Equal Rights Institute Turns Two

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This month marks the two-year anniversary of the launch of Equal Rights Institute. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished.

We spoke to 1,455 people in 18 speeches and seven all-day seminars. We published 35 new articles to our blog, which were ready by 38,269 people, mainly visiting our site from America, Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and Australia!

Here are a few of my favorite memories from the last year:

Successfully shooting 31 videos for our online course in three days.

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How Should Conservatives Respond to the Disturbing Trend of Campus Censorship?

We experienced an aggressive protest at UC Davis, but this is part of a disturbing, growing trend of censorship of conservative speech on college campuses.

This is an extended version of an article from our last printed newsletter. Warning: This blog post includes strong language when directly quoting leftist protesters.

On February 29th through March 1st at UC Davis, we faced our most aggressive, persistent, and unreasonable protest yet.

As many of you know, our preferred way of doing outreach is to set up a simple poll table that asks questions like, “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” and provide options for people to sign Yes, No, or It Depends. While we do keep track of the results of these polls to pay attention to trends, they aren’t scientific and we don’t ask the question in order to track people’s answers. We just want to dialogue with people and give our volunteers an opportunity to use what they learned at our training seminar.

We don’t put up signs with abortion images. If you want to learn about how we use abortion images, go to EqualRightsInstitute.com/Images. In short, we think the images are valuable and sometimes persuasive, so we have them in our brochure and we train our volunteers to use them in their conversations. Our rule is that we don’t show people abortion images without their consent, which is purely for pragmatic reasons. We don’t think it’s evil to put abortion images on signs, but we have found it to be counter-productive if our goal is to have persuasive dialogues with people.

The pro-choice club found out that we were coming to do an event of some kind on Monday and Tuesday and they assumed we were going to do a graphic image outreach. They came prepared to protest us with umbrellas and signs that said “graphic images ahead” and “let us be your umbrella escort.” They were literally offering to escort people past the most unintimidating pro-life display they’d ever seen. To the casual observer, we could have been a pro-choice table, or a table run by people that were undecided but interested in people’s opinions.

The protesters eventually realized that we were having friendly and productive dialogues, so they got tired of protesting us by standing 75-feet away and holding their signs. In the afternoon, they figured out an effective way to actually interfere with our event: they formed a protest line in front of our table. This turned our table from a comfortable, inviting place for conversation into a place where people expected to be yelled at, and it effectively shut down our table. We asked the university administration to respect our free speech event and tell the protesters to give us some space. They refused to do anything.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Pro-choice protesters at UC Davis in a line in front of our poll table.

Dialogue Story: Rachel and Chloe at Aquinas College

I want to share one more dialogue story from our outreach last month at Aquinas College. Two fantastic students from the Students for Life club at University of Michigan, Rachel Crawford and Chloe Alberta, spoke to several pro-choice girls. This is what happened.

Pictured: Dialogue story - Rachel and Chloe talking to students at Aquinas College.

Rachel (left) and Chloe (right) talking to students at Aquinas College.

Chloe begins the story this way:

Towards the end of our day of outreach, Rachel and I had a conversation with two girls, who I’ll call Amber and Linda. Initially they were very hesitant to participate in the poll, because, as Amber informed us, they didn’t really like to think about the issue of abortion and didn’t really have an opinion on it.

Grabbing my handy fetal development chart from the ERI outreach brochure, I asked: “Would you mind if I tell you why it is extremely important to me that people think about abortion?” I showed them the fetal development chart and told them that I believe that human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and that that human life deserves to be protected.

I asked them in the name of having ALL the information possible, in order to make the MOST informed decision, would they be willing to look at a picture that shows what an abortion looks like? They declined because, “It’s probably really disturbing.” “You’re right,” I said. “It’s extremely disturbing and I really have trouble looking at them too.” I explained to them that I see that horrible image of the death of an unborn child, and I see one of the biggest human rights violations of our time. And I cannot be silent about that, and I think that is why it is so important to have an opinion about abortion and not let those human lives be looked over.

