A Need to Speak for Life in Illinois

In 1977, the State of Illinois saw a bill passed through the legislature and signed into law that implemented a ban on the taxpayer funding of abortion. This included not allowing coverage of abortion services in state employee health plans, as well as not allowing the coverage of abortion services in Medicaid. That year – 1977 – over 12,700 abortions were paid for by tax dollars under Medicaid. The ban was challenged in the courts, but was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.
The ban has since remained in effect, but a bill was recently introduced into the Illinois House that seeks to remove this ban on taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid and state employee health plans. In other words, the removal of the ban would allow blanket funding of abortion services with taxpayer dollars, with basically no restrictions whatsoever. The bill also would allow the Department of Human Services to provide taxpayer-funder grants to organizations that provide referrals for, counsel for, or even provide abortions (e.g. grants would be allowed from the state to Planned Parenthood).
Simply put, this is a terrible bill that is not only harmful to our littlest neighbors and women in need to true help, but is also dangerous to the consciences of so many citizens of the State of Illinois.
The bill has made it through committee and now is on the calendar to be debated and voted one by the full Illinois House, likely sometime in mid to late April.
I’m asking you to take a few minutes and write a letter or make a phone call to your State Representative and tell him to vote “NO” on IL HB 4013. Again, please take a few minutes and write a letter or make a phone call. To confirm your Representative, you can search here.
If you’re unsure what to say, politely ask them to vote “NO” because the bill would 1) be harmful to unborn children who have no say in the matter of whether they should be killed by abortion or not; 2) would be harmful to mothers and fathers who are scared and in need of help, but are misled into thinking that killing their child is the best way out; and 3) would be harmful to the consciences of Illinois taxpayers, who should not be forced to subsidize the intention killing of unborn children in any way.
Please also be unceasingly praying that our leaders at the state and national level would seek to protect the unborn, mothers and fathers who are scared, and the consciences of all citizens.

Religious Liberty on the Docket – Pray for Protection of Conscience

I penned this letter to my congregation this morning, regarding today’s arguments before the Supreme Court in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. May it be helpful to you, too.

Today Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby is argued before the Supreme Court.

You’re going to hear a lot about this case on the news, on social media, in the newspaper, on the radio; basically everywhere. It’s a very big deal. Some will falsely portray it as all about religion trying to impose a ban on contraception in the public square. Some will paint a politicized picture of a boss with one set of beliefs forcing certain health-care choices on his employees. Neither is correct.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod – which signed an amicus brief in this case – holds to the Scriptures’ teaching that life is a gift of God, that God alone is the one who has the ultimate say over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39), and that the willful, unauthorized-by-God taking of life is sinful (Exodus 20:13). The Green family (who privately own and run Hobby Lobby), being themselves Christians, hold to the same scriptural teaching.

They (and we) are opposed to the HHS Contraception Mandate of the Affordable Care Act because four of the twenty mandated contraceptive drugs act to prevent implantation of an embryo in the womb of the mother, thus causing an abortion. The Greens cannot justify paying for these drugs through their company’s health plans because they run Hobby Lobby as a Christian business. The LCMS has a vested interested in this case – as do I, your pastor, and as do you all – because the conscience of any particular Christian (or any religious person) should not be burdened with having to pay for drugs that end human life.

These abortifacient drugs will regrettably continue to be available for no cost to a large swath of the country under this HHS Mandate. We as Christians mourn this fact, and on other fronts should continue to work to stop the casual ending of human life that has become the norm in this country. However, this case isn’t about that. This case is solely about whether the government can impose a regulation on its citizens, even against their religiously-informed consciences.

Please be praying for all involved today, but especially that the Justices of the Supreme Court would ultimately decide to uphold the protections of conscience and religious liberty which are intrinsic to the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

In the love of Christ,
Pastor Schuermann

President Matthew Harrison, of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, yesterday wrote an op-ed for the LCMS Reporter to encourage us all to not give up the spiritual warfare necessary in this matter. I encourage you all to read it for yourself:

Tired of Hobby Lobby?

For further information on various religious liberty matters that concern us, be sure to check out the Free To Be Faithful section of the LCMS website. There are plenty of excellent and helpful resources there.

