NC Family President John L. Rustin talks with Paul Weber, President and CEO of Family Policy Alliance, formerly CitizenLink, which is a public policy partner of Focus on the Family and one of NC Family’s closest national allies and valued partners, regarding the role Family Policy Alliance plays in supporting efforts in North Carolina.
INTRODUCTION: Thank you for joining us today for Family Policy Matters. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Paul Weber to the program. Paul is the President and CEO of Family Policy Alliance, formerly CitizenLink, which is a public policy partner of Focus on the Family and one of NC Family’s closest national allies and valued partners.
Paul and I are meeting today in beautiful Tucson, Arizona as we are attending the annual Family Policy Council directors’ conference, which is organized by Paul and his great team at Family Policy Alliance. This is just one of the many collaborative programs, efforts and services provided by Family Policy Alliance to the network of nearly 40 Family Policy Councils around the country.
We are extremely grateful for Paul and his team for all they do and we thought that this would be a great opportunity for you to hear from Paul about Family Policy Alliance, the incredibly important role that FPA plays on the national scene and how we work together on a daily basis to promote family, faith and freedom in North Carolina and across the nation.
Paul, welcome to Family Policy Matters…
PAUL WEBER: John, it is a pleasure to be with you, thank you for having me.
JOHN RUSTIN: As we begin our conversation Paul, I just wanted to ask you to talk a little bit, about the history of CitizenLink, now Family Policy Alliance, and the changes that have taken place in recent years at this organization.
PAUL WEBER: John, it’s fun to talk about Family Policy Alliance and the extension of Dr. James Dobson’s vision nearly 30 years ago. He and Tom Minnery at that time got together and saw over the horizon the need for strong, grassroots organizations at every single state level. And over those 30 years, through either starting up new state organizations, or working with existing ones and sort of bringing them into the alliance, we’ve nearly gotten to about 40. My mission is to take us from 40 to 50 over the next several years, I’m excited to do that, and we are on the trajectory to do just that.
But with the retirement of Dr. Dobson, and the changes, frankly, in our political landscape and our policy landscape, the Focus on the Family Board in their wisdom, understood that to really be effective, what was once Focus on the Family Action, then CitizenLink, needed to spin out from Focus on the Family and become an independent organization working in politics and policy. So we did that about three years ago. I came over from another ministry you are well familiar with, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), where I served as an executive there for 14 years, but I never forgot my roots, John. I was recruited to this work through a state family policy council 17 years ago, and even though I was working as an executive at ADF, I always had a heart for the states, for what you all were doing, how effective you could be. And what we did then is we became an independent organization because we wanted to focus our sole mission on serving. Yes, we have a national perspective: our vision is a nation where God is honored, where religious freedom flourishes, where families thrive and life is cherished. And our work is to do that in the political space, and the policy space, and in the communications media space. But while we have a national perspective, we really are servant leaders to the states. We view ourselves as strategic support, if you will, because I know no one can understand a state better than you do in North Carolina. I’m gonna take a pause here. I want to give you a shout-out, John. Our team working with you cannot be prouder of the work you’ve done in North Carolina to push back on the transgender issue, this bathroom bill, all this nonsense that’s going on, and we want to give you a shout-out for your support for Governor McCrory, standing behind him. It’s been an honor to come behind you to serve with you to help Governor McCrory see the effectiveness he’s having, and his courage, all across the nation.
JOHN RUSTIN: That is so true. And that is just a prime example of the value of this alliance because you all, through your leadership and through the facilitation of this network, have enabled us to reach out beyond North Carolina and to plead—and not that it takes much pleading—but to plead with our allies in all of these other states to get involved and to get engaged in this battle in North Carolina. Because we have been ground zero on House Bill 2, on these bathroom issues, and now we see a situation where 24 other states, in addition to North Carolina, are engaged in litigation against the Obama Administration to pushback against the very same policies that the Charlotte City Council attempted to impose there. And so, by virtue of the relationship that we have through you all with the alliance of other Family Policy Councils around the country, they have been able to do ‘Calls to Action’ to reach out to their constituents and say, “Look, this battle that’s taking place in North Carolina is of critical importance, not just for North Carolina but for the nation.”
PAUL WEBER: You’re exactly right, and you’re actually articulating our role very effectively. We look at ourselves as sort of the conduit between all the states, and making sure they all harmonize and work well together. That’s what led to our name change, frankly. When we separated from Focus on the Family, when we recognized that the name CitizenLink really didn’t mean anything, it didn’t have any impact, nobody knew what we were. They asked us, “Are you my cable company?” Believe it or not, I’ve gotten that many times. “No that would be CenturyLink, we’re CitizenLink.” So with that, and understanding the role that we are working with in aligning with the state organizations, we said, ‘Look, we’re an alliance of Family Policy Councils, therefore we’re Family Policy Alliance.’ You know John, scripture calls us to be engaged. It calls us, we’re required to be engaged. Proverbs 25:26 says, “Like a muddy stream or a polluted fountain is a righteous man that gives way to the wicked.” That’s a powerful Proverb to us; it’s a reminder to us that we’re called to be engaged in the political realm, in the policy realm, and all realms of creation. So, the reason for the name change to Family Policy Alliance is just that, because we’re an alliance of Family Policy Councils. John, what we want to do is do what the name says. We want to train young Christian people, men and women that want to be statesmen. They want to go to the legislature, legislators and they want to understand the art of biblical statesmanship. That you don’t win by pounding your hand on a table and yelling at people. You win through diplomacy, through relationship, through articulation of truth with grace. So we recruited 26 people, and you’ve helped and your peers have helped, see we don’t know these people like you do so this is where the synergy comes between our organizations. You’re identifying these young people, we’re bringing them to our Statesman Academy, we’re infusing biblical principles into them and knowledge into them, but most importantly is relationship for life. You’re gonna have a relationship with these young people for the lifetime of their career in politics and watch them grow. Imagine if we could identify the next Ronald Reagan when they’re 25 years old and help them get all the way through their career.
