Texas Values In Jeopardy
In this interview with Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, Bob and MJ discuss the importance of Christian Values that formed the great state of Texas and how they are in jeopardy of being lost in Texas and across the nation. Texas, being the economic superpower that it is, is being attacked by leftists and if they capture it, they may just capture the whole nation.
GUESTS: Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values
HOSTED BY: Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA® and Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®
Mentioned In This Episode
CIS Wealth Management Group
Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA®
Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values
Family Research Council
Focus On The Family
Bob: Welcome to Christian Financial Perspectives, a weekly podcast where we talk about ways to integrate your faith with your finances. This is Bob Barber.
Mary Jo: And I’m Mary Jo Lyons.
Bob: Are you ready to learn how to apply biblical wisdom to everyday financial decisions?
Mary Jo: Join us as we look at integrating your faith with your finances. If it’s your first time listening, welcome to our podcast, and if you’re a returning listener, welcome back.
Bob: Ephesians 6:10-12, “This is the last thing I want to say. Be strong with the Lord strength. Put on the things God gives you to fight with, then you will not fall into the traps of the devil. Our fight is not with people. It’s against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It’s against the demon world that works in the heavens.” You know, Mary Jo, as we were coming up with this scripture, it’s really about the fight that we fight in the spiritual realm, isn’t it?
Mary Jo: It so is. It’s not the fight against the people, but it’s the darkness.
Bob: So for 25 years, CIS Wealth Management has been helping Christians with financial planning and investing with those Christian values. We have really tried and have stayed committed to serving the Lord while helping our clients develop their longterm financial strategies to achieve these goals and objectives based on biblical principles. Our investment portfolios give you the opportunity to invest in companies that are making a positive change in our society. We offer many choices for those that would like to help make our world a better place both now and for generations to come and this investment methodology is referred to as what we call biblically responsible investing or morally responsible investing. This mirrors what we stand for with our conservative Christian values, which has to do with our guest that we’re going to have on today. If you’re like me, you’re aware that these values, they’ve been slowly eroding and there’s a huge concern for me, as was many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in what’s happening here. Mary Jo and I thought, as Certified Kingdom Advisors, that we’d have a tremendous opportunity to make a cultural impact through our vocation, which we do on a daily basis and that’s going to bring us to our guest today. As wealth management advisors, we’re Christian wealth advisors first.
Mary Jo: It seems that those who want to drive a wedge in our society and change these deeply held beliefs for more secular, more liberal agenda, they’re just getting bolder and bolder. Their voices are getting louder and louder. So we must work equally as hard in the fight to maintain our Christian way of life.
Bob: That’s the truth. We can’t stick our head in the sand about that.
Mary Jo: This has led us to look for like-minded groups and organizations that are working hard to preserve and promote a culture of family values and provide an equally loud voice in the fight to preserve our faith, our family, and our freedoms. We couldn’t live in a better place to engage in that fight, and that’s the great state of Texas. I love saying that. Texas has always stood for those same conservative, Christian values, and that’s what’s led us to the great work being done by Texas values. So on today’s episode of Christian Financial Perspectives, we have the honor and pleasure of speaking with Jonathan M. Signs. He’s president of Texas Values, an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. They are associated with the Family Policy Alliance, a public policy partner of Focus On The Family, recognized by the Family Research Council. Like values-based investing, the Texas Values organization not only emphasizes that Christians vote their values in the voting booth, but their mission is also to preserve and advance a culture of family values in the state of Texas in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued, and I just love that message.
Bob: That’s right. So we’re about to get our guest on, but I want to tell you a little bit more about Texas Values because they’re really promoting our core values of faith, family, and freedom in the great state of Texas, which also you think about it, Texas is so big, it pours over in states around us and then to the whole country. So they’re about policy research and public education in standing for the truth in media. They’re really a grassroots mobilization organization. They’re about educating voters, review and legislation, and providing a legal analysis and fighting at the Capitol. Jonathan’s going to tell us about that. Testifying at the Texas legislators state board of education and other governmental entities. We’ve been following the Texas Values initiatives for the last few years. I’ve personally been to their home offices in Austin and attended their last two annual conferences, which just blew me away. It was just a few months ago. It’s an amazing force for good. So today’s podcast, we thought it’d be great for those that believe in Christian values to learn about the Texas values organization from the president himself, Jonathan, I want to make sure I say your name right, Jonathan. Say your last name for me again.
Jonathan: Saenz like a street sign.
Bob: Okay. Jonathon Saenz. He’s out there daily fighting the fight for religious liberty. Jonathan, welcome to our podcast. We’re excited to have you on. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. I know you’ve got a meeting with a group of pastors in San Antonio right after this podcast. So, finally we got to you. I want you to share what you’re doing and those victories that Texas Values is experiencing as well.
