Monday, January 13, 2020

The 3 - January 12, 2020

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of China about a prison sentence handed down to a pastor, while the nation continues its attempts to clamp down on religious freedom.  Also, an infant girl in Texas is continuing to be kept alive after a positive court decision. And, the role of religion in the 2020 election will continue to be an ongoing subject, as evangelical supporters of the President gathered in Miami for rally.

Chinese pastor sentence, country announces more stringent religious regulations

In late 2018. Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church in China, was arrested by governmental authorities, according to a December 30 report from China Aid, which states:
Wang was taken into custody on Dec. 9, 2018, along with 100 other members of his church. On Dec. 26, 2019, he was tried suddenly and secretly. Today, officials handed him a nine-year sentence along with three years of denied political rights and a 50,000 yuan [$7,000 USD] fine.
The report says:
Wang, who is the pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations.” Both charges were given to him because of his position within the church.
Dr. Bob Fu, Founder and President of China Aid, stated, “This is a pure case of unjust religious persecution against a peaceful preacher of a Chinese reformed church...This grave sentence demonstrates Xi’s regime is determined to be the enemy of universal values and religious freedom. We call upon the international community to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party and hold this evil regime accountable.” He called on high-ranking U.S. officials to "condemn and take immediate action" regarding these measures, which he termed, "barbaric."

Meanwhile, the continued absorption of religious practice in China into the activities of the state continues, with CBN News reporting that "the Chinese government announced it will soon require all religious personnel of any faith to support total submission to the Chinese Communist Party."  This will go into effect February, according to an Asia News report referenced in the article, which relates:
Under the new measures which consist of six chapters and 41 articles dealing with everything involving religious communities – from gatherings to annual and daily projects – are subject to the approval of the government's religious affairs department. All religious personnel will also be required to support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party among all of the members of their faith communities.
CBN also says that, "International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog group, warns "with these latest measures in place, the government will use them as a legal tool to further tighten space for religious groups.'"

Texas court says that baby can be kept on life support

The infant girl at the center of a controversy in Texas is 11 months old and is named Tinslee Lewis, according to a WORLD Magazine report that says that Tinslee "...was born prematurely on Feb. 1 and has remained hospitalized with a rare heart defect, chronic lung disease, and severe high blood pressure." She ceased to breathe on her own back in July, and has received special treatment, including being sedated. The story relates that...
Her mother said that despite her sedation, Tinslee smiles, stares, and squeezes her hand. Doctors do not think those actions are purposeful and said Tinslee is in constant pain and will never recover. But her mother said she wants to be the one to decide whether to remove her from life support.
The hospital had wished to remove the treatment keeping her alive, and has a judge's ruling to support it.  Yet, according to WORLD, "The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ...ordered Cook Children’s Medical Center to keep Tinslee Lewis alive until it can make a final ruling in an appeal brought by Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis." Texas Right to Life has supported the Lewis family, and Kimberlyn Schwartz of the organization said, "This gives us so much hope for Tinslee,” adding, “This is a prayer answered.”

President's evangelical supporters gather in Florida

It is clear by digesting media, including social media, that Christians are divided, in some cases, deeply so, regarding their position on President Trump - and his support varies in intensity, I think: from being ambivalent, to being a Trump voter, to being a strong supporter, and a vocal supporter, and everywhere in between.  You'll find opposition in varying levels.  And, the strongest of both extremes seem to be the most vocal - and offensive.  And, there is plenty of criticism of evangelical Christians who support the President...by their fellow Christians.  The level of division and mean-spiritedness on social media is disturbing, and some of the most provocative voices are actually those who are characterizing fellow believers who support Trump as malicious.

But, the President, no doubt, has strong support in the evangelical community, and a rally at a Miami church that occurred the first weekend of January featured a number of strong evangelical supporters on the stage.  Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, in a piece that ran on The Stream website, provided a reminder about why Christians support the President, and it's not because of personality necessarily, but of policy.  Perkins wrote:
When he tweeted, in classic Trump fashion, that no president had ever done more for Christians than his administration, it was true. From the unborn to judges, international religious freedom to Israel, this White House has earned the support it’s getting.
Christians, the president repeated, “have never had a greater champion — not even close — than you have in the White House right now. Look at the record,” Trump urged. “We’ve done things that nobody thought was possible. We’re not only defending our constitutional rights, we’re also defending religion itself, which is under siege.” That’s important, he argued, because “America was not built by religion-hating socialists. America was built by churchgoing, God-worshiping, freedom-loving patriots.”
At this Evangelicals for Trump rally, the President drew the contrast between his policy positions and those who whoever will be his opponent. Perkins states that the President told the crowd, “every Democrat candidate running for president is trying to punish religious believers and silence our churches and our pastors. Our opponents want to shut out God from the public square so they can impose their extreme anti-religious and socialist agenda on America.” Not all will agree with the President, even in the faith community, and there are a number of faith-based groups that are attempting to change the calculus of the 2020 election.  Prayer and searching the Scriptures are necessary components for a making an informed and Spirit-led choice in this year's elections.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The 3 - January 5, 2020

This first edition of The 3 for the new year of 2020 includes a new way forward for the United Methodist church, with a bold announcement of resolution of matters of sexuality through creating a new denomination.  Also, a significant group of lawmakers in Washington are urging a new course regarding abortion, calling for a re-evaluation of Roe vs. Wade.  And, the U.S. Postal Service's restrictions of religious speech regarding customized stamps has been challenged.

United Methodists announce plan to separate

According to Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who was part of a group of 16 leaders associated with the United Methodist Church who met and negotiated what is known as the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, writes on the IRD's Juicy Ecumenism blog:
United Methodism moved closer to formal schism with a new proposal released today negotiated with liberal and conservative groups, including bishops. The plan would divide the nearly 13 million member global denomination into separate conservative and liberal communions.
The website, UnitedMethodistBishops.org, states:
The action comes amid heightened tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference failed to resolve differences among church members.
At that conference, a majority of delegates voted to retain the United Methodist Church's view regarding homosexuality's violation of Scripture, which essentially blocked the ordination of gay clergy and the performance of same-sex marriages within the denomination.

A professional mediator was brought in to handle the negotiations.  Tooley writes:
Under this plan, conferences (Methodism’s version of dioceses or presbyteries) could vote by 2021 to join the conservative denomination by a 57% vote. Local churches by 2024 could vote by majority. The conservative denomination would get $25 million from current denominational assets.
The Bishops' website makes it clear: "The Protocol anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination."  So, rather than those who do not hold to the Traditional Plan leaving, it appears that the conservatives will be leaving the denomination and forming their own.

It is subject to approval at the next UMC General Conference in Minneapolis in May. 

One of the signers of the Protocol, Keith Boyette, The President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which is a group of United Methodist representatives calling the denomination to adherence to Scripture, stated, according to the Association's website: "This is a very important agreement, and the most hopeful development in a dispute that has undermined the health and vitality of both local churches and the denomination in general,” adding,“Since the close of the 2019 General Conference Renewal and Reform groups leaders have engaged in conversations with other advocacy group leaders, bishops, and church officials in an effort to resolve our differences through a negotiated plan of separation...We are thankful for those who have stepped forward since that contentious General Conference to propose an agreement respecting the sincere theological and ethical convictions of Methodists across the board.”  The site also says:
The mediation team assumed the Wesleyan Covenant Association would serve as the vehicle for creating a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. It is also assumed the post-separation UM Church would quickly move to adopt legislation creating a U.S. Regional Conference, and that conference would consider changing its sexual ethics, allowing same-sex weddings, and ordaining openly gay clergy.
In brief for Supreme Court case, members of Congress urge high court to rethink Roe

Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will be considering, as the website, The Hill, puts it, a law passed in Louisiana "that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement that critics say is designed to force abortion clinics to close."

