There are special-interest groups dotting the landscape in Washington, D.C., for just about any cause you could imagine. They’ve been quite successful, too.
But as Terry Schilling, a husband and father of five kids, surveyed that landscape, he saw a void. That’s why his organization, the American Principles Project, has embarked on a new initiative called The Big Family. It promises to put the needs of families first.
“You’ve got Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Business,” Schilling says. “There are so many bigs, but there’s no big family. And that’s why we chose the name, Big Family. We want the family to be the big guy in the room when it comes to public policy.”
Schilling joins me on “The Daily Signal Podcast” for a wide-ranging discussion about family values, the threats facing parents and kids, and how the American Principles Project is taking action.
You can listen to the full show below—including our letters to the editor and weekly good news story—or read a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
Rob Bluey: We are joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” today by Terry Schilling. He’s the president of the American Principles Project. Terry, thanks for joining us in studio.
Terry Schilling: Thanks for having me, Rob.
Bluey: Well, you have just launched a big new initiative. It’s called The Big Family. Can you talk to us about the need for this, which, as a father myself and a husband, I certainly see it. But for our listeners out there who are wondering, “Why does the family need representation here on our behalf?”, what is it all about?
Schilling: Well, in D.C., every group has a special-interest arm. You’ve got Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Business. There are so many bigs, but there’s no big family. And that’s why we chose the name, Big Family. We want the family to be the big guy in the room when it comes to public policy.
We want politicians, when they’re passing a bill, to consider how this is going to affect families first. We don’t want them to think about how it’s going to affect Big Pharma or Big Oil or any of those other special-interest groups first. We want them to put the family first and we wanted a political organization that rivaled the [National Rifle Association].
The NRA organizes gun owners and politics to protect the Second Amendment but there’s no one organizing families and parents in politics to fix our kids’ schools or fix their education. Get critical race theory out of there.
Politicians respond to one thing and one thing only: the reelections. If they think something’s going to hurt them, they’re not going to do it. And if they think something’s going to help them, they’re going to do everything they can to get it done.
And that’s the goal here, is we want a formidable foe and a dependable ally that is advancing family policy with thousands of members across the country that are holding politicians accountable.
Bluey: Now, when you announced this initiative, you outlined several challenges that families face on a day-to-day basis, or more largely, just the trends that we’ve been seeing in our country. Can you outline some of those for our listeners?
Schilling: The first big problem that we have as a country is that people aren’t getting married anymore like they used to. They’re pushing marriage off until their late 30s. They’re going to school longer. And even when they do get married, they’re not having kids like they used to.
Those two problems themselves are a death spiral for America. If we don’t get people getting married and having kids again, we’re not going to have taxpayers. We’re not going to have workers to provide services and goods and tax dollars to pay for all of our retirements. So, it’s a very important thing.
So, you look at kids today, they graduate college, they have tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt. They find someone at college who also has tens of thousand dollars of debt. They have a mortgage of student loan debt. They can’t afford a home, they can’t afford kids. And we want to make it easier to get married, have babies, and protect your kids in school.
So, you got the problem with the marriage rates and the birth rates, but really, the most pressing thing right now is saving the kids that we currently have from all of this indoctrination that’s going on in schools. And I know critical race theory is hot right now and it is a huge threat but it’s not just critical race theory. It’s the sex ed stuff. It’s the transgender stuff.
These schools are corrupting our kids and turning them against their parents. The schools are trying to insert themselves as the real truth-tellers or the real authorities when it comes to what’s right and wrong. And it’s a direct attack on the family. So, we’ve got to start getting families involved, not just at the federal level, but at the local level, too. And that’s another big problem we’re going to solve.
Bluey: Lets talk about that. And I’d add to that, all those issues that you mentioned, as a father of three, including two who are currently in school, I see it firsthand.
And what I also see that is disturbing and I’m worried about is this move away from some of the teaching of civics and classical education and these radical new ideas that they’re trying to impart just in terms of math or English and all of the subjects that we experienced in schools.
But what can parents do about it? What advice do you have for them if they’re listening right now and say, “Geez, I’m frustrated as well. How can I make a difference in my own community?”
Schilling: I ask parents when I talk to them, when they come to me with concerns, first question I ask is, “Who is your school board member?” They hardly ever know and that’s not necessarily on them. Obviously, they have the responsibility to know, but we have a system with our school boards and the elections around school boards that’s meant to keep people from voting.