Jonathan: Well, absolutely and thank you for having me on today. It’s an honor. It’s great when we meet people and they’re a part of events that we do and they get to experience it. And then they have a deeper understanding for what we’re doing and they want to share that with other folks. We started Texas Values about seven years ago. I had been working for a larger organization on a lot of these same issues. I’m a licensed attorney, grew up in Houston. My family’s been in Texas for five generations and so very excited about the opportunity that I have to do the work that I do and really to serve other people while serving our Lord. What we’ve seen over time is a growing concern about the impact on our values and we call them Texas values. We think the values of faith, family, and freedom have always been the values that people in Texas care about. If you go back to the Alamo, you look at the letter that Travis wrote when he was the Alamo. You see those signs and those principles and those expressions of faith, family, and freedom, but over time there’ve been people that have wanted to redefine those values in our state. They’ve wanted to change the laws, they’ve wanted to change society, and a lot of that is going against these values that have made our state great and those are things that we care a lot about as Christians as well. And so I’ve been doing this work for almost two decades and then about seven, eight years ago had an opportunity to start an organization of my own that just focuses on what happens in the state of Texas as it relates to faith, family, and freedom. Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “He who presents his case first seems right until someone steps forth to challenge him.” And that in essence is what we do every day at Texas Values.
Mary Jo: That just makes me laugh in the current political climate. That’s a good one. Well, welcome Jonathan. And in preparing for today’s show, Bob and I both had so many questions for you. We didn’t really know where to start. Then I thought, well, you know, let’s just start with Texas. Texas itself is a great place to start. And they say that everything is bigger in Texas. And I hope that holds true in our fight to maintain those core family values that we hold so dear. So I’m guessing a lot of eyes are on Texas in this upcoming election cycle because what happens in Texas, like Bob mentioned earlier, it can affect other states as well. So some of these initiatives can spread easily once they get traction. So can you speak to this and some of what you’re seeing on the national stage and how it’s relevant to us here in Texas?
Jonathan: Well, absolutely. You know, unfortunately over the past few years, and really going back a little bit further, we have seen people and a lot of times in government attacking references to God attacking, expressions of God. And sometimes it’s directly related to Christians. We saw a few years ago when sermons of pastors in Houston were subpoenaed because they were talking about issues from the pulpit that related to proposed changes by the government and on issues of sexuality and morality. We see war memorials and some of those images and those structures that have been around for a long time being challenged and having to go to court. And then we see people that are in private businesses that are having their values attacked simply because they want to express and live out their Christian faith and they want that to be a part of what they do and they don’t want the government to punish them from doing that. And most recently, we saw comments that were made that related to some people wanting the government to punish churches just for continuing to teach what the Bible says about marriage and also issues of sexuality. And then locally, we’ve seen things happen here in our state where the government has actually attacked some businesses. I know we’re going to talk about that in just a minute because they decide to invest in and give charitable donations to Christian organizations. And so that’s been very troubling. We’ve even seen this on the issues of life. We’ve seen other things in parts of the country where you’ve had government leaders that when a baby is even born out of the womb, when the baby’s out of the womb, they say that there still might be a question of whether or not that child’s life can be ended, if that’s something that the parents want to do. And so we see a lot of these things happening and a lot of times people don’t know what to do and they can just throw up their hands. Thankfully we have an organization and other people that we work with, other like minded organizations, where we can do something about that. So while it’s unfortunate that we continue to see it growing attack on our values, oftentimes as I mentioned in that quote from Proverbs, when we stand up and do something, we can have an impact. But a lot of that has to do with people having the freedom to invest in the work that we do. So we can get good people out there and have an impact.
Bob: So Jonathan, I know just recently Chick-fil-A was all over the news and I know that Texas Values was behind helping Chick-fil-A with the Religious Freedom Act. Is that what it was called?
Jonathan: Well, it’s called the First Amendment Defense Act. We called it the Save Chick-fil-A Religious Freedom Law so people could have an understanding of what that issue was about.
Bob: So to remind our listeners, the San Antonio city council attempted to ban Chick-Fil-A in the San Antonio Airport in March because of past donations they’ve made to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It’s just crazy. In Texas, including our own Governor Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz, they expressed their overwhelming support for the save Chick-fil-A effort with over 150,000 phone calls, emails, social media messages to the state Capitol. So Jonathan, explain what this law is about, why it’s so important and why it’s such an important issue for the state of Texas, but not just Texas, the whole nation.