Bodily Rights Arguments Necessitate Extremism

Bodily rights arguments for abortion are always extremist arguments, at least in the way people present them. No bodily rights argument that I have ever seen (or even heard of any pro-choice advocate making) leaves room for abortion exceptions.

Not all pro-choice people are extremists.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester. A 2012 Lozier Institute poll found that 77% of their respondents believed sex-selective abortions should be against the law. Most people, even pro-choice people, believe there are circumstances when abortion should not be legal.

But almost all pro-choice people use extremist arguments.

What is an extremist argument?

By “extremist arguments,” I don’t mean “arguments that extremists often use;” I mean arguments that necessarily lead to an extremist position. I am not saying that having an extremist position means you must take extremist or violent action. I am just saying if you make an argument that logically requires an extremist position and you don’t take that extremist position, you’re being inconsistent.

For instance, suppose someone said, “Having dark skin makes you a non-person, but I really like lots of people with dark skin and I think people ought to be nice to them.” They’re advocating for being nice, but “having dark skin makes you a non-person” is an extremist argument. The logical conclusion of that argument is that anyone who has dark skin should not be legally protected, that it is morally justified to enslave or kill such people. It doesn’t matter how kind, compassionate, or well-meaning the person is who says it; the argument is extremist.

People are welcome to try to justify abortion with extremist arguments, but they should expect to be gently challenged to hold a consistent view. If you’re making an extremist argument, you should be consistent and hold the extremist view that comes with it.

Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion

This article is an expanded version of my first “Life Lessons with Josh” column in Life Matters Journal, in which I answer questions from LMJ’s readers. This reader asked for help responding to the question of rape:

One of the most common questions I get about being pro-life is “But what if the mother was raped?” I stand for all life, even life that was created through rape or any other difficult situation. How can I explain that to a pro-choicer in such a way that I don’t come across as callous or uncaring about the mother’s situation?

~ Troubled in Tuscaloosa

I love the way this question is worded. You clearly care about showing that you don’t only care about the child, but that you rightly care for the survivor of rape as well. Many pro-life people don’t communicate that very well when they talk about rape. They come across as if they have something we call Fetus Tunnel Vision.” I think the question of rape is the most common example of this. Immediately we say, “The child’s right to life shouldn’t be dependent on how it was conceived!” I agree with that, but who does this skip? The mother.

My friend Steve Wagner at Justice For All has made a huge impact on the way I think about how pro-life people should respond to rape. He says:

When a pro-choice person brings up the issue of rape, they’re not terribly concerned at that point if the unborn is human. They want to find out whether you’re human.

Can you see how horrible rape is? If not, please don’t tell people you’re pro-life. I’ve trained people before who understood the definition of rape, but they didn’t understand what rape is. There are other pro-lifers who cannot hear the word “rape” and let themselves acknowledge how horrible rape is because they feel like they’re losing debate points or time. There’s too much of that out there and it’s hurting our movement.

So, here’s what we should do instead. We should first acknowledge the horror of rape.

UPDATE: The Saturday seminar booked up before we even began promoting it, so we’ve not opened up this Sunday seminar option.

The Equal Rights Institute training seminar is coming to Sacramento!

Josh and Tim Brahm will teach and mentor you personally to make sure you get the most out of the day. This seminar is designed to train you to have productive conversations with pro-choice people, using the arguments and dialogue skills that will be most likely to change their mind.

NOTE: If you attend this seminar, you will be working with an experienced mentor who will help you to learn the concepts and be able to put them into practice. Because there is a limited number of mentors, there is a cap on the number of people we can effectively train at this seminar. Registering at this page is the ONLY way to guarantee a seat at the seminar. If we still have room left for more people on the day of the event, it will be first come first served until we meet our cap. If you’re planning to attend, please complete this registration to guarantee a seat.