School board elections are usually held in the early spring. They’re not held when every other election is held. It’s meant to protect their interests. And what’s happened is the school boards are now picked and chosen by the teachers unions.
A school board is designed for parents and for the community to hold schools accountable and hold teachers accountable. But with the teachers unions basically buying off all of these school boards, those corrupt school systems are now protected from accountability and from parents.
So, No. 1, find out who your school board member is. Find out when your next meeting is. Go to that meeting. But No. 3, vote. Vote in your local election. And we’re going to help out with that, this Big Family program.
We’ve had a lot of success in the first few days. We’ve had over 3,500 people sign up. I haven’t even professionalized this yet with marketing. This is just going on shows like yours and talking to people. We’ve raised over $140,000. All a hundred dollars and less. And the thing is, we’re using that money and we’re reinvesting it to this movement.
And right now, we’re building a program where you will be able to plug in your address and find out when your next school board meeting is, what school board you’re even in, and who your representative is. And that’s version one and there’s going to be other versions down the road.
But the other thing is that you can give us your cellphone [number] and we’re going to send you a text message the week before your school board meeting and then the day of. … These school board meetings have 4% to 5% voter turnout, in most cases. That’s pathetic. That needs to change. But that also is hopeful for us because we don’t need to turn out a hundred million voters.
Bluey: That’s true.
Schilling: We just need 60 in each of these races and we can really shift it so we can totally do this. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get the job done. And we’re going to make it easier for you to get the job done through this Big Family network.
Bluey: Quick follow-up on that before we talk about some other issues. What are some of the ways that if somebody is listening, they can get involved and either sign up to support it or make a donation?
Schilling: It’s real easy. It’s just www.savethefamily.app. So, we’re American Principles Project and we’re trying to save the family. It’s really easy to remember. But sign up. We’re just asking people to chip in $25 or more to help us grow this thing. We’re not taking this money and putting it in our back pocket. We are reinvesting it into this movement.
My dream is that we build this to a level that approaches the NRA size. The NRA has 5.5 million members. I’ll be happy if I get a 100,000, and we can do a lot of good with 100,000 members across the country.
So, I’m reinvesting every dollar I can into this. It’s the most important fight of our lives. The family determines everything. So, if you want to get involved, you want to get engaged, you want to get these updates, and you want to help us build this thing, which is really what we’re trying to get people to do, just go to www.savethefamily.app and we will put you to work.
Bluey: That’s great. Thank you for doing it. We have had several people, whether it be Ian Rowe in New York or Hannah Smith in Texas, who have run and won their races for school board. Just remarkable stories of individuals who weren’t necessarily involved but decided as parents themselves that they would take action and take that step. So, I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm on that and I hope that the people will get involved and check it out.
You mentioned marriage earlier. I thought it was interesting. You launched this initiative around Father’s Day. So many kids are growing up in homes today without fathers or with single parents leading the household and it’s difficult for kids. We know that if you look at things like the success sequence, you just don’t have as great a chance to succeed in life if you don’t have that situation.
So, for those who are out there, maybe in a marriage and struggling, why is it so important for a mom and a dad to be raising a family?
Schilling: First of all, everyone knows that kids are really difficult to raise but you need all the help you can get. And when it comes to raising kids, it’s not quantity, although that doesn’t hurt. It’s really about quality.
And when you think about how the family is set up, a mom and a dad, and it really just starts off as a girl and a boy and they fall in love. And because of that love, they pledged their lives to one another. They’re willing to die for each other and they’re married now. And through that love, they create children, which is a really beautiful thing, right?
You could contemplate that for days or years, even. A love between a man and a woman creates a new human being. A new human being that’s going to change the world in immeasurable ways. It’s going to be someone’s spouse, someone’s best friend, someone’s co-worker, someone’s boss. That kid is going to change the world. But the most important thing is love.
And that’s why when you have single-parent households—first of all, single mothers, single dads, they are doing yeoman’s work and no one should criticize them. No one chooses to be a single mom or single dad. They’re in a situation that they can’t help. They’re heroes. They’re trying to provide the love of both parents but they’re trying to do the work of two people and it’s not fair.
And it comes out in the social studies, right? You look at all of the bad social outcomes, 76% of all teenage suicides are from fatherless homes, without the dad in the picture. You can go on and on: 72% of dropouts, no father in the home.