Jonathan: Well, absolutely Bob, and I’m going to mention this a couple of times in my explanation of all this. We have a website set up called savechickfila.com, savechickfila.com, people can go to that website and it’s a standalone micro site that has all the information about the law that was passed, why it was necessary. You can print a one page, download a one pager, that you can share at your church or in community meetings or with friends. And so we want people to use that information. So here’s what happened in San Antonio and you touched on this. You had the city of San Antonio, and it’s important for people to understand when we typically see these issues and these conflicts regarding religious freedom, it’s usually the government trying to tell private individuals, private businesses, or churches and pastors what they can do. And if those people don’t do that, the government is looking to punish them. So here’s what happened in San Antonio is there was an opportunity for new businesses to be at the San Antonio Airport. A new part of the airport, I think opened up or some space that was available for new vendors, and it was recommended that Chick-fil-A be one of those vendors at San Antonio Airport. And that’s no surprise. I mean, it’s one of the most popular fast food restaurants, if you will, the most popular chicken restaurant. They do more sales per store than any other fast food restaurant. So they’re very popular. They draw a lot of attention that should be good for sales and as a matter of fact, when Chick-fil-A is in an airport, they’re usually in the top five of sales for an airport. And so that’s good because that ends up being tax revenue that comes in locally because the San Antonio is governed by the local city, even though the federal government has some role in that. So this was all ready to happen. Okay. It was already in the proposal at the city level. Well then an article comes out that suggests, or that states, that Chick-fil-A is giving donations or the owners of Chick-fil-A, they give donations to entities like the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Those are very well known entities, particularly the Salvation Army, but they are Christian based and they do or some of them have an history of being very clear where their views are on marriage and sexuality. Fellowship of Christian Athletes just simply has a purity pledge, and it doesn’t mean for same sex or opposite sex. It applies to everyone. You have a purity pledge before you get married. And so because of that, there are some people that don’t like those entities and they think it’s wrong that Chick-fil-A would give money to them. So they highlighted this in the story and then members of the San Antonio city council said, “Well, we think that that goes against the values of some people that, you know, are engaged in the same sex lifestyle and so on.” So they attacked them, even though these entities base it based on their Christian beliefs. It’s not about what other people are doing. So they said, “You know what? Chick-fil-A should not be at the airport.” The government literally voted to take them out of a proposal that was already ready to happen and reversed what they had been doing leading up to that point. And they did, they banned them from having a location at the airport because they gave donations to Christian based ministries. And look, a big part of our work is working on these issues at the state legislature. So the Texas legislative session was in, we were in the middle of this, this was in March of this year of 2019 and so it was already happening. We had a law that would have touched on that issue, but it touched on a lot of other issues. And so we made a few modifications to make sure that included what was happening in San Antonio. And here’s the thing, this came up twice at the San Antonio city council, so it happened in March. And then people are so outraged that it came up again and another meeting in April and twice the city council voted to keep Chick-fil-A out after there was a national, not just statewide, firestorm on this issue. It left the state and our legislators, House, and Senate members, and there was bipartisan support for this new law, no choice but to pass a law to make it clear that what San Antonio was doing was illegal and that law is now in effect in Texas.
Bob: Thank goodness. This is crazy, especially in San Antonio.
Jonathan: Let me mention one other thing before I forget. This law is not just about Chick-fil-A. It means that anyone that gives donations, whether they’re a private individual, a church, or a private business, they can not be punished by the government. This could also include people that give donations to churches. Cause when this was debated at the Texas legislature, some members of the legislature said in their debate, well what about these churches that we don’t agree with their views? Maybe the government should be looking into this. We can’t have those churches just getting donations and that not be called into question. And so this law, you know, if you give to a church, which includes a lot of people, if you give donations to a church or if you’re a business that does that, or you’re a church that received donations, there’s a whole host of ways that this law protects people throughout the state.
Bob: Oh, I was looking at this from my perspective of Christian Financial Perspectives and CIS Wealth Management. We serve the Christian population and we do give the Christian ministries. So yeah, I was like, this is a protection for businesses like mine because we’re Christian based.
Mary Jo: It surprises me so much. It’s issues like this one in San Antonio that just blow my mind. I was raised in South Texas in a very devoted Catholic household. I went to Catholic school. It was such a conservative environment and San Antonio of all places, they all had such deep roots and conservative, especially Catholic, values and all over South Texas. So how have we gotten here, Jonathan? How have we allowed the fabric of our society to change so much, so fast?
Jonathan: Well, look, you know, it hasn’t happened overnight, but there’s certainly good reason to feel like in the past few years or so that things have accelerated quite a bit, you know? And so when I started working on these things or paying attention to some of these things when I was in undergrad at the University of Texas, you know, they were starting to bother me. You know, you would see the government trying to shut down Bible groups and making it difficult for kids to pray at school and the 10 Commandments monument at the Texas Capitol. But goodness gracious, I couldn’t have imagined some of the things that I’m involved in now that touch on some of these same issues of religious liberty. And a lot of it is because the government has become much more active in passing laws that are used to criminalize and to punish people of faith, you know, relating to sexual orientation and gender identity protection and things of that nature. And some of the issues that relate to how areas of sex education have touched on these issues as well and just exploded. But a lot of it relates to who we elect. A lot of it relates to what judges are on the bench in making these decisions. And a lot of it has been that people have become very fearful just to talk about what their Christian beliefs are. And some of that is because the government sometimes specifically or members of the government suggests that they’re not afraid to attack churches and pastors in order to silence them. And so it’s become very concerning. And so that’s why our work has expanded so much and we’ve done a lot more work in a lot of different areas. And so there’s a lot of reason for there to be concern. But along the way, we’ve had opportunities to have victory as we try to adjust to a rapidly changing society and culture.