In response, over 200 members of Congress - 166 Republican House members, 2 Democrat House members, and 39 Senators - have signed on to an amicus, or "friend-of-the-court" brief that calls on the justices to "reconsider" the landmark ruling from 1973, Roe vs. Wade.

The article states:
The lawmakers noted the “unworkability” of the “right to abortion” found in Roe v. Wade, and suggested the court take up the issue of whether the case should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.
The story notes that this is the first abortion case the high court has considered since the addition of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the two appointees of President Trump.  It also points out:
The Supreme Court in 2016 struck down an almost identical law in Texas because it resulted in the closure of half of the state’s abortion clinics, which would place an “undue burden” on women seeking a legal abortion.
But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas, considered to be one of the most conservative courts in the country, upheld the Louisiana restrictions in a 2-1 decision, finding that it was "remarkably different" than the Texas law.
The court found there was “no evidence” any abortion clinics would close under the Louisiana law because it was easier for doctors to obtain admitting privileges in the state.
U.S. Postal Service restricts religious expression on custom stamps

The United States Postal Service allows individuals to design and print their own stamps, according to The Daily Citizen, a website of Focus on the Family, which reports that apparently that comes with limitations.

It recounts the story of Susan Fletcher, described as "a devout Christian who wishes to share her faith with her family and friends, especially around Christmastime. She tried to do that this Christmas by creating custom stamps through USPS." Some examples include a stamp with a Nativity scene, as well as another with a cross on it. However, she ran into USPS regulations that, according to the article, "prohibit any stamp design that depicts 'political, religious, violent or sexual content.'"

But as The Daily Citizen relates:
As an agency of the executive branch of the federal government, the USPS is required by law to abide by the First Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits Congress from abridging the freedom of speech.
The article quotes from a press release from First Liberty, which has sued the Postal Service. Jeremy Dys, who has been a guest on The Meeting House in the past, is quoted as saying, "USPS offers its own version of a religious stamp, but, ironically, it will not allow religious Americans to personalize stamps containing an expression of their own religious beliefs for their own use. This regulation by the USPS not only chills speech, it silences it..." According to the press release, Fletcher said,“I just want to express my faith in everything I do, at Christmas and all throughout the year. I am truly saddened that the country I love would keep me from expressing the most important message I could share with others: my faith.”

Monday, December 30, 2019

The 3 - December 29, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, offers information about a large United Methodist church that has voted to leave the denomination as the result its fight over homosexuality.  Also, a video of Christians being killed by Islamic State in Nigeria has been released.  And, an editorial by the editor of a noted Christian publication calling for a new President for the nation has generated quite a bit of response.

Large Texas church decides to leave United Methodist denomination

The United Methodist Church is facing a huge division in the next few years, as the result of a vote taken earlier this year, in which delegates approved a plan that would continue to uphold Biblical teaching on homosexuality; there are many within the denomination who wish for congregations with differing views to be allowed to leave without penalty.

In an interesting development, a church with close to 3,000 members in Texas has said it has had enough, according to The Christian Post, which reported that Grace United Methodist in Katy, Texas has announced that it has voted to leave the UMC and perhaps associate with the Free Methodist Church.  Pastor Jim Leggett is quoted in the article, and said that congregation members desired “to remove ourselves from the dysfunctional fighting going on in the United Methodist Church so that we can fully devote our energies to fulfilling the mission and vision that God has given to us.”

He went on to say: “At one point, we looked up and noticed that we were spending easily 30 percent of our leadership meeting time discussing the issues of the UMC, and we realized that this was not good stewardship of our time and resources for the Kingdom of God," adding, “In the last year, it has become clear to us that despite having biblical standards of morality on paper in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the leadership of the United Methodist Church is unable or unwilling to live by those standards.”

Meanwhile, the Capstone Report has been reporting on churches that are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention over the infiltration of LGBTQ acceptance in that denomination. It reports, "Pastor James Pittman of New Hope Community Church of Palatine, Illinois announced on YouTube his intention to leave the Southern Baptist Convention over the leadership of J.D. Greear on issues of LGBTQ rights."  The story goes on to say:
...Pittman examined some of the shocking and controversial statements made by J.D. Greear. Pittman expressed concern over the direction of the SBC on important theological issues during Greear’s tenure.
Pittman played video excerpts of Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear apologizing to the gay community on behalf of Southern Baptists.
You may be aware that lately, Greear has stated his intent to extend what is called, "pronoun hospitality," according to The Christian Post, which quoted the SBC President in a recent article: "If a transgender person came into our church, came into my life, I think my disposition would be to refer to them by their preferred pronoun when we want to talk about gender...I will be clear with him on the truth. The question is: Is that the battlefront that you want to choose?”

Meanwhile, the denomination is facing turmoil not only over the LGBT issue, but also the role of women in leadership and the application of philosophies of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. The Capstone Report also reported in October about four SBC churches who left due to their perception of increasing liberalism within the denomination.  And, as the Disrn website reported later that month, a large Alabama church has announced its intent to leave over matters circling around female authority in the church.

Islamic State releases video of beheadings of Christians in Nigeria

There is disturbing news out of Nigeria, where Islamic State released a video the day after Christmas, in which 11 Christians were murdered, 10 of them by beheading, according to The Daily Caller, which reported that:
As part of a campaign to avenge the death of former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State released a video that they say shows the killing of 11 unidentified Christian men who IS “captured in the past weeks” in the north-eastern Borno State in Nigeria, according to the BBC.
The story said that analysts related to the BBC that the release was designed to coincide with Christmas Day. The article states: "The beheadings are probably the work of ISWAP or the 'Islamic State West Africa Province,' the BBC notes, a faction of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram that broke away in 2016.

Christianity Today ignites new wave of evangelical reaction for, against Trump

First it was an editorial by the outgoing editor-in-chief of Christianity Today.  Then, it was the pushback over that editorial, followed by the publication's President and CEO standing in solidarity with his editor.  For the past two weeks, Christians have been writing lengthy articles, blog posts, and social media posts regarding the President of the United States and those who "support" him, whatever that means.

Disrn reported on the editorial written by Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, calling for the removal of the President.  Galli wrote, "The facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president's political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral."  Galli also stated:
"Trump's evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president . . . None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character."
Some of the swiftest reaction came from evangelist Franklin Graham, who wrote on Facebook, according to the article:
"Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation."
CBN News and other news outlets reported on a letter to Galli and Christianity Today President and CEO Timothy Darylmple, signed by around 200 evangelical leaders, which stated, in part:
...We are, in fact, not ‘far-right’ evangelicals as characterized by the author.

Rather, we are Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom…and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel.
The Christian Post posted the entirety of the letter. Signers included Faith Radio programmers Jim Garlow, Robert Jeffress, Greg Laurie, Barry Meguiar, Tony Perkins, and Mat Staver, as well as James Dobson, who posted on Facebook, according to CBN, "While Christianity Today is making its case for impeachment, I hope the editors will now tell us who they support for president among the Democrat field." 

