Over God” resonated so much with the message of North Carolina Congressional candidate Chris Hardin’s movement that he adopted the song as an official campaign to rally supporters. Sadly, he recently lost in the primary.

LBBThere’s one part where it says “under-educated, making choices we can’t take back” that really stuck with me…I’d be interested to hear what inspired that part?

SL:  We were concerned about some of the bad choices our government has made that could jeopardize the safety and security of American citizens.  Also the school systems are not up to the standards of other countries.  Many Americans are uninformed, being taught political correctness and socialistic ideas rather than hitting on math and history, and especially ignorant of the U.S. Constitution.

LBBWhat do you hope will happen with this song?

SL:  This song is my ministry. Our goal is to make people think and understand that morally, spiritually, and ethically we’re headed down the wrong path…that we need to get back to being a country that is One Nation Under God. We would love a commercial country or Christian cut.  To hear it on the radio as a number one single would be an amazing dream come true.  The song has been pitched to Franklin Graham, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Chris Tomlin, Darryl Worley, and Andy Griggs.

LBB:  Any plans for a video? 

SL:  U.S. Congressional candidate Chris Hardin made a campaign YouTube video in his hometown that has received almost 9K views.  Jason Wyatt’s church in Texas made a lyric video that has received almost 8K views.  We have plans to produce our Official “One Nation Over God” music video in the near future.

LBBWill you be performing it this summer anywhere?

SL:  I will be performing it at the National Day of the Cowboy in Humboldt, Kansas this month (July 22-23).  RFD-TV show “Best of America by Horseback” will be on location and filming the event.  Horse enthusiasts from all over the country will ride the trails and enjoy western music from Del Shields—co-host of the show—and as I said I’ll be there too.

LBBIs there anything else you would want readers to know?

SL “One Nation Over God” is available on all worldwide digital distribution companies–iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, etc. Also, there are two versions of the song.  The male version was sung by my co-writer Jason Wyatt, with my harmonies.  I recorded the song on my newly-released album, Eclectic.

NOTE:  Stephanie Layne’s music is available at www.stephanielayne.com, all worldwide digital distribution companies, and—if you’re in the Nashville area—the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Store. Visit the “One Nation Over God” Official Website at www.OneNationOverGodSong.com.

Thanks to Stephanie and the other writers of this moving song for your hard work and inspiration. I encourage everyone to check it out, download it and share it. Have a Happy & Safe Independence Day!


Everyday Heroes


Fathers sometimes get the short end of the stick.  After more than a couple of decades where popular culture has often made them look like know-nothing chuckleheads, or an accessory—instead of a necessary part of a child’s life—the image of fathers has taken a beating. That could be partly because of the culture, and partly because of the fact that some people don’t have a positive experience with fathers.  Maybe they had one who was absent, either physically or emotionally.  After all, most men can father a child but not all men can be a Dad.

Those are the fathers that are celebrated this weekend:  the fathers and father figures in our lives, who raised us, guided us and protected us as we grew up.

Marine Captain Jeff Kuss was a father of two young children.  He grew up wanting to fly fighter jets and saw his dream come true.  He was a member of the Blue Angels, an elite team of Navy and Marine aviators who perform in airshows  A couple of weeks ago, while practicing for a Blue Angels performance for an airshow in Tennessee, his jet crashed and Capt. Kuss lost his life.  It’s believed that he did not eject himself from the aircraft on purpose in order to save the lives of innocent people on the ground.  The area of Smyrna, Tennessee where Capt. Kuss was flying was a heavily-populated area filled with apartments, offices and people who were just there to watch the Blue Angels practice.  In staying with his plane, as fighter pilots are trained to do when the possibility of hitting civilians exists, Capt. Kuss died a hero.  A dad and a patriot doing what comes naturally to dads—sacrificing and protecting.  But most would never call themselves heroes.  They’re just doing what good dads do.

Your dad may never have flown a fighter jet. Most likely, he earned his living doing things the world sees as less spectacular and less heroic than a Blue Angel.  If your dad was an accountant, a plumber or a farmer, it doesn’t matter.  Great dads and heroes can be found in humble places.

My dad wasn’t a pilot, though he did serve his country honorably in the Air Force during the Korean War.  But to me and my six brothers and sisters, he was a hero.  He worked very hard—at times working multiple jobs—to provide for us.  Later in life, once he got his first computer and taught himself to use it, he became a writer.  He never would have called himself a writer (I don’t think), but he wrote short opinion pieces to his local newspaper from a conservative viewpoint.