JOHN RUSTIN: Paul, I want to go back to something that you mentioned earlier and that is your vision statement. I love this vision statement, and in fact, we love it so much in North Carolina that we have adopted it for our own. That vision statement is: “A nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.” Let me repeat that for our listeners because I think this is so important and it really shows the heart of Family Policy Alliance, and what the focus of this organization is: “A nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.” Unpack that a little bit for us.
PAUL WEBER: John, it’s really this simple. That’s a nation where I want my kids and your kids to live in. Could it be better than that? “A nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.” That’s the type of nation we want this America to be once again, and we can make America great again by making Americans great again. It’s by infusing those principles into the church. But let me unpack that just a little bit, OK. It’s a great vision; how do we get there? We get there by working together in an alliance with 40 state-based organizations, some day 50, working with a common vision, but working in the policy sphere. Making sure that you’re equipped with good legislation that you can advance at your state level. And not just for North Carolina, but for all the states. Making sure that we’re involved in politics. Personnel is policy. That’s why we’re training these young people here because we want to help them get elected. So personnel is policy. Politics is essential. Then once people are elected, we want to mobilize the body of Christ to engage in the political process, not just in voting but in between elections. We want the body of Christ to be engaged in contacting their legislators, knowing the issues. This is where you come in on the local level. And then we want to couple that with communications, strong communications that support politics, politics and mobilization. Those four, what I call pillars, are essential to accomplishing that vision in lockstep with all the states. So it’s a very leveraged idea.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s great, and that’s a very succinct description of it and something that our listeners can really grab ahold of and understand, which is wonderful. And Paul, there’s a lot going on in our nation politically today on critical issues like sanctity of life, religious liberty, and of all things as we’ve discussed already, bathroom access rights. Where do you see things going in the next few years and what words of advice and encouragement can you offer to our listeners?
PAUL WEBER: Very quickly, two things. Number one is we’re going to be engaged very directly in the state levels and national levels on protecting religious freedom, freedom of conscience for the body of Christ. They’re coming under assault all over America for their values, their conscience, Christian business owners being sued and fined and so on and so forth. So we have to be engaged in the here and now. But we have to also have our view on the horizon. So part of that is gonna be what do we start doing proactively to promote religious freedom, sanctity of life, and the values. And I see that taking place in the two primary areas. One is in promoting school choice across America. We have to engage in making sure that parents can raise their children the way they want to raise them, and have them educated the way they want them educated. And this is an issue that crosses all lines. So school choice is critical. The next thing, we have to work as a body together to resolve the problem of unaccountable, unelected judges. Judges are legislating from the bench. We need to work together to push back against judges legislating from the bench. And finally in the life area, we’re making great strides with life. First and foremost, the culture of life is changing. Young people are pro-life. We’re working on life from not only conception to reduce the number of abortions, to ultimately overturn Roe vs. Wade because there’s a case that was again handled by judicial activism, but also the quality of life at the end of life. There’s organizations that are trying to promote physician-assisted suicide.We’re pushing back on that with a vengeance.
JOHN RUSTIN: As we should be! And I think, those issues that you mentioned, especially the judicial overreach, is why the elections that we’ll be seeing in the fall are so important.
PAUL WEBER: Do we have time to jump into that real quick? Let me just say that as we travel around the country, we know who’s running for president. We know it’s a critical election this year. The state elections are just as critical. We need the body of Christ to understand what is going on in their state and that’s where you come in, by providing your Voter Guides.
JOHN RUSTIN: It’s so critically important that folks are educated, they understand where the candidates stand on the issues, and that they exercise their right and their responsibility to get out and vote. And that’s why we encourage folks in North Carolina so strongly to access our voter guide, to make sure they know where the candidates stand. And then during early voting or on election day that they go to the polls, they get out and vote because there are far too many Christians across this country that don’t exercise that right and responsibility to vote.
PAUL WEBER: Politics and policy is not a dirty word. It’s not an area that Christ left to the secular world. He was involved in that just as much as everything else. He didn’t say be salt and light here but not there, so it’s an important thing.
JOHN RUSTIN: Right. Paul, I know our listeners are very interested in learning more about Family Policy Alliance. Where can they go?
PAUL WEBER: Simply familypolicyalliance.com and you can see all about us there, and we’re honored to be here with today John.
JOHN RUSTIN: Great! Paul, it’s been a pleasure having you on. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, your insights, and just all about Family Policy Alliance. I do want to encourage our listeners to visit the website at familypolicyalliance.com and lend your support to Family Policy Alliance and Family Policy Councils in your state. I know there will be people who are listening to this program from other states and we want to encourage them to get involved, if they’re not already, with the Family Policy Council in their state. And folks, above all, please pray for us. Please pray for Paul, pray for his team, pray for Family Policy Alliance, for NC Family and our colleagues all around the country. The stakes are incredibly high this year.
PAUL WEBER: And John, I’m going to exhort your listeners to please support you. Please support the North Carolina Family Policy Council and all the work that John’s doing because he really is the hero on the front line, so thank you John.
JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you. Paul. We give God the Glory and thank you so much for all that you do. We’re so grateful for you and are just excited to continue to have the opportunity to work with you and your great team, and we pray for you and wish you all the best.
PAUL WEBER: Thank you very much.
JOHN RUSTIN: God bless you.
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