Other notable signers, according to the Post, included Mike Huckabee, Harry Jackson, Alveda King, Eric Metaxas, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America; pastors of large Southern Baptist churches Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist) and Gregg Matte (Pastor of First Baptist Houston), as well as denominational leaders Tim Hill of the Church of God and George Wood of the Assemblies of God. 

Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wrote at FoxNews.com:
We are in an age of upside-downism, where right is wrong and wrong is right. Values many of us were taught by the wisdom of ancient texts, in our churches and in our schools are now condemned as bigotry. 
When we cast our votes as citizens, we vote not for a pastor or priest. We vote for a fighter who understands the moment we are in and is willing to preserve those basic rights that made America the shining example that it is. Yes, even with the imperfections.
Dalrymple wrote his own piece in support of Galli at Christianity Today, as well.  There's more, and I will offer some commentary on this whole developing story tomorrow on The Meeting House on Faith Radio.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The 3 - December 22, 2019

This week in The 3, there are news items concerning the displays of Nativity scenes in two locations in America.  Also, a Texas judge is fighting back after being cited by a state agency for not performing same-sex weddings.  And, a U.K. doctor who is a Christian has survived a challenge to his ability to live out his faith.

Nativity scenes facing challenges

It's an annual occurrence throughout our nation, when religious expressions of Christmas in the public square are removed, including this year, in the cases of Nativity scenes in Delaware and Iowa.  Faithwire.com reports on the attempt to remove a Nativity display from the town circle in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, which had been "tradition...for nine decades," according to the article.

But, this year, once a church had erected the scene, the city called for its removal.  The Nativity was also not allowed to be displayed on the public boardwalk. A city official stated, according to the words of the article, that "the Boardwalk is public property, and reiterated that city policy prohibits nativity scene from placement on the Boardwalk or any other public property because of its religious nature."  But, as Faithwire points out:
According to the First Liberty Institute, a religious rights law firm, the City of Rehoboth Beach’s policy goes against long-standing US Supreme Court opinions that even government-sponsored nativity displays are lawful in holiday displays when accompanied by secular and religious components, and that religious discrimination is unlawful.
First Liberty has written a letter urging the city to reconsider.

Meanwhile, in Centerville, Iowa, according to Christian Headlines.com, the City Council rejected a Nativity scene that "was placed on the Appanoose County Courthouse lawn in Centerville Nov. 18 but was moved to a private lot Dec. 9 following a complaint, according to KCCI."  The article reports on a recent Council meeting, in which, "Most of the residents who were present wanted the Nativity placed back on the courthouse lawn..."

A petition drive was launched by Tony Angran, pastor of the Solid Rock Church of God, to request that the Nativity be returned to the courthouse property. On the church's Facebook page, the pastor said, "I am personally appalled that the very reason for the season be taken out of the very heart of this city and moved elsewhere..."  According to Christian Headlines, the television station reported that over a thousand people had signed the petition.

Texas judge who declined to sanction same-sex marriage sues state agency

Dianne Hensley is a judge in Waco, Texas who has taken a strong stand for traditional marriage, according to an article at the Texas Tribune website, which reports that after the Obergefell ruling...
...Hensley refused to officiate any weddings. But in August 2016, she decided to resume officiating weddings between men and women, and said she would “politely refer” same-sex couples who sought her services to others in the area.
In November, Hensley received a warning from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding her practice. She has retaliated by suing the commission; the article says that, "Hensley claims the investigation and warning 'substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.' She seeks damages of $10,000."

The article also reports that:
Hensley, who claims the state violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is seeking a declaratory judgment from the court decreeing that any justice of the peace may refuse to officiate a same-sex wedding “if the commands of their religious faith forbid them to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.”
First Liberty is representing Judge Hensley, and her attorney is a former state solicitor general.

U.K. doctor can continue to pray, discuss faith

A Christian doctor in the United Kingdom who was facing the possibility of being reprimanded for expressing his faith has been "vindicated," according to the LifeSiteNews.com website.  The site traces the actions of the General Medical Council against Dr. Richard Scott, beginning in June 2019, when "the GMC wrote to [Scott]...that it had received 'some information' from the National Secular Society (NSS) and would begin a fitness to practise investigation into him."  The article continues:
The NSS, targeting Dr Scott to get him de-registered, had lodged a complaint expressing “concern” that he was “continuing to pray and promote Christianity during consultations in an attempt to convert patients”, and cited an anonymous complainant.
The GMC investigated for three months, and recently announced that the doctor had done nothing improper.  In its statement, it said: "there is no convincing evidence that Dr Scott imposes his personal religious beliefs upon potentially vulnerable patients," adding:
There is no evidence that [Dr Scott] discusses faith in situations where the patient has stated that they do not wish to discuss these matters or that he has continued to discuss faith after a patient has indicated that they do not welcome such a discussion.
The article did say that, "For the future, the GMC has advised Dr Scott to document any discussions of faith that he has with his patients and that prayer must only be offered within the guidelines of the GMC’s explanatory guidance on personal beliefs and medical practice."

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The 3 - December 15, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a non-ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court allowing a pro-life Kentucky law to remain in place.  Also, a California school district has announced a new partnership with Planned Parenthood.  Plus, a charter school student in that same state was told she could not play a familiar Christmas carol in an off-site performance; an action later reversed.

U.S. Supreme Court allows KY pro-life law to stand

A Kentucky pro-life law that had been challenged, was allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court, this past week, according to the Washington Free Beacon, which reported that the law "requires doctors to display and describe an ultrasound of the child to his or her mother before conducting an abortion...."

The appeals court had found that the law did not violate the First Amendment, as the plaintiffs had contended, and the high court declined to take up the case.

The article notes that the Supreme Court...
...is expected to hear one major abortion case, June Medical Services v. Gee, in the coming months. That case, which concerns a Louisiana state law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, may serve as an opportunity for the Court's conservatives to begin rolling back the "undue burden" standard imposed nearly three decades ago.
The Susan B. Anthony List had linked to the Free Beacon article in a press release, that included a statement from its President, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who said: “We are encouraged by today’s Supreme Court decision that lets Kentucky’s pro-life ultrasound law stand,” adding, “Modern ultrasound technology opens an unprecedented window into the womb, providing undisputable evidence of the humanity of the unborn child. The abortion industry has proven incapable of policing itself and will stop at nothing to keep vulnerable women in the dark for the sake of profit, which is why state laws protecting women’s right to informed consent are so important..."

California school district announces partnership with Planned Parenthood

The school district in Los Angeles County, California, has announced a new partnership with the nation's largest abortion provider, according to LifeSiteNews.com, which reported:
Planned Parenthood announced this week a new program in which so-called “Wellbeing Centers” will be placed within 50 Los Angeles public schools, the Washington Post reports. The program is funded for the next three years with Planned Parenthood putting up $6 million and Los Angeles County spending $10 million.
While the provider will not be performing abortions on-site, it will offer a range of "birth control options," and content of the appointments with the students will be kept secret from parents and school officials.

In the article, Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, is quoted; she said: “Planned Parenthood has been targeting younger and younger girls, through their version of sex education, beginning as early as elementary school, which encourages people to make bad choices,” adding, “That’s how they make money as they profit from creating crisis through bad choices and then selling abortions to those same students.”

Rebecca Friedrichs of For Kids and Country, in a press release, is quoted as saying: “Our schools have NO business inviting Planned Parenthood to sell its perverted views on life and sex on school campuses — period." She added, "District officials are quick to point out these clinics won’t technically offer abortions on-premises, but no one is fooled that abortion won’t be heavily pushed on our daughters and sons by an organization that has made billions off the macabre practice.