Bob: The other thing that’s come into light that I’m hearing about, and it’s through your organization, Jonathan, or I wouldn’t even have known this, but we’re close to Austin, I mean New Braunfels is, you know, between Austin and San Antonio. The Austin Independent School District and what they’re up to. Oh my goodness. I mean there’s this continued opposition from parents and concerned citizens, but the Austin ISD is pushing forward a radical sex education curriculum designed to indoctrinate our children as young as the third grade about the LGBT agenda. So tell us what’s going on here.
Jonathan: Well, Austin ISD, not a surprise to some people, is oftentimes a school district where they really push the boundaries and sometimes I feel like they go beyond what the law allows in a variety of different ways when it comes to issues of sex education. I think it’s important for people to know, here’s how the law stands in Texas. No school district is required to teach sex education. They’re not. Now the law says if they choose to, they have to teach abstinence more than any other method, if you will, when it comes to these types of issues. Because the reality is, and it’s very clear, the facts are clear, that is the only method that 100% of the time means that you can’t get pregnant and you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease. Abstinence works 100% of the time. Now people can argue about whether or not students are fond of that or whatever, but when you want to look at methods, it works 100% of the time. So you have Austin ISD continuing to push these issues and then you see the sexuality issues and issues related to abortion touching these issues as well and almost coming together. And a lot of it has to do with these groups trying to get government funding. They’re all looking for a revenue stream one way or another. And so what’s happened lately is the Austin ISD has been using Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, if not the world, as the ones that have been writing the sex education. And no surprise that a lot of it really can be seen as really suggesting, if not encouraging, a lot of sexual activity and promoting a lot of things that relate to questions about sexuality that really children are not prepared to do. If you’re in a public school in Texas, you have the right to opt out of these things. But sometimes that’s not good enough because it overtakes so much of the school that your kids may have a touch with this one way or another. So parents, even in Austin, have said enough, and this latest round was in Austin ISD. It was illegal because we passed a new law, Senate Bill 22, that made it clear that government cannot contract with abortion providers. And so, Planned Parenthood got booted out of that process and that curriculum. But then Austin ISD went to some people in Canada of all places, also an abortion provider, and used their resources and that’s what they’re doing currently. And the way it’s designed, it’s not even just about sex education. It’s also training the kids to be really these advocates, if you will, to be militant about these issues on sexuality and related to abortion and sexual activity and to really find out, and it tells them that they have a responsibility. If people don’t agree with these new issues related to sexuality, whether transgender, whether lesbianism, whether it’s bisexual, whatever those things are, if they find out there are people that disagree with them, they’re supposed to confront them. That’s what this curriculum teaches them to do. And guess who those people are? Those are Christians that believe that God created us male and female. And by the way, it’s not just in the Bible that way. We know that that’s just, that’s science. That’s how it works. And so not only that, they’re encouraging kids to stop using words like mother and father.
Mary Jo: Oh my goodness.
Jonathan: And telling them that they should not even be recognizing that people have a so-called birth mother. And so we have a website called noradicalsexeducation.com, I believe. It’s a website where people can go to, but there’s an October 28th meeting. I’m not sure when this podcast is being publicized or shared with people, but October 28th there’s going to be a big meeting at the Austin ISD to make a final decision on this. We’re going to have our team there and a lot of other concerned parents, because even in Austin when we push back, we’ve had success at times.
Bob: I get concerned about if it passes in Austin that is going to come right down Interstate 35 and even hit my own city of New Braunfels, so that’s a great concern.
Jonathan: That’s a legitimate concern. There’s no doubt.
Mary Jo: When you grow up in the state of Texas and you hear so much about Austin, they have their own slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”. So it’s reasonable to understand that they’re going to have their own little subculture there. But can you explain how Planned Parenthood has gotten such a strong foothold, and the LGBTQ agenda has gotten as well, in the city of Austin? One of the things that I’ve heard recently is Planned Parenthood has gotten the city of Austin to give them free rent worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to the city. Well, this has to result in a shortfall in other areas of the city budget, and this has got to be offset by tax payer dollars. This could be shouted down in a hurry if it was a church that was getting subsidized. So how can we address these kinds of imbalances?