I always told my dad he should start a blog, but he wasn’t interested.  So after he passed away in 2012, I wanted to share some of his wisdom from those articles on the Liberty Bell Blog, and a couple of those have been posted here and here over the years.  I encourage you to read them because it’s amazing how much he could see of where the country was headed.  I have a notebook of my dad’s that he kept near his computer where he wrote down websites and notes on things he was researching.   But most of the pages in the notebook are filled with quotes from famous people, mostly of our nation’s Founding Fathers.  Here’s one from Samuel Adams that he must have found important at the time, and I think speaks volumes about where we are now:  “The general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.”

Dad’s notebook isn’t much to look at—it’s really only a part of a notebook that doesn’t even have the front cover on it, and slips of paper with other random notes falling out of it.  It could have easily been thrown away as a list of websites that may or may not still exist.  To me it’s priceless.  What makes it valuable is what’s inside, because it has things written in Dad’s own hand that were important to him:  his notes for his articles, websites he used for his research and ones he just liked to visit regularly…and the quotes.  Wisdom from the Founding Fathers that my father found noteworthy.  That reminds me of a t-shirt that he used to wear that had one of his favorite quotes on it from the Bible, from Ecclesiastes 10:2:  “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.”  Sounds like a conservative blogger to me.

I keep that t-shirt and the unassuming, partial notebook written by my hero who’s now in heaven…  but I would have kept it even if it had only been a list of websites that may or may not still exist.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

The United Colors of Light

prism copy

Today is Flag Day.  Instead of seeing the colors of Old Glory waving proudly, on this Flag Day, most flags are flying at half-staff due to the events at an Orlando nightclub Saturday night when a lone terrorist used a gun to kill 49 innocent people and injured more than 50 others before being shot by police. It was the worst terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.

Fort Hood. Boston. Chattanooga. San Bernardino.  Orlando. Will it ever be time to take Islamic extremists at their word when they say “crazy” things like “Death to America!”?  Or when they promise us after every attack in Europe that they’re coming here to do the same?  When they tell us they are and will continue to infiltrate themselves into the populations of oppressed refugees that legitimately fear for their lives in their homelands?  Why do those who think they know better than us always brush these hate-filled words under the carpet, then whine about needing more gun laws to prevent such tragedies?  As if more laws (instead of enforcing the ones we already have) were the answer.  It wouldn’t have kept the Orlando terrorist from doing what he did.

Some people are even trying to blame Christians for the attack due to The Pulse nightclub being a gay bar. A nut from the ACLU claimed that all of the bills in various states coming out in recent months to protect Christian businesses from lawsuits when they don’t want to participate in same-sex “weddings” are to blame for ratcheting up the hatred against homosexuals.

It’s not about guns…or wedding cakes…it’s not even about being gay (though in this particular incident, that’s the likely motivation for picking this target).  It’s about those who hate our way of life so much, they want it to disappear.

The Elephant in the Room is this:  evil exists and it seeks to destroy.  Just because you refuse to acknowledge it as such doesn’t make it go away. All Westerners– whether here in the US, in Canada, Europe or wherever—have a real enemy in political Islam and those who practice it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian, Jew or a Muslim who isn’t the right kind of Muslim.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight or what color skin you have.  It is about radical Islam, though you’ll never hear the president use that phrase.  We may not be at war with them, but they sure as heck are at war with us. .  All you have to do is take them at their word.

Here’s an example. In April of this year, WFTV 9 in Orlando broke a story about an Islamic imam who was coming to speak at the local mosque. A little investigation into this imam found that he had some pretty radical beliefs and was caught on tape back in 2013 expressing those views.  That imam, Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, is on tape saying how he would deal with homosexuals:  “Death is the sentence. We know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this, death is the sentence…We have to have that compassion for people, with homosexuals, it’s the same, out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”

Now why didn’t that get any national news coverage back in April?  Given the events of Saturday night/Sunday morning, it seems particularly chilling and is not unlike what Adolf Hitler said of them back in his day.

The guy who shot up The Pulse nightclub saw the world through a prism of hate.  Twisted, disturbed, inhumane.  The only thing that can conquer this kind of darkness is light. The homosexual movement uses the rainbow colors as their flag of solidarity.  When the colors of the rainbow pass through a prism, what comes out the other side is pure, white light—focused and sharp as a laser.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to be that light–to focus more on what we have in common and stand for one another’s right to live, to be free, to speak our minds without fear of being made into some sort of hate-monger.  Unless, of course, like the previously-mentioned imam–you are a hate-monger who talks about killing people.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but can we not at least agree that all lives really do matter, and that the time is coming—and may already be here—when we need to stand together against darkness?