Training Seminar:

  • When: Sunday, February 28th. Registration starts at 1:30. Seminar starts at 2:00 and ends at 8:30.
  • Where: New Hope Christian Fellowship | 6240 Verner Ave, Sacramento, CA
  • Food: Dinner will be provided, as well as snacks and refreshments.
  • Cost: Free

Campus Outreach:

  • When: Monday and Tuesday, February 29th and March 1st, from 9 am – 4 pm.
  • Where: UC Davis
Date: February 28, 2016
Time: 2:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Event: Equal Rights Institute Seminar
Sponsor: Equal Rights Institute
559-593-8700
Venue: New Hope Christian Fellowship
Location: 6240 Verner Ave
Sacramento, CA 95841
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

Will Smith’s Indefensible Moral Relativism

Will Smith was recently featured along with several other actors on one of The Hollywood Reporter’s (THR) hour-long roundtable discussions. Not only did Will Smith make a relativistic statement, but the interviewer asked precisely the right question to push back against his view! It’s worth taking a few minutes to analyze what Will Smith said because his view is unfortunately common and it’s helpful to take a close look at the views of those with whom we disagree.

About halfway through the discussion, one of the interviewers asked Will Smith about his recent movie, Concussion. The movie is based on the true story of a Nigerian forensic pathologist named Dr. Bennet Omalu who spent years trying to get NFL leadership to take seriously his research on potentially lethal head injuries from playing football.

Will Smith on The Hollywood Reporter

Screenshot from The Hollywood Reporter video

The Equal Rights Institute training seminar is coming to Sacramento!

Josh and Tim Brahm will teach and mentor you personally to make sure you get the most out of the day. This seminar is designed to train you to have productive conversations with pro-choice people, using the arguments and dialogue skills that will be most likely to change their mind.

NOTE: If you attend this seminar, you will be working with an experienced mentor who will help you to learn the concepts and be able to put them into practice. Because there is a limited number of mentors, there is a cap on the number of people we can effectively train at this seminar. Registering at this page is the ONLY way to guarantee a seat at the seminar. If we still have room left for more people on the day of the event, it will be first come first served until we meet our cap. If you’re planning to attend, please complete this registration to guarantee a seat.

Training Seminar:

  • When: Saturday, February 27th. Registration starts at 8:30. Seminar starts at 9:00 and ends at 4:30.
  • Where: New Hope Christian Fellowship | 6240 Verner Ave, Sacramento, CA
  • Food: Lunch will be provided, as well as snacks and refreshments.
  • Cost: Free

Campus Outreach:

  • When: Monday and Tuesday, February 29th and March 1st, from 9 am – 4 pm.
  • Where: Location to be announced at the seminar.
Date: February 27, 2016
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Event: Equal Rights Institute Seminar
Sponsor: Equal Rights Institute
559-593-8700
Venue: New Hope Christian Fellowship
Location: 6240 Verner Ave
Sacramento, CA 95841
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

Students for Life Is Honoring ERI with a Defender of Life Award

Students for Life of America has decided to honor me and nine other pro-life Millennial leaders with a Defender of Life award at their conferences this month.

This means a lot to me, as I see Students for Life as being one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the country. To be on the same list as so many other young leaders who are making a huge impact is also humbling.

But mainly, this is really encouraging to me because it tells me that we are helping people. We started ERI to create more opportunities to help pro-lifers learn to be more gracious and persuasive, and I’m really thankful for the success with which God has blessed us. Thank you so much for faithfully supporting us and making this mission possible.

Top 5 ERI Articles of 2015

I created this list using the Google Analytics for the ERI blog, instead of complicating the process by incorporating stats from LifeNews.com, where many of our articles are later republished.

Our blog received 79,000 unique pageviews from more than 43,000 unique people this year. That’s a 140% increase in readers from last year.

After running our first reader survey this year, we decided to post more consistently, maintain a calm, respectful, yet uncompromising tone, keep things practical, and keep using stories to model the kinds of dialogues we want people to have. I think we accomplished all of those goals, and we saw great growth to our blog this year.

On to the list!

#5: Avoiding an Embarrassingly Common Pro-Life Mistake

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Our mission is to train pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively. We want to help the pro-life movement to make the kinds of arguments that are compelling to pro-choice people. We also want to help pro-life people to avoid common pitfalls, and this post is an example of that.

It was interesting to see some people respond to this piece by claiming that pro-lifers don’t make this mistake while at the same time reading comments from readers saying that they’ve been making this mistake for years and had no idea they were committing a logical fallacy.