By Michael Bielawski
At the Restoring Our Faith Summit at the Double Tree Hotel in South Burlington on Tuesday, several leading national voices spoke out for individual rights, liberties, and religious principles including strong nuclear families.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Tyson Langhofer shared some thoughts with VDC on how the First Amendment is meant to protect not just a citizen’s rights concerning free speech, but also that citizens should never be forced to say what they disagree with.
“The Supreme Court has never held up any law which compels somebody to actually speak something different than what they believe and they’ve issued many rulings just in the last five or seven years reaffirming this doctrine that there’s actually additional harm when you are force to speak something that you don’t want to speak,” he said.
Langhofer rose to Vermont fame for his role as the lawyer representing a father and daughter who were each being punished by Randolph Union High School for refusing to comply with having biological males in the female locker rooms in 2022. After a lawsuit by the family, The Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust was forced to pay out a settlement of $125,000 for damages and fees.
Langhofer said, “The government through the schools are imposing these requirements that essentially say you must use somebody’s preferred pronouns or preferred names and what that’s doing is essentially forcing an individual to say something about sex and about gender that they don’t believe.”
Pastor Russ Rathier, the Vermont Coordinator for the Vermont Baptist Church of New England. He spoke about how left-leaning leaders in the 1960’s orchestrated a national effort to move young people to Vermont.
“Their whole desire was to move 200,000 disenfranchised youth to a state of 400,000 people, get some communes set up, get residency, start to vote, and within a generation take over the state,” Rathier said. “It worked, didn’t it? It worked, that’s how we got here. It didn’t happen overnight.”
Rathier says that Vermont, despite its political swing to the left, has seen much progress in spreading faith.
“There’s been incredible growth in the Evangelical faith, that is Bible-believing churches,” he said. “A church that will preach the Gospel, not the social gospel, not the political gospel, not the prosperity gospel, but the word of God is on the rise in Vermont.”
He said that from 2010 to 2020 the number of Vermonters identifying as evangelicals grew from 3.6% to 7.2%.
Carrie Sheffield is a political columnist and commentator in the Washington, D.C. area. She commented on Virginia’s 2022 gubernatorial race, which saw a former governor sharply sink in the polls after he alleged that parents are too much interfering with education policy.
“He made that infamous very obvious truth from his perspective that he didn’t believe that parents should have any say in what their children learn,” she said. “That did him in. He did in himself.”
She also said, “You are actually not outnumbered … There are more parents than there are teachers. Don’t forget that.”
She noted in recent polling Americans are generally not embracing trans ideology.
“By a 2-to-1, maybe even 3-to-1 margin, Americans do not believe that men should be playing in women’s sports,” she said. “You wouldn’t think that by looking at Twitter, by looking at the media, by looking at corporate America.”
Pat Fagan is the founder and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Insitute at The Catholic University of America. He stressed the importance of supporting the family structure with a father and mother in the home and healthy masculinity focused on supporting the wife and children.
Fagan, a native of Ireland, said he only meant for his stay in the United States to be temporary while he advanced his studies. Even in the 1980s, he sensed that something was going wrong in American schools.
“And then I found that the government through the sex education and [other policies] that they had in schools in the 80s was already undermining the family, and actually that led to my staying here,” Fagan said.
Fagan said the founding fathers were strong defenders of personal freedom, but they didn’t anticipate all of the challenges that the institution of nuclear families would face.
“As I analyzed it and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, one of the things that they did not do because I think it was so assumed … how foundational marriage and family is to society. It’s not there in their discourse, and it’s absolutely critical.”
Several more speakers
Other speakers included Meg Hasson who directs the Catholic Women’s Forum and is the co-founder of the Person and Identity Project; Delano Squires who is a Research Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life; and Rabbi Dr. Air Lamm, 1980’s hip hop music fan and Chief Executive of Bnai Zion, a media company that advocates for Israel and the Jewish people.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle
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