The people who died in Orlando were somebody’s daughters and sons. Whether they were gay or not doesn’t make a difference, just as such things as political party, sexual orientation or skin color didn’t matter in the days after the Twin Towers fell.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Purple Penguins Come Home to Roost

About a year and a half ago, I posted about a school district out west that was trying to get their students away from referring to each other by the “outdated” terms of “boys” and “girls”.  Instead, they came up with the generic, nonsensical phrase “purple penguins” as a way to refer to students so that kids who may be questioning their birth gender wouldn’t get offended.

In the many months since then, this “tyranny of the minority” has only grown stronger. Now, after more than seven years of fundamental transformation, the Obama administration has issued a threat—uh, “guidance letter’—to every public school in America, from grade school through college. Obama’s edict issued last week proclaims that young girls and women must share their restrooms and locker rooms with members of the opposite sex—formerly known as boys or men—who have decided they don’t “feel” like a male. If they don’t, they will bring down the wrath of Big Government in the form of denial of funds for any activities that may be government funded (i.e. sports programs).

The guidance on restroom policies for public schools came down from the departments of Justice and Education just days after the Obama administration and the state of North Carolina filed lawsuits against each other over a recently-passed law in that state.

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 states that people must use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate.  The law also protects private businesses and other public facilities who wish to establish their own bathroom policies rather than be forced to allow men into women’s restrooms and vice versa. The government claims the law violates Titles VII and IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.  Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex from participation in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is accusing North Carolina of “state-sponsored discrimination against transgendered individuals”, and Governor Pat McCrory is charging the Obama administration with bypassing Congress and re-writing federal law.  He said, “They are now telling every government agency and every company that employs more than 15 people that men should be allowed to use a women’s locker room, restroom or shower facility.”

Several states’ lawmakers are speaking out against Obama’s latest over-reaching into their business and refuse to be bullied by Obama’s threats of stripping them of funding for non-compliance with his rules (which are not legally binding). Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said they are prepared to forfeit billions of dollars in federal funding rather than comply with the Obama dictate for their 5.2 million students.

Superintendent of the Port Neches-Groves school district in Texas, Rodney Cavness, was right to the point when he said, “When I get that letter, I’ll throw it away.”  Cavness said if and when the issue comes up in his district, they plan to deal with it on a case by case basis and not make a big deal of it because the job of the teachers and administrators is to love all the children.  Cavness said they aren’t in the business of social engineering, they are “having school.”

That is exactly how all of these public schools should look at these kinds of federal intrusions.  All of this is being done for a very, very tiny segment of society.  According  to the Williams Institute, just 0.3 percent of the population identifies as transgendered.  It would seem that the majority of that 0.3 percent would be adults and therefore beyond school age, so we’re talking about vastly changing the idea of privacy in the bathroom for more than 99 percent of the people in order to satisfy a handful of people.

You have to wonder, what is this really about?  Obamacare was never about healthcare.  Gay “marriage” was never about marriage. Everything that a statist like Obama does usually involves control and pushing the envelope. You can be sure that Obama will continue to use the waning months of his presidency to issue more such edicts as this one.

With all of the really serious threats we face as a nation, isn’t it good to know that the president is so concerned about the restroom policies in public schools?  The fact that such a thing as “restroom policies” even exist is a little disturbing. It’s not enough that liberal progressives have turned our military into their own private petri dish for every far-left agenda item, but in recent decades, they’ve been trying to do the same with education.  Tyrants always target the children when attempting to change a society because they know there’s truth in the statement made by 18th century preacher and abolitionist John Wesley:  “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”

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Some women veterans of World War II who had been denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery are now allowed that honor.  Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill permitting female pilots—known as WASPS—the high honor of being buried in what really is sacred ground.

According to Stars and Stripes, members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots have been working to right this wrong since the Army last year reinterpreted a law from the 1970s that banned them from Arlington burials as a way to deal with the increasingly limited space there.  These brave Fly Girls were trained pilots who transported combat aircraft from 1942-1944, but were not considered active-duty service members at the time.

Thank goodness that was remedied, and the WASPS have since been given the Congressional Gold Medal and veteran benefits for their service.  They stepped into roles outside of the norm for women, and should be recognized for that.  This really has nothing to do with the controversy over women in combat roles.  I don’t personally believe that’s the proper role for women, but they do have a place if they choose to have one within the military.

