Sunday, April 23, 2017

The 3 - April 23, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of Egypt - again - regarding ISIS and terror, as a Greek Orthodox monastery faced a recent ISIS assault.  Also, a Christian holding the principal leadership role in Indonesia's capital has been defeated in his bid for another term.  And, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments just this week in a key religious liberty case.

3 - Greek Orthodox monastery victimized by ISIS in Egypt

The extreme terrorist organization ISIS is continuing to wreak havoc, and while its involvement in high-profile targets, such as the attack in Paris this past week, seems to garner headlines, you can still keep in mind that ISIS is committed to carrying out attacks on Christians.

Just two weeks after the deadly Palm Sunday attacks on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, a Greek Orthodox monastery suffered an attack, with the responsibility claimed by ISIS, according to a report on the Christianity Today website.  The attack occurred at the ancient monastery of St. Catherine on the southern Sinai peninsula.  The article states:
One policeman was killed and four injured during an exchange of gunfire at a checkpoint about half a mile from the monastery entrance. Police were eventually able to gain control and force the militants to flee, according to the Ministry of Interior as reported by Ahram Online.
A Coptic tour guide, Ibrahim Morgan, is quoted as saying, “Of course if you hit the Sinai and St. Catherine’s, tourists will stay away,” adding, "But I think this is a message also for the pope.”  Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt in the coming week.

The CT article notes that St. Catherine's was named for a fourth-century martyr from Alexandria, and states: 
In the mid-19th century, the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in St. Catherine’s ancient library, at the time the oldest near-complete text of the Bible. The library boasts more than 8,000 early printed books, and is considered second only to the Vatican in collection of early biblical manuscripts.
2 - Christian governor in Indonesia defeated

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is the first Christian governor of the city of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. His effort to win a second term, however, was unsuccessful, as he was defeated by his Muslim opponent, Anies Baswedan, according to a report on the Mission Network News website.

Basuki was reportedly leading throughout much of the election season, but he had been accused of blasphemy by radical Muslim groups. He will be facing a trial in Indonesia on blasphemy charges.

The MNN article states:
...analysts say this recent election may signal a growing confidence in the use of religion as a political weapon by the Muslim-majority population. And a local news outlet calls this latest election in Indonesia the “dirtiest, most polarizing and most divisive the nation has ever seen.”
Basuki had been accused of speaking against Islam as the result of his words apparently being incorrectly related.  An earlier report on the AsiaNews.it website, which had been linked to on the Christianity Today site, stated that;
Buni Yani, communications professor at the London School of Central Jakarta, is accused of having manipulated the words of the Christian governor of the capital to make them offensive to Islam. He defended himself by saying I did it "by mistake", but public opinion has it that it opened an investigation.
1 - U.S. Supreme Court hears major religious liberty case; is another on horizon?

The U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments this past week in the case of a church that wished to participate in a Missouri program that offers opportunities for non-profit organizations to obtain resurfacing materials made from recycled tires.  The church, even though it apparently qualified, was denied from benefiting from it because it was a religious organization.

The church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, MO, filed a lawsuit and was turned back at the Federal district and appeals court level.  So, the high court took up the case.

WORLD Magazine has a report on Wednesday's hearing.   The article opened this way:
Supreme Court justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum seemed concerned about the state of Missouri’s decision to exclude a church from a neutral government subsidy program, a positive sign for religious liberty advocates watching today’s oral arguments. But the justices also suggested the case might be moot due to recent state policy changes, leaving court-watchers uncertain about whether the justices will rule at all.
Those new developments?  The new Republican governor of Missouri has enacted a change in policy that prevents religious groups from being omitted from the program.  But, David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the church, according to WORLD:
...told the justices there is no assurance the state will retain its new policy after Greitens leaves office. He said this new policy, which Greitens announced on Facebook, can just as easily be switched back when the political winds shift. Since the Missouri Supreme Court already ruled against Trinity, someone is sure to challenge the new policy, he added.
One of the elephants in the room regarding this term of the U.S. Supreme Court, at least in the eyes of the SCOTUS Blog, seems to be the case of a Colorado cake baker who declined to provide products for a same-sex wedding.  At the beginning of April, the site reported:
The justices have now considered the petition for review in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission at five consecutive conferences without acting on it. The custom-cake business owned by Jack Phillips, who describes himself as a “cake artist,” argues that Colorado’s public accommodations law violates the First Amendment by requiring Phillips to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex weddings, in violation of his religious beliefs. As is their practice, the justices have not explained why they have not yet ruled on Phillips’ petition. The electronic docket for the case has not yet been updated, but if – as expected – the case is once again scheduled for consideration at the justices’ next conference, on April 13, we could hear something on Monday, April 17.
Make that seven conferences, apparently, since the high court passed on the case on the 13th and met on Friday, April 21 in another conference, but did not accept any new cases. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The 3 - April 16, 2017

This week on The 3, there is story from Alabama that has made national impact, about a governor, who was a former Baptist deacon, who speaks the faith language, but was forced from office in the wake of a scandal.  Also, two new appointees from President Trump are signals of his continued commitment to surround himself with people who embrace a perspective consistent with Scripture. And, the President signed his first piece of pro-life legislation this week, the same week that Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, who was widely supported by pro-life groups, was sworn in.

3 - Christians respond to Bentley resignation

The words were full of Scriptural principles:
With the strength that God gives me every day, with the blessed assurance that I have in my salvation in Jesus Christ, I have worked hard to move beyond any of my past mistakes. And especially this time of year at Easter, I am grateful that I serve a loving and forgiving God who loves me, and he loves each and every one of us unconditionally.
That was taken from a WHNT Television story.  Former Alabama governor Robert Bentley was speaking on April 7, just 4 days before his resignation, saying that he would not resign and calling on people to halt the exposure of personal details of his activity.  The Alabama Ethics Commission had announced just days before that it had found "probable cause" that Bentley had violated ethics laws, and a the same day that an expansive House Impeachment Committee report was released.  He went on:
Last year, I got to a point where I recognized and I realized I could not carry these burdens on my own. I got to the point where I knew I could not do this by myself. That day last May, I asked God to take these struggles and to help me carry these burdens. And I found freedom in that, and I completely gave him all of me, and I dedicated myself to depending on him. And with the prayer and opportunity God gives me, I’ve worked hard trying to restore and reconcile with my family, especially my boys who I love with all my heart.
Now, you can hope and pray that what he declared - walking in forgiveness and reconciliation - would indeed take place.

Baptist Press featured an article that included quotes from a variety of Alabama Southern Baptist leaders.  State convention president John Thweatt responded: "More than anything, we need to pray for Gov. [Robert] Bentley," adding, "Pray for his family. Pray for our new governor [Kay Ivey], lifting her up and asking God to give her direction and give her wisdom."  The article continues:
Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City, Ala., said moral failures among politicians are "especially devastating for us when it's a person who claims to be a believer." He added Christians should condemn the former governor's sin but not become judgmental.