School reverses course on Christmas carol

There is more controversy out of California, in this case, you have a student who wished to include the Christmas carol, Joy to the World, in a piano performance, according to the website for Pacific Justice Institute, which represented the family of the 13-year-old charter school student, Brooklyn Benzel, who had chosen to play the piece at a retirement home.

An education specialist, who, according to PJI, "oversees independent-study charter school students, said the classic carol was not acceptable because of its religious content. It was suggested that Jingle Bells should be performed instead because it is more secular."

An attorney for PJI reached out to an attorney for the school.  The press release about this set of circumstances, released by the Institute, said:
Shortly after McReynolds spoke to their attorney, the school abruptly reversed course, telling the Benzels they had changed their position after determining that “Joy to the World” is “non-sectarian.”

“We’re thrilled that Brooklyn will now be able to bring joy to this retirement home with a timeless carol,” McReynolds commented. “No student should be made to feel that their choice of a musical performance is unacceptable just because it has both religious and cultural significance.”

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The 3 - December 8, 2019

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three relevant stories potentially impacting the Christian community, there is good news out of the U.K., where a street preacher has received a settlement from a local police department, which had arrested him, presumably for preaching.  Also, a pastor who went to observe a Drag Queen Story Hour in Spokane and was arrested at the site has had his case dismissed.  And, an organization that has been distributing Scripture-based dog tags in the military is fighting back after the Army has halted the practice.

British street preacher settles with police department after arrest

Dale McAlpine has been preaching the gospel on the streets of the United Kingdom for 15 years, according to the website of Great Britain's The Christian Institute.  In July of last year, according to the site:
The preacher, from Workington, Cumbria, was approached by three police officers in Kendal town centre in July 2018.

They arrested Dale and he was taken to Kendal Police Station, where he was held for questioning.
After being released without bail he was left in limbo for six months until the police eventually notified him that he would not be prosecuted.
McAlpine, after his release, filed a lawsuit against the police in Cumbria, saying, "I took this legal action to help the police realise you cannot arrest people just for preaching the Gospel."  The Christian Institute website reported that McAlpine "has been paid £4,000 plus costs from Cumbria Police in settlement after pursuing a claim for being wrongfully arrested and detained for six hours."

The website goes on to say:
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, welcomed the news. 
“This is a positive outcome, not just for Dale, but for Christians across the country. 
“It’s a reminder that there is no law against preaching the Gospel. 
“Our country has a rich heritage of free speech, for preachers and for everybody else.”
Dale has said he would be donating the 4,000 pounds to further the work of The Christian Institute.

Spokane pastor gets court victory after arrest at Drag Queen event

Meanwhile, a pastor in Washington State who showed up at a Drag Queen Story Hour event and was arrested, has had his case dismissed.  Christian Headlines reports that Pastor Afshin Yaghtin had gone to a public library in Spokane, WA earlier this year where the drag queen event was being held. Because he chose not to stand in a designated area for protesters or counter-protesters, he was arrested.

The article says that: "Judge Tracy A. Stabb ruled...the police’s orders were not “narrowly tailored” to protect constitutionally protected speech, and that, “While the City’s interest in protecting public safety is significant, there is no evidence that Mr. Yaghtin’s mere presence on public property was in any way jeopardizing the City’s interest,” adding, “Mr. Yaghtin had every right to be standing on public property. He was not blocking traffic and was not conveying any kind of message that might incite a response. He was not being disorderly, disruptive, or aggressive.”

Pacific Justice Institute represented Pastor Yaghtin, and PJI attorney Jorge Ramos is quoted as saying: “The prosecution refused to acknowledge law enforcement’s overreach by separating and even barring people from entry into the library based on their views. We are thankful justice prevailed and Pastor Yaghtin can continue to shepherd his community with confidence.”

Dog tags with Scripture no longer allowed by U.S. Army

Shields of Strength, which are dog tags that contain Scripture, have been distributed to members of the military for over 20 years.  According to First Liberty, that may be coming to a close.  Its website states that:
Since 1997, Kenny Vaughan and his wife have donated millions of inspirational Shields of Strength dog tags to grateful military members. They’ve never given one to anybody who didn’t request it, and never had one complaint.
But now, an outside anti-faith group is trying to have these beloved symbols of hope and encouragement for our men and women in uniform removed—simply because they are inscribed with religious messages.
Fox News relates that after it reported earlier this year on "Shields of Strength," the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation "demanded the military branches stop allowing the group to use the military emblem, saying it 'poisons the constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State...'"  Fox states:
Soon after, each military branch then pulled or threatened to pull the trademark licenses that had been issued to Kenny Vaughan from Shields of Strength. The Army emailed him with the subject line, "Negative Press," suggesting they were motivated by MRFF's press release.
The article says, "Vaughan told 'Fox & Friends' he was 'speechless' especially after the military initially approached him with the idea."  First Liberty claims that the Army's actions violate the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and sent a letter to that effect this past week.

Monday, December 02, 2019

The 3 - December 1, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of interest to the Christian community, includes coverage of a law in New York state that places requirements on pro-life employers to set aside their beliefs on the sanctity of life.  Also, a printing company in Alabama has declined to publish a magazine issues that contains material it regards as objectionable.  And, a pastor in India who was nearly beaten to death represents millions of Christians facing persecution in that nation.

NY hiring law punishes pro-life employers

The state of New York, already having shown its hostility to unborn babies when its Legislature passed a law allowing abortion throughout pregnancy, has passed a law, and Governor Cuomo has signed it, that shows its hostility for those who stand with life, according to a CBN.com article, which reports that the state's new law...
...requires all employers—including churches, religious schools, faith-based pregnancy care centers, and religious nonprofits—to disavow their beliefs about abortion, contraception, and sexual morality by forcing them to hire and employ those who refuse to abide by the organizations' statements of faith.
In response, the Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit against the state, representing CompassCare, a pregnancy care center in Rochester, as well as First Bible Baptist Church, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which is a network of pregnancy centers, and other groups.

ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle is quoted in the article: "Every woman deserves the support she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in her pregnancy. But New York's new law forces CompassCare to contradict its own beliefs and to employ staff who endorse abortion—a decision that harms women and ends innocent lives. No one would force PETA to hire employees that hunt on the weekends. CompassCare deserves that same courtesy and equal freedom under law."

AL printer says "no" to printing pro-LGBTQ magazine edition

The situation in New York is yet another front in a cultural trend where people who hold to certain beliefs about life and marriage are facing attempts to force them to act in a manner that contradicts those beliefs.  Another organization standing strong is Interstate Printing, based in Mobile, Alabama.

The Christian Post reported on this company's dilemma after the magazine, Due South, was planning an issue that was distinctively pro-LGBTQThe Post article said the issue "featured stories about LGBT students and drag queens, AL.com reported."

Editor-in-Chief Sara Boone was quoted as saying: "They emailed me back and said they would be exercising their right to decline printing this issue because it does not adhere to their Christian values and they hope to print with us in the future, adding: “It’s very ironic for me because this particular issue of Due South is a special topics issue on diversity and inclusion. And it’s the very first special topics issue that we have ever produced. For them to decline printing it because it’s so diverse and the content is incredibly ironic..."