I once knew a guy who was a veteran who used to refer to female Marines as “WOMAN Marines”.  But he said it with a certain amount of disdain in his voice as if their service was somehow less than his own.  I got the impression he didn’t see them as fellow Marines who just happened to be female.  It’s like the ignorant boss who looks down on his secretary without getting a clue that she (or he for that matter) makes his job easier (if he or she is good at what they do).

I give that above example just as a way to explain that all veterans—male and female—have given something of themselves to preserve the ideas of the American experiment.  They just do it in different ways.  Most gave at least some of their time in their youth, their innocence; some lost limbs, sanity or relationships…others gave their lives.  Even those who served in situations where they weren’t in danger should have our gratitude so long as they did it with honor.

There’s a sign outside of a veterans’ hospital in the area I grew up in that  has this statement:  “The price of freedom is visible here.”  It can’t be said too often that freedom isn’t free—it always costs someone something.  That’s true if we’re talking about the freedom we have within our nation, and the freedom we need within ourselves.

Today is Good Friday.  Many Christians remember an even greater sacrifice that was made for all people of all times by the only One who could have made it.  It wasn’t to save men from the clutches of an evil dictator or repressive government, but to save people from ourselves and the consequences of the sin we were all born into.  Jesus died once for all of us to save us from an eternity apart from Him.

It didn’t take an act of Congress to do it…we just need to believe it.

Price of Freedom

New Wave

If you were growing up in the 70’s or 80’s, you might remember the ABC After-School Specials that were shown a couple of times each month.  These mini-movies addressed issues relevant to kids and teens–some were rather corny, but others pretty hard-hitting for the day.  An example of the latter was called “The Wave”, and it aired in 1981.  It was based on a real-life experiment that was done at a California high school back in 1967.

High school teacher Ben Ross is teaching his students about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. After watching some old films showing the victims of Hitler’s Holocaust, the students ask him how the German people could have fallen for such a leader. They wonder how they couldn’t see what was going on in their own country.

With no real answer to give them, Ross decides to try similar leadership tactics in his classroom as Hitler used on Germany. He begins to use a similar cadence in his speech. He says they will call their new movement “The Wave”. He speaks to them of “Strength through discipline. Strength through community. Strength through action.” He insists they stand and sit at their desks in a stiff posture…and he is amazed to find the students doing it on their own, day after day. He even marvels at the whole experiment in a conversation with his wife. When she asks him how far he thinks he can go with it, he tells her, “I don’t know. But I intend to find out.”

Within two short weeks, the whole school is caught up in The Wave, with very few exceptions. One boy in particular— Bobby, the class loner, bullied by all—is finally a part of the group. He’s now finally a leader.

On the other hand, Lori, the girl who once was the leader of her peers, finds herself an outcast when this new movement sweeping the school starts to bother her. She takes to the school paper and begins writing articles against it, promoting the idea of individuality and thinking for oneself. She finds herself the target of harassment, threats, and is nearly physically assaulted by her own boyfriend. After nearly hitting her, he comes to his senses and they decide they have to try to do something about The Wave.

This little after-school special from 35 years ago tells us all we need to know about the potential dangers of populism in less than an hour. Of falling for slogans and cheap one-liners from those who wish to lead us without digging deeper to find out what it is this person is really about. Of following anyone who says what they’ve been wanting someone to say for years…of allowing anger and frustration to cloud judgment, even to the point of abandoning your own core principles and individuality.

That boy Bobby is like lots of Americans who are sick and tired of no one in Washington listening to them. They feel bullied and kicked around by the people who are supposed to serve them. They are easy prey for anyone who comes along and makes them believe, “I’ve got your back.”—when really, they couldn’t care less. It was Bobby who was the most devastated to find out that The Wave was really just an experiment…there was nothing real about it. And he was just a lonely outsider once again.

Such is the way of many populist movements. The Little Guy will still be the one left out in the end. If you disagree, think back to the woman who, back in Election 2008 became known as “Peggy the Mooch”. Peggy Joseph was the one who gushed at an Obama campaign rally.  “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car; I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage…if I help him, he’s gonna help me.” When documentary filmmaker Joel Gilbert interviewed Joseph for his film,“There’s No Place Like Utopia” in 2014, she had realized she’d been duped. No longer an Obama supporter, Joseph told him, “He lied about everything.”

I feel compassion for that woman, just as I felt compassion for her fictional counterpart Bobby…for all of the Bobbys and Peggys out there who, time and again, keep looking for leadership in all the wrong places. Even Jesus came upon these types of people—He called them “harassed and helpless”.