So, out of the 27, and this is really grim, but out of the 27 last mass shootings in the country, 26 of them came from fatherless homes. These kids are crying out. They are hurt. They want their fathers. They want their mothers. They need their fathers and they need their mothers. And so, you can’t replace the love of a father and a mother.
So, I’ve got five kids, and do they destroy my house? Do they make my life more hectic? Yes. But they’re the best little monsters I could ever ask for to enter my life. And they might not look like me, some of them, but they act like me, which is a bigger problem. So, I don’t know.
I just think that there’s something very special about, this is where humanity begins, right? Between a man and a woman creating a new human life. And this is how it’s always been. A new human being has never come about through any other way, except for the last 20 years when we invented all this fertility stuff. But it’s just the natural course. And it’s a mystery, for why a father is willing to die for his wife and children, it’s a mystery and we can’t explain it.
Bluey: Terry, I totally agree with you about the joy that the kids bring, not only to their parents, but their grandparents and so many around. They are just phenomenal.
You talked about some of those statistics and it brought to mind this concept, which, since the left decided to get into social engineering and putting in place policies that, in some cases, discouraged family formation at the federal level—you can go back to the 1960s and the Great Society—one of the things I admire about the work you’re doing is that you are doing it from a civil society perspective and really trying to encourage people at a level outside of government.
So, I just think it’s important for us to remember that some of these policies that the left champions aren’t themselves pro-family. And I think a great example of that is Heritage Foundation President Kay James, who talks about her own experience growing up in poverty and how she overcame that. So, thank you for doing that.
One related question to that. Kids today have so much access to information with smartphones and with the internet. And that allows them to access things that we, when we were kids, probably would have never come across. What are the steps parents should be taking to protect their kids?
Schilling: First of all, you have to have filters. You have to have some type of protection. My family, we use Circle. There’s new technology coming out. I’m supposed to meet with a guy today about it, but they have technology that will actually block out the images.
This is the crazy thing: We have so much technology, we have technology that can recognize pornographic images or graphic explicit images and remove them from your website. There’s no reason why any kid should get a smartphone without that technology enabled on it.
So, No. 1, parents, you have to do your due diligence with this. But No. 2, you have to contact your representatives—not just at the federal level, at the state level, too—especially the Republicans. Democrats, they’re kind of like a lost cause. Although, you should still let them know that you want to protect your kids from porn online.
But the thing is, Republicans, when you talk with them, they don’t want to do anything on it. They don’t want to talk about it. …
We tried to pass a bill in Texas. We attached it to a broadband bill. It was a very simple amendment to that. And it said, “We’re investing billions of dollars into broadband infrastructure and we’re going to prioritize the internet service providers that have age verification and filters enabled.” The Republican representatives killed that legislation because it’s difficult to tell what pornography is and what it isn’t.
That’s a garbage excuse. We do a really good job as a country of keeping explicit content off of the radio, off of television, off of cable, even. I can’t say the S-word on cable or television. This is nuts. We know what it is. We know what is explicit. We know what kids shouldn’t be watching.
And I tell people this: My 10-year-old daughter and my 15-year-old daughter, we’re all Cubs fans, they can’t go onto Draft Kings and place a $10 bet on the Cubs winning the World Series next year. But they can go to a lot worse websites and get access to that. That’s got to change. Everyone should be treated equally online.
So, you have to make your voices heard with your representatives. They don’t hear from parents about this. So, it’s not a priority. But once they start hearing from parents about it, they’re going to take it more seriously and we have to get it done.
1997, the Supreme Court, I’m sure a lot of your listeners know, they struck down the Communications Decency Act, which regulated explicit content online. And the Supreme Court struck that down with ACLU v. Reno. And they said that you couldn’t regulate pornography online because the internet was not as invasive as television or radio.
If you fast-forward 24 years to the day, and it’s the exact opposite. I don’t know the last time I watched broadcast television, but I know I was watching TikTok last night with my wife.
So, we’ve got to update our internet. We’ve got to update our systems. We have to protect our kids because these videos, they’re not your dad’s Playboy. It’s graphic, it’s violent, it’s deviant, and it’s disgusting. It introduces new, terrible things that no one should know about. And they’re using that to socially engineer your kids.
I read a study … this is back in 2015. The average age of first exposure to pornography online was 11 years old. It’s almost like child abuse to give your kids a smartphone. So, make sure you have the filters. Make sure you have on-device filtering, so you know what your kids are watching. But honestly, I wouldn’t give your kid a smartphone until they’re 16, until they get their car, because they just can’t handle it.