The printer had no comment to The Christian PostDue South is affiliated with the University of South Alabama. According to the Post article, "The “About Us” page on Interstate Printing’s website states that 'We are a Christian company that will serve the Lord God Almighty in any way we can.'"  The story notes that Bob Lowery, the school’s director of communications and media, wrote in an email to NBC News, “We respect our students for having the courage of their convictions...At the same time, we also respect the rights of individuals and private businesses to make decisions that are consistent with their values. It is our hope that healthy and constructive dialogue can emerge from differing perspectives.”

Indian pastor who was beaten representative of increased persecution in country

Basant Kumar Paul is a pastor who was attacked at his house church in eastern India.  He is quoted on the Baptist Press website as saying:
"My physical body might be weak, but my spirit is very strong, it will not break with persecution," Morning Star News quoted Paul Friday (Nov. 22). "They tried to kill me twice, I was almost dead, but I still did not die. I will not die until the Lord calls me back home. This assurance drives away all my fears."
The story points out that Paul is still recovering, and that, "In the attack on his family, eight extremists entered his home and beat Paul until they thought he was dead, beating his family members as each tried to help. Among injuries, attackers broke Paul's son's leg and hit his mother and brother in the head with axes, Paul said."

The Baptist Press story relates that "Paul is among an estimated 65 million Christians facing increased persecution in the nation of 1.4 billion people. Persecution is spiking under extreme rightwing Hindu nationalism encouraged by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to reports from across the Asian nation."  The article relates that:
Christians in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India have suffered increased persecution since the BJP-led government revoked a 1949 law that allowed Jammu and Kashmir to form its own constitution, reported Morning Star and religious persecution watchdog groups including Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs.

New security measures issued as recently as Nov. 6 make it "nearly impossible" for Christian congregations to meet, Morning Star reported.
And, the pastor is having legal troubles; the article says that Paul "and other family members are being investigated for holding church services in his home where about 35 gather for worship, Morning Star reported."

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The 3 - November 24, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, features response to the decision by a large restaurant chain to change its model of charity support.  Also, journalists investigating Planned Parenthood have received a jury verdict against them.  And, a school district in Illinois, under the pressure of a lawsuit filed by a transgender student, has changed its policy to allow boys and girls to use the same locker rooms.

Remnants from week involving Chick-fil-A: definition of Christian organizations as "anti-LGBT" and LGBT advocacy of major funding recipient

There has been a wide assortment of responses to the announcement early in the week about the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the official philanthropic arm of the hugely successful restaurant chain, making a decision to realign its giving priorities.  Gone from the charitable list are traditional recipients such as the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which were (and continue to be labeled) "anti-LGBT," in the media, presumably because of their Christian stand on matters of traditional marriage and sexuality.

In a Breakpoint commentary, John Stonestreet highlighted this labeling which has been detrimental to the two organizations...
...the Chick-Fil-A Foundation’s decision will only reinforce the slander that the organizations they are no longer giving to are, in fact, anti-LGBT. It will only reinforce that all the good these organizations do is immediately made invalid, if they are Christian groups with historic and biblical Christian convictions. By refusing to offer any clarity on the reasoning behind their decision, Chick-Fil-A allowed the headlines to be re-written in a way that furthers the goals of the LGBT bullies, that ultimately there is only one acceptable position on these controversial issues: full-support and full affirmation.
Jim Daly of Focus on the Family was likewise concerned about the continued stigmatization of these Christian organizations, which Chick-fil-A had also experienced because of the Christian values on which the company was founded.  He wrote:
Fellowship of Christian Athletes played a critical role in my coming to Christ. They continue to serve our nation’s youth in remarkable ways and are on the front lines in schools across the country. Likewise, the Salvation Army ministers in powerful ways, alleviating hunger and suffering on so many levels.
Daly passionately stated:
Sadly, the left-wing mob that has harangued our friends at Chick-fil-A has perfected the art of the shakedown. They’ve come after Focus on the Family, and they’ve come after me. Recently, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees upset the left when he supported our ministry’s Bring Your Bible to School effort. Their antagonism towards Chick-fil-A is just the tip of the spear.
He also warned that attempts to satisfy certain groups will "never satisfy the aggrieved antagonists." He wrote:
Case in point: immediately after Chick-fil-A made their announcement on Monday, GLAAD further chastised them and said they needed to disown all ties to faith-based groups who trade in “hate” like Focus on the Family. My simple question is this: Can anyone point to the “hate”? I cannot.
Daly mentioned attempts to silence people and organizations who stood on their convictions, including cake baker Jack Phillips, florist Barronelle Stutzman, and Hobby Lobby.  He stated: "I grieve for my country when three percent of its population can successfully harass billion-dollar corporations merely because they hold to two millennia-old traditional values."

Now, another piece of information has emerged about a charity that will be receiving increased funding from the Chick-fil-A Foundation, Covenant House International.  Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, in a piece at The Christian Post, wrote:
The founder of Covenant House, a Catholic priest pedophile, was sued for allegedly sexually abusing the youth who were seeking shelter and food. Covenant House proudly promotes LGBTQ on its website, referring to “LGBTQ Inclusion Initiatives,” and even doing an “inclusion assessment” at every one of its facilities.
Covenant House also proudly supports the New York City Gay Pride parade with its own float, banners, t-shirts, and hastag #CovUnity. Covenant House is recognized as a national funder of LGBTQ causes.
Staver also links to a story that documents that pro-life witnesses in Michigan shared that they saw a Covenant House International van transport someone to an abortion clinic. And, as Staver points out, Covenant House is only in 31 cities, in contrast to the widespread reach of the Salvation Army. 

Jim Daly concludes his piece by saying:
The LGBT community has fought for decades for a place at the table. In recent years they have received a seat and are aggressively advocating for their agenda. But in a pluralistic nation like America, that seat doesn’t give anyone the right to poke others in the eye.
Does anyone else find it odd that those who claim to have been bullied have become the bullies themselves?
Court grants millions to Planned Parenthood in undercover journalists' case

For six weeks, jurors in a San Francisco courtroom have been listening to testimony in a trial against the Center for Medical Progress and its undercover investigators regarding Planned Parenthood and its trafficking in the body parts of aborted babies, according to LifeSiteNews.com, which reported that it took less than two days to award the nation's largest abortion provider over two million dollars in damages.

Defense attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society stated, "This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” and announced his intent to appeal. The article continued to quote from the lawyer:
“David’s findings revealed practices so abhorrent that the United States Congress issued criminal referrals for Planned Parenthood, and numerous states and elected officials have moved to strip it of funding,” continued Breen. “Rather than face up to its heinous doings, Planned Parenthood chose to persecute the person who exposed it. I am fully confident that when this case has run its course, justice will prevail, and David will be vindicated.”
But, the article contends the judge in the case, Federal District Judge William Orrick III, gave faulty instructions to the jury.  The article quotes from Thomas Brejcha, founder of the Thomas More Society, in an update last week: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get Judge Orrick to back off from his insistence that the jury be instructed that the First Amendment … does not state any kind of defense to the charges in this case..."  The judge had already declared the investigative journalists "trespassed" in certain events and meetings, and, according to a Archdiocese of San Francisco report:
Orrick “instructed the jury to only concern themselves with the damages that the defendants are liable for that trespass, both punitive and actual,” it stated.
School district mandates boys and girls share locker rooms

A school district in Illinois has changed its policy to allow boys and girls to share locker rooms.  According to CBN.com, this comes as the result of a transgender student, a biological male, filing "a lawsuit for discrimination because he was not allowed access inside the girl's locker room, The Daily Herald reports."  The school district voted 5-2 to change the policy.

