Defending the Good: An Interview with Tim Goeglein

January 26–30, 2015   |   Vol. 122, Programs 16–20

When you spend time teaching and raising your kids, you aren’t just preparing them for life—you’re helping to build a healthy society. This week on Home School Heartbeat, Tim Goeglein talks about the future of families, faith, and civil liberties.

“I think that for this moment in American history, there is no more important issue than religious liberty and the rights of conscience[.]”—Tim Goeglein

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What kind of issues in Washington, D.C. today are affecting homeschooling families? Find out now on Home School Heartbeat, with our guest Tim Goeglein from Focus on the Family.

Mike Smith: Joining me today is Tim Goeglein. He’s the former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and now the vice president of external relations for Focus on the Family. Tim, welcome to the program.

Tim Goeglein: It is really a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much!

Mike: Tim, what kind of work are you doing with Focus on the Family now?

Tim: You know, it’s a wonderful position. I am the vice president for external relations. Unlike my colleagues at Focus on the Family, who are based in Colorado Springs, I’m based here in Washington D.C. And my job is to be the eyes and ears of Focus on the Family in the most powerful city in the world, to build relationships and to be focused as ambassador here. It is a wonderful, tailor-made position. It’s really my vocation, and I say that with great humility. I loved working at the White House for nearly eight years and I would do it again; I loved working in the United States Senate for a decade and I would do it again. But the issues that Focus focuses primarily on are family, marriage, and parenting. Those are the three major areas in our bulls-eye at Focus on the Family and so it’s a labor of love.

Mike: Well Tim, I know you’re passionate about protecting religious liberty in America. Now, where is it being threatened today?

Tim: I believe that religious liberty and the rights of conscience in the history of America have never faced a greater threat than now. That threat is in multiple places, but I feel that with the increasing secularization of our culture, that people who are Christians, and feel that they want to speak up and speak out, who want to write and debate, often feel in this very coarsened culture that their most basic religious liberty is really under assault; it’s under assault of course in the courts as we’ve seen repeatedly, but it’s also under assault in the culture itself. And so I think that for this moment in American history, there is no more important issue than religious liberty and the rights of conscience, which come not from government but directly from God Himself.

Mike: Well Tim, do you think our country—and our young people in particular—now see abortion as just one more method of birth control?

Tim: I have to tell you, I’m enormously hopeful and optimistic on the pro-life question. I am an irredeemable optimist to begin with. But I spend, in the academic year, a lot of time on college campuses—Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the larger research universities and some of the smaller colleges like Patrick Henry College and many others. And one of the things that I have come to see, which is so hopeful and so encouraging, is that this rising generation of young Americans, broadly called the Millennials (some older, some younger) are increasingly, I think, more pro-life than their parents’ generation and their grandparents’ generation. It’s a very encouraging trend.

Mike: Tim, what issues do you see coming up in this new Congress regarding the sanctity of life?

Tim: The pro-life movement has seen incredible gains in the state on the demarcation of saying, “No abortions after twenty weeks.” This particular trigger has worked enormously well and was enormously effective in a number of states across the country. And may I say, the really good news is that unlike on other pro-life provisions, the courts have a good habit—many courts—of upholding this as constitutional. So my sense is that a federal version of the twenty-week ban—I think it is very possible, now that the Republicans control the House and the Senate beginning in January, that we will actually see a pro-life provision of this nature come up in Congress.

Mike Smith: Tim, we’ve both been working to secure parental rights for a long time. Do you see anything encouraging happening in this area right now?

Tim Goeglein: You know, one of the most encouraging things that I see happening regarding parental rights is that, beginning at the local level, moving up through the states and the regions and then coming onto the radar scope of people here in Washington D.C., is this increasing attention on who really is the authority figure in the raising of children. Is it the state, or is it the family? And as we have seen multiple assaults on the family, I’m sorry to say, that there has emerged a real fracture in America over this question of whether parents, in fact and in the spirit and the letter of the law, actually have control over the raising of their children.