"There is an expectation of holiness for the child of God," Thweatt said. Because all believers are susceptible to sin and moral failure, "we've got to take steps to make sure we're walking in sanctification."
The article pointed out that Bentley is a former deacon chair at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa.

So, legislatively speaking, how will new Kay Ivey, govern, especially related to social issues. The Susan B. Anthony list tweeted out: "@GovernorKayIvey is a #prolife, pro-woman champion. She's a longtime friend of SBA List. And now she is Governor of Alabama!"

With regard to gambling, Ivey seems to favor a statewide vote on gambling.  According to a WIAT Television story:
When asked about the future of gambling in Alabama, she says it’s a complex issue.
“Just a pure simple lottery, that would probably have some merit, but there is no such thing as a pure simple lottery,” Ivey said. “Section 65 I have the constitution, I believe it is, forbids the lottery, so if we are going to have a lottery, we have got to repeal that, and if he [sic] repeal that, it opens the door for all types of gambling.”
During her brief campaign for governor in 2010, before she decided to run for lieutenant governor, Ivey had said, according to WBRC Television:
Monday morning on Good Day Alabama, Ivey called for a simply worded referendum: "Do you support the legalization of casino gambling, yes or no?"
Ivey says the current legal and legislative battle over e-bingo in the state has been distracting. She believes if a simple referendum passed, it would be followed up by a vote to detail how gambling would operate in the state.
Governor Bentley had set up a committee to "study" the issue of gambling.  A report had been expected by the end of the legislative session.

2 - Trump nominees contrast with previous administration's agenda

A number of the President's actions thus far have contained plenty for which Christian conservatives can be grateful.  Some of the high-profile people with whom Mr. Trump has surrounded himself  are people who have displayed strong faith, such as Vice-President Pence, Attorney General Sessions, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and Education Secretary DeVos.

Now, there is word that people have been nominated by the new administration who can be expected to pursue an agenda that is more in line with traditional values than some in the previous administration.

Take, for instance, Roger Severino.  He is described by LifeSiteNews, which reported:
President Trump has appointed social conservative Roger Severino to head the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a choice celebrated by pro-family advocates and condemned by pro-LGBTQ leftists.
Severino, a Harvard Law School graduate who served as director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has written and published extensively against leftist “gender ideology” and the Obama administration’s promotion of transgenderism in the military.
Ken Blackwell of Family Research Council said, according to the article that...
...HHS Secretary Price is “building a team” and “has a game plan” to “attack the administrative state,” which includes dismantling the far-reaching tentacles of Obama’s pro-LGBT agenda across the federal government’s bureaucracy.
And, then there is the appointment of Mark Green to be the next Secretary of the Army.  Again, from LifeSiteNews:
President Trump has chosen a Tea Party, pro-life conservative Christian and former U.S. Army flight surgeon as Secretary of the Army in a move that LGBTQ activists denounced, according to news sources.
If approved by the Senate, Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green, a Clarksville Republican, would fill the spot occupied by Eric Fanning, who was appointed in 2016 by former President Obama as the first “out” homosexual to hold the post.
Open homosexuality was not allowed in the Armed Forces until Obama signed a bill ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011. As LifeSiteNews reported, Fanning was a leading pro-“transgender” advocate in the military and a key player behind Obama’s policy change allowing gender-confused individuals to serve openly.
The article also points out that:
Donald Trump campaigned for president as one who would strongly defend religious liberty, and his reported appointment of Dr. Green as Army Secretary could further that objective.
Under Obama, politically correct, pro-secular military actions that effectively stripped servicemembers of their free-conscience rights proliferated. The anti-religious-freedom cases only slowed after successful legal challenges from groups like First Liberty, which specializes in defending military conscience rights.
1 - President signs resolution allowing states to refuse to fund Planned Parenthood

Another pro-life victory under the Trump administration was recorded this past week, as the President signed into law his first pro-life piece of legislation, according to a piece on the WORLD Magazine website.

The article, released on Thursday, states:
Trump signed the Congressional Review Act today, which blocks a last minute order President Barack Obama issued in the waning days of his presidency. The Obama order banned 13 conservative states from redirecting Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding to community health centers that do not offer abortion. This is the first piece of pro-life legislation Trump has signed into law and the first time the U.S. Senate has successfully passed a pro-life bill in more than eight years.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, is quoted: "The resolution signed today simply ensures that states are not forced to fund an abortion business with taxpayer dollars,” adding, “Rather, states have the option to spend Title X money on comprehensive healthcare clinics that better serve women and girls.”

The WORLD piece noted that, "About 25 percent of all Title X grants currently go to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. In total, Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million in federal funds each year."  Title X grants are set aside for family planning services, and 13 states had been shifting money away from Planned Parenthood, but were then blocked by the Obama administration. This restores those states' ability to direct such funds to clinics that do not perform abortions.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The 3 - April 9, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting stories of relevance to the Christian community, find out about one of the Trump administration's latest pro-life moves.  Also, there's a disturbing ruling out of a Federal appeals court that provides protection from Federal discrimination laws based on sexual orientation.  And, the first nominee by President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court has been confirmed.

3 - Trump administration changes policy on U.N. population control initiative

This week, the Trump administration made another pro-life decision, announcing that it would no longer use U.S. taxpayer dollars to contribute to China's population control policy through the United Nations.  The Susan B. Anthony List website announced that the administration had invoked the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which "gives the President the authority to determine whether an organization should be de-funded because it 'supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.'"

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser is quoted as saying, “The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has a long history of supporting China’s oppressive population control activities, including forced abortions,” adding, “We should all be able to agree that forced abortions are a horrific violation of human rights. It is sickening to think of our tax dollars supporting such abuse of women and children. We commend President Trump for standing up for women and protecting taxpayers from funding forced abortions.”

The SBA website stated that according to a determination by the U.S. State Department, "UNFPA put together their program in 'close consultation with the [Chinese] Government' and calls for implementation through government agencies. Specifically, 'the NHFPC, which is responsible for implementing and enforcing China’s program of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization, appears in [the current UNFPA China program] as a UNFPA partner in anticipated family planning-related outcomes.'  Even though China has modified its one-child policy to allow two children, there are still a variety of coercive elements, according to the SBA List.

2 - U.S. circuit court issues ruling classifying "sexual orientation" as protected

In a shocking Federal court decision that runs counter to rulings in other circuits, as Mandi Ancalle, General Counsel for Government Affairs for the Family Research Council pointed out on The Meeting House this past Friday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to make "sexual orientation" a protected class under Federal discrimination laws, broadly interpreting the word "sex" to include orientation.