The Daily Herald stated:
Nova Maday, a transgender 2018 graduate of Palatine High School with a discrimination lawsuit pending against the district, said she hoped the decision would influence other districts but doesn't accomplish every improvement she's sought for transgender students. One example of what's not included, she said, is easing the process of getting one's named changed on a student ID.
"It's a great first step," said Maday, who was born male but identifies as female. "It's huge, and school districts all across the state and nation are watching."
Student Julia Burco was visibly upset by the board's decision, with CBN reporting that "she felt 'uncomfortable, my privacy's being invaded, as I am a swimmer.'"  Already, parents in the district, District 211, are mobilizing.  A parents' rights group has already begun to circulate a "privacy request form."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The 3 - November 17, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a disagreement over a Christmas tree in the state capitol in Wisconsin.  Also, a graphic designer in Colorado is being forced by state law to provide services that violate her convictions.  And, a Christian in Hong Kong has reportedly lost his life in the continuing protests, which have turned intense and violent.

Christmas tree skirmish in WI

Already, here just before the launch of the Christmas season, there is a skirmish regarding the celebration of the holiday.  This time, it involves public officials in the state of Wisconsin.

According to ChristianHeadlines.com, the Democrat Governor, Tony Evers, decided to call the tree in the Capitol rotunda a "holiday tree" and adorned it with "science-themed" ornaments.  The article says that the state's assembly, led by Republicans, passed a resolution, which...
...passed, 64-30, with 60 Republicans and four Democrats joining together to support it. All the “no” votes came from Democrats. It now moves to the Senate, which must pass it for it to have power. It does not require the signature of Gov. Tony Evers, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The article reports that:
The resolution says the state “respects all religious and cultural customs and is desirous of properly naming the publicly-displayed symbols of our state's diverse holiday traditions out of respect for all traditions.”
“The decorated tree has been on display in the Capitol rotunda annually during the Christmas holiday season since 1916 and has been traditionally referred to as a ‘Christmas tree,’” the resolution says. “... The Wisconsin legislature wishes to continue this tradition and join numerous other states and public institutions and millions of American families in celebrating the Christmas holiday season with a Christmas tree.”
The Majority Leader of the Assembly, Jim Steineke, is quoted by the Journal Sentinel as saying, “It is a Christmas tree. Everyone knows it’s a Christmas tree. Changing the name of the Christmas tree to anything else would be a political game,” adding, “And that's what the governor did when he renamed it.”

Graphic designer challenges CO law which requires her to promote messages that conflict with her beliefs

In Colorado, the same state where cake baker Jack Phillips encountered opposition because he chose not to provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony, an event that he did not want to be a part of, based on his faith perspective, a graphic artist is facing similar barriers.

The Alliance Defending Freedom reports that "Lorie Smith and her studio, 303 Creative, filed an appeal...of a federal district court’s order that upheld a state law provision that gags creative professionals from talking about their beliefs when explaining their business decisions."  The website goes on to say: "The September order finalized a May ruling and adds to a previous decision that would allow Colorado officials to force Smith to design and publish websites promoting messages or causes that conflict with her beliefs."

This all stems from the state's Anti-Discrimination Act, which, according to ADF:
...prohibits creative professionals from expressing any views about marriage that could indicate someone is “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable” because of their sexual orientation or that suggests that the designer won’t create particular expressive works because of those beliefs.
ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs states, "Americans shouldn’t be forced by the government to create and publish websites that promote messages or causes they disagree with. That is a quintessential freedom that the First Amendment protects..."

Hong Kong protests continue, intensify after Christian student's death

There has been a Christian element of the protests in Hong Kong, which started out as opposition to a proposed extradition law; even though the proposal seems to have been withdrawn, there is still hostility toward the perceived overreach of the Chinese government, known for its oppression of Christians, which seems to be intensifying.

The Christian Post reports on a new development:
Last week, 22-year-old Chow Tsz-lok, a second-year computer science undergraduate at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, died from his injuries after he fell from the third floor to the second floor of a car park in Tseung Kwan O on Nov. 4 while police carried out a dispersal operation nearby with rounds of tear gas fire, The South China Morning Post reports.
The article goes on to say:
Friends described Chow as a Christian who was known in his social circle for his passion for sports and mathematics, as well as his willingness to help others in school. Numerous vigils were held across the city in honor of Chow, with a moment of silence to commemorate the late student.
The Post also states:
As violence and unrest continues to escalate, Christians — who make up 11 percent of the population — have been actively engaging with the social movement. In June, the hymn "Sing Hallelujah" to the Lord rang out as an unofficial protest anthem.
According to a report from the Hong Kong Free Press, volunteers from Protect the Children, headed by pastor Roy Chan, have in recent days stood between the police and protesters, shielding young front-line demonstrators with their bodies.
Other churches in the area have opened their doors to offer shelter on demonstration days.
One of those is the Chinese Methodist Church. The pastor, Poon Yuk Kuen, told the Hong Kong Free Press that people come into the church for, as the Post puts it, "refuge during police clearance actions from previous protests." He is quoted as saying, "No matter what kind of person you are, we welcome you, because this is to fulfill our faith. We are willing to love everyone with the love of Jesus Christ.”

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The 3 - November 10, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, offering a look at three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a ruling from one Federal judge, taking on the Department of Health and Human Service to remove conscience protection for those in the health care field.  Also, a Federal appeals court has temporarily allowed a faith-based adoption agency to continue to provide services to families and children, even though it will not place children in homes headed by same-sex couples.  Plus, a chilling event in Spokane illustrates the ideological alignment between Planned Parenthood and those promoting events involving drag queens.

Federal judge halts Administration's conscience protection for health care employees

The Trump Administration, through Department of Health and Human Services, had issued a rule that would offer conscience protection for doctors, nurses, and other in the health care field, which means that they would not have to be forced to participate in objectionable procedures, such as abortions.  As WORLD reports:
U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its authority in crafting a rule that would have allowed medical workers to claim religious or moral exemptions to performing abortions or other procedures that violate their consciences.
In an e-mail, Christian Medical and Dental Associations responded by saying: "Christian doctors and nurses are on the frontlines serving people in need...But our service is threatened by lawsuits brought in New York, Washington and California, which challenge commonsense conscience protections for healthcare professionals of faith. Religious healthcare professionals of all religions must be free to continue providing compassionate care without being forced to perform procedures, such as abortions, that would require them to violate their most deeply held beliefs."

Faith-based adoption provider protected from NY government by appeals court

In the meantime, the state of New York has been attempting to force faith-based adoption agencies to place children in homes where the situation violates their beliefs.  Alliance Defending Freedom has announced that, "The New York State Office of Children and Family Services has threatened to force faith-based adoption provider New Hope Family Services to immediately phase out its adoption program for the nonprofit’s policy prioritizing the placement of children it serves in homes with a married mother and father."

Recently, a Federal appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, stepped in and, according to ADF, "issued an emergency order Monday that temporarily halts New York officials from targeting a faith-based adoption provider for its religious beliefs and seeking to shut it down on that basis." That provider is New Hope Family Services.  The order from the appeals court puts the state's action on hold "until the court has a chance to consider whether to reverse a federal district court’s decision to dismiss New Hope’s lawsuit sometime after oral arguments are held on Nov. 13."

ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks stated: “New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades. We hope the court will permanently uphold New Hope’s ability to serve children and families according to the very beliefs that motivate its valuable services.”

Pro-abortion and LGBT agenda coincide in fundraiser

We can certainly see that a variety of organizations are aligned against the principles of Scripture and those who uphold them.  I would dare say that you would find a significant number of people and organizations who are pro-abortion who tend to be ideologically united with those who are pro-gay marriage and supportive of gay marriage, as well as other issues.  This is borne out in an article at The Christian Post about a recent fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in Spokane, Washington.

According to the article:
An activist group organized on Facebook called Spokane United Against Religious Extremism & The Church at Planned Parenthood — in reference to a church that gathers weekly for worship outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane, Washington, called The Church at Planned Parenthood — organized the Oct. 30 Halloween themed drag show fundraiser that included an auction featuring giant cardboard cutouts of area Christians known to protest Drag Queen Story Hour events.
Those who had their cutouts "for sale" included Anna Bohach, founder of 500 Mom Strong; Afshin Yaghtin, a local pastor who was arrested for attending a Drag Queen Story Hour to, as he claims, observe what was taking place; and Ken Peters, who has organized the Church at Planned Parenthood, in partnership with other local churches, which holds its meeting at the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.

The Post article states that Bohach says that, "she's not surprised by Planned Parenthood teaming up with drag queens against Christians who've been especially vocal against their antics." She is quoted as saying:
"Christians are the biggest threat to their agendas. We are the only ones standing in their way and telling them: 'No, you will not abort babies; no, you will not exploit vulnerable women; and no, you will not expose our children to sexual deviancy and gender confusion,'" she said.
And, the article adds:
"Both groups dehumanize, exploit, terrorize and commit violence against women. Abortion is violence against women and their babies, and drag is a misogynistic mockery of women," she said, referencing a video showing a drag queen in a New York gay bar dramatizing a woman aborting her baby and then cannibalizing it.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

The 3 - November 3, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a development regarding Alabama's strong pro-life law passed earlier this year which will keep it from going into effect in less than two weeks.  Also, the Federal government has issues a new regulation that will allow adoption and foster-care agencies to receive Federal money without having to place children in home situations they find objectionable.  And, a Tennessee pastor is being held in India in a case that has religious freedom implications.

Alabama pro-life law placed on hold

It's disappointing, but not unexpected.  A Federal judge has placed Alabama's law banning abortion in almost all circumstances on hold, according to a piece on the CBN.com website, which reported the law was set to take effect on November 15, but Federal judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction putting the law on hold.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU had filed suit against the law, and the article quotes the lead sponsor of the bill in the Alabama House, state Representative Terri Collins, who "said the ruling 'is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey.'"

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall intends to take the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying, "...the state's objective is to advance our case to the US Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion..."

Governor Kay Ivey stated that she supports the "rule of law," and, "This legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Alabama Legislature and was signed into law as a testament to Alabamians' longstanding belief that every human life is sacred. We must continue doing all we can to protect life..."

Trump Administration takes steps to protect faith-based adoption and foster care agencies

One of the flashpoints in our society between religious freedom and the LGBTQ agenda has to do with whether or not faith-based adoption and foster care agencies should be required to place children in homes headed by same-sex couples, which would violate their religious beliefs.  States have passed laws protecting such agencies, and now the Federal government has weighed in on a related matter.

Liberty Counsel, on its website, states:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will introduce a new federal rule that would allow faith-based adoption and foster care providers to receive federal money without compromising their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage by forcing them to place foster children with same-sex or unmarried couples.
Some history here:
In 2016, the Obama administration added sexual orientation language to an HHS rule, forcing faith-based groups to choose between their biblical beliefs on marriage or receiving federal money to serve their communities. Currently, if faith-based groups want to apply for federal funds, they must request a waiver from the Obama rule. The Trump administration rule will now make that regulation null and void.
This was another attempt to insert LGBTQ rights into Federal civil rights law, and HHS is now attempting to turn it back.

Tennessee pastor detained in India

A Tennessee pastor who has been involved in training Sunday School teachers in India and Nepal for some 20 years has been detained on his latest trip to those two nations.  The Tennessean reports that:
Bryan Nerren, leader of the International House of Prayer Ministries in Shelbyville has been stuck in Bagdogra for more than three weeks, according to a petition posted online by CeCe Heil, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice.
Heil and ACLJ were involved in the case involving pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been arrested and held in Turkey for two years, prior to his release, which was the result of diplomatic pressure.

Nerren was approached in an airport in early October and was in possession of cash to cover the expenses.  He was allowed to fly to the city of Bagdogra, but was detained because he did not have the proper forms to declare the money.  The story says that:
In Bagdogra, he was arrested for traveling without the proper documentation for the funds, Heil said, then jailed for six days until he was allowed to post bail. 
"However, the judge retained Pastor Nerren’s passport and ordered a travel ban, trapping him in Siliguri."
A hearing in his case set Oct. 22 did not take place, Heil said, and another court date is slated for Dec. 12.
This series of events caught the attention of the organization, Open Doors, which issued a statement from President and CEO David Curry of Open Doors USA: "Given the currently hostile climate for Christians in India, it seems apparent that authorities targeted this American pastor because of his faith. Christians in India are regularly treated with this same disregard and denied basic human rights, while extremists are permitted to hunt Christians down and harass or assault them because of their faith. Now, the authorities have brazenly broadened their scope to detain an American whose only real crime is living out his faith in Jesus while on Indian soil..."

Curry called for Nerren to be released and for India to "reform the current conditions for its minority Christian citizens."  He added, "This is why Open Doors has devoted this year's International Day of Prayer, which will be observed on November 3, to a day of prayer for India."

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The 3 - October 27, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes developments in a case involving a 7-year-boy whose mother wishes for him to "transition" into a girl, a move opposed by his father.  Also, there is chilling news from China, where a megachurch building was destroyed, with the process beginning while worshippers were still inside.  And, Northern Ireland now has legal abortion and same-sex marriage, as the result of the government's inability to form an assembly.

Judge overrules jury decision in case involving 7-year-old whose mother is pushing gender transition

The jury issued a much-criticized decision in the case, and the judge altered the ruling.  It's the unfortunate and troubling case of a 7-year-old boy whose mother wants him to transition into a girl, against the father's wishes.  According to LifeSiteNews.com, a Texas jury granted custody to the mother, who is dedicated to gender transition and placing him on hormone therapy.  The mother is Dr. Anne Georgulas; the father is Jeffrey Younger - the article relates:
Since kindergarten, Dr. Georgulas has enrolled James in school as a girl under the name “Luna.” She began telling him he’s a girl when he was just three, and testified in court that she began to believe that when he liked a McDonald’s toy meant for girls. James’ pediatrician records also indicate Dr. Georgulas has met with GENECIS, a medical “transition” clinic in Dallas and is considering “hormone suppression” when James is closer to eight or nine years old.
The story states:
Dr. Georgulas wants to continue to “transition” James “into” a girl called “Luna.” Mr. Younger wanted to take a “wait and see” approach rather than start the child on puberty blockers.
The presiding judge, Kim Cooks, has ruled that, according to the article, "the parents will have joint conservatorship over James, which includes making joint medical decisions for the child." It goes on to say:
Judge Kim Cooks of the 255th district also put a gag order on both parents so that they cannot speak to the press about the case and decided that the father is not required to pay attorney fees. The judge’s decision means that the Save James website will have to be shut down.
China church building destruction begins with congregation inside

Imagine attending a worship service and having demolition crews and equipment show up to tear the building down. That's apparently the scenario of a church in China, Fuyang Christian Church, which was described by Faithwire.com; it reports:
According to persecution watchdog, ChinaAid, the church could seat some 3,000 people and was part of the country’s official church network. The organization also noted that the demolition was undertaken as congregants worshipped, and that the action was carried out with no supporting legal documentation.
It is still unclear why the church was flattened, though the pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”
The story reports that "the demolition comes just a week after a church in Henan province was leveled as more than 200 congregants gathered to worship."