Thrivent’s Dangerous Game

ThriventUpdate (12/19): The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has issued a statement.
Update 2 (12/19): A LCMS Reporter article on the issue.
Update 3 (12/20): Thrivent has responded.
Update 4 (12/20): The WELS have issued a statement.

Original Post:
Earlier today, I was alerted to the presence of an entry in the Thrivent Choice database. The entry was for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. It can be found here.

Planned Parenthood is the leading abortion provider in the United States, having performed around 327,000 abortions in 2012.

Thrivent Choice is described in this way on Thrivent’s website: “The Thrivent Choice® program lets members recommend where some of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ charitable outreach funds go by directing Choice Dollars®.”

Thrivent is “a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organization nearly 2.5 million members strong.” Why is Thrivent providing a way for Planned Parenthood – an abortion business that commits atrocities every day that are completely contrary to the will of God – to receive charitable contributions from them?

I asked Thrivent on Twitter:

Thrivent responded with a few tweets, neatly summed up here:

I’m not a Thrivent member, so I’m not entirely clear on how the Thrivent Choice program works. Browsing the Thrivent Choice website, I came across a similar list of requirements for an organization to be listed in the Thrivent Choice catalog:

Organizations Eligible for Choice Dollars

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and congregations that meet program eligibility rules; and
  • Recommended by a benefit member; and
  • Approved by a Thrivent Chapter/chartered Thrivent FR Community leadership board before being added to the online catalog.

Notice that these three requirements need to be met before the organization is listed in the Thrivent Choice online catalog. Planned Parenthood is currently listed in the Thrivent Choice online catalog. Which means that the local chapter board has already approved of Planned Parenthood as a fitting organization to receive Thrivent Choice dollars.

It’s puzzling to me that Thrivent has left themselves open to dollars being given to an organization that would so clearly be offensive to a large portion of their members. So I asked:


Thrivent responded:

Then, thankfully, this:

So, while at this point Thrivent Choice dollars can be awarded to Planned Parenthood by a Thrivent member designating their own Choice dollars to Planned Parenthood, it has not yet actually happened. Thanks be to God.

Thrivent is playing a dangerous game. They have created a charitable giving program that lacks any sort of rules limiting eligible organizations to those that are consistent with the word of God. At any time, Thrivent Choice dollars could easily end up in the hands of Planned Parenthood.

It seems that Thrivent could change this quickly. The Terms & Conditions for organizations participating in the Thrivent Choice program clearly state that “Thrivent Financial adopts Terms and Conditions as well as other Program Rules for Thrivent Choice at its sole discretion. Thrivent Financial may change, limit, modify, cancel or revoke Thrivent Choice and/or Terms and Conditions and/or other Program Rules at any time and for any reason, with or without notice…” In other words, Thrivent can make a rule eliminating the eligibility of organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Likewise, the member’s direction to Thrivent to give Thrivent Choice dollars to a specific organization is only a direction – in other words, similar to advice. According to the Terms & Conditions for members, “Thrivent Financial retains total discretion as to whether or how all Choice Dollars are distributed. Any “direction” that I provide to Thrivent to designate recipients of Choice Dollars is a request and recommendation from me suggesting a recipient of Choice Dollars funding which Thrivent is under no legal obligation to approve or follow. The use of the term “direct,” “direction,” “choose,” “choice” or other terms in these Terms and Conditions or in any communications regarding Thrivent Choice, does not provide me with any authority to make any decision regarding the use of any funds.”

So Thrivent can act to do the right thing. They should eliminate eligibility for organizations such as Planned Parenthood that carry out purposes contrary to the will of God. They should inform their members that may have directed Choice Dollars to such organizations that they will not be paying any money to those organizations.

Others have been engaging Thrivent on Twitter today as well, and it’s encouraging that Thrivent is at least listening, responding, and promising to get the feedback to the Thrivent Choice team. It seems that right now it’s very important to get the word out so that current Thrivent members can contact Thrivent and encourage them to modify the Thrivent Choice policies. Urge Thrivent to block eligibility to organizations like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions or in other ways act or lobby contrary to the will of God.

(Thanks to Steven Cholak for bringing this to my attention.)

Update: I’ve followed up with some further research into Thrivent Choice.