The Family Research Council website pointed out:
For years, liberals have tried to pass legislation making "sexual orientation" a protected category under the Civil Rights Act -- first with ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) and then with the "Equality Act." The House and Senate rejected them every time. They recognized, as we do, that sexual orientation wasn't on the minds of legislators 53 years ago when it was trying to weed out prejudice -- and more importantly, it wasn't in the text of the law that passed! No bother, liberals said. We'll just rewrite the policy through our activist courts.
And Tuesday, the 7th Circuit was more than willing to comply. "For many years," Chief Judge Diane Wood admitted, "the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation." So by her own admission, there's absolutely no justification for rewriting the law. Still, she goes on, it's the court's responsibility to take a "fresh look" at its position. And in doing so, she writes, "we conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination."
So, while the chief judge was advocating for a "fresh look," dissenting judge Diane Sykes said, "We are not authorized to infuse the text with a new or unconventional meaning or to update it to respond to changed social, economic, or political conditions."  Sykes showed a proper understanding of the separation of powers when she wrote: "The Constitution assigns the power to make and amend statutory law to the elected representatives of the people. However welcome today's decision might be as a policy matter, it comes at a great cost to representative self-government."

Since now you have Federal circuits that have issued conflicting rulings on this matter, it has perhaps increased the probability that the matter will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the newest member of which has been confirmed.

1 - Gorsuch confirmation well-received by a number of Christian organizations

On Friday, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was confirmed as the newest Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The confirmation process was not without its expected drama, as the Senate allowed debate to be ended by a vote of 51 Senators, rather than the 60 that had customarily been the threshold for votes concerning judicial nominations - that was ended for judges on all Federal levels, except for the Supreme Court, several years ago.

Gorsuch had attracted the support of a number of Christian pro-life and pro-family organizations. Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life, appeared on Friday's edition of The Meeting House program on Faith Radio.  MFL issued a congratulatory statement, saying, in part:
...We were pleased to support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, as were our grassroots activists from across America who sent thousands of messages to their Senators in support of his nomination. We thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for remaining steadfast throughout this process and President Trump for keeping his promise to the American people in nominating a pro-life Justice to the Supreme Court. November exit polls showed that 1 in 5 Americans prioritized the Supreme Court nomination when casting their vote, and with a majority of 57% of those voters casting a vote for Donald Trump, it is clear that the majority of American voters wanted a strict constructionist.
Mancini had written an op-ed piece that appeared in TIME Magazine in March.  In it, she wrote, as referenced on the March for Life website:
Whether recognizing the HHS Mandate as oppressive to the many consciences it violates in both Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Little Sisters v. Burwell, or affirming that even a stillborn baby’s rights deserve protection in Pino v. United States, Judge Gorsuch consistently affirms that, as an originalist, respect for all life is of the utmost priority.
As it was pointed out in a Religion News Service piece regarding his involvement in two cases involving religious liberty and the sanctity of life:
In both cases, religious organizations — a Catholic order of nuns and the evangelical owners of a craft store chain — sought exemptions from providing birth control under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. “All of us face the problem of complicity,” he wrote in support of Hobby Lobby. Government should not force those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to comply with “conduct their religion teaches them to be gravely wrong.”
That article also referenced what the latest Justice on the high court had written in a book
“All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” he wrote. “The law … doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The 3 - April 2, 2017

This week's edition of The 3 features several flashpoints in what is described as the "culture war," which, by the way, is not over, and should not be withdrawn from by people of faith.  Federal regulations concerning sexual orientation and gender identity have come to the fore recently, as new policy issued by the Trump administration seems to overturn an Obama-era directive that force Federal contractors to give consideration SOGI.  Also, 2 videographers who have been exposing Planned Parenthood face over a dozen felony charges in California.  Plus, North Carolina lawmakers, in attempting to appease LGBT activists, a misguided sports oversight body, and the misinformed business community, have rescinded key parts of the state's transgender bathroom law.

3 - Executive order reportedly repeals favorable treatment regarding sexual orientation for Federal contractors

Earlier this year, there was concern in the Christian public policy community about the Trump administration requiring Federal contractors to recognize sexual orientation and gender identity in its hiring practices.  As a story on the NBCNews.com website pointed out, this came around the time that there was a rumored executive order coming on religious freedom, which never materialized.

Well, according to that NBC story, the Trump administration may have relaxed the rules left over from the previous administration about recognizing the so-called "rights" of those in the LGBT community.

The story states that:
With little fanfare on Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that LGBTQ advocates say rolls back lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and breaks a promise to that community not to make such changes to existing policy.
The executive order revokes key components of the Obama administration's previous executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or identity, gay rights advocates say.
The article also said:
LGBTQ advocates say they were particularly rattled by Trump's Monday signing, since revoking the compliance requirement would appear to make existing protections against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination meaningless.
The White House denies this is the case, but it is worth watching.

Oh, and LGBTQ advocates are also up in arms because the Trump administration has changed some announced plans to include questions on sexual orientation in the 2020 Census.  But FoxNews.com reports:
But never before have there been questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, not so long ago, the LGBT community probably would have seen such inquiries as an invasion of privacy.
But during the Obama era, a number of federal agencies, as well as congressional Democrats, wanted to add such questions. And a preliminary draft for the 2020 Census released earlier this week suggested there might be some.
The final draft sent to Congress from the Census Bureau did not feature such questions. John Thompson, head of the Census Bureau—which is part of the Department of Commerce--explained in a letter that they’d investigated if there was a “legislative mandate” to collect such data and determined there was “no federal data need to change the planned census.”
2 - Videographers exposing Planned Parenthood arrested in CA, Planned Parenthood is not

The Center for Medical Progress videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they obtain and sell the parts from unborn babies have brought far-reaching implications, including increased scrutiny of the nation's largest abortion provider.  But, in a stunning turn of events, according to the LiveActionNews.org website, "David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the undercover investigators behind the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos exposing the trafficking of baby body parts and other potentially illegal activities at Planned Parenthood, have been charged with 15 felony counts of invasion of privacy in the state of California."

Live Action President Lila Rose responded:
Using state power to attack citizen journalists who expose crimes against the defenseless is a severe miscarriage of justice.
She said that Daleiden and Merritt "should be lauded for their brave work, not punished."  Referring to the current AG, Xavier Becerra, and his predecessor, now-Senator Kamala Harris, she stated:
California’s last two pro-abortion attorneys general have yet to investigate Planned Parenthood after two congressional committees found significant evidence that it may have broken the law with its baby parts trafficking scheme. Similar charges against David and Sandra were dropped in Texas months ago, yet Mr. Becerra insists on punishing them and putting his political agenda ahead of the laws that he was sworn to uphold.
1 - North Carolina lawmakers cave on transgender bathroom law

The "all-or-nothing" strategy of those pushing the LGBT agenda was on full display, as organizations devoted to forcing all people to accept their unbiblical view of sexuality did a "full-court press" against a legislative compromise that was designed to appease them.  Didn't work in the case of HB2 in North Carolina, a state that faced potentially retaliative action by, of all organizations, the NCAA! At the Family Research Council website, FRC.org, the analysis went like this:
In the "deal" struck by State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R), North Carolina rushed to pass a modified version of HB 2 in hopes of wooing the college sports association back to the state. What the measure has succeeded in doing is revealing the definition of compromise for LGBT agitators – total surrender of those who oppose their radical agenda.
According to FRC, "What the LGBT agitators don't like is that in places like government buildings and schools, the state would reset its policy to the pre-HB 2 standard (which is still gender-specific)." The compromise also puts into place a three-year moratorium on municipalities, like Charlotte, revising their laws to accommodate SOGI demands.