I believe very strongly that this is one of the major debates in America that is not getting nearly the attention that it should. And we at Focus on the Family believe very strongly that the authority of the family is sacrosanct, and so we are on the lookout for these kinds of attacks on the cohesiveness and the stability of the nuclear family.

Mike: Do you see any new policy proposals that could put responsibility for children’s health and education back into the hands of parents?

Tim: The answer is that I absolutely do and I think that this is one of the reasons that Common Core has become such a gigantic issue. Because for most of its life, it was off the radar scope of most Americans, and when it came onto the radar scope of most Americans, they realized that it unfairly, maybe even unjustly, gave an upper hand to authorities who really should not have any more authority or any more control over the direction and the education of their children. So I think some of the things that we’re seeing—the revocation, for instance, of Common Core in the states—is a very healthy and a very good sign.

Mike Smith: Tim, do you think we’ve lost the battle to defend natural marriage?

Tim Goeglein: I do not, and in fact I believe that the future of marriage is bright, and here’s why. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court unilaterally imposed abortion on all fifty states for any reason during the course of a pregnancy, and I think many Americans who had never thought about the human life question were truly caught off-guard. And yet, here we are, all these years after Roe against Wade, and a pro-life movement has been successfully built.

My strongly held view is that although we don’t seem to be winning on marriage every day—although we’ve had some very good news recently in the federal courts and I praise God for that news—my view is that we have to build a pro-marriage movement in the same way that we successfully have built a pro-life movement. Are we going to have bumps in the road? Absolutely. Is it going to be easy to be discouraged or in despair? Yes. But as Christians, we believe that despair and discouragement is a sin because it negates hope.

Mike: Tim, at this point, what is Focus doing to protect the religious liberty and individual consciences of citizens who are morally opposed to same-sex marriage?

Tim: Focus on the Family is very active and even foundational in a group of coalitions and allies in Washington and in all of the states through our family policy councils, working overtime to uphold those laws which uphold the nuclear family and to oppose those laws which undermine the family—and we include in that the legalization of marriage between people of the same sex. Focus is vigilant in this regard. We are four-square, categorically for marriage between one man and one woman.

Mike Smith: Our nation’s founders were no strangers to the foibles of human nature, but they gave us a system that can produce real liberty and justice for all. Are there any new challenges to that system on the horizon, Tim?

Tim Goeglein: You know, our founding fathers—and if I may say, the founding mothers—of that great generation knew one big thing. For all their differences, they agreed that if you wanted to have liberty, over time in a country like the United States, you had to have virtue. And in the American experience, they said that it was impossible to have liberty and freedom without virtue. And what they meant by that is moral excellence. In other words, our founding fathers and mothers said, “How do you foster moral excellence in the leaders and in the people?” Because however you do that, it will encourage virtue that will then help us to stay in liberty.

And here’s what they came up with. They said, in the American experience, give wide berth to religious liberty. Give wide berth to the work of churches. Give wide berth to all of the religious elements of America. And they were right! Because a free and open and prosperous society benefits from no entanglements and no restrictions on our religious liberty and rights of conscience. That’s how you get virtue.

Mike: Tim, thank you so much for your good work on behalf of famillies. Please stay diligent to preserve the blessings we have in this great nation.

Tim Goeglein: I promise and pledge.

Mike: God bless you, brother. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Tim Goeglein

Tim Goeglein is Vice President for External Relations at Focus on the Family and a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington. He served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, and was the President’s principal outreach contact for conservatives, think tanks, veteran’s groups, faith-based groups, and some of America’s leading cultural organizations. Tim is the author of the political memoir The Man in the Middle: Faith and Politics in the George W. Bush Era, which was published in September 2011.

Between his time with the Senate and Bush campaign, Tim served as Communications Director for Gary Bauer at the Campaign for Working Families and in the Bauer presidential bid. Tim is a member of the Board of Directors for Coalitions for America, and a member of the board of governors of the Young America’s Foundation which owns and operates the Ronald Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, California.

Tim’s hobbies include reading, tennis, swimming, biking, and the fine arts. He has been married to his wife, Jenny, for 20 years. They have two sons, Tim and Paul, and they live in the Washington metropolitan area.

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