In this election, both the Democrats and Republicans have a candidate that many in the media are calling “populists”. Or possibly “faux populists” as National Review refers to them. One promises the debt-laden millennials a free ride for life; the other says all the things his supporters want to hear, but has no detailed plans on how to make them happen…or how we’ll pay for all of it. No one cares. They just want change.

That sounds eerily familiar. “The Wave” is worth watching because it’s very timely. Even compared to other after-school specials of the day, it was exceptional and won many awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program. Without giving too much away (in case you decide to watch it in full on You Tube), teacher Ben Ross shocks and grieves his students when he reveals truth to them, asking, “What causes people to deny their own history?”

What’s more, he warns them against blindly following a leader: “You accepted the group’s will over your own convictions, no matter who you hurt. Oh, you thought you were just going along for the ride- that you could walk away at any moment, but where were you heading? How far would you have gone?”

America…how far will you go?

Scene from "The Wave", 1981

Scene from “The Wave”, 1981

Election 2016: The Series


Today is Super Tuesday Eve. Twelve states and American Samoa will have their primaries to select candidates for the presidency tomorrow. This has been a weird ride as far as elections go, and has all the elements of a hit reality TV show.

There’s a conniving bad girl (Hillary Clinton) who always seems to get her way (and stays out of jail), even as she’s being challenged by a guy with a funny accent (Bernie Sanders) who tells all the kids that if they just pick him—everything will be free (except them). But on the Democrat side, a contest between two aging hippies—one a self-proclaimed socialist, and the other a secret socialist— is not that compelling of a plot for this reality producer. The real dramatics are on the Republican side.

As all reality shows do, it started with a large cast of characters that unlike the Democrats, was really pretty diverse. As time goes on and the stories develop around each person, they rise and fall in popularity…then one by one, they drop out. Amid all the twists and turns of the story, an occasional cameo appearance is made by former reality stars (Sarah Palin), who show up to support veterans of the genre (Trump).

So the primaries are sort of like elimination episodes. After each primary, one or two candidates realize they have no chance to win the nomination, and they bow out. Now, we’re left with these five:

*Dr. Ben Carson– The kind-hearted Brainiac; Will he keep pressing on after tomorrow, even if he doesn’t win anywhere? Or will he leave the race and support one of the winners of previous primaries?

* Ted Cruz– The Underdog Constitutionalist/ Resident Geek; the only candidate with a Super Power (audio-graphic memory).  Is he really the biggest liar that Donald Trump has ever met? Trump claims he is (until he later decided Marco Rubio is also the biggest liar), but given that source, it’s highly unlikely. Can he continue to take the fiery darts thrown at him by the other top candidates, and will voters respond in kind?

*John Kasich– The Guy from Ohio; He’s the fly-under-the-radar sort of reality show character who most people forgot about early on but he somehow ends up in the finale of the show. He may win his home state, but does anyone know why he’s still in the race? Does he know?

*Marco Rubio– The “Nice Guy, But…”; Will his tainted past on immigration (Gang of Eight) and status as the Establishment Guy doom him to hoping for a cabinet spot in the Trump administration, or—worse yet—vice president? Is he, as Trump claims, too sweaty to be president? Will he keep reading Trump’s Twitter rantings out loud on the campaign trail? Will he team up with Ted Cruz to form the ultimate Non-Trump ticket?

*Donald Trump– The Flamboyant, Colorful Cast Member; The man currently at the top of the heap, he claims to be an outsider, a non-politician—but is he really? He’s admitted to supporting left-wingers–like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi–that should make any Tea Partier cringe, and says he wants to “make deals”. I thought people were sick of all these kinds of back room deals that gave us disasters like Obamacare. Will this name-calling, misogynistic, billionaire philandering philanthropist continue to court Evangelical Christians and make them believe he’s one of them, in spite of his admission that he’s never needed to ask God for forgiveness? Does it bother him that an infamous KKK member (David Duke) is supporting him?  Could he really commit murder and not lose a vote?

* Evangelical Christians/ Religious Folks– Will they show up at the polls, or will they be so disgusted that they sit out like they did in 2008 and 2012, giving us Barack Obama? Will they vote their principles, or —like the “Obamatons” of previous elections that they once criticized—will they just want change without caring about character?

I’ve heard there once was a time when no one knew who the nominees were from each party until they actually held their conventions in the summer. It seems ridiculous that on Wednesday, we should already know who the nominees are when most voters haven’t even gotten an opportunity to vote…eight months before Election Day.

Whatever happens tomorrow, other primaries still remain and the saga will continue to unfold as two eventual nominees face off. Then comes the reality show sequel: “Election 2016: The Media Takedown of [insert Republican nominee here].”

Stay tuned…