As the Council states the conservatives...
...are frustrated that the state is even trying to appease these cultural bullies. As anyone who's tried to negotiate with LGBT activists knows, they won't be satisfied until conservatives have unilaterally surrendered. There's no need to give even the appearance of compromise on what a majority of Americans believe are common-sense protections. Especially not now, when Texas and 12 other states are on the verge of solidifying their own privacy laws. "This... will not solve anything!" said our friends at the N.C. Family Policy Council and N.C. Values Coalition. And ironically, the NCAA, who this whole "deal" was meant to placate, wouldn't even comment on whether it supported the idea.
Another FRC piece points out that NCAA President Mark Emmert said, "We've tried to do a number of analyses, laying them all side by side, and it very quickly becomes very, very difficult. What distinguished North Carolina was, as you pointed out, there were four distinct problems that the board had with that bill. They've removed some of those now but now, as you point out, not all of them. And the question the board will be debating [is]: If you remove two or three of them, is that enough-- relative to other states?"

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The 3 - March 26, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, I focus on the following three stories of relevance to the Christian community:  there was a bus that was vandalized, which was promoting free speech and a view of gender that squares with the Biblical view.  Also, a New Hampshire military base has agreed to uphold chaplains' free speech rights.  And, a seminary had decided to recognize a well-regarded pastor, only to pull the award due to the views of his denomination on the ordination of LGBT individuals, as well as women.

3 - "Free Speech Bus" vandalized

Last week, the #FreeSpeechBus tour kicked off in New York City at a press conference, according to the National Organization for Marriage website. NOM, CitizenGO and the International Organization for the Family are sponsoring the tour. There is also a petition to stand in solidarity with the purpose of the bus, which is designed to call attention to the truth, consistent with a Biblical perspective, concerning gender.

A USA Today article quoted Brian Brown of NOM:
"Boys are boys and girls are girls - it's very simple," Brown said of the bus tour's purpose and message. "We don't want men in girl's restrooms. We don't want schools and our law attempting to say that people are bigoted simply because they understand that there's a difference between male and female."
Unfortunately, while those who had ridden the bus to New York were inside the United Nations, the bus was vandalized.  According to USA Today, referring to a report from Brown, the bus "was parked near the UN for a scheduled event when two people approached, scratched it with a key, cracked windows with a hammer, and spray painted slogans such as 'Trans Liberation.'"

2 - Chaplains' right to pray upheld in NH case

The concept of faith expressions in the military and the religious freedom of chaplains have caused confusion and resulted in a number of challenges to the constitutional protection of free expression of religion.  According to the website at First Liberty Institute, in early February, a special interest group sent a letter to Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire, "demanding that the base commander forbid military chaplains from performing invocations at military events held on the base."

First Liberty and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty responded swiftly, reminding a base official about the rights of chaplains to express their faith. In a letter to the commanding base office, First Liberty attorneys stated, “The Constitution, federal law, and Department of Defense regulations all support your practice of permitting uniformed chaplains to offer invocations at command functions,” adding, “Moreover, those legal authorities actually forbid military commanders from censoring or prohibiting such invocations."

Recently, First Liberty issued a press release saying that they will continue to allow military chaplains to say prayers during military ceremonies.
Chaplain (Colonel) Ron Crews, U.S. Army (Retired), Executive Director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, responded: “Chaplains and service members have the right to freely exercise their religious beliefs without fear of reprisal.”

1 - Keller rejected for seminary recognition

This year Princeton Theological Seminary was due to award its prize named for theologian Abraham Kuyper, called the Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness, to  Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, according to a piece by Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who commented that because Keller belongs to a Presbyterian denomination that does not line up with Princeton's views on the ordination of women, as well as LGBT individuals, the award has been withdrawn.

Tooley states:
Keller, a prolific author and popular speaker, is founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which has in turn planted many other new churches in New York. The church network is notable for its success in attracting young urban professionals and for its racial diversity.
Tooley adds: "His theology like his denomination’s is orthodox and Reformed, but Keller typically avoids culture war issues and hot button debates."  The article also notes that Keller will speak at the seminary on April 6 for the annual Kuyper lecture.  Tooley also writes:
Wow, historically Presbyterian Princeton won’t honor arguably the most prominent & accomplished Presbyterian pastor of our time.
“The decision to not give this honor to Keller is an example of hyper political correctness prevailing over distinction and merit..."

Monday, March 20, 2017

The 3 - March 19, 2017

This week's edition of The 3 includes a story involving the approach of a large Christian denomination to public policy and a meeting between two denominational leaders.  Also, North Carolina lawmakers are fighting back against two sports governance organizations that have pulled events from the state due to a piece of legislation.  And, proposed Federal government cuts have resulted in responses from Christians about the role of tax dollars in aiding the poor.

3 - Southern Baptists debate public policy approach, principals meet

One could say it is a family squabble, but because of the way that the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm has made the rounds in public media, it becomes an important issue. And, for all Christians, how we approach matters of public policy is critical.

Christianity Today reported on a meeting between Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Frank Page and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.  Its headline
said, "Russell Moore Still Has a Job, Though 100 Churches Have Threatened to Pull SBC Funds." The article written by Jeremy Weber, referred to a Washington Post story written by former CT staffer Sarah Pulliam Bailey, which contained these words:
[Page] indicated that he would not rule out the possibility that he could ask Moore to resign. He said he hopes Moore and his opposition will agree to pursue efforts toward reconciliation.
The story reports on a joint statement published by Baptist Press by Moore and Page following the meeting, which said: “We deepened our friendship and developed mutual understanding on ways we believe will move us forward as a network of churches..."

Page later clarified for Baptist Press that it was a private meeting to seek reconciliation, and that he had no authority over Moore.  But the CT story also said that these churches who are rethinking their funding of the SBC Cooperative Program, "...represent the most complaints on any issue 'in recent memory,' according to the SBC’s Executive Committee, which is investigating the problem in search of 'redemptive solutions.'"

So, what's all the fuss about?  Consider these words from the Christianity Today story:
Observers have wondered if it was too late to say sorry for Moore after the divisive 2016 election left him on the opposite side of many white evangelicals over how Christians should respond to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Many evangelicals voted for Trump as a pragmatic bid for a conservative Supreme Court justice and more pro-life victories. (On that front, Trump already granted Moore one of his 2017 wishes.) But Moore argued, for CT and elsewhere, that voting for the lesser of two evils was not an ethical option.
A Townhall.com article by Bethany Blankley from December of 2016 quoted former Arkansas Governor, former pastor, and Arkansas Baptist Convention president Mike Huckabee:
“I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them. Many of us have faithfully sought to stand for the Biblical definition of marriage, for the sanctity of life, and for meaningful and substantive efforts to help the poor with affordable housing, access to food and employment, and equal education opportunities for minorities. Where was Russell Moore when we were fighting those battles?
Opposition to Moore goes far beyond his opposition to Trump and taking Christians to task for voting for him. An article on Georgia's Christian Index website, written by Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptist Message, stated:
David Hankins, executive director of this fellowship of about 1,650 churches, explained the matter to the Wall Street Journal in terms of Louisiana Baptist pastors’ “frustration” with Moore – growing concerns about policy positions Moore has stated and not just his lack of civility during the presidential election.
2 - North Carolina lawmakers challenge sports bodies' involvement opposing transgender bathroom law

The Legislature in North Carolina, which only recently withstood an attempt to repeal its law upholding privacy in restroom facilities in state buildings, is fighting back against the NCAA, as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference, which pulled athletic championship events from the state.  Baptist Press reports that, "Republican state legislators in North Carolina are alleging the NCAA and the ACC violated their federal tax-exempt status by attempting to provoke a repeal of the Tar Heel State's transgender restroom law."