Northern Ireland government failure results in legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage

For 158 years, Northern Ireland has had a law against abortion. Same-sex marriage has also been banned there...until this past Tuesday, according to a report on the FoxNews.com website, which states:
The Northern Ireland Assembly had been able to control their abortion and marriage restrictions as a devolved region of the UK, meaning they control certain legislative rights that the British Parliament did not.
However, its government has been suspended for more than 2.5 years amid a dispute between the major Protestant and Catholic parties, leaving Britain's Parliament in Westminster to make some key decisions.
A bill had placed a deadline of October 21 for Northern Ireland to form a government; if not, as Fox reports: "the bill’s abortion and same-sex marriage amendments would take effect."  There was a failed attempt to re-convene the assembly, but there was opposition and the body did not name a new speaker.

In an e-mail, Keith and Kristyn Getty, who are from Northern Ireland, expressed sadness over these changes, saying:
A law will be passed on Tuesday in Northern Ireland that will represent a genocide of human beings that exceeds by far even the horror of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ (civil war).
Until now, Northern Ireland has successfully blocked legislation to legalise abortion, and since the UK Abortion Act in the Seventies, 100,000 lives have been saved in Northern Ireland because of our laws. On Tuesday, all this changes.
The sentiment of the e-mail is summed up in the phrase repeated in it: "Lord have mercy."  The Gettys state:
Please pray for the leaders of Northern Ireland. There are many working hard for life. The ugliness of it all is hard to describe and a fair place to speak nearly non-existent. Please pray for the local church there. For compassion, innovation, courage and boldness in conviction. Please pray for those groups tirelessly advocating for the protection of mothers and their babies.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The 3 - October 20, 2019

On this latest installment of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is positive court action that would prevent doctors and others in the health care field from having to participate in action that violates their conscience rights.  Also, pro-life sidewalk counselors received good news from a Federal appeals court regarding their ability to communicate truth to women who are seeking abortions.  And, the U.S. Attorney General made an important speech on the religious foundation of our nation recently at Notre Dame.

Judge rules to protect conscience rights of health care professionals

Doctors, nurses, and others who have devoted themselves to health care should not have to violate their conscience by participating in activities that they find objectionable, and a Federal court judge has placed himself in agreement with that premise in a recent ruling, according to a report on The Christian Post website.  It reports:
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, vacated a 2016 Obamacare mandate that critics feared could have forced faith-based doctors out of work if they refused to perform gender-transition procedures or abortions on patients referred to them.
As the article relates, O'Connor had ruled against the regulation in 2017 by issuing a "nationwide preliminary injunction." The article states that "O’Connor maintained his opinion that the rule violates the APA but also ruled that the regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." APA stands for "Administrative Procedures Act."

The article quotes recent Meeting House guest Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented plaintiffs in the case:
“It is critically important that doctors are able to continue serving patients in keeping with their consciences and their professional medical judgment, especially when it comes to the personal health choices of families and children,” Goodrich said in a statement. “Doctors cannot do their jobs if government bureaucrats are trying to force them to perform potentially harmful procedures that violate their medical and moral judgment.”
Pro-life sidewalk counselors receive positive ruling

The presence of pro-life sidewalk counselors are there strategically in order to share with abortion-minded women the truth about their unborn child.  Unfortunately, there are those who realize the potential effectiveness of this type of ministry and are opposed to it.  Some lawmakers realize that they can intimidate those brave individuals and restrict their ability to function, and they will certainly attempt to do so.

Such was the case in Pittsburgh, where the Alliance Defending Freedom, according to its website, filed a lawsuit against an ordinance there that passed the City Council in order to protect the so-called "right" to abortion by setting up speech zones at the clincs.  The site states:
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of pro-life individuals who haven’t been allowed to speak or engage in sidewalk counseling within the zones. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has been enforcing the law, which he voted for as a city councilman in 2005.
Under the ordinance, no one may “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 15 feet from any entrance to the hospital or health care facility” that the city designates. Health care facilities broadly and vaguely include any “establishment providing therapeutic, preventative, corrective, healing and health-building treatment services on an out-patient basis by physicians, dentists and other practitioners.”
The website lauds the recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which said that, according to ADF, "...this language does not and cannot apply to pro-life sidewalk counselors." The website says:
"In its latest opinion in Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, the 3rd Circuit wrote, “the Ordinance, as properly interpreted, does not extend to sidewalk counseling—or any other calm and peaceful one-on-one conversations….”
ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves is quoted as saying, “Pittsburgh politicians aren’t at liberty to silence speech they dislike. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in last year’s NIFLA v. Becerra decision, ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’”

Attorney General calls out those who oppose religion

Attorney General William Barr demonstrated his knowledge of American history and his dedication to supporting religious faith in a stirring message delivered at the University of Notre Dame recently.  According to an article at the Washington Times website...
He said the founders, in writing the Constitution, rejected a society with a weak moral character, which would have needed an overbearing coercive government, and instead counted on a people with strong Judeo-Christian beliefs that could govern themselves without a bullying government.
“This is really what was meant by ‘self-government,’” Mr. Barr said. “In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people — a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.”
In one of the strongest statements reported by the Times, Barr said: “The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion,” adding, "What we call ‘values’ today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.”

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council took notice, writing at the organization's website:
Harkening back to James Madison, John Adams, and others, he reminded people that "By and large, the Founding generation's view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition... [F]ree government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people," Barr explained.
But, modern secularists, he went on, "dismiss this idea... as other-worldly superstition imposed by a kill-joy clergy." They've imposed their own ideas of moral relativism on society and the results have been grim. "First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction," Barr warns. Of course, "One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication."
In a Breakpoint commentary, John Stonestreet of the Colson Center stated:
The Attorney General’s speech reminds us that competing visions for America and its future are rooted in completely different worldviews: One leads to freedom, the other leads to tyranny—because it discards the true source of freedom.
This much is clear: We can no longer assume our friends and neighbors “get” religious freedom. We must make the case for religious freedom as a positive good for all, as a necessary ingredient of human flourishing, for true freedom, and for our life as a nation.
And, as Perkins pointed out, Barr said: "Secularists, and their allies among the 'progressives,' have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values..."

The FRC President then wrote, "...immediately, liberals set about proving the attorney general right...," adding:
The Washington Post called it "terrifying." Over at the New York Times, Paul Krugman said it smacked of "religious bigotry." Richard Painter's fury burned through his Twitter feed, insisting Barr's heartfelt and passionate address was "the latest episode of 'The Handmaid's Tail." And the rage went on and on. Of course, the Wall Street Journal's William McGurn points out, "This is what we have come to expect when someone in public life mentions religion in a positive light." Or, it turns out, secular activists in a negative one.