Jonathan: Well, absolutely, and before I forget on that website, it’s noradicalsexed.com on what’s going on locally in Austin ISD right now. And as a matter of fact, Twitter shut it down at one point, but we were able to get it back up. And so a lot of good information there and it relates to this as well. So there’s been a pattern for awhile, the city Austin in having this cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood, because for entities like Planned Parenthood, that is so important for them to get that government money. And here’s the thing that’s interesting. Oftentimes amongst Christians we’re pro-life. We don’t agree with abortion, but even people that have different views on this, and maybe amongst some Christians that maybe haven’t gotten a lot of the information yet, they don’t think the government should pay for people’s abortion, though. They still think, okay, well maybe someone, you know, they have their view about if they want to do that. But when it comes to, “Oh, and the government’s going to pay for it, wait a minute. I’m not for that.” So even people that may not consider themselves pro-life are concerned when this happens. But that is a major reason of why Planned Parenthood still exists because not only at the state level, excuse me, at the local level, but at the federal level, they’re getting all this government money. We’re still working on addressing that at the federal level. We’ve had some improvement and some cutoff of funds there, but not totally, but at the state level, we’ve cut everything off. But the city of Austin keeps trying to find a way to use local tax dollars. And that’s one of the ways they did that. They said, “Oh, well we’ll just give them a major discount on the building that Planned Parenthood is renting as a way to do that.” And they were giving them rent in a building for $1 a year and it’s effectively free, right? But $1 a year for 20 years with an option of a renewal for another 20 years. You’re talking about a total value of 30 to $40 million over the life of this so-called rent or this lease. And so we have a new law in the state of Texas that cut that off, that now has made that illegal, but they’re always going to be looking for a revenue stream. And you know, the city of Austin has grown quite large. I mean, and so you think about the amount of tax dollars that could be available to an entity like Planned Parenthood. It can be quite substantial. And so thankfully we’ve had some success in that, but we’ve seen the pro abortion and the pro LGBTQ movement and a lot of them have always kinda been on the same side, so to speak. But they have kind of combined a lot of their efforts in order to try to gain some strength because statewide, when it comes to some of these issues, they don’t have quite as much support. But they then will go to the local governments. They’ll go to the school districts. They’ll go to the cities and some of these counties and they’ll start to develop government policies that favor them and allow them to punish or make it illegal or make it difficult for Christians to continue to exist or have their values. It’s gone way beyond weird. I mean, I’ve lived in Austin a long time, okay. I was a student at the University of Texas back in the mid nineties and then came back after law school. There are people there that there’s not even that real identity any more. It’s a completely different culture than we’ve seen before. A lot of it is because people that now have liberal, and some anti-Christian views, they’re now becoming very successful in business. They’re more sophisticated and they’re using that corporate money in Austin where you have a lot of tech industries coming from California and places that maybe have different views on these issues. They’re not using a lot of that money to come together. And using that to impact our laws, without question, and they stay very close to the LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood.
Bob: Wow, Jonathan, I am so thankful for Texas Values. Y’all are right in the middle of it all and I love your mission, you’re to preserve and advance a culture of family values, those Christian values in the state of Texas in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued. You’re making sure those conservative values are not abandoned in this crazy climate of change that we’re seeing. When it comes to awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community, it’s my understanding they only make up about 5% or even less of the overall population. Yet their message and their agenda has gained such a disproportionate amount of traction. How did we get here and how can we get back to a more proportional balance of thought and activism in this space?
Mary Jo: We need the pendulum to swing the other way.
Bob: Yeah, exactly.
Jonathan: There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle and ways that we address these things. You know, one of the things that we do every week, we start with prayer with our meetings on Monday morning, and we always have to start from there. I think that we continue to be faithful. Look, we try to make it clear where we’re being successful and whether we’re not, and try to adjust our methods. But it all starts with remembering that it’s not so much about being judged about wins and losses and percentages. And while those are important, it really goes back to are we being faithful and are we being faithful to what we’re called to do as Christians? In whatever role we’re in and where we are in our lives and where we are in society. And so I think that’s where we start. You start with being faithful in your own personal walk with Christ, in your time, studying the Bible and really saying, am I being faithful to what I’m supposed to do? And then let’s see where God leads these things. We got to not lose sight of that. So that’s where we begin our week.
Bob: It takes me back to how we started today with Ephesians 6:10-12 and realizing this is a battle in the spiritual realm.
Jonathan: There is no doubt. But when we get to it logistically, right, and think about now how do we, now that we’re on board with that, then what do we do with that? And that’s so much of where we come in as an organization, but it’s not just about us. Everyone has a role to play. And so it is quite interesting to note when you think about population wise, but then you look at the message when it comes to the LGBT community and some of it is more than just a movement, a time period that we’re in, but it’s hard to deny that it’s taking place. And so a lot of that too just is for people to get over their fear of talking about some of these issues. I had a state legislator ask me about this one time, why do you guys do what you do? And you know, you’re kind of fighting uphill sometimes or whatever and almost suggesting that it was about something else. And I’m like, well look, we care about people. We care about people. And as they taught me in law school, the law is a teacher. There are a lot of people that will base their lives based on what the law says. It matters what the law says. It will impact whether or not people do things. And if we have policies that we know statistically, when you look at the LGBT lifestyle, when you look at people that go through gender transitions, close to 80% of them later on say that they regretted it. They’ve got all of these different issues. We talk about some of the issues you hear that deal with things related to the suicide rate. That is not about Christians rejecting people living their life. That’s about people’s individual struggles, themselves, with their own identity and how to deal with it and sometimes not having faith of their own. So there are all these statistics and outcomes that we know are not good overall for people when you look at those numbers. So we’re in a place of trying to help steer things so things don’t go in that direction. But in the midst of all of that, just being more willing to stand up and say what’s right. You don’t have to shout at people. You can use whatever kind words you want and craft it, but just being willing to stand up. I mean, we have the largest social media presence in the state of Texas on the issues when it comes to a faith and family organization, it’s really important to engage in these areas. And you know, you can do that in a kind way, but you can also find out what’s going on locally, right? So much of the work we do, people are surprised by this. We don’t hear about it. Someone calls us, they send us an email, or a text message and they let us know and we’re like, wow, well then let’s see if we can help you. So sometimes, it’s so dependent on people doing something within their movement. Could things happen overnight and very quickly and see a big change? Sure. Yeah. But the likelihood of that is it’s not going to take place. And so, so much of it does deal with what are you doing at home, what are you talking about with your family? Are you having those conversations, and are you willing to share some of this information with people? That’s why we created websites like savechickfila.com and noradicalsexed.com because some of these issues. There can be a lot of complexity to them.