The article quotes Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, who said the two sports bodies, "have given legislators numerous deadlines by which to repeal the people's privacy law, have engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions with legislators, including those at the highest levels, and have sought to harm the state economically by instituting a boycott of the state until [the transgender restroom law] is repealed."

And North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest was in Texas recently advocating for similar legislation in the Lone Star State.  The Family Research Council website states that Forest...
...was also on hand to debunk the myth that their law -- HB 2 -- devastated the North Carolina economy. Despite the loss of the NBA All-Star Game and other college championships, Forest said the positive gains far outweighed the negative ones. Even if it hadn't, he argued, "I will never trade the privacy, safety, and security of a woman or a child for a basketball ticket. And neither should you."
In another article, the FRC website also stated:
For the second consecutive year, the state was ranked #2 on Forbes’s top states for doing business. The ranking was given late last year, so there would have been ample time to assess the impact of the privacy law on the economy. In fact, more businesses seem to be moving to North Carolina than away from it. Still not convinced? Despite the NCAA and ACC pulling their championship games from the state, tourism was also up.
1 - New open letter attracting high-profile Christians takes aim at Trump budget cuts in foreign aid

Around 100 Christian people, including some pastors and ministry leaders, some of them who could be considered high-profile Christians, have signed on to a letter, released just hours after the Trump Administration unveiled its budget for the next fiscal year, calling for Congress and President Trump not to support, as a Christian Headlines story put it, "drastic cuts to the U.S.’s budget for foreign aid."

The story, referencing a Christianity Today report, said: "The Trump administration released its new budget proposal on Thursday, included in which was a 28 percent cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development."

The letter stated, "As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill...'"

This really can challenge Christians to examine the role of government and how support of charitable work through taxation should be balanced with the willful giving of people who believe in the work of various ministries and other organizations.  Stuart Shepard and I touched on that overall subject on the Friday, March 17 edition of The Meeting House.

You can find the topic of the respective responsibility for Christians to help the poor through taxation or through generosity being debated on social media.  I have some quotes from the always-wise Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, from The Daily Signal website.  He establishes that...
The government is not free to recreate the family. The government is not free to usurp the authority of parents over the education of their children or adult children over the care of their elderly parents.
The same is true for religious organizations, especially if you believe that your church has a divine origin and a divine creation. This means government is not at liberty to recreate your church, to recreate its authority structure, or to recreate its teaching authority—that your church is something that is entrusted with a stewardship.
As a result, the nature of religious authority places limits on political authority and places duties upon members of the church.
Anderson, who was a speaker at this year's National Religious Broadcasters Convention, writes:
None of this, however, says that the state has no role to play in economic justice, just that it must respect the proper authority of society—a society of societies—as it does so. And this means that it must also respect the proper authority of economic societies—employees and employers, consumers and producers.
But while respecting their authority and the markets that allow them to interact and fulfill their duties, government can perform certain welfare activities, as Friedrich Hayek taught us, without distorting market signals and processes.
Insofar as government programs are intended to ameliorate the forces of globalization and new technologies distort markets, they are likely to simply make matters worse by prolonging the dying process of outdated industries and preventing the necessary transitions.
What a natural law account of social justice would suggest are policies that would empower more people to engage for themselves in the market and flourish.
So, as I see it, government should be a facilitator in the delivery of certain goods and services to poor people, especially on the domestic front, but I believe the main economic engine for this delivery comes from Christians, or more broadly, religious people, who give from the heart and are not shackled by government from having the resources to perform what God has called Him to do. Ultimately, in His compassion, He can provide for all, but we ultimately depend on Him for provision, not government; similarly, God is the provider of rights, not government.

As Marvin Olasky writes on the WORLD Magazine website:
Some historians profile Christian missionaries who did more harm than good, but many others in British colonies ended some forms of forced labor, pursued the rule of law in British colonies, fought the opium trade, and built schools because they wanted people to read the Bible in their own language. In the United States, evangelicals in the 19th century not only built schools and hospitals but effectively fought poverty and abortion. This is the compassionate heritage of the evangelical church, and it's one to be proud of.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The 3 - March 12, 2017

This week's edition of The 3, offering three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a skirmish between China and South Korea missionaries, with China forcing dozens of missionaries to leave their country.  Also, in Kentucky, lawmakers there protected students' right to religious expression. And, the U.S. Supreme Court no longer plans to hear a case considering restroom facility usage based on gender identity.

3 - China forces South Korean missionaries to leave country

In the midst of a tough situation involving North Korea and other countries, China has decided to remove anywhere from 30 to 70 missionaries from South Korea, according to a report on the Christianity Today website.  The story states:
There are about 500 officially registered South Korean missionaries in China, though some say the actual number could be as high as 2,000. Many gather in the northeast, drawn by the poverty of China and the proximity of North Korea. Close to the border, the language and culture are heavily Korean.
The article says there were no reasons given, although there is speculation that South Korea's plan to build an American missile shield, the THAAD radar, could be a factor.  Others said it could have been restrictions on Christians in China that have recently been tightened.

The story pointed out several developments involving North Korea, which just recently launched four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan; also, Malaysia and North Korea are holding one another's citizens because of the assassination of the North Korean leader's half-brother in Malaysia.

The CT story quoted the Korea World Mission Association, which called the group ejection “unprecedented.”

2 - Kentucky lawmakers pass religious freedom bill

The House of Representatives in Kentucky overwhelmingly passed a bill that would uphold students' rights to freedom of religious expression, according to the Kentucky.com website.  The House passed the bill 81-8, and the article says:
Senate Bill 17, sponsored by State Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, would affirm the constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom, supporters of the bill argued.
“All this legislation does is put into law and recognize those constitutional facts,” said Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington.
The Senate had already passed the bill by a 31-3 margin, so the bill was sent to Governor Matt Bevin to sign.  In the article about the Senate vote, Kentucky.com stated that Senator Robinson...
...said the idea for the measure started in December 2015, when Johnson County school officials prohibited students from reading religious scripture in a school play, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Robinson said his bill also allows religious student groups access to school buildings during non-school hours, allows students to speak at public events to mention religious and political viewpoints, and allows public college students to exercise their freedom of speech on college campuses, especially in outdoor areas.
Senate Bill 17 also would allow a teacher to use the Bible when teaching about religion “without providing religious instruction,” and to teach about religious holidays “in a secular manner.”
1 - Supreme Court sends transgender bathroom law back to lower court

One of the anticipated cases in the upcoming term of the U.S. Supreme Court involved a case out of Virginia, where a female student identifying as male wished to use the boys' restroom facilities.  The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld a lower court ruling against the school district. According to the Family Research Council, the district had offered the student, Gavin Grimm, the option to use a unisex restroom. The case was later accepted by the high court.