Bluey: Well, you touched on a number of issues there. I want to take a step back from The Big Family initiative. What are some of the other projects, the work you’re doing at the American Principles Project? I know we’ve collaborated with you on a range of things but I want our listeners to know that you’re covering a wide gamut of things from women’s sports to Big Tech.
Schilling: So, our whole mission is to organize families in politics to save the country. And because of that, we’ve worked with you guys extensively on election integrity. We have to make our elections free and fair. And if we don’t, there’s really no point in trying to organize families and politics when the game’s rigged. So, that’s been one of our chief concerns and priorities.
Secondly, and this goes right back to the elections, is Big Tech reform. Big Tech thinks that they’re bigger than this country. They don’t even have allegiance to America anymore. You’re seeing corporation after corporation—Nike, just a week ago, said that they aren’t an American company. They’re a Chinese company for the Chinese. This is insane. They built everything here under our tax code with our workers. It’s crazy.
So, these Big Tech companies, though, they’re censoring us. They’re eliminating our ability to communicate political messages. And it’s not just political messages. They’re censoring information about COVID-19 and treatments that work or don’t work.
All of it is rooted in a pessimism in the American people. Big Tech censorship is truly one of the most anti-American things of all time.
Our Founders set up a country where everyday people were in charge. Where they told the leaders what to do. And Big Tech thinks that we’re too dumb to be able to filter out bad information versus good information.
I don’t need [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg and his team of faceless, nerdy, bureaucrats at Facebook telling me what information is right or wrong. I can figure that out myself, and so can the vast majority of Americans.
So, the Big Tech censorship has been a major effort under our organization and we were one of the first groups on that line and it was very, very difficult because, look, I’m a free market guy. I don’t want to regulate the free market. I want to regulate as little as possible, but this is an existential threat.
And we’re now working with a broad coalition and there’s a lot more politicians that are supporting it. And at the end of the day, that’s a political question as well. They’re eliminating our ability to communicate political messages and impact elections. So, we can’t organize families and politics. And Facebook censored our ads in Michigan.
Bluey: That’s right. Well, let’s talk about that for a moment because we have experienced censorship at The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation.
In both cases, this was YouTube. Now, I’m talking about specifically had to do with the issue of transgender and in one case, a pediatrician advising parents and doctors not to give puberty blockers to young kids. To you and me, it’s common sense. To these major tech companies, this is hate speech.
And so, in your cases, I remember the facts. It was these unnamed fact-checkers, in a sense, working with the social media platforms, who essentially said, “Facebook, we’re going to put a label on this and therefore restrict your ability to speak.” Tell our listeners about that situation in Michigan.
Schilling: Well, first of all, we do know who they are. They are rabid, woke, progressive ideologues. Angie Holan is the chief editor of PolitiFact. I appealed our case all the way up to her.
Basically, we ran ads saying that because [President] Joe Biden and [Sen.] Gary Peters support the Equality Act, which would allow for boys to compete in girls sports simply by claiming to be a woman, that it would destroy women’s sports. Well, PolitiFact didn’t like that.
And really, what’s really happening is with Facebook and the censorship, is the partisan groups like Human Rights Campaign and all the LGBT groups that partner with them, they then go find one of these fact-checkers to shut the ad down.
Facebook has a really terrible system for shutting these ads down. You just have to get fact-checked. Even if they come back and say that it’s mostly true, you still get your ad shut down because it’s not 100% true. It’s absolutely absurd.
So, they said that our ad, because we said that this would destroy women’s sports, they said it was missing context. And when I asked them about that, they basically told me that I needed to include the alternative arguments from the left.
That’s not how campaign ads work. That’s not how politics works. It’s called an argument. And I’m making an argument that this would destroy women’s sports. And if they want to pay the money to produce their own ads arguing against me, well, then they have to do that.
But basically, how this played out was Facebook not only subsidized the “Joe Biden for President” campaign, they subsidized the LGBT rights groups over me.
If the LGBT rights groups run a dishonest ad, which, by the way, that’s all their ads are. They’re telling people that men can become women. That is a lie and everyone knows it. But they would make me pay for ads to counter that. But they probably won’t let me run those ads.
And this is the problem with Big Tech censorship, is they’re eliminating our ability to even oppose their egregious efforts. And Americans need to wake up.
Bluey: This particular issue on women’s sports will come to a head at the Olympic Games. There is a transgender individual who’s competing in one of the sports.