Jonathan: There can be a lot of legal issues that deal with it. So, people are afraid they’re going to say the wrong thing. So we try to put out as many resources that people can use, whether we ever meet them or not, so they can be the most respected voice in their community, but they take the information that we have. A phrase we hear at the Capitol a lot is government belongs to those who show up. And a lot of times if we would just show up, and not feel like we’ve got to be the experts and know everything, but show up and speak God’s word or talk about a policy issue that relates to us and we have a concern about, that one voice can make a huge difference.
Bob: No kidding.
Mary Jo: Wow. We just want to thank you for sharing so much around the background of Texas Values and what you’re doing for us and that you’re walking alongside us in our fight for family values. As I mentioned earlier, we had so many questions and we were like, okay, so how do we narrow this down for the sake of the podcast? I think you’ve touched on this one earlier. Last week, former representative Beto O’Rourke was asked on a CNN town hall, “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?” And he responded, “Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.” And your response – I just loved it – was, “Beto and some Democrats have declared war on churches, and we say come and take it. The unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their biblical beliefs on marriage, it must end and we’ll be vigorously opposed.” So what more can you tell us about this latest assault from one of our own, a fellow Texan, that’s talking this way. And does that concern you?
Jonathan: Well, look, I’ve seen these things over time. We’ve heard them whispered, if you will, or suggested before and now that it’s come out so publicly, while it’s very concerning, it’s something that we’ve known has been in the background for a while and that’s why we’ve worked so hard for the past three legislative sessions to pass religious Liberty laws that affect certain areas and relate to certain current issues. So it’s very alarming when we heard this, and as you heard me mention before, I’m fifth generation Texan. I take very seriously and really have a lot of pride in growing up in this state. That doesn’t mean people that live in other places or come here recently, as we say, you know, you got here as quick as you could. We welcome that, okay. But we have something that we believe in, something that’s special and exceptional about our state. And sometimes we feel like we have a responsibility that if we don’t stand our ground here in this state, it’s going to be much more difficult in other parts of the country for them to do the same. And we’ve seen when we’ve had success here and when we stand up to some of these attacks, other states say, you know what? We’re going to do the same thing. And so we take that very seriously as well. And you know, I mentioned this, we had a mayor in Houston that tried to subpoena the sermons of pastors a few years ago. We’ve known that these attacks are coming on churches and pastors. In 2015, we passed the Texas Pastor Protection Law in the state of Texas to make it clear that churches and employees and the property, they cannot be attacked by the government for performing marriages and being forced to perform marriages that goes against their beliefs. So going by what the Bible says when it relates to marriage cannot get you in trouble with the government, because we knew that’s what some people wanted to do. Here you go, Exhibit A. Now you have Beto O’Rourke actually saying that, and there’s a history of churches not being taxed by the government. The estimated value that churches and religious institutions bring to our economy is close to $2 trillion. I mean it’s more than Google, Amazon, and Apple combined. So there’s no question if you want to look at the economic side of things, the value and benefit that the religious institutions bring to our society is quite tremendous. But the history of using tax exempt status and all this, we’ve even seen the Supreme Court recognize that that’s not what the government is supposed to be doing. And when you do that, that can be seen as a weapon or a hostility towards religious institutions and churches that the constitution clearly outlaws. But we need to take it seriously. I mean, and obviously Beto said it, you know, there are other people that believe the same way. That’s why it’s so important to have the right people in office and when they’re in office, to make it clear that we have to have religious laws that are very specific, because there are a lot of churches and pastors, they’re going to see this and they are going to be spooked by it. And they’re going to say, you know what? I’m not going to talk about these issues anymore because I don’t want to have to spend my time in court. I want to be at the pulpit, but I want people to know it’s not just our organization, Texas Values. There are many organizations across the state and the country that if ever get challenged directly like this, we will come and defend you vigorously, and I’m fairly confident we’ll win.
Bob: Jonathan, one of the things that you said is people gotta show up, so how do we get involved with your organization specifically?