But recently, according to the FRC website, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court to reconsider.  Why?  The court wrote: "The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of the guidance document issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice on February 22, 2017."

FRC offered this commentary:
Grimm's suit was probably the Left's best crack at rewriting the Title IX sex discrimination laws to include "gender identity." Now, thanks to the Trump administration, those goals will be on hold until at least next year when Neil Gorsuch will almost certainly be on the Supreme Court. Until then, the showdown will be where it belongs: in states and local communities.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The 3 - March 5, 2017

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes some good news for a missionary who had been held in prison in Sudan.  Also, the Oregon bakers who had been heavily fined by a government agency finally had a court hearing this past week.  Plus, a matter of concern for Christian parents involves the presence of gay subject material in an upcoming Disney film.

3 - Missionary freed from prison in Sudan

A missionary to Sudan from the Czech Republic, Petr Jasek, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for, according to the website, Faithwire.com, allegedly "spying," as well as inciting "hatred" in the predominantly Muslim country.

The story says that Christian Today reported that "Jasek was arrested after he was stopped in the Sudanese airport in 2015. At the time, he was carrying basic electronics like a computer, cell phone and video camera."

Now, Faithwire reports that:
...the Sudanese foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour and Czech foreign diplomat Lubomir Zaoralek announced the pardon of Jasek due to “good relations between Sudan and the Czech Republic” in a joint press conference.
However the deal to free the Christian activist wasn’t simple or easy.
After Jasek’s sentence, the Czech government cut ties with the African nation and the only way the two began negotiating over the 53-year-old man’s freedom was through Egypt, a north African nation that acted as a peace broker.
A CitizenGO petition had yielded some 400,000 signatures.

There were two other Sudanese men convicted along with Jasek, but they were not released and reportedly are expected to serve out 12-year prison sentences. 

2 - Oregon bakers (finally) have their day in court

After several years of sparring with a state regulatory agency, the bakers who declined to provide a cake for a gay marriage celebration finally had their day in court.  Aaron and Melissa Klein went before a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals this week, according to First Liberty.  Its website reported:
During the oral arguments, the Kleins’ attorneys argued that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) violated the Kleins’ constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech, and due process.
“The government should never force someone to violate their conscience or their beliefs,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We hope the court will uphold the Kleins’ rights to free speech and religious liberty.”
The website reports that at a press conference following the hearing, Melissa said this:
...I have a strong faith in God, whom I love with all my heart. My whole life is dedicated to living for Him, in the best way that I know how. America is a place where the government can’t force you to violate your religious beliefs or tell you what to believe, but we feel like that is exactly what happened to us. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build...
1 - Disney movie announcement sparks concern among Christians

The scheduled release of Disney's live-action movie, Beauty and the Beast, is less than two weeks away, but moviegoers expecting a family-friendly theatrical experience may be disappointed with news that has had awareness on Christian media over the last few days.

The Christian Headlines website has the story about the comments of the film's director, Bill Condon, quoted in the Los Angeles Times.  He discusses the character of LeFou, to be played by Josh Gad. Condon stated: "LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston." He continued: "He’s confused about what he wants," adding, "It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie."

"Really subtle and delicious?"  An "exclusively gay moment?"  This certainly should cause concern among Christian parents, according to Franklin Graham, who said on Facebook:
Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie "Beauty and the Beast" will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle. They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney. I met Walt Disney when I was a young boy—he was very gracious to me, my father Billy Graham, and my younger brother when we visited. He would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.
The Christian Headlines story points out that already, a drive-in theater in Henegar, Alabama has cancelled the film, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The 3 - February 26, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, in which I identify three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a story out of Arkansas, where the Supreme Court there struck down one of these SOGI laws, creating favorable treatment for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, there were developments recently in two states concerning taxpayer funding of abortion.  And, the Trump administration has ended the previous administration's directive forcing schools to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their declared "gender identity."

3 - AR high court strikes down Fayetteville SOGI ordinance

Across America, you have seen these so-called "sexual orientation, gender identity" laws being passed by municipalities across America. Cities such as Houston, Charlotte, and others have attempted to put people in a special class based on these two elements.  The Texas Supreme Court overturned Houston's protections, which generated controversy there, leading the lesbian mayor to subpeona pastors' sermons.  In Charlotte, the passage of such a law resulted in the state having to pass a law (HB2), preventing municipalities from forging a course that is outside of the state's provisions.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a SOGI ordinance had been passed by the city council and overturned by the voters.  The law ended up in court, and according to a Liberty Counsel press release, "the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a city’s ordinance that unlawfully added sexual orientation and gender identity. In the unanimous ruling, the court ruled that the City of Fayetteville violated state law by adding these two categories when state law did not include them."

The release continues:
Arkansas’ civil rights law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. The court ruled that a state anti-bullying law is not related to anti-discrimination laws and does not create newly protected classes. In February 2015, the legislature passed Act 137 that prohibits local governments from adding additional categories that are not included in the state law.
Liberty Counsel will soon be in court arguing against a Virginia county school board's attempt to add these SOGI elements to its policy.  Liberty Counsel says:
Virginia, like Arkansas, requires that non-discrimination categories be uniform and set at the state level. Next week, Liberty Counsel will be arguing before the Virginia Supreme Court where the Fairfax County School Board unlawfully added “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” to the Board’s policies. Like Arkansas, Virginia law does not include these categories.
2 - VA governor vetoes abortion funding bill, Federal judge in TX continues to block bill reducing funding of abortion 

There is other news out of Virginia to cover...the Democratic governor there, Terry McAuliffe, a long-time supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has vetoed a bill that would have removed taxpayer funding of abortion.  A story on the WORLD Magazine website states that McAuliffe...
... made good Tuesday on his threat to veto a bill redirecting funds from Planned Parenthood to health centers that do not perform abortions.

McAuliffe vowed to veto both H.B. 2264 and H.B. 1473, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. The former passed the House 60-33 and the Senate 20-19.
Olivia Gans Turner, president of Virginia Society for Human Life, is quoted as saying that "Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby can depend on him to abandon the women and unborn children of the Commonwealth,” adding, “He does not care that Virginians do not want our taxes paying for abortion.”

Also, according to the WORLD story, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks extended an injunction blocking a Texas "law that stripped Planned Parenthood of its $3 million in Medicaid funding." The law has been placed on hold "while Planned Parenthood pursues its lawsuit against the new law."

