Evangelicals host Albany lobby day

David, left, and Jason Benham, the keynote speakers for a lobby day held by New York;’s coalition of evangelical Christians. They told the audience, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.” Gazette photo by Daniel Wells.

Coalition unveils legislative agenda which includes fighting GENDA and aid-in-dying bills

Jason and David Benham are keynote speakers, telling their audience, “It’s about getting to the hearts of legislators”

The state’s largest organization of evangelical Christians is fighting a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill New Yorkers, saying there is nothing “compassionate” about the legislation.

The New York Family Research Foundation, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and affiliated groups hosted their annual Albany lobby day to promote legislation that would make it easier for homeschooled children to be admitted to colleges, another that would require single-sex bathrooms in public schools and universities, and a third that mandates the Department of Health study and publish a report on the health impacts of Internet pornography.

The group is also fighting a bill that would ban so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBT youth, another that would expand insurance coverage for contraception, and a third bill that would expand the rights of transgender New Yorkers, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. The GENDA bill would provide workplace and housing protections for transgender New Yorkers, but is controversial for a clause that would allow anyone to use any bathroom they are most comfortable in.

The Christian coalition is opposing GENDA (S.502/A.3358) because they say businesses, not the government, are in the best position to set policies regarding gender identity based on the businesses’ needs, work environment, customers, employees and values.

Furthermore, they say GENDA would compromise the safety and privacy of people using public bathrooms, especially women and girls. This bill would allow transgender people to use the bathroom they like, but would also allow a cisgender male to use the women’s bathroom for whatever intention, say GENDA opponents.

The event lobbying, which filled the Plaza’s Convention Center, featured keynote speakers David and Jason Benham, twin brothers who are entrepreneurs and motivational speakers with a spiritual message. After the keynote, members met with their own lawmakers in the Legislative Office Building.

Assemblyman Dean Murray, R-East Patchogue, was among several lawmakers who spoke at the event. He promoted his bill that would require large, multiple-occupancy bathrooms in schools, public colleges and state agencies to be designated single-sex restrooms for use based solely on a person’s biological sex.

“I’m proud to sponsor legislation like A.5422 that puts an end to the politics and focuses on common sense,” Murray said.

The justification in the bill memo states that “Many people are not comfortable sharing a public restroom or other public facility with a person who has an anatomical makeup of the opposite sex. This bill protects those people who reasonably believe that allowing people of the opposite biological sex into spaces would be an assault on their dignity, privacy, and in some cases, their safety.”

There is no companion bill in the Senate.


Assemblyman Dean Murray sponsors a bill requiring public schools and colleges, as well as state agencies, to have single-sex bathrooms available to the public. Gazette photo by Alex Wollyung.


NYCF is also supporting the Equal Access Bill (S.5131/A.1196) which would require fair treatment by colleges and universities regarding the admission of home schooled high school graduates and graduates of non-public schools.

The bill, sponsored by Michael Simanowitz and Senator Joe Robach, mandates that students who have completed an education program and have provided test scores shall not require proof of a general education diploma.

Supporters of the bill say home schooling restrictions in New York state create difficulties for those home schooling parents and their children who want to attend college. In effect, these restrictions undermine the validity of home schooling and serve to discriminate against a legitimate educational choice.

The bill’s memo cites a recent case where a student at the Monroe County Community College — who was only a semester away from receiving his degree — had his admission revoked because he was home schooled for his high school education.

This bill would ensure that a situation like that would not happen again, and at the same time it would strengthen the legitimacy of home schooling.

The groups are also supporting bill S.2935/A.3765 that would make it easier for religious institutions to sell real estate valued at less than $200,000.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, changes the current law which requires churches and religious groups to submit a petition to the supreme court or county court in their region. The court schedules a public hearing where someone can argue why the sale should not be allowed.

The Gallivan-Dinowitz bill states that his process is a difficult, time-consuming and an expensive process for churches and other religious organizations that are trying to dispose of or encumber “modest” properties, especially if they do not have an attorney on staff.

The main keynote speakers of the event, and twin brothers, Jason and David Benham, knew how to hold a crow. They were a significant source of entertainment for some of those who may not have been super interested in the politics of the event such as the younger crowd, but through their jokes and stories they were able to show their support for NYCF.

“This is why I love the New York Family Research Foundation, because it’s not just about legislation. It’s about getting into the hearts of legislators,” said Jason Benham.

The New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is once again fighting the Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3151/A.2383) that would allow New Yorkers to be prescribed drugs to take their own life if they are terminally ill.

The bill’s opponents say predicting a person’s death is difficult and that sometimes patients may live far beyond the initial medical prognosis. One of those fighting the bill is Stephen Hayford, communications director for the Family Research Foundation, who discussed the topic extensively in the speech.

“God forbid that New York state should pass a law that would encourage or assist someone in taking their own life based on a diagnosis that was wrong,” Hayford said, “when they could have gotten better, or at least live longer than they were expected to.”

Hayford asked the audience to raise their hand if they know anyone who outlived the medical prediction for their life left, and approximately one-third of the room put a hand up.

Throughout the day, the Benham twins spoke about the importance of their faith in their own lives, and related it to the policy work being done in Albany.

Jason explained that for those who share his faith should not change that to appease others and furthermore should not pick and choose when to have faith.

“It’s time for us to shine our light, we don’t need to be lightning bugs flipping our lights off and on when it’s convenient,” Jason said. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,” he said, quoting Matthew 5:16.

The Rev. Jason McGuire. Gazette photo by Daniel Wells.