Jonathan: Absolutely. Well, our website, the main website is TXvalues.org. You can go there. You can sign up for our email alerts so you can get connected. You can sign up for text alerts so you can get a text message when something’s happened in your community. You can just go through the website and get yourself educated. Make sure you’re registered to vote. Some of the resources that I mentioned, savechickfila.com, Texas pastors – I think it’s protectpastors.com is the website, the noradicalsexed.com. All these are websites where you can print off information, take them to your Bible study, take them to one of your community meetings, and say, “Hey, I just want y’all to know what’s going on in our state.” Being able to just share that information. You might be thinking about running for office. That might be something you say, you know what? I’ve heard enough of all these other elected officials. I’m going to do something and it doesn’t have to be some big position. It could be at the city level, at the community level, could be your HOA. There could be some role that you could be playing or talking to your pastor and just asking your pastor to consider talking about these issues. In the core of it, the minimum of it, just make sure you vote. If Christians were voting, if we had a 20 to 30% increase in Christian voting, you’d see a dramatic difference, and so don’t take for granted just going out and voting and that’s not just at the state and the national level, but also some of these local races and we’ve got a lot of information about some of those things, but you might be interested in doing a little bit more. We actually have a full time position that we’re hiring for for public policy right now. We had a member of our team that’s moved to DC for a very nice position. You might want to get more involved in that way, or you might want to be an intern. You might be studying right now and you want to learn about this. There’s a variety of different ways that people can connect with us. You might decide to make an investment. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization, so you might decide to do that. That could be tremendously helpful.
Bob: Well, speaking of voting, I think Mary Jo wants to ask something.
Mary Jo: At CIS Wealth Management, we are all about helping our clients integrate their faith and their finances. So I want to kind of change our question direction just a little bit and bring our discussion back around. Speaking of voting, voting our values with our investments. I noticed that Texas Values, they have their 403B, their Employer Based Retirement Plan, with Guidestone. Guidestone is a Christian financial services firm. So I just have a couple of questions regarding that. How did you come to make that decision? What kind of due diligence did you do about finding a Christian based retirement plan provider, and how did you get connected with Guidestone in particular?
Jonathan: Absolutely. So I mentioned this early on. I worked for a larger organization before called Liberty Institute. It’s now called First Liberty Institute. It was a larger organization, and when we were a part of that team and that organization, and it’s led by Kelly Shackelford who is a Christian lawyer and well known in a lot of circles. That was the one that was selected at the time. And you know, we saw the background and the Christian based approach of this entity and knowing how important it can be about the people that you trust with your investments. So that’s what went into that decision. And then when we started Texas Values, it really was two of us that worked for that entity and one of those members, Kelly Shackelford, came onto our board. So that kind of just transitioned and we followed along with that when we started our organization.
Bob: Well, I want to say I love it that Texas Values has decided to go with an organization like Guidestone because we’re all about biblically responsible investing. Like I said, we feel that that’s a way to vote, too. And I think it’s important that Christian business owners across the board and Christians, they all take a stand through their voting and how they invest and take that public stance in support of conservative values versus the risk of backlash from the liberal media, and speak out. Because I tell you, that far left is sure speaking out.
Jonathan: Oh absolutely. And you know, I mean, look, this is what we do as Americans and even as Christians. I mean, we have a duty. You heard ,that Proverbs quote that I mentioned from the Bible earlier in our segment and I think that we have become very afraid and I get it. I mean, I understand, you know. I sometimes confront that myself depending on what group of people I’m talking with. Is this the right thing to say or how should I say this? But we should not allow that fear to push us into silence. And we really work with a lot of our messaging to try to message in a way that it resonates with people and that people feel comfortable talking about some of these issues. And so, I think there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with it as Americans, Texans, and as Christians. And what I get excited about is we have a lot of great information that we can share with people so they don’t have to do a lot of their own research and think about it. They can rely on us and use that information, and then they could also decide when they make their investments how to do these things and find someone that’s biblically based. There’s a lot of freedom that I think we can use that sometimes people are losing sight of.
Mary Jo: You said that so well that we shouldn’t let our fear silence us, and that’s true when it comes to our investment portfolios, too. Seems to me that biblically responsible investing, it’s just an extension of what you’re talking about there at Texas Values and vice versa. We’re an extension of what you’re talking about. If you believe strongly in protecting these values, doesn’t it also make sense that you’d also want to vote with your investment portfolio rather than investing in companies that are against these values? Do you think that that’s something that more people should be interested in or could be interested in?
Jonathan: No, look, I mean it can be basic sometimes, right? We talked a lot about Chick-fil-A. You know. You get to decide where you’re going to eat every day, but it goes much further than that when you look at investment, and here’s why it’s important. There are a lot of corporations, I mentioned this earlier, that are pulling their money together. They’re having these meeting., They have a strategy to use a lot of their extra money if you will, or whatever profits they have, to really work against Christian values. And so there is a, with no question, a strategic and an organized effort to do that. And so a lot of times people aren’t aware of that. And so I want people to know that that is happening and that’s the freedom we have. And so there is nothing wrong with saying, you know what, then I’m going to choose to invest in businesses and companies that can help me invest with businesses that share my values because there is a tug of war going on. There is a push and pull that’s going on. I wish that it wasn’t, but it is and that’s a part of the reality and it’s not going to stop if we turn our back on it and just say, well, I’m not going to think about that and maybe you know, things will work out okay. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that, and it doesn’t mean that you have to have ill will towards others or anything negative. It’s simply part of our freedom as Americans and Texans to say, you know what, I’m going to choose where I do business. I’m going to choose where I invest. A lot of times we do that and it’s not even based on some biblical views. It’s maybe someone we know, we’re more comfortable with, but there’s no reason why we should be uncomfortable doing that when it comes to biblically based businesses and a lot of those businesses, too, like Chick-fil-A, they turn around and then invest in Christian based ministries as well, which I mentioned before. It has a tremendous positive impact on our society.