Bluey: Powerlifting. Do you think that this is a moment where the American people will start to recognize, depending on what the outcomes are, that this is something that they really do need to speak up [about], whether it be to their state legislature or school board, and they can’t sit on the sidelines anymore?
Schilling: Well, I’ve been really encouraged [by] all of the viral videos coming out from school board meetings. You have parents stepping up to speak up against critical race theory and the transgenderism stuff in schools. It’s really encouraging. … In Loudoun County, a few of them were willing to be arrested to get their voices out there. So, I am encouraged by all of that. I do think the American people are vastly with us and I do see them starting to speak up.
This is an elite-driven thing. This is from the elites. This is from the people that run CNN, The New York Times and the universities. This transgender question is really being pushed on us by the elite, like the top 1% of Americans, on the rest of us. …
When you tell someone, a normal American, “Oh, well, this transgender woman wants to compete in women’s sports.” They’re like, “Oh, well, let her compete. What’s the problem?” They don’t realize that it’s actually a transgendered male who thinks he’s a girl. They crowd the language. They confuse everyone.
But I am very encouraged. As you know, we’re already seeing parents stand up. They need to do more and they need to start un-electing people based on these issues.
Bluey: That’s a good note to turn to some more political questions. No. 1: Do you think Republicans, conservatives more broadly, are becoming more comfortable talking about these social issues? For years, it seemed the political consultants told them to steer away from them. But now, poll after poll seems to indicate that weaning into them works in our favor.
Schilling: It’s the family, stupid. It’s the transgender toddler, stupid. It’s the Drag Queen Story Hour, stupid. It’s now becoming mainstream in the Republican Party to oppose all of this craziness. And I don’t even know if critical race theory counts as socialist. I guess since it’s racially based, that it would count as a social issue.
But yeah, voters have always been willing to speak up about these issues. But their leaders have been inapt and have failed to deliver on, really, any promises. And I think that’s why the base embraced [Donald] Trump so quickly, because he just immediately started delivering on all of his promises. They took him seriously. …
We all know Democrats are evil and that they’re pushing an evil agenda that’s going to tax the hell out of us, take our guns, and transgender our kids, but people don’t take Republicans seriously when they say they’re going to fight them. When they say they’re going to oppose them. When they say they’re going to stop them. How many times did we vote to repeal Obamacare? Yet it’s still the law of the land. This is nuts.
And Republicans have done a lot of damage to themselves and they created Trump. But on this transgender sports issue, there’s a lot of reason to have hope, right? Because not only do you have Donald Trump speaking out about it and opposing it, you have Nikki Haley, who’s more from the establishment wing of the party. You even have Caitlyn Jenner, who’s transgender and speaking out about the unfairness of allowing boys to just compete in girls sports.
Now, there are other issues with Caitlyn Jenner saying things like, “Well, if the kids transition at very early ages, then maybe they should be able to compete in women’s sports.” Well, why are we letting little kids transition at very early ages? So, there are those issues. But at the same time, they get that this women’s sports issue is a winner.
Bluey: Terry, thank you for your leadership of the American Principles Project. Tell our listeners, once again, how they can learn more information about your organization and The Big Family initiative.
Schilling: Well, thanks so much, Rob, for having me. And I just want to say to all the listeners and your supporters, you guys are doing great work by supporting Heritage. They have been a dependable ally and an awesome friend.
We’ve been in the foxhole on several fights. We teamed up with Heritage Action for Georgia and Jessica Anderson is awesome. Everyone here is awesome to work with. So, I just want to thank all of you.
I want to thank you, Rob, for doing what you do, but I also want to thank your supporters for doing what they do because a lot of the things that we’re trying to do would have fallen apart or not worked out as well if we didn’t have a partner like you guys.
So, if you guys want to support us, you want to get involved and help us build this pro-family, NRA-style movement, it’s just www.savethefamily.app. And it’s very simple. Get signed up today. We’re going to put you to work, though. So, be ready to roll up your sleeves. And if you want to just donate, that’s fine, too. But I really need people hosting meet-and-greets. I need people being social media ambassadors.
I need a lot of help. I can’t do this myself. I only got a team of 10 people and I need to organize millions. So, sign up today, I need all the help I can get, www.savethefamily.app.
Bluey: That’s great. Terry, thanks so much. Appreciate you being on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Schilling: Of course. Thanks, Rob.
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