1 - Trump administration ends previous administration's transgender bathroom directive

As expected, the Trump administration has terminated the directive that the Obama administration had issued allowing students to use restroom facilities corresponding to their so-called "gender identity," according to ChristianHeadlines.com story, which says that:
The Obama administration had issued the directive to schools, based on their interpretation of Title IX which states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
The Trump administration, however, stated that this is an issue that should be left up to the states to decide individually.
The story, quoting from an ABC News report, says:
A letter sent to schools on Wednesday by the Justice and Education Departments said that while "All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment,” states should take the “primary role” in establishing appropriate policies, according to ABC News.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quoted in the ABC News story: "Congress, state legislatures and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue," adding, "The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying and harassment."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 3 - February 19, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, a high-profile Christian organization dealing with immigration and refugees has announced significant cutbacks.  Also, the U.S. Justice Department has stepped back from an appeal by the previous administration on a Federal district judge's order halting progress of implementing an initiative that would have forced schools to base their restroom policy on "gender identity," rather than biology. And, a florist in Washington state received a ruling from the state Supreme Court that could force her to pay stiff penalties for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding celebration.

3 - Christian relief organization announces cutbacks due to refugee settlement cuts

The immigration advocacy organization World Relief made this announcement this week:
As a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017, World Relief has been forced to make the difficult decision to layoff 140+ staff members across its U.S. Ministry and close local offices in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. Collectively, these five offices have resettled more than 25,000 refugees over the past four decades.
But, how draconian are those cuts?  Just after the release of the executive order, David French of National Review stated that...
...the order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. Outrageous, right? Not so fast. Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump’s 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush’s two terms and a typical year in Obama’s two terms.
Jerry Johnson of National Religious Broadcasters tweeted out the aforementioned press release, along with this comment: "Is this why @WorldRelief objects to vetting plan for refugees? They lose federal funding, will layoff 140+ staff."  Dr. Johnson had also retweeted a tweet from Dr. Jack Graham, former President of the So. Baptist Convention, who said: "The progressively left leaning National Association of Evangelicals humanitarian arm is World Relief. 75% of dollars are government grants..."

Now World Relief claims to be a Christian organization, an outreach of the National Association of Evangelicals, which has been chided for its leftward drift. World Relief is also an organization that receives money from the Federal government to place refugees in America. Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy wrote at The Stream in 2015:
Since we now know that such murderous jihadis can enter Europe and murder Parisians, there can be little doubt that religious minorities in refugee camps are vulnerable. And it’s not far-fetched to believe ISIS members and other jihadists could come to the United States disguised as refugees, as well. FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson have all admitted that Muslim refugees from Syria cannot be properly screened.
In spite of this reality, the Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGs) working with the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement are demonizing members of Congress who are seeking to rectify the situation.
World Relief, who is attempting to lead the charge among evangelicals to scale back further restrictions on refugees, is among a small group of these VOLAGs that, according to McDonnell, "acquire an average of some 70% of their revenue from taxpayer-funded federal grants and contracts. In some estimations, they receive more than $4,000 per refugee resettled."  And the President of that organization does not believe Christians should be prioritized, according to CNN, even though, as that story pointed out, 99% of the almost 12,600 refugees from Syria last year were Muslim.

2 - Justice Department seems to switch sides in transgender bathroom case

By now, you're probably familiar with the letter that was sent out by the Obama Administration last spring that directed school districts to allow students to use the restroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their so-called "gender identity."  That directive was thought to contain an implicit warning that schools violating this new "policy" could lose Federal education funding.

A Federal district judge had issued a nationwide ruling preventing those provisions from taking effect, and as the Family Research Council reported:
Frustrated, the Obama attorneys asked the court to lift its ban in every state except the 13 who sued the government over it. O'Connor refused, insisting:
"It is clear from Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit precedent that this Court has the power to issue a nationwide injunction where appropriate. Both Title IX and Title VII rely on the consistent, uniform application of national standards in education and workplace policy. A nationwide injunction is necessary because the alleged violation extends nationwide," he wrote. "Should the Court only limit the injunction to the plaintiff states who are a party to this cause of action, the Court risks a 'substantial likelihood that a geographically-limited injunction would be ineffective."
The Obama Administration appealed the judge's action, and a court date was scheduled for this past week.  Just days before that court appearance, the Trump Administration indicated it wanted to take another direction. UPI.com reported:
President Donald Trump's administration has asked to withdraw a motion filed by former President Barack Obama seeking to allow transgender students in public schools to use the restroom with which they identify.
In a court filing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice on Friday requested to withdraw Obama's motion filed last year that asked a judge to scale back a temporary injunction that blocked the Obama administration's guidance over the transgender bathroom issue.
As FRC said,
"The parties are currently considering how best to proceed," Justice officials wrote. Of course, most Americans hope that "proceeding" includes the formal withdrawal of an edict that's already had a deleterious effect on girls' privacy and safety. From Virginia to Oklahoma, the groundswell of opposition exploded. While some districts may have waffled on the rule, parents refused to take the government's coercion lying down.
1 - WA Supreme Court rules against florist who stood by convictions regarding gay wedding ceremony

The florist in Washington state who politely declined to provide flowers for a gay wedding ceremony received a crushing blow from the state Supreme Court this week.  Family Policy Alliance reports that:
The Washington Supreme Court ruled today that the government can force Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, to create floral arrangements for same-sex weddings or face heavy penalties.
One of her attorneys, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is quoted as saying, "This case is about crushing dissent,” adding, "In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist. It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”

ADF has indicated it will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its report, Family Policy Alliance states: "The case points out the need for the Trump Administration to make good on its campaign promise to strengthen religious freedom. The President has the opportunity to sign an executive order doing just that, but so far has not done so."  The Alliance is just one of the Christian organizations that is encouraging people who support such an order to sign on online petition.  You can hear a recent conversation on The Meeting House with Stuart Shepard of Family Policy Alliance here.

Back now to David French of National Review, who pointed out that, "Stutzman did nothing illegal. She had always consistently and joyfully served gay clients, including the man who ultimately decided to bring potentially ruinous legal claims against her. On each of those prior occasions, however, she was not using her artistic talents to help her clients celebrate an occasion she considered immoral.

He added, "In other words, she was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. She was making a decision not to help celebrate an action, a form of expression." And, as he pointed out, the man asking Baronelle to provide the flowers was a regular customer - and she recommended other florists who could provide the products.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The 3 - February 12, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, presenting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is good news out of Georgia, where an employee of the state health department had filed suit after being terminated, apparently because of his religious beliefs.  Also, there was plenty of joy in countries around the world as special needs teens and adults participated in Tim Tebow's "Night to Shine."  And, people opposed to the offensive practices of the nation's largest abortion provider showed up at its centers across America this past weekend.

3 - Georgia health official allegedly fired for religious beliefs settles with state

Dr. Eric Walsh, who had accepted a position as a District Health Director for the State of Georgia, was dismissed not long after his hiring.  It seems the sermons he preached as an ordained Seventh-Day Adventist minister were offensive to his employers.

Walsh was defended by First Liberty Institute, which told the story on its website.  Recently, Walsh settled with the state of Georgia for $225,000 in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that had been filed by First Liberty in partnership with an Atlanta firm.  Walsh is quoted as saying: “I am pleased this trial finally ended,” adding, “It’s been a long, difficult journey, but it’s worth it to have my name cleared and to ensure that all Georgia government employees know they have religious liberty.”