Bob: I think of businesses not only like Chick-Fil-A, but like Hobby Lobby. I know Christian Brothers Automotive is where I always go to get my car fixed. Is there a list other Christian companies that y’all might have that people can support?
Jonathan: You know, we have not created a list and I struggle to put it out there because some of those businesses decide how they want to handle some of these things. I think the best way to find that out is to ask people in your community who those businesses are. Find out who they are in your local community, and then share that information. So, I think that’s the best way to do things. I know in the community that I live in, people that I see go to church, look at people that advertise at your church and a lot of churches will put things out or they’ll go to church meetings or they’ll go to church events and you’ll look at some of those people that are advertising at the fall festival or a particular fundraising drive. Find out who those businesses are locally in your community.They’re already investing in the church and a lot of times that gives you the best place in order to say, you know what, then that’s who I’m going to invest in locally or I’m going to choose to do business with because I can see by their actions. I know that’s the way it is at my church. We have something that they put out where you can see some of the local businesses that are part of supporting the church and some church events and the local school. That’s one of the ways, you know, other than some of the larger ones you mentioned that I think is a way to give back to the community, but also to show that you support those Christian businesses. And many of them if not all of them, they’re also doing things the right way and that is something that means that there are people that are good to do business with as well as, you know, showing up to church on Sunday and living out their values.
Bob: Jonathan, you have covered so much in today’s podcast and I appreciate our listeners for sticking with us this long cause there’s so much great information here. They can go to Texasvalues.org. Is there any last few words you want to say before we’re done for the day?
Jonathan: Well, it’s actually TXvalues.org. It’s just an abbreviation of the state. So that website has a lot of great information. We do have a weekly radio show that airs on Friday and Saturday if people are interested. It’s on social media and on a Christian radio station out of the Central Texas area called The Bridge. Look, I just want to encourage people, and I want people to know this. You have a place no matter where you are and what you do. Before I got involved in this work, I was a law student at the University of Houston. I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t really have any connections, and the university tried to shut down the pro-life organization that I was leading because we didn’t support the pro-abortion message, and they allow those groups to be on campus but not ours. I didn’t even start the issue. I took over the effort, but we said we’re going to stand for what the constitution says about free speech and about being treated fairly by the government and so on. And everything was on the line. We were in bad shape and I thought I was going to lose my ability to get my law degree and what I thought was about to be my future. But we dwindled down to one person in that group, and that was me, and I was all that was left. I thought my time to do that work was going to be after law school cause that’s what I was training to do, that I was going to help someone else. And it was like God tapping me on the shoulder saying no, it’s time to stand now. And so I did and I had great Christian lawyers that eventually came by our side. We won, and then we were allowed to have the freedom to speak, to talk to young women, one who ended up making a decision for life because of that freedom. So before I had any of the stuff that I do and a team and all the other things that I’m blessed with now, I was just one guy. I was just one student, and I stood firm and then was able to have success. So I want people to know, no matter where you are and what you do, you have a very important role to play in this work that we’re doing. And we’re here. Texas Values is here to meet you wherever you are, so we can help you do the most with that.
Mary Jo: Well, you know, Jonathan, you said it earlier, “The government belongs to those who show up.” And so thank you for showing up and thanks for showing up on our podcast today ,being our guest. And I want to leave our listeners with this one last scripture in Romans 5:12-13, “We are reminded that yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” And if you believe, as Bob and I do, that we will one day be held accountable for every word, thought, deed, and even our investments in our lives, then we hope you’ll stand with us in our support of Texas Values, which is also Christian values. But even take it one step further and vote with your investment portfolio. So, are you ready to put your money where your heart is? If you’d like to learn more, upi can give us a call at (830) 609-6986.
Mary Jo: You’ve been listening to Christian Financial Perspectives. Join us next week as we explore more about how to apply biblical wisdom to your financial situations.
Bob: To make sure you don’t miss any of our podcasts, you can subscribe to Christian Financial Perspectives on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. To learn more about integrating your faith with your finances, visit out website at ciswealth.com or call 830-609-6986.
Mary Jo: That’s all for now until next week.
Comments from today’s show are for informational purposes only and not to be considered investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any company that may have been mentioned or discussed. The opinions expressed are solely those of the hosts, Bob Barber and Mary Jo Lyons. Bob and Mary Jo do not provide tax advice and encourage you to seek guidance from a tax professional. Investment advisory services offered through Christian Investment Advisors Inc. DBA CIS Wealth Management Group, a registered investment advisor.