Nebraska Family Alliance

Photo: Nebraska Family Alliance prayer gathering in May 2019

Will pro-life activists protect lives endangered by COVID and by the police? Of course not.

The meaning of
Life

At one time the Nebraska Family Alliance (NFA) and similar voices on the Christian right spent a lot of time solemnly explaining why their seemingly homophobic and misogynistic policies were actually good ideas.

They tried to prove it using science. They misrepresented scientific research to reach homophobic conclusions, or simply used outright fake science by Dr. Paul Cameron, a UNL psychologist who was willing to falsify his data to portray gay people as depraved monsters.

They also tried ethical arguments. They portrayed their opposition to legal abortion and hostility to birth control, not as a bid to control women, but as part of a concern with "life." We were told that protecting the sanctity of life was of critical importance in every instance, and it's just an unfortunate coincidence that this prevents women from being in control of their own reproduction.

But lately they seem to be giving up on the strategy of making a case for their ideas. The new focus of the NFA is on religious freedom. To a normal person, religious freedom means the right to choose your religion. To the NFA, it means that having a religious objection to any law should permit you to ignore that law. They don't need to bother convincing voters to change laws if they can simply ignore the laws.

Have a look at NFA Communications Director Marilyn Synek's take on COVID masking:

Synek is arguing that people should be able to ignore the mask law, mortally endangering themselves and others, because of religious freedom. Of course, no real-world religion mandates an uncovered face. But evidently the hypothetical connection to religion is good enough to overthrow the law.

There's no logical reason to limit this argument to the law on masks. How about overturning the law against murder? Sure! We don't even need to resort to a hypothetical faith to make the case. Real religions have practiced human sacrifice, so it ought to be permitted by religious freedom as the NFA depicts it. This policy would be not too different from Synek's advocacy for human sacrifice to COVID.

This is extremely unlike protecting the sanctity of life. A disease killing hundreds of thousands of Americans does not trouble the NFA. Preventing mass death is less important to them than protecting a hypothetical religious duty to exhale viral aerosols on your fellow citizens.

Of course, the deaths this policy will cause are not hypothetical. The NFA's most famous member is Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who is pursuing legal action against Lincoln to stop the life-saving mask law. He and the NFA have partnered to kill Nebraskans.


Just about every organization in America issued a statement on the taking of George Floyd's life in May. Gushers Fruit Snacks issued a statement. Nebraska's most prominent pro-life organization has not.

The streets are filled with people literally begging for their lives, including the street a few blocks away from NFA headquarters. The NFA acts like they haven't noticed.

Admittedly the NFA is in a difficult position when it comes to Black Lives Matter. The NFA is doubtlessly aware that a large share of their constituency are racist, and that anything they say in support of BLM would alienate those racists. They also cannot say anything against BLM without admitting that they never cared about life.

This fruit snack is more pro-life than the Nebraska Family Alliance

Ignoring the loss of Black lives isn't a big step for them, because they've mostly given up on pretending they are defending ethical principles that are good for society. In the past they tried to persuade the public to allow their religious ideas to become law. This has failed. The new goal is an expansive understanding of religious freedom that allows them to simply ignore the law.

Religious liberty is the reason the NFA fights to keep conversion therapy, the forceable de-gaying of gay people, legal. It is the reason they advocate for law to kick gay and transgender people out of public places. It is the reason they keep fighting gay marriage, though they lost the legal battle five years ago and they lost the public relations battle years before that. They've mostly given up explaining why gay marriage is supposed to be bad for society. They just keep fighting without much attempt to justify it.

They do continue to describe themselves as pro-life, but they don't put up much of a show to make this seem like a real value. Marilyn Synek's tweet assures us that she, personally, wears a mask to protect life. Similarly, when she's publicizing her public fights with trangender activists she assures us that she, personally, behaves civilly. She claims to live out her pro-life and pro-civility values, and then works to oppose those values in Nebraska law.

This seems hypocritical until you remember that the point is not making a case for civility and "life" that the public will accept. The point has always been to integrate conservative Christian fear of sex and feminism into the law for no reason other than the fact that conservative Christians want it there. If Nebraska citizens won't agree to that, the Nebraska Family Alliance has plans to get around our pesky democracy.