The story points out that:
Federal law protects Walsh’s right to talk about his faith inside his church or out of it. In particular, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the government from firing people over their religious beliefs, especially when those beliefs are expressed by a lay minister, outside of work, in a church setting.
Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty ad counsel for Dr. Walsh, stated: "If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, then they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything. We must ensure every American has the right to talk about their faith at church without getting fired or being barred from public service.”

2 - Tebow's "Night to Shine" honors people with special needs, partners with churches

This past week, the annual Night to Shine experience, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, was presented at a number of venues inside and outside the U.S. The Foundation website describes the concept: "Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. On one night, February 10, 2017, churches from around the world will host Night to Shine for thousands of honored guests..."

The Foundation Facebook page proclaimed: "375 host churches. 50 states. 11 countries. 6 continents. 150,000 volunteers. 75,000 honored guests."  In another post, it said:
It was a night for our honored guests to shine, for the volunteers to shine, for the church to shine and a night for Jesus to shine! We are SO appreciative of everyone who poured out so much effort and love to celebrate our 75,000 kings and queens of the prom.
We are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing community who believes in this worldwide movement to celebrate people with special needs!
The Foundation website states:
Following Night to Shine, we have been encouraged to see countless churches develop continued programs for people with special needs.
Through Night to Shine, we hope people with special needs realize that their church can be a place where they are loved and feel welcomed.
1 - Pro-life gatherings at Planned Parenthood centers 

Those taking a stand for life showed up at Planned Parenthood centers across America on Saturday, with over 200 protests planned in 44 states, as well as Washington, DC, according to a report on The Blaze website.

And, the report made reference to a tweet from CBS News that linked to a report that there were counter-protests by pro-abortion forces across the nation.

The Blaze article stated:
The groups behind the nationwide protests — Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal, the Pro-Life Action League, 40 Days for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List — said that they want to encourage Congress to finally act on redirecting the funds away from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, a long-held goal of pro-life activists.
And, the story mentioned the trafficking of fetal body parts, Medicaid fraud, and violation of health codes as just some of the offenses committed by Planned Parenthood.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The 3 - February 5, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there have been some statements and potential developments regarding religious freedom principles that President Trump promised to uphold in his campaign.  Also, the Boy Scouts of America has announced it will now admit "transgender" boys, i.e., girls who say they are male.  And, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is getting high marks from a number of Christian leaders and organizations.

3 - Religious freedom watch: topic at National Prayer Breakfast, Administration spokesman voices intent to uphold religious liberties, executive order rumored

The recent National Prayer Breakfast contained a number of references to religious liberty, according to an article on the Baptist Press website, which reported that President Trump, speaking at the event, said that his administration "will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty."

The story quotes the President as saying that he would "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," which is described by the website as "a 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates."

The Baptist Press piece also reported:
Trump said his high regard for religious liberty motivates his opposition to the Johnson Amendment as well as his immigration policy and his fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

"We will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence," Trump said. "America will flourish as long as our liberty, and in particular our religious liberty, is allowed to flourish."

Immigration policy, Trump said, must secure America's borders against "those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle."

Trump called terrorism "a fundamental threat to religious freedom."
And, there was a draft of an executive order that was leaked this week, and, according to the Daily Signal:
The draft of the executive order, reportedly called “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” tells federal agencies to accommodate religious practices “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” would no longer require religious employers such as Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their beliefs by providing contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to employees, and prohibits penalizing employees because of personal religious views.
The article says that, "Conservatives and religious groups are calling on President Donald Trump to stand firm" on the order.  This comes in light of the Administration's announcement that it would not rescind an order by then-President Obama protecting so-called LGBTQ "rights" for Federal contractors.

And, in a recent conversation with me, Stuart Shepard of Family Policy Alliance called attention to the response of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in response to a reporter's question about religious liberty being used a "code for discrimination."  This is from the WhiteHouse.gov website:
...We have freedom of religion in this country, and I think people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal. And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness.

And I think the President and the Vice President both understand that one of the things that makes our country and this democracy so great is our ability to express our religion, to believe in faith, to express it, and to live by it. And that’s where I think the important part is -- whether it’s a small business owner or employee, he wants to have some degree of expression of faith at the company. And too often those voices get pushed out in the name of political correctness.

So he’s going to continue to make sure that we not only speak up for it, but find ways in which we can keep that line a little less blurred and make sure that the pendulum doesn’t swing against people...
And, in Congress this week, according to another Baptist Press story, a bill called the Free Speech Fairness Act was "introduced Feb. 1, the day before President Trump reiterated his intent to eliminate the so-called Johnson Amendment..."  According to a bill sponsor, it "would free pastors, churches and other tax-exempt entities to intervene on behalf of or against candidates in an election campaign." Sen. James Lankford is sponsoring in the Senate, and Rep. Steve Scalise is the House sponsor.

2 - Boy Scouts to accept transgender "boys"

A stunning, but not necessarily surprising announcement was made recently by the Boy Scouts of America.  Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote this:
On Monday, the BSA announced that girls who identify as boys will now be allowed to join the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts – marking a complete capitulation to the gender and sex revolutionaries.
John Stemberger, who is now chairman of the board of directors for a Christ-centered character-based organization called Trail Life USA, told Starnes that "the BSA decision is 'sad beyond belief.'"

Stemberger also said, that this new direction will “put boys in a state of confusion and does nothing to help normal psychological development.” He added, "Aside from the fact they are now going to confuse literally hundreds of thousands of young men and boys – you are now going to have further youth protection problems."

Starnes also noted:
In a statement released late Monday, Trail Life assured its “members and charter organizations nationwide that we are committed to the biblical traditional values affirmed in our statement of faith and values.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Starnes: "This is Exhibit A of the insatiable demands of those pushing this sexual anarchy."

1 - President nominates Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court

This week, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, currently serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, to fill the open seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

The Family Research Council put it this way:
This was excellent news, particularly for the evangelicals that had helped push Trump to victory. Not only had the president made good on his promise to select a nominee from the list of 21 names he had released during his campaign, but Gorsuch was the kind of constitutional originalist that he had promised for the post.
Pro-life groups are getting mobilized to support the nominee. The Susan B. Anthony List website announced the formation of a coalition, represented at prolifecourt.com, "where grassroots activists can send an immediate message to their U.S. Senators, and are planning coordinated email and phone call campaigns to offices, in-state demonstrations targeting key Senators, and a digital advertising campaign."

That website provides this information:
Judge Gorsuch has a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty.
  • Gorsuch wrote a book called “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” He argues in the book that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable” and that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
  • Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in holding that Obamacare’s abortifacient mandate violates the religious beliefs of closely-held corporations.
  • Gorsuch also ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, defending the rights of nuns not to be forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
  • Gorsuch forcefully dissented from a case in which the Tenth Circuit sided with Planned Parenthood and refused to allow the Governor of Utah to defund the abortion business in wake of videos showing its involvement in the